Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Long Island, New York

A powerful visit for middle and high school science enthusiasts, the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory is a working research center where for 125 years scientists have conducted Nobel prize winning research–including foundational work on DNA and significant advances in understanding and treating cancer. It was here that Dr. James Watson presented the first public lecture about the double helix, introducing the world to the base structure of DNA.

A one-and-a-half hour guided tour takes you through the history of the lab and across the beautiful grounds, just steps from the water on the northern shore of Long Island. The tour guides are mostly graduate students and postdoctoral fellows working at the lab, and they’re an inspiring source of information.

Tours have to be scheduled in advance, so be sure to check their website and contact them in advance of your trip. The lab also hosts a series of cultural events–their lecture series is aimed at a lay audience and includes talks from scientists sharing their current research findings.

The DNA Learning Center offers a wealth of online activities and information aimed mostly at middle and high schoolers. From week-long summer camps to Saturday workshops, the lab offers opportunities to work alongside scientists and conduct laboratory experiments with state of the art equipment.

Dive in to some of the lab’s areas of inquiry by exploring their website, which offers some amazing online resources and activites. 

A trip to the lab should also include some time spent exploring the villages along the north shore on Route 25A. Cold Spring Harbor, Northport, and Huntington all offer a host of charming local shops, eateries, and lovely Victorian houses. Heckscher Park in Huntington is a perfect spot for younger children to run off some energy, with a playground and a pond filled with ducks and geese.