Brendan Manley

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Brendan Manley is an award-winning journalist, screenwriter and content development/marketing professional. He has extensive experience in newspaper and magazine publishing, as well as digital media, covering topics including arts and entertainment, sports, lifestyle, news, technology, travel and history. He is an ongoing contributor to Military History, Hotel News Now.com and HOTELS magazine, as well as the Long Island Press, where he formerly served as Managing Editor and Lifestyle section head. He is currently developing several of his original scripts for Hollywood, and consults on various film and scripted TV projects for studios, producers and financiers. Brendan is based in upstate New York's southern Adirondacks region.

Where to Ice Skate on Long Island

Ice skating isn’t just for hockey players and Olympians.

Although it may not be Canada, Long Island is surprisingly well stocked with ice rinks, both indoor and out, from Nassau County to the East End. So the next time you feel the urge to hit the ice, whether it’s for a leisurely skate or a bit of puck, test your blades of steel at one of these recommended rinks:

Nassau County

Andrew Stergiopoulos Ice Rink
Offers skating programs for all ages, including parent-and-me sessions for toddlers, as well as figure skating, synchronized skating, hockey, birthday parties and private and group lessons. Warm up by the snack bar and fireplace in the lounge. Teen Night is held on Fridays from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., featuring music, club lighting and adult supervision. 65 Arrandale Ave., Great Neck, 516-487-4673, gnparks.org

Cantiague Park Ice Rink
Stop by for public skating every afternoon, including weekends. Nassau County residents pay $10 for adults and $6 for children; nonresidents pay $22 for adults and $15 for children. Skate rentals cost $5. Check the rink schedule for skating lessons, speed skating, and hockey camps and clinics. 480 W. John St., Hicksville, 516-571-7056, nassaucountyny.gov/2791/Cantiague

Christopher Morley Park
This regulation-sized outdoor rink, a popular Nassau spot, holds open skating six days a week (none on Thursdays). Skate rentals are also available. 500 Searingtown Rd., Roslyn, 516-571-8120, nassaucountyny.gov/2794/Christopher-Morley-Park

De Matteis Ice Rink
Public skating is offered at this outdoor rink from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on weeknights, weather permitting. Weekend sessions start every two hours between noon and 9:30 p.m. Admission costs $10 for adults and $6 for kids under 12. Skate rental costs $5. Concessions are also available. 102 EAB Plaza, Uniondale, 516-683-0303.

Freeport Recreation Center Ice Rink
Enjoy free skate rentals at the Thursday afterschool skating special from 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Friday night is Teen Night from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., set to music. Public skating is available on Sundays from 2:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.; one parent skates free with each child. Serves as home base for Arrows Youth Hockey and Freeport Skating Academy.  Freeport residents enjoy discount passes and activity cards. 130 E. Merrick Rd., Freeport, 516-377-2314. freeportny.gov/148/Ice-Rink

Grant Park Skating Rink
This outdoor rink is open five days a week (closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays). Check out the night skating from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. Skate rental is available. Broadway and Sheridan Ave., Hewlett, 516-571-7821, nassaucountyny.gov/2799/Grant-Park

Iceland
Public skates are held Fridays from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., Saturdays from noon to 2:30 p.m. and Sundays from 11:15 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. (children only) and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Admission costs $9 for kids 9 and younger; $11 for all other ages. Skate rental costs $6. Skate to a live DJ Friday nights from 8:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Birthday parties are available, as well as a skating school, hockey clinics and camps, and a figure skating club. Discounts are offered for large groups and frequent skaters. 3345 Hillside Ave., New Hyde Park, 516-746-1100, icelandlongisland.com

Iceworks
Formerly the official practice facility of the New York Islanders, this top-tier rink offers learn-to skate program for kids and toddlers, as well as hockey classes for “minis” (ages 5 to 7), Hockey 101 (ages 7 to 12) and adult hockey instruction. It is also the home rink of the Junior Islanders youth hockey program. 175 Underhill Blvd., Syosset, 516-496-2277, nhl.com/islanders/iceworks

Long Beach Municipal Ice Arena
Offers multiple weekly public skating sessions, as well as a half-hour learn-to-skate program on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays for skaters aged 4 and older. There’s also the new Junior Rangers Girls Hockey League, for girls aged 11 to 14. Public skate sessions cost $8 per adult and $6 per child 12 and under for residents; nonresident adults pay $10 and $8 for children. Skate rentals cost $5. There is also a snack bar and party room. 150 W. Bay Dr., Long Beach, 516-705-7385, longbeachny.gov/icearena

Long Island Sports Hub
This multisports complex includes an ice hockey-focused rink for skating and skill development, scrimmages and more. It offers skate and rink rentals, as well as skill development programs for beginner to advanced players. 165 Eileen Way, Syosset, 516-364-4000, lisportshub.com

Newbridge Arena
Holds multiple public skates, including Friday night sessions. Youth hockey, private and group lessons and birthday parties are also available. Newbridge also hosts Hot Shot Hockey, one of LI’s largest fire and police hockey leagues. 2600 Newbridge Rd., Bellmore, 516-783-6181, newbridgearena.com

Northwell Health Ice Center at Eisenhower Park
This is the new official practice facility of the New York Islanders. Public sessions are typically held from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays; check the website for evening times. Admission costs $11 for skaters 13 and up, $9 for kids ages 6 to 12, and free for kids aged 5 and younger. Skate rental costs $5. There’s a pro shop, and birthday parties are available. The rink also runs a skating school and hockey leagues. 200 Merrick Ave, East Meadow, 516-441-0070, northwellhealthicecenter.com

Port Washington Skating Center
Sundays are Family Skating Day from 2:15 p.m. to 3:45 p.m. There’s also skating school, open skating sessions and youth and adult hockey. Party packages can also be booked. 70 Seaview Blvd., Port Washington, 516-484-6800, pwskating.com

Town of Oyster Bay Ice Skating Center
Located at Bethpage Community Park. Offers skate rentals, public sessions and group lessons, youth hockey and birthday parties. Figure skating lessons are provided by the RINX Skating School. 1001 Stewart Ave., Bethpage, 516-433-7465, oysterbaytown.com

Suffolk County

Deer Park Tanger Ice Rink
Why not skate where you shop? Admission is $10 (kids younger than 5 skate free) and skate rentals are $4 (free for TangerClub members). Check the website for current public hours. Teens with school IDs enjoy discounted skating on Tuesdays, and there’s a Friday night skate complete with DJ. Parties and lessons are also available. 152 The Arches Cir., Deer Park, 631-940-9750, tangericerink.com

Dix Hills Ice Rink
This Town of Huntington-owned rink holds open skating sessions on weekends from 11:45 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and Thursdays and Fridays from 3:45 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. There’s also a special Friday night session with a DJ from 8:15 p.m. to 10:15 p.m. There’s an ice hockey recreation league you can join, skating lessons for all ages and a snack bar. 575 Vanderbilt Pkwy., Dix Hills, 631-462-5883, huntingtonny.gov

Southampton Ice Rink
A semi-enclosed facility, this refrigerated rink offers skating into April, with public skating held six days a week (closed Mondays). Skate rentals are available, as well as afterschool lessons and hockey leagues. 668 County Rd. 39, Southampton, 631-283-2158.

Superior Ice Rink
Hit the ice for public sessions from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. on weekends, Wednesdays from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m., and with a DJ on Friday nights from 8:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Admission costs $9 for adults and $7 for children ages 11 and younger. Skate rental costs $4. There’s a pro shop and party packages are available. 270 Indian Head Rd., Kings Park, 631-269-3900, superioricerink.com

The Rinx
Featuring twin NHL regulation-size rinks, this Town of Islip building located in Hidden Pond Park is Suffolk’s premiere destination for all things ice. It offers party packages, skating schools, hockey camps and a snack bar. Open skates are held from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 5:45 p.m., Tuesdays through Fridays; weekend sessions run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Also check out the Friday “Rock & Roll Night,” from 8:15 p.m. to 10:15 p.m. 660 Terry Rd., Hauppauge, 631-232-3222, therinx.com

The Rinx at Harborfront Park
You can’t beat the view at this outdoor rink in Port Jefferson’s Harborfront Park, open seven days a week. Parties, lessons and locker rentals are available. 101-A E Broadway, Port Jefferson, 631-403-4357, therinx.com/pjrinx

The Rinx at Wyandanch Plaza
This relatively new outdoor rink offers public skating through March 1. Sessions run Monday to Friday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., from noon to 8 p.m. on Saturdays, and noon to 6 p.m. on Sundays. Admission costs $8 per adult, $5 for kids and $4.50 for seniors. Multiple learn-to-skate classes are also offered. 40 Station Dr., Wyandanch, 631-643-2050, therinx.com/wp

Miraculous Manhasset: From Pasture to Prada

Downtown Manhasset runs along Plandome Road. Photo by Tab Hauser.

Driving through Manhasset on ever-busy Northern Boulevard, it’s hard to imagine that the place was once basically just one big waterfront pasture on the North Shore, where as far back as the mid-1600s hundreds of cows enjoyed the area’s fine grazing land. 

The real estate has appreciated considerably since then, while the local bovine population has notably declined. What is now known as Manhasset — a Native American term meaning “island neighborhood” — was formerly part of a broader peninsula called Cow Neck, also comprised of modern-day Port Washington and other surrounding villages, located on Schout’s Bay, or present Manhasset Bay. 

By 1659, Cow Neck was home to 300 cows and their keepers, separated from its southern neighbors by 5 miles of fence. In 1677 the fence came down, landholdings were formalized and the future Manhasset became Little Cow Neck, while Port Washington took the name Upper Cow Neck.

It wasn’t until 1840 that Manhasset adopted its present name, just as changes began to sweep through the area. Although the dairy business so long associated with the region remained strong, new industries — like oysters — started to take hold. Then in 1898, Manhasset was connected to the Long Island Rail Road, leaving most of its agrarian past behind, as a series of spectacular estates of families like the Vanderbilts, Whitneys, and Strathmores took hold.

As those extravagant days ebbed by mid-century, the region evolved again, becoming one of LI’s most family friendly communities and a premiere destination for retail, hosting branches of some of the most well-known stores in New York.

That means there’s plenty to do in Manhasset, whether your interests range from big-ticket shopping sprees to serene nature walks. Here are some ways to truly immerse one’s self in all that is Manhasset:

IF THIS ROCK COULD TALK

To get a real sense of just how long the Manhasset region has been occupied, try and sneak a peek at Shelter Rock (10 feet from Shelter Rock Road, on the border of Manhasset and North Hills), an 1,800-ton natural granite boulder glacially deposited there more than 11,000 years ago. Measuring 55 feet high and 35 feet wide, it is the largest known of its kind on the Island, and features a 30-foot overhang. Native Americans purportedly used the rock as shelter as far back as 1,000 B.C. and the Matinecock tribe is known to have settled nearby; multiple colonial and Native American legends surrounded the rock for centuries and still endure. 

Today, Shelter Rock is located on the 408-acre Greentree Foundation (gtftew.org) private estate, formerly owned by the Whitneys, which is one of Long Island’s last largely intact Gold Coast estates and comprises nearly a quarter of Manhasset’s total land footprint. It is now a conference center dedicated to international justice and human rights issues; unfortunately, that means Shelter Rock is not currently publicly accessible, aside from special tours conducted for schools, scout troops and other groups, and special events like the Greentree Foundation Teachers’ Ecology Workshop, held there each year. However, if you drive on Shelter Rock Road, look for a marker sign, denoting where you can potentially see the very top of Shelter Rock from the road, especially during the winter, when there is less vegetation.

Manhasset is also home to abundant parkland. (Photo by Jim Henderson)

COMMUNE WITH NATURE

Some former Manhasset estates, luckily, are now public domain. The natural beauty of the Manhasset area is showcased for all to enjoy at Leeds Pond Preserve (1526 N. Plandome Rd., Plandome Manor, 516-627-9400, nassaucountyny.gov/2834/Leeds-Pond-Preserve), a rolling, 35-acre oasis overlooking Manhasset Bay. Hike its nature trails through a wooded valley crowned with 16 acres of maple, oak, and tulip trees, past the ruins of a stone farmhouse, following a stream leading to Leeds Pond. There is a 40-minute self-guided trail around the pond — home to numerous varieties of ducks and birds — as well as several unmarked trails to explore. 

The preserve is also home to the Science Museum of Long Island (1526 N. Plandome Rd., Plandome Manor, 516-627-9400, smli.org), housed in a former Victorian mansion. The museum is run by a nonprofit dedicated to teaching children about science through various programs, including enrichment workshops held on weekdays and during school vacations, as well as summer camps. Activities at the museum are scheduled, preregistered science workshops only; it does not currently offer any exhibits. Check the website for upcoming events.

TRACES OF THE PAST

Although you have to make a concerted effort to look for them, Manhasset and its surrounding villages still contain some vestiges of the area’s historic colonial beginnings. For example, the 18th century Flower Hill neighborhood (the intersection of Port Washington Blvd., Bonnie Heights Road and Country Club Drive) still features three original farmhouses: The Willets House, on the west side of Port Washington Blvd., now headquarters of the Cow Neck Peninsula Historical Society (336 Port Washington Blvd., 516-365-9074, cowneck.org); the Williams House, also on the west side of Port Washington Blvd.; and the Hewlett Homestead, on the east side.

And in the hamlet’s old commercial center, right next door to Manhasset’s public library stands its historic Quaker Meeting House (1421 Northern Blvd., 631-421-0259, fgcquaker.org/connect/quaker-finder/manhasset-quaker-meeting), dating to 1702, which was even occupied by British and Hessian troops during the American Revolution. In 1812 the original building was demolished and rebuilt, using the original benches and timbers. The oak tree on the property is said to be one of the oldest and largest on LI.

TRULY MELLIFLUOUS 

Manhasset’s passion for the arts is nurtured by the Music Institute of Long Island (90 Plandome Rd., 516-627-7052, milimusic.com), a classical music school that teaches the Suzuki, traditional and Associated Boards of the Royal Schools of Music methods to students of all ages, instrumental skills and levels. Budding virtuosos flock there to learn from esteemed instructors from some of the most prestigious conservatories and graduate music schools in the U.S. and Europe, who teach instrumental programs in violin, viola, cello, double bass, guitar, piano, jazz piano, flute, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, trombone, voice, and tuba. Graduates of the institute have gone on to colleges and conservatories such as Juilliard, Eastman School of Music, Manhattan School of Music, Mannes School, Columbia, Cornell, Yale, Harvard, Amherst, University of Pennsylvania, and University of Michigan.

The Americana Manhasset, aka The Miracle Mile, is in the heart of the hamlet. (Photo by Shinya Suzuki)

MIRACULOUS MALL

Of course, Manhasset is perhaps most popularly known for its 220,000-square-foot, open-air Americana Manhasset mall (2060 Northern Blvd., 516-627-2277, americanamanhaset.com), stretching along what’s known as the “Miracle Mile.” Yes, that’s the very same Miracle Mile referenced by Billy Joel in the 1980 hit, “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me.” The mall’s dizzying array of more than 60 restaurants and high-end retail stores includes brands like Prada, Hermès, Dior, Cartier, Bottega Veneta, Chanel, Fendi, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Max Mara, Celine, Tiffany & Co., surrounded by gardens designed by Oheme, van Sweden & Associates. There was a time when even the likes of J.Lo shopped there. How much more of an endorsement could you possibly need?

WHERE TO DINE

BLVD25
1496 Northern Blvd., 516-918-9083, blvd25ny.com

Café Continental
1538 Northern Blvd., 516-627-4269, cafecontinentalmanhasset.com

Cipollini Trattoria & Bar
2110 Northern Blvd., 516-627-7172, pollrestaurants.com/restaurants/cipollini

Gino’s
451 Plandome Rd., 516-627-5280, ginosofmanhasset.com

La Coquille
1669 Northern Blvd., 516-365-8422, lacoquilleny.com

Louie’s Manhasset Restaurant
339 Plandome Rd., 516-627-0022, louiesmanhassetrestaurant.com

Schout Bay Tavern
118 Plandome Rd., 516-627-2190, schoutbaytavern.com

Stresa
1524 Northern Blvd., 516-365-6956, stresa-restaurant.com

Toku Modern Asian
2014 Northern Blvd., 516-627-7121, pollrestaurants.com/restaurants/toku

Umberto’s
429 Plandome Rd., 516-472-7801, umbertosfamily.com

Villa Milano
168 Plandome Rd., 516-365-3440, villamilanomanhasset.com

WHERE TO STAY
 
Hilton Garden Inn Roslyn
3 Harbor Park Dr., Port Washington, 516-626-3600, hilton.com

Smithtown: Running With The Bull

The Smithtown Bull statue greets visitors on Route 25. (Long Island Press photo)

You can’t miss it as you drive through the hectic intersection of Routes 25 and 25A in Smithtown: a massive statue of a bronze bull, the type which looks more at home on Wall Street than a busy Long Island thoroughfare. And as you might imagine of any farm animal deemed worthy of a statue, in Smithtown — first settled around 1665 — the monument honors no ordinary bull. 

According to the popular—albeit largely fictional—story, English settler Richard Smythe rescued the captured daughter of a Native American chief, who rewarded Smythe by granting him all the land Smythe could encircle in one day on a bull. (Historians say it was really Lion Gardiner, not Smythe, who rescued the daughter. Chief Wyandanch then gave Gardiner the land, which Smythe either bought or won in a card game.)

The myth, however, has a more memorable conclusion: Smythe, apparently no dim bulb, purportedly opted to ride “Whisper,” his prized bull, on the summer solstice — the longest day of the year — thereby acquiring the land once called “Smithfield,” and now known as Smithtown. The bull, meanwhile, got a statue.

Now 350 years later, Smithtown remains as vital a component of the North Shore tapestry as ever. Today, it comprises one of Long Island’s most active and colorful townships, offering fine dining, eclectic retail, historic and natural attractions, arts and entertainment, nightlife and a host of outdoor recreational options. It’s a great place to work, live and visit, and continues to evolve and expand with the times.

Of course, no trip to Smithtown is complete without a quick gander at the bronze Whisper the Bull Statue at the crossroads of Routes 25 and 25A. And by quick, I mean you’ll literally need to look quickly as you drive past, since there’s nowhere nearby to park. Instead, tap your horn in reverence of the majestic creature as you whizz by. After that, our other mandatory Smithtown suggestions include:

Other photo goes on page 2: A crisp blue sky filled with fluffy clouds over the mouth of the Nissequoque River of Long Island. (Getty Images)

GREEN LIVING

Smithtown strikes a healthy balance between picturesque natural scenery and modern suburban convenience. To bask in the former, there’s Caleb Smith State Park Preserve (581 West Jericho Tpke., 631-265-1054, parks.ny.gov/parks/124), boasting 543 passive-use acres and multiple habitats, accessible by several hiking trails. Keep an eye out for birds like prothonotary warblers, Virginia rails and osprey, as well as rare plants like pink lady slipper, trailing arbutus and Indian pipe. There’s also its recently renovated Nature Museum, which presents nature programs and natural history exhibits, including a great blue heron, red fox, flying squirrel and river otter. Fishing is permitted, in season, on the Nissequogue River and Willow Pond; in winter, trails double as paths for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

If your hike at Caleb Smith doesn’t yield enough wildlife sightings (or if you just dig animals), continue on to Sweetbriar Nature Center (62 Eckerncamp Dr., 631-979-6344, sweetbriarnc.org), a haven for natural science education and wildlife rehabilitation. Located on 54 acres of gardens, woodlands, fields and wetlands on the Nissequogue, hundreds of species of plants and animals reside there. Stroll through the outdoor enclosed Butterfly Vivarium; meet the denizens of the Reptile Room and Rainforest Room; play in the Discovery Area; and create in the Art Center. Many special events are also held at Sweetbriar throughout the year, as well as children’s environmental education weeks and birthday parties.

And it would be downright criminal to not specifically mention the many advantages of Smithtown’s prime location on the Nissequogue River. When weather permits, a day spent paddling this scenic waterway is the very definition of idyllic, and Nissequogue River Canoe & Kayak Rentals (Paul T. Given County Park, Routes 25 and 25A, 631-979-8244, canoerentals.com) is there to make it happen for you. Trips begin (or end) at the Nissequogue River State Park in Kings Park, or the headwaters at Smithtown’s Paul T. Given County Park. Transportation to and from the launch is provided.

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts is in the heart of downtown Smithtown..

UNDER THE LIGHTS

Smithtown’s convenient, central location on Suffolk’s North Shore makes it an ideal destination for arts and cultural events, notably at the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts (2 E. Main St., 631-724-3700, smithtownpac.org), presenting a range of musical and theatrical events throughout the year. Now entering its 18th season, the center’s 2019-20 calendar includes performances of Annie, The Taming of the Shrew, Green Day’s American Idiot: The Musical, The Addams Family, and A Chorus Line. There’s also a children’s theatre and upcoming special appearances like The Cast of Beatlemania (multiple dates) and Desert Highway Band’s tribute to the Eagles (Dec. 14).

POTENT POTABLES

Wine tasting on Long Island is always a surefire activity, but you might not always have the time for a lengthy ride out to the East End. That’s why it’s all the more enticing that Smithtown is home to Harmony Vineyards (169 Harbor Rd., Head of the Harbor, 631-291-9900, harmonyvineyards.com), sustainably farmed by viticulturist Stephen Mudd and featuring wines crafted by Eric Fry. Sample Harmony’s Bordeaux-style red blends, Chablis-style chardonnays, local beers and gourmet plates year-round in its historic circa-1690 waterfront tasting room and vineyard terrace. Special events include “Drink-In Theatre” on Friday nights and “Tasting Notes Jazz Club” on Thursday and Saturday nights.

Smithtown’s drinking and nightlife scene isn’t all fancy wines and exotic cheeses, either. There are several time-honored watering holes in town where the drafts flow, the wings sizzle and the big-screen TVs glimmer. Croxley Ale House Smithtown (155 W. Main St., 631-656-8787, croxley.com) is one can’t-miss choice, with 52 varieties of beer and cider on tap, 34 bottled brands and six more served in cans. Check out the new and seasonal varieties, the extensive dining menu and the weekly specials, including Taco Tuesdays, Wednesday Historic Wing Nights and Happy Hour specials Monday through Friday.

Similarly classic and heavily frequented is Napper Tandy’s Irish Pub (15 E. Main St., 631-360-0606, nappertandysirishpub.com), which hosts a steady calendar of live bands and a young, lively crowd of partyers. Weekly drink specials and themed nights keep the beverages flowing, as well as Napper’s All-Day Happy Hour from Monday through Friday. There’s also a surprisingly intriguing dining menu, with atypical pub grub like duck empanadas with Thai chili sauce and Brussels sprouts with honey lime Sriracha sauce, alongside classic burgers, fish and chips and shepherd’s pie.

A night out in Smithtown can even take on an otherworldly twist. One of the town’s most mythical hangouts, Katie’s of Smithtown (145 W. Main St., 631-360-8556, katiesofsmithtown.com), regularly packs ‘em in thanks to its friendly bartenders, back patio and live music, but the establishment is also reportedly haunted, so there’s that, too. And while I can’t guarantee you’ll experience the supernatural yourself, you’ll definitely want to haunt Katie’s brand-new food truck. Even more legendary than the purported ghosts is Katie’s signature mac daddy cone: a waffle cone stuffed with creamy mac and cheese. Nothing scary there.

Maureen's Kitchen
Maureen’s Kitchen co-owners Christine Fortier and her brother, Kevin Dernbach. Their sister, Doreen Migliore, is also on staff. (Rashed Mian/Long Island Press)

WHERE TO DINE

Aji 53
1 Miller Pl., 631-979-0697, aji53.com

Café Havana
944 W. Jericho Tpke., 631-670-6277, cafehavanali.com

Casa Rustica Restaurant
175 W. Main St., 631-265-9265, casarustica.net

Chop Shop
47 E. Main St., 631-360-3383, chopshopbarandgrill.com

Ciro’s Pizza
546 Smithtown Bypass, 631-724-5745, cirospizzany.com

The Garden Grill
64 N. Country Rd., 631-265-8771, thegardengrill.com

H20 Seafood & Sushi
215 W. Main St., 631-361-6464, h2oseafoodsushi.com

Javier’s Cafe
101 E. Main St., 631-406-7712, javierscafe.net

Maureen’s Kitchen
108 Terry Rd., 631-360-9227

Thai House
53 W. Main St., 631-979-5242, thaihousesmithtown.com

Westbury: The Center Of It All

The annual Westbury street fair draws a crowd on Post Avenue.

For nearly four centuries, the Village of Westbury, nearby Old Westbury, and the surrounding areas have perpetually flourished, nurtured by a central location on prime Long Island real estate. 

Earlier still, the stretch of Jericho Turnpike that winds through Westbury was once a trail used by Massapequa Indians. The view may be different today, but the commute is the same.

Back in the mid-1600s, when the first Europeans began settling the once-vast Long Island prairie known as the Hempstead Plains, an English Quaker named Edmond Titus built a homestead on a prime tract of grassland, amid 12,000 acres purchased purchased by Captain John Seaman in the 1640s from the Algonquian Tribe. Another Quaker settler, Henry Willis, christened the area “Westbury” in 1675, after his hometown of Westbury, Wiltshire, England. More Quaker families soon arrived, and by 1700 Westbury’s first Society of Friends meeting house was built.

Today, much has changed since Westbury’s humble Quaker beginnings. Westbury now boasts one of the most racially and culturally diverse populations on the Island, while Old Westbury — long a Gold Coast stomping ground — is regularly ranked one of the wealthiest places in America. That’s also why it’s a truly vibrant region to visit, whether you’ve got shopping, dining, or fun and games on your agenda.

The truth is, there are lots of reasons for visitors to spend time in Westbury, whether you’re from out of town, or just the next town over. Popular Westbury draws include:

NYCB Theatre at Westbury
NYCB Theater at Westbury

PASSION FOR THE ARTS

Long Island’s live entertainment scene owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to the NYCB Theater at Westbury (960 Brush Hollow Rd., 516-247-5200, thetheatreatwestbury.com), a.k.a. the Westbury Music Fair, consistently one of the area’s most enjoyable venues to catch a show at for generations. There’s really nothing quite like a performance on its ever-so-slowly rotating round stage, paired with the intimate feel of the room. What’s also great about the venue is the wide array of acts that come through; upcoming appearances include Los Lobos, Jay Leno, Styx, Dwight Yoakam, and John Cleese.

Westbury is also home to The Space at Westbury Theater (250 Post Ave., 516-283-5575, thespaceatwestbury.com), a vibrant and eclectic entertainment venue occupying the Tudor-styled former Westbury Movie Theater, first opened in 1927. Reborn in recent years, the Space is now an anchor of Post Avenue with its impressive façade, complemented by state-of-the-art lighting and sound systems within. Don’t miss upcoming performances by Carl Palmer, Phil Vassar and the ever-popular Pink Floyd tribute, the Machine.

An artist’s rendering of the exterior of Lesso Home in Westbury.

SHOP AND PLAY

Sometimes, a store is so popular, it ensures a steady stream of visitors to a neighborhood. That’s the case in Westbury with department store Century 21 (1085 Old Country Rd., 516-333-5200, c21stores.com), which beckons to fashion-savvy bargain hunters from all over the 516 and 631. The only thing more impressive than the selection are the prices.

Another of Westbury’s main shopping hubs, the Mall at the Source (1504 Old Country Rd., 516-228-2110), is in the process of being reborn as the mega home goods store Lesso Home New York Market. In the meantime though, some of the key remaining anchors of the old Source mall still provide ample reasons to visit; stop in and enjoy a meal at P.F. Chang’s or The Cheesecake Factory while you still can. It’s also a good excuse to hit the arcade at Dave & Buster’s, if you really need an excuse at all.

Better yet, find a few like-minded gamers and book a slot at Escape of a Lifetime (473 Old Country Rd., 516-780-4420, theescapeofalifetime.com), where you can choose from three different themed escape rooms, with varying levels of difficulty. Break into Da Vinci’s Study to steal his manuscripts, or pretend you’re a bank robber and flee The Vault before the cops arrive. Or, if you’re really up for a challenge, escape from The Asylum, before you become a permanent resident. 

THE LOUNGE OF LIFE

When the hustle and bustle of the Westbury area make you crave a little downtime, luckily there’s a long list of local watering holes and night spots where you can kick back and unwind in style. One neighborhood favorite is His & Hers Bar & Lounge (259 Post Ave., 516-385-3335), where the bartenders are friendly and you can order specialty martinis in flavors like mango, guava, tamarind, peach, and pineapple. Another popular hangout is Friar’s Tavern (231 Post Ave., 516-333-3893), located across from The Space, so it’s a slam-dunk choice for pre- or post-gaming a concert. You’ll also love the great drink prices and all-around good vibes.

For a vibe of an entirely different color, try The Polo Lounge (1100 Jericho Tpke., 516-333-7117, westburymanor.com/polo-lounge), a swanky, old-school restaurant and lounge with 1940s flair, located inside the Westbury Manor catering hall. There are no tables — just booths — perfect for relaxing and enjoying the top-flight food and expertly crafted cocktails. Similarly unique is the Mystique Hookah Lounge (973 Old Country Rd., 516-385-2320, mystiquehookahlounge.com), the area’s preferred location for sharing some shisha with friends. It’s open until 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, which is perfect for late-night smokers.

Old Westbury Gardens.

GOING GATSBY

Westbury’s fertile terrain wasn’t just prized in the past as farmland; in the 19th century it also attracted the New York elite, who came to hunt, ride, and play polo on the Hempstead Plains. This burgeoning new community of ultrawealthy landowners became the incorporated Village of Old Westbury in 1924, and today it’s still the home of one of the richest concentrations of Americans in the U.S. You may not be able to afford an Old Westbury address, but it sure is a nice place to visit.

There’s really no better (or cheaper) way to live like Old Westbury gentry than to spend a leisurely afternoon at Old Westbury Gardens (71 Old Westbury Rd., 516-333-0048, oldwestburygardens.org), the former estate of steel magnate John Shaffer Phipps. Converted to a museum in 1959, it is now open to the public for tours from late April through October. The centerpiece is Westbury House, built in 1906 by designer George A. Crawley, channeling 17th and 18th century English architecture. It is surrounded by 216 acres of landscaped formal and informal gardens, plus fields and woodlands. There’s no better reminder of why the area’s first settlers — up through its residents of today — are happy to call Westbury home.

WHERE TO STAY

Courtyard by Marriott Westbury Long Island
1800 Privado Rd., 516-542-1001, marriott.com

Hilton Garden Inn Westbury
1575 Privado Rd., 516-683-8200, hilton.com

Holiday Inn Westbury – Long Island
369 Old Country Rd., 516-997-5000, holidayinn.com

Red Roof PLUS+ Long Island – Garden City
699 Dibblee Dr., 516-794-2555, redroof.com

Viana Hotel & Spa
3998 Brush Hollow Rd., 516-338-7777, vianahotelandspa.com

WHERE TO DINE

Black Label Burgers
683 Old Country Rd., 516-333-6059, blacklabelburgersny.com

Café Baci
1636 Old Country Rd., 516-832-8888, cafebacirestaurant.com

Pollos El Paisa
989 Old Country Rd., 516-338-5858, polloselpaisali.com

Steve’s Piccola Bussola
649 Old Country Rd., 516-333-1335, stevespiccolabussola.com

Tesoro’s Ristorante
967 Old Country Rd., 516-334-0022, tesorosrestaurant.com

Riverhead: LI’s Breadbasket, And So Much More

Downtown Riverhead during the Reflexions art installation. (Photo by Arthur Rast)

The North Shore Long Island Town of Riverhead gets its name from its location at the mouth of the Peconic River, but some might argue the region is truly defined by its seemingly endless expanse of farm fields. 

Boasting some 20,000 acres of LI’s 35,000 total acres of farmland, Riverhead proudly serves as the island’s “breadbasket,” with vast stretches of apple orchards, pumpkin farms, vineyards, and corn and potato fields. It’s also the gateway to the East End and home to a bounty of attractions and diversions.

“Riverhead is uniquely located at the crossroads of the East End of Long Island,” says Riverhead Town Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith. “As the gateway to this distinct area of Long Island, Riverhead is home to sprawling farm fields, scenic beaches, a vibrant arts scene, and a different way of life. When you visit Riverhead you get to experience our rustic culture, and discover the pride we have in our special town.”

Riverhead has also played a vital role in LI’s political development. The smaller hamlet of Riverhead was literally put on the map in 1727 with the construction of the Suffolk County Court House, making it the seat of Suffolk government to this day. After the American Revolution, new jurisdictions divided Riverhead from the Town of Southold, making it its own official township in 1792. 

Over the successive centuries, downtown Riverhead has been on a roller coaster of prosperity — blossoming into a commercial hub in the 19th century, then experiencing urban blight in the mid-20th century — but began a recovery in the new millennium that has once again made it one of LI’s most recreationally diverse and culturally rich destinations.

When visiting Riverhead, the seasons will play a large role in how you spend your time, since so many activities there involve the outdoors and nature. What follows is a primer on the perennial draws that make Riverhead a favored community and keep visitors coming back for more:

Long Island Aquarium & Exhibition Center
The Long Island Aquarium & Exhibition Center in Riverhead is hosting informative talks, feedings, and a multitude of other sessions with its resident cute and snuggly African penguins, otters, seals, sharks and sea lions!

SLIPPERY WHEN WET

Between its riverfront and oceanfront location, Riverhead is anything but landlocked. Not to mention, there’s also Splish Splash (2549 Splish Splash Dr., Calverton, 631-727-3600, splishsplash.com), Long Island’s reigning water park, which is still the summer’s obligatory place to be when the mood hits you to don a bathing suit and shoot down 20 different water slides. The park also features two wave pools, a large kiddie area, lazy river, tropical bird shows, and the rides Bombs Away and Riptide Racer, which opened in 2018.

Then there’s the ever-growing Long Island Aquarium & Exhibition Center (431 E. Main St., 631-208-9200, ext. 426, longislandaquarium.com) which now features more than 80 exhibits, including Touch Tanks the kids will love. Take in regularly scheduled shows in the outdoor amphitheater, and/or pay the extra fee for a tour on the Atlantis Explorer Tour Boat, which takes guests down the Peconic River into Flanders Bay.

You can also work on your tan in Riverhead, and I’m not talking about a farmer’s tan. The town is home to four year-round beaches: Iron Pier Beach (Pier Rd., Jamesport, 631-727-5744), Wading River Beach (Creek Rd., Wading River, 631-727-5744), Reeves Beach (Park Rd., 631-727-5744) and South Jamesport Beach (Peconic Bay Blvd., Jamesport, 631-727-5744). The first three also offer boating access for both residents and visitors.

SHOPPER’S PARADISE

Riverhead’s not just about nature, either. Crowds regularly converge upon the town’s Tanger Outlets (200 Tanger Mall Dr., 631-369-2732, tangeroutlet.com/riverhead), in search of coveted bargains on goods from the likes of Polo Ralph Lauren, H&M, Nike, Off 5th, Williams Sonoma, Banana Republic, Gap, Barneys New York, Restoration Hardware and Coach, among others. There’s also a pretty decent food court, with Italian, Chinese and Mediterranean options, as well as a McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Nathan’s, Charley’s Philly Steaks and more. Shopping is hungry business.

CURTAIN CALLS

There’s an artistic pulse in Riverhead, too. One of its major arteries is the 350-seat Suffolk Theater (118 E. Main St., 631-727-4343, suffolktheater.com), a stunning, lovingly restored Art Deco movie theater dating to 1933. First closed in 1987, the theater was shuttered for nearly two decades, until Dianne and Bob Castaldi purchased it in 2005, breathing new life into the historic building. It now offers a cabaret-style/dinner theater setting, or traditional theater seating, enhanced by a state-of-the-art lighting and projection system. Upcoming performances include Canned Heat, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, the Yardbirds, comedian Bob Saget and Croce Plays Croce.

NEED FOR SPEED

For a truly iconic Riverhead experience, check out Riverhead Raceway (1797 Old Country Rd., 631-842-7223, riverheadraceway.com), one of the oldest existing stock car racetracks in the U.S. and the only NASCAR stock car track in the New York metro area. Since 1949, generations of speed-junkies have converged there to get their fix, whether from the stands or behind the wheel. Its one-quarter-mile asphalt, high-banked oval track also includes a famed Figure 8 course. It presents multiple racing divisions every Saturday night, with hundreds of cars in the pits, plus special shows like the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, INEX Legends National Qualifier, NEMA Midgets, Enduros, Demolition Derby, School Bus Figure 8 & Demo, Monster Trucks and more.

TAKE YOUR PICK

Pretty much wherever you look in Riverhead, you are reminded of the East End’s deep agrarian roots, even more so come harvest time. In that spirit, devote a morning or afternoon to visiting Goodale Farms (250 Main Rd., 631-901-5975, goodalefarms.com), one of LI’s lone providers of truly local dairy products and pastured meats, continuing a Goodale family tradition dating to the mid-1800s. Bring the kids and feed the farm’s baby pigs and goats, then go home with a trove of fresh milk, cheese, yogurt and other fine delicacies.

You may also feel inspired to dig deeper into Riverhead’s farming history, in which case a journey to the Hallockville Farm Museum (6038 Sound Ave., 516-298-5292, hallockville.com) is highly recommended.  The museum occupies the former Hallock Homestead, first built in 1765. Visiting its remarkably preserved original buildings and viewing the artifacts displayed throughout the museum offer a vibrant glimpse of life on a typical North Fork farm from 1880 to 1920. Its current special exhibit celebrates Hallockville’s first 250 years, spotlighting residents of the homestead and the preservation and foundation of the museum.

And of course, harvest season is all the encouragement one needs to spend a day leisurely picking apples and/or pumpkins, while loading up on pies, cider, cider doughnuts and similarly earthy treats. In Riverhead, a popular oasis for such pursuits is Harbes Orchard (5698 Sound Ave., 631-369-1111, harbesfamilyfarm.com), open from September through October. The 78-acre apple orchard grows 27 varieties of apples, using an innovative trellis system that keeps its tasty fruit within easy reach. Its apple-picking packages also include access to nine acres of on-the-vine u-pick pumpkins, sold by the pound.

And if you find yourself craving the fruit of another vine — like grapes, and more specifically, wine — you’ll be glad to know that Riverhead shares in the East End’s proud legacy of vineyards. There are multiple worthy options here, including Martha Clara Vineyards (6025 Sound Ave., 631-298-0075, marthaclaravineyards.com), Roanoke Vineyards (3543 Sound Ave., 631-727-4161, roanokevineyards.net), Paumanok Vineyards (1074 Main Rd. (Route 25), Aquebogue, 516-722-8800, paumanok.com) and Palmer Vineyards (5120 Sound Ave., Aquebogue, 516-722-9463, palmervineyards.com). A wine-tasting crawl in Riverhead is always a surefire good time; just remember to arrange transportation or a designated driver.

Hotel Indigo in Riverhead
Hotel Indigo in Riverhead

WHERE TO STAY

Hotel Indigo Long Island – East End
1830 W. Main St., 631-369-2200, indigoeastend.com

Hilton Garden Inn Riverhead
2038 Old Country Rd., 631-727-2733, hiltongardeninn3.hilton.com

Hyatt Place Long Island East End
451 E. Main St., 631-208-0002, hyatt.com

Residence Inn Long Island East End
2012 Old Country Rd., 631-905-5811, marriott.com/Riverhead

The Preston House & Hotel
428 E. Main St., 631-775-1500, theprestonhouseandhotel.com

WHERE TO DINE

Buoy One
1175 W. Main St., 631-208-9737, buoyone.com

Farm Country Kitchen
513 W. Main St., 631-369-6311, farmcountrykitchenli.com

Jerry & The Mermaid
469 E. Main St., 631-727-8489, jerryandthemermaid.com

Turkuaz Grill
40 McDermott Ave., 631-591-1757, turkuazgrillriverhead.com

Tweeds Restaurant & Buffalo Bar
17 E. Main St., 631-237-8120, tweedsrestaurantriverhead.com

 

Montauk: The End of the World, And You’ll Feel Fine

Visitors at Montauk Point.

Few Long Island destinations are as singularly impressive as Montauk, the easternmost point in New York State, located on the tip of the South Fork. 

As one stands at one of Montauk’s many scenic spots, staring out into the seemingly endless Atlantic Ocean, it truly feels like you’ve reached the end of the world. And honestly, that’s just fine. There’s nowhere else you’ll rather be at that moment.

“Montauk is a unique and important hamlet in the Town of East Hampton,” said East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc. “With its vibrant downtown business district immediately adjacent to beautiful ocean beaches, the largest commercial fishing port in New York State, and preserved open space that totals 70 percent of Montauk’s land mass, it is a destination for East Hampton residents and visitors alike.”

Already home to multiple native tribes when the Dutch arrived in the early 1600s, Montauk has a long history as a colonial outpost, a center for agriculture and seafaring, a playground for the rich, and a strategic location for the U.S. military. Claiming more world saltwater fishing records than any other port on the planet, today it remains a bucket-list spot for surf anglers and is home to the state’s largest commercial fishing fleet. And for the countless visitors who don’t arrive with rod and reel, there’s also miles of public space — including long stretches of idyllic beach — just waiting to be explored.

Since for most of us, it’s a fairly lengthy drive to actually reach Montauk, you’ll want to make the most of your time there. Here are some highly recommended hangouts:

HISTORY WITH A VIEW

No trip to Montauk is complete without a visit to the Montauk Lighthouse National Historic Monument (2000 Montauk Hwy., 631-668-2544, montauklighthouse.com), towering proudly above Montauk Point. The first and oldest lighthouse in New York State (fourth oldest active in the U.S.), it was authorized in 1792 by the Second Congress, under President George Washington, and completed on November 5, 1796. It still aids navigation today, while providing visitors with breathtaking views of Block Island and the Atlantic Ocean. There’s also an excellent museum inside its c. 1860 keepers’ house, featuring historical documents and photographs, whaling artifacts and more, as well as a gift shop inside its Conway Visitor Center.

But your exploration of Montauk history needn’t end there. Another essential stop is Second House Museum (12 Second House Rd., 631-668-2544, montaukhistoricalsociety.org), the oldest structure in the area, built in 1746 and expanded in 1797. Once the home of one of three area shepherds (each with their own house) who collectively tended what was once a vast pasture, Second House now delights visitors with its tranquil gardens and a museum focused on local history, particularly Montauk’s Native American past. It’s temporarily closed for renovations, but is expected to reopen sometime in the near future.

And for a truly unique experience that fuses history with pop culture and nature, spend a day exploring Camp Hero State Park (1898 Montauk Hwy., 631-668-3781, camphero.net), occupying a stunning 754 oceanfront acres, including a portion of the former Montauk Air Force Station, decommissioned in 1981. Conspiracy rumors regarding the base have circulated for decades — including tales of strange Cold War-era time-travel experiments conducted underground in a vast network of tunnels and bunkers — partly inspiring the hit Netflix horror/sci-fi series Stranger Things. You can see remnants of the facilities today, notably a massive radar tower that still stands, while also enjoying picnic areas, a beach, and trails for hiking, biking, horseback riding and cross-country skiing, plus world-class surf fishing.

18 HOLES IN HEAVEN

Fishermen aren’t the only sportsmen who drool at the thought of a Montauk vacation. We’d be remiss to not mention that for golfers, there’s Montauk Downs State Park (50 S. Fairview Ave., 631-668-3781, parks.ny.gov/parks/29), including an 18-hole championship course, driving range, tennis courts, swimming pool and restaurant. Originally developed in 1927 by Carl G. Fisher as a private course, everyone can now enjoy Montauk Downs, consistently rated as one of America’s top public golf courses. Be prepared for a challenge, though: The course is one of the windiest locations in the country and weather conditions can make the play different each day.

SAND AND SURF

As you might imagine, all forms of saltwater pursuits are the dominant activities in Montauk. For surfers and bodyboarders, paradise can be found at the always-popular Ditch Plains Beach (18 Ditch Plains Rd.), where one can typically hang ten and find great waves. Multiple local surfing businesses offer gear rental and lessons at Ditch Plains, and there are public restrooms and outdoor showers, as well as food trucks. Parking can be tricky, since it is limited and by permit only, so it’s better to park at the nearby Montauk Lighthouse and walk.

You may, however, prefer to watch the surfers, rather than actually jumping on a board yourself. In that case, spend an hour or two hiking the trails at Shadmoor State Park (900 Montauk Hwy., 631-668-3781, parks.ny.gov/parks/16), which lead to majestic cliffs overlooking Ditch Plains. It’s a relatively quick (10 to 15 minutes) and easy walk, and the views from the top are some of Montauk’s best.

Another great option for enjoying the Montauk beaches, without paying excessively to do so, is to visit Hither Hills State Park (164 Old Montauk Hwy., Montauk; 631-668-2554; parks.ny.gov/parks/122) which costs just $10 per car, or is free with the Empire Pass. There’s a lovely beach and playground, a huge oceanfront campground, biking and hiking trails and the popular “walking dunes” of Napeague Harbor. It’s also a beloved surf-fishing spot that’s open year-round to anglers.

That’s only scratching the surface of Montauk’s bountiful beachfront. Locals and regular visitors all have their favorites, so you may want to try a few different options, depending on crowds, parking and related fees. Popular spots include Gin Beach (East Lake Dr.), Kirk Park Beach (95 S. Emerson Ave.), Amsterdam Beach Preserve (Montauk Hwy.) and Atlantic Avenue Beach (south end of Atlantic Avenue off Bluff Road).

ON THE WATERFRONT

After basking on Montauk’s vast stretches of pristine, unspoiled beachfront, you may feel the urge to return to civilization, even if just briefly. For this purpose, and perhaps to consume some fine seafood, head over to Gosman’s Dock (W. Lake Dr, 631-668-2549, gosmans.com), founded in 1943 by fish vendors Robert and Mary Gosman at the entrance to Montauk Harbor. You’ll love the oceanfront ambiance of the place, as well as the variety of shopping and dining options, including a fish market and the ever-popular Gosman’s Seafood restaurant, once just a humble dockside chowder stand.

In addition to filling up on lobster rolls and steamed clams, you may be inspired by Montauk’s picturesque scenery to seek out an experience suitable for the silver screen, as you gallop along the shoreline on horseback. To make this fantasy a reality, visit Deep Hollow Ranch (8 Old Montauk Hwy., 631-668-2744, deephollowranch.com), the reputed “birthplace of the American cowboy” and oldest working ranch in the U.S., founded in 1658. The ranch offers trail rides for all ability levels, including waterfront rides along Block Island Sound, plus its Summer Pony Camp for kids aged 7 to 12. If you’re going to ride off into the sunset, this is the place to do it.

Where To Stay 

Aqualina Inn Montauk
20 S. Elmwood Ave., 631-668-8300, aqualinainnmontauk.com

Gurney’s Montauk Resort & Seawater Spa
290 Old Montauk Hwy., 631-668-2345, gurneysresorts.com

Montauk Blue Hotel
108 S. Emerson Ave., 631-668-4000, montaukbluehotel.com

Montauk Manor
236 Edgemere St., 631-668-4400, montaukmanor.com

The Ocean Resort Inn
95 S. Emerson Ave.; 631-668-2300; oceanresortinn.com

Where To Dine 

Gosman’s Restaurant
500 W. Lake Dr., 631-668-5330, gosmans.com

Harvest on Fort Pond
11 S. Emery St., 631-668-5574, harvest2000.com

Joni’s
28 S. Etna Ave., 631-668-3663, jonismontauk.com

Muse at the End
41 S. Euclid Ave., 631-238-5937, museattheend.com

Naturally Good Foods & Cafe
779 Montauk Hwy., 631-668-9030, naturallygoodcafe.com

Ocean Beach: Fire Island’s Summer Playground

Downtown Ocean Beach offers small-town charm a short walk from the shore. (Photo by Lauren Chenault)

The 30-mile-long, half-mile wide stretch of Long Island barrier beach known as Fire Island is divided into some 17 communities, many with their own unique identities, and Ocean Beach — Fire Island’s largest village — is no exception. 

For many, Ocean Beach is the heart of Fire Island, a bayfront paradise where sun and surf offer endless relaxation. A sizeable assortment of restaurants, bars and boutiques give visitors a great reason to reach for their wallets.

The incorporated Village of Ocean Beach was first formed in 1921, when the John A. Wilbur tract merged with Stay-A-While Estates. Previously, in 1918, Ocean Beach had already become home to Fire Island’s first elementary school, and the village seems to have grown, while retaining its character and charm, ever since. Over the years, numerous celebrities, including Fanny Brice, Carl Reiner, and Mel Brooks, have made Ocean Beach their vacation haven of choice, while a good number of locals still remain all year. You can hardly blame them.

Whether you’re a Fire Island “noob” or veteran, time at Ocean Beach is always time well spent. Here are some crucial ingredients for an Ocean Beach getaway across the bay:

GETTING THERE

To reach Ocean Beach, you’ll likely need to zip across Great South Bay on a private boat or water taxi, or hop on one of the ferries that make daily 30-minute trips back and forth from the Bay Shore ferry terminal (99 Maple Ave., Bay Shore, 631-665-3600, fireislandferries.com/schedules/ocean-beach). It’s a quick cab ride from the Bay Shore Long Island Rail Road train station if you’re arriving by rail; for drivers, there’s daily, overnight and long-term parking at the terminal, as well as additional parking at the end of Maple Avenue.

SUN & SAND

Of course, the main draw at Ocean Beach is the beach. You’ll find perfect oceanfront scenery wherever you roam at the village’s namesake Ocean Beach (Ocean View Walk), where paths, boardwalks, docks and a glorious stretch of sand await. Many of the local restaurants, bars and shops line the border on the bay side, providing the ideal respite from working on your tan on the oceanfront. Stroll along the boardwalk promenade for a superb view of Great South Bay, perhaps while taking in a picturesque sunrise or sunset.

Deer are not afraid of people on Fire Island (Getty Images)

ON TAP

When not swimming and sunning, Ocean Beachers can often be found at one of the village’s popular watering holes, which provide another classic Fire Island diversion. A perennial favorite among these decadent haunts is CJ’s Restaurant & Bar (479 Bay Walk, 631-583-9890, cjsfireisland.com), where tight surroundings make it all the easier to make new friends. CJ’s has become legendary thanks to its house drink, a frozen concoction known as the Rocket Fuel, which is essentially a piña colada with additional shots of amaretto and overproof rum, like Bacardi 151. The beverage is so popular it’s also made elsewhere and is considered Fire Island’s signature drink.

Another always-booming hangout is Housers Bar (785 Evergreen Walk, 631-583-7805, housershotel.com), which offers a comfy surf-shack vibe you can enjoy even when the place is bursting at the seams. The key here is that they do the basics right, from the finely curated summer music selection to its backyard “beach” hideaway, where you can step outside and relax. There’s also some killer food for hungry patrons, including a 1 ¼-pound lobster special. Although not as famous as the Rocket Fuel, their special drink is the refreshing Zippy Cooler. Housers is also the only bayfront bar in Ocean Beach with a sandy beach out back.

You may also crave a “locals” night spot; you know, the kind of place where people “in the know” kick back. In Ocean Beach, that esoteric place is Matthew’s Seafood House (935 Bay Walk, 631-583-8016, matthewsseafood.com), a small restaurant, fish market and waterfront bar where you can lay low and sip a few on the deck to properly start off the evening. Wednesdays are Wine & Tapas Night, Thursday offers late-night Margarita Madness and Happy Hour Fridays feature drink specials and live music.

Although Coleridge’s infamous Ancient Mariner wasn’t a fan, don’t leave Ocean Beach before hanging around for a spell at Albatross (320 Bay Walk, 631-583-5697, dontswingthelights.com), where it’s all about mood lighting. Take note of the lanterns above the bar; they start to spin as the night progresses, and it’s not because you’ve had too many! The food is also first-rate and the bar serves drinks until 4 a.m., in case you’re in for the long haul.

And if you do find yourself staying after the last ferry and closing down the town, you can’t go wrong by wrapping things up at Maguire’s Bay Front Restaurant (1 Bungalow Walk, 631-583-8800, maguiresbayfrontrestaurant.com), which is a storied Fire Island last-call meetup spot. Scores pack the place by day for the killer grub, but nighttime is all about the party, beginning with its Countdown to Sunset Happy Hour, held Monday to Friday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

RETAIL THERAPY

When you eventually rise the next day from your post-bar-crawl slumber, it’s always fun to spend the daylight hours shopping at some of Ocean Beach’s fine shops, boutiques and souvenir stands. For starters, Fire Island visitors of the female persuasion frequently rave about Bambootique (318 Bay Walk, 631-583-5180, fireislandapparel.com), primarily a women’s clothing, footwear and accessories shop. The kiddie clothing here is also a big hit.

Fire Island’s women also love the Ocean Beach installment of Ooh la la Boutiques (621 Bayberry Walk, 631-583-8590, oohlalaboutiques.com), which prides itself on helping its clients develop their own one-of-a-kind look. To achieve this, shoppers can mix and match from a range of items and styles, from vintage to modern, dressy to casual, sexy to feminine and modern to classic. There’s truly something for all here, so don’t be shy about asking.

If your fashion tastes range more toward the tropical, pop in at Hanalei & Kula’s (472 Dehnoff Walk, 516-220-1903, hanaleiandkulas.com), where “Hawaii meets Fire Island.” There’s everything from island-themed tops, bottoms and dresses to wellness products and perfume oils, sure to move you — or your significant other — into a happy place. Mahalo.

In some families, it’s a cardinal sin to leave a vacation destination without souvenirs, and customized apparel is always a sound choice. To this end, Ocean Beach visitors of both sexes can find some quality threads at Fire Island Outfitters (637 Ocean Breeze Walk, 631-583-0146, fireislandapparel.com), especially if you’re in the market for souvenir Fire Island hats, hoodies, T-shirts and sweats. There’s also a solid selection of beachwear, and the end-of-season closeout sales are not to be missed. Fill up a bag, head to the ferry, and dream of your next Ocean Beach visit.

With no cars on Fire Island, wagons are a common sight, as are kids selling trinkets and painted seashells on the streets. (Getty Images)

Where To Stay 

Blue Waters Hotel
642 Bayberry Walk, 631-583-8295, bluewatershoteloceanbeachfireisland.com

Clegg’s Hotel
478 Bayberry Walk, 631-583-9292, cleggshotel.com

Housers Hotel on the Bay
785 Evergreen Walk, 631-583-8900, housershotel.com

The Palms Hotel Fire Island
168 Cottage Walk, 631-583-8870, palmshotelfireisland.com

Seasons Bed and Breakfast
468 Dehnhoff Walk, 631-583-8295, bluewatershoteloceanbeachfireisland.com

Where To Dine

Albatross
320 Bay Walk, 631-583-5697, dontswingthelights.com

Bocce Beach
927 Evergreen Walk, 631-583-8100, boccebeach.com

CJ’s Restaurant & Bar
479 Bay View Walk, 631-583-9890, cjsfireisland.com

Castaway Bar & Grill
310 Cottage Walk, 631-583-0330, castawaybarandgrill.com

Hideaway Restaurant
785 Evergreen Walk, 631-583-5929.

Housers Bar
785 Bay View Walk, 631-583-7805, housershotel.com

The Island Mermaid
780 Bay Walk, 631-583-8088, islandmermaid.com

The Landing at Ocean Beach
620 Bayberry Walk, 631-583-5800.

Maguire’s Bay Front Restaurant
1 Bay Walk, 631-583-8800, maguiresbayfrontrestaurant.com

Matthew’s Seafood House
935 Bay Walk, 631-583-8016, matthewsseafood.com

Rachel’s Bakery and Restaurant
325 Bay Walk, 631-583-9552, rachelsfireisland.com

Top 5 Kid-Friendly Summer Attractions on Long Island

Adventureland in Farmingdale is Long Island’s longest-running amusement park.

There’s a multitude of options for keeping the kids busy on Long Island during the summer, in addition to simple joys like hitting the beach or relaxing at one of the region’s many parks. For full-day adventures, options include amusement and water parks, nature activities, historical excursions, and much more.

Although we could fill many pages with suggestions, here are some absolute can’t-miss local kid-friendly attractions:

Adventureland
Among the many points of convergence for LI youth, few are as iconic as the classic amusement park Adventureland, in operation since 1962. Relatively small, but diverse, there are rides for all ages and levels of daring, from spinning tea cups and a kiddie carousel for the little ones, to Turbulence Coaster and Pirate Ship for older thrill-seekers. 2245 Broadhollow Rd., Farmingdale, 631-694-6868, adventureland.us

Long Island Aquarium & Exhibition Center
The ever-growing LI Aquarium now features more than 80 exhibits, including The Touch Tanks the kids will love. Take in regularly scheduled shows in the outdoor amphitheater, and/or pay the extra fee for a tour on the Atlantis Explorer Tour Boat, which takes guests down the Peconic River into Flanders Bay. 431 E Main St., Riverhead, 631-208-9200 ext. 426, longislandaquarium.com

Long Island Game Farm Wildlife Park & Children’s Zoo
Another venerable favorite for families with kids, the LI Game Farm features hundreds of animals, including cougars, red kangaroos, a giraffe, kinkajous, peacocks and the only lemurs native to the Island. There’s a very popular petting and feeding zoo, as well as carnival and pony rides. 489 Chapman Blvd., Manorville, 631-878-6644, longislandgamefarm.com

Old Bethpage Village Restoration
Take the kids on a journey back in time to the mid-1800s at this meticulously re-created village, featuring genuine historic homes and businesses that were moved to the park’s 209 acres. Visit period shops and see craftsmen in action, learn about the clothing and customs of a bygone era, and peruse a farm stand stocked with local produce. There are even two escape rooms: The Dark Cottage and Detained. 1303 Round Swamp Rd., Old Bethpage, 516-572-8400, obvrnassau.com

Splish Splash
Long Island’s reigning water park is still the summer’s obligatory place to be when the mood hits you to don a bathing suit and shoot down 20 different water slides. The park also features two wavepools, a large kiddie area, lazy river, tropical bird shows and the rides Bombs Away and Riptide Racer, which opened in 2018. 2549 Splish Splash Dr., Calverton, 631-727-3600, splishsplash.com

Related Story: 43 Fun Things To Do With Your Kids On Long Island

10 Long Island Seafood Shacks To Hit This Summer

Folks enjoy a casual meal at Clam Bar in Amagansett. (Shutterstock)

When it comes to Long Island summer activities, few can compete with enjoying the island’s many seafood shacks, which can range from bare-bones walk-up affairs, to boardwalk oases of waterfront al fresco dining.

Spending a leisurely hour or two over some aquatic delights like mussels, lobster rolls, clam chowder and fried shrimp — and maybe even some ice-cold beer and cocktails — is truly one of the can’t-miss LI summer experiences.

Whether you’re in Nassau County, central Suffolk County or the East End, there are a multitude of appealing seafood shack options. Here are 10 recommendations:

Bigelow’s Fried Clams
When a seafood joint has been wowing customers since 1939 and isn’t even on the water, you know it’s good. The fried clams and chowders are simply superb. 79 North Long Beach Rd., Rockville Centre, 516-678-3878, bigelows-rvc.com

Butler’s Flat
You get great seafood and ambiance with little pretense at this waterfront shack at Capri Marina West. 86 Orchard Beach Blvd., Port Washington, 516-883-8330, butlersflat.com

Clam Bar
This summer-only shack welcomes endless Hamptons-bound passersby, where magical lobster rolls and Montauk Pearl oysters rejuvenate. 2025 Montauk Hwy., Amagansett, 631-267-6348, clambarhamptons.com

Clam Bar at Bridge Marine
Looking for one of those true hidden gems? This small offering of covered tables and an open-air bar keep the locals happy all summer long. 40 Ludlam Ave., Bayville, 516-628-8688, bridgemarinesales.com/index.php/clam-bar

Flo’s Famous Luncheonette
This classic shack-and-picnic-table eatery has been going strong since 1926, just a block away from Corey Beach. 302 Middle Rd., Blue Point, 888-356-7864, flosfamous.com

Kingston’s Clam Bar
Relaxing outdoor tables and divine seafood creations await at this superb shack overlooking a boat basin. 130 Atlantic Ave., West Sayville, 631-589-0888, kingstonsclam.com

Lobster Roll
Don’t miss the signature item at this Hamptons classic, recently featured in The Affair. 1980 Montauk Hwy., Amagansett, 631-267-3740, lobsterroll.com

Nicky’s Clam Bar
One of the added perks of taking the Fire Island Ferry from Bay Shore. Be sure to hit Nicky’s before you board. 99 Maple Ave., Bay Shore, 631-665-6621, nickysclambar.com

Point Lookout Clam Bar
This spot’s stellar waterfront view of Reynolds Channel and top-notch, ultra-fresh seafood are reasons enough to journey on the Loop Parkway. 99 Bayside Dr., Point Lookout, 516-897-4024, pointlookoutclambar.com

The Shack
Not big on ambiance, but this favorite among bikers and all other walks of 25A cruisers is a North Shore institution. 1 Stony Hollow Rd., #1734, Centerport, 631-754-8989, theshack25a.com

 

Where to Stay and Play on the East End, Without Paying a Fortune

A family vacation hitting Hamptons beaches doesn't have to break the bank. (Getty Images)

Long Island’s East End can be a fantastic place to spend time during the summer, even for those who can’t afford to buy that dream vacation home in the Hamptons. So how do non-millionaires enjoy all the East End has to offer? It takes a bit of creativity, and homework, but it’s not impossible.

“Long Island’s prime location and ease of accessibility from New York City along with our endless array of attractions and rich natural assets ensure that our shores are a go-to destination during the summer months,” said Discover Long Island’s President and CEO Kristen Jarnagin. “For those looking to experience our iconic East End at a more affordable price explore mid-week travel during peak season and off-season travel for a year-round advantage.”

With resourcefulness and research, there are affordable options for East End lodging and fun, suited for a range of ages and tastes. Here are some wallet-friendly suggestions:

Bowen’s By the Bays
In the heart of the Hamptons, Bowen’s features traditional guest rooms and one-, two- and three-bedroom private pet-friendly guest cottages, at prices that won’t break the bank. There’s also lighted tennis, plus a swimming pool, playground, shuffleboard court, and putting green. 177 W. Montauk Hwy., Hampton Bays, Southampton, 631-728-1158, gobowens.com

Ocean Surf Resort
Few would characterize the summer rates at this resort as “cheap,” but visitors would be hard pressed to do better in Montauk, considering the quality and stellar reviews of this oceanfront resort. All rooms include a kitchen and the resort is just two blocks from town. 84 S. Emerson Ave., Montauk, 631-668-3332, oceansurfresort.com

White Sands Resort
This no-frills resort is a well-kept secret among visitors who cherish its perfect stretch of beach and relative seclusion. The beach is the prime draw here, and the resort provides useful amenities like efficiency kitchens, barbecue grills, picnic tables, and beach chairs and umbrellas. 28 Shore Rd., Amagansett, 631-267-3350, whitesandsresort.com

Hotel Indigo: Long Island – East End
For those looking for a trendy, boutique-style lodging experience on a budget, the recently converted 100-room Hotel Indigo (formerly a Best Western) is a great choice. It’s conveniently located nearby Riverhead attractions, North Fork wineries, the Hamptons, and features stylish rooms and amenities, plus a spa, pool and outdoor lounge area. 1830 West Main Street, Rt. 25, Riverhead; 631-369-2200, indigoeastend.com

The Chequit Inn
Guests have to book swiftly and judiciously to secure one of the Chequit’s 36 rooms, but the fortunate will enjoy superb accommodations on relaxing Shelter Island, at a truly competitive rate. The historic inn was recently renovated, and now offers a range of guest rooms and suites to fit all needs. 23 Grand Ave., Shelter Island Heights, 631-749-0018, thechequit.com

WHERE TO PLAY

For visitors, it can be challenging trying to hit East End beaches, where town resident passes or hefty fees may be required in order to enjoy the sand and surf. Here are some suggestions and insider “hacks” that can help:

One of the most coveted East End beachfronts is Coopers Beach in Southampton (268 Meadow Ln., Southampton; 631-287-3450), where it costs $50 per day to park. Instead, park on nearby Halsey Neck Lane, then walk to the beach. Scout a similar solution for Main Beach in East Hampton (101 Ocean Ave., East Hampton; 631-324-8158), but its $30 fee seems like a bargain, by comparison.

In Montauk, save on fees at Ditch Plains Beach (18 Ditch Plains Rd., Montauk), by parking at the nearby Montauk Lighthouse (2000 Montauk Hwy., Montauk; 631-668-2544; montauklighthouse.com). Another option for hitting Montauk beaches is to hop on the Hamptons Free Ride (646-504-FREE; thefreeride.com), which travels to Montauk for free from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, stopping at area beaches along the way.

Another great option for affordably enjoying beaches is to take advantage of the oceanfront state parks in the area, which offer excellent amenities for a fraction of the price of many town beaches. In Montauk, the go-to spot is Hither Hills State Park (164 Old Montauk Hwy., Montauk; 631-668-2554; parks.ny.gov/parks/122) which costs just $10 per car, or free with the Empire Pass. There’s a lovely beach and playground, a huge oceanfront campground, biking and hiking trails, and the popular “walking dunes” of Napeague Harbor. It’s also a beloved surf-fishing spot that’s open year-round to anglers.

Meanwhile, on the eastern tip of the North Fork, there’s Orient Beach State Park (40000 Main Rd., Orient; 631-323-2440; parks.ny.gov/parks/106), a National Natural Landmark boasting 45,000 feet of frontage on Gardiners Bay, as well as a rare maritime forest with red cedar, black-jack oak trees and prickly-pear cactus. Hike, swim, fish, kayak, lounge and beachcomb to the heart’s content, while also taking advantage of the picnic area, playground, restrooms and other public facilities. Like Hither Hills, it only costs $10 per car per day, or it’s free with the Empire Pass.