Nestled between the Susquehanna River and the Pennsylvania border, Vestal is a quaint town in Broome County in the Southern Tier of New York. Located a short way southwest from Binghamton, Vestal is home to Binghamton University, which provides an exciting calendar of entertainment and sporting events throughout the year. Vestal has no less than 21 town-operated and beautifully maintained parks, where people can relax and enjoy picnics, as well as six retail plazas, which provide a wealth of shopping and dining as well as other forms of entertainment. Certain attractions may be temporarily closed or require advance reservations. Some restaurants are currently offering pickup only. Hours/availability may have changed.
1.Phelps Mansion Museum
2.Apple Hills, Vestal, New York
3.Bundy Museum of History and Art
4.Kopernik Observatory & Science Center
5.Otsiningo Park, Vestal, New York
6.Recreation Park Carousel, Vestal, NY
7.Roberson Museum and Science Center
8.Binghamton Zoo at Ross Park, Vestal, NY
9.The Discovery Center of the Southern Tier, Vestal, New York
10.Vestal Rail Trail, Vestal, New York
10 Best Things to Do in Vestal, New York
- Phelps Mansion Museum, Photo: Phelps Mansion Museum
- Apple Hills, Vestal, New York, Photo: Courtesy of vm2002 - Fotolia.com
- Bundy Museum of History and Art, Photo: Bundy Museum of History and Art
- Kopernik Observatory & Science Center, Photo: Kopernik Observatory & Science Center
- Otsiningo Park, Vestal, New York, Photo: Otsiningo Park
- Recreation Park Carousel, Vestal, NY, Photo: Courtesy of Yordan Rusev - Fotolia.com
- Roberson Museum and Science Center, Photo: Roberson Museum and Science Center
- Binghamton Zoo at Ross Park, Vestal, NY, Photo: Courtesy of youreyesonly - Fotolia.com
- The Discovery Center of the Southern Tier, Vestal, New York, Photo: The Discovery Center of the Southern Tier
- Vestal Rail Trail, Vestal, New York, Photo: Courtesy of johannes - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of paulvelgos - Fotolia.com
Attraction Spotlight: Roberson Museum and Science Center
Located in Binghamton, New York, the Roberson Museum and Science Center is housed within the historic 1904 Roberson Mansion, offering a variety of exhibits focusing on the natural, social, and cultural history of the New York State area. The historic Roberson Mansion was the former home of Alonzo Roberson Jr., heir to the Alonzo Roberson Company lumber supplier and Board Chairman of the Marine Midland Bank, and his wife Margaret Hays, who commissioned the construction of an Italian Renaissance Revival-style mansion in 1904 in Binghamton’s Front Street-Riverside Drive district.
Architect C. Edward Vosbury was hired in 1904 to oversee the home’s construction, with interior design by New York City designers Pottier and Stymus and landscaping by Buffalo’s Townsend and Fleming. The home was finished in 1907 at a total cost of $107,500, featuring modern amenities including an elevator and dumbwaiter, central heating and intercom systems, gas-electric lighting fixtures, ballroom and billiard room, and three-story servants’ wing.
Following Alonzo’s death in 1934 and Margaret’s in the early 1950s, the home was deeded as an educational center and opened to the public as the Roberson Memorial Center in 1954, showcasing collections belonging to the Binghamton Museum of Fine Arts. Major additions were completed as part of renovations to the facility in 1966, including the addition of a digital planetarium facility. In the 1980s, the museum was accredited as an Association of Science and Technology Centers facility, adding an additional wing for scientific collections and study. The mansion’s former carriage house was renovated in 1996 for use as an educational center, and a New York State Heritage Area Visitor Center was also added to the facility in the late 1990s.
Permanent Exhibits and Collections
Today, the Roberson Museum and Science Center is nationally recognized as an art, history, and science museum, offering a variety of exhibits related to the natural and cultural history of the New York State area. As a nonprofit museum facility, the Roberson Museum is funded in part by grants from the New York State Council on the Arts, the Broome County Arts Council, and the Conrad and Virginia Klee Foundation. The historic 1904 Roberson Mansion facility is preserved as a living history site, serving as the museum’s centerpiece, with a variety of additional facilities offering exhibit areas and collections storage space.
Visitors may tour the historic Roberson Mansion facility, which features 26 rooms, including a billiard room, library, reception, and formal living room. 11 chimneys are showcased as part of the mansion’s Italian Renaissance Revival styling, along with an ornate grand staircase, a large ballroom space on the mansion’s third floor, and a number of period amenities, including Dutch metalwork and woodwork, silk damask wall coverings, and a wrought-iron elevator which still works today. Special events are held throughout the year at the mansion facility, including a Home for the Holidays annual display and a New Year’s Eve Masquerade in the Mansion event. The Roberson Mansion may also be rented for private special events, including weddings, receptions, photoshoots, and business events.
On the first floor of the Roberson Mansion facility, the museum showcases a permanent exhibit of a 1950s-era model train, the largest public model train display in the New York State region. The regional landscapes of Binghamton and nearby Owego, Johnson City, and Endicott are depicted in the display, which was constructed through more than 3,500 hours of work by museum staff and community volunteers. A documentary by local television station WSKG, Making Tracks, recounts the train display’s construction over the course of two years, beginning in March of 2011.
The museum’s Digital Planetarium is a 50-seat theater offering a variety of public and school tour programming related to astronomy, climate science, and natural history topics. Presentations range from 10 to 40 minutes in length and are available for showings throughout the week as part of school field trips for elementary and secondary school students. General visitor showings are also offered on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, and planetarium rentals are available for small groups and organizations.
Temporary rotating exhibits are showcased throughout the rest of the museum’s gallery space, focusing on a variety of topics related to the natural, social, and cultural history of the New York State area and beyond. Major annual public special event programming includes the RoberCon science fiction convention, held annually in September, offering a variety of keynote speakers, demonstrations, workshops, and roundtable discussions. Other public special event programming includes an annual food and wine festival, a Halloween family event, and an annual doll and model train fair and exposition.
30 Front St, Binghamton, NY 13905, Phone: 607-772-0660
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Attraction Spotlight: Kopernik Observatory and Science Center
Located in Vestal, New York, the Kopernik Observatory and Science Center is a public science laboratory and astronomical observatory offering hands-on programming for K-12 students and community visitors. As part of the 500th anniversary celebration for famed astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus’ birthday, the Kopernik Polish Cultural Society of Broome County was created in 1973 for the purposes of creating a community center for the Broome County, New York area to serve as an educational astronomy and science facility.
Funds for the observatory were secured in the autumn of 1973, with architect James Kiley selected to design the facility and general contractor Edward Nezelek selected to oversee its construction. The observatory was donated to the Roberson Museum and Science Center to oversee its operations and officially opened to the public in June of 1974.
In 1992, the observatory underwent a $2 million renovation and expansion, adding the Kopernik Space Education Center facility to its premises as a scientific laboratory fully designed with K-12 students, teachers, and families in mind. The Center’s construction was overseen by architect Kenneth R. Gay II and added an additional 80,000 square feet of educational space to the facility, which was opened in June of 1993. The observatory ran into financial difficulty in the mid-2000s, which resulted in the transfer of operations back to the Kopernik Society in 2007 and a name change for the facility to the Kopernik Observatory and Science Education Center. In 2014, the observatory celebrated its 40th anniversary of operations with a gala featuring keynote speaker Douglas H. Wheelock, a former NASA astronaut.
Attractions and Programming
Today, the Kopernik Observatory and Science Center is operated and overseen by the Kopernik Society of Broome County as an educational resource for the Broome County area, offering a variety of science and astronomy-themed programming for visitors of all ages. As the first public laboratory facility in the state of New York specifically designed for K-12 students and families, the observatory has earned a reputation as one of the leading public observatory facilities in the Northeastern United States in the 20th and 21st centuries. As a member of the Association of Science and Technology Centers, the Center’s mission is to offer a wide variety of hands-on public, educational, and outreach programming for visitors of all ages, providing direct experiences with its optical telescopes and computer technologies.
The observatory provides three primary optical telescopes for observation, including the E. Jay Sarton Telescope, located in the Center’s Eastern Equatorial Room. The 6-inch telescope, designed by Astro-Physics, is an f/12 Super Planetary Refractor situated on a G11 Equatorial Mount. In the Center’s Western Equatorial Room, the Broome County Telescope, designed by Celestron, offers a 14-inch f/11 C14 Schmidt-Cassegrain Reflector, which was donated to the observatory in 1987. The Southern Equatorial room also offers a KAS Telescope 20-inch f/8 Ritchey-Chretien Reflector, one of the largest telescopes in New York available for public use. Several smaller telescopes are also available for public use, including four 8-inch and one 10-inch Orion and Meade Newtonians and a heliostat telescope dedicated to Society colleague Robert A. Godfrey. In addition to its astronomical equipment, the Center also operates a permanent ham radio station under the call sign K2ZRO, used by the Binghamton Amateur Radio Association.
A wide variety of public programming is offered by the Center, including open public observation events every Friday night, with event times dependent upon seasonal weather and sunset time conditions. Open supervised use of the facility’s telescopes is offered, with events themed around a variety of topics related to science, astronomy, and technology. Free passes for return visits are offered for visitors who purchase event tickets on nights when weather is inclement. On select Saturdays throughout the spring and autumn, adults-only Moonlight Cafe events offer refreshments and observation time throughout SUNY Broome’s Continuing Education Program. A number of other public special events are offered throughout the year, including a Winter Star Party in January, a RocketFest rocket building workshop event in June, and a three-day AstroFest in October, highlighting a variety of keynote speakers, demonstrations, roundtable discussions, and nightly observations.
In addition to field trip opportunities for elementary and secondary school students, a wide variety of educational programming is offered, including weeklong Link Summer STEM Exploration camps for K-12 students. Summer science day programs are also offered for students in grades 1-6, with themes focused on astronomy, earth science, and engineering. Workshop classes are also offered throughout the year on school holidays and weekends, with all programming tailored to meet New York and Pennsylvania curriculum requirements. The Center is also used as a meeting facility for a number of local organizations, including the Kopernik Society and the Binghamton Amateur Radio Association, which offers general meetings on the third Wednesday of every month for community members with an interest in amateur ham radio.
698 Underwood Rd, Vestal, NY 13850, Phone: 607-748-3685
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