The Long Island community of Great Neck is perhaps best known as the setting for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic work The Great Gatsby, in which the book’s location was thinly disguised with the fictionalized name “West Egg.” Fitzgerald chose this pseudonym to directly oppose Great Neck’s posh Gold Coast neighbor, Sands Point, which was known as “East Egg.”
But it wasn’t always of Gatsby’s ilk. Like many LI neighborhoods, the advent of the railroad in the late 19th century brought major changes to Great Neck, with its status as the railhead of the New-York and Flushing Railroad sparking its evolution from a humble farming village into a New York City commuter community. By the time of the Roaring ’20s, Great Neck was a decadent playground for Manhattan elites, and served as home to celebrities like Eddie Cantor, Sid Caesar and the Marx Brothers during the ensuing decades. It retains much of its picturesque scenery and Gold Coast opulence today.
“Great Neck is truly a warm and neighborly place to live, with premier schools, beautiful parks and an excellent library system,” says North Hempstead Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth. “It’s a community with a rich historic past that is headed for an exciting future. Whether you’re looking to go shopping in in any of the villages’ vibrant business districts, take in our beautiful waterfront views, or attend a concert in one of our many parks, Great Neck has something for everyone and is one of our many jewels in the Town of North Hempstead.”
These days, Great Neck boasts a dizzying array of choices for fine dining, shopping and nightlife, as well a multitude of active pursuits for sports, nature and art lovers. Some recommended Great Neck diversions include:
LAND & SEA
To fully appreciate Great Neck’s prime location on the Long Island Sound, take a stroll through the waterfront Great Neck Steppingstone Park (38 Stepping Stone Ln., 516-487-9228, gnparks.org), which is outfitted with a marina, great lawn, concert stage and an ever-popular playground. Only Great Neck residents (or their guests) with a pass are permitted to enjoy the park, however, so be sure to hit up your local friends in advance of your arrival.
When the weather is right, you can also turn your trip to Steppingstone Park into a full-blown aquatic venture, courtesy of Watersports NYC (38 Stepping Stone Ln., 917-714-7707, watersportsnyc.com), which provides water jetpack and jetblade rental experiences, supervised by fully licensed and insured instructors. Getting a chance to soar above the LI Sound, courtesy of your jetpack, is truly one of those bucket-list moments.
Or, perhaps your idea of ocean adventure is more about what happens under the sea’s surface. Great Neck has you covered there, too, with Big Blue Scuba (975 Northern Blvd., 516-869-1888, bigbluescuba.com) being the go-to spot for enthusiasts. In addition to its well-stocked dive shop, Big Blue offers bilingual teaching in English and Chinese and provides diving training, adventure tours, equipment retail and team-building events. So the next time you consider orchestrating a “trust fall” to build co-worker camaraderie, consider strapping on a wetsuit and scuba tanks, instead.
Another good park choice (especially for nonresidents) is Village Green Park (640 Middle Neck Rd., 516-487-4360), which contains an assortment of playground features to captivate the kiddies, as well as a picnic area and bandstand. Don’t miss taking a gander at the stunning tree carvings on display there, handcrafted by artist Ken Packie, using dead stumps from trees that were damaged during storms in 2010.
THE SPORTING LIFE
Facilities devoted to keeping active and staying fit are a huge part of the Great Neck community, whether you’re a tot with too much energy, a teen training for competitive play, or a senior looking to remain limber. But for kids who love to bounce, the default stomping ground is Dreamnastics (24A Great Neck Rd., 516-918-9060, dreamnastics.com), which offers classes, birthday parties and special open gym sessions. The little ones love the gym’s slide, bars, trampolines and zip-line swing; parents love the safe, supervised environment.
Another haven for bounce addicts is Pump It Up (225 Community Dr., 516-466-7867, pumpitupparty.com/great-neck-ny), which is popular for the birthday parties it hosts but is also open to the general public for various “open jump” sessions throughout the week (check the online calendar). There are also special events and group activities, like its new six-week Occupational Therapy Sensory Jump Program and its summer kids camp.
Great Neck is also tops for tennis, thanks to the New York Tennis Academy at Great Neck (12 Shore Dr., 516-233-2790, nytagn.com), the area’s premier tennis center for players of all ages and skill levels. The academy offers a range of programs for juniors, including sessions for recreational, high school and tournament players, as well as high-energy cardio tennis, express tennis, leagues, Drill & Play and group clinics for adults.
And last, but definitely not least, for those who prefer a “court” featuring a sheet of ice, there’s the Andrew Stergiopoulos Ice Rink (65 Arrandale Ave., 516-487-2975, gnparks.org/190/Ice-Rink), part of the Great Neck Parkwood Sports Complex. The full-sized rink offers public skating sessions, skate school, travel hockey, intramural hockey, freestyle sessions, synchronized skating and competitive figure skating lessons and events. You can even plan a party there and bask in the glory that comes with having full run (or skate) of the ice.
EYE FOR ART
Art and antique lovers have plenty to keep them busy in Great Neck, especially if you want to add some stunning new pieces to your collection (or at least, take a moment to admire some). Regardless of whatever your particular aesthetic tastes may be, be sure to check out SUS Gallery (42 Middle Neck Rd., 347-395-1948, susgallery.com), launched in 2014 by designer Sharon Khazzam and her daughter, Alexandra Ainatchi. SUS (The Spot Under Spot gallery) features predominantly young, unique artists like D.D. Prince, Alex Rudin, Joanna Miller, Andrew Tess, Bonnie Siracusa and more, and holds special events throughout the year.
Admiring all that dazzling art may leave you feeling inspired, and you may want to see how a paintbrush feels in your own hand. If history is any indicator, art and alcohol tend to go together; so in that spirit, spend some time channeling your inner van Gogh at Muse Paintbar (34 Middle Neck Rd., 516-252-0515, musepaintbar.com), which fuses painting instruction with a restaurant and bar, open seven days a week. Enjoy a menu of dips, finger foods and desserts — as well as 20 different beers and wines — as you create your own masterpiece. And heck, even if your creation turns out less than masterful, you really won’t mind until the morning after.
Where To Dine In Great Neck
Peter Luger Steak House
255 Northern Blvd., 516-487-8800, peterluger.com
113A Middle Neck Rd., 516-466-5666, restaurantlola.com
96 Northern Blvd., 516-829-0005, pontemollo.weebly.com
75 N. Station Plaza, 516-466-8181, colbeh.com
Moonstone Modern Asian Cuisine & Bar
14 Northern Blvd., 516-500-1000, moonstoneny.com
Morton’s The Steakhouse
777 Northern Blvd., 516-498-2950, mortons.com/greatneck
1191 Northern Blvd., 516-365-9898, pearleastny.com
Brasserie Americana Bar, Lounge & Restaurant
30 Cutter Mill Rd., 516-773-2000, innatgreatneck.com/restaurant-lounge/
Where To Stay In Great Neck
Inn at Great Neck
30 Cutter Mill Rd., 516-773-2000, innatgreatneck.com
The Andrew Hotel
75 N. Station Plaza, 866-843-2637, andrewhotel.com