With academics back in full swing, parents may also be thinking about educational enrichment activities for their children. Museums offer a way for families to indulge in learning together.
New offerings for kids at area museums include an interactive food truck at the Children's Museum of the East End in Bridgehampton, a fairy-tale exhibit called "Once Upon a Time" opening Oct. 3 at the Long Island Children's Museum in Garden City, and an exploration of life on the high seas in "If I Were a Whaler" opening Sunday at the Whaling Museum and Education Center in Cold Spring Harbor.
Here's a roundup of some great museums for kids on Long Island:
Cradle of Aviation Museum
Cradle of Aviation Museum (Charles Lindbergh Boulevard, Garden City)
BEST FOR AGES Kindergarten through 12th grade
COST $12 per child ages 2 to 12 or senior citizen older than 62, $17 with theater ticket; $14 per adult, $19 with theater combo
HOURS 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays
INFO 516-572-4111; cradleofaviation.org
The Cradle of Aviation Museum explores aviation history from the beginning of flight through space exploration with hands-on exhibits in eight galleries, including "Dream of Wings," about hot-air balloons and kites; "Hempstead Plains," about the beginning of aircraft usage on Long Island; and "Contemporary Aviation," which explores jets. Kids can also sit in the cockpit of actual airplanes. The theater offers National Geographic Dome films and live programming.
Old Bethpage Village Restoration
Old Bethpage Village Restoration (Round Swamp Road, Old Bethpage)
BEST FOR AGES Best for 4 to 13
COST $10 per adult, $7 for children 5 to 12 and senior citizens 60 and older, free for children younger than 5. (On Long Island Fair weekends entry fee is $12 per adult, $8 for children and senior citizens 60 and older.)
HOURS 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays, with last tickets sold at 3 p.m.
INFO 516-572-8401; obvrnassau.com
Old Bethpage Village Restoration is a re-creation of a 19th century Long Island village. Costumed staff demonstrate hat-making, candle-making, weaving and other arts in various buildings; a barn houses farm animals, including cows, goats and chickens. The Long Island Fair kicks off this weekend at the village -- from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday -- and continues Oct. 2 to 4. The fair will feature crafts, a scarecrow contest, a lumberjack show, bluegrass bands, children's performances and more.
Maritime Explorium (101 E. Broadway, Port Jefferson)
BEST FOR AGES 2 to 12
COST $5 per person for everyone 1 and older
HOURS 1 to 5 p.m. weekends and school holidays
INFO 631-331-3277; maritimeexplorium.org
This interactive museum's exhibits include a bailing boat filled with rice, a lighthouse exhibit that explores circuits and a wheelhouse that lets kids drive a simulated boat around a virtual Port Jefferson harbor. Every weekend offers a new hands-on activity included with museum admission, such as make-your-own Times Square geometric ball, build your own bughouse or test your own roller coaster.
Children's Museum of the East End
Children's Museum of the East End (376 Bridgehampton Sag Harbor Tpke., Bridgehampton)
BEST FOR AGES 2 to 7
COST $10 per person; free for children younger than 1. Miniature golf is $5 per person.
HOURS 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily; closed Tuesdays
INFO 631-537-8250; cmee.org
The littlest foodies will be happy to see the new, trendy and hands-on food truck exhibit at the Children's Museum of the East End. The kitchen inside the truck has a play stove where kids can "prepare" multicultural favorites such as ramen and flan. The museum is what museum marketing coordinator Paul Johnson calls a "please-touch museum," and it's set up like an East End village with a farm stand, a soda-fountain and a windmill like the one in East Hampton. The museum also features an outdoor nine-hole mini-golf course.
The Whaling Museum and Education Center
The Whaling Museum and Education Center (301 Main St., Rte. 25A, Cold Spring Harbor)
BEST FOR AGES 5 to 12
COST $6 per adult, $5 per child ages 4 to 18 or senior citizen 62 and older, children younger than 4 are free
HOURS Tuesday through Friday noon to 4 p.m., Saturday and Sundays 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
INFO 631-367-3418; cshwhalingmuseum.org
The Whaling Museum recently unveiled a new exhibit called "If I Were a Whaler" with a special event from noon to 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015 called "SeaFaire." Local craftspeople and artisans will display old-time crafts such as quilting, and visitors can make candles, miniature boats and scrimshaw. The new exhibit focuses on life on a whaling ship, including a replica of sleeping quarters. The museum also houses artifacts and pieces from whaling times, including a scrimshaw collection and an authentic 1800s whaleboat.
Vanderbilt Museum and Planetarium
Vanderbilt Museum and Planetarium (180 Little Neck Rd., Centerport)
BEST FOR AGES Preschool and older
COST $7 for adults, $6 for students with ID and senior citizens 62 and older, $3 for children 2 to 12; free for younger than 2; mansion tours additional $5 per person; planetarium shows are additional $5 per person when museum is open; evening shows are $9 per adult, $8 for students and seniors and $7 for children
HOURS Museum is open noon to 5 p.m. Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays; check website for planetarium showtimes
INFO 631-854-5579; vanderbiltmuseum.org
The Vanderbilt is a historic American estate previously owned by William K. Vanderbilt II, and it's on the National Register of Historic Places. It offers a natural-history museum, a marine museum and two wings of wild-animal dioramas. The planetarium has star and science shows and a show especially for the little ones featuring Big Bird and Elmo. The grounds encompass 43 acres on a rolling hilltop above Northport Bay.
Long Island Children's Museum
Long Island Children's Museum (11 Davis Ave., Garden City)
BEST FOR AGES Toddlers through 12
COST $13 per person, $12 for senior citizens 65 and older, free for babies 1 and younger; theater performances additional fee
HOURS 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; closed Mondays
INFO 516-224-5800; licm.org
A new, traveling exhibit called "Once Upon a Time" opens at the Long Island Children's Museum on Oct. 3, letting kids walk through seven different fairy tales. They're not all princess-focused -- they include "Jack and the Beanstalk" and a tale of the African spider Anansi, "called Anansi and the Talking Melon." "The idea of it is to introduce them to the printed word," says Maureen Mangan, director of communications and marketing. In addition to traveling exhibits that change every four months, the museum has 13 indoor and outdoor exhibits. Fan favorites include the two-story Climb-It at LICM climbing sculpture meant for kids to scamper up and down, the Bubbles exhibit and the Bricks and Sticks building blocks area. "Children learn best by seeing, touching and doing, so everything is play-based," Mangan says. A museum theater holds 144 people and offers regular performances.
Nassau County Museum of Art
Nassau County Museum of Art (One Museum Drive, Roslyn Harbor)
BEST FOR AGES 3 and older
COST $10 adults; $8 senior citizens; $4 for children ages 4 to 12 and full-time students; free for kids younger than 4
HOURS 11 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays
INFO 516-484-9337; nassaumuseum.org
From 1 to 4 p.m. on Sundays the Nassau County Museum of Art offers "Family Sundays at the Museum." It includes a family tour of the exhibitions followed by a supervised, hands-on art activity. It's free with museum admission and reservations aren't necessary. Beginning next month, the museum will offer two programs on Tuesday afternoons for children and teens with autism.
Hallockville Museum Farm (6038 Sound Ave., Riverhead)
BEST FOR AGES 4 through 12
COST Free; fees apply to specific programming
HOURS 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily
INFO 631-298-5292; hallockville.com
Hallockville Museum Farm includes the 250-year-old Hallock Homestead, furnished in Victorian style, and showcases Long Island's agricultural and rural heritage with farm tools and implements. It has farm animals, including cows, sheep and chickens. Programming includes such activities as feeding the farm animals or baking molasses cookies on a wood stove.
Fire Island Lighthouse
Fire Island Lighthouse (East of Robert Moses State Park, Parking Field 5, Fire Island)
BEST FOR AGES All ages; but kids must be 42 inches tall to climb the tower
COST The museum is free; it's $4 for children younger than 12 and seniors 62 and older, and $7 for adults to climb the tower
HOURS 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends, with tower closing at 4 p.m.; 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, but tower open only from 1 to 4 p.m.; hours change seasonally but open year-round
INFO 631-661-4876; fireislandlighthouse.com
Climbing 182 steps of the tower isn't the only attraction of the Fire Island Lighthouse; two floors of exhibits describe the history of the lighthouse and its keepers, shipwrecks, lifesaving efforts and the barrier island itself. A nearby building houses the first-order Fresnel lens, which was in the tower from 1858 to 1933, and a boathouse details old-time lifesaving equipment used in shipwreck rescues. The lighthouse offers periodic special events such as "Ghost Stories" and "Flying Santa."