Monday, May 17, 2021

List: Ten things to do and places to see on Long Island - Suffolk County Edition.

Every few weeks I get a message on Pinterest through my Explore Long Island board (link).  They're usually nice people asking for advice.  They want to know different things to do on Long Island, where some of my pictures or videos were taken, or the best hotels to stay at.  It's funny because I never think of my home as a travel destination, but it's definitely a beautiful place!

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The next series of posts (one for Suffolk County & one for Nassau County) are dedicated to some of my favorite places not counting restaurants or bars worth visiting on Long Island.  We're skipping right past the typical tourist spots like The Hamptons, Jones Beach, Nassau Coliseum, Splish Splash ew, local wineries, and Adventureland.  Instead, I'm taking you to some of the spots that are loved by the locals.

Tip:  If you know when you're coming to visit Long Island, do a quick search to see what local festivals and festivities are going on at that time.  There's never a weekend that passes without something going on.  Take a moment to see if there's something that peaks your interest!

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10 things to do on Long Island - Suffolk County edition.

1.  Montauk, NY
I had to start with this one because I can't believe how overlooked Montauk is.  If you're looking for a beach vacation on the coast of Long Island, drive right through the pompous, uppity towns of the Hamptons until you reach Montauk.  Stay at Gurney's Montauk Resort (link), visit the Montauk Point Lighthouse (link), eat the best seafood ever, enjoy the sunrays, walk through the quaint town, go fishing, surf, lick an ice cream cone while sitting on Ronjo (link), or just act like a beach bum!

Note:  Some of my favorite childhood memories were at Gurney's while beach bumming it through Montauk, NY.

top ten things to do on vacation in Long Island New York

One of my favorite spots to frequent on Long Island is the Bayard Cutting Arboretum.  One can find themselves easily lost in this large sanctuary tucked into the heart of the south shore.  If visiting between April and November, an $8 parking fee will apply but it's totally worth the price.  There's an endless array of trails to get lost along while admiring different plants from all over the world.  Thanks to the abundance of vegetation, this is also a great sanctuary for birds which helps make it my favorite spot.  Walk along the River Walk to watch the water fowl, fish, and admire the mansions across the river.  Tour the historic mansion on site while enjoying an afternoon cup of tea with finger sandwiches to feel like you jumped back in time.  Take your kids to the farm to feed the chickens, get lost in the dahlia garden, and spy on the birds living in the wall of birdhouses.  Finally, be an explorer and cross the ancient bridge to have an adventure on the trails of paradise island.  The arboretum is truly a place that you have to visit to fully appreciate!

Note:  You can click this link for a copy of the Arboretum's map and important information.

While not as hyped as Yankee stadium or Citi Field stadium, the Long Island Ducks stadium is tons of fun not to mention a lot more sanitary with a real parking lot.  Go see a minor league baseball game, cheer on the Long Island Ducks by quacking into their souvenir beaks, and stay late to catch a seasonal fireworks display.

You don't have to drive to the Bronx to spend an entire afternoon at the zoo.  Instead, plan an afternoon at the Long Island Game Farm in Manorville, NY (link).  This overlooked Long Island gem is commonly preferred to the zoos in the hustle of the city.  Here you can feed the animals including a giraffe, have many intimate encounters, enjoy a pony ride, eat a snack, watch live shows, and see unique artwork done by local artists.

Note:  Manorville or Calverton is another commonly overlooked gem.  Most of Long Island's farms including the famous lavender and sunflower farms, countless wineries, beaches, hiking, nature preserves, and more are all located here.

5.  Greenport, NY
Your Long Island vacation wouldn't be complete without spending a day in Greenport.  This historic village is famous for its beaches, boating activities, and wineries.  It's also known for it's restaurants and museums (link).  The most well known of the local museums in Greenport is the Railroad Museum of Long Island (link).  If you're taking the trip to the north fork, make sure to check the Calendar of Events (link) page to see what unique festivals and happenings are going on.  If visiting in the Spring, print the map for the Cherry Blossom Festival (link).  It's truly amazing!  Before doing any of this, you have to schedule in time to do my favorite thing while in Greenport.  Take the time to ride on the historic Jess Owen Carousel in Mitchell Park, Greenport, NY (link).  This merry-go-round is over 100 years old and only $2 a ride.  Mitchell Park is also the home to a seasonal, outdoor ice skating rink and the Camera Obscura (link) which costs only $1 to enter.

While I wouldn't recommend a trip to Flanders just to see The Big Duck, it's worth stopping by if visiting #4 or #9.  This gigantic building in the shape of a duck is on the National Register of Historic Places and dates back to 1931.  In addition to the photo op and visiting a piece of Long Island's history, you can sign up for a short tour, browse through the gift shop, visit the Duck Farming Exhibit, or participate in seasonal events.  Some examples of events is the annual lighting ceremony in December or the Duck Easter Egg Hunt in the Spring.

top ten things to do on vacation in Long Island New York

7.  William K. Vanderbilt "Idle Hour" Mansion
This estate dates back to 1878 where it was owned by the Vanderbilt family.  It was later owned by Dowling College and is now owned by another private organization.  This 110 room home is the 15th largest home in the USA and is truly a sight to behold.  Tours aren't running due to the change of ownership, but it's still worth the short trip from the arboretum just to see it's magnificence.  As a reminder, the rear exterior of the mansion is visible during the River Walk at the arboretum.  While visiting the mansion, make sure you get to see the Vanderbilt Well, original Power House, and the "Love Tree" (a 100-year-old weeping beech tree).

8.  Fire Island, NY
Fire Island is the place to be during the Summer time on Long Island.  This thin strip of land is easily accessed by a short ferry ride.  Spend the day or stay overnight at the famous The Palm's Hotel (link).  This hotel is where many Long Islanders go for a short getaway.  Some pluses to this getaway hotel is their bay side cabanas, the oceanside beaches across the road, kayaks for rent, and an onsite restaurant.  Fire Island doesn't have any cars on it, so you'll see loads of people enjoying leisurely bike rides to get around.  Luckily, The Palm's Hotel offers free bikes to guests.  Make sure you visit the quaint town in the heart of Fire Island where you can get ice cream, frozen drinks, and delicious seafood with ocean views all around.  Spend a day hiking through the island's nature trails, just be warned that you may stumble upon a nude beach or be greeted by fearless deer along the paths.

Don't want to spend days beach bumming it on Fire Island?  That's fine, but you totally should consider visiting the Fire Island Lighthouse (link).  It's accessible by car, attached to a small museum, hosts countless events, and has a view to remember from the very top.

Note:  There are several communities on Fire Island, each unique.  The one I'm directing you to is called Ocean Beach and is family friendly.  Of the 17 communities, I've been to 4.  All have their unique characteristics and are totally worth visiting.  Click this link to see which community you'd best like to visit.  Love the bluntness and honesty describing each community on their site!

long island aquarium in riverhead ny

Many people are surprised to learn that Long Island has such a large aquarium to visit.  Our local aquarium can take up a solid afternoon when visiting with kids.  There are indoor, outdoor, and interactive exhibits on site.  My favorite is the exotic bird exhibit!  Start by checking out the Events Page (link) so that you can plan your day accordingly.  For even more fun, pre-register for some of their adventures including a 2HR Atlantis Explorer Tour Boat ride (link), a bug encounter (link), Penguin Encounters (link), Pirate Snorkel Adventure (link), Sea Lion Encounters (link), and MUCH more!  With plenty to do at the Long Island Aquarium, there's one thing thing in particular that it's famous for.  They're known for offering caged Shark Dives (link).  The aquarium makes for a fun afternoon while being conveniently close to many other fun stops on Long Island.  The only downside is, to participate in your favorite encounters there are hefty price tags in addition to your admission fees.

Stony Brook is a beautiful town in the middle of Long Island.  The hamlet was established in 1660 and as a result is home to many historical buildings and things to see.  It's also the hometown to some beautiful north shore beaches aka, the rocky beaches, the Avalon Nature Preserve (link), and The Jazz Loft (link).  While these are all great places, my favorite part of Stony Brook is the Long Island Museum since it's a little bit of everything listed packed into one.  You'll find ever changing exhibits on display plus a few staples.  Some of the staples include The Carriage Museum (link), a real school house from the 1800s, a historical barn from the late 1700s, a blacksmith shop that dates back to 1834, and a fountain and horse trough from 1880 (my favorite of their historical exhibits) and more.  If the museum exhibits and historical sites aren't enough to keep you occupied at the Long Island Museum, take a stroll through the Herb garden, look at some modern art, and enjoy their famous crocheted trees.  Like most else on my list, make sure to check their website before arriving to see what special events are going on so that you can coordinate around the ones that you're interested in.

Fun Fact:  The crocheted trees of The Long Island Museum are covered in brightly colored, crocheted sweaters that are made to fit snug around their trunks.  What makes these even more special is the community involvement.  They encourage volunteers to participate in creating these works of art while keeping the tree cozy.

Have you ever been to Long Island?



  1. I'm loving that massive duck! Our local ZOO just got a new leopard from Italy, but I don't support ZOOs so I won't be visiting the poor cat.

    1. The massive duck is super cute around Christmas time when they dress him up in holiday attire and lights

  2. Ok, first of all, I decided to look on a map and I feel really dumb because I didn’t realize that you are not a separate peninsula from Brooklyn and Queens! Lol, maybe I used to know and forgot! Not sure I ever told you, but my husband lived in Brooklyn (Sunset Park) when he did a year long internship with US Customs at the WTC in college. So, I visited there twice, but I don’t think you were born yet!! Booooo!

    Otherwise, no, I’ve only seen the fun of Fire Island and Montauk from watching reality shows like Real Housewives of NY and Beach House and I think the Vanderpump Rules kids vacationed there once. It looks and sounds like there’s a lot of great stuff to do. I bet the wineries are really pretty. Do most people work in the city? Do you go into the city much? I don’t remember you posting much about it.

    1. My family is all from Brooklyn. Both of my parents actually grew up on the same block in Brooklyn! When they moved out east, they relocated to the same town on Long Island. Crazy coincidence or is it because the Italians congregate together?? Who knows.. LOL

      No, I hate the city. In fact, I prefer to drive around the city and work in Jersey before ever going into Manhattan. Pre-pandemic, I did this once a week. I haven't been to the city since I was pregnant with my 8 year old daughter, and even then, it was begrudgingly. I took Pat to the city to tour almost 10 years which is probably the most I've ever been. Unfortunately for him, I think he realized how bad of a tour guide I was since I'm just completely unfamiliar with the area! It's dirty, crowded, and rats the size of cats walk through the streets.

    2. LOL! Omg, my husband HATED it, too! His car was broken into the first night he moved there and stereo stolen. He was just not a fan of any of it! Had to step over a blood soaked sidewalk one day near his subway station in Brooklyn. But I had fun visiting him twice! And then I chaperoned Middle Child’s high school choir/orchestra trip to NYC in 2011 and had a blast! He’s had to go back on business over the years and always complains! Can’t believe it’s been over 8 years since you went back, being so close!!! None of the Xmas festivities lure you in?

      My husband’s landlord in Brooklyn lived on the main floor of the brownstone he rented in. They had an 8 year old daughter that was adorable and she would give him his mail, which was mostly letters from me! We named our oldest daughter her name and yes, I think they were Italian.

    3. The Christmas festivities are spectacular, the Macy's window displays being my #1 favorite thing. The last time I went, it was so crowded that it took away from the whole experience. Maybe now is a good time for us to go there since it's nowhere near as crowded. Long Island is just like the city, without all the tourists. Everything you can find in NYC, you find here so there really is no need. If we do go into the city for a Christmas thing, it will be to take my daughter to see the Rockettes.

  3. So, I'm one who would make the drive just to see the duck LOL. I love weird little attractions like that though.

    1. We did during the height of the lockdown b/c what else was there to do.. but I'd hate to direct someone to do that drive under false pretenses that it's something really exciting. LOL But, I'm with you on liking the weird little attractions!


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