New York State is of course famous for “The Big Apple”, America’s most renowned city, but The Empire State has so much more going for it than tall buildings and lights that never go out.
Boasting a rich cultural history and offering up one of the most varied and exciting landscapes in the nation, there are tons of wonderful field trip-worthy places to visit and things to do. You just have to know where to look, which is where we come in.
We’ve scoured this northeastern state for all the valuable field trip experiences we could find, and today, we’re presenting only the best of our discoveries to you.
1. Adirondacks Wild Walk/Wild Center
The Adirondacks Mountains that run through New York are just one example of how beautiful the topography of this state is in places.
Nestled into the dense pine forests of Tupper Lake at the foot of the range, the Wild Center has curated an amazing outdoor-only experience that immerses visitors in the splendor of the great outdoors and even gets you up close and personal with some of the native wildlife.
Oh, and did we mention that there’s a giant, sprawling, spiderweb eagle’s nest that visitors can clamber into for elevated and exciting viewing sessions or to take advantage of interactive displays?
Kids will absolutely love this wilderness adventure, and as its primary role is to instill the importance of living in harmony with the natural world around us, it’s an essential resource as the environmental crises we face worsens.
2. Five Rivers Environmental Education Center
Ten miles from Albany, you’ll find the wonderful Five Rivers Environmental Education Center, a facility that hosts the “Let’s Go Exploring” nature hunt that tasks children and guardians to find various natural landmarks.
You’ll have bundles of fun seeking out trees felled by beavers, trying to catch a glimpse of various beautiful birds, and generally interacting with and immersing yourselves in nature.
If your school is located in a very urban area, this excursion will be a welcome breath of fresh air for you and the kids.
And if the natural scavenger hunt isn’t quite enough to keep your class busy, there are a number of guided trails, and the Center also holds pretty frequent outdoor events.
3. Bethel Woods Center For The Arts
There’s no better way to teach children about the importance and impact of art on culture and society as a whole than a super fun trip to the Bethel Woods Center For The Arts, a facility built on the very spot where the infamous 1969 Woodstock Festival was held.
You and your class will learn all about how art intersects with the zeitgeist, effecting political, environmental, and social issues and events.
As you’d expect from a tribute to the most prolific musical event of the 60s, there are colors abound, as well as loads of funky exhibits and decor to marvel at, forming a sensory extravaganza that’s utterly enthralling for kids and adults alike.
What’s more, as it’s situated right at the heart of the Catskills, the surrounding grounds are as majestic as the Arts Center itself.
You can check out the Bindy Bazaar Trails that tell the story of the original Woodstock community, or simply plan a calming “forest bathing” route to walk with the kids.
4. The Arkell Museum
If you and your class are willing to head into central NYC, then may we suggest an artsy trip to The Arkell Museum. Within this amazing facility, you’ll find the personal fine art collection of Bartlett Arkell, who was the first president of Canajoharie’s Beech-Nut Packing Company.
He was a huge proponent of the NY art scene and beyond, and since his passing in the early 1900s, the museum has expanded upon his collection, which now includes essential works by such masters as Georgia O’Keeffe, Andrew Wyeth, and Winslow Homer.
Group tours last for 45 minutes and largely serve to educate about the nation’s best painters, as well as Canajoharie and Mohawk Valley history and how the Beech-Nut company falls into said histories.
5. Trevor Zoo
Here’s a novel idea… a school field trip to another school. We know this sounds crazy, but what if the school in question doubled up as one of the best zoos in the state?
Starting to sound a little more exciting, huh? Well, this strange hybrid facility does actually exist… Trevor Zoo at Millbrook School.
This off-the-wall venture all started when the school’s biology teacher, Frank Trevor, decided he wanted to pass on his love for nature and wildlife to his students.
Much like Bartlett Arkell’s art collection, Trevor’s bestiary has expanded over the years, and is now a full-blown, six-acre zoo complete with 180 native and exotic animals, including the adorable red panda!
It’s open to the public, and entry fees are surprisingly cheap, meaning you’ll have no problem getting parents or the school to fund the excursion.
6. Roger Tory Peterson Institute Of Natural History
If you’re hoping for more of a versatile, something-for-everyone sort of field trip, packed with tons of variety, there’s really no substitute for the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History in Jamestown.
As you and your class make your way through the facility, you’ll move from art to environmentalism to architecture and beyond.
Each subject is explored through the groundbreaking work of Jamestown native Roger Tory Peterson, an infamous nature artist, and ornithologist.
Designed by legend of the architecture world, Robert A.M. Stern, the building itself is a marvel, and as it’s situated slap bang in the middle of a 28-acre woodland, the general area is pretty darn stunning as well.
Visitors are free to follow in Peterson’s footsteps (literally), exploring forestry and taking in the majesty of nature.
7. Seneca Falls
As the women’s suffrage movement began at the Wesleyan Chapel in Seneca Falls, this beautiful town is considered the birthplace of women’s rights in the US.
Today, it’s incorporated into the Women’s Rights National Historical Park, which is a fantastic learning and historical resource as a whole, but a visit to Seneca Falls specifically is an inspiring and wholly moving experience for all.
There are tons of things to do and see here, but the stand-out feature is undoubtedly the waterfall inscribed with Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s Declaration of Sentiments, signed by all the brave women who attended the very first women’s rights convention way back in 1848.
8. Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center
The Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center is a crucial educational resource surrounding the brave efforts of those who fought to abolish slavery in the USA.
Kids will learn all about historical leaders such as Harriet Tubman, who helped to free the enslaved via the infamous Underground Railroad.
Niagara Falls and the surrounding area was a hotbed of Abolitionist activity and played a pivotal role in the fight to end slavery in the US for good.
The standout experience is the “One More River to Cross” exhibit that tells the stories of many an African-American and Niagara Falls native doing whatever it takes to win individual and widespread freedom.
9. Cradle Of Aviation Museum And Education Center
For a STEM trip sure to open minds and inspire, head to Long Island’s incredible (and sizable) science and engineering educational hub, the Cradle of Aviation and Education Center.
Most kids are obsessed with jet planes and spacecraft, and when they visit this facility, they’ll get to see them with their own two eyes and learn about the science that takes these hunks of metal from the ground and into the air and the great beyond.
There are 75 crafts to witness, spread across eight galleries with exhibitions covering exciting topics such as World War II aircraft and, of course, the Apollo moon landing.
It’s a fantastic day out no matter what, but the facility often holds seasonal events and special exhibitions, so it always pays to check out the Center’s agenda before planning a trip.
10. Museum Of Jewish Heritage
Despite ranking as one of mankind’s most horrific tragedies, awareness of the Holocaust and the persecution of Jewish people by the German Nazi regime is at an all-time low amongst the American youth.
In light of this, there’s no better time to head to Manhattan’s Museum of Jewish Heritage, which is described as “a living memorial to the Holocaust.”
Not only is this an expertly run museum with deftly curated and moving exhibits, but it’s also a reminder to all of us of the perils of political extremism and the villainization of entire groups of people.
The more we can educate the youth about the horrors of our shared history, the less likely it is that history will repeat itself.
11. Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site
The War of 1812 was widespread, geographically speaking, but two of the most important battles were fought right here in this one spot.
This site tells the story of how a disagreement surrounding maritime rights erupted into all-out war between the US and Great Britain.
It might be a little dry for younger students, but for those starting to engage with their context in place and time, it’s an eye-opening experience.
As you can see, New York State is a veritable treasure trove of exciting and insightful field trips that can teach children a lot about themselves, their country, and the world at large.
As such, you’ll never be short of a few dynamite ideas to keep your classes informed and engaged when venturing beyond the school gate.
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