Riverhead’s Long Island Aquarium Reopens to the Public

Three of Long Island Aquarium's adorable residents, Photo: Courtesy Long Island Aquarium
Three of Long Island Aquarium's adorable residents, Photo: Courtesy Long Island Aquarium

When outdoor dining began to reopen on Long Island there was a lot of excitement. But what could offer even more excitement? Add penguins to the mix.

The Long Island Aquarium in Riverhead has reopened its doors after being closed to the public due to COVID-19. Guests are permitted to walk through the aquarium and enjoy all the exhibits and animal habitats on their way to the outdoor dining and retail shops as part of Suffolk County’s Phase Two New York Forward reopening. Phase Three is scheduled to start on Wednesday, June 22, which will loosen restrictions further.

The Long Island Aquarium “looks forward to ensuring a safe day of family fun for Long Islanders who have been stuck at home during the shutdown,” says a press release from the venue.

Guests can discover all outdoor exhibits, while enjoying a meal at the Atlantis Café, Scoops Ice Cream Shop and browsing the outdoor gift shops, all located outside on the scenic Peconic River.

“We have over 30,000 square feet of outdoor exhibit space, the public can enjoy our California sea lions, African black footed penguins, North American river otters, reptiles and so much more in a safe outdoor environment” says Bryan DeLuca, the executive director of the aquarium.

When the pandemic first hit in March, Long Island Aquarium started a GoFundMe page to help keep operations going. While the aquarium was closed to the public, its team of animal caretakers, who were considered essential employees, continued working to care for the animals and maintain their habitats.

At the time, the aquarium estimated it would lose approximately 60,000 visitors and incoming revenue during the New York State-mandated closure. The GoFundMe has raised over $30,000.

Long Island Aquarium's Atlantis Explorer Tour Boat , Photo: Courtesy Long Island Aquarium
The Atlantis Explorer Tour Boat , Photo: Courtesy Long Island Aquarium

This privately-owned aquarium features one of the largest all-living coral reef displays in this hemisphere, a 120,000-gallon shark tank, year-round sea lion shows, numerous touch tanks, butterflies from all over the world, and more than 100 exhibits and interactive experiences.

Now, things are looking up. In addition to allowing guests to enjoy the outdoor portion of the aquarium, the Atlantis Explorer Tour Boat has also set sail with two-hour trips down the Peconic River. The boat is currently allowing 35 guests aboard, which is a 50 percent reduction in attendance. Guests can learn as an aquarium educator describes the local flora and fauna along the scenic Peconic estuary.

Sailing most days at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. (they are currently docked on Tuesdays and Thursdays), guests must book the excursion online and can meet the boat behind the aquarium.

At the aquarium there is a strict reduced guest capacity and reservations can be made through an online ticket sales system, to ensure a touchless entry. Ticket purchases can be made at longislandaquarium.com. All adults are required to wear a face mask, and all CDC guidelines are in place for a safe visit.

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