Long Island, N.Y., long on amenities
NYC alternative offers history, beaches and plenty for kids to do
Theresa Goffredo / The Herald
The writer's son, 8-year-old James Dashiell Verhey, basks in the sun at Long Island's Jones Beach in August.
Long Island CVB
The Nautical Mile in Freeport used to be more of an adult hangout, but has become more kid-friendly.
Long Island CVB
You can tour the Vanderbilt Museum, the former mansion of William Kissam Vanderbilt II, great-grandson of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt. There is also a planetarium and an observatory on the grounds.
Long Island CVB
Freeport is the place to go for waterfront dining.
The luxurious "man's" bedroom is on the mansion tour. The Vanderbilt Mansion was called the Idle Hour.
The Marine Museum is one of the galleries in the Vanderbilt mansion.
We've taken our 8-year-old several times and seen the Empire State Building, the Central Park Zoo and the American Museum of Natural History.
All good stuff, of course. But oh, the crowds. On a more recent trip, we wound up joining 20,000 of our closest friends to see the Statue of Liberty.
Our son, who is an excellent traveler, was close to having one of those monumental meltdowns, what with the heat, the long lines and the whole illusive, "What's the point of this again?"
So we decided after Lady Liberty that we'd try some crowd control and keep our touristing to Long Island where my family lives.
Long Island, it turns out, has lots of history, wonderful sandy beaches and the pizza is just as good as on the big island.
And we discovered these Long Island kid-friendly options:
Jones Beach State Park in Wantaugh: This famous Long Island landmark has attracted swimmers for decades with its 6.5 miles of white sandy beach and two swimming pools.
Jones Beach also has a 2-mile-long boardwalk and a nature center is on a barrier island beach within Jones Beach State Park.
The park offers a great playground and nature and wildlife walks for all ages. For more information go to nysparks.com.
Vanderbilt Museum & Planetarium in Centerport: Whether your child likes history or not, any kid is going to be amazed by the museum's preserved animal collections from Africa and elsewhere around the globe, vintage roadsters and models of Vanderbilt's enormous yachts.
The Vanderbilt Museum's historic mansion is the former home of William Kissam Vanderbilt II, great-grandson of Commodore Cornelius. (For you trivia buffs, CNN's Anderson Cooper's great-great-great-grandfather was Cornelius Vanderbilt.)
Among the family's dynastic triumphs was starting the Staten Island Ferry and building Grand Central Station.
You can take a tour of the estate that sits on 43 acres and overlooks Northport Harbor and Long Island Sound.
The tour takes 45 minutes, and I highly recommend it. You can also wander through the museum exhibits on your own.
The Vanderbilt Museum also has a 238-seat state of the art planetarium and an observatory with a 16-inch Cassegrainian reflecting telescope.
According to the Vanderbilt Museum website, the 60-foot Sky Theater can simulate the heavens at any moment in time from the distant past to the future, as they appeared from any place on Earth.
The planetarium is closed until mid-October for renovation. For more information go to www.vanderbiltmuseum.org.
Freeport's Nautical Mile: It used to be this nautical stretch of bars, clubs and restaurants was nothing more than a place where men and women could party and match up.
That still goes on. However, the nautical mile has become more kid-friendly with the opening of the 18-hole Crow's Nest Mini Golf course.
The course is wonderfully laid out with some challenging holes and a pleasant waterfall.
There's also a new 4-acre waterfront park and marina named Sea Breeze that has a boardwalk and boat slips at the end of Woodcleft Avenue.
I recommend a nautical stroll, a round of golf and a treat of Ralph's Famous Italian Ice.
For adults, try a soft-shell blue crab sandwich at the Woodcleft Crab Shack. For more information go to www.thenauticalmile.us/.
Theresa Goffredo: 425-339-3424; email@example.com.
If possible, land at John F. Kennedy airport as opposed to LaGuardia. From JFK you have easy access to the Long Island Railroad from the AirTrain JFK, a people-mover rail system that opened in 2003 and basically created a public transit option for passengers traveling to and from Long Island.