Families can rent The Little Red Barn for a private pony experiences among other places on Long Island where you can have family time outdoors.  Credit: Randee Daddona

Getting the kids off game consoles and out of the house doesn't have to be a challenge. Some Long Island venues, farms and museums have added appointment visitation hours, allowing your family to have a socially distanced experienced. Here are eight options for a near-private day out. 

Decorate a pony

The Little Red Barn in Jamesport offers private — yet magical — play sessions for families. “The kids get to brush and decorate a unicorn pony with colorful bows and get a pony ride,” says owner Kate Nickles. Photo opportunities are present throughout the Family Fun Hour experience which includes one-on-one time with the unicorn pony, baby chicks, a piglet and bunnies. The experience is done privately and by appointment only. One-hour sessions are $100 for up to four kids; add $25 per extra child. For, 90 minutes, pay $150 and bring a picnic to have at a private table for a half-hour lunch. For two hours of private time on the farm, you'll have the option for an hourlong picnic, or extended visitation, plus pony time for $175. Extended hours for fall, 8 a.m.-dark. (351 Manor Ln.; 631-566-1690, littleredbarnny.com)

Maria Ioannou helps her son Raphael, 6, from Southold ride...

Maria Ioannou helps her son Raphael, 6, from Southold ride Marshmellow the unicorn pony during a private family hour at The Little Red Barn in Jamesport on July 28. Credit: Randee Daddona

Drive-through animal tour

Spirit's Promise Equine Rescue program rehabilitates horses. Families who’d like to spend 20-30 minutes visiting with the resident animals (which also include cows, pigs, goats, ducks and chickens) can come by car at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Rescue volunteers will bring horses up to your vehicle for a private hello. The drive-through experience costs $32 per car; all guests must remain in their cars at all times and there are no restrooms. The facility is also hosting groups on Fridays at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., noon and 1 p.m. for a 45-minute walking tour; admission is $50 for groups of up to five people, then $5 more for each extra attendee up to a 10-person max. Anyone older than two years of age must wear a mask on the walking tour. All must don closed-toe shoes to take part. (2746 Sound Ave., Riverhead; 631-875-0433, spiritspromiserescue.org)

See "Dinosaurs!" at CSTL

Natthan Mendoza, 3, of Copiague, explores the indoor "Dinosaurs!" exhibit...

Natthan Mendoza, 3, of Copiague, explores the indoor "Dinosaurs!" exhibit which features life-size skeletal and robotic dinosaurs at The Center for Science Teaching and Learning at Tanglewood Preserve on Aug. 6, in Rockville Centre. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

The Center for Science Teaching and Learning at Tanglewood Preserve has reopened two of its presentations by reservation only. The indoor “Dinosaurs” features life-size skeletal and robotic dinosaur exhibits while the “Adventure” offers an open-air look at live animals including turtles, alligators and emus plus an exhibit hall. Patrons won’t be able to receive guided journeys through, but staffers will be on-hand to answer questions. Call 516-764-0045 to arrange reservations; $12 for ages 1-12, $15 for ages 13 and older. (1450 Tanglewood Rd., Rockville Centre; cstl.org

Wander Old Westbury Gardens

Once the 200-acre home and estate of John and Margarita Phipps, its Lake Walk, the Thatched Cottage garden and the West Pond are among the botanic sites available to explore now that the site is once again welcoming the public to its outdoor space. Paul Hunchak, director of visitor services and public programs at Old Westbury Gardens, says advance reservations for grounds tours are required to “adequately maintain social distancing.” Private tours aren’t happening, but pre-reserving admission tickets limits the number of people on the grounds. An app (oldwestburygardens.oncell.com) can be opened on your phone which includes a map and talking points on various highlights. “The app will walk visitors through and provide a full overview of any particular section in detail,” says Hunchak. The estate’s Westbury House remains closed for now but Hunchak also says a virtual tour of the mansion is in the works. Admission is $12, children ages 7-17 are $7. (71 Old Westbury Rd., Old Westbury; 516-333-0048, oldwestburygardens.org)

Families can now wander Old Westbury Gardens by appointment. 

Families can now wander Old Westbury Gardens by appointment.  Credit: Old Westbury Gardens

Take a historic village tour

Back when George Washington was a Revolutionary War general, the Culper spy ring worked through the Three Village area (Old Field, Poquott, the Setaukets, Stony Brook). Tri Spy tours (available for ages 14 and up) conducts private walking jaunts (up to six people for $250) and kayak tours (up to eight people; $60 per person) through the area, providing a look at some of the related sites and structure. Email margo@trispytours.com to schedule a private tour. (631-751-3730, culper.com)

Go behind the scenes at the Long Island Game Farm

The wildlife living at the Long Island Game Farm makes it a unique attraction. Animals include a wild horse, alpacas, parrots, giant African sulcata tortoises, pigs, coati-mundi, an African Serval cat and Silician donkeys, among others. Groups of no more than 4 to 5 people can take a guided 90-120-minute private tour with owner Melinda Novak, who grew up on the grounds. Tourgoers will also get to do things like meet red foxes, hang out with wallabies and pet a zebra (the resident giraffe is not on the farm at this time, due to the pandemic). It also includes a behind the scenes view of where the animals live. Price for private tours, about an hour and a half long, are $200. (489 Chapman Blvd., Manorville; 631-878-6644, longislandgamefarm.com)

Learn about marine science

The South Fork Natural History Museum and Nature Center is open by reservation with the option for visitors to take part in small group tours, offering a more private experience on the grounds, Visitors in groups no larger than 14 can join a 90-minute private guided tour daily at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Call 631-537-9735 to make reservations; donations of $5 for adults and $3 for children are suggested. Additionally, SOFO is offering a SOFO Private Education Marine Science Enrichment Program — a four-hour personalized outdoor marine science excursion held once or twice a week for up to six children. Interested families should email daceti@sofo.org for more information. (377 Bridgehampton/Sag Harbor Tpke., Bridgehampton; sofo.org)


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