You don't have to succumb to cabin fever just because the Long Island winter winds are blowing. Without taking the train to New York City, there's plenty for everyone to do on Long Island in the winter, whether you prefer to go outdoors or stay cozy inside. You can strap on some skates and learn to glide at an ice rink, bring the kids to the children's museum, or take advantage of the long coastline and head out for an exciting day at sea. It may be cold, but Long Island's can be quite lovely and fun to see in the winter with its snowed-out beaches and roster of indoor entertainment.
Whether it's your first time on skates or if you're already a total pro, ice skating is always a fun winter activity and Long Island is full of outdoor rinks. When the weather is in your favor, you can visit Christopher Morley Park in Roslyn, you'll find a regulation-sized rink. For something more scenic, try The Rinx at Harborfront Park in Port Jefferson, which offers skating with a waterfront view.
If the weather is not on your side, you can also visit an indoor rink like the Port Washington Skating Arena. General skating for the public is on Saturdays and Sundays. If you are a new skater, they offer a limited number of free 15-minute introductory lessons during the Sunday sessions.
Take a Hike
If you're up for a long or short walk on a crisp winter's day, or for an invigorating foray through the snow, there are plenty of places all over Long Island where you can enjoy nature during this season. In Glen Cove, the Garvies Point Museum and Preserve offers marked trails outdoors, but if you're looking for a warmer experience, just wander through the indoor museum. Closer to the Hamptons, The Quogue Wildlife Refuge features seven miles of nature trails, but you can also register the kids for their nature workshops, which take place indoors.
If you travel east down Route 23, the Caleb Smith State Park Preserve is a great place for an outdoor walk and there is also a free, indoor museum with exhibits of wildlife specimens. Nearby the preserve, The Sweetbriar Nature Center sits on 54 acres of woodlands, fields, and more on the Nissequogue River. Here, you can take a walk or check out the nature programs inside the center.
Have Fun at the Long Island Children's Museum
In Garden City, kids of all ages will enjoy this hands-on museum with its many interactive galleries and a theater that features family-friendly shows. At the Long Island Children's Museum, you can enjoy fun exhibits like bubble-making, sound showers, or climbing around the accessible climbing structure. In 2021, the museum is open but you will have to reserve tickets in advance.
Just down the street from the Children's Museum, the Cradle of Aviation Museum focuses on Long Island's contributions to the history of flight. From hot air balloons to Long Island’s first flight in 1909, to planes built by Grumman, the exhibits teach visitors about Long Island's significant role in the evolution of machines that take us up into the sky.
This heated indoor environment is a great place to spend a winter day marveling at incredible air and spacecraft like the second world war-era hellcat planes and NASA's Saturn V Rocket. In addition to a world-class collection of aircraft, the museum boasts an IMAX Dome Theater which shows films daily on Long Island's only giant IMAX screen. The museum also features the Red Planet Cafe, which is a Mars-themed eatery that is open daily.
Attend a Christmas Tree or Menorah Lighting
Wintertime brings Christmas tree and menorah lightings that are sure to get you into the holiday spirit. Menorah lightings are held at Chabad houses all over Long Island and you can also find them in the towns of King's Park and Lynbrook.
Local towns host tree lighting ceremonies all over Long Island, but if you're looking for a really grand event, the town of Sayville typically marks the beginning of the holiday season with a parade, Winter Wonderland in celebration of Small Business Saturday, a tree lighting, live reindeer and a visit from Santa. For a holiday celebration on the coast, the Orient Beach State Park Tree Lighting Ceremony usually features a holiday performance by the local elementary school while Santa lights the holiday tree.
Embark on a Seal-Watching Cruise
Although whale watching season in Long Island takes place in the summer and fall, you can still get out on the water to see seals with Captain Lou's Seal Watching tours. You may have to bundle up, but it's worth it to learn more about the water-dwelling animals that call Long Island home. The boat has an indoor area so you can watch through a window while staying warm indoors or embrace the winter breeze from the deck. Tours leave from Freeport.
You can spend an afternoon immersing yourself in the Long Island Sound and learn about the many types of whales that used to splash around in these waters. The Cold Spring Harbor Whaling Museum chronicles the story of the town's history as a whaling port. It's a small museum with some fun children's activities scheduled throughout the year. In 2021, the museum is open on weekends but you will need to reserve your tickets in advance. Virtual educational programs are being offered online, but you can also visit the museum for in-person and socially-distanced craft events.
If you're prone to seasickness, you can also get a closer look at Long Island's marine mammals at the Long Island Aquarium & Exhibition Center. If it's too cold to enjoy the outdoor exhibits, which stay open in the winter, you can still find many interesting animals to look at indoors. Animal exhibits show off different species from biospheres all over the world like the coral reefs and the Amazon Rainforest. In addition to the popular shark tank and other marine exhibits, you will also find other animals like marmosets, snakes, and turtles.
Go to an Islanders Game
You can watch the Long Island-based hockey team, the New York Islanders, take on challengers from near and far at the classic Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale. Long Islanders take their hockey seriously, so a night at the ice is a great way to show off your Long Island pride or at least get a glimpse into the local sporting fervor. In 2021, live sporting events at the Coliseum have been canceled.
Visit the Custer Observatory
If it's a clear night, you can take a romantic trip to the Custer Observatory, Long Island's oldest public observatory. The observatory is free to visit on Saturday nights from 7 p.m. to midnight, but a small donation is suggested. During a visit, you can use the observatory's powerful telescope to get a closer look at the moon and stars. Before you plan your visit, check the calendar to see if there are any events or lectures you may be interested in attending. The observatory is located in Southold on the North Fork of the Hamptons.