Sands Point Preserve
|The Sands Point Preserve is a large estate on the north shore that will engage a child's imagination.|
The three historic houses at Sands Point Preserve in Port Washington give kids the chance to explore large grounds and opulent homes that resemble medieval castles. The main house is the home of a few exhibits, as well as the public restrooms. The parking area is large and mostly grass, although closer inspection will reveal that there are paving stones under the greenery.
The distinctive clock tower at Sands Point sits over an enclosed space where you'll find the park's offices and the exhibit entrance. There are a few vending machines in this area as well. This is not a place to go and buy food, but if you're searching for a picnic spot you could hardly do better. There is lots of open space as well as nature trails and sweeping views of the Long Island Sound.
The main building was constructed mainly of Onondaga Limestone, which contains thousands of fossils that are easily found. It's a fun and educational activity for kids to explore the walls of the castle and find all kinds of shellfish and other creatures that were encased in the stone millennia ago.
Another highlight to a visit to Sands Point are the nature trails. The most popular one for kids is the Dino Trail, which is a short walk through the woods just outside the parking area. Getting kids excited about a walk through the woods isn't always easy, but they spice things up here with "dinosaur footprints" that you can follow onto the trail. You will, however, need to bring your own sense of adventure as many of the trail markers are lying uselessly on the ground. This trail doesn't take you far from the parking area, but you will need to find your own way out. Think of it as a quest in the shadow of a castle...
Over at the Hempstead House, you are treated to a great view of the Sound and Connecticut from the vast back lawn. Again, there are picnic tables around to sit and enjoy the surroundings. There is literature at the main house to take your own walking tour of the grounds, which points out many of the highlights. A third house, Falaise mansion, is open Thursday through Sunday from May to October. Guided tours are available, but they discourage children under ten from going inside.
Sands Point Preserve is a nice spot to go for a picnic or a walk around the grounds. Kids will find the castle pretty cool, especially if they're into knights and princesses. Budding scientists will get to actually touch real fossils, which is also a neat opportunity. The tours, however, are an adult pursuit. There is a trail to get down to the beach at Sands Point, but it's rather steep for young kids and it's not a bathing beach.
Sands Point PreserveOfficial Site: http://www.sandspointpreserve.org/
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