Long Island Aquarium welcomes back visitors as phase 4 begins
It certainly wasn't how the Long Island Aquarium planned to celebrate its 20th year in business, but after three months of being completely closed, everyone was excited to reopen in phase four – from employees to visitors.
"Are you ready? They are coming in to see those smiling faces behind the masks," exclaimed Executive Director of the Long Island Aquarium Brian DeLuca as the first visitors made their way in to the Aquarium Wednesday.
Grace and Thomas Wesnofske, from Aquebogue, were first on line and said they were excited to see the butterflies and sharks again.
Jason Wesnofske added, "We are excited. This is one of our favorite spots on the East End. We get to see the fish and everything else and are just really happy to be back!"
The Long Island Aquarium experience will look and feel different for the Wesnofske family and other visitors in the coming weeks. Arrows have been chalked on all walkways to help everyone move from exhibit to exhibit safely.
Unfortunately, unique animal encounters and special touch and feel exhibits will remain closed.
Curator and co-founder Joe Yaiullo explained, "There are veterinary concerns, there's still some unknowns about this COVID-19."
There are other ways to have up close and personal, memorable interactions – from a safe distance. The daily Creature Feature station, where trainers bring out animals like alligators and snakes is open. As is the Butterflies, Bugs and Birds area. If a butterfly lands on your arm – that's OK, say aquarium employees.
The aquarium also just found out it can resume its sea lion show. Visitors are encouraged to arrive early for that. Just like on the walkways, the seats have been chalked with Xs and Os to keep audience members socially distant so there's fewer seats!
The Long Island Aquarium recommends booking your tickets in advance as it can only operate at 25% capacity. You can purchase your tickets here.
PHOTOS: Scenes from the Long Island Aquarium's reopening
You can bring lunch with you to enjoy at socially distanced seating areas or buy food and treats at their many snack stands and restaurants, which are open. Bathrooms and gift shops are open too.
Adults must wear masks at all times. When it comes to kids, the co-founder of the aquarium says it's the parents' decision.
If you don't feel comfortable being inside just yet—there's so much to do outside aside from the sea lion show. Their boat tours are up and running and guided kayak rides. Their salt marsh filled with horseshoe crabs and other smaller sea creatures is also open so you play a fun game of eye spy with the kids!
Phase four also means most arts and entertainment activities are allowed. Colleges, media production and pro sports without fans are also permitted. On Friday, some malls will reopen as well, as long as they install an enhanced air filtration system.
But for now, theaters and gyms are still not included. Steve Panzik at Power 10 Fitness in Port Washington has been preparing by installing a new HVAC system, separating exercise machines and putting in sanitizing stations.
While they can't welcome people back into the gym yet, employees came up with a temporary solution by setting up workout equipment in the parking lot.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the impacts on theaters and gyms are still being studied. It is not known when a decision will be made for possible reopening.