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The best Long Island playgrounds for kids worth the drive

More than swings and slides, these family-friendly spaces can be destinations.

Benjamin Tanguay, 7, and his twin sister Hailey,

Benjamin Tanguay, 7, and his twin sister Hailey, of Port Washington, play at the Christopher Morley Park in Roslyn on Sept. 5, 2018. Photo Credit: Marisol Diaz-Gordon

Almost every neighborhood on Long Island has a place where kids can climb, slide and run — but when you’d like to make a family day of it, consider these places for unique opportunities and nearby attractions.

Children’s Park in Rockville Centre

The entire playground area is surrounded by a fence with a single gate, so parents and guardians can control all entrances and exits. The play sets are separated into zones for kids ages 2 to 5 and 5 to 12, and there are two swing sets. One features a large yellow swing for children designed to hold children who use wheelchairs or have other ambulatory issues. Kids can play in a sandbox, too — there sits a multicolored statue of a dolphin that's a hit for youngsters looking for a spot to sit. Come the summer, there is a small water park with two ground jets and a tower (designed to look like a flower) that sprays from about seven feet above the ground.

THE GROUNDS The playground is next door is the John A. Anderson Recreation Center, which is available for a fee for parties and features a small, toddler-size indoor play space. Kids also love to look at the goldfish that swim in two small tanks inside the center and look at the canaries that flit around a small cage near one of the entrances.

NEARBY There is not much more than fast food near the park, but hungry families should venture about five more minutes west down Sunrise Hwy., where Rockville Centre has loads of restaurants and stores to explore. Two restaurants serving food even picky kids should be OK with are Bigelow’s (79 N Long Beach Rd., Rockville Centre; 516-678-3878, bigelows-rvc.com and Nick's Pizza (272 Sunrise Hwy., Rockville Centre; 516-763-3278, nicksrvc.com). Families looking to eat in the park will find several tables available within the playground's fenced-in space.

INFO Free to enter and park. 111 N. Oceanside Rd., Rockville Centre. 516-678-9338, rockvillecentre.recdesk.com.

Christopher Morley Park in Roslyn

The playground here is spread out into various zones, each designated for various ages (2 to 5, 5 to 8). All offer opportunities to climb and slide with equipment positioned over rubber mats or blue foam for cushioning. There are swings as well, and the entire play area is fenced in with gated entrance points.

THE GROUNDS Kids and adults alike can use outdoor chess tables, play shuffleboard or pitch horseshoes. If you were hoping to include your dog in the day’s fun, the park has a dog run and there are baseball diamonds and handball courts as well. Come in the winter and ice skate, or swim during the summer in either the Olympic-sized pool, kiddie pool or diving pool. You will see a nine-hole golf course for adults. But there also a nine-hole mini-golf course for kids — walk into the main office and ask for clubs and balls for no added charge.

NEARBY Families on a budget can grab a bite at Landmark Diner (1027 Northern Blvd., Roslyn; 516-627-4830, landmarkdineronline.com), only a four-minute drive from the grounds. There is a picnic area for meals at the park.

INFO Parking is free for county residents but nonresidents pay a $10 fee Saturdays, Sundays and holidays (8 a.m.-3 p.m.) between Memorial Day and Labor Day. 500 Searingtown Rd., Roslyn. 516-571-8113, nassaucountyny.gov.

Cedar Creek Park in Seaford

The large play area is divided into zones recommended for kids ages 2-5, 5-8 and 8-12, and consists of climbing obstacles, slides, poles, swings and elevated running paths. The space also features a gazebo and a sand pit, and the playground sets are arranged over either blue mats or blue foam for cushioning.

THE GROUNDS Cedar Creek has a dedicated rink for roller skating or blading, plus a dog run, handball and basketball courts, baseball diamond and turf soccer field. The picnic areas have charcoal grills and a number of  shelters that should help in case of rain. In addition, should your kids be into archery, there is a year-round regulation-sized range open to the public, while hobbyists into remote control planes can come here and fly over a field designated for such activities.

NEARBY There are lots of fast-food restaurants along Merrick Road, but the East Bay Diner (3360 Merrick Rd., Seaford; 516-781-5300) shares a border with the park, offering affordable eats for all ages.

INFO Parking is free for county residents but nonresidents pay a $10 fee Saturdays, Sundays and holidays (8 a.m.-3 p.m.) between Memorial Day and Labor Day. 3340 Merrick Rd, Seaford. 516-571-7470, nassaucountyny.gov.

Heckscher Park in Huntington

The lengthy playground offers climbing sets with slides, poles, obstacles and elevated paths that runs between stations. There are a sandbox and swing sets, with two large blue swings for special needs children. It’s gated, so your young-ins’ won’t be able to leave without you.

THE GROUNDS In addition to a large meadow, a baseball diamond and tennis courts, there is a pond with fountains where turtles sun themselves and waterfowl fly overhead. A path wraps the pond, fine for walking, jogging and stroller-pushing. Come the warmer months, several free live family shows take place on the park’s Chapin Rainbow Stage. But the Heckscher Museum of Art, also on the grounds, is open year-round — with free admission for children ages 9 and under.

NEARBY The park is in downtown Huntington, which is loaded with restaurants to eat in or take out. Right around the corner from the park, try Stella Blue Bistro (188 New York Ave., Huntington; 631-425-2583, stellabluebistrony.com) for an array of healthy eats. There are picnic tables in the park for dining.

INFO Free to enter and park. Main Street (25A) and Prime Avenue, Huntington. 631-351-3089, huntingtonny.gov.

Lake Ronkonkoma County Park in Lake Ronkonkoma

The playground features a large setup with slides, poles and elevated paths that connect the various stations, and there is a swing set — it’s a basic arrangement but it’s wrapped in a fence with gated entrances so parents can relax as kiddies cannot simply run off. A floor of blue rubber is placed under the play area for cushioning.

THE GROUNDS Aside from a picnic area with charcoal grills, a handball court, basketball court and two baseball diamonds, there is the main attraction: Lake Ronkonkoma. Families can walk on a path around the water or stroll in the sand. The park also features a pavilion with restrooms (open only during the warmer months).

NEARBY There are several fast-food restaurants down the road, and the Smith Haven Mall is less than a 10-minute drive away — but it just so happens that one of Long Island’s two popular Little Vincent’s pizzerias is right down the block (324 Smithtown Blvd., Lake Ronkonkoma; 631-467-9633, cash only), and unlike its Huntington sibling, this Vincent’s serves a full menu of Italian food in addition to its famous pizza.

INFO Parking is free for county residents but nonresidents pay a $15 fee Saturdays, Sundays and holidays (8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.) between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Lake Shore Road, Lake Ronkonkoma. 631-854-9699, suffolkcountyny.gov.

Heritage Park in Mount Sinai

Kids can enjoy two large arrangements of slides, poles, ladders and tubes in which to crawl, as well as a pair of swing sets and a single swing chair designed for children who use wheelchairs and have other needs. Wood mulch is spread under the rides to cushion falls, and there is a small but cool hopscotch pad, with numbers drawn out in rocks.

THE GROUNDS Heritage Park has its Heritage Center event space, which is available for parties, but walk around the back to find a nifty walking trail that features a retrospective display of farming equipment that recalls when Mount Sinai was a center of agriculture. The park itself features rolling meadows large enough for both sunbathers and kite-flyers to coexist. There are a turf athletic field and two baseball diamonds plus a walking/jogging/stroller path that winds around most of the space. Picnic fans can either set up a blanket on the meadow or sit at benches near a snack shop with restrooms (only open seasonally, starting in May). Watch for a kids putting green and the “Kidz Maze,” a patch of short pine trees with a winding, roped walking trail.

NEARBY There are several fast-food restaurants from which to choose, but Port Jefferson Village is about a 10-minute drive away. Families have counted on The Steam Room (4 E. Broadway, Port Jefferson, 631-928-6690, steamroomrestaurant.com) for years to have reasonably priced but still yummy meals. There are plenty of picnic tables available near the snack shop.

INFO Free to enter and park. 633 Mount Sinai-Coram Rd., Mount Sinai. 631-509-0882, msheritagetrust.org.

Jones Beach State Park in Wantagh

Located between The Landing restaurant and Field Four, the playground is broken down into sections for kids ages 2-5 and 5-12 — with both sporting play sets offering poles, slides and places to climb. The entire area is painted blue, as is the foam or mats that sit under the play spaces.

THE GROUNDS You will, ahem, probably notice the Atlantic Ocean, famous Jones Beach Boardwalk and miles of sandy shores on which kids can play — but the park also offers mini-golf and a nature center. Watch for kid-friendly live performances held in the park’s bandshell during the summer (late May-early Sept.)

NEARBY Frankly put, there is nothing nearby, but during the summer season there are concession stops and the Boardwalk Cafe near Field Four. The cheapest way to dine would be packing lunches and eating in the picnic area.

INFO Parking is $8, $10 when the beaches are open for swimming; fees are collected at different times through the year, check the website to see when. 1 Ocean Pkwy., Wantagh. 516-785-1600; parks.ny.gov.

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