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.
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
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
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.
The Village of Bayville, celebrating its centennial this year, has long been reputed to be one of the rare relatively affordable residential options in the greater Town of Oyster Bay area, which features the homes of some of Long Island’s most famous and wealthiest denizens.
Visitors and locals alike adore this small North Shore village’s sweeping waterfront location and small-town charm, while also feeling like one could bump into the likes of Billy Joel or Jim Dolan at any given moment.
Also commonly known as Pine Island, Bayville is bordered by the affluent villages of Centre Island to the east, Lattingtown to the west and Mill Neck to the south, but visitors don’t need millions in the bank account to enjoy everything this tranquil village has to offer. Originally a summer colony, over the last century it has grown into one of the North Shore’s most beloved year-round communities, yet it still remains a somewhat hidden gem awaiting the uninitiated.
“Bayville is one of the true hidden gems on our historic North Shore,” said Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor Joseph Saladin. “Celebrating its centennial anniversary since incorporation, Bayville is rich in history and offers residents and visitors alike an escape with its beautiful tree-lined streets, suburban neighborhoods, booming downtown, and exquisite scenic views. I encourage visitors to take the time out not only to visit our renowned parks and beaches, such as Centre Island Beach and Stehli Beach, but also take the opportunity to frequent some classic Bayville restaurants and shops.”
In fact, Bayville is such a relaxing place, visitors may not want to do much at all here, aside from sipping a cocktail, watching the waves, and taking in a stunning sunset. But for those who do find the motivation to leave their beach chair behind, some key recommendations include:
Spending time in Bayville is all about making the most of its prime waterfront location. As far as aquatic scenery goes, visitors will be hard-pressed to find a more picturesque spot than Charles E. Ransom Beach (Bayville Ave., 516-624-6160), featuring a pristine 800-foot run of Long Island Sound beachfront that is open to both Town of Oyster Bay residents as well as nonresidents (there is a $10 parking fee for all). Swimming and dogs are not permitted, however beachgoers won’t mind once they experience the breathtaking views afforded here. On a clear day, it’s possible to see across the Sound to Connecticut. This beach is also prized as one of the best spots on LI for watching sunsets. Fishing is permitted and live concerts are held there in the summer.
Those who have their heart set on swimming can head over instead to Centre Island Beach (Bayville Ave./Centre Island Rd., 516-624-6123), which is also open to both town residents and nonresidents. Visitors love the peace and quiet there, as well as the gorgeous view, and there is a refreshment stand in the event your growling stomach disturbs the saltwater serenity. The 650-foot beach is a bit pebbly, as is common on the North Shore, so it is best to bring water shoes or Crocs to make it equally pleasant for the feet.
Another popular Bayville scenic spot is The Crescent Beach Club (333 Bayville Ave., 516-628-3000, thecrescentbeachclub.com), which is famed as a wedding and private events venue, but also offers everyday patrons a memorable experience at its seasonal restaurant Ocean (333 Bayville Ave., 516-628-3330, cometotheocean.com). It’s a premier choice for dining al fresco, and the club’s palm trees and beach bar will make patrons feel like they’re kicking back somewhere in the tropics.
In addition to all that magical Bayville scenery, the area also boasts a bounty of diverse wildlife, which can be experienced firsthand at the Oyster Bay National Wildlife Refuge (631-286-0485, fws.gov), featuring 3,209 acres of subtidal habitats, salt marsh, and a freshwater pond. Fishing is permitted on refuge waters (a saltwater license is required) and boaters tend to converge en masse here from May through September, with as many as 3,000 boats accessing the refuge during peak weekends. And boaters aren’t the only ones who flock here. The area has the largest concentration of waterfowl on the North Shore, including greater scaup, bufflehead and black duck. Northern diamondback terrapin turtles are also a common sight here.
TASTE FOR ADVENTURE
After having a good dose of relaxation, visitors (and their kids, if they have any) might be up for a little more active entertainment. Chances are, they’ll be down for at least a handful of the many amusements offered at Bayville Adventure Park (8 Bayville Ave., 516-624-7433, bayvilleadventurepark.com). There’s pirate miniature golf, bumper boats, a bungee bounce, ropes course and maze, water balloon wars, funhouse and mirror maze, plus an arcade and much more. The park also now runs seasonal haunted houses; Halloween is obviously the biggie, but this year the park also offered a haunted Christmas space featuring that diabolical Krampus, a vampire Valentine’s Day, and a St. Patrick’s Day screamfest complete with an evil leprechaun.
THE BAR SCENE
Another classic ingredient for unwinding in Bayville is enjoying some drinks with friends, preferably near the water, and Bayville offers several well-traveled opportunities for this particular pastime. In addition to the aforementioned Ocean at The Crescent Beach Club, visitors love the waterside ambiance at The Clam Bar at Bridge Marine (40 Ludlam Ave.; 516-628-8688; bridgemarinesales.com/index.php/clam-bar), where they can enjoy great food along with drinks and spend time at one of the true local haunts. It is a seasonal establishment, so when visiting the village outside of peak months, it’s best to call ahead and make sure they’re open for business.
But for those looking to watch a game while downing a few pints, Breakers Sports Bar & Grill (12 Bayville Ave., 516-624-2337, breakerssportsbarandgrill.com) has it covered. Happy Hour happens Monday to Friday from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., and there’s a large selection of beers to choose from at all times. There’s also an extensive food menu, including 15 different styles of wings, plus appetizers, sandwiches, salads and larger entrees. Breakers offers an outside roof deck and bar for open-air enjoyment when weather permits.
Visitors may also enjoy nightlife with a bit of a nautical theme, in which case Shipwreck Tavern (10 Bayville Ave., 516-628-2628, shipwreckpub.com) will have guests feeling like a rum-soaked first mate in short order. The bar and restaurant feature multiple aquariums as a key part of the décor, containing sharks, moray eels, grouper and other exotic saltwater fish. There’s one massive tank that runs nearly the entire length of the bar, for a mesmerizing view as patrons imbibe. There’s also outdoor dining and a tropical tiki bar, furnished with a large collection of tiki masks and totems hailing from the South Seas.
And finally, for those looking for a can’t-miss nightspot where the food is as delectable as the drinks, Mill Creek Tavern (275 Bayville Ave., Unit A, 516-628-2000, millcreekny.com) should be high on the hit list. The drink offerings include wine, local microbrews and handcrafted cocktails, served up in a cozy, neighborhood setting. It’s the kind of beloved haunt that makes visitors realize that once they’re in Bayville, it’s really hard to ever want to leave.
Named for the natural cold-water springs running through the area, the quaint hamlet of Cold Spring Harbor in the Town of Huntington has a long aquatic past that reached an apex in the mid-19th century, when the local whaling business reached its zenith. As the number of whaleboats declined in the ensuing decades, the area was reborn as a center for science, with the founding of the world-famous Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in 1890.
In the century-plus since then, Cold Spring Harbor’s namesake lab has contributed numerous scientific advancements, particularly in the field of genetics, while the hamlet proper evolved into a charming bedroom community with a surprising amount of local attractions, considering its relatively small 3.9-square-mile footprint. For visitors, there are several can’t-miss spots devoted to the area’s history and natural features, as well as highly recommended outdoor activities.
“Cold Spring Harbor is a quaint, historic waterfront community, home to great restaurants, parks and recreational attractions, and it is just a few short minutes from the amenities and entertainment downtown Huntington village offers,” says Huntington Town Supervisor Chad A. Lupinacci.
For a firsthand glimpse at Cold Spring Harbor’s picturesque landscapes and fascinating legacy, spend some time absorbing the following:
CRACKING THE CODE
The place that put CSH on the map in modern times is Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (1 Bungtown Rd., 516-367-8800, cshl.edu), an active, working lab which has played a vital role in biomedical research and education, specializing in cancer, neuroscience, plant biology and quantitative biology, and boasting eight Nobel Prize winners. The private not-for-profit lab’s grounds and architecture are stunning and provide a delightful setting for a scenic walk, followed by a guided tour of the laboratory campus (call in advance to book). Summer programs are offered to students, and a variety of special tours, events, lectures and concerts are held throughout the year. Don’t miss the lab’s current “Ötzi the Iceman Museum Tour” at its companion DNA Learning Center (334 Main Street, 516-367-5170, dnalc.org), featuring a 3D replica of the famous Ötzi mummy.
HOME AT SEA
Prior to its rebirth as a center for science, Cold Spring Harbor was a hub for whaling, and the premier stop in town for learning more about this maritime history is The Whaling Museum & Education Center (279 Main St., 631-367-3418, cshwhalingmuseum.org), featuring a collection of some 6,000 artifacts and archived materials. Highlights include the only fully equipped whaleboat with original gear on display in the state, as well as one of the Northeast’s most important collections of decorative scrimshaw carved on whale ivory and whalebone. There are also displays of whaling implements, ships’ gear, navigational aids, ship models and maritime art, plus a library and archival collection of 2,800 materials. Try to catch the museum’s special exhibition, “Heroines at the Helm,” which runs through Labor Day 2019.
All that maritime history may inspire a longing for some oceangoing adventures of your own, so if you’re feeling the urge, head over to JK Kayak & SUP (130 Harbor Rd., 800-489-0398, jkkayak.com), one of the island’s leading guided mobile kayak and stand-up-paddleboard (SUP) touring providers. JK offers 1-, 2- and 3-hour guided kayak tours of Cold Spring Harbor, as well as 90-minute SUP and SUP yoga lessons, run by American Canoe Association-certified instructors. The 2019 season begins at the end of May and runs through October. Memberships are available for repeat guests, and JK also sells used craft and equipment for those making a more permanent commitment.
As locals know, nature is another integral component of what makes Cold Spring Harbor great. Don’t let LI’s typically flat landscape fool you. Hikers can experience a real up-and-down challenge on the trails at Cold Spring Harbor State Park (95 Harbor Rd., 631-423-1770, parks.ny.gov) encompassing 40 acres of hilly terrain that provides excellent views of the harbor. Stroll (or snowshoe, in season) among its impressive large oak trees, which measure as much as three feet in diameter, as well as thickets of wild mountain laurel. The park is a key spot for observing spring and fall songbird migrations and is home to great horned owls and red-tailed hawks. It is also the northern trailhead of the Nassau Suffolk Greenbelt Trail, extending to Bethpage State Park and Nassau County’s South Shore. Pets are permitted but must be kept on a leash.
A less strenuous yet similarly rewarding nature experience can be enjoyed at Cold Spring Harbor Fish Hatchery & Aquarium (1660 NY 25A, 516-692-6768, aquaticcommunity.com/cshfha), a public aquarium and fish hatchery founded in 1883. It features a wide variety of native fish and reptiles, including trout, carp and bowfin among 30 fish species showcased in its aquariums and numerous fish ponds, as well as the largest living collection of native amphibians in the Northeast and a large outdoor turtle pond. Visitors can purchase food to feed the fish, and there is a gift shop and discovery area for the kids. Fishing for trout is also permitted, for a $5 fee plus an additional fee for each fish caught (you must keep your catch). Anglers are permitted to either use their own gear or rent equipment at the hatchery.
While on that note, a trip to the Uplands Farm Sanctuary (250 Lawrence Hill Rd, 631-367-3225, dec.ny.gov/outdoor/63816.html), is another welcome diversion. The former dairy farm, still containing a silo and the remnants of cattle pastures, is now the 97-acre headquarters for The Nature Conservancy’s Long Island Chapter. Take the sanctuary’s double-loop trail through bird and butterfly meadows, deciduous forests and a ravine shaded by white pine, keeping an eye out for wildlife such as bobolinks, meadowlarks, red-tailed hawks and migratory warblers.
Cold Spring Harbor also boasts a proud firefighting history, which you can explore at the Cold Spring Harbor Fire House Museum (84 Main St., 631-367-0400, cshfirehousemuseum.org). Displays include an 1852 Phenix Hand Tub, the department’s first piece of equipment; a 1920s Ford Model TT Chemical Truck and 1919 Ford Model TT Delivery Truck; fire hats, clothing and gear; historic ledgers and photos; a restored cupola from the fire house; “fire grenades” used to stop fires in the 1800s; a memorial to those who were killed at the World Trade Center in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks; and much more.
Regardless of your spiritual leaning, another recommended stopping point is St. John’s Episcopal Church (1670 Route 25A, 516-692-6368, stjcsh.org), founded in its current location in 1835. Walking the church’s lakeside grounds is pure bliss, as is time spent inside the building, viewing its dazzling stained-glass windows, including panels crafted by Louis Comfort Tiffany, who built Laurelton Hall, his 84-room, 600-acre country estate, nearby in Laurel Hollow. Many of the church’s famous windows have undergone recent restoration and provide a breathtaking backdrop for Sunday service.
Finally, witness the rebirth of another Cold Spring Harbor place of worship — the former Methodist Episcopal Church — as home base for Preservation Long Island (161 Main St.,631-692-4664, preservationlongisland.org), featuring exhibits celebrating LI’s cultural heritage. Past exhibits have spotlighted LI decorative arts, landmarks, maps, antiques and photography; this season’s upcoming new exhibit (details TBA) opens Memorial Day and runs through fall 2019.
WHERE TO DINE
Cold Spring Plaza Delicatessen 15 Harbor Rd., 631-367-3533
Arguably one of the most iconic young actors of the ’80s, Ralph Macchio piled up a list of hit films within a decade-plus output that included three Karate Kid movies, Francis Ford Coppola’s unforgettable Outsiders adaptation, the blues-guitar cult classic Crossroads and a supporting role alongside Joe Pesci in My Cousin Vinny. He’s remained an active, working actor ever since, grateful for his enduring Karate Kid fame, yet content to leave the past where it lies. That is, until 2018, when Macchio, 57, donned LaRusso’s karate gi again, for the first time in 30 years.
Macchio now co-stars alongside Bill Zabka (Johnny Lawrence), his old on-screen rival, in Cobra Kai, a YouTube original series that revisits LaRusso and Lawrence as middle-aged men, decades after the Karate Kid films. The series is a well-deserved smash, expertly bringing the franchise into a new age, yet honoring the nuances of what came before it.
With season two of Cobra Kai set for an April 24 debut, I recently chatted with Macchio about the show, his legacy, and his life on Long Island, as well as what to expect this season at Daniel LaRusso’s new dojo.
Cobra Kai is such a great show, especially if you love TheKarate Kid films. How did the series happen? Our three creators [Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg of the Harold and Kumar franchise and Hot Tub Time Machine writer Josh Heald] were superfans of The Karate Kid. They were just Jersey guys who connected to the movie. I’ve been pitched many Karate Kid reboot ideas that just didn’t appeal to me, but they had an angle in the story that was fresh and relevant for today, yet embraced all the nostalgia. I trusted their vision, which was difficult to do, because I still walk with this character; I walk in his skin on the street, to the public, and the fans, so if it missed, that was a bit of a risk. But I felt if there was ever a time, this was it.
How does it feel for you to be playing Daniel LaRusso again after all these years? I approached him as an adult in the same way I approached him as a teenager, which was just a piece of my own East Coast sensibility of a grounded, good-hearted person who maybe is a little more knee-jerk than Ralph, maybe has a little more of a temper than Ralph. The only difference with how I approached it now is the wisdom, the parenting, the life that I, Ralph, have led to this point. I brought that to the table, just like how I brought my adolescence to the table back in 1983 when we made the first movie. I’ve raised two kids who are in their 20s … so I brought the experiences of a husband, father and successful business person … We’re very different, but there’s a piece of yourself in every role.
Fatherhood is definitely a consistent theme throughout Cobra Kai. Yes it is. It very much is. Leading into season two, it becomes even more so, as Johnny Lawrence is trying to connect with his son and LaRusso’s still navigating raising his own kid, balancing his family and business, and now that martial arts is back in his life, he puts that on the front burner. Family is the base of things, and those lessons that Mr. Miyagi taught him over the years that maybe he’s lost a little track of, and has to re-find.
Daniel and Johnny Lawrence (Bill Zabka) are a classic rivalry. How do you and he get along in real life? It’s not Daniel and Johnny. We do get along. He and I have a friendly rivalry with each other, no matter what we do. We have fun ribbing each other…. It’s nothing but respect, and he has certainly delivered in performance. I enjoy watching his side of the story. When we get together, it just has a heightened level of intensity that you can feel when you watch the show.
The Karate Kid was a very black-and-white story, good over evil, but with Cobra Kai, there are gray areas with both characters. There’s moral ambiguity, and it’s a little more realistic about what it’s like to balance life. Not taking anything away from TheKarate Kid — that movie gives back over and over again for all the right reasons — but there’s a difference there.
Did you plan for more than one season of Cobra Kai? There are always questions about subsequent seasons, where would it go, and what would happen to Johnny Lawrence in the future. All characters from the original films could potentially make an appearance, if it organically works in the story. I think the goal is several seasons. I’d love it to go on as long as it makes sense and we could keep the quality up there. Season two is very exciting.
What else can you tell us about season two? Martin Kove (sensei John Kreese) is certainly an integral part of season two. There’s also the opening of Miyagi-Do, so there are these dueling dojos, and all that comes with recalibrating your life to now be a martial arts teacher. LaRusso is an interesting journey this season, and the speed bumps and hiccups and hurdles that come his way, as well as Johnny, and all the kids. It’s a karate soap opera [laughs]. It escalates in intensity in season two. Also, the ’47 Ford — the “wax-on, wax-off” car in the original movie — I’ve had that car, and it’s making an appearance, among other surprises.
Will Elisabeth Shue eventually return as Ali? That’s the question we get asked the most … As far as Elisabeth Shue or anyone else from the original films, everyone has been talked about. When it fits into the story organically, and if they can get the actor, we will entertain it. Last year we had Randee Heller (Lucille LaRusso) for an episode, so we’d like to keep that going with more additions in seasons to come.
Is it bittersweet, doing the show without Pat Morita [who passed in 2005]? He and I had some soulful magic on and off screen — one of those things that doesn’t come around too often — and I don’t take it for granted. He would have loved this show … My relationship with Pat was wonderful. We both knew that we had something special there that touched so many people. For the set of Miyagi-Do in season two, they rebuilt Mr. Miyagi’s house, with the backyard and the old cars in front. The first day of shooting was very emotional for me … It reminded me that’s where all the magic happened. I wouldn’t be doing Cobra Kai today if it wasn’t for Pat Morita and his performance. There’s no way.
You grew up on Long Island. Where? I grew up in the Huntington area and graduated from Half Hollow Hills High School West. When The Karate Kid opened, and The Outsiders, I drove from my house and went to watch the movie and went home. Long Island has always been a home base. My wife’s family is here, my parents are still here, and outside of the traffic and cold weather, it’s perfect.
Do you have favorite places or things to do on Long Island? I used to go to the Nassau Coliseum all the time to cheer on my beloved New York Islanders. I like going to Montauk. Port Jefferson is a fun town I enjoy. Mainly when I do stuff here, it’s restaurants. I used to spend a lot of time on the South Shore, and now I spend a little more time on the North Shore, and I’m always in the City.
Another of your classic films was Crossroads. Do you really play guitar? How did you appear so convincing? I worked really hard. I didn’t play guitar before then. I had a couple of guitar coaches….I learned how to play basics, and then learned classical acoustic guitar, slide guitar, acoustic slide and bottleneck electric. I had that [Fender] Telecaster [guitar], which I still have to this day. That yellow Telecaster is the coolest.
Do you have a favorite role? Johnny in The Outsiders holds a special place for me. I read that book on Long Island in my seventh-grade English class, and I got to be in a movie directed by Francis Ford Coppola and play a role that was one of the best roles I ever had. What’s wonderful about that is middle-school classes still read that book all the time, so The Outsiders never goes out of style. It’s great to be part of that.
Those who grew up in central Long Island on the South Shore during the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s likely spent an inordinate amount of time shuttling back and forth on Sunrise Highway to Massapequa, a long-standing area hub for retail, restaurants, and more retail. Between the venerable Sunrise Mall and the flea-market charm of Busy Bee Mall nearby, Massapequa was the essential place you went to shop and people-watch, and for dietarily adventurousness, maybe even grab some White Castle.
Today, Busy Bee is long gone, and the Sunrise Mall — while still standing — has since been renovated and turned into Westfield Sunrise, but Massapequa’s importance as a regional center for commerce, dining, and recreation remains. The hamlet and neighboring Village of Massapequa Park, part of the larger Town of Oyster Bay, also offers an often overlooked bounty of parks, beaches, nature preserves and other public resources, making it one of the most diverse neighborhoods around.
When visiting Massapequa, start by cruising Sunrise Highway and Merrick Road, stopping off upon finding the perfect spot for that pair of jeans or sneakers. After the shopping is done, here are some of the other fine attractions and excursions Massapequa has to offer:
PENCHANT FOR PARKS
Considering the Massapequa census-designated place (CDP) encompasses only 4 square miles, the hamlet offers an excellent array of public spaces. Once summer rolls around, Massapequans and enlightened visitors flock to Tobay Beach (Ocean Pkwy., 516-679-3900, oysterbaytown.com), a private beach for Town of Oyster Bay residents that also welcomes nonresidents during weekdays, for a $50 daily fee. Why so pricey, you ask? Tobay offers both bay and ocean fronts, as well as a Spray Park and playground for the kids, a miniature golf course, and several restaurants. There are also live music events held there at various times during peak season.
While at Tobay, check out the adjacent John F. Kennedy Memorial Wildlife Sanctuary (Ocean Pkwy., 516-679-3900, oysterbaytown.com), featuring 550 acres of protected wetlands that are accessible by a trail. It is free to both Town of Oyster Bay residents and nonresidents; however a permit (free) must be obtained through the town’s Beach Division, either in person or by mail. It is open year-round, but with limited hours during summer months.
And hey, nonresidents who don’t want to drop the $50 to visit Tobay Beach can always head over to the Philip B. Healey Beach at Florence Avenue (30 Florence Ave.) instead. This little-known local favorite is small in size but large in relaxation, with ample parking and a playground for kids. It’s a quiet spot that’s popular with families, so please, behave.
Amid all of Massapequa’s retail and restaurant bustle, there are also still some open, green natural spaces where you can find peace and solace, like the Peter J. SchmittMassapequa Preserve (Merrick Rd. and Ocean Ave., 516-572-0200, nassaucountyny.gov), featuring 423 acres of remarkably diverse wild habitat, including freshwater swamps, marshes, streams, lakes and sandy bogs. It is a favorite of local walkers and joggers, and fishing is permitted in several of the lakes and streams (license required). You can also access the Nassau-Suffolk Greenbelt Trail there, which runs the length of the preserve, continuing onward to its termination at Cold Spring Harbor.
Next to the Massapequa Preserve is Brady Park (Lake Shore Dr. and Front St.), a well-trafficked location for baseball and basketball players, also offering bocce courts, shaded picnic facilities and a concert stage used for community events and live performances. There is also a senior community center located on the grounds and a top-notch playground that was just built in recent years, including eight swings, a rock climb, bar pull and a geo-dome climber.
Another gem among Massapequa’s outdoor offerings is Marjorie R. Post Community Park (Unqua Rd.), boasting a wide assortment of diversions, including a pool/aquatic center, ice skating rink, roller hockey court, playgrounds, picnic areas, barbecue pits, handball courts, tennis courts, walking trails and gazebos for special events. With so much to do in one neighborhood space, the park is an essential spot for residents, as well as guests who only wish their hometown had a space this great.
Even though it is great visiting Massapequa, visitors still may want to spend some of that time trying to escape from it. Or more specifically, they could end up trying to think up ways out of captivity at Just Escape (529 Broadway, 516-809-8980, justescapeli.com), where six different 60-minute escape-room challenges await. Choose from the Carnival Conundrum, Sweet Revenge, Underworld, The Illusionist, Pirates of the Dark Sea, and Prey, all with varying levels of difficulty and scare factor. Bring your wits, because you’ll need them!
After the escape room proves how intellectually unprepared many were for the challenge, consider unwinding and rethinking the failed exit strategies over a few drinks with friends. On top of all its many other assets, Massapequa also boasts a vibrant bar scene, catering to a range of tastes. For craft beer lovers, it’s mandatory that you stop at Ziggy’s Corner Pub (1 Central Ave., 516-541-5400, ziggyscornerpub.com), which offers 10 rotating tap options and 40 different bottled options each day, and also hosts live music, comedy and karaoke (check the online events calendar).
Or, those those who prefer nightlife with a Gaelic twist, hunker down for a spell at Paddy’s Loft (1286 Hicksville Rd., 516-798-7660, paddysloft.com), where you can bank on obtaining a properly poured Guinness and peruse a mouthwatering menu that features an eclectic mix of gourmet creations alongside Celtic-themed edibles like Irish spring rolls, chicken Killarney, bangers and mash, corned beef and cabbage, and of course, shepherds pie. There is live music on Tuesday nights, as well as other special events throughout the year.
No trip to the area would be complete without a walk through Park Boulevard, home of the Village of Massapequa Park’s quaint downtown. Besides the array of shops is one must-visit English-style pub, The Good Life (1039 Park Blvd., 516-798-4663, thegoodlifeny.com), a popular watering hole known for drawing craft beer lovers from miles around.
And before the journey through Massapequa comes to a close, do not even consider leaving town without a detour to All American Hamburger Drive-In (4286 Merrick Rd., 516-798-9574, allamericanhamburgerli.com), an iconic Long Island burger joint that has been the stuff of legend since 1963. The prices can’t be beat, the menu is delightfully simple and the house-made potato products — namely the french fries and knishes — are second to none. Get a sack of All American’s salty, greasy goodness to fully know the definition of bliss. As much as Massapequa has changed over the decades, fortunately some things remain the same.
With the vast bustle of Huntington village to its west and the suburban sprawl of Smithtown to the east, the Village of Northport has long offered a lower-key, more insular vibe than some of its larger neighbors on the North Shore waterfront.
Even now, it’s easy to see why legendary beat poet Jack Kerouac made Northport his home from 1958 to 1964. It’s a timeless, understated place that’s somewhat difficult to get to, and even harder to leave.
English colonists acquired the land that is now Northport from the Matinecock Indians in 1656, essentially transforming the area into a massive cattle pasture, earning it the original name Great Cow Harbour. That all changed in the 1830s, when shipbuilding became its prime industry, and by 1837 the village was renamed Northport. The village’s shipbuilding boom lasted for roughly 50 years, until the end of the 19th century, when steel-hulled boats began replacing the wooden vessels produced in the village. But fortunately, some of the character of that era still endures.
“Northport has one of the finest harbors on Long Island and has been the port in the storm for sailors for many years,” said Northport Deputy Mayor Tom Kehoe. “Today we still have reasonably priced transit docking that attracts boaters from New York City, Connecticut and elsewhere. Our Village Board has also worked to remove impediments to our local businesses; we realized that a thriving local business district was an attraction to tourists and a positive anchor to our community. We now have 20-plus restaurants with permits for outdoor seating, and that has changed our village. Additionally, the opening of the Engeman Theater has also helped to make us a destination.”
Today, when you spend time walking the village streets, taking note of the old trolley rails on Main Street and perhaps grabbing a quiet drink at one of Northport’s unassuming pubs, you can almost hear the sounds of the shipwrights working, and of Kerouac’s typewriter. Soak it in. Some essential Northport diversions include:
THE SALT LIFE
Start your Northport excursion at the heart of the village: Northport Village Park (1 Bayview Ave.), a treasured stretch of green grass and shade trees running along the harborfront, occupying much of the area where the Victorian shipyards once stood. These days there are two playgrounds, a gazebo, basketball court and dock, as well as free parking, and in fair weather the park hosts events ranging from live concerts to farmer’s markets and craft fairs. This is where both residents and visitors alike come to relax and enjoy the village’s quaint charm.
While taking in all the seaside splendor, you may feel the spirits of Northport’s long-gone mariners, inspiring you to leave land behind entirely. Should that occur, nearby Kismet Cruising (Northport Harbor, 631-897-4517, kismetcruising.com) can scratch your oceanic itch, offering a range of cruise options — including afternoon, sunset, dinner and local history cruises — guided by veteran captain Brian Baldauf on his 42-foot sailboat. Baldauf is a fountain of local information, so count on a lively waterborne chat.
It doesn’t take long to see how Northport’s sweeping scenery and small-village allure make for the ideal artist’s hideaway, most famously for Kerouac, but also producing homegrown talents like Edie Falco, Patti LuPone, Chris Messina, rapper Aesop Rock and members of the band Wheatus. For anyone with literary longings, taking a deeper dive into that heritage requires a mandatory stop at Kerouac’s favorite Northport watering hole, Gunther’s Tap Room (84 Main St., 631-754-4156, guntherstaproom.com), newly reopened in 2018 after the historic pub was ravaged by a 2017 fire. It’s the quintessential Northport watering hole, steeped in lore right down to its men’s room, where Kerouac would infamously sneak off to sip whiskey he’d hidden in a valise. We recommend you purchase yours from the bartender, instead.
Also on Main Street is another vital strand of Northport’s creative DNA, The John W. Engeman Theater (250 Main St., 631-261-2900, engemantheater.com), occupying the old Northport Theater, first opened in 1932 and reopened in its current form in 2007. Today it is named in honor of Army Chief Warrant Officer Four John William Engeman, brother of co-owner Patti O’Neill, who was killed in Iraq on May 14, 2006. It’s now a year-round professional theater, casting actors from the Broadway talent pool, and features stadium seating, deluxe lighting and sound, The Green Room Piano Bar and Lounge, and even in-seat beverage service. Current and upcoming performances include The Buddy Holly Story, Seussical The Musical, A Gentleman’s Guide To Love and Murder and Madagascar – A Musical Adventure.
And for fans of the visual arts, be sure to also add a stop at LaMantia Gallery (127 Main St., 631-754-8414, lamantiagallery.com) to your Northport itinerary, even if you can’t really afford to take home one of the expertly curated works there on display. For some 30 years owner James LaMantia has been bringing a worldly, metropolitan aesthetic to Northport’s art marketplace through his esteemed gallery, which hosts more than 10 exhibitions annually, featuring the work of internationally known artists, masterworks and creations by promising new artists. A conversation with LaMantia or one of the gallery’s other art experts is sure to be enlightening.
EMBRACING THE PAST
Although Northport has retained a healthy dose of its bygone flavor, the village has also changed substantially over the centuries, which is why a visit to the Northport Historical Society (215 Main St., 631-757-9859, northporthistorical.org) is another highly recommended excursion. Housed in a former Carnegie Library chartered in 1914, the Society maintains a museum with various exhibits on Northport’s past, as well as a well-stocked shop offering eclectic oddities, silver, china, jewelry, linens, ephemera and books. There’s also a research library and a photo collection with more than 4,000 images, many of which have been digitized and catalogued.
We know, it’s hard to drag oneself away from Northport’s picturesque Main Street and waterfront, but it’s worth it in order to devote a few hours to also exploring the village’s rich agricultural offerings. Ever since its early days when it was known as Cow Harbor, Northport has been fertile farm territory, still visible now at places like Richters Orchard (1318 Pulaski Rd., 631-261-1980, facebook.com/RichtersOrchard). Richters has been selling lovingly grown apples and fresh-pressed apple cider for the last century, along with pies, jams and jellies, and a host of other edible delights. Stock up and go home happy.
Finally, you might not want to exit “Great Cow Harbour” without seeing an actual cow, so if you’re so inclined, Lewis Oliver Farm Animal Sanctuary (Burt Ave., 631-261-6320, lewisoliverfarm.org) has you covered. A historic landmark dating to the mid-1800s, the farm comprises three acres that are home to numerous rescued farm animals, including Annabelle the cow, goats, sheep, alpacas, chickens, ducks, peafowl, and turkeys. There are also original barns, botanical and vegetable gardens, a collection of native wildlife, a country store, and an education center. Just like the village’s human residents, the livestock here are quite happy to call Northport home.
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
Stony Brook, as well as the broader area known as the Three Villages — Stony Brook, Setauket and Old Field — is a Long Island region deeply entrenched in local history with a commitment to preservation, boasting a rich array of cultural attractions, parks and event spaces, in a picturesque setting that retains much of its old-world colonial charm. Whether your idea of a rewarding travel excursion entails perusing museum exhibits, enjoying the outdoors or experiencing a great meal, Stony Brook consistently delivers on all fronts, while seemingly whisking you away from the LI hustle and bustle.
First settled in the late 17th century, Stony Brook and the Three Villages have a long history associated with LI agriculture and oceangoing life, later playing a notable role in the American Revolution, with spies from George Washington’s Culper Ring based in the area. Centuries later, local business magnate Ward Melville began transforming the Stony Brook hamlet into his idea of an idyllic New England community, starting in 1939 with the creation of his Stony Brook Community Fund, which established the white clapboard buildings and quaint shops that still give downtown much of its charm today.
“Stony Brook is one of the loveliest and most historic communities in Brookhaven Town,” Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine said. “Fronting on Long Island Sound, it is home to the first shopping center on Long Island built by Ward Melville in the colonial style that defines the community. It is also home to the State University and its 25,000-plus students. It has numerous museums, shops and restaurants.”
For a fantastic trip into the Island’s past, paired with vibrant and dynamic modern-day offerings, here are some must-do Stony Brook area suggestions:
Start your journey into Stony Brook’s rich cultural and historical offerings with a trip to The Long Island Museum (1200 Route 25A, 631-751-0066, longislandmuseum.org), home of a vast collection of American art, historical relics and LI wildfowl decoy hunting memorabilia, plus an unmatched trove of antique carriages in its 40,000-square-foot Carriage Museum. Just walking around the museum’s sprawling 9-acre campus—beginning with the Visitors Center/History Museum located on the former site of the 19th century Bayles Lumber Mill—will transport you back in time. There are three modern exhibition halls and five historic buildings to explore, including a one-room schoolhouse and a blacksmith shop.
For more Stony Brook area history, continue on to the Three Village Historical Society (93 N. Country Rd., Setauket, 631-751-3730, threevillagehistoricalsociety.org), which presents a range of public exhibits at the society’s headquarters, including displays pertaining to the American Revolution and the Three Villages’ special role in Washington’s Culper Ring. Don’t miss the current exhibition on nearby Chicken Hill, a 19th century community of Native Americans, African Americans and European immigrants who worked in the piano and rubber factories on the hill. From the headquarters you can also depart on some of the numerous popular historical walking tours run by the society.
Ward Melville’s impact on Stony Brook’s cultural landscape can also be appreciated at the WMHO Educational and Cultural Center (97 Main St., Suite P, 631-689-5888, wmho.org/education-cultural-center), an 8,800-square-foot multiuser facility run by the Ward Melville Heritage Organization that offers a wide variety of events, exhibits and workshops throughout the year. Annual summer exhibits include “Celebrating Coney Island, America’s First Amusement Park,” “Celebrating P. T. Barnum…the Man,” and “Motorcycles & the Open Road,” with memorabilia, artwork, sculptures, displays and guest speakers. The center also offers its LEGO Building Block Contest & Exhibit, and hosts the longest-running luncheon musical theatre series on LI; it is currently presenting its Holiday Tribute to Diana Ross living history productionthrough January 10.
From there continue your Stony Brook cultural expedition to the Reboli Center for Art and History (64 Main St., 631-751-7707, rebolicenter.org),housed in the historic 1911 Bank of Suffolk County building. The center is dedicated to preserving and promoting the legacy of Stony Brook-based artist Joseph Reboli, best known for his oil paintings of local landscapes and subjects from the Three Village area and LI’s East End, and contains a massive collection of Reboli’s work. The Reboli Center also presents works by other contemporary artists and craftsmen, as well as LI historical exhibits, and promotes the study of classical painting and drawing through workshops and special events.
Music history and appreciation are alive and well in Stony Brook, too, especially for jazz hounds, who will find nirvana at The Jazz Loft (275 Christian Ave., 631-751-1895, thejazzloft.org), which now occupies Ward Melville’s former Suffolk Museum building. Opened in 2016, The Jazz Loft features 6,000 square feet of original jazz memorabilia displays spanning 100 years, a 1940s period second-floor performance space, and a deep list of education programs. A wide range of local, national and international artists perform at the Loft, which also hosts regular Swing Dance Long Island events. It’s one of only two jazz venues on LI.
The vintage New England village charm of Stony Brook is further enhanced by the breathtaking natural beauty of the area, from its beaches and harbor-front vistas to the shady groves and rolling green meadows of its parks and open spaces. The first essential stop as you take in all this stunning scenery is Avalon Park & Preserve (200 Harbor Rd., 631-689-0619, avalonparkandpreserve.org), encompassing 140 acres of protected land that has been manicured to re-create the natural environment that greeted the area’s first indigenous peoples. The 8-acre park proper is accessible by a series of trails and hiking paths, and also contains a labyrinth and observatories used for astronomy programs.
Stony Brook is also home to one of Long Island’s most flawless, yet relatively unknown, stretches of beachfront: West Meadow Beach, which can be enjoyed from Joel L. Lefkowitz Park (Trustees Rd., 631-751-3193). From here you can walk a pristine length of beach that was once dotted with numerous private bungalows that have all been torn down in recent times, returning the land back to nature. It’s also a legendary spot for striped bass, bluefish and snapper fishing and an ideal location for snapping some gorgeous pics of the unforgettable scenery.
There are enduring traces of the area’s agricultural traditions, too. Just outside Stony Brook Village is Benner’s Farm (56 Gnarled Hollow Rd., East Setauket, 631-689-8172, bennersfarm.com), a private 15-acre family homestead first farmed in the 1700s, which operates much in the same way as it did under the watch of prior generations. The farm delights visitors with numerous seasonal activities like pumpkin and strawberry picking, maple sugaring and haunted hayrides, as well as educational workshops and courses throughout the year. Benner’s Farm also boasts the largest swing on LI, hung from what is reputedly the largest and oldest white oak in the Three Villages.
SHOPPING BACK IN TIME
As you wrap up your time visiting Stony Brook, remember that no visit to a destination is complete without some special souvenirs, and in the Stony Brook area the St. James General Store (516 Moriches Rd., St. James, 631-854-3740, facebook.com/St.JamesGeneralStore), built in 1857 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is the undisputed spot to find all those delightful bring-back goodies. In keeping with its history, the store preserves the experience of shopping in an 1800s general store, upgraded to offer modern patrons an expertly curated selection of fine gifts, books, toys, food and confections. Don’t leave the store—or Stony Brook—without stopping at its ever-popular penny candy counter, where you can stock up on old-timey treats for the trip home.