What is an edu-vacation exactly, you ask? It’s a vacation with an educational twist, and it’s everywhere in the Central New York Region.
Teach your kids a thing or two at the museums, science centers, halls of fame, zoos, nature centers and historic landmarks that fill the area, and watch as your family vacation magically transforms into what some consider a mystical, near-extinct concept these days, an edu-vacation.
For starters, Greater Binghamton is blessed with many an edu-vacation hot spot. One of which, the Discovery Center of the Southern Tier, is a hands-on museum for children where play and learning are combined with imagination in an engaging atmosphere. The Discovery Center encompasses over 22,500 square feet of family fun.
For an out-of-this-world experience or maybe even a trip to the moon, visit Roberson Museum and Science Center. Your family will adore the range in exhibits from art to history to science.
Teach your kids about the great outdoors at the Finch Hollow Nature Center, which includes a museum building featuring 25 display cases and a mile-long trail winding through field and wooded habitats and alongside a scenic pond. Or, roam wild and free with your kids at the Binghamton Zoo at Ross Park, the only zoo in the region that is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
Cooperstown, in Otsego County, known as the “Home of Baseball,” is where America has gathered to celebrate its great pastime since 1939. Today, it’s a great place for your family of baseball buffs to gather to ooh and ahh over three stories of frequently updated exhibits, 35,000 artifacts, 130,000-plus baseball cards, an $8 million library and research center and the nearby Doubleday Field. What’s more, your kids will adore the Sandlot Kids’ Clubhouse and special programs offered at the Bullpen Theater.
For a lesson or two on the heritage of the Central New York Region circa 1845, visit the innovative “living history” museum, The Farmers’ Museum. Here, history is brought to life with exhibits, craft demonstrations and hands-on activities. Spread your wings at the Joseph L. Popp Butterfly Conservatory and walk among hundreds of live, free-flying butterflies and over 30 species of tropical birds from all over the world. This 3,000 square foot indoor conservatory herbarium is also home to free-ranging tortoises, lizards, frogs and hundreds of tropical plants. Go wild!
Your family will be transported through a fascinating portal into Native American life at the Iroquois Indian Museum in Schoharie County, shaped like a 400-year-old Iroquois longhouse. With authentic Iroquois art, crafts and artifacts, the Museum aims to foster an understanding of the Iroquois culture.
Discover more about the rich, historic legacy of the area with a trip to the Old Stone Fort Museum, which includes an early 1700s home, a 1780s Dutch barn, an 1830s law office, an 1890s one-room schoolhouse and a 1772 stone church that was fortified and attacked by British forces in 1780.
Celebrate the end of the growing season and catch the first changing leaves of the fall with the annual Sharon Springs Harvest Festival, or drag out your corsets, parasols, vests and top hats to join in the Victorian Stroll in December.
Venture 156 feet below the Earth’s surface to a prehistoric underground cavern six million years in the making at Howe Caverns. Some newer additions to the mysterious, magnificent limestone formations, the stalactites and the stalagmites are the Howe High Adventure Sky Trail® Ropes Course – quite the aerial adventure; the Four Tower Zip Line – see beautiful, scenic views from up to 40 feet in the air; and the Howe Caverns Mining Company – a new 6,000-square-foot spot to sift through bags of rough for gemstones, fossils and arrowheads to take home. The look of wonderment in your children’s eyes will let you know this trip was definitely worth the short drive.
The Goodsell Museum in Old Forge, Herkimer County, will give you an insight into what life was like long ago in the Adirondacks with interesting exhibits and an extensive new research library overflowing with books, maps, genealogy, vintage photographs and postcards. Another cool attraction to see is the View Arts Center of Old Forge, a place dedicated to the visual and performing arts, inspired by and reflecting the beauty of the natural environment of the Adirondacks.
In keeping with the nature theme, Chenango County’s Wolf Mountain Nature Center is a unique place where observation of natural wolf behavior is possible. Bring your mini-wolf pack to see the Alaskan Timber Wolves that call the nature center home.
For a fun, annual pumpkin-carving festival where your kids can compete for a spot in the Guinness Book of Records, bring the family to the Pumpkin Festival in Norwich. Way to put an agricultural spin on your edu-vacation!
Paddle back in time at the Chittenango Landing Canal Boat Museum in Madison County and enter the canal era. Check out the 19th-century dry dock complex on the old Erie Canal, telling stories of boat-building and repair of Erie Canal boats, plus the social history of the era.
For even more on the olden days of yesteryear, learn about one of the most powerful abolitionists in the United States at the National Abolition Hall of Fame/Gerrit Smith National Historic Landmark. The National Historic Landmark, lifetime home and office of Gerrit Smith (1797-1874), is the site where a great number of abolitionists received support and renewed commitment to the cause of freedom. Smith helped hundreds of African Americans by purchasing their freedom from slavery, arranging safe passage to Canada, helping families establish their lives locally, providing education and working for human rights.
Witness what was once a utopian society at the Oneida Community Mansion House (1848-1880), where the 93,000-square-foot house testifies to the community’s belief in personal and social perfection. The educational programs, fascinating exhibitions, workshops and guided tours will tell the Oneida Community tale and capture the attention of your entire family.
Revamp your next family vacation by making it an edu-vacation, and watch as your children leave each attraction having truly learned something, with a new appreciation for a topic they previously knew little about.