Long Island Science Center
|The Long Island Science Center in downtown Riverhead offers a number of hands-on activities that allow kids to learn while they explore.|
The LI Science Center is located right on Main Street, and is adjacent to a large parking lot that makes access easy. It can be a little tricky to find the entrance to the lot -- you either have to go through the Chase drive-through or turn onto Peconic Avenue, which is where the main entrance to the lot is. We recommend the Peconic Avenue approach, and you can make a left into the lot when coming from the traffic circle. The large municipal lot along the waterfront is a good choice as well during nice weather or if the area is too crowded.
The Science Center provides a number of large bins right by the entrance to store your belongings. They're big enough to stow a few winter coats and a diaper bag. The space inside the center is a little tight for a stroller, and there isn't an obvious place to park one. Leave it in the car if you can.
The main room at the Science Center features a number of stations with different themes for kids to explore. There's a soapy bubble table, experiments to conduct with magnets, building blocks, a smell station and a sand table. The range of play areas is appropriate for kids of many ages, as older children can design tracks with the gravity ball slide and younger ones will have fun just dropping the ball and watching it go.
A weather station is set up like a small television studio, so kids can watch themselves on TV while they report the weather. A handy card describes all of the different kinds of clouds, and more advanced weather watchers can keep an eye on the barometer. Or, your kids can just crowd in front of the camera and mug for the TV, which seemed to be the most popular option during our visit.
The best display for hands-on exploring was the huge plexiglass box that was covered with buttons, knobs and switches from the Brookhaven Lab. Even parents had a hard time keeping their hands off the dials. This display was as useful for teaching kids to wait their turn as for any scientific learning.
At the rear of the main room are two terrariums that are the home of some creepy creatures. Wrath, the ball python, was pretty friendly and not altogether icky. His neighbors, however, are a different story. A large glass tank that is teeming with Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches resembles something from mealtime on Fear Factor. Not for the squeamish.
A working indoor sluice gives kids the chance to experience what it was like to pump your own water. Smaller children will have a tough time here, as it takes a fair amount of strength to prime the pump and get the water moving. Kids will naturally want to play with the water, but the display recycles the water and it gets a little murky, so watch out if your kids are apt to try and taste it.
A second room at the Science Center is where the rotating exhibits are held. In addition to whatever new theme is happening, there are permanent exhibits dedicated to the history of wireless communications on Long Island as well as geology. The wireless exhibit has a large number of telegraphs and photos of some of Long Island's prominent wireless locations of the past, like the Telefunken tower in West Sayville.
The Long Island Science Center is open Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and on Sundays from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The hours change during the summer, check their website for details. Admission is $5 for children and $2 for adults. A visit to the museum is good for one to two hours, depending on how much your kids like to play with the experiments. There is no food, but there are beverage vending machines. If you're making a day of your trip to Riverhead, this is an excellent stop along with the Long Island Railroad Museum and Atlantis Marineworld Aquarium.
Long Island Science CenterOfficial Site: www.lisciencecenter.org
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