Hoping to coax your Internet-dazed youngsters outside for some park action this summer? Keep in mind you are competing with online war gods and superheroes, so make it a good pitch. Try something like “Hey, kids, let’s go look at a once-secret World War II military installation.” Or “Who wants to try out a couple of 30-foot water slides?” Or “How about we play Robin Hood at an archery range?”
Here are eight family-friendly parks and preserves that offer more than the usual hikes and playgrounds. Don’t worry if the kids seem initially confused by “reality.” Just say it’s a giant app.
Note: Passes can be purchased by county residents for free parking and discounts. The same goes for the state’s Empire Pass. For grandparents coming along, the state’s Golden Park program for New York residents older than 62 allows free access to most state parks and more discounts. A driver’s license or state ID card serves as your pass.
CAUMSETT STATE HISTORIC PARK PRESERVE 25 Lloyd Harbor Rd., Lloyd Harbor
FAMILY FUN A former estate of department store heir Marshall Field III, this sprawling park has equestrian programs and an environmental education center. Also, it has nature trails, a beach and mountain bike paths along with an easy-peasy, three-mile paved trail great for tiny bikers.
SOMETHING EXTRA The park contains a walled garden with events that include magic shows, yoga classes, “clown school” and wilderness survival instruction. Check caumsettfoundation.org for events, dates and fees. Visitors also can picnic behind the mansion on a lawn that has panoramic views of Long Island Sound.
INFO Open sunrise to sunset year-round; $8 vehicle fee from April to November except for those with an Empire Pass; 631-423-1770, parks.ny.gov/parks/23/details.aspx
NORMAN J. LEVY PARK AND PRESERVE 1600 Merrick Rd., Merrick
FAMILY FUN This man-made plant and wildlife sanctuary features the highest point on the South Shore. It has a fishing pier, seasonal kayak guided tours and three miles of hiking and jogging trails with 18 exercise stations. Jitneys help the physically challenged.
SOMETHING EXTRA Nigerian dwarf goats are kept on the grounds to keep down weeds and brush. Hike up the park’s 115-foot-tall hill and you can see the Manhattan skyline.
INFO Open at 7 a.m. most days, but closes at different times depending on the month; check the website; there are no entry fees but kayaking is $25 for a single and $35 for a tandem; 516-804-2000, toh.li/preserves-and-nature-areas/norman-j-levy-park
CAMP HERO STATE PARK 1898 Montauk Hwy., Montauk
FAMILY FUN This 754-acre park has freshwater wetlands and 80-foot-tall bluffs with picnic areas overlooking Long Island Sound. You can bike, hike or ride horseback. The long, rocky beach is known for some of the area’s best surf fishing.
SOMETHING EXTRA Once a World War II coastal defense station disguised as a fishing village, it was named after Maj. Gen. Andrew Hero Jr. Although closed to the public, you can get up close to its three concrete bunkers and take pictures of the radar tower. A 1992 book alleged that secret military experiments involving mind control and time travel were conducted there.
INFO Open from dawn to dusk; an $8 car fee is collected daily through Oct 8 and on weekends and holidays from Oct. 13 to Nov. 11. This is waived with an Empire Pass; 631-668-3781, parks.ny.gov/parks/97/details.aspx
HEMPSTEAD LAKE STATE PARK Lakeside Drive, West Hempstead
FAMILY FUN Play your heart out at the park’s 20 tennis courts, basketball courts and children’s playgrounds. There are also horseback riding and biking and hiking trails. Hempstead Lake, the largest freshwater lake in Nassau County, was created to provide water to Brooklyn. Three fishing ponds are stocked with fish, including trout.
SOMETHING EXTRA The park’s century-old wooden carousel with its 36 hand-carved horses is a trip back in time. It offers rides on weekends for $2 and can be rented out privately at $350 for three hours.
INFO Generally, the park is open from 8 a.m. to sunset, but this can vary according to the activity and the weather. There is an $8 car entrance fee and other fees for tennis courts and more; the Empire Pass allows free parking; 516-766-1029, parks.ny.gov/parks/31/details.aspx
HORTON POINT LIGHTHOUSE PARK Lighthouse Road, Lighthouse Park, Southold
FAMILY FUN If you like pocket parks with history and geology, this is for you. The square little lighthouse (commissioned by George Washington in 1790 and built in 1857) and its accompanying nautical museum are a quick walk from the parking lot. Inside is a new exhibit on Southold lighthouses, as well as a display of whaling equipment.
SOMETHING EXTRA The still operational lighthouse, entered through a spiral staircase, emits a slow green flash every 10 seconds. Below is a rare boulder beach, rocky leftovers from the glacier that formed Long Island, says Herb Mills, a geologist retired from the Nassau County Division of Museums and a glaciation specialist who has studied the entire island. “I don’t know of any other place that has that concentration of boulders of so many sizes,” he said. “It’s unique on Long Island.”
INFO Grounds are open from 9 a.m. to dusk every day; however, the lighthouse and museum are open only on weekends between Memorial Day and Columbus Day from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.; admission $5 per person or $10 per family; parking is limited, but you can park on the street; 631-765 -5500, southoldhistoricalsociety.org/lighthouse
WANTAGH PARK 1 King Rd., Wantagh
FAMILY FUN This waterfront-located park has numerous ballfields as well as bicycle and jogging paths. A two-mile fitness trail has 20 fitness stops.
SOMETHING SPECIAL Wet fun awaits at the swimming complex. It includes an Olympic-sized pool, diving pool, training and kiddie pool, a water-spurting playground area and two 30-foot water slides. There’s also a nautical-themed mini-golf course.
INFO Various fees apply for activities such as the tennis courts. There is a $10 parking fee for nonresidents on weekends from Memorial Day to Labor Day; parking is free to residents who have a $32 Leisure Pass available to Nassau County residents. The pass also gives them discounts to other county parks. There is no charge for parking Monday through Friday; for the pool complex, resident adults are charged $9, resident children $6, and resident seniors, disabled, volunteer firefighters, ambulance corps, auxiliary police and veterans $5. Nonresident adults are charged $25. The fee for nonresident seniors and children is $20. Pool membership seasonal rates also are available; 516-571-7460, nassaucountyny.gov/2805/Wantagh-park
CEDAR CREEK PARK 3340 Merrick Rd., Seaford
FAMILY FUN In addition to the usual offerings of tennis and basketball courts and various sports fields, the park also has handball and paddleball courts along with jogging and bicycle trails. An outdoor roller rink is open year-round.
SOMETHING SPECIAL An aerodrome field is available for enthusiasts of radio-controlled model airplanes. Also, a regulation-sized archery range is open to the public from dawn to dusk all week, year-round. Permits are required to fly model airplanes.
INFO Parking fees charged from Memorial Day to Labor Day on weekends and holidays, $10 for nonresidents and free for county residents; park is open from sunrise to sunset; 516-571-7470, nassaucountyny.gov/2792/Cedar-Creek-Park
EISENHOWER PARK 1899 Hempstead Tpke., East Meadow
FAMILY FUN If you can’t find an activity you like at Eisenhower Park, it probably doesn’t exist. Larger than New York City’s Central Park, it boasts 16 tennis courts, 17 baseball fields, four soccer fields, three football fields, a batting cage with eight separate batting areas, a driving range and three 18-hole golf courses. The 80,000-square-foot indoor aquatic center hosts swimming and diving competitions. It also has a membership-required health club.
SOMETHING SPECIAL There are two 18-hole mini-golf courses with waterfalls, ponds and flower beds, a kite field and a restaurant catering hall. Add a boccie court, inlaid boards for chess and checkers, and an all-inclusive handicap-accessible playground and sports field. Two NHL-sized skating rinks as well as an outdoor rink are on the grounds.
INFO The park is open from dusk to dawn, although times vary for offerings such as the swimming facility and seasonal activities; parking is free for Nassau County residents; nonresidents pay $10 for parking on holidays and weekends from Memorial Day to Labor Day; there are other fees that vary according to the activity; Leisure Pass holders get discounts at the paid activities; 516-572-0200 nassaucountyny.gov/2797/Eisenhower-Park