Wintertime in the Northeast means getting creative about keeping the kids entertained and engaged. But indoor play space and fun zones, museum admissions, and theater can all start to add up. So how to do it without breaking the bank? Lucky you. We've rounded up FREE events for Long Island kids and families happening this winter!
We found indoor STEAM events, outdoor hikes at the Fire Island seashore and Quogue Wildlife Refuge, hands-on workshops for little builders, and more special events.
Remember, you can always check our Events Calendar for FREE events by using the "free" search filter. Be sure to also keep an eye on our Winter Fun Guide as we continue to update it with more season-specific ideas like sledding and winter walks.
Meet Elmo and others at the K is for Kindness tour. Photo courtesy of Sesame Street.
Sesame Street: K is for Kindness Tour – Garden City
Saturday, January 7, 2017
Sesame Street is introducing the theme of its new season with the "K is for Kindness Tour," which begins at Roosevelt Field Mall today! The one-day event includes meet and greets with the costumed characters, a 15-minute interactive live stage show starring walk-around versions of the series’ beloved characters Elmo and Abby Cadabby, and other special surprises.
Shabbat Stop – East Hills
Saturday, January 7, Saturday, February 4, Saturday, March 4, 2017 (repeats monthly)
Join Sid Jacobson JCC the first Saturday each month for family games, face painting, music, and stories.
Hour of Code – Garden City
Sunday, January 8, and Sunday February 19, 2017 (repeats frequently; check site for new events)
There's no doubt that coding is the new must-have currency. Kids can get a leg up with a 90-minute how-to code sessions at the Microsoft Store at Roosevelt Field. Projects includes coding your own video game. The Huntington Station location of the Microsoft Store also offers Hour of Code events for kids, typically on Tuesdays and Thursdays, as well as other digital skills workshops.
Sunday Seatuck Family Nature Club – Islip
Sunday, January 8 through Sunday, April 30, 2017 (repeats weekly)
Preschoolers and tots traverse boardwalks and trails, checking out the diverse habitats (salt marsh, wetlands, forests) while learning about local flora and fauna with this Seatuck Environmental Association’s educational kids' program. Alternates location with South Shore Nature Center.
Amateur Observers' Society of New York – Hempstead
Sundays, January 8, February 5, and Sunday March 5, 2017
Bring your telescope to this group meeting to learn more about astronomy—and the sky above us.
Minecraft Build Challenge – Huntington Station
Monday, January 9 and 16, and Monday, March 27 2017
Minecraft fans come together to test their skills at this FREE Microsoft Store event.
Hamptons Chess Club – Flanders
Tuesday, January 10, 2017 (repeats every Tuesday)
Winter is the perfect time to test out a new sport or board game. Why not try chess? Join the Southampton Youth Bureau's FREE Hamptons Chess Club where kids will learn the game but also life skills like impulse control.
Balloon Twisting – Massapequa
Tuesday, January 10, 2017 (repeats every Tuesday)
Visit Krisch's Restaurant and Ice Cream Parlour early evenings to scoop up great homemade ice cream, but also a FREE balloon twisting show by John Reid of Epic Balloons.
Storybook Walk – Quogue
Saturday, January 14, 2017
Soak up the winter scene with a trail walk at the Quogue Wildlife Refuge, and then warm up indoors with a reading of The Mitten, a classic tale about the secret life of a lost mitten and the woodland animals who find it. Visit the resident animals too, including owls and opossums.
RELATED: 40 Snow Day Boredom Busters for Kids
Enjoy a touch of paradise in the winter garden at Planting Fields. There will be live music and free activities throughout the day. Photo courtesy of New York State Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation.
Paradise Garden – Oyster Bay
Sunday, January 15, 2017
Enjoy a touch of paradise in the winter garden at Planting Fields! There will be live music and free activities throughout the day in all areas of the park.
Wintertime Shelling on the Barrier Beach – Fire Island
Sunday, January 22, 2017
This marine-themed nature session begins indoors with a park ranger teaching families about shells, including the marine animals that once lived inside them, with hands-on examples. The class, weather permitting, will also stroll along the wilderness shore in search of these natural resources.
Three Little Pigs STEM Challenge – Shirley
Wednesday, January 25, 2017
Kids test their own building know-how with a Three Little Pigs-themed event. Build a house that can't be knocked over at this FREE local library event.
The Way to the Bay – Mastic Beach
Saturday, January 28, 2016
At the William Floyd Estate, make your way from the Old Mastic House to Moriches Bay following roads well used by the Floyd family from the mid-1700s to the 1970s. Pass fields and woods, mounds and ditches, cultural plantings, and fresh water creeks and salt marshes.
Global Explorer Family Backpacks – Hempstead
Tuesday, January 31, 2017 (ongoing)
Kids can pick up a FREE activity-filled backpack at the Hofstra University Museum to use while exploring the galleries, enhancing your family's self-guided tour. Available whenever the museum is open. Note: One of the galleries is closed now as a new exhibit is being installed, but it will reopen January 31.
Kids Workshop – Various locations
January 7, February 4, March 4, 2017 (repeats first Saturday of each month)
Home Depot offers do-it-yourself skills lessons made just for kids each month, and it's all FREE. They'll learn how to handle specialized tools (thrilling for them, perhaps scary for mom) safely, while building a project like a toolbox in January. All kids get to keep their craft, receive a free certificate of achievement, a Workshop Apron, and a commemorative pin.
Monthly Mini Build – Garden City
Tuesday, February 7, and Wednesday, February 8, 2017 (also March 7-8)
Visit the Lego Store on the first Tuesday or Wednesday of the month to create a masterpiece. Kids can take their project home, too! Books up; registration begins on the 15th of the previous month. The store hosts a number of special building events, so keep an eye on its calendar. You will need to register for its VIP card, but that's FREE, too.
Tiny Tots Valentine's Ball – Nesconset
Tuesday, February 14, 2017
Treat your mini Valentine to an afternoon of related crafts, songs, and games at this local library event.
The Great Backyard Bird Count – Mastic Beach
Saturday, February 18, 2017
Take your budding ornithologist out to observe, identify, and record the various birds seen around the William Floyd Estate property. You'll be collaborating in a nationwide Great Backyard Bird Count to document the lives (and populations) of wild birds.
Winter Beach Botany Walk – Fire Island
Saturday, February 25, 2017
Identify plants growing along this barrier beach as participants visit dune and bay shoreline habitats. Hope you're up for a challenge: Identifying plants in winter without their leaves and flowers isn't easy!
Sag Harbor's Harborfrost – Sag Harbor
Saturday, February 25, 2017
Head to Sag Harbor's shopping district for this FREE winter festival that includes an icy plunge into the Atlantic Ocean for those who dare. The latter will cost you as it's a fundraising effort, but it doesn't cost to watch! You'll also find Eskimo ice sculptures throughout the village, live music, wine tastings, entertainment like a fire juggler and even a meet and greet with Anna and Elsa from Frozen. The day caps off with fireworks over the harbor.
Top photo: Fire jugglers at HarborFrost. Photo courtesy of Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce.