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Where kids can see animals on Long Island now: LI Aquarium, more

Long Island Aquarium has reopened at limited capacity.

Long Island Aquarium has reopened at limited capacity. Masks — and appointments — are required.  Credit: Randee Dadonna

Emus, snakes and sea lions are all waiting to meet families across Long Island this summer, as The Center for Science Teaching & Learning in Rockville Centre, the Sweetbriar Nature Center in Smithtown, the Long Island Aquarium in Riverhead and the Long Island Game Farm in Manorville have partially, or fully, reopened with social distancing restrictions enforced. 

The Center for Science Teaching & Learning

While dinosaurs may be the biggest draw — literally and figuratively — at The Center for Science Teaching & Learning in Rockville Centre, there are also plenty of live animals to see.

The center has three spaces, an intro room, the indoor “Dinosaurs!” display hall, and an outdoor live animal exhibit. The center also has nature trails. Groups of 10 or fewer sign up for time slots and are kept socially distant from other groups, says Ray Ann Havasy, center director.

So what animals might visitors encounter? On the prehistoric side, there are 25 dinosaurs. The largest is a 42-foot long Camarasaurus; the ankylosaur and Stegosaurus are both animatronic creatures that roar, swing their tails and bob their heads.

The indoor exhibit also includes live animals behind glass, including a stick insect, a green tree frog, an alligator and a ball python. Once visitors head outdoors to the People’s United Bank Animal Adventure, they’ll meet emus, goats, rabbits, peacocks, owls, golden pheasants and turtles.

Staff will be wearing masks, Havasy says. Gift shop items will be covered in plastic and visitors can point to things they want to purchase, she says.

INFO: $12 for children ages 1 to 12 and $15 for ages 13 through adult; 1450 Tanglewood Rd., Rockville Centre; advance reservations are required. For more information or to reserve a time between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, call 516-764-0045 or visit

Long Island Aquarium

The Long Island Aquarium in Riverhead is operating at 50% capacity under New York’s Phase 4 reopening plan, says Darlene Puntillo, director of marketing & advertising. 

Visitors can see all the creatures inside and out, and lectures, feeding and training sessions will resume, Puntillo says. Outdoors, animals include a penguin, a California sea lion, a North American river otter, a coati, Japanese snow monkeys a barred owl.

One thing that’s different from usual: reservations are required so the aquarium can control capacity, and adults must wear masks indoors and outside. The aquarium has limited hours to 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, Puntillo says. 

The aquarium tour boat is also operating at 50% capacity, meaning 35 guests at once. The two-hour ride is $25 per child and $35 per adult, and the boat travels on the Peconic River with an aquarium educator on board. Guests save $10 on a combined aquarium and boat ride ticket.

INFO:  Aquarium cost is $23 per child ages 3 to 12 and $32 for adults; 431 E. Main St., Riverhead. For more information or to make a reservation, call 631-208-9200 ext. 436 or visit

Sweetbriar Nature Center

Families can meet a different type of animal Mondays through Thursdays during Sweetbriar Nature Center’s Family Discovery Days.

Outdoor sessions run from 9 a.m. to noon and each day has a different theme; one day it might be bugs, another day birds, another day reptiles. The program will be facilitated by center staff, but each family must have one adult older than 21 to lead its members through the activities. Family units must social distance from others, with up to five families allowed each day. Families are asked to bring a blanket to sit on so they can stay six feet away from others.

Sessions will include a self-guided nature scavenger-style hunt; for instance, the day with the bug theme will include a “turnover hike” during which families will look under logs and rocks for bugs. They’ll be given a time to return to their blanket to share their findings, says program director Eric Young. “Each walk will be something like that,” he says.

Then families will meet an animal associated with the theme — on reptile day, for instance, families might meet turtles, snakes and lizards, Young says. That will be followed by an activity or craft. There’ll be time for snacks; families must bring their own.

CDC guidelines will be followed, Young says, with participants screened for temperature and families required to wear masks when less than six feet apart.

INFO: Cost varies depending on family size and number of days attending; starts at $50 for one day for a unit of one child and one adult; 62 Eckernkamp Dr., Smithtown; the building itself is closed. Advance registration is required. For more information, call 631-979-6344 or visit

Long Island Game Farm

The Long Island Game Farm’s giraffe may be stuck in its Florida winter home, but the rest of the animals “really miss everybody” and are excited that the Manorville attraction has reopened for its 51st season, says co-owner Melinda Novak.

The ring-tailed lemur, zebra, buffalo, emus, alligators, rescue tortoises, African Serval cat and more are all on display, and the walk-in deer park is open, Novak says. The emus and their baby chicks will be fed at 11 a.m. and the ring-tailed lemur at 2 p.m. daily, she says. While visitors won’t be able to do bottle feeding of the animals, they will be able to offer dry animal feed, Novak says.

The park will be open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. operating at 30% to 50% capacity, and visitors and staff will be required to wear masks, Novak says. “We’re doing everything by the book,” she says. The indoor discovery center will be closed. “We’re going to use this time to renovate,” Novak says. The park’s carousel, teacup and pony rides also will be closed.

INFO Children ages 3 to 11 and senior citizens are $14.95; adults are $16.95; 489 Chapman Blvd, Manorville. For more information, call 631-878-6644 or visit

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