When most New Yorkers think of the Long Island Railroad — or, as it’s commonly called, the LIRR — they think of commuters and crowds, but that’s really giving the system a bad rap. The network includes over 700 miles of track that reach to the farthest point on Long Island; think beaches, parks, wineries, picturesque towns and more! The LIRR even provides travel packages and guided tours at some of its locations and many are perfect for day out with the family. So hop a train for an easy city escape on the Long Island Railroad this spring!
photo: Jason Pope via Flickr
Best for Family Fun
Perhaps you’ve seen those “MTK The End” stickers on the bumpers of cars; they refer to the seaside town of Montauk, which is, in fact, the furthest point on the island. Take the LIRR to the Montauk Station, and take in the charming town, where you will discover shops, restaurants, fishing, parks, and beaches.
It’s just over 3 hours from Penn Station, but the long trip is sans traffic, so that’s a plus.
Freeport’s Nautical Mile
The Nautical Mile is a waterfront park, boardwalk, and marina that spans four acres. Bring the kids to Crow’s Nest Mini Golf course for some family fun, then take in the waterfront at a delicious restaurant or grab a cone from one of the several ice cream shops on the pier.
Take the Babylon Branch train to Freeport and hop in a taxi for a short ride to Nautical Mile.
Take the LIRR to the Massapequa Station and you can arrange to be met by a tour guide, or a have bikes waiting for you so you can take off on your own. The Bikeway is a 13-mile trail that takes you through wetland preserves and two state parks. Enter the trail through the Massapequa Preserve which has public restrooms and a playground.
Historical and Educational Sights
Coe Hall and the Planting Fields
This Long Island estate has trails, gardens, tons of history to discover, not to mention a gorgeous mansion from Long Island’s Golden Age. Have your kids count how many different types of flowers they see (there are a lot). This year the Arbor Day Festival is April 29-30 and families can enjoy live music, a kid’s tree climbing event, face painting, a petting zoo, and more.
Take the train to the Oyster Bay stop and hop in a short cab ride.
Long Island Children’s Museum
This museum, which is just a short distance from the Hempstead stop is an entire space devoted to play. Kids can check out the Klutz exhibit, which encourages them to get their sillies out as well as the the climbing structure which encourages a sense of freedom and exploration.
Get off at the Hempstead stop and grab a quick cab ride to the museum.
photo: Railroad Museum of Long Island Facebook page
Railroad Museum of Long Island
Long Island has a rich train history and you can learn all about it the the Railroad Museum. Kids can experience antique trains and ride the World’s Fair miniature train. (Don’t confuse this location with the Greenport location, which is not easily accessible via the LIRR.)
Take the train to the Riverhead Station. The Museum is directly across the way, going toward Griffing Avenue.
Tanger Outlets – The Arches
Need to load up on summer duds and supplies? The Tanger Outlets provide shoppers with an all-around experience. In addition to its many shops, the outlets are also home to a number of restaurants and cafes, as well as a movie theater.
Take the train to the Deer Park Station.
Roosevelt Field Mall
A mall might not be the ideal place to spend a beautiful Spring day, but in case of rain, this mall is a great place bring the family for some retail fun. With tons of family-friendly restaurants and events for kids that include Easter Egg hunts and Build-A-Bear Workshops, Spring indoors can be fun, too!
photo: Long Island Brew Bus via Yelp
Best for a Day Without the Kids
L.I. Brew Bus
Get off at the Ronkonkoma Station and start brewery hopping. With over 45 breweries on Long Island, this is a unique and ever-changing experience. Knowledgeable “Brew Guides” will entertain and educate you about the history and creation of beer. Learn the science of pairing beer with food, why the pint glass is so popular, and more. Call for reservations and find out where the L.I. Brew Bus is going this week!
photo: North Fork Wine Tours
North Fork Wine Tours
Visit a winery (or three) in the North Fork. Check out liwines.com for more details on specific wineries and packages. It’s a great way to un-wine in a beautiful setting.
Take the train to Ronkonkoma and arrange for transportation to the wineries with by bus, taxi, or private car or limo.
What’s your favorite LIRR escape? Tell us in the comments!
— Bethany Quinn