Winters around here can be cold, snowy, dark and dreary. But instead of sitting at home complaining, grab the kids and tackle the ultimate Long Island winter wish list. By the time you're done, it'll be spring.
WINTER TO-DO HOT CHOCOLATE
WHY IT'S AMAZING HERE Sinking onto one of the cozy couches in this kitschy spot with a steaming hot chocolate in hand can cure your kid (and you) of any winter blues. The coffeehouse starts with steamed milk and dark chocolate -- and then you can customize it. Options include a blended, frozen hot chocolate; half-chocolate/half coffee; hot chocolate float; whipped cream, flavored syrups and marshmallows. Vegan or lactose intolerant? Not a problem. Almond and soy milk are available.
COST Starts at $3.50
WINTER TO-DO ICE-SKATING
WHY IT'S AMAZING HERE The National Hockey League-regulation-sized indoor rink is cheery, bright and clean. Your child can take lessons, join a hockey team or just skate for fun. When you're done, warm up with hot chocolate and waffle fries at the concession stand.
COST Nonresidents: $10 for adults, $8 for children 5-17, $4 for children 2-4. Prices are lower for town residents. Skate rental is $4 per person.
WINTER TO-DO SLEDDING
WHERE TO DO IT Heckscher Park, 2 Prime Ave., Huntington, 631-351-3000
WHY IT'S AMAZING HERE There's a small area of the park that is perfect for sledding because it's the right height, the correct angle -- great for enjoying fluffy, white snow. Park your car for free and then head to the top of the hill behind the Old First Presbyterian Church. Start at the top of the hill if you're experienced, or put little ones near the bottom.
COST Free. Bring your own sled.
WINTER TO-DO SLURP SOUP
WHY IT'S AMAZING HERE The soup at this bakery is made from scratch. You can slurp your way through an old-fashioned chicken noodle soup, French onion soup or Italian wedding soup. Its cookies and cakes should not be missed, either. This is the perfect bribery place for kids: Eat your entire soup, and you can grab a slice of cake or a cookie.
COST Soups start at $2.95
WINTER TO-DO CROSS COUNTRY SKIING
WHY IT'S AMAZING HERE This park isn't just for golfers. In the winter, families flock here for snow activities. Many miles of the 1,500-acre park are used as cross-country skiing trails. So everyone from newbie mini-skiers to the more advanced can enjoy themselves. Take a break from skiing to do some sledding on the park's many hills.
COST It's free to ski -- just BYO(skis).
WINTER TO-DO HAVE A SLEEPOVER
WHERE TO DO IT Long Island Aquarium & Exhibition Center, 431 E. Main St., Riverhead, 631-208-9200
WHY IT'S AMAZING HERE In the summer, families camp outdoors. In the winter? They bring their sleeping bags to the aquarium to have a full-blown slumber party. It all starts at 6 p.m., when you can come into the aquarium and choose a sleeping area (next to the shark tank is very popular). Then, like any sleepover, there are movies to see and crafts to create. Unlike the typical sleepover, the aquarium has theme nights. At the next sleepover, Feb. 19, learn more about butterflies and bugs before watching "A Bug's Life." Are penguins more your speed? Come on March 28 for a penguin birthday party before watching "Happy Feet."
COST $64.95 per person for nonmembers. Children 2 and under are free. Dinner, breakfast, crafts, a movie and animal interaction included.
WINTER TO-DO GO BOWLING
WHY IT'S AMAZING HERE It's big, clean and it opens at 9 a.m., even on weekdays. So if you've got an early riser, this is a warm, friendly place to be. Take a break from bowling and grab a burger, fries and a Shirley Temple for the little ones.
COST If you go between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., it costs $5.45 per person per game. Shoe rental is $4.45.