Summer is the time to take it easy and enjoy simple pleasures like a walk in a garden or a day at the beach. Add the excitement of the greatest city in the world, and you've got one very cool getaway. Within minutes of New York City's entertainment and cultural treasures, discover Long Island's quaint villages, white sand beaches, rustic vineyards, and roadside stands selling fresh local produce.
Choose the activities that suit your style and schedule. You could spend a few hours or an entire day at each one.
Staten Island Botanical Garden
Take a scenic (free) ride from Manhattan on the Staten Island Ferry, named one of the 7 Most Beautiful Ferry Rides in the US by Budget Travel. It will lead you to one of New York City's most unique gardens, on the grounds of the Snug Harbor Cultural Center. Catch sweet scented breezes as you walk amid evergreen mazes, waterfalls and butterflies in more than 20 themed gardens, from classical to exotic. Take a moment to relax and contemplate your journey in the Chinese Scholar's Garden with reflecting ponds and tranquil courtyards.
New York Yankees or New York Mets
If you're a sports fan, catching a game at the ballpark is classic summer fun. Reserve your tickets ahead of time, and root for either of the home teams in their brand new stadiums. You can learn about the team's rich legacy on a Yankee Stadium tour that includes the Yankees Museum, Monument Park and the dugout.
Central Park Summerstage
Take in a concert, dance, play or opera under the stars, during this free performing arts festival that runs throughout the summer. Before the show you can visit the zoo, take a trolley tour, or have a meal at the Boathouse Restaurant. Reserve a table on the deck, where you can watch the swans, rowboats, and occasional gondola drift by.
Jones Beach State Park
Explore Long Island's most famous park, with miles of ocean beach for swimming, surf fishing and bird watching. Go golfing at the 18-hole pitch and putt course or check out local wildlife at the Theodore Roosevelt Nature Center. In the evening, you can catch a concert at the Jones Beach Theater for live music on the bay.
Here's another option. Conde Nast Traveler called this part of Long Island the ultimate summer playground. Every year, Coopers Beach in Southampton and Main Beach at East Hampton make Dr. Beach's famous list of the Top 10 in America. Besides swimming, fishing and occasional movie star sightings, you'll find upscale shops and galleries, seaside bike trails, and world class wineries in the Hamptons. Restaurants and inns range from casual to posh.
Channing Daughters Winery
This small Southampton winery is famous for its quality artisanal wines. Grapes from unique Long Island vineyards go into their acclaimed whites. Stop by for an informal tasting. If you have time, keep in mind other Long Island wineries. The region has over 60 vineyards.
Sag Harbor Whaling Museum
Learn about local history as you walk through exhibits housed in a 19th-century mansion. The village of Sag Harbor used to be a bustling port town where whalers of all nationalities converged. Take a stroll up Main Street and peruse its old-time storefronts and antique shops.
Hither Hills State Park
You can see the unique "walking dunes" of Napeague Harbor on the eastern boundary of this park. The white sand beach here is perfect for a picnic and swimming. If you want to extend your stay, consider camping. Right on the ocean, the campground was recently named one of the Top 100 in the nation by ReserveAmerica. Be sure to make a reservation; it is also one of the most popular.
Deep Hollow Ranch
In Montauk, visit a 350-year-old working cattle ranch known as the birthplace of the American cowboy. Saddle up for a trail ride on the beach, with a real cowboy as your guide. Or take a horse-drawn wagon tour through scenic pastures, past cattle herds, and up to a sweeping hilltop view of Montauk's cliffs.
Montauk Point Lighthouse
At Montauk Point State Park, take in the view from the lighthouse commissioned by George Washington in 1792. You can learn more about local history in the museum at the keeper's house. On the easternmost tip of Long Island, about 130 miles from Manhattan, this area is one of the best places in the world for surf fishing. Check out park events like fishing tournaments, hike the nature trails, or simply relax and watch the seals on the rocks offshore.