For kids interested in science, nature, art, trains, or lighthouses, there is a family-friendly museum for everyone to discover in the Hamptons and North Fork.
With its rich history from the earliest days of colonial America and its important natural wildlife habitats, there's so much to learn about on the East End of Long Island. Ducking into a museum or art workshop is also a great activity for rainy vacation days, or just ducking out of the sun. Read on for our top picks of art museums, children's museums, and even nature centers for kids and families visiting or living in the area.
The South Fork Natural History Museum and Nature Center — Bridgehampton
377 Bridgehampton - Sag Harbor Turnpike
This museum brings the natural beauty of the South Fork indoors. Grab a field journal at the front desk and take an interpretive hike that engages all of the senses. The exhibits are hands-on and exploratory and include a marine touch tank and other areas where kids interact with wildlife. Enjoy world-class workshops every weekend with topics ranging from bird migration to the secret life of snails.
The Parrish Art Museum — Water Mill
279 Montauk Hwy
Dating back to the late 1800s with the construction of the railroad extension, the light and landscape of the Hamptons always draw artists to the region. Since its opening in 1898, the museum showcases American art, which celebrates the longest enduring and most influential artist colony in the United States. A massive renovation in November 2012 included over 12,000 sky-lit exhibit space. Programming for families is robust and includes open studio time for kids, gallery talks, and workshops.
The Sag Harbor Whaling Museum — Sag Harbor
200 Main St.
During the 19th century, Sag Harbor became a bustling port town, where local boys found work as whalers and earned money while traveling the world. These young men, along with international sailors, returned with stories about culture and customs from far away lands. The Sag Harbor Whaling Museum celebrates this period of Long Island history and tells the story of whaling adventures on the high seas.The museum is open daily.
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The Children's Museum of the East End (CMEE) has multiple play spaces, events, and classes for kids.
Children's Museum of the East End — Bridgehampton
376 Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike
With the help of seven moms who banded together to provide enrichment activities for Hamptons kids, the museum opened its doors in 2005. With the motto, learning begins with play, the museum's permanent exhibit is a wonderland of interactive fun, climbing, exploration, and experimentation.
Shinnecock Museum and Cultural Center — Southampton
100 Montauk Hwy
The Shinnecock tribal nation and their descendants inhabited Long Island for over 10,000 years. The museum and cultural center feature exhibits and children's workshops on hunting and fishing, and a permanent main exhibit entitled, A Walk with the People.
Montauk Point Lighthouse Museum — Montauk
2000 New York 27
There aren't many historic sites that can boast they were authorized by President George Washington. The oldest lighthouse in New York state, the Montauk Point Lighthouse, still aids ships in need. Climb the spiral staircase 86 feet to the watch deck and take in the spectacular view. On a clear day, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Block Island are visible. Visit the keeper's dwelling space and the oil room to learn about the role the lighthouse played in national defense during World War II.
Railroad Museum of Long Island — Greenport and Riverhead
4th Street, Greenport
Griffing Avenue, Riverhead
For families who have Thomas the Train fans at home, plan a visit to the Railroad Museum of Long Island. With two locations in Greenport and Riverhead, the museums are filled with toy trains and memorabilia. The museum buildings are restored freight houses and train stations. Special events take place throughout the year.
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The walls and even the floors in some spots are covered with the art of the famous artist Jackson Pollock and his wife, Lee. Image courtesy the Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center
Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center — East Hampton
830 Springs Fireplace Rd
If there is one style of art that speaks to young children, it's splatter painting. The Pollock-Krasner House is the former home and studio of Jackson Pollock and his wife Lee, who moved from New York City to Long Island in 1945. The studio floor was painstakingly restored in the 1980s to reveal the splattered surface where Pollock created his most famous works. Learn about the influence Pollock has on abstract impressionism and American art, and attend a family splatter painting workshop at the study center.
Southampton Historical Museum — Southampton
17 Meeting House Ln.
Comprised of three main museums: Rogers Mansion, The Thomas Halsey Homestead, and the Pelletrau Shop, this complex of restored historic landmarks is a wonderland of Colonial America for children to explore. Buildings date back to the late 1600s and are restored to original condition, with period objects and documents. Visit the one-room schoolhouse, blacksmith's shop, the barn, or the cobbler's shop. The museum is open year-round with changing exhibits on historic topics like ghost hunting and Christmas in Southampton, and special events like the Annual Harvest Day Fair.
Sag Harbor Fire Department Museum — Sag Harbor
46 Church St.
For families with a budding firefighter or police officer at home, plan a visit to two museums in Sag Harbor. The Fire Department Museum and the Jail House (located on Division Street next to the police station) features memorabilia and old photos.
Miss Amelia's Cottage and Roy K. Lester Carriage Museum — Amagansett
For a taste of Colonial America, visit Miss Amelia's Cottage on Main Street in Amagansett. Built in 1725, the cottage stands on the property owned by the founders of Amagansett, Abraham and Jacob Schellinger. The museum displays colonial furnishings and demonstrates how people lived in Amagansett from the earliest colonial days through the early 1900s. At the rear of the property sits the Roy K. Lester Carriage Museum, which focuses on buggies and carriages that were built locally. Open seasonally only.
Top photo of The Sag Harbor Whaling Museum.
A version of this article was first published in 2013, but it has since been updated.