Riverhead, New York is a small town on the east end of Long Island sitting at the mouth of Peconic River. Many people associate Riverhead with the Aquarium, the water park Splish Splash, and the Tanger Outlets. These might be the most popular attractions, but Riverhead has so much more to offer. Affordable hotels (that are scarce further east out in the Hamptons) make it a great destination to visit with families. This post is the first of three and families will be thrilled to find something to do for every family member. There is a lot to do, regardless of the season or your age, so check out my list below and make plans to venture out to the east end of Long Island for a day trip or a vacation in this family friendly destination 76 miles east of New York City.
1. Long Island Aquarium & Exhibition Center - The Aquarium has been one of our family’s favorite place to visit because it is small but offers many exhibits and interactive experiences. In addition to seeing beautiful fishes and the sea-lion show, the aquarium is the home of three Japanese Snow Monkeys and adorable Penguins. When my son was three, he was happy touching the stingrays in Ray Bay, and now at age thirteen he has enjoyed the thrill of the shark dive and the pirate snorkel adventure. Other fun things for the family is the Discovery Tower, climbing Poseidon’s Peak, touring the Peconic River on the Atlantis Explorer Tour Boat or hanging out in the tranquil Butterfly Exhibit.
2. Splish Splash- This, of course, is a seasonal attraction and is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day. With 96 areas of water slides and wave pools, it has been voted best water parks in America by the Travel Channel. One of the things I like best about Splish Splash is how the landscape provides shade.
3. Riverhead Raceway - This is a fun way to spend a Saturday evening. I promise the race cars were whipping around the track, demolition derbies and classic carnival food will keep your family entertained. Races are only on Saturdays starting at 6 pm, and the pit opens in the afternoon where you can check out the practice and modified trials.
4. Martha Clara Vineyards – More than just award-winning wine, the Entenmann’s family friendly farm is inviting for the whole family. The kids will get a kick out of seeing the turtles, goats, pigs, cows and other animals. This family-friendly vineyard host dog walks (yes, your furry four leg friend is welcome), live music, horse and carriage rides and of course wine tasting for the adults. The weekend we visited we were also able to pick our sunflowers from the field and families were sprawled across the lawn with their picnic lunches while listening to the Live Reggae Music by The Roots Foundation. The kids played games like tag and bean bag toss while adults were playing bocce. Opened year round, the vineyard often has live music, so make sure you check out their website for scheduled events.
5. Treasure Cove Rentals - Located at the Hyatt Place, the Treasure Cove Resort Marina rents bicycles, canoes & kayaks, water bikes and tour boards.You can rent by one or two hours or for a half a day for four hours and venture out on the Peconic River.
6. Gingerbread University - This is such a fun activity to share with kids and not just for Christmas. Families can pick from decorating their Gingerbread house or cookies. Each month has a theme and when I stopped by they had cute whales to decorate for summer. There is plenty of candy in the sweet shop to add to the decorations too. Walk-ins are welcome, but it is best to make a reservation.
7. East End Art Gallery – Located in downtown Riverhead on Main Street, this gallery is run by the East End Arts Council. The Gallery produces eight shows a year, and the gift shop showcases work of the member artist. Admission is free and open to the public. The day I visited there was an exhibit titled Found Objects and fabulous women named Janet gave me a little background of some of the works of art. I found many of the sculptures and paintings whimsical and thought it would be a great exhibit for kids to get their artistic juices flowing. There were creative works of art made of old alarm clocks and a kitchen strainer. My favorite object was a large wastebasket that looked like a Starbucks cup made from Starbucks cups found on the ground.
8. Out East Family Fun - This is an outdoor family entertainment center opened from March through November. Miniature golf, batting cages, and jump shot basketball (a trampoline basketball game) will ensure a fun time. Summer seasonal activities include all water attractions which include four inflatable water slides, water wars (a slingshot water balloon game), shoot and shower (a basketball splash game), and a splash zone for the little ones. This place is a must since vacation always should include a round of mini golf!
9. Affordable Accommodations – There are three options for family accommodations in Riverhead – Holiday Inn Express East End, Hilton Garden Inn Riverhead and the Hyatt Place Long Island East End, all averaging about $150 a night. Both the Holiday Inn Express and the Hilton Garden Inn are both located on Old Country Road which is close to the outlets, Splish Splash, Riverhead Raceway & Out East Family Fun. The Hyatt Place, which opened up a year ago is on Main Street in the historic downtown section of Riverhead and sits along the Peconic River. It is next to the aquarium and is close to the Long Island Science Center and the Railroad Museum of Long Island. Treasure Cove Marina also at the Hyatt offers kayak rentals. Each hotel has a pool, which is another attraction in itself when traveling with kids.
10. Picnic at the Peconic Riverfront Park – Pick up lunch at one of my favorite places, The Country Rotisserie, and head down to Milton L. Burns Park which is behind the bank on Main Street. The phenomenal park is like an outdoor art gallery with the carved pilings along the river. Seriously these pilings are a work of art, and you will find carvings of the Statue of Liberty, 911 Memorial and the Empire State Building. There are a performance area, benches and checkers and chess tables. The gardens are beautiful with many blooming flowers. This a charming retreat with pathways, grassy areas, and some shade trees. At the entrance off of Main Street, there is a new playground and community garden. Across the street, south of the river, you will find Ammann Riverfront Park. This park runs behind the southern storefronts on Main Street. Here you will find picnic tables along the riverfront with boat moorings. Sometimes a farmers market will be set up, and the park ends at the aquarium.