Editor’s Note: A version of this story was originally published in January 2016
Think this isn’t a great time to visit the North Fork with little ones in tow? In reality, the lack of crowds, fun cold-weather activities and this season’s above-average temperatures make the region a perfect place to spend a winter weekend day with the fam.
Most of the farm stands are closed and the vines aren’t looking as pretty, but there are still many family-friendly ways to have a North Fork outing.
Here are four ways to pass the time with the kids on the NoFo this winter.
Hot chocolate and ice skating in Greenport
If you’ve never had the rich, dark hot chocolate from Aldo’s, you’re in for a treat. This isn’t a powdered Swiss Miss packet — this is the real deal. Grab a cup and an Aldo’s scone (simply the best) and head right next door to the outdoor ice skating rink in Mitchell Park.
Depending on how old your child is, you can either participate or just sip your cocoa and watch the skaters. Our little guy is only two and I am “in the family way,” so we sat on a bench and watched others enjoy the ice.
Skating is $5 for adults on weekdays and $10 on weekends and holidays, according to the Greenport Village website. That fee is $3 and $7, respectively, for those under 18 and seniors.
Skate rentals are $5. Be sure to call ahead, (631) 477-2200, ext. 2, as the rink is weather-dependent. The rink is open from 3 to 5 p.m. weekdays and from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Located a few feet away is the Greenport carousel. Each ride is just $2 and kids under four are free.
Lunch suggestion: Lucharitos, located at 63 Main St., Greenport, (631) 477-6666.
Aldo’s is located at 105 Front St., Greenport. Mitchell Park spans Greenport’s Front Street.
A hike and an egg sammy on a warmer day
The North Fork is home to many wonderful trails and preserves, but one of our favorites (and one of the least well-known) is Sound View Dunes in Southold, which encompasses 57 acres of beach, dune, wetland and forest habitat.
The unique park offers the best of two spectacular worlds — lovely vistas of Long Island Sound as well as peeks of interdunal swales, which are freshwater wetlands located between dunes.
The park has two main routes.
The beach trail features a low-intensity, one-third of a mile walk to the Sound, which is great for smaller children (and preggo mommies). At a brisk pace, this walk should take no more than 10 minutes.
But we recommend the forest, or hidden lake, trail. This moderately challenging path offers glimpses of freshwater habitat in addition to the Sound. It should take about 30 to 40 minutes to complete.
The park is open to the public year round from dawn until dusk. Leashed dogs are permitted but horseback riding is not.
We suggest filling up on a big breakfast before your hike, or enjoying a hearty meal after. We suggest a stop at Erik’s Breakfast in Lunch in Southold, which has delicious egg sandwiches, good coffee and tasty lunch options like chili and sweet potato veggie burgers. Erik’s is open from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.
Sound View Dunes is located on Soundview Ave. in Southold, just west of Peconic Dunes Camp.
Erik’s is located at 43715 Route 48, Southold, (631) 765-6264.
Riverhead Farmer’s Market and the Long Island Aquarium
There is no fee to enter and peruse the weekly indoor Riverhead Farmer’s Market (although your wallet might feel a little lighter after stocking up on goodies like fresh eggs, local cheese, small-batch coffee and even organic quail!)
It’s always fun to browse the seasonal products, meet the people making your food and introduce them to your children.
After shopping, take a walk to the nearby Long Island Aquarium. Admission is $27.95 for adults, $21 for children three to 12 and there is no charge for kids under 2. Seniors are $23.50.
Explore the 120,000 gallon shark tank, year-round sea lion shows, sting ray exhibit and more.
Lunch recommendation: We’re big fans of PeraBell Food Bar East, located at 65 E. Main St., Riverhead.
The market is located at 117 E. Main St., Riverhead and is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays.
The Long Island Aquarium is located at 431 E. Main Street, Riverhead and is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day. Call (631) 208-9200 or visit longislandaquarium.com for more information.
Make your own gingerbread creation
Located in Baiting Hollow, Gingerbread University is a place where families can decorate an edible structure in a colorful, festive setting. The 4,000-square-foot shop on Sound Avenue, which smells like one giant cookie, attracts guests of all ages with its one-hour decorating sessions.
Prices range from $11.94 to $34.95, according to the company’s website.
Expect Valentine’s Day confections this winter.
Gingerbread University, 3225 Sound Avenue, Baiting Hollow, (631) 727-7309. Visit gingerbreaduniversity.com.
Other great places to visit during the winter:
Safari Adventure, 1074 Pulaski Street, Riverhead. Indoor playground, bouncy houses, climbing, slides and video games. Great for kids ages 1 through 10. Open play for children under three is $9.25 and open play for older children is $14. Infants and adults are free. Bring your socks! Call (631) 727-4386 for more information.
The All Star bowling alley, 96 Main Road, Riverhead. Bowling, arcade and full-service restaurant Smitty’s American Grill. Call (631) 904-0580 for more info and pricing.
The Shoppes at the East Wind carousel, 5768 Route 25A, Wading River. Indoor carousel and shopping village. Purchase tickets at nearby Tweets ice Cream Café.