Need to distract the kids Christmas Eve from the big day to come, or while you do a little last-minute wrapping? Luckily, there's plenty open come December 24 on Long Island that's family friendly.
To keep everyone busy and entertained, while they anxiously await Santa's arrival, we've rounded up a dozen family activities. Some are holiday-themed, while others are fun no matter what your affiliation.
Take your pick and enjoy this special time with your family. And for more seasonal fun, be sure to check out our Holiday Guide. Or if you're celebrating the first night of Hanukkah on December 24, check out these local Festival of Lights events and menorah lightings.
1. Go ice skating. Many of the rinks are open, including the Port Washington Skating Center, The Rinx in Hauppauge, Superior Ice Rink in Kings Park, Newbridge Arena in Bellmore and the ice rink at Tanger Outlets in Deer Park are all open. United Skates of America is also open on Christmas Eve for indoor roller skating.
Stay warm and go bowling. Photo via Bigstock.
2. Take the kids bowling. There are plenty of options in both Nassau and Suffolk County. The AMF Bowling Centers across the island are open on Christmas Eve.
3. Visit with Santa. The big guy in red is still holding court at several spots, and while Santa has left Hicks Nurseries, you can still stop by to see its animated Christmas story.
4. Catch a holiday show. There are still tickets left to Frosty, and Mary Poppins on Christmas Eve. Also, Theatre Three is featuring two family-friendly holiday shows on Christmas Eve: Barnaby Saves Christmas and A Christmas Carol. Scrooge is playing, too.
5. Visit a specialty store to find a truly unique gift. Willis Hobbies in Mineola offers a tremendous array of model trains and an entire floor dedicated to remote-controlled aircraft. Visit Milleridge Village in Jericho to find unique toys, retro gifts, delicious sweets and everything Christmas at the Christmas Shoppe. And St. James General Store sells Victorian-era artifacts, old books and children's toys, many locally-made.
6. Dine out in style. Hang up your apron, and book a reservation at one of these scrumptious family eateries like Eric's Italian Bistro in Mineola for a holiday a la carte selection of modern and classic Italian cuisine, or Jewel in Melville, which is offering a Christmas Eve prix fixe menu ($49.95/person) that includes options like BBQ pulled pork, mushroom lasagna, and flourless chocolate espresso cake.
7. Check out the holiday light displays. Take a tour of Long Island's best Christmas decorations like those along the Long Beach Boardwalk, or these local houses. FREE
Go shopping on Main Street at the Children's Museum of the East End.
8. Visit a museum. The Children's Museum of the East End in Bridgehampton is open until 5pm, and the Long Island Children's Museum until 3pm.
9. Make homemade ornaments. Choose from cookie cutter ornaments, easy salt dough handprints, or just get out the construction paper and markers for the simplest ones. Or make an outdoor, edible ornament for the birds with this birdseed craft.
10. Cut your own Christmas tree. If you haven't picked out a tree yet, there's still time! Several locations remain open until Christmas Eve, plus you might get a deal.
11. Hit the trampoline. Toddlers can burn off those sugar cookies at a Christmas Eve (morning) session just for them at Sky Zone Trampoline Park.
12. Track Santa, or text or call him. See Kris Kringle during the day, and then track his progress online at night as he travels around the world bringing presents to all good little boys and girls. Just make sure your kids go to bed before he hits Long Island!
Top photo: Explore the Children's Museum of the East End's treehouse. Unless otherwise noted, all photos courtesy of CMEE.
This article first published in 2012, but is updated annually.