No need to trek into New York City to see dinosaur bones at the American Museum of Natural History when Long Island has a handful of unique exhibits of its own. Little paleontologists can hold fossils, learn about how dinosaurs lived and see the only dinosaur footprints found on Long Island. Some venues have Jurassic-themed birthday parties, as well. Here are eight spots that dino-loving kids will want to visit again and again.
The Center for Science Teaching and Learning
At the “Dinosaurs!” exhibit at The Center for Science Teaching and Learning in Rockville Centre, little paleontologists can have a close encounter with larger-than-life dinos. The exhibit features more than two dozen full dinosaur models, as well as dinosaur skulls and fossils on display. Two life-size robotic dinosaurs also live in the center's exhibit, and kids can hear them roar, watch as they breathe, swing their tails and bob their heads. While viewing the dinos, kids will learn about how they lived thousands of years ago. “Dinosaurs!” is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Additionally, The Center for Science Teaching and Learning offers a Dino Dig birthday party with activities such as visiting the “Dinosaurs!” exhibit, excavating dino bones in the center’s dig site and a make-your-own fossil craft to take home. Price: $15 adult, $12 ages 1 to 10. More information: 1450 Tanglewood Rd., 516-764-0045, cstl.org.
Long Island Science Center
Head back in time and walk beside dinosaurs at the Long Island Science Center’s Virtual Reality Zone in Riverhead. When kids put on the center’s virtual reality headsets, they can explore 12 different types of dinos and learn about their lives, what they ate and how they lived during the Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods. The Virtual Reality Zone is included in the admission fee and appropriate for children ages 5 and older. Kids can also check out the Saturday Science and Wednesday Future Scientist programs, which often run dinosaur-themed activities like fossil making. Additionally, the Long Island Science Center offers a Dino Detective birthday party. Kids get to make a replica of a dinosaur tooth while learning about paleontology. The center is open 1 to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Price: $10. More information: 40 Peconic Ave., 631-208-8000, sciencecenterli.org.
Sands Point Preserve Conservancy
The Sands Point Preserve Conservancy in Sands Point has six marked trails for Long Islanders to enjoy, but only one gives kids a dinosaur experience. Designed for families, the Dino Trail features replica dinosaur footprints, fossil trails to follow and dino spring riders, which kids can play on. The trail is adjacent to Sand Point Preserve’s Woodland Playground, where kids can ride a zip line, climb a geodesic dome and play in cedar castles. The trail and playground are open during the preserve’s normal hours, which vary by season. Price: $15 per car, $4 for walk-in admission, free for members. More information: 127 Middle Neck Rd., 516-571-7901, sandspointpreserveconservancy.org.
Behind the Fence Gallery Statuary & Collectibles
Behind the Fence Gallery in Southampton boasts dozens of dinosaur statues, some of which are more than 15 feet tall. Kids can walk around the gallery and check out dinosaur hatching eggs, pose for pictures and explore dozens prehistoric statues. Additionally, all of the statues, even the 13-foot T-Rex and the 16-foot Spinosaurus, are available for purchase or rent for birthday parties and Behind the Fence Gallery offers delivery and installation. The gallery is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily and is closed on Wednesday. Price: Free. More information: 1457 Country Rd. 39, 631-283-5591, behindthefencegallery.com.
The Hicksville Gregory Museum
In addition to showcasing the largest rock and mineral collection on Long Island, The Hicksville Gregory Museum in Hicksville features many dinosaur artifacts for kids to engage with. The exhibit features dinosaur eggs, bones, teeth and footprints, as well as fossils kids can hold at touch tables located throughout the exhibit. The museum also has two dinosaur eggs from China. The eggs never hatched, and guests can see dinosaur bones protruding from the egg’s shell. The exhibit also has bones on display from the small Psittacosaurus dinosaur. The museum is open 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Price: $5 adults, $3 children ages 4 to 14, $3 ages 65 and older. More information: 1 Heitz Place, 516-822-7505, gregorymuseum.org.
Garvies Point Museum and Preserve
Garvies Point Museum and Preserve in Glen Cove has the only real dinosaur footprints found on Long Island. The footprints, which were found in Riverhead in the 1970s and 1990s, were donated to the museum and are on display for visitors to see. The museum also offers a Discovering Dinos birthday party for kids ages 4 to 10. During the celebration, kids can spend time in the museum's dinosaur room, which is not open to the public. It features small and large models, fossils and a large cast of a fossilized dinosaur footprint that kids can sit in and take pictures with. Kids can also check out dinosaur discovery boxes, which teach them about the creature's teeth and claws, what they ate and how they once lived. Additional party features include a magnetic dinosaur board and more. The museum is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Price: $4 adults, $2 children ages 5 to 12. More information: 50 Barry Dr., 516-571-8010, garviespointmuseum.com.
At Kidville’s Dino-Mite Party in Garden City, kids ages 3 and older get to make dinosaur arts and crafts, play dinosaur-themed games and dig for dinosaur bones. First, kids create their own Dino Island using stickers and paper scenes, as well as dig for dinosaur bones. Once kids find a fossil, they get to take it home to keep as a party souvenir. They’ll also play with blocks and Play-Doh. Afterward, kids design dinosaur masks with markers, jewels and themed stickers before putting it on and practicing their best dinosaur roar. Finally, before singing happy birthday and eating cake, kids enter Kidville’s gym, where they'll find a dinosaur egg hunt, compete in races and obstacle courses, and fly across the room on a zip line. Price: Varies based on the selected party package. More information: 960 Franklin Ave., 516-900-2462, kidville.com/gardencity.
Dinosaurs Rock is a traveling Jurassic museum that brings dino birthday parties to you. Dinosaurs Rock will come to any location and set up an expansive exhibit of dinosaur and fossil specimens, including genuine fossils and museum-quality dinosaur replicas. There's an interactive show about how dinosaurs once lived, a Fossil Dig where kids can take home a dinosaur bone, shark tooth or gemstone. Other add-on activities include making dinosaur stuffed animals, creating fossil shark tooth necklaces and opening geodes. Price: Varies based on the selected party package. More information: 800-411-3466 or 845-368-3466, dinosaursrockprograms.com.