For many, winter on Long Island means building forts, throwing snowballs, making snowmen and enjoying time outdoors with family and friends. For others, it's finding indoor, kid-friendly activities to help banish boredom, prevent cabin fever and, most of all, have fun.
This winter, bring the kids snowshoeing (yes, on Long Island) or try pottery making. From ice skating to learning something new at one of LI's children's museums or getting a little closer to wildlife, we found several family-friendly activities to do this winter on Long Island, both outdoors and in.
Try rock climbing
Enter the indoor rock-climbing facility and you'll feel as if you're at the bottom of a canyon with 40-foot walls that offer climbing right up to the ceiling. At The Gravity Vault in Melville, kids (recommended for ages 5 and up) can even hang off the ceiling. Good for all levels of experience, this play space features 40 to 60 rope stations, auto-belays, bouldering areas and more. Information: 40 Melville Park Rd., Melville; 516-777-9255; gravityvault.com. Also, check out Island Rock Climbing Gym, which features 30-foot rock walls, a rappel tower, a bouldering cave, more than 100 routes, instruction climbing courses and more INFO 60 Skyline Dr., Plainview; 516-822-7625; islandrock.net.
Decorate baked goods
Enjoy the sweeter things in life without the mess. A Cake in Time (5768 Rt. 25A, Wading River; 631-359-0011, acakeintime.com) offers walk-in cookie, cake and cupcake decorating workshops Wednesday-Sunday from 11 a.m. to either 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. You get a place to work, candy toppings, frosting, tools and as much or as little guidance as needed. Similarly, Gingerbread University (3225 Sound Ave., Riverhead; 631-727-7309, gingerbreaduniversity.com) offers one-hour gingerbread decorating sessions lead by "GingerElves" from April through December; walk-ins are welcome if space is available, but reservations are encouraged.
Visit train track models
While the main Long Island train museums and attractions close for winter, the Train Masters of Babylon Model Train Club (120 Schmitt Blvd.; 516-660-8099, tmbmodeltrainclub.com) in Farmingdale, Central Operating Lines Model Railroad Club (50 A Carlough Rd.; 631-563-0173, coltrains.com) in Bohemia and the West Island Model Railroad Club (485 South Broadway Unit 22A; 516-433-6600, westislandmodelrailroadclub.com) in Hicksville all offer open houses where guests can see extensive tracks and layouts. (Call ahead for details on upcoming dates.)
Try an indoor golf course
Glowgolf, a family-friendly indoor mini-golf course, is available to play on the lower level of the Roosevelt Field Mall (630 Old Country Rd., Garden City). Featuring 27 unique holes using fluorescent golf balls and putters, play also involves obstacles and wall decor under black lights. The center also features multiple party rooms and a Laser Maze Challenge, where guests can work their way through a series of lasers while trying not to break the laser beams against the clock. To play 54 holes (play through twice) the price is $12 adults, $10 kids ages 5-12, ages four and under are $7. The Laser Maze Challenge is $3 for one game, $5 for two games, $10 for five games. INFO opryglowgolf.com.
Head to a museum
Museums offer a way for families to indulge in learning together while having fun--and lucky enough, Long Island has many that cater to children. The Long Island Children's Museum (11 Davis Ave.; 516-224-5800, licm.org) in Garden City features both indoor and outdoor exhibits. Fan favorites include the two-story climbing sculpture, the Bubbles exhibit and the Feasts for Beasts animal learning area. The Children's Museum on the East End (376 Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Tpke.; 631-537-8250, cmee.org) in Bridgehampton features a play kitchen, as well as a tree house bedroom, a General Store and an outdoor nine-hole mini-golf course. If your child is into planes, check out The Cradle of Aviation Museum (Charles Lindbergh Blvd.; 516-572-4111, cradleofaviation.org) in Garden City, which explores aviation history from the beginning of flight through space exploration with hands-on exhibits; the historic Nunley's Carousel is located right next door (for a separate fee).
Some say it's a rite of passage growing up on Long Island: climbing a hill with a sled or piece of plastic designed to let you race back down. While some lament snowstorms, kids (and adults alike!) are excited to partake in this winter tradition--as it is, there are only a few days each year we get to partake in the snowy fun--and while many families already have their own favorite spots, to help you get the most of this fun, winter activity, check out our favorite places to go sledding on Long Island.
Go seal watching
Being on a boat in the winter may not sound fun, but it's peak season for seals on Long Island. Captain Lou Fleet (28 Woodcleft Ave.) in Freeport offers select dates (from Dec. 29-March 29, 2020) in order to take a two-hour cruise around Hempstead Bay while looking for winter harbor seals. A naturalist will be aboard for the trip to discuss seal behavior, marine life and more (don't worry, there is a heated cabin; coffee and hot chocolate will be available for purchase). Boats depart at 1 p.m.; price is $40 per person. Be sure to dress for the weather; reservations are required. For more information, call 516-623-5823 or visit captloufleet.com.
See the Boardwalk Lights in Long Beach
Boardwalk Lights is a free nautical-themed light show displayed on the Long Beach boardwalk from Long Beach Boulevard to Magnolia Boulevard through the 2020 winter daily starting at 5 p.m. After a stroll, head into town for some more holiday lights and enjoy some of the restaurants for a cozy, family dinner. Lights will also be displayed throughout the city on Park Avenue, and in both the West and East ends. INFO 516-431-1000, longbeachny.gov.
Lace up your roller skates
At United Skates of America (1276 Hicksville Rd., Seaford; 516-795-5474, unitedskates.com), families can lace up their roller skates every Friday from 6:30 p.m.-9 p.m. for "Glow in the Dark," where you can skate or rollerblade in the dark. Price: $12.50 per person, $5 skate rental. Every Tuesday from 5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m., admission is half price ($6.25 per person, $5 skate rental). Another option is the George D. Costello Sr. Memorial Skating rink (102 3rd St., Greenport; 631-333-2644, greenportamericanlegion.org) where all-age skate sessions take place Friday-Sunday, as well as on some holidays and when school is out; admission is $5, skate rentals are $5.
Every Thursday at 11 a.m., head to Book Revue (313 New York Ave., Huntington; 631-271-1442, bookrevue.com) for Toddler Time. The hour-long free event features stories, crafts and more. Each week, kids can sing and dance along with Nana Carol or guitarist Jeff Sorg.
If you're bored with sledding, you may want to try snowshoeing at Caleb Smith State Park Preserve (581 West Jericho Tpke., Smithtown; 631-265-1054, parks.ny.gov) with your family. The park is one of the few public places that welcome cross-country skiers and snowshoers. The park is flat with a lot of open space, making it easy to shuffle over a lot of snow.
Meet a penguin
Families can take part in the "Penguin Encounter," a 45-minute interactive experience at the Long Island Aquarium (431 E. Main St., Riverhead; 631-208-9200, longislandaquarium.com) in which guests can see the inner workings of the Penguin Pavillion, then have a meet-and-greet with a penguin chick; photos are permitted. Kids ages five and older can participate, child under 12 must be accompanied by a paying adult. PRICE $55 (in addition to the price of general admission).
Try a cooking class
Do you have a budding chef on your hands? If so, you're in luck. There are many places on Long Island where children and teens can bake their favorite sweets, prepare a full meal and learn basic cooking techniques. One spot is Bubble (15 E. Main St., Babylon; 631-587-0050, bubblebabylon.com) offers hands-on classes to expose young children to cuisines, cooking tools and more; bubblebabylon.com, while Celebrations in the Kitchen (3 E. Old Country Rd., Hicksville; 516-396-2193, celebrationsinthekitchen.com) offers seasonal and holiday-focused baking.
A la Carte Cooking School (32 Atlantic Ave., Lynbrook; 516-599-2922, alacartecs.com) offers a number of packages for kids, with classes for kids-only (starting at age eight) or parent-child workshops that permits chefs-in-training as young as four--and The Baking Coach (bakingcoach.com), with locations in Amityville (213 Broadway; 631-543-8608) and Huntington (320 Broadway-Greenlawn Rd.; 631-543-8608) allows children of all ages to take part in some of the classes available (anyone under 12 must be accompanied by a parent); upcoming classes include cupcake decorating and baking intros that introduce students to various types of doughs and how to use them.
Go ice skating at the outlets
After shopping at the Deer Park Tanger Outlets (152 The Arches Circle; 631-940-9750, tangericerink.com), check out the outdoor ice skating rink. The rink is open until Feb. 21 (weather permitting) 11 a.m.-2 p.m., 2:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m. and 6 p.m.-10 p.m. (some nights 9 p.m.) PRICE $10 (children ages five and younger are free), skate rentals are $4; 6 p.m.-9 p.m. Mondays are free to skate (except holiday breaks).
Get creative at home
Whether there's snow outside or just frigid temperatures, chances are you'll be looking for things to do indoors. DIY crafts and games can provide easy entertainment that the whole family can enjoy. From flower finger paint and Play-Doh to a sand-free sandbox and cardboard box creations, check out this list of 10 kid-friendly crafts and games.
Jump and bounce around
Indoor bounce and trampoline parks are open all over Long Island, helping kids reach new heights of fun. Guests can not only jump and bounce, but can also play dodgeball, joust in an inflatable ring, run through inflatable obstacle courses, try trampoline bungee jumping as well as fitness classes for all ages. Check out Urban Air Adventure Park (3147 Middle Country Rd., Lake Grove; 631-861-4125, urbanairtrampolinepark.com), Flight Fit N Fun (1850 Lakeland Ave.; 631-619-6000, flightfitnfun.com) in Ronkonkoma, Bounce U in Farmingdale, Nesconset and Oceanside (bounceu.com), Bounce! Trampoline Sports (310 Michael Dr.; 516-762-1300, bouncesyosset.com), Bouncers & Slydos (1835 New Hwy.; 631-752-2324, bouncersandslydos.com) in Farmingdale and Sky Zone (skyzone.com) locations in Deer Park (111 Rodeo Dr.; 631-392-2600) and Mt. Sinai (269 Route 25A; 631-619-9771), among other places.
Take up bowling
After school or on cold weekends, pack up your family and spend the afternoon bowling. Many Long Island bowling alleys offer discounts and deals. For example, Farmingdale Lanes (999 Conklin St.; 631-249-4300, farmingdalelanes.com) has the Family Fun Pack, which features two hours of bowling, shoe rentals and up to six people on one lane for $45 (Mon-Thurs: 9 a.m.-close, Fri: 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; $75 on Fri: 5 p.m.-close, all day Sat-Sun, weekends, school recesses and holidays). Over at Bowl Long Island at Patchogue (138 West Ave.; 631-475-5164, bowllongisland.com), the "Dollarmania" Sunday special (6 p.m.-close) lets guests bowl for $2 a game per person after paying a $5 cover charge.
Challenge friends at an arcade, laser tag, more
Bowlmor Long Island (895 Walt Whitman Rd., Melville; 631-271-1180, bowlmor.com) features an arcade, adding more entertainment to its glow-in-the-dark bowling alley.
You can also find an arcade and laser tag Dave & Busters in Islandia, Massapequa and Westbury (daveandbusters.com), Chuck E. Cheese (Hempstead, Hicksville, Patchogue and West Islip; chuckecheese.com), Laser Kingdom in Coram and Farmingdale (laserkingdoms.com), Laser Bounce Family Fun Center (2710 Hempstead Tpke.; 516-342-1330, laserbounce.com) in Levittown and Q-Zar (151 Voice Rd.; 516-877-7200, qzarny.com) in Carle Place.
Go see a puppet show
The Long Island Puppet Theater (10 Heitz Pl.; 516-932-5469, lipuppet.com) in Hicksville puts puppet shows, and typically features special events during school breaks when the kids are off from school. Tickets are $13 if you order at least 24 hours in advance, $15 if reserved day-of.
Ride a go-kart
Go-karting isn't just for outdoors. Here on Long Island, there are two places you can ride a go-kart on an indoor race track:
RPM Raceway (40 Daniel St.; 631-752-7223, rpmraceway.com) in Farmingdale lets drivers reach speeds of 45 mph along straightaways and hairpin turns. Racers compete in age groups, starting with drivers ages 6-11 (must be four and five feet tall), ages 12-17 and adults with valid driver's licenses (must be at least 4' 10" in height)--while Karts Indoor Raceway (701 Union Pkwy.; 631-737-5278, karts1.com) in Lake Ronkonkoma also features an indoor track, as well as an arcade and laser arena. Kids must be 40" tall to ride as passengers; you must be at least 52" tall to drive alone. (Call ahead for prices).
Bouncers and Slydos (1835 New Hwy., Farmingdale,; 631-752-2324, bouncersandslydos.com) in Farmingdale has an inflatable zip line. Children under 100 pounds can test it out. Kids are placed in a bucket seat and belted in by a staff member before swinging from the top to the bottom of the inflatable. PRICE $15 to bounce, $18 to bounce and zip line.
Watch ice carving at HarborFrost
The 2020 edition of the annual HarborFrost festival in Sag Harbor Village (1 Long Wharf) will be on Saturday, Feb. 29 from 1 p.m.-6 p.m. Ice sculptures will be placed on display along Main Street, there will be live music, indoor children's activities and a fireworks show over the harbor, with more events to be announced. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit sagharborchamber.com.
Check out the Parisi Speed School at NXT GEN Fitness (2 Channel Dr.) in Port Washington. This multi-purpose, non-sports specific workout focuses on strength, speed and agility for children starting at 18 months. For pricing, times and packages, call 516-883-7678 or visit nxtgenfitness.com.