Whether your kids enjoy splashing at a local water park or marveling at incredible airplanes, Long Island has no shortage of wonderful attractions for children. Adults might even enjoy them, too! (There's also no shortage of great free children's activities on the island.)
Go See the Big Duck
There was a time when mentioning Long Island immediately brought up visions of roast duck. In the 1930s, after importing Peking ducks from China, duck farmers on the island produced millions of these birds, and duck farms dotted the island. Martin Mauer and his wife Jeule commissioned a larger-than-life duck-shaped building in Riverhead. It's 20-feet tall and 30-feet long to attract passing drivers to buy real ducks at the store.
Duck sales are long gone from the "big bird," but after several moves, the Big Duck now is permanently on Route 24 in Flanders and roosts on the National Register of Historic Places. Kids (and their parents) will love this whimsical building, now a gift shop selling "duck-a-bilia."
Take the kids to the Long Island Children's Museum in Garden City, and spend a few hours or an entire day there. With 14 fabulously themed galleries and a 145-seat theater, you and the kids have a choice of fun activities. Children will love exploring the two-story Climb-It structure with ramps going up and down in a spiral pattern. They can create giant bubbles in the Bubble Gallery, "fish" for the catch-of-the-day in at Sandy Island, play musical instruments, learn about animal habitats, and much, much more.
Long Island's contributions to the history of flight are highlighted in this exciting, kid-friendly museum. From a world-class collection of aircraft to exhibits of Long Island's first flight in 1909, the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City entertains while it educates. Don't miss the sister airplane to Lindbergh's "Spirit of St. Louis" and the Grumman Lunar Module built in Bethpage in 1972.
Do you love getting soaked with cold water on a hot, humid summer's day? Then bring the kids to Splish Splash for exciting rides on a sprawling site filled with water-themed enjoyment. Open from Memorial Day through Labor Day, Calverton's Splish Splash offers thrilling rides such as Dr. Von Dark's Tunnel of Terror, where you'll catapult down a 40-foot drop, soar high and complete 360-degree spins...all in total darkness!
Kids will also enjoy rides including Alien Invasion's rafts racing down an enclosed tube, Barrier Reef's 80-foot speed slide, Dragon's Den's double tube ride, and many more thrilling choices.
This fascinating wildlife park and zoo in Manorville has been entertaining families for more than 40 years. You and the kids will meet hundreds of animals including red kangaroos, alpacas, camels, peacocks, a giraffe, and even ring-tailed lemurs—the only ones born and raised on Long Island. Kids young and old will love the petting zoo where children can gently touch and feed baby animals. There are carnival rides as well as pony rides. You can participate in close encounters with certain animals including the giraffe, wallabies, deer, and other baby animals.
Family-friendly amusement park Adventureland has entertained Farmingdale's children and young-at-heart since 1962. Kiddie rides such as the Little Dipper log plume provide excitement for those under 44 inches, whereas older kids and adult amusement park fans can try the Turbulence Coaster, Frisbee, and more. There are even water rides such as Adventure Falls, where you'll get splashed on those hot summer days. And of course, there's a traditional Merry-Go-Round and twirling Ferris Wheel to please the whole family.
Experience what it was like to walk through Long Island in the mid–1800s. This recreated old-time village brims with real homes and businesses relocated and restored on 209 acres. Visit a hat maker and a blacksmith, while volunteers in period costume explain how life was way back when.
The Restoration has special events year-round, including reenactments of historic baseball games, an annual rabbit show, an Old Fashioned Independence Day Celebration on the Fourth of July, and more. There's even a seasonal farm stand in the parking lot, with sustainably grown produce for sale.
The first Audubon Songbird Sanctuary in the United States, the Theodore Roosevelt Sanctuary & Audubon Center in Oyster Bay is a great place to stroll and look for birds. It offers programs for adults and children throughout the year and kids' Audubon Adventures in the summer.
The sanctuary features birds of prey such as owls and hawks, brought here after they were injured in the wild. View them in the many aviaries they call home. Staff occasionally brings them out for up-close glimpses.
The Vanderbilt Museum sits on the former Gold Coast estate of William K. Vanderbilt II, who was the great-grandson of railroad mogul Cornelius Vanderbilt. With a spectacular view of Long Island Sound, the Centerport mansion has a marine and natural history museum, a mansion, a park, and a planetarium that offers regularly scheduled sky shows.
During the summer, the science museum presents concerts and other events, including the Arena Players Children's Theatre performances and the Arena Players Repertory Company's productions of Shakespeare's plays in the cobblestone courtyard of the mansion. There are also children's and adult workshops.
The whole family will enjoy Riverhead's Long Island Aquarium & Exhibition Center, which has a huge aquarium with more than 80 exhibits. The youngest visitors can enjoy Touch Tanks and scheduled shows in the outdoor amphitheater, while exhibits of colorful fish and a living coral reef enchant all ages. Get a safe view of menacing sharks through a huge tank's glass walls, watch penguins waddle, sea lions swim, and other fascinating sea creatures. For an extra fee, sail on the Atlantis Explorer Tour Boat down the Peconic River into a beach on Flanders Bay for a close look at some sea creatures.