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The Harold Malkmes Wildlife Education and Ecology Center is a wildlife preserve and educational center that is managed and maintained by the Town of Brookhaven. Located on a former landfill site, the area had to be completely revamped and repurposed. It is a treasure for all those who have keen interest in wildlife and ecology. Featuring a wildlife center, several greenhouses, and a petting zoo, it is an ideal place for younger children to learn about animals and the environment. You can also enjoy tours that take you through the entire park. Please note that visitors are expected to follow rules and regulations for safety reasons and for the protection of the animals.
Fire Island National Seashore is a unique environment of barrier island beaches which host a wide variety of native flora and fauna, including flocks of human beach-goers during summer months. The peaceful surroundings of waves and dunes, ancient forests and timid wildlife, are a welcome respite from the chaos of nearby New York City. To the west, historic Fire Island Lighthouse is always worth a visit, along with the mansion and grounds of the 18th century William Floyd Estate. Tours are conducted year-round (weather permitting), and activities, programs, and workshops are offered particularly for students and teachers. See website for details.
Encompassing a historic mansion, natural history museum, and a Planetarium with a 60-foot domed Sky Theater, the Vanderbilt is a Suffolk County attraction well worth the drive. Take a "living history" tour through the 24-room mansion, view the specimens and exhibits of the museum, and round out the day with a show as big as the sky - the Planetarium features educational explorations of outer space throughout the year and several times each day. At night, however, the show turns musical: Laser showings of classic Beatles, Pink Floyd, and Led Zeppelin songs draw fans of all ages for an unbeatable experience. See website for programming and event details.
American history resides in a beautiful setting at Sagamore Hill, the home of Theodore Roosevelt for over 30 years. While he was the 26th President of the United States, this mansion was known as the "Summer White House. Now, visitors can explore the home and the the beautiful surrounding area as well as participate in the small traditions of the place, such as the Sunday Afternoon Flag Folding. Entrance to the house is only permitted by guided tour, but the surrounding grounds are free to explore. Sagamore Hill is a wonderful place to learn about American history and culture or local nature and science (equal passions of Roosevelt himself!) for students of all ages. Children can participate in a Junior Park Ranger Program to earn badges and a patch.
A splendid public Arboretum and a beautiful historic site, the Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park encompasses nearly 500 acres of landscaped grounds. Follow picturesque paths past greenhouses and lawns, through formal gardens, woodland, and exquisite plant collections. The property was originally a Gold Coast estate and several of the historic buildings remain, including a Tudor Revival mansion known as Coe Hall, a 65-room structure which may be toured throughout the spring, summer, and fall seasons. Educational programs for all ages, musical and artistic events, plant shows, wedding photography, and school programs utilize this marvelous resource. See website for visiting and membership details.
Open to visitors from April until November, the Bailey Arboretum offers up a world of color during that time: daffodils kick off the season, followed by flowering trees and a variety of annuals and perennials all through the summer. This arboretum has a particularly wonderful collection of conifers, and features a sensory garden for the physically challenged. Many events are hosted here, along with guided walks and other educational opportunities. No entrance fee for children 16 and under; $3 for adults.
An extreme example of form following function, the Big Duck was a clever structure built in 1931 by a duck farmer who needed a place to sell ducks and eggs... so naturally, he built an enormous duck and set up shop in its belly. The eyes of the duck, who is 20 feet tall and 30 feet long, were fitted out with tail-lights from a Model T Ford so that they glowed red at night. This attraction has almost become infamous: any building that is shaped like its product is now referred to as a "duck" by scholars of architecture. Today, the duck houses a tourism center, and hosts an annual Holiday Lighting of the Big Duck with singing and refreshments.
The Sands Point Preserve makes full use of its 216 acres: landscaped gardens lead to tangles of trees, meadows become cliffs overlooking beaches, vines of honeysuckles and other flowers surround a freshwater pond, and a castle sits on sweeping lawns. Explore Long Island history by touring the elegant gray-stone Hempstead House or the French eclectic Falaise, after exploring the natural beauty of this diverse environment on 6 marked trails. Educational visits are welcomed, and festivals or special events often take advantage of the spectacular scenery. See website for details.