Out on Long Island's North Shore in an area well known as the Gold Coast is one of dozens of estates that form a chain through Nassau County and into Suffolk. This was the place where more wealthy Americans lived than anywhere else in the states. The owners of the mansions, on acres of wooded hills overlooking the Long Island Sound, included the rich and famous including Guggenheim, Astor, Roosevelt, Frick, Pratt, Woolworth, Morgan, Belmont, Tiffany, Whitney, and Hearst. Among those notables was the Vanderbilt family.
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One particular property was deeded to the public with the stipulation (taken from their web site) that the estate was to be dedicated to the "education and enjoyment of the public" and "enhanced" as a museum.
One of the enhancements was the addition of a planetarium. From the Vanderbilt Planetarium Web site...
...The Vanderbilt Planetarium opened in 1971 on the grounds of the Vanderbilt estate, and it is the largest facility of its kind on Long Island. The Planetarium's purpose is to provide visitors with information about the nighttime sky. The Planetarium's main feature is the domed, 60-foot Sky Theater. The theater's GOTO star projector can display the sun, moon, stars and planets. It also recreates celestial events during our various Sky Shows. The projector can simulate the heavens at any moment in time, from the distant past to the future, as it appeared from any place on Earth. The projector can show 11,369 stars, the Milky Way and several deep sky objects. This allows Planetarium staff to recreate the visible night sky, as seen under perfect conditions.
The lighting system projects planets, solar systems, supernovas and more.
The large, climate-controlled lobby, is open and inviting with "out-of-this-world" displays with a model of a large moon, paintings, a meteorite and a gift shop with cool little things that kids will enjoy along with t-shirt, books and souvenirs.
I've visited the Vanderbilt Planetarium a couple of times enjoying it. Seeing the stars as the lights dim and they come more clearly to the eye is amazing!
In addition the planetarium also puts on a light shows using music of the Beatles, Zeppelin, and Pink Floyd too. The effects are exciting and fun but also a bit hokey at times. The seating is comfortable and the shows are worth a visit. Of the Laser/Light shows I only viewed the Beatles and enjoyed it. What's not to like?...and the sound system is excellent.
A sample of shows posted on their web site.
Planetarium Show Schedule:
January 7 - March 20, 2011
11:00 AM - A Trip to the Planets
12:00 PM - One Small Step
1:00 PM - Journey Through the Solar System
2:00 PM - Night Lights
3:00 PM - Laser Beatles
4:00 PM - Journey Through the Solar System
Saturday Evening Schedule
7:00 PM - Laser Beatles
8:00 PM - Journey Through the Solar System
9:00 PM - Laser Vinyl
10:00 PM - Laser Pink Floyd - The Wall
The show is a delight and it makes for the perfect stop after a visit to the mansion based museum and the incredible grounds of the Gold Coast estate.
Be sure to ask where the dinosaur exhibit is because it's not highlighted (It's right behind the planetarium with entrance from its lobby) It may not be the NY Museum of Natural History but it really is cool. It's looks like a long lost collection stuffed in an old garage. Bring a camera for pix with "Rex." The display was fun for me as an adult. The kids WILL enjoy it too!
The Gold Coast
The Vanderbilt Museum
Best Suited For: Families
Best Time to Travel Here: Anytime