Family Memberships on Long Island Worth the Price
Skipping the line, early invites, and additional discounts on events, food and merchandise are some of the members-only perks families can gain when opting to purchase a membership to one of their local kid hot spots. Here on Long Island, there are plenty of educational and entertaining opportunities for families to take advantage of year-round, from museums to water parks. And if you're going to visit the same destination more than once, or several times, in a year, a membership might make financial sense, too, as it will often save you money in the long run. Not all will, though.
We've rounded up some of the top kid spots around Long Island and done the math on their memberships to find the ones that are most worth it for frequent visitors. Read on for these local deals, which will hopefully put a little more money back in your pocket for the new year, plus deliver your family to the front of the line—an almost invaluable perk on busy school holidays!
At the Long Island Aquarium size up against the jaw of a great white shark—just don’t get too close to the tank below! Photo by the author.
Long Island Aquarium – Riverhead
431 East Main Street
We probably don't need to sell you on the fun in store for the family at our local aquarium, but in case you've never been: You'll find animal shows and feedings, both indoor and outdoor exhibits, and plenty of special events. Marine life includes sharks and penguins, an impressive coral reef, touch tank, turtles, octopus, and tons more. There is also a separate rainforest-type area where you can feed beautifully colored birds and marvel at butterflies that actually land on you.
Visit price: Adults $27.95; kid ages 3-12 are $21; under 2 is FREE. Note: during the winter months prices drop to $15 for children and $19 for adults, Monday through Friday, excluding popular times like school holidays. Bonus: Free visit the week of your birthday! Stop by within a week of your birth date, with your birth certificate, for this freebie.
Membership: There are many different membership packages here that depend on the size of your family (and ages) and which parts of the aquarium you'd like access to. Example: A membership for a family of four (two adults/two kids under the age of 18) is $145 for the aquarium only; $85 for Bugs & Birds only; or $215 a year for access to both. Add a third adult (caregiver, grandparent) for just $30 more. Single parent memberships start at $90. Membership perks include unlimited FREE admission, of course, discounts at the cafe, gift shop, and various special events and programs.
Payoff: This depends, once again, on your family and interests, but a visit to the aquarium for a family of four during a regular weekend is $97.90, meaning a membership to the aquarium at $145 pays off in less than two visits. If you want to purchase access to the bugs and birds, too, for the full experience, the payoff for a family of four happens in three visits. Stick to winter weekday visits, or score a few of those $2 off coupons, and you'd pay it off in just three visits—but a membership would give you a lot more flexibility on when and how often you'd like to visit.
Long Island Children's Museum – Garden City
11 Davis Avenue
Includes: This multi-level hands on museum offers new exhibits every few months and is one of our favorite spots for year-round interactive play. It has an outdoor water play station open during water months, a theater for live acts, and ongoing drop-in fun including craft projects and storytimes. Membership includes unlimited visits year-round, invites to exclusive events, and discounts to certain workships, store purchases, special events, and even birthday party packages.
Visit price: $13 per individual (senior discounts and kids under age 1 are FREE). Theater tickets run $12.
Membership: A family of four is $130; a single parent and one child is $70; and prices go up for larger families
Payoff: Membership pays for itself three visits for both the family of four rate and the one parent-one child rate, making it a steal for many frequent visitors of the main children's museum in town. Tip: Many local libraries also offer FREE day passes to the museum upon request.
Learn through play at the colorful Children's Museum of the East End.
Children's Museum of the East End – Bridgehampton
376 Bridgehampton/Sag Harbor Turnpike
Includes: Kids let their imaginations soar here with plenty of pretend play, including a faux grocery store, restaurant, a two-tier pirate ship, and a fire station. Hop outside to play on a large swing set, peruse the garden or play a round of mini golf ($5 extra). They also have a semi-circle outdoor theater for theater performances and musical shows. Membership includes FREE admission for four people throughout the year plus four one-time guests passes, discounts on classes and workshops, early registration for events and invitations to members-only special events and parties.
Visit price: $12 per individual (children under age 1 are free)
Membership: Memberships start with an "immediate family" package of just $110, including two adults; there's also an option to add on two grandparents (or two other adults) and a child for a total of $215.
Payoff: Three visits for a family of four. A family of five pays off in just two; a family of three in four visits.
Quogue Wildlife Refuge – Quogue
3 Old Country Road
This 300-acre nature preserve offers a slate of FREE programming, but also paid family events, such as the upcoming Full Moon winter walk. Its trails are open daily to walk, there are animals to visit at its Wildlife Complex, indoor nature center, and even a butterfly garden. Members receive a monthly newsletter detailing highlights and upcoming events; priority signup for events, and reduced price on some, as well as discounted admission on its Summer Ecology Program for kids. Members also receive complimentary use of snowshoes and cross-country skis to use on its 7 miles of trails. Although you could visit for free, money from memberships help keep this refuge running.
Visit price: Free, but events often require a fee of around $10 ($5 for members)
Membership: A family membership is $50, while an individual is just $35.
Payoff: This is hard to calculate, because of the variety of event prices, but we're including this spot, because we think it's such a treasure to Long Island and its family programming like its FREE ongoing Storybook Walk, animal meet and greets, and kids' camps are fantastic. It's a great way to teach your kids about conservation and giving back, too.
The Sandbox Playspace – Huntington
51 Gibson Avenue
We visited this play space when it first opened and are still charmed by its handcrafted toys made of natural materials, like wood, and the loads of imaginative play experiences available like play kitchen, plus blocks and more. It's a cheery, low-key spot, where your little ones will easily while away the hours. The membership includes unlimited use of the play space, guest passes, free special activities monthly, and discounts to its classes, toy shop, birthday parties and special events, and a few more perks.
Visit price: $15/per child for drop-in play.
Membership: There are two membership options here: A monthly rate of $49/month and $10/month for each additional child (over the age of 9 months); or a weekends-only rate of $29/ month; an extra $5/month for each additional child over 9 months of age.
Payoff: Whether this pays off or not depends on how often you frequent play spaces, but for the toddler or preschooler parent who visits one at least a few times a month, this is a deal. The weekends-only membership pays off with less than two visits a month, while the unlimited monthly pays off in four monthly visits, so it's definitely for the super user.
Long Island Game Farm Wildlife Park & Children's Zoo – Manorville
489 Chapman Blvd.
This children's zoo includes visits with hundreds of animals, including an 18-foot giraffe, red kangaroos, kinkajous, cougars, Barbados sheep, peacocks, and the only lemurs born and bred on Long Island. The petting zoos and baby animal feeding areas are not to be missed either. There isn't a specific "membership" here but there is a deal to assess: the Family Fun Pack Pass offers 12 individual general admissions. You can use up all 12 admissions by bringing your friends and family in one day, or you can use them throughout the season (which is mid-April to mid-October). The package includes FREE access to this zoo during its open hours, running mid-April to mid-October, but rides, the carousel, and train will cost extra.
Visit price: $19 adults; $17 for children ages 3-12; children 2 and under are free. (Note: Pricing is less in the spring due to some animals not being onsite. Prices do not include tax.)
Membership: $150 for the Family Fun Pack.
Payoff: A one-time visit for a family of four (two kids, two adults) costs $72, so this pays off either in two or three visits, in the high summer season, depending on how many times you'll go. If you'll really only go twice, buy the tickets individually for $144. However, if you had bought the Family Fun Pack for just $6 more, you'd have those eight visits already, plus four more tickets available (12 general tickets, remember?) to either bring friends on one of the trips or go for a third time. So if you want to bring friends, or go more than a couple of times, buy the pack. If you have a kid under age two who goes for FREE, you may want to skip it, although it would still pay off in three visits if you have an older kid. It also doesn't expire, so you can carry the tickets over to the next year if you run out of time to visit.
Nothing beats a water park during hot Long Island summers.
Splish Splash – Calverton
2549 Splish Splash Dr.
It might be hard to remember what that sticky summer heat feels like right now, but if you can, remember how that water park felt, too? This local water park offers rides, slides, and waves galore, plus pools and a separate kiddie area good for those under 54 inches in height. Twist and turn on thrill slides or take a gentle float down the Lazy River. At Pirates Cove, kids can climb ropes and activate water canons. Choose from among a variety of season passes. The more you pay, the more perks you get, including locker rentals, parking, and even the ability to skip the line.
Visit price: $47.99/$42.99 (weekend/weekday) for those 48-inches or taller; tots under 48 inches are $37.99/$32.99 (weekend/weekday), as are seniors
Membership: As we mentioned there are various levels, from a $72.99 season pass that offers unlimited use of the park all summer, no restrictions, on up to a VIP season pass at $134.99 per person that includes additional perks and savings, such as FREE parking, food discounts, and a guest pass. Keep in mind that parking is $15 per vehicle. Note: A pre-season sale going on at publish time makes the season pass even cheaper.
Payoff: The basic season pass pays off in just two visits, so if you're apt to bring the kids more than once, it's worth it.
Top photo: Make some new friends at the Long Island Game Farm. Unless otherwise noted, photos courtesy of the venues.