7 GREAT family DAY-cations right here on Long Island's East End
1- The Long Island Aquarium and Exhibition Center in Riverhead. Personally I like the feel of it much better than the one in Coney Island, but then again, anywhere there are fish and fun is fine with me. As a member of the Aquarium, we’ve been there more times than we can count and enjoy each time. Kids can pet the stingrays, watch the sea lions swim in circles( for some reason, this is hypnotic for us), learn about Long Island’s fish and fauna and see a sea lion show , weather permitting. Another fascinating creature to check out is the octopus- kinda creepy fascinating if you ask me. The outside areas of the aquarium are as nice or nicer than the inside so try to visit on a nice day. Sea otters, monkeys, koi, turtles and penguins are just some of the animals you will encounter, along with an Indiana Jones styles mini cave to “excavate” and even a rock climbing wall. There’s great views of the river…you can grab lunch at the cafeteria then head over the the butterfly exhibit in the attached hotel.( extra fee). All in all, it’s a very fun day for families with kids of all ages, and even the Grandparents love to come along , as there’s not too much walking. And last but not least,I can’t leave out my kids’ favorite areas- the shark tunnel and the game room! Learn more here
2-Farms along Sound Avenue. Set your GPS for Sound Avenue where it starts in the Wading River area, and then allow the day for a meandering drive with frequent stops at Long Island farms and even vineyards that have animals like bulls and sheep. Two favorites of ours are Harbes Family Farms and Garden of Eve Organic Farm. Both have kids play areas, tables to grab lunch or a snack and to sit and relax. The local pies and muffins and fresh in season foods make it oh-so-worth it! Bring along a big cooler with ice in the trunk and you’ll be able to bring home a nice assortment of fresh Long Island grown goodies. Continue all the way until Greenport if you’d like, a super fun town to spend an hour or two in and the kids can take a whirl on the antique carousel.
3- Montauk , the End. I’ve posted before about Montauk as one of my favorite towns and for a good reason! There’s so much to do, yet one of the best costs virtually nothing- it’s simply walking the town, then walking the dock over at Gosman’s, watching the boats come in with the catch of the day! Parking in town and walking to the beach gives me a real vacation-y feel…kinda like the Jersey coast or Maryland. Then head back and play a game of mini-golf right on the water. Just can’t beat a day at Montauk for fresh air and lots of wild untamed dunes to explore.
4-Botanical Gardens- The east end boasts 3 beautiful gardens to revel in. Bridge Gardens in Bridgehampton is 5 acres with a ton of roses and a water garden. Madoo Conservancy was written up in a magazine for it’s literacy and artistic history. AndLonghouse Reserve in East Hampton is a museum , garden and sculpture garden that has over 60 sculptures in the sculpture garden. Visit each site to see hours since they are often limited to a few days a week.
5- Splish Splash in Riverhead. Our personal favorite summer away-from -home home. With our season pass, we can go endlessly and enjoy a whole day or just a few rides. But be warned, this place gets jammed! So maybe I shouldn’t even tell you about it. But my devotion to the East End insists on it. So let’s just say, this Travel Channel top ten park offers a whole day of soaking sopping wet fun with slides and family rides and 2 wave pools. There’s something for everyone, plenty of snack and lunch options or pack your own and eat at the picnic area.
6- Cupsogue Beach in Westhampton. The ULTIMATE beach. I love this place- for the sand, for the waves, for the sun ( it just feels different there I swear) and for the Beach Hut. Just the drive down Dune Road never fails to have someone on my tail urging me to hit the gas, but I love to browse each house and imagine ME owning it as MY vacation home. Then I plant myself in the sand, dig my toes in, grab a cool lemonade and I am officially IN VACATION MODE.
7-Long Island Live Steamers. A hidden GEM on Long Island for train lovers of all ages ( with a particular fondness for little boys in overalls who worship Thomas the tang engine). This event takes place the first and third Sunday of the month from about May through October. It’s in the Southhaven park in Brookhaven ( see site for more details) and works on donations. You can stay for as little or as long as you’d like and ride the mini trains around the track. We’ve been going once a year for about 8 years now and the kids STILL love it! We try to ride 3 or 4 times , on a different train each time. Wear bug spray, sneakers and bring lunch or snacks or buy at the small concession stand. Official train conductor caps optional