Imaginations Take Flight at Long Island's Cradle of Aviation Museum

Take a deep dive into Long Island's aviation history at the Cradle of Aviation Museum.
Take a deep dive into Long Island's aviation history at the Cradle of Aviation Museum.
9/20/21 - By Gina Massaro

Exhibits at East Garden City's Cradle of Aviation Museum do more than merely teach visitors and dole out facts. While parents and teenagers can enjoy learning about America's aviation and space history, small children can enjoy a host of interactive features at this great Long Island museum. Aspiring pilots and astronauts: Get ready to blast-off to the Cradle of Aviation Museum. 


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A Visit to Long Island's Cradle of Aviation Museum

Upon entering the Cradle of Aviation, families find the Junior Jet Club directly to the left. This special play area is designed for children 6 and younger. There are magnetic busy boards along the walls, aviation-themed play areas and plenty of room to explore. Kids can also flex their engineering skills building with Legos. However, due to the pandemic the Junior Jet Club is closed until further notice.

You find the big aircraft at the Jet Gallery. Many of the planes here were built on Long Island at Grumman. The Grumman F-14 Tomcat and Grumman A6-F Intruder are featured in this hangar, as well as the El Al Boeing 707 flight deck. While the aircraft and their history alone are enough to entertain adults and teens, it's climbing up into the cockpit of a Boeing 707 or jumping into the front seat of a helicopter that thrills younger visitors. 

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Take the controls of one of the museum's helicopters.

On the other side of the museum is a trail of historic exhibits, taking you from before flight to outer space. The museum is immersive, and there isn't one point where you aren't enveloped in its themes. Each of the eight exhibits showcases a block of time in aviation, from pre-flight in the early 1900s to World War I, World War II, modern aviation, space, and more. The exhibits feature scale models, replicas, retired aircraft, uniforms and weapons. Each exhibit is filled with educational information to complement the beautiful displays and interactive features little ones enjoy. There are multiple fight simulators and aircraft for children to climb into and press the various buttons and levers. It's not only a journey of science, but one of imagination.

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Kids can imagine landing on the moon. 

The JetBlue Sky Theater Planetarium offers different shows throughout the day. One World One Sky: Big Bird's Adventure follows the titular Sesame Street character as he explores the sun, moon and stars. The Current Night Sky, which changes depending on the time of year, is more scientific, yet still accessible to older children, but little ones might lose interest. Asteroid: Mission Extreme imagines what space travel using asteroids as waypoints would look like. One piece of advice, go for the seats at the top of the planetarium, where you'll get the most immersive experience. 

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Delight in the attractions at Arcade-Age.

The Arcade-Age Exhibit is not included with museum admission, but is a must-do for gamers young and old. The exhibit tells the story of arcade games, from their beginnings in the 1940s and features more than 50 games to play, including classic favorites. Admission is $10 for a 90-minute play session. No quarters are necessary, all games are free once in the exhibit. Sessions begin at 11am, 1pm and 3pm, with time for sanitizing between sessions.

Where to Eat at the Cradle of Aviation Museum

After all the excitement, if you find yourself getting hungry take a walk to the Red Planet Cafe, just behind the planetarium. From 11am to 3:30pm, the cafe offers up lunchtime eats such as hot dogs, hamburgers, salads, fruit, wraps and curly fries. Visitors are welcome to bring a bagged lunch to eat at one of the tables. There are also a host of kid-friendly restaurants a short ride from the museum.   

The Cradle of Aviation Museum is open Tuesdays-Sundays, 10am- 5pm. Admission is $16, or $21 to include a ticket to the planetarium. Museum admission is not required to visit the Arcade Age Exhibit, which is a separate $10 admission. Be sure to check out what perks your local library has to see if you can get free or discounted admission.

NOTE: As of September 2021, the Cradle of Aviation Museum is requiring all visitors older than 2 regardless of vaccination status to wear a mask.    

Getting to the Cradle of Aviation Museum  

The Cradle of Aviation Museum is part of Nassau County's Museum Row and is located on Charles Lindbergh Boulevard in East Garden City, next to Nassau Community College. By car, take the Meadowbrook Parkway to Exit M4, then follow the signs to Museum Row, on Charles Lindbergh Boulevard. Continue to the second traffic light and turn right into the parking lot. The N16 Hempstead-Rockville Centre bus stops almost directly in front of the museum. Taxis are available from the Long Island Rail Road's Garden City, Mineola, and Westbury stations.

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