Long Island with Kids: 10 Things to Do
Located in Southeastern New York, Long Island is the best destination for sandy beaches, lighthouses, and water sports for locals looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city along with travelers from far and wide. Visiting Long Island with kids is sure to bring many great memories! Along with the beach destinations, you can find plenty of opportunities for family fun, including wildlife & animal encounters at the Long Island Aquarium, children’s museums, botanical gardens, and more, making!
Long Island splits into two distinct areas on the Eastern end, the North Fork and the South Fork. The North Fork is well known for its wineries, farm stands, quaint towns, and charming B&B’s. Sitting at the end point of the North Fork you will find Orient Point, where you can access a ferry to Connecticut or board a very picturesque cruise to view Long Island’s lighthouses. The South Fork is most marked by the Hamptons, the upscale getaway destination of affluent New York residents.
Along the Southern shore of Long Island you can find stunning, clean, and family friendly beaches with plenty to pick from for your relaxing family getaway. But, no matter what section you choose to visit, you are sure to have a blast when visiting Long Island with kids!
Enjoy a North Fork Lighthouse Cruise
While we did not spend much time on the North Fork of Long Island, we did head up to Orient Point to hop aboard the Cross Sound Ferry for a lighthouse cruise, one of the best things to do on Long Island with kids! For the cruise you will board a high speed catamaran with an outdoor seating deck and two indoor levels if you prefer to sit inside.
The cruise begins with views of the Orient Point Lighthouse before heading out to see 7 other lighthouses in Long Island and along the shore of Connecticut (New London Harbor Light, Avery Point Lighthouse, New London Ledge Lighthouse, North Dumpling Light, Race Rock Light, Plum Island Lighthouse, and Little Gull Light) , Great Gull Island, and the ruins on the Block Island Sound, the remains of Gardiners Island Lighthouse and Fort Tyler.
If you are looking for something to snack on, there is a concession stand onboard with snacks and drinks, a small gift shop, and you can even pick up a complimentary coloring book for the kiddos from the gift shop featuring the lighthouses of Long Island!
Spend the Day at the Beach
Long Island is one of New York’s best destinations for a beach getaway and a day spent at the beach is not to be missed when visiting Long Island with kids! Pack a picnic lunch and hit the beach for a day of relaxing, sand castle building, kite flying, and wave jumping.
Robert Moses State Park offers some of the best beaches on Long Island. Field 5 has a large selection of snacks and drinks, a boardwalk trail to the Fire Island Lighthouse, and an (almost) white sand beach. Jones Beach, although popular and sometimes very crowded, is another of Long Island’s best beaches, with calm waves and white sand. Here you will find a 2 mile boardwalk with food vendors.
Hither Hills State Park is another great destination located on Long Island’s South Fork. The sand is smooth and the waves calm enough for the young ones to enjoy walking along and playing in the shore line. If your family is the outdoorsy type, you can also find camping sites here, but be sure to book way in advance!
Tip: Before visiting any of Long Island’s beaches be sure to do some research! There are many that are only accessible for local residents and others that may require high parking fees (such as Cooper’s Beach at $50 a day).
Climb to the Top of a Lighthouse
Climbing to the top of a lighthouse is not only a fun journey up, but also offers spectacular views to be enjoyed and is a must do when visiting Long Island with kids!
The Fire Island Lighthouse is one option for climbing to the top. The lighthouse is reached along a boardwalk, a 3/4 mile walk from the parking lot at Robert Moses State Park (field 5). While the walk may be a little challenging on a hotter day with the sun beating down on you, the walk is generally easy and doable for the young ones in your group. The boardwalk is flat with no elevation gain and brings you right out to the lighthouse.
Once you arrive at the lighthouse you can enjoy the Fresnel’s Lens Building, where you can see the original lens. This was a fun experience for the kids as the guide placed us on opposite ends of the lens so that my daughter could see an a projection of me through the lens, much like a camera lens!
After this, continue on to the lighthouse museum and keeper’s house, where you can purchase tickets to climb to the top ($10 for adults, $5 for kids). The climb to the top is 182 steps, although not overly difficult and well worth the views! When walking back, you can choose a return trip along the boardwalk or walk along the beach.
Another option is the Montauk Point Lighthouse. Although the tower was closed on our visit due to construction, on a normal day you can climb to the top of Montauk Point Lighthouse and take in stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean and nearby Camp Hero State Park. The fee to enter is $12 for adults and $5 for children ($8 parking fee is separate for the large parking lot across the street).
Visit a State Park
Long Island has no shortage of outdoor activities, and for adventure loving families, visiting a state park is one of the best things to do when visiting Long Island with kids. Spread across the island are 37 state parks, each unique in its own way, from ocean front parks, to highly wooded areas, to gardens and arboretums, there is something for everyone to enjoy!
Visit Montauk Point State Park for stunning Atlantic Ocean views combined with lighthouse views and the opportunity to climb to the top of the Montauk Point Lighthouse. Neighboring Camp Hero State Park will take you to the ruins of an air force station, views of the Montauk Point Lighthouse, hiking trails, and ocean side bluffs.
For golfers, Bethpage State Park features a world-class golf course, hiking and biking trails, and areas for picnicking. For families looking for plenty of outdoor activities in one place, Hempstead Lake State Park has hiking, horseback riding trails, basketball courts, three ponds for fishing, tennis courts, and playgrounds for the kiddos.
For a little bit of a change of scenery visit Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park, where you will find a plethora of public gardens, woodlands, and trails to explore, lined with colorful displays. On the North Fork, visit Orient Beach State Park, where you will find a swimming area, hiking trails, a maritime forest, and views of the Orient, Plum Island, Long Beach Bar, and Cedar Island lighthouses.
Get Up Close to Penguin Friends at the Long Island Aquarium
The Long Island Aquarium is another one of the best things to do in Long Island with kids. The aquarium features various indoor and outdoor exhibits, including the Amazon Rainforest, birds, butterflies, otter falls, penguin pavilion, coral reef, lagoon, jellyfish exhibit, turtle bay, and more! For the kids, there is a touch tank for some interactive fun with sea stars, clams, whelks, hermit crabs, and horseshoe crabs.
One of the best parts about the Long Island Aquarium is the interactive experiences with animals. The Penguin Encounter allows you to get up close with the African Penguins on a 30 minute experience with a souvenir penguin selfie.
You can also choose the sea lion or seal experience, where you can enjoy a training session with the aquarium’s sea lions or Harbor and Gray Seals. For the more adventurous there is a shark diving adventure that takes you in a cage into the shark exhibit. Another option is the Atlantis Explorer Tour Boat, which takes you on a boat ride along the Peconic River and into Flanders Bay for a 2 hour fun and educational experience.
Admission to the aquarium is $39.99 for adults and $27.99 for children, with additional fees for extra experiences.
Walk Amongst Wild Flowers
If you or the little ones enjoy walking through fields of flowers (or trees), be sure to check out one of Long Island’s many botanical gardens and arboretums. Scattered across Long Island, you will find bright, colorful displays, nature trails deep through the woods, and even the ruins of past estates can be found at the preserves.
The Bailey Arboretum is a 42 acre botanical garden with the Children’s Habitat that is designed with families in mind. At the Children’s Habitat the kids can enjoy digging, collecting, building, and climbing while enjoying animal and plant life. Clark Botanical Gardens are another option, featuring a variety of plant and flower species, including conifers, roses, perennials, daylilies, wetland plants, rock garden plants, herbs, butterfly plants, and medicinal plants. You will also find interactive workshops perfect for families.
At the Old Westbury Gardens you can combine a tour of the mansion and 200 acres of gardens. Hop on over to the Muttontown Preserve for a nature experience with fields, woodlands, ponds, nature trails, and even the ruins of the mansion of King Zog of Albania who once lived in the area. If you are interested in exploring the ruins of another estate, visit the Welwyn Preserve, which features walking trails, a once private beach area, and the ruins of several buildings.
Enjoy Family Fun at an Arcade
You can’t go wrong with an arcade when visiting Long Island with kids! Try your hand at some classic arcade games, zoom around a go-kart track, or gear up for some laser tag at the many arcades found on Long Island.
The Laser Bounce Family Fun Center features not only an arcade, but you can also have a blast with laser tag, bounce houses, play area, a laser maze, and bowling. Q-Zar is another option for an arcade and laser tag combo.
The Tiki Action Park is a go to spot for those looking for some go-karting. You will also find a mini-golf course and classic arcade games. The Safari Adventure has an arcade, large playground, smaller toddler play area, inflatables, an interactive hands-on educational play area, and even a sensory calming room.
Shop ‘Til You Drop
Long Island has plenty of quaint villages with the small town charm you would expect to find throughout New England. You will find plenty of streets lined with the perfect combination of fine dining restaurants, quick service restaurants, and local shops to keep you busy all evening!
If you opt to take the Lighthouse Cruise in Orient Point, don’t miss out on a visit to Greenport Village. Here you will find streets lined with local shops, souvenirs, handcrafted good, candy stores, ice cream, seafood dining options, a historic carousel, marina, and picturesque streets to walk down. In Downtown Riverhead you will find a mix of local clothing and jewelry shops, tasty dining options, and plenty of family friendly events.
If you are visiting the South Fork, visiting Southampton’s downtown for more quaint and local shops and plenty of dining options. Sag Harbor is another picturesque small town perfect for finding locally made items. In downtown East Hampton you can find many high-end stores such as Tiffany & Co., Ralph Lauren, and Cole Haan.
Visit a Museum
When visiting Long Island with kids, museums can provide both an educational and fun experience for the whole family. Long Island is littered with great museums from coast to coast that are perfect for those visiting Long Island as a family.
The Long Island Children’s Museum is perhaps one of the best options. The museum features plenty of indoor hands-on exhibits, regular children’s programs, a climbing sculpture, and an outdoor water play area in the warmer months. On the East end of Long Island you can find the Children’s Museum East End, which offers many hands on exhibits, activities and family themed workshops, and a mini-golf course.
The Long Island Science Center is another great option. This museum focuses on natural history with magnetic experiments, an illumination station, construction zone, 3D doodling, and more! The Cradle of Aviation Museum is perfect for any airplane loving child, with many permanent exhibits on Long Island’s history with aviation with models of aircrafts, a planetarium, flight stimulators, and accessible cock pits.
Visit a Theme Park
If you are looking to get away from the sand and waves, head to one of Long Island’s many amusement parks. Coney Island is located on the southwest end of Long Island in Brooklyn. It is home to two amusement parks, Deno’s Wonderwheel Park and Luna Park, a wide range of arcade games, classic carnival food options, the original Nathan’s Hotdogs, the New York Aquarium nearby, and the Coney Island boardwalk and beach.
Adventureland is another great option for a theme park on Long Island. The park has a good mix of thrill rides, with 2 roller coasters, kiddie rides, and a couple of water rides. You will also find arcade games scattered around the park. For some water fun be sure to check out Splish Splash water park. Here you will find a combination of kiddie water rides and splash areas with some larger water slides for thrills.
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