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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Speakeasies are an unmistakable and vibrant part of American culture, having gained widespread prominence during the Prohibition Era. Charlotte's Speakeasy is a fantastic nod to the tradition of such establishments, featuring a relaxing atmosphere and an interior which resembles that of the roaring 1920's. Located in Farmingdale Village, where such spots blossomed and flourished in their heyday, the speakeasy provides guests with an array of ingeniously concocted cocktails, beers and wines, and these can be paired with scrumptious bites like chicken wings, meatballs, sausages, and pommes frites among others. The extensive menu also includes desserts like ice-cream and yogurts. Charlotte's also makes provisions for private events and functions, and the establishment is a wonderful place to sit back and unwind with friends and family!
This museum is a must-see for any family aviation buffs - at the American Airpower Museum, you can literally see history fly. Here, you can find a range of fully-operational World War II airplanes, including the likes of Grumman TBM Avengers, that, thanks to loving care and restoration, can still take to the skies. Knowledgeable, passionate volunteers can conduct private tours. It's a great place to have a children's party, or for a fun, relevant historical lesson.