As Long Island welcomes the return of summer, farms, petting zoos, sanctuaries, aquariums and nature centers welcome new animals. Pick a weekend and take a family road trip through Nassau and Suffolk to meet and greet new and returning furry, fluffy, and flying friends.
When you travel, you are likely to find another animal that will please each of your family members. The person who loves newborn animals will prefer starting this journey.
Get in your car and drive to …
… the Long Island Game Farm
Here you can see everything from emus to bison to giant rabbits. Long Island Game Farm director Melinda Novak said Bobo, a six foot toddler giraffe, and two gibbons (tiny, critically endangered monkeys) are arriving from Florida this summer. The wallaby baby Mason also romps around, as do five mothers of goats and their newborns and an enclosure full of other baby goats who love to be fed. Also on the horizon: The zebra Zephyr is pregnant and is expecting her baby in August, says Novak.
A baby goat sits in an enclosure at the Long Island Game Farm. Photo credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa Loarca
For an interactive experience, visit the Kakadu Gomer, who loves to sing. Clap a beat he can follow (he loves the Queen song “We Will Rock You”) and he’ll sing or dance. When he’s finished and you leave, he might say, “Bye!” You can also have personal animal encounters with the giraffe, wallaby, and tortoise (under the guidance of zookeepers). (489 Chapman Blvd., Manorville; 631-878-6644; admission is $ 18.95 for children ages 3 to 12; free for children ages 0-2; $ 24.95 for adults and ages 21 and under) , $ 95 for seniors over 62 years of age.)
Although you will see around 200 animals at the Game Farm, head to the next stop for interactive fun at …
… Harbe’s barnyard
Yanni and Ruby are best friends. She and her stable mates Gomer, Penelope and Bonnie invite you to their pig races on weekends, public holidays and summer Fridays (11:30 am, 1:30 pm, 3:30 pm and 5:30 pm). The races work like this: an employee selects a child from the audience to root for each of the five pigs. When you are there you will meet sheep and goats with their babies and lots of chickens, ducks and geese. (715 Sound Ave., Mattituck; 631-482-7641; admission is $ 20.95 on weekends, includes access to a musical hayride tour and pig race)
Sign up for Newsday’s family newsletter
Activities with children, events, more.
Then for the family member who loves sea creatures, get back in the car and go to …
… the Long Island Aquarium
A mother seal named Daisy gave birth to her son on May 5th and you can see them both in the aquarium. You can also have up-close face-to-face (staff-led) encounters with adult seals Java, Bunker, Mila and Lucy. A rescued blind seal (called Buddy Holly) and a baby penguin have also arrived.
A baby seal swims with Mama Daisy in the Long Island Aquarium. Photo credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa Loarca
Compared to last season, there are more creature presentations on the lineup this season, including experiences with lizards and owls, says Darlene Puntillo, director of advertising and marketing. Last season’s supply was limited due to COVID-19, she adds.
Equally important is that the butterfly garden is open, filled with thousands of free-flying butterflies (plus bees and insects behind glass). (431 E. Main St., Riverhead; 631-208-9200; free for children under 2 years old; $ 27.99 for children ages 3-12; $ 39.99 for adults 61 and under; 29, $ 99 for seniors.)
If a family member suggests you haven’t seen butterflies, go to …
… Sweetbriar Nature Center
This center sits on 54 acres of gardens, fields and wetlands and is best known for its butterfly house. It’s filled with Monarchs, Julias, Swallowtails, Longtails, and Buckeye Butterflies. There are so many out there that you can be rest assured to see panties made from a doll every day. (62 Eckernkamp Dr., Smithtown; 631-979-6344; memberships and prices for encounters can be found at sweetbriarnc.org/animal-encounters)
A monarch butterfly and a horse chestnut butterfly on a flower at the Butterfly Center at Sweetbriar Nature Center in Smithtown. Photo credit: John Dunn
Then go to the family member who hasn’t seen enough …
… Lewis Oliver Farm Sanctuary
All animals in this quiet sanctuary have been rescued, says Melanie Marzano, stable manager and president. They live together peacefully with special care.
The roosters are the most articulate cockadoodledoo-ers. Annabelle the cow loves to be brushed by staff and sometimes rolls over on her back to scratch her stomach. Grazing animals like sheep and goats that can’t wait to meet you. Each animal has its own unique story and they are always happy to see you. (Burt Avenue, Northport; 631-261-6320; suggested donation of $ 5 for entry.)
At this point in your journey, unless someone in your family wants to meet those who no longer exist, you might assume you’ve seen all of the creatures that exist. If so, go to …
… the center for scientific teaching and learning
Stay away from two life-size animatronic dinosaurs that are moving. Four more will arrive this summer (Parasaurolophus, Oviraptor, and Triceratops for babies and adults), says Ray Ann Havasy, the center’s director.
See an animatronic ankylosaurus among the dinosaurs! Exhibition at the Center for Science Teaching & Learning Rockville Center. Photo credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara
There are 40 species of animals on the premises, and new animal shows are planned for this summer. When night hikes are planned, a guide leads the families in the dark through the forest over the property. You can see resident skunks, muskrats, rabbits, bats; whatever comes out. After this hike, even the nocturnal animals can snore to themselves. (1450 Tanglewood Rd., Rockville Center; 516-764-0045; admission is $ 12 for children ages 1-12; $ 15 for anyone over 15)