Great Neck: A Family-Friendly Gold Coast Gem

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Great Neck Village Hall (Wikimedia Commons)

Northwest Nassau’s Great Neck peninsula is among the most affluent and attractive areas on all of Long Island, but should you decide to visit, there is a certain coziness and comfort that you’ll find in place of the opulence you may have anticipated. They’ve got their own Main Street U.S.A. in Middle Neck Road, an eclectic collection of great restaurants and little shops, an array of inviting playgrounds for children, and much more. 

The area began its evolution into the idyllic American town it is today back in 1643 when it was included in the purchase of the Hempstead Plains. In its early years, it was primarily reliant on farming and fishing, but as railroads from Manhattan began finding their way east, it soon became a mass transit hub that would both allow current residents to commute out, and invite the wealthy and famous to find their way in. 

“Part of what makes Great Neck a great place to live is that it’s very close to New York City but offers suburb living conditions,” says Great Neck Village Clerk-Treasurer Abraham Cohan. “That, and our school district frequently ranks among the top 100 in the entire country.”

If you should pay a visit to Great Neck sometime in the near future, be sure to check at least a few of these awesome spots off your list before you leave.

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View of the bay from Great Neck (Getty Images)

Great Neck: A Family-Friendly Gold Coast Gem

A Destination for Dining

You can find just about any dining experience you’re looking for in Great Neck, and most of them can be found right on Middle Neck Road. 

If you’re looking for a quick but fantastic breakfast or lunch, Marie Blachère Bakery & Café (550 Middle Neck Rd., 516-487-0864, www.marieblachereus.com) has an array of salads, sandwiches, pastries, and quiches to pair with their selection of coffees, teas, matcha lattes, and more.

For fairly priced kosher fine dining, check out Bistro Burger (605 Middle Neck Rd., 516-321-9260, www.bistroburgernewyork.com). Head chef and owner Serge Gorge brings a lifetime of international experience in the restaurant industry to his eclectic menu full of unique offerings and familiar favorites.

Pulling inspiration from nearby Manhattan’s sophisticated eateries, Lola (113a Middle Neck Rd., 516-466-5666, www.restaurantlola.com) offers an upscale gourmet experience that no fan of Mediterranean cuisine should miss. Try the mushroom malawach or the baba ganoush for some of their best. 

Where to Eat in Great Neck

Marie Blachère Bakery & Café (550 Middle Neck Rd., 516-487-0864, www.marieblachereus.com

Bottega Mangia (624 Middle Neck Rd., 516-482-3335, www.labottegamangiabeneristorante.com

Bistro Burger (605 Middle Neck Rd., 516-321-9260, www.bistroburgernewyork.com)

Yahao Asian Cuisine (6 Bond St., 516-829-3811, www.yahaoasiancuisine.com)

Lola (113a Middle Neck Rd., 516-466-5666, www.restaurantlola.com

A Haven for Shoppers

Great Neck offers an amazing mix of upscale shopping, funky boutiques, and eclectic gift shops all within walking distance of one another. Walking the village on a warm Saturday afternoon is a great way to experience them all, but if you’re short on time, consider these highlights:

Great Neck’s shopping district is known as Great Neck Plaza (5 Bond St., 516-829-1301 www.shopgreatneck.com). It comprises hundreds of shops and eateries in the heart of the village, and it’s easily one of the best areas on the island for some retail therapy. 

Gift shops are always the best places to peruse when you’re shopping for nothing in particular. Stop by Great Zakka (48 Middle Neck Rd., 516-986-7898, www.greatzakka.com) and you’re likely to have whatever it is you came looking for revealed to you in short order. They offer all kinds of unique dining and kitchenware, home goods, stationery, gifts, and much more, many of which are Japan made or influenced.

It’s always fun to come across something rare, unusual, or unexpected on your shopping journey. Ooh La La (39 Middle Neck Rd., 516-466-9095) and Maya’s Place (581C Middle Neck Rd., 516-321-9400, www.mayasplaceny.com) are two boutiques that offer exactly that sort of experience. You’ll find chic, unique women’s clothing there that you’re unlikely to find anywhere else. 

Where to Stay in Great Neck

Inn at Great Neck (30 Cutter Mill Rd., 516-773-2000, www.innatgreatneck.com

The Andrew Hotel (75 N. Station Plaza, 516-482-2900, www.andrewhotel.com)

Plenty of Family-Friendly Activities

Great Neck has a number of small but lovely parks that are perfect for families looking to get some fresh air and sunshine. But even when the weather isn’t so great, there are plenty of indoor activities to keep the whole family engaged. 

Two of the best family-friendly spots in all of Great Neck are Firefighters Park (30 Grace Ave., 516-487-7665) and Cutter Mill Park (Great Neck Rd., 516-829-5428). Both offer playgrounds, spray pads, and picnic areas. Firefighters Park also has a gazebo and swings, while Cutter Mill Park has full-sized basketball courts.  

Certain parts of Great Neck’s Parkwood Sports Complex are open only to residents of the local park district, but Andrew Stergiopoulos Ice Rink (65 Arrandale Ave., 516-487-4673) is not one of them. They’ve got public sessions, a skate school, hockey, birthday parties, and more. Great for a day out when the weather is trying to keep you indoors.

If you’re looking for some evening activities, The Hideout Board Game Lounge (25 Cutter Mill Rd. Unit 13-14, 516-304-2375, www.thehideoutgn.com) is a great way to connect with friends and family over some tabletop games. Reserve your spot for up to three hours of playing anything from their tremendous selection of games both classic and brand new.

Fine Arts and Great Entertainment

Unfortunately, Great Neck’s storied Squire Theater wound up as another victim of the Covid-19 pandemic, leaving locals to search elsewhere for an authentic cinema experience. However, there are still some great destinations for anyone who appreciates the arts in Great Neck, including the following:

GTM Gallery (354 Great Neck Rd. and 601 Middle Neck Rd., 516-304-5598, www.gtmgallery.com) has two locations in Great Neck which hold events and exhibitions displaying the work of an array of different artists working in various mediums. Tickets must be reserved before entering unless you’re a gallery member, so plan in advance if you’d like to check it out.

Gold Coast Arts Center (113 Middle Neck Rd., 516-829-2570, www.goldcoastarts.org) has a little bit of everything for lovers of the arts. From classes, private lessons, and workshops to movie screenings, mini film festivals, and concerts to summer camps and spring break courses, it’s a great place to learn about and appreciate all things creative. 

“The Gold Coast Arts Center was founded over 25 years ago with the mission of promoting and supporting the arts through education, exhibition, performance and outreach,” Associate Director Caroline Sorokoff tells us. “We do this 365 days of the year through our school for the arts, free public art gallery, performance series, artist talks, our education outreach program, and more.” 

The Gold Coast Arts Center has a variety of interesting events in the coming months, including author talks, film screenings, ceramics workshops, and a concert event with Tom Chapin and the Chapin Sisters.