Fasten your seat belts and prepare for takeoff; next stop: the Cradle of Aviation in Garden City. From the earliest forms of flight to modern space travel, exhibits span the gamut of aeronautics.What's more, this museum is one of a kind in that it really focuses on Long Island and its role in transforming aviation from a dangerous sport to a means of transportation, making the island a true "Cradle of Aviation."
Much of the content will certainly be over the heads of those younger than 10, and I must admit, I found my own knowledge of science and math put to the test at times, but interactive exhibits, including planes you can board, cockpits you can steer and a hot-air balloon you can inflate will make the younger ones happy they came for the ride. If you've got kids with a wide range of ages, you may want to enlist the help of another adult here. Young ones will enjoy the Junior Jet Club, but unfortunately the staff does not allow children over six inside. Additionally, older kids will want to ride on the extreme Blue Angels ride, but anyone under 3 feet will not be admitted. All in all, there is something for everyone here, and both my three- and five-year-olds, as well as my husband and I, can't wait to return. Bon voyage!
In 1902 the Wright brothers piloted the first powered airplane in North Carolina. If we consider this to be the birthplace of flight then Long Island is the cradle of aviation: the place where aviation was coddled and nurtured and allowed to grow and flourish into what it is today.
Junior Jet Club, ages 2–6
It's all about the pretend play here, and those under six will really have a blast in this space. First of all, they can board the shuttle and fly into space, then crawl through a pretend airlock to board the international space station. While aboard, they'll need to get some exercise on a child-size treadmill and stationary bike, perform some experiments using a robotic arm,and put together a puzzle using a glove box. Velcro is used all over the ISS; can your child guess why. Velcro will keep all your important stuff from floating around, which certainly comes in handy when it's time to eat. Imagine what it would be like to try to drink a glass of juice in space. Thankfully, astronauts can drink form juice boxes with straws. How do astronauts sleep? Kids can crawl into a sleeping bag, fastened securely to the wall and zipper themselves in snugly to avoid bumping into things while sleeping. A video shows clips of the real astronauts living and working on the ISS.
Additionally, kids can sit inside a life-size model airplane while another role-playing child or caregiver serves them a hot meal on a tray as they watch the in-flight movie. Kids can experiment with balance as they attempt to fly a mechanical propeller plane or build a rocket out of soft blocks and LEGOs. The room is also equipped with some cushy chairs and plenty of books on space and flight. My nine-month-old loved all the cool crawl spaces and large building materials. All in all a great space that kept my kids engaged for quite awhile.
Visitor Center Atrium
It was no small feat of engineering that allowed museum staff to suspend a Grumman F11 in Blue Angels colors positioned in a nosedive with its nose facing the door and its tail facing the third-floor balcony. Seven other artifacts including a skydiver, modern astronaut, and a Merlin hang glider also suspended from the ceiling of the entrance to the museum, making for a dramatic entry as you wait in line to purchase your entrance tickets.
Permanent Exhibits 1870–Present Day
It's best to begin your tour on the second floor atrium where you'll get a bird's-eye view of many of the flying machines and apparatuses suspended from the ceiling. As you tour the exhibits, the big idea here is that dreams do come true. You begin your tour with the earliest forms of flight from kites and balloons to winged bicycles. then you progress to the sporting age of flight and to the jetliners of today then it's on to the moon landing. For each accomplishment in flight, there were the naysayers who said it was impossible and would never happen, yet here we are. Additionally, there is a final section demonstrating the current research being conducted at Hofstra University on global warming. Finally, make your way over to the exhibits at the Red Planet Cafe to what the future of aviation may look like.
Red Planet Cafe
A visit to the Red Planet Cafe transports you into an imaginary future where Mars is a fully habitable planet. The big idea here is that while you've just spent your tour of the museum learning about our aeronautical past, now you're invited to imagine what will happen in the next 100 years. Obviously, no one knows for sure where we'll be in 100 years but but if our past is any indication, it's bound to be spectacular.
You can eat your own food here in the café or purchase from a selection of space-themed options.
Giant Screen Theater
For an additional fee, the Leroy and Rose Grumman giant dome theater is currently showing Lewis and Clark, Sharks and Tornado Alley. The theater is designed to make viewers feel part of the action. It uses motion and sound to bring the screen to life. While it's an ideal way to make science and history come alive for children, the theater is not recommended for those under five.
The Aerospace Park is not yet open but will feature a variety of Long Island related military aircraft.
Opened in 2012, the digital planetarium takes visitors on a virtual tour of our universe. The planetarium uses data about our universe from NASA and a statistical database of one billion stars compiled by the Museum of Natural History. When completed, the planetarium will be one of the largest and most powerful virtual reality simulators in the world.
Fly with the Blue Angels in this virtual motion simulator. You must be over 3' for this ride which is included with museum admission.
Aerospace Summer Camp 2012
July 9–August 3
Members: $310/week, nonmembers $340/week
Explore, interact, experiment, and create during these weekly mini camps. Each week focuses on a varying topic related to aeronautics taught by experienced museum educators.
Have an out-of-this world birthday party with the museum as a backdrop. Create a craft, eat pizza, and explore the museum. Choose from a variety of age-appropriate themes.
Cradle of Aviation Museum
Charles Lindbergh Blvd.
Garden City, NY 11530
Adults $14, movie/museum combo $19; children 2–12 and seniors $12, movie/museum combo $17