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6 children's museums to visit in New York State this winter

A view from inside the Children's Museum of

A view from inside the Children's Museum of Manhattan. Credit: Children's Museum of Manhattan

Children’s museums are a nexus where playtime and learning meet and there are several across New York for those looking for a day to explore interactive exhibits, science centers and more. Here are kid-friendly museums to plan a day or weekend trip that provide unique, informative and fun opportunities for the whole family.

New York City

Brooklyn Children’s Museum

This family-friendly facility has a collection of 30,000 objects to explore, and specializes in programs and exhibits that focus on international culture, music and performance, visual arts and natural science.

MUST TRY Things to look for during a visit include "World Brooklyn" (kid-sized shops based on real stores found around Brooklyn. Kids can pretend to be grocers, shopkeepers, builders, performers and designers) and "Totally Tots," a sensory play space intended for very young guests, includes sand, music, blocks and water to play with. The museum’s second-floor gallery has recently been transformed into "A-MAZE-D," a life-size cardboard maze consisting of tunnels and twisting corridors. For the month of November, all may visit the museum’s ColorLab art studio to create shadow puppets inspired by the murals of artist Kara Walker, which is meant to help kids explore how shapes create shadows. Tickets available in advance. All visitors 12 and older are required to provide proof they have received at least one dose of the Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines.

INFO 145 Brooklyn Ave.; 718-735-4400, brooklynkids.org

Children's Museum of Manhattan

Turning 50 next year, this onetime neighborhood organization has expanded into an educational destination featuring interactive installations and educational exhibits that emphasize learning through play.

MUST TRY Inspired by the popular Nickelodeon series, "Adventures with Dora and Diego," this exhibit uses interactive components to help teach animal facts and preschool science, with content in Spanish and English. "PlayWorks" features a sensory-rich space (aimed at kids ages newborn to 5) that supports preschool skills with music, language, movement and art. Come December, "Gingerbread City" (Dec. 1-30) will feature opportunities to help design and build a life-size city. There will also be a Hannukah festival (Dec. 1-5) and a week dedicated to international traditions celebrated in December (Dec. 26-29.) Timed tickets must be reserved online in advance. All guests 12 years and older must show proof of vaccination and those18 and older must also show identification.

INFO 212 W. 83rd St.; 212-721-1223, cmom.org

UPSTATE NEW YORK

The Discovery Center of the Southern Tier

Set in Binghamton’s notable Ross Park, this discovery center features more than 40 interactive exhibits, located both inside and outside the facility.

MUST TRY There’s a real, former fire vehicle to explore: Engine Number 5, which once served the City of Binghamton’s Fire Department. The exhibit also describes the history of Binghamton’s Fire Department, from its horse-drawn beginnings to today and provides some information on fire safety. Kids can explore a "grocery store" Weis Markets playspace, or get to know more about their health in "Dr. Demtrak's Healthy You" exhibition. One of the newer things to explore is the "Story Garden, which features a police cruiser for young guests to examine, plus details on how police officers serve their communities. Masks are required for all guests over 2 years of age.

INFO 60 Morgan Rd., Binghamton; 607-773-8661, thediscoverycenter.org

Children's Museum at Saratoga

This facility uses tactile, interactive experiences meant to inspire families to learn together.

MUST TRY Among the things to check out is the STEM Room, which offers the ability to experiment with motion, magnets and wind. The Congress Park exhibit is inspired by the city park a few blocks away and takes a look at types of fauna, flora and their habitats. There’s also a play grocery, a bank designed to teach financial literacy, a kid-sized post office and "Happy’s Diner," a retro-styled restaurant fun space. Masks are required for all guests over 2 years of age.

INFO 69 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs; 518-584-5540, cmssny.org

The Strong Museum

This museum is dedicated to the history of play. A collections-based facility, it has 100,000 square feet of exhibit space and things to play with here include video games, dolls, games and other toys.

MUST TRY Check out the Toy Halls of Fame — based on historically iconic playthings, featuring a virtual play room where attendees can digitally operate famous toys and a virtual bubble wall where you can make and then pop imaginary bubbles. There’s also a "Wegmans Super Kids Market" where younger kids can play supermarket and "Imagination Destination," where children can pretend to have a variety of adult jobs. Through Jan, 2, there’s a "Very Eric Carle" exhibit based on the children’s author behind the "Very Hungry Caterpillar" book, and starting Nov. 26, the Strong will open its "Skyline Climb" adventure course that will allow kids of all ages to navigate a series of obstacles, floating bridges and even a zip line.

INFO One Manhattan Sq., Rochester; 585-263-2700, museumofplay.org

North Country Children's Museum

A nonprofit organization, this spot uses its exhibits to celebrate the North Country region of New York State and to provide an enlightening experience geared toward children 12 and younger that touches on science, engineering and the arts.

MUST TRY Highlights to look out for include the "Adirondack Water Play" exhibit, which explores the area’s hydropower dams and river-based environment, including an interactive display focused on the Raquette River, where guests can direct currents and create rapids. Attendees can also create a digital "maple leaf" then watch as it goes through seasonal changes. Visit the Flight Lab where guests can explore the science of flight by building — and then testing — a flyer. The "Construction Zone" features a working crane and "The Playspace," a section aimed at crawlers, toddlers and preschool-age children, offers items meant to encourage sensory play and their imaginations. Masks are mandatory for all guests 2 and older.

INFO 10 Raymond St., Potsdam; 315-274-9380, northcountrychildrensmuseum.org

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