100 Things To Do on Long Island with Kids Before They Grow Up
We are fortunate in so many ways to live on Long Island. In what other region of the country can you pack your kids up for a morning train ride to New York City, then whisk them off later to one of the Hamptons’ most desirable beaches?
From Nassau County to Suffolk and all the way to the East End, Long Island has creative play spaces, wonderful children's museums, farm fun, great parks and playgrounds, over-the-top seasonal celebrations, and even amusement and water park fun. And that’s just a beginning.
How do you pick 100 activities every family on Long Island must experience? Well, it’s not scientific. We have no algorithms to determine them for us. Instead, we rely on you, our Mommy Poppins’ Long Island enthusiasts, for ideas, as well as our parent-strong local parent writers.
Here’s what we came up we came with, but we’re still open to suggestions. Chime in to the conversation with us on Facebook.
Here's a handy new addition: Enjoy a free, printable version of our favorite LI activities with kids. Print it out and attach it to your refrigerator just in case you're ever in need of inspiration.
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1. Long Island has more than 120 miles of coastline. Spend the summer beach-hopping to the region’s best beaches and find a new favorite.
2. Discover Long Island’s aviation heritage at the Cradle of Aviation.
5. Dress up for West Sayville’s Pirate Festival, which brings Treasure Island to life.
6. See a show at the newly reopened Long Island Puppet Theater.
7. Experience outer-beach camping on Fire Island National Seashore or at one of the region's many campgrounds.
Lighthouses shine a beacon on Long Island's history.
8. Long Island has more than 20 lighthouses. Four of them are open to the public, including Fire Island Light, the tallest in the region.
9. Have an encounter with a penguin or watch the sea lions perform at the Long Island Aquarium.
10. Sure it’s kitschy, but the Big Duck happens to be one of the finest examples of roadside art in the nation. Snap a family selfie for the next holiday card.
11. Thrill to aviation daredevils at the Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach.
12. End your visit to Jones Beach with a kid-friendly performance at Northwell Health theater or the bandshell.
15. Show your neighborhood spirit at one of Long Island’s community barbecues. The Cutchogue Fire Department barbecue is the crown jewel.
16. Have a kid who loves horses? Thrill to the world’s best equestrians at the Hamptons Classic horse show.
17. Grab an ice cream cone or some cotton candy and take a stroll along one of Long Island’s classic boardwalks.
18. Nassau Coliseum has reopened. Take in a show or maybe see the circus.
19. One last thing before you leave Museum Row: Don’t forget Nunley’s Carousel.
20. There are several other carousels dotted across the Island, including at Mitchell Park in Greenport.
21. Need some adult unwinding time? Visit these family-friendly wineries on the East End, where kids can play among the vines while you enjoy a Merlot.
Dig in to an over-the-top sundae at Krisch's Restaurant & Ice Cream Parlour. Photo courtesy of the parlour.
23. Order a sundae to share at one of LI’s vintage ice cream parlors.
24. If that doesn’t satisfy your sweet tooth, check out these LI candy stores for throwback and new treats.
26. But those aren’t the only amusement parks on Ll. Here are a few others to sample.
27. Nature-loving children will love the Seatuck Environmental Association’s series of outdoor classrooms, where kids can play AND learn.
28. Celebrate diversity at LI Pride Weekend on the boardwalk at Long Beach.
29. Channel your child's inner Picasso at these instructional classes designed to inspire.
30. Young history buffs will love Camp Hero State Park in Montauk. It’s a coastal defense facility that during World War II was disguised as, guess what, a fishing village.
31. Little conductor in the house? Join Long Island Live Steamers for a steam-train ride around Southaven County Park.
32. Learn to ride, and then master a few of the cycling trails that abound on LI for pedal-urgists.
33. And hiking? Let’s just say, we can go stride for stride with the best family trails anywhere.
Get up close to the friendly giraffe at the Long Island Game Farm. Photo courtesy of the game farm.
34. Meet the bison, lemurs, and kangaroos at the Long Island Game Farm.
35. But the Holtsville Park Ecology and Wildlife Center is home to “Holtsville Hal,” our very own weather-predicting groundhog.
36. If you prefer to glimpse your animals in the wild, why not take a seal hike along Long Island’s coastal beaches. Hikes are held regularly on Fire Island, in the Hamptons, and in Montauk.
37. Get totally soaked through at one of LI’s sprinkler parks.
38. Gaze at the stars at the Vanderbilt Planetarium, in Huntington Town.
39. Eisenhower Park is rightly known as the “Central Park of Nassau County.” Check out its three playgrounds, including one that is customized for handicapped children, sprinkler park, theater, and more.
40. Climb Jayne’s Hill in Huntington Town, Long Island’s highest point. Look to the south and see Great South Bay 12 miles in the distance.
41. Sharpen your hitting eye at one of these batting cages perfect for any wannabe Derek Jeter.
42. Then, enjoy top-level amateur baseball on the East End. Hamptons Collegiate Baseball plays games on both forks.
43. Speaking of baseball, attend a Long Island Ducks game in Central Islip.
44. Take a tour of the Long Island “White House.” Renovations are complete and President Theodore Roosevelt’s home, Sagamore Hill, is reopened to the public.
46. Come autumn, enjoy a “haunted house” tour. How scary is up to you.
47. In fact, Long Island is ripe with fall festivals. Here are a few we recommend to truly revel in the season.
48. Apple picking is a prime autumn activity. Here are our picks for the best places to pick your own.
49. Quoth the raven: Don’t miss Riverhead’s tribute to legendary writer Edgar Allan Poe held, appropriately, on the weekend closest to Halloween.
50. It's the best of times: Celebrate the great Charles Dickens in Port Jefferson with dramatic readings, gingerbread house contests, and, of course, period costumes.
51. Cut your own holiday tree at one of our favorite LI tree farms.
52. If it’s Christmas, it must be holiday lights. Here are some of our favorite displays.
For a memorable day, hit the ice at a seasonal rink.
53. Take a spin on the ice at one of these pop-up rinks.
54. When you’ve put your skates away, sample a hot chocolate from one of these original local vendors.
55. We couldn’t overlook sledding could we? Brave the outdoors at our favorite Long Island sledding destinations.
56. Ice not your thing? LI has several roller skating rinks, including in Port Jefferson.
57. Test your skills with the rod and reel at one of several kids’ fishing tournaments.
58. While we are on the subject of fish, kids can play marine biologist for a day at one of these aquatic facilities.
59. For a more tranquil outdoors experience, visit one of LI’s 50-plus nature preserves. Here’s just a sample.
60. Celebrate the cultural diversity of LI’s indigenous peoples at the annual Shinnecock Powwow.
61. Introduce your kids to muscle cars and more at a classic car show. Cruise nights are held in Oyster Bay town from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
62. Here’s an unheralded North Fork experience. Each Wednesday night in the summer, sailors gather for a friendly race around Robins Island. Pack a picnic basket and watch.
63. Return to a simpler time when the national pastime was played without gloves. That’s “Old Time Base Ball” at Old Bethpage Village Restoration.
64. When the game is over, kids can learn about 19th-century life, sustainable farming, and more at Old Bethpage, Nassau County’s popular living history museum.
65. While on the subject of museums, the Long Island Science Center has moved to a larger, more accessible location, in Rocky Point.
66. Explore as many of the 100-plus museums on Long Island, not just those aimed at kids. Here are just a few.
67. Fire Island is a world unto itself. The most family-friendly community is Ocean Beach, but why not explore the entirety of the barrier island?
68. Shelter Island is much quieter, and is accessible from both the North and South Forks via ferry. In fact, for an inexpensive East End afternoon, hop on the ferry with your bike and ride from one end of Shelter Island to the other. You can cross from Greenport to Sag Harbor in about 90 minutes.
69. Shiver me timbers: If you’re visiting Fire Island in the summer, head over to Kismet and take in the Fire Island Pirate Fest.
70. Explore Orient Point. From there, take the ferry to New London for a day. If you’re more adventurous, connect in Connecticut for ferries to Block Island. Or walk a block to the New London Amtrak station and hop aboard the train to Boston.
71. Pack in the FREE restaurant meals while the kids are still under age.
Get a dose of cuteness with your coffee at Little Bites cafe. Photo courtesy of the cafe.
72. Relax with a cup of joe while your tot explores one of a handful of new play cafes around Long Island.
73. Stony Brook University’s Sakura Matsuri festival celebrates Japanese culture and the arrival of cherry blossoms to Long Island.
74. Where can you find a better Easter egg or seasonal scavenger hunt? Here are some of our favorites.
75. Freeport’s post-Sandy renaissance continues. Take the kids to one of its outdoor festivals, walk the Nautical Mile, and enjoy some fresh seafood.
76. You might not think so, but Belmont Park is technically in Nassau County. Watch the majestic thoroughbred racehorses compete.
77. Rent a canoe and enjoy a relaxing day of paddling on one of LI’s state park waterways.
78. Take a dip at one of Long Island's year-round public pools.
79. Pack up your gear and experience deep-sea (well, not so deep) fishing on one of LI’s party boats.
80. Pass some time sitting on the dock of the bay at one LI’s public marinas.
81. Ride the ferry to Bridgeport, Connecticut for an action-packed day of exploring.
82. Looking for a graduation gift? Introduce your teen to diving at one of several Long Island diving schools. Some even offer scuba parties.
83. For a fee (and it’s not cheap), the Long Island Aquarium will let your family (12 and older) have an underwater encounter with its sharks, in its protective cage, of course.
Learn to surf at Montauk's SurfLuca or elsewhere. Photo courtesy of the school.
84. LI surf schools can teach your kids to ride the waves. Here are some of our favorites.
85. What kid would not get excited over school-bus demolition derby? That’s one of the featured attractions at Riverhead Raceway.
86. Cold Spring Harbor is always worth a day trip. Enjoy the Cold Spring Harbor Fish Hatchery, the DNA Learning Center, and more.
88. Explore Revolutionary War history at the William Floyd Estate, former home of the one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.
89. Speaking of Independence Day, Fourth of July fireworks shows start early on Long Island. That’s not a surprise since LI is the home of the famous Grucci fireworks family.
90. Try your hand at a different kind of miniature golf at Glowgolf at Roosevelt Field Mall.
91. Have a kid who’s bored with mini-golf but not quite ready for the big course? Experiment on one of LI’s shorter, par-3 courses.
92. Kick back to country music at Country Fest LI in Riverhead. There’s more to this fair than just music.
93. Speaking of music, enjoy a host of headliners at the Great South Bay Music Festival in Patchogue, where rock, jazz and funk mix with a host of kids' acts.
95. Race each other at one of several Long Island go-kart courses, where kids can be in the driver’s seat.
97. Celebrate Italian culture with food, carnival rides and children's entertainment at Glen Cove's Feast of St. Rocco. Don't miss the traditional procession of the statue of the patron saint.
Enjoy food, rides, and games at LI's many summer carnivals. Photo courtesy of Dreamlands.
98. Run away and join the carnival (for a little while anyway). Carnival season usually begins in May and continues through the summer.
99. Stake a claim to your favorite “mushroom”—what LIers call those oddly shaped picnic tables at Lido Beach Town Park—and have your own beach get-together.
100. Is Fido a part of the family? Let him have his fun at one of Long Island’s dozens of dog parks.
A version of this article first published in 2012, but it has since been updated.
Top photo: Climb aboard the submarine at the Orient Beach State Park playground.