Living on Long Island, I find road trips of 3-5 hours very easy and there are just a ton of options for us in the Northeast. It would take days and days to read about all there is to do. But I am sharing nine fun ideas for family days out or short trips that are within a few hours of NYC/Long Island. I think you’ll love them!
1-The Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk , CT
This is a nice aquarium that is mainly indoors, making it great any time of the year. Recent updates and expansion, plus the largest Imax theater in Connecticut, make it a full and fun experience for all ages. Connecticut is also home to Mystic Seaport, not only the Aquarium but the fun village and huge ships. You can learn more here.
The Long Island Aquarium in Riverhead is Long Island’s only aquarium, and Splish Splash is Long Island’s only water park. The two together make for a full water-themed weekend trip. The aquarium’s Lost City of Atlantis theme, a sea lion show, plenty of outdoor exhibits and a beautiful view of the river get my vote for a perfect trip to the eastern part of Long Island. A butterfly and bird exhibit (extra fee) round out the experience. At Splish Splash, you’ll find water rides for every age from the scary “Cliff Diver” and the HydroCoaster, to many tamer slides, , 2 wave pools and a great children’s area.
3- Science Centers
The Liberty Science Center in New Jersey is huge! The Liberty Science Center includes 4 floors of hands-on exploration and fun the family can dive into and have a great time at while learning about everything from animals to the body. Then head down the road to Liberty State Park for a walk with amazing views of Manhattan!
Queens, Long Island has the New York Hall of Science. We’ve been there 3 times. Very educational and hands on fun. they offer a free admission Sunday Mornings so be sure to check that out! Also has a wonderful extremely unique outdoor experience called the Science Playground which is an extra fee, but worth it!
4-Long Island’s East End
Not many places can boast the diversity of the East End. On the north fork, you’ll find calm beaches, charming towns, farms and vineyards, all which make for a fantastic day trip. On the South Shore, the Atlantic Ocean beckons and the Hamptons are a mecca for locals, tourists and stars alike. From the Westhampton gateway and Dune Road, out to Montauk, known as “the fishing capital of the world.” There’s nothing like a Hampton’s experience, especially in the summer months. Read more about Montauk and Long Island towns here.
People often forget that Atlantic City is a great Jersey shore destination that even kids can enjoy, especially school-age children. Hotels usually cost less than Ocean City or Wildwood, especially in season, so it’s great if you’re on a budget (just don’t gamble much!) The boardwalk has a ton to see and do from Caesar’s boardwalk shop mall, to Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum, to the Rainforest Cafe and of course the beach and the incredibly beautiful water views and all the tourist themed stores. A short drive takes you to Ocean City area also for double the boardwalk experience. We found that the Tropicana has great prices, often as low as $69 a night!
If you have younger children, say 8 and under, these 2 museums in Connecticut are wonderful for that age. What child doesn’t love a children’s museum? Stepping Stones in Norwalk has an incredible contraption called the color coaster that is sure to mesmerize the kids plus a really soaking wet fun water room. The New Children’s Museum in West Hartford houses a seasonal butterfly house and a planetarium..
On Long Island, the Long Island Children’s Museum, on museum row, offers a full day of fun. Can’t even count how many times I’ve been there! Do check it out here There’s also children’s museums in Manhattan and Brooklyn.
7-The Bronx Zoo
It’s always hard to believe that in the middle of the Bronx, you can take a walk through the gorilla forest and the tropics of Jungle World, ride a monorail past elephants, hop on the back of a camel, and see some very large snakes in the World of Reptiles. And that’s just a few of the great exhibits that draw families back for years. Kids can ride the bug carousel, go to the children’s zoo and even see a 4-D theater feature. A family membership is worth it since they put on great events including the popular ” Boo at the Zoo” in October. If you are in NYC, don’t miss the Central Park Zoo which is part of the Bronx Zoo family of zoos.
Well, the eastern part anyway, since most of us can be there in a few hour drive. You’ve got Bucks County, which has many beautiful outdoor places and the lovely Peddler’s Village which includes Giggleberry Fair, an indoor play center kids love!
There’s the endless bounty of outdoor activities in the Poconos. Visit here to learn more. Bushkill Falls, many lakes and rivers, adventure parks, rafting adventures, dining, shopping and oh, those water parks! ( more about that coming up)
There’s also KNOEBELS one of my personal favorite theme parks. It’s not big and slick and shiny like Hershey, rather it’s old fashioned theme park fun, set in the mountains with a stream/river running through it. Free parking and free admission makes it super appealing too. You can bring along a family member who just wants to ride a ride or 2 ( you buy tickets for that) or get a bracelet to ride all day. They have a lovely huge pool, some water slides, laser tag, entertainment and excellent food too!
Dorney Park and Wild Water Kingdom is another popular option. I’ve never been there but friends have and they really enjoyed it!
Kids 10 and under will love the CRAYOLA EXPERIENCE. We went twice, on the way to Hershey! It’s a definite unique and fun half day/several hour experience. On the way to Hershey, we stopped at Roadside America, an indoor mini train village. If your kids are train lovers, like mine, don’t miss it! PA also has plenty of caverns and hiking, biking , camping and more. There’s no way I could sum it all up, so I just touched on a few. Go to VisitPA.com to learn more about this huge state- we find so much to do and head back at least once a year for the last 15 years!
9-Splash all day at an indoor water park
And boy, do we have a lot to choose from now! Camelback with it’s huge indoor water park is a favorite of ours. I went recently with the kids and we just loved it! You can see my full review here. Don’t miss the super cool lazy river in the water park and be sure to venture outside for the outdoor mountain coaster!
Kalahari Resort is another gorgeous indoor water park. We were lucky to go at Christmas time and the decor was exceptionally pretty! It’s an animal themed park which the kids absolutely loved! It had many great slides and rides and was clean and fun. They are undergoing expansion so soon their water park will be DOUBLE in size. WOW, that’s a lot of water!
Great Wolf Lodge Another family favorite- we’ve been there many times and it’s so much fun! I do recommend this park for the under 12’s and any kid who likes magic. My kids spent hours every night playing magiquest with their wands while the parents sat and relaxed. After a day in the beautiful water park, it’s a nice dry option. Many kids love to dress up as wizards too!
Split Rock Resort While the water park H2Oooohh!! is smaller than the above, it’s still a ton of fun! We went in the winter but looks like Split Rock has a ton to do in summer months as well!
Connecticut has COCO KEY inWaterbury which is attached to a hotel so you can go for the day or make it a full overnight trip with accommodations!
New Jersey has Sahara Sams which is a water park only ( no hotel attached) but you can make it part of a Jersey trip! Looks very nice! Jersey also has a CocoKey another indoor water park and near several other attractions for families!
In the Lake George area, there’s an indoor water park at the Six Flags Great Escape Lodge! Combine that with a trip to Lake George, and what a fun time that would be! (We LOVE Lake George!)
This doesn’t even include outdoor water parks. Our kids are very lucky to have all these water parks within a few hour drive, don’t you think?
This list is short actually. There’s so much more to do, and yes, I probably left off many of your favorite places. But I’ll be blogging again soon and will add even more. In the meantime, happy travels and stay tuned! And remember, whatever your budget, there’s always something to do and somewhere to go. Kids get amazing experiences and make memories that will last a lifetime. Families bond and explore new places. Get out and see all there is to offer in our area! Please share with your Northeast friends and family.