An 18-foot giraffe cranes its neck to look at passing visitors. Across the path, ring-tailed lemurs swing between the trees. Nearby, alligators thrash in a swamp, and ostriches strut through the grass. The animal handlers at Long Island Game Farm—comprising a team of veterinary students and environmental workers—care for these native and exotic species in re-creations of their natural habitats. On any regular day, they guide visitors past enclosures populated by aoudad sheep, cougars, zebras, and red kangaroos, and demonstrate the creatures’ eating habits through scheduled viewable feedings. They also let visitors feed giraffes, goats, and zebras by hand, and discuss each creature’s lifestyle without judging them by their nighttime hobbies.
A series of trails winds through woods and public picnic areas, leading to areas such as Bambiland—an enclosure for Mediterranean and native deer—and Old MacDonald's Farmyard, where visitors can bottle-feed baby animals and hang out with pigs, rabbits, goats, and ponies. Park staffers also help smaller visitors on and off the park’s carnival rides that include spinning teacups, a miniature train, and an antique carousel. In the summer, they further engage children in Camp Zoo, a one-week day camp during which an experienced instructor teaches participants about environmental conservation and divulges facts and gossip about various animals.
The Long Island Aquarium & Exhibition Center throws its visitors into the shark tank. And the tropical lagoon. And the salt marsh. As executive director Bryan DeLuca noted in the New York Times, the center (formerly Atlantis Marine World) is one of the most interactive aquariums in the area, which snagged it a place on Parents magazine's list of the 10 Best Aquariums for Kids. The Atlantis-themed aquarium’s educational exhibits combine myth with science as they bring guests face to gills with creatures such as eels, jellyfish, seals, and clownfish. In addition to its indoor and outdoor exhibits right on the banks of the Peconic River, the aquarium delights guests with aquatic adventures such as snorkeling or receiving a photo op and kiss from loveable sea lion Java, who still dreams of one day being turned into a beautiful princess.
The Long Island Science Center seeks to promote the knowledge and love of science, mathematics, engineering, and technology in people of all ages. They adopt a “learning by doing” philosophy, which results in myriad interactive exhibits that explore subjects such as volcanoes, Egyptian hieroglyphics, the planets, and crime scenes. The museum also holds regular special and seasonal events, as well as special programs for school groups.
A Smithsonian Affiliate museum, the Long Island Museum showcases traditional art, old-fashioned carriages, and special exhibits. The art collection ranges from the 1800s to the present, with more than 4,000 paintings, sculptures, and prints from Long Island–affiliated artists. A stock of William Sidney Mount paintings from the 1800s, which depict everyday life in the era of smoke-signal text messages, garners jealous art-world whispers along with a carriage collection displaying more than 100 horse-drawn cruisers from a variety of eras at any given time. A rotating number of special exhibits, such as artifacts from the World’s Fair or 8-track tapes from da Vinci’s own stash, also draw crowds.
Lauded by People magazine in 2010, Children's Museum of the East End strives to promote learning through play, propelling kids throughout 4,000 square feet of classrooms and interactive exhibits designed for toddling tykes aged 0 and older. At some of the museum's 13 permanent exhibits, kids can strike a chord at the Musical Forest, crest rolling waves at a seafaring ship, paint a creative masterpiece at the drop-in art studio, and crawl up through a hollowed-out log into a tree house. Along other erudite roads, windmills spill their revolutionary secrets and potatoes metamorphose into potato chips when taunted with persistent crinkling of a cellophane bag. Outdoor mazes and gardens liberate cooped-up minds, freeing them to scamper along twisted trails and fragrant greens.