Holtsville Ecology Center
|The Holtsville Ecology Center in (where else?) Holtsville showcases a number of animals that have been rescued from the wild as well as your standard farm animals. The site also features a playground, nature walk and Brookhaven Town pool.|
The Holtsville Ecology Center is part of a large complex that is run by the Brookhaven Town Highway Department. There is a large paved parking lot that provides easy access to the ecology center as well as the playground, picnic areas and the town pool. Parking and admission to the ecology center are free.
When you first enter the ecology center, you'll find a large feeding pen with anxiously hungry goats. There are vending machines that serve up handfuls of goat food for a quarter. Don't worry if you've got no pocket change: a newly installed change machine is nearby. The fence around the pen is constructed of long planks, meaning children of every size can get a chance to feed the animals. They do, however, get very excited -- they jump to the top of the fence and can reach out further than you expect, so little ones may get a bit rattled here.
The pathways at the Holtsville Ecology Center are all wide and paved, making stroller navigation a breeze. There is plenty of room for kids of all ages to run around and the design of the center is very well-conceived. The animal pens lead into a cul-de-sac at the very end, meaning kids that get ahead of you can't roam too far. The bird pens above give kids a pretty close view of the animals, they'll be surprised at how loud a rooster can crow!
Domesticated farm animals make up a majority of the population here. Ducks, cows, a pig, bunnies, donkeys, goats, lamas and ponies are all there to greet you. The pens for these guys don't resemble habitats, but most give you a closeup experience.
There are plenty of peaceful spots to sit and watch your kids explore the center. Shady areas are easy to find, and the center is nicely landscaped. Just outside of the animal park, next to the playground, there is a large picnic area as well as a refreshment stand that is open seasonally.
Peacocks, black bears, bobcats and emus make up some of the more exotic animals you'll find here. There are also many wild animals that have been injured and cannot survive in the wild, most notably a pair of bald eagles. There are also raccoons, owls, foxes... you get the idea. There's a lot to see at the Holtsville Ecology Center.
There is also a large indoor area inside a greenhouse. This is where you'll find the public restrooms. There is a display with animal eggs, butterflies and an iguana as well. The greenhouse can be a great place to take pictures with your kids: it's full of pretty flora and the filtered light from the roof makes for good exposures. This is especially true around Christmas time, when they decorate the inside with lots of props and feature many poinsettias. Speaking of Christmas time, the Ecology Center puts on a large drive-through light show every night in December to get you in the Christmas spirit.
New Playground at Holtsville
There is a brand-new playground at the Holtsville Ecology center. It's a large playset with lots of space to explore. With multiple platforms that are accessed mainly by stairs, it's easy for kids of all ages to play on.
One very unique feature is this double corkscrew slide. Kids can slide two at a time, great for racing or any other games they can come up with. This was a popular spot, and there are a lot of kids checking out the new playground, so it can get a little congested.
The center area between the playground and the restrooms is also much improved. There's a field of new grass and picnic tables, replacing what had been something of a muddy mess. It gives the whole area much more of a park-like feel, and an exotic one at that -- with the animal sounds from the ecology center echoing through.
Two new banks of swings have been installed as well. There are four toddler swings and four standard swings, which is not really enough to handle the capacity here. But they're obviously in good shape. The play surface throughout the playground is a fresh layer of wood mulch. When waiting their turn on the swings, kids can bide their time on a set of fixed pogo sticks that are positioned between the playset and swing area. The town pool is immediately adjacent to the playground.
The Holtsville Ecology Center is open from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. every day. It's much less crowded in the afternoons, but a few of the animals (like the bears and bobcats) are put away for the day at 2:30. Holtsville Hal, Long Island's famous prognosticating ground hog, is a nocturnal fellow so don't expect an audience with him. A trip to the ecology center is good for at least two hours, more if your kids are really into the animals or the playground. And at free, you can't beat the price.
The Holtsville Ecology Center
Official Site: http://www.brookhaven.org/
Find it with Google Maps
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