Crawl through a hollow log and enter a small town set in a musical forest. The Children's Museum of the East End is an absolutely magical place for younger children to engage in art, music, and imaginative play while learning. Although the museum is best for children ages two to seven, it can be great fun for older children who enjoy pretend play and dressing up, especially if they have a friend or siblings along. The museum also has cozy corners designed specifically for crawlers.
The museum is designed to look like a little town, each detailed setting dedicated to a different themed area that provides a wealth of activities and dress-up possibilities. First up is a farmers’ market with plentiful plastic fruits and veggies, scales, cash registers, shopping baskets and aprons--everything a child could want to operate their own farm stand. Next to the market is a windmill where kids learn about all sorts of wind turbines and play with brightly colored balls floating high on cushions of air. Tucked against the wall across from the windmill is my favorite exhibit of all—the potato-chip-making machine! Here children can push buttons sequentially and watch as a faux potato moves through an intriguing series of machines and is turned into potato chips and bagged.
A little street then leads to a full-scale old-fashioned soda shop and fountain where children can play at making burgers, sodas, and ice-cream sundaes. This same building also offers LEGO, gears, and wooden construction sets. There is an interesting display of wood-working tools here as well. Across the street is the library, with comfy chairs and plenty of great books. Next up is a fire station area with an oversized cab of a wooden fire truck. Kids can dress up in full fire-fighter gear and take the wheel. An audio track relays realistic emergency calls to help children get into the rescue spirit.
After the fire truck comes the seashore with a huge wreck of a pirate ship hull and a lighthouse. In this area children can dress up as pirates or mermaids and learn about local sea life, beaches, and lighthouses. They can play inside the ship’s hull where there is a periscope and a comfy hammock bed. Near the lighthouse they can play at fishing, look at tiny models of famous lighthouses and learn a bit about local beach ecology.
Finally there is an area filled with a grove of tall trees. The music tree’s base is ringed with a great selection of percussion instruments for children to try. Bells, a steel drum, a marimba, and maracas are a few options. This area also has a place where children can make rubbings of different kinds of leaves and an art area with plenty of paper and drawing materials.
When you leave this little world, there is a second large exhibit space currently dedicated to active play. It contains a large wooden climbing structure, softer foam structures and lower wooden climbing structures for the littler children and plenty of mat-covered floor space. My daughter particularly enjoyed playing hide-and-seek in the play spaces under the slides. Shoes must be removed in this area so you may wish to bring socks. This area is often reserved for parties from 3:30pm on. The benefit of a party here is that the parties run from 4-6pm and the museum closes to the public at 5:00pm, allowing party guests a chance to have the entire museum to yourselves for an hour.
Classes and Workshops
CMEE offers a wide range of classes and workshops for younger children, and sometimes for older children, although in recent years the focus seems to be on the younger set. Art, music, and cooking classes as well as special holiday workshops are held year round. There are Gymboree classes and on Saturday mornings there is a LEGO club. Fall through spring there are evening pizza-and-pajama parties, the last of which will be held on June 1st. Advanced reservations are required. Class listings may be found here.
CMEE has a well-designed outdoor amphitheater where concerts and performances are held all summer long. The summer schedule is not yet out but should be published fairly soon here. These events are usually amazing and tickets do sell out fairly quickly. Bringing a picnic and sitting under the sky for a show or concert at CMEE is one of the nicest ways to spend an evening with kids in the Hamptons. The benches are made of stone-lined turf so a blanket or towel to sit on is a good idea if the ground is at all damp.
The museum does not have a restaurant or cafeteria, but you are welcome to bring a picnic. There are tables outdoors and in the lobby. The museum does have drink and snack machines and an ice cream freezer in their gift shop. There are water fountains near the restrooms. No food or drink may be consumed in the exhibit areas.
This museum can become very crowded in the summer on rainy days, especially on weekends! This is sadly true of virtually every indoor venue on the twin forks on rainy days!
The Children's Museum of the East End (CMEE)
379 Sag Harbor/Bridgehampton Tpke.
Open Monday and Wednesday–Saturday 9am–5pm
Open Sunday 10am–5pm
Check your local public library to see if they have a family membership card you can borrow.
The museum is located on the Sag Harbor/Bridgehampton Turnpike, also known as County Road 79, on the left hand side if you are coming from Bridgehampton. Directly across the road is the South Fork Natural History Museum. It is easy to whiz past these two museums as they are located in the middle of the turnpike, not especially close to the centers of either Sag Harbor or Bridgehampton. The nearest crossroads are Narrow Lane and Scuttle Hole Road. There is usually plenty of parking, except perhaps on a rainy Saturday.