My home <3
No matter how much I travel and move, Long Island will forever be my home. I love the way you can spend one day on an isolated beach and the next in the second largest city in the world. You can celebrate all four seasons. You experience every kind of culture, and with it every kind of food – but especially Italian. Really good Italian. The pizza and bagels are better on Long Island than they are in NYC – it’s true. And the farther out east you go, the harder it is to remember how close you are to Manhattan. There are wineries, farms, and orchards as far as the eye can see and some of the most expensive, beautiful and gigantic homes in the world.
The thing is, when I tell people where I’m from their first question is, “how far are you from New York City?” I can get into Midtown Manhattan in 45 minutes by car if there’s no traffic. There’s always traffic, but that’s besides the point. I always take the train anyway, and that’s a little over an hour. I digress.
There is SO MUCH to do on Long Island (hence the length of this blog) WITHOUT including NYC (Queens and Brooklyn are technically on Long Island, no matter what their residents say – look at a map). Plus, it’s GORGEOUS! I remember taking a few of my friends home with me for a week last year and getting upset when they only wanted to stay for a few days, because I had a ridiculous amount of things to show them, from the Bronx to the Hamptons and back. I don’t think they, or anybody realizes how much there actually is on this small-but-bigger-than-Delaware island.
*** If you are planning a trip to Long Island, ask me about places to stay. It’s not a huge island, but you won’t be able to see everything because certain things are a bit of a drive from…other things. Let me know what your priorities are and I can tell you where you’d be best off staying.***
For the future of this blog, I will try to keep my introductions short, but I felt I owed this to my home. I commend you if you read all of it, and you get a medal if you read every word on this page. You can check out my blog of just my hometown, West Babylon, here, and my Hamptons/Montauk/Eastern LI blog here.
Note that shopping malls, beaches and parks each get their own section. Ok carry on.
- Splish Splash – This waterpark is a big hit with the Travel Channel. They’ve rated Splish Splash as the 8th best water park in the country for kids (there are a lot of water parks in this country). I’m pretty sure I’ve seen it on higher rankings in the past, but I can settle for 8th.The only thing that’s not so great about Splish Splash is crowd control. Prepare to wait for the good rides. Wear a ton of sunscreen. Most of the queue lines have natural shade though, so that’s good. I 10/10 recommend the short little red slides they call “Shotgun Falls.” It’s a super short ride but it usually has a super short wait to match. It also looks simple but it’s actually very thrilling. At least I think so. I’m normally not a fan of body slides, but this one is so much fun and you FLY off at the end. It’s really fun to watch your friends flail around like they’re trying to fly up instead of down. “Dragon’s Den” is a really great one, but getting stuck is a possibility.
- Worth the wait: “Bootleggers Run” (water coaster), “Alien Invasion,” “Mammoth River”.
- Not worth the wait: Lazy River (always the longest line for this – why????), “Giant Twister” (though it’s not bad if the line is short), “Dr. Von’s Dark Tunnel of Terror” (again, do it if the line is short but the ride lasts for like three seconds).
- Adventureland – First of all, yes, this is the one from the movie of the same name. This amusement park is definitely more for the younger ones, though there are a few rides that will make your stomach drop. They have all your typical theme park games and a full-on arcade. It’s a small place, but it does the trick for the young ‘uns.
- Mini Golf – There are courses ALL OVER Long Island, but I attached the link to Deer Park’s Heartland course because it’s my personal favorite. Each hole is different and exciting, and it’s cheap enough at $6 during the day and $8 at night. They also have a pretty nice driving range and a par-3 course.
- Actual Golf – Again, there are quite a few of these over the island. Let me know if you want specifics.
- Long Island Aquarium – I hate the ocean and everything about it, but I love this place. They have a fair share of land dwellers, too, and they do great research and conservation. They take in lots of sea lions and turtles that they find injured on beaches. Also penguins. They have African penguins. If you have an extra $50 on you, you can do a meet-and-greet with them. This was one of the better experiences I’ve had in my 20 years on this earth. They tell you everything you could ever want to know about their penguins, and you get to walk in their exhibit and then get to pet one of them. My personal favorites are Sheldon (named for the Big Bang Theory character because he’s socially awkward) and Pam (named for The Office character). Pam simultaneously sneezed on me and bit my wrist, but I like to think the biting was the result of the sneeze. This is in Riverhead, NY and is surrounded by cute little restaurants and stores. It’s also near Splish Splash and a huge Tanger Outlet Center. Riverhead is a great town to stay in if you’re visiting Long Island. It’s out east, so you’re close to the Hamptons and Montauk. There is a hotel right next door to the aquarium!
- Long Island Game Farm – A small zoo that I haven’t been to in ages but that I used to beg my mom to take me to. Their giraffe exhibit was always my favorite.
- White Post Farms – I highly recommend trying their pies. The petting zoo is great for the little ones; I’ve been to quite a few birthday parties here. You can feed most of the animals, and they have pony rides. There are a lot of cool things in the shop as well.
- Fire Island – Take the ferry from Bayshore, NY and find yourself in Ocean Beach, Fire Island, NY. The ferry is actually a nice ride. The view is pretty cool, especially from the top deck, but bring a sweatshirt even in July. A quaint little beach town where cars are not allowed and flip flops are basically the required footwear. Relax on the beach, eat some awesome seafood (don’t worry, there are other options), let the kids play, check out some cute boutiques and gift shops, take walks through the neighborhood of mostly summer homes, but some permanent residences, get some drinks and ice cream, have an amazing day or night. But be careful to not miss the last ferry back to Long Island. Check the schedule before you go.
- Oheka Castle – Fan of Kevin Jonas? Taylor Swift? How about Derek Jeter? Well, this beautiful mansion is where Kevin Jonas got married, Derek Jeter was rumored to be married, and Taylor Swift shot her Blank Space music video. It’s a little pricey, but worth it just to wander the grounds and snap a few photos. I did a photoshoot there when I was 16, you can see those below! You can book a room or a table.
- Vanderbilt Museum & Planetarium – Even if you’re not into the museum, the grounds are BEAUTIFUL. It’s totally worth checking out. This is on the north shore of Long Island, so if you look across the water you can faintly see the shore of Connecticut. I loved the planetarium as a kid, but I also wanted to be an astronaut. You can also take a tour of the mansion. There’s a lot of history there, and it’s so beautiful.
- The Hamptons – Now, there’s a ton to do here, so I would recommend you make it a day trip if you aren’t staying in the Hamptons. I will be creating a separate blog for the Hamptons down the line, but for now I’ll just say this: food. shopping. beach. The Hamptons encompass everything good about Long Island.
- Montauk – Similar to The Hamptons but farther out East and slightly more affordable. I provided a link to the Montauk Point Lighthouse, because that’s a great thing to check out – there’s some great history behind it, and the view from the top is great if you’re willing to brave the climb. Montauk is also filled with beaches, seafood, and mini-golf.
- North Fork Wineries – The farther east you go on Long Island, the more it starts to feel like upstate New York and less like NYC. In the fall, you’ll find apple picking and hayrides, and in the summer, you can tour the wineries and taste some of the best Long Island-made wines.
*Note that you have to pay for parking for most of these too.*
- Sunken Meadow – New York State and Long Island should be recognized more for parks. The bulk of this park is just like any other, but the nature trails are absolutely gorgeous! If you’re super into hiking or biking this is a cool place to check out. It’s especially beautiful in the fall when the weather’s right, but try it anytime.
- Heckscher State Park – Robert Moses faced an uphill battle to turn this old estate into a park, but now it’s a beautiful area in Islip, NY that faces the Great South Bay, which is the body of water between Long Island and Fire Island. The history of this park (as well as Robert Moses’ self titled beach/park) is very interesting, if you’re into that sort of thing. He’s sort of a Long Island legend, see.
- Belmont Lake State Park – Also seen here. Great for picnics in the warmer months, and you can rent cute little paddle boats and row boats. A nearby stable uses the horse trails there, and there are walking/running/biking trails as well. Dog walking is definitely a thing there, as well as fishing. It is not uncommon to find people throwing around frisbees or playing horseshoes, and there are softball fields as well. There are also playgrounds for the kids!
- Argyle Lake – I know I’ve already talked about this in the Babylon post too, but no matter where you’re staying on Long Island, you should make your way over to Babylon Village. You can check out the shops and restaurants and take a walk around this lake. It is almost guaranteed that if you drive or walk by during the day you will see a wedding party, a sweet 16, or some other sort of group taking pictures there. You’ll see swans and geese, but don’t you dare try to feed them. It WILL backfire on you. There are often seasonal festivals by the lake, usually including lots of vendors in little tents selling everything from Christmas tree ornaments to wooden ducks and doll clothes. The doll clothes have been a big one lately, I don’t know what’s up with that. Anyway, it’s worth checking out. There’s a park for kids, too.
I wasn’t a fan of beaches when I was younger. It meant driving over bridges with whoknowswhat below them, getting wrapped in slimy seaweed, giving my sandy lunch to the seagulls, and getting covered in baby powder at the end of the day so as not to bring the sand into the car. But I’ve grown to love the feeling of the sun on my face with my hands in the sand. Note that you have to pay for parking for all of these (locals often have season passes). Usually it’s free after four and throughout the winter season.
- Robert Moses – Also seen here. My favorite state beach near home! Certain fields have different features. If I’m not mistaken, field 5 is the one with the playground for the kids. Each one has bathrooms, concession and lifeguards, so your priorities are covered.
- Jones Beach – The famous one. This is the largest and most popular beach on Long Island, which means it’s also the most crowded. It’s also one of the closest beaches to NYC, so city folk come in by the bus load in the summers. There is also a huge amphitheater where major artists perform (and you can almost always hear the concerts from the parking lot, so tailgating is a thing). There are various activities scattered along the fields (mini-golf, shuffleboard, basketball, etc.) as well as kids playgrounds and a boardwalk with an incredible view at sunset. The “pencil” is an iconic structure in the middle of the traffic circle that connects roads to the different fields. Look for that when you’re driving in, but please don’t stop in the middle of the road to take a picture.
- North Shore Beaches – I’m a south shore girl, so I love the likes of Robert Moses and Jones Beach, but the North Shore Beaches have notoriously beautiful views. They also have very rocky sand, so watch where you step and keep your shoes on. The south shore beaches are best for laying in the sand, splashing in the waves, and even surfing (see unique shops section), and the north shore beaches are great for walks along the water.
- Town Beaches – I mentioned a few of these in the Babylon blog; these beaches are much smaller than the state-owned beaches and typically have less amenities, but they’re much quieter which is great if you’re craving a relaxing day in the sun. My favorite is Captree.
Because shopping on Long Island is a thing, I guess.
- Roosevelt Field – This place is a MONSTER. It’s the second largest mall in the state of New York and the ninth largest in the country, just after the Galleria in Dallas. It’s a bad idea if you’re looking for something specific, but if you feel like shopping and wandering, it’s fun to check out. I recommend not going on a weekend. Go during the workday if possible. It’s a simon mall, and it probably has your favorite store.
- Walt Whitman – A more upscale option in the town of Huntington, which also has a cute village that you might like to walk around as well as some other hotspots. This mall is great if you want specifics like jewelry, purses, and other accessories. It’s made of mostly smaller stores, but the Macy’s is pretty big (though it’s missing a juniors section and I don’t believe they have a big kids section). There is an apple store, which is probably the most important store in 2015. Anyway, if you are a tourist on Long Island, this mall is mostly on the list incase you realize you need to buy something specific. It’s a really nice mall, but it’s a mall you could find anywhere.
- Tanger Outlets Deer Park – This outdoor center is filled to the rim with deals and steals. Check out Nordstrom Rack, Saks Off 5th, Nike, and so many more outlet stores. Stop by Johnny Rockets or Nathans for lunch (or Chipotle, I guess…), grab some things you don’t need from Christmas Tree Shops, pick up some giant candy from It’s Sugar, and see a movie at the Regal theater. In the colder months, find the ice skating rink in the center. In the summertime, lookout for free concerts!
- Tanger Outlets Riverhead – If you’re going to be out there anyway for the aquarium, Splish Splash, or anything else, this is a good stop. It’s split into two separate units, but both are huge. The organization in Deer Park is a little better, but they have most of the same stores with a few add-ins. Notably, there is a Pottery barn here.
- Zinburger – Conveniently located in the Walt Whitman (Huntington, NY) mall (described above). In my humble opinion, this is THE BEST GOURMET BURGER ON LONG ISLAND. If the ambiance matters to you, that’s pretty cool too. The waiters and waitresses all wear denim button-downs, jeans, and red converse. There are high-top tables and a large bar, which looks a lot like a sports bar though the rest of the restaurant feels a little more like a modern, urban restaurant and less like a place to watch the game. It works really well! They also have really good shakes in really fun flavors (i.e. for December, they have a Gingerbread option). Also pie. They have pie.
- The Post Office Cafe – Also mentioned here. While it’s no Zinburger, this is another place for a great burger. I can’t explain it, but something about their buns is amazing, and they are toasted to perfection. I can’t even tell you what’s different about the burgers, they’re just good…like, really good. The Post Office also has incredible wings, so I would start out with those if I were you. Everything else on the menu is great too, but their “Killer Mac ‘n’ Cheese” is particularly good and you can top it off with pulled pork for that extra deliciousness. It has a pretty cool bar scene, they often have live acoustic performers at night, but it’s also fine for kids. I’ve been going there forever with my family and they have a strong kids menu.
- Mulberry Street – Also mentioned here. This is going to be one of your better choices for Italian while you’re in one of the most Italian-American areas of the country. It’s fairly priced and not too fancy. Mulberry Street has always been my family’s favorite choice for pizza take-out. If you’re visiting from out of state, you HAVE to have some Long Island pizza, and this is a good place to do it. Of course, there are pizza places on every corner and they will all probably be the best you’ve had, but anyway…Mulberry Street is half traditional pizza place, half traditional Italian restaurant, and they have AMAZING meals if you want something a little nicer than pizza. They give you bread on the table and they usually have these little pizza break things in there. I don’t know what they’re actually called, but I call them pizza bread, which may or may not be redundant. But it’s just a little roll with mozzerella and marinara so it’s like a little pizza. On a roll instead of crust. I don’t know, just try it. Chicken parm is always a classic, so I recommend that. Or ravioli. Or anything on the menu. Go here.
- Ciao Baby – A super-fun, family-style environment with two locations on the island (Commack and Massapequa). Each plate serves at least 2-3 people, and you really can’t choose wrong. They also have an impressive desert selection. This is a family favorite for birthdays and celebrations. I highly recommend the Sicilian Rice Ball as an appetizer.
- Tennesee Jed’s – If you’re coming to Long Island from anywhere outside of New York, you really should focus on Italian food. However, this is the best southern BBQ there is on Long Island. It’s owned by an old couple from TN – Memphis, I think. The sweet tea (which is really good) is served in mason jars and the ribs really hit the spot.
- Milk and Sugar Cafe – If you’re into the whole brunch thing, this is a must. It’s also a cute place to sit down for a regular meal, but their brunch is adorable. You feel like you’re sitting in someones living room. It’s a whole experience.
- Ralph’s Italian Ices – These are everywhere on Long Island. If you’re there in the summer, try to find one. They have an array of flavors – no one can walk away disappointed.
- Kirsch’s Restaurant and Ice Cream Parlor – This place is like a gourmet Friendly’s. It’s a 50’s-style ice cream parlor. You can grab dinner there first, or you can just dive right into a delicious sundae. Pick your flavors and toppings or choose one of the ready-made options. It’s all made on site and it’s all delicious. Fluffernutter is a favorite flavor. As seen below, I went for the mint-chocolate chip ice cream with whipped cream and sprinkles on top of a brownie. Bonus points if you can say the name of the town where it’s located – Massapequa.
- New York-style Diners – Everyone on Long Island has a favorite diner. Mine is the Terrace Diner, as mentioned in the Babylon blog. But any place that looks like a traditional diner on the outside is likely to have a similar menu. If you don’t have traditional diners where you’re from, you might not understand, but you need to try one.
- Literally anywhere – for a bagel. I’m pretty sure each individual town has at least 10 bagel stores. Most have incredible displays of flavored cream cheese and other spreads, and the bagels are made every morning (which means if you go just before close, you’re likely to get a few extra for free because they don’t resell the next day – they’re always made fresh). I have a few favorites in Babylon, but if you’re on Long Island and looking for something near you, let me know where you’re going to be.
- Literally anywhere – for pizza. I mentioned my favorite in Babylon (Mulberry Street – also try Alitalia and Villa Rosa), but every town on Long Island will argue that THEY have the best pizza place. Wherever you find yourself, there’s a good chance you’re going to stumble upon some good pizza. Just don’t go to Dominos and say you tried Long Island pizza. And don’t let anyone fool you into thinking NYC and Long Island pizza are the same.
- Literally anywhere – for Chinese food. I didn’t realize until I moved to Tennessee for college that good Chinese food does not exist everywhere. In Babylon, I typically order from Panda Kitchen, which is right across from where I went to high school. However, I’ve had friends and family order from places closer to their homes and enjoyed those meals just as much. It’s just really good here. Maybe it’s the same thing they say about the pizza and bagels – maybe it’s the water.
- Ooh La La – Also seen here. This is possibly the cutest clothing boutique in the entire world. They only exist on Long Island right now, and have six locations including Babylon, Sayville, Huntington, Long Beach, Rockville Centre, and Fire Island . It’s small, but that’s part of the charm. Everything they have is adorable – clothes, jewelry, shoes, scarfs, you name it, I love it. I always say that if I could pick one store to make my closet, it would be Ooh La La. Or maybe Anthropologie. I would have more options at Anthropologie.
- Bunger Surf Shop –Also seen here. I wouldn’t really know because I’m not a surfer, but apparently people come from all over to go to this surf shop in Babylon. When you walk in, they have proof that famous surfers and athletes have been there, so that’s kind of cool. It’s one of those places that I always pop into when I’m showing someone around town. I’m proud to have a place like that so close to home.