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Long Island museums where families can see live animals, military tanks, more

Wade Becher, 3, of Oceanside, with mom Candice

Wade Becher, 3, of Oceanside, with mom Candice Becher, gets up close and personal with a Ball Python snake at Tackapausha Museum and Preserve in Seaford. Credit: Danielle Silverman

Reese Henderson, 5, of Massapequa, shows off her clipboard with several items she’s circled on her colorful scavenger hunt form. “I found the mushrooms, a bird, a spider and a duck,” she says while seeking even more items to check off in the reptile room of the Tackapausha Museum in Seaford.

Reese is exploring with her sister, Vail, 3, and her brother, Collin, 8, who is fascinated by the room's bearded dragon. “It’s a great way to spend a few hours,” their dad, Kyle, says of the museum, which offers the scavenger hunt activity.

Finding a great way to spend a few hours with the kids is tough in winter when the cold weather or snow eliminates the outdoors. If you’ve already exhausted the better-known Long Island museums for kids, you might want to check out these venues:

Tackapausha Museum and Preserve

The Tackapausha Museum is more like an indoor zoo. Its wildlife and exotic animals include spotted turtles, owls, an opossum, bats, Vietnamese walking sticks, snakes and more. Educational information accompanies the exhibits. “Don’t let the fluid motion of the slithering snake deceive you into believing that its body is boneless,” reads one display, which also shows the inside of a snake with hundreds of vertebrae, each with a pair of ribs attached. The museum lobby offers dozens of children’s books about animals, a puppet theater and toy animals for kids. Outdoor exhibits are closed from January through Earth Day. The museum is named for Tackapausha, chief of the Massapequa band of Native Americans in the 1600s.

WHEN | WHERE 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays; 2225 Washington Ave., Seaford

INFO $5 per adult, $3 children 5 and older, free for children younger than 5; 516-571-7443; nassaucountyny.gov

WHILE YOU’RE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD Work off some energy at a roller-skating session at United Skates of America, 1276 Hicksville Rd, Seaford, 516-795-5474, unitedskates.com.

Vanderbilt Museum and Planetarium

The Vanderbilt Museum is spread out over several buildings on the grounds of the former estate of the heirs to Cornelius Vanderbilt’s railroad fortune. The buildings include a hall of life-size dioramas featuring taxidermy animals captured by William K. Vanderbilt II and former Nassau County Judge Charles Stoll, the natural history galleries (look for the two shrunken heads!) and the Marine Museum. In the habitat area, where the dioramas are housed, an enormous whale shark hangs from the ceiling. Visitors see big game such as two black bears, a lion, a jaguar and a polar bear. In the natural history galleries are a vast seashell collection, a stuffed Nile crocodile and the aforementioned Peruvian Indian shrunken heads (head downstairs to see a 1928 Lincoln automobile). In the Marine Museum, hundreds of fish from all over the world are numbered so visitors can check lists to see names. Planetarium shows also play; check website for times. “They have a lot of artifacts that you don’t come by in mainstream museums,” says Maya Tsou, 15, of Rosedale, Queens, at the museum with her brother, Layne, 6, and her dad, Billy.

WHEN | WHERE noon to 4 p.m. Tuesdays, 11:15 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays; 180 Little Neck Rd., Centerport

INFO $8 per adult, $7 per student, $5 children 12 and younger, free for age 2 and younger, 631-854-5579, vanderbiltmuseum.org.

WHILE YOU’RE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD Grab lunch or a treat at Hometown Bake Shop, 2 Little Neck Rd., Centerport, 631-754-7437, hometownbakeshop.com.

The Museum of American Armor

Kids into big vehicles may be interested in the more than 50 World War II tanks, jeeps, troop transports and more housed in The Museum of American Armor. “The whole premise of this place is for people to come to see what it takes to be free,” says Mark Renton, museum director. Exhibits also include a helmet that saved a soldier’s life, with the bullet entry and exit hole in it, a bazooka and posters lauding women’s contributions to the war effort. “Both our fathers were veterans of World War II so I wanted to see the equipment,” says Daniel Willett III, of Old Bethpage, who, with his wife, Jeanette, brought his grandsons, Daniel V, 7, and Connor, 4, of Garden City. “We were able to take pictures of them by the tanks, which were just amazing. You see them in movies but you don’t get a sense of the size until you see them up close and personal.” Note: This is not a hands-on museum; kids may not climb on or touch the vehicles, Renton says.

WHEN | WHERE 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays; 1303 Round Swamp Rd., Old Bethpage

INFO $13 per adult, $10 for seniors and veterans, $8 children 5 to 12 and free for 4 and younger; 516-454-8265; museumofamericanarmor.org.

WHILE YOU’RE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD Stop for a slice at Villa Monte, which offers more than 40 varieties of pizza including macaroni and cheese pizza, calamari marinara pizza, buffalo chicken and fries pizza, and, for the more calorie conscious, whole wheat chicken Caesar pizza. 732 Old Bethpage Rd., Old Bethpage, 516-752-8554, villamonteoldbethpage.com. Don’t feel like pizza? The same strip mall offers sushi, Greek and Chinese food options as well as a Baskin Robbins Ice Cream shop.

Children’s Museum of the East End

The museum’s interior is set up like a Hamptons village, with a play farm stand, soda fountain and windmill like the one in East Hampton. The museum is hands-on, with more than a dozen exhibits geared toward ages 9 and younger. Kids can play in a two-story boat and climb onto a fire truck. Fun facts: Actor Alan Alda’s daughter Beatrice was one of eight East End moms who spearheaded the creation of the museum; the museum is called CMEE — pronounced “see-me” — by locals.

WHEN | WHERE 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily except closed Tuesdays; 376 Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Tpke., Bridgehampton

INFO $12, free younger than 1, 631-537-8250, cmee.org.

WHILE YOU’RE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD The Candy Kitchen is an old-fashioned luncheonette that also serves ice cream; it’s cash only. 2391 Montauk Highway, Bridgehampton, 631-537-9885. 

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