Best New Kid-Friendly Openings on Long Island in 2021

The  Eye Opener outdoor tree house at the Long Island Aquarium features rope bridges, slides, and plenty more.  Photo by Jaime Sumersille
The Eye Opener outdoor tree house at the Long Island Aquarium features rope bridges, slides, and plenty more. Photo by Jaime Sumersille

We said goodbye to the horrible year of 2020 with the promise of renewal, recovery, and a return to normalcy in 2021. And on Long Island, that was more or less what we got. At least until the last few weeks.

Learning to cope with COVID-19, we managed to entertain our kids with trips to the beach, outdoor activities, and the occasional visit to the play space. And as new entertainment venues opened in 2021, we were there with our parent-strong team of local writers to give you the official Mommy Poppins take on these openings.

So why belabor the introduction? We came up with a dozen Long Island openings in 2021 that made us appreciate nature, community togetherness, family bonding, and even the occasional adult beverage. Check out these delightful new openings at your convenience, and know that we will be there in 2022 with the skinny on all family-friendly things to do on Long Island.

Meanwhile, see our activity calendar for the best daily happenings as they develop. Happy 2022.

If you plan to visit these new openings, be aware that New York State's recently enacted COVID-19 restrictions require face masks and vaccination records for many indoor activities through the end of the holiday season. Remember to bring both with you.  

The Best Kids' Openings on Long Island in 2021

Outdoor Adventures

The latest addition to the South Shore landscape—the Ocean Parkway Coastal Greenway—opened to pedestrians in March and stretches 14 miles from Field 5 at Jones Beach to Captree State Park in Bay Shore. Its asphalt surface is ideal for biking, inline skating, and low-impact hiking. The path is wheelchair accessible and features some of the most iconic scenery on Long Island. The Captree terminus includes a playground, and there a number of restaurants (some seasonal) along the route.

The Long Island Aquarium has always been one of our go-to Long Island attractions. And it became even more compelling this summer with the debut of the Eye Opener outdoor tree house. The 60-foot-tall structure features 62 steps to the summit, a pair of enclosed spiral slides, rope bridges, and climbing nets. Kids who make it to the top are rewarded with stunning views of the Peconic River estuary.

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The new Garvies Point playground is helping to revitalize downtown Glen Cove. Photo by Kristen Markel

Playground and More

A century ago, Garvies Point in Glen Cove was the playground of the rich and famous. The playground that opened in May threatens to make it a destination once again. Split into two sections—one for toddlers, the other for older kids—the playground features play structures suitable for all ages. The sail-shaped climbing tower dominates the site and is an homage to Glen Cove’s maritime past. The park is part of a $1.6 billion, mixed-use development destined to revitalize Glen Cove’s downtown.

Futuristic Family Links

Astute parents—especially those of athletically inclined children—know about the TopGolf phenomenon sweeping the nation. This high-tech driving range allows families to play a digitized round of golf regardless of the weather. The franchise opened its first Long Island site in July in Holtsville. Up to six players can join in the fun at a single booth, and while holes-in-one are not guaranteed, it’s hard to leave without a smile.

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The Children's Social Club in Rockville Centre quickly became a Long Island "tot spot." Photo by Gina Massaro

Indoor Fun

Few things delight us more than the opening of indoor play spaces, and this year two new venues caught our attention.

  • The Children’s Social Club in Rockville Centre, which opened in late spring, offers kids 5 and younger a place to explore and create while parents enjoy snacks, tea or coffee, and get some needed work done.
  • The Kiddie Clubhouse opened its doors in Syosset in January with bean bags, rock walls, and plenty more, including a multistory climbing structure. There is a lounge area for parents and activity tables for kids.

A Bug's Night illuminated the grounds of the Nassau County Museum of Art. Photo by Gina Massaro

Holiday Lights

Three new illumination shows arrived on Long Island just in time for the holidays.

  • A Bug’s Night: Drive-Thru Adventure brought 20 acres of lights, projections, and animatronics to the Nassau County Museum of Art in Roslyn Harbor, including an animatronic T-rex and other dinosaur friends.
  • LuminoCity, inspired by traditional Chinese lantern festivals, brought towering luminescent structures to Whitney Pond Park in Manhasset and introduced us to Lumi, the charming sherpa who guided us on our journey.
  • And Shimmering Solstice featured the work of 25 designers, technicians, and light crew to deliver a stunning look at Old Westbury Gardens illuminated for the holidays.

The shows continue through Sunday, January 9 and tickets can be purchased at the event websites.

Desserts and Drinks

Sometimes parents just have to be, well, adults. And to our list of family-friendly breweries and beer gardens this year we added Peconic County Brewing, an expansive tasting room walking distance from the Long Island Aquarium. Opened in April, the brewery is situated along the Peconic River waterfront and features a kitchen full of kids favorites, live music, and easy access to Peconic Riverfront Park’s picnic areas, playground, gazebos, and walking trails.

More to kids’ liking, Milky Ways Ice Cream and Cereal Bar opened its third Long Island location, in Huntington, in March. Start with soft-serve ice cream and mix in some cereal classics and you’ll never look at your favorite breakfast treats in the same way.

Artisinal doughnut shop Sundae Donuts opened its third location, in Huntington village, to go along with established sites in Syosset and Montauk. Enjoy luxury doughnuts, doughnut-infused ice cream, even pure cookie dough. Talk about a sweet life!   

RELATED: Winter Day Trips for LI Families Near NYC, 2021

Urban Air plans to open a site in Dix Hills in 2022. Photo courtesy of Urban Air

Looking Ahead to 2022 Openings

After a 2021 filled with grand openings, what will the new year bring? Long Island is brimming with kid-friendly innovators, so expect some unexpected openings in 2022. In the meantime, we are watching …

  • The Long Island Science Center is planning a 6,000-square-foot expansion to its Riverhead location that will house a maker space and additional classrooms.
  • Island Water Park is a proposed 46-acre “extreme water sports park” in Calverton that recently received tax breaks from the Town of Riverhead. It was planning a 2022 opening, but a recent stop-work order could delay things.
  • A new roller coaster is planned for Adventureland, the 60-year-old amusement park in East Farmingdale. The Fireball is expected to take guests on a 90-second twisting and turning thrill ride.
  • A new indoor thrills venue called Empire Adventure Park is scheduled to open at the former Mall at the Source, now called Samanea New York, in Westbury.
  • And Urban Air, which has delighted Long Island kids at its Lake Grove location for two-plus years, is planning to add a location in Dix Hills in 2022. Expect more of the high-octane rock climbing, trampoline, and bounce house fun that has made the Lake Grove site a go-to destination for energetic kids. 
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