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Spotlight: Long Island

Visit for small-town charm and miles of stunningly scenic ocean beaches.

Long Island boasts nationally acclaimed white-sand beaches, world-class wineries, and fabulous shopping for every taste and budget. Tour historic lighthouses, whaling museums, and the Gold Coast mansions that inspired The Great Gatsby. Visitors love exploring the aquarium and playing in one of the best-rated water parks in the country.

Three Things You Can't Miss Family Fun | LGBT Fun | Spend the Day | Spend the Weekend | Spend the Week | Hotels & Stays | Where to Eat | Getting There
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Three Things You Can't Miss

Coopers beach

Beaches

From rocking out at the open-air concerts at Jones Beach to playing in the surf on the ritzy beaches of the Hamptons (including Coopers Beach—pictured—and Main Beach, ranked top beaches in the country by the experts at Dr. Beach), to sunbathing at the LGBT haven of Fire Island, Long Island has a beach for every traveler, even some fully accessible by train from New York City.

Pindar Vineyards

The North Fork

Dotted with charming towns and cozy inns, the North Fork is a down-to-earth alternative to the star-studded party scene in the Hamptons. With more than 60 wineries (Pindar Vineyards is pictured) and miles of farmland, the North Fork is one of the country’s most exciting wine and culinary regions. Visit the historic seaport of Greenport, the Long Island Aquarium in Riverhead, or Orient Beach State Park.

Montauk Point lighthouse

Montauk Point Lighthouse

Montauk Point Lighthouse is the oldest lighthouse in the state and the fourth oldest active lighthouse in the US. Construction was authorized by President George Washington himself in 1792 and completed in 1796. After being sufficiently wowed by the incredible views from the top of the lighthouse, check out the maritime museum on the property.

family fun

Harbes Family Farm

Harbes Family Farm

The Harbes family of farms offers an incredible array of activities for kids of all ages during the summer and fall seasons. From apple- and pumpkin-picking, to an epic corn maze (that turns spooky around Halloween time!), pony rides, hayrides, and more, there’s plenty of barnyard fun to be had. Seasonal Attraction: Mother’s Day Weekend through Halloween (check the farm’s Facebook page for more information).

Long Island Aquarium

Long Island Aquarium

With more than 100 exhibits and interactive experiences, including one of the largest all-living coral reef displays in the Western Hemisphere, it should come as no surprise that the Long Island Aquarium was named one of the Top 10 aquariums for children in the US by Parents magazine. Intrepid adventurers will love the pirate snorkel adventure and shark dive—not for the faint of heart! Don’t leave without a sea lion selfie.

Splish Splash water park red slide

Splish Splash

Voted one of the best water parks in the country by the Travel Channel, Splish Splash is a hit with anyone who loves to splish and splash. With rides and attractions ranging from the tiny tyke-friendly Octopus Pool, to the Mammoth River slide with family-size rafts, and slides that satisfy a need for speed, Splish Splash has something everyone will love. Seasonal Attraction: open Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day.

LGBT fun

Credit: NPA Photo/  J.Peters

Fire Island

With their exciting nightlife and stunning natural beauty, the Pines and Cherry Grove villages of Fire Island have been LGBT hot spots for decades. Don’t miss the historic Fire Island Lighthouse (pictured), which makes for the perfect backdrop for that all-important #vacationgram. This 31-mile-long car-free island is only accessible by ferry, so bring your walking shoes and/or rent a bike.

Concert for Pride on the Beach

Long Beach

Home of the annual Pride on the Beach celebration (pictured), Long Beach features more than three miles of sandy white beachfront perfect for swimming, playing beach volleyball, or just being a beach bum—pro-tip: chair and umbrella rentals are offered all along the beach by Beach Comfort. Best of all, it’s less than an hour away from NYC’s Penn Station by train and totally walkable from the station.

spend the day

OHEKA Castle

Explore Long Island’s mansion-studded Gold Coast. You might recognize the French chateau-style OHEKA Castle (pictured) from Taylor Swift’s music video for “Blank Space." Cap off your guided tour with lunch in the castle’s opulent restaurant.

Continue onto Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park and tour historic Coe Hall, a Tudor Revival-style estate. Walk through the 400-acre park and its elegant gardens and greenhouses.

Take to the water at the Waterfront Center, a sailing school and rental outfitter, where families with kids as young as five can take a group sailing lesson or paddle away on a double kayak or stand-up paddleboard. Rentals available late May to Labor Day.

Indulge in Italian specialties made from locally sourced ingredients at cozy Osteria Leana. Catch a show at the Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater, hosting waterfront concerts in the summer or the Paramount, a premier indoor concert venue that hosts major shows year-round.

spend the weekend

Lavendar by the bay

Saturday

At Harbes Family Farm, find plenty of family fun and delicious treats to fuel your day. Lavender is typically in full bloom from June to September at Lavender by the Bay (pictured), so visit for picturesque fields and a lavender-scented gift shop.

Join one of several organized wine tours, or plot your own route. Visit Bedell Cellars for the merlot served at President Obama's inauguration, Jamesport Vineyards for a rosé to make you think you're in France, Sparkling Pointe for bubbly, and Osprey's Dominion, where you can taste great wine and dominate at a variety of lawn games. Future wine aficionados are welcome at most wineries, where they can start developing their palates over a glass of pressed grape juice.

Head to Greenport, a seaside paradise with a charming, walkable downtown and an exciting dining scene. After an obligatory ride on the town's historic carousel, have dinner at Noah's, a New American restaurant with a fresh take on even fresher, locally sourced ingredients.

Montauk Point Lighthouse

Sunday

Start your day at the Sag Harbor Whaling & Historical Museum to learn about the history and importance of whaling in the area. Seasonal Attraction: open May through October.

Head out to explore Montauk Point Lighthouse (pictured, hours change depending on seasonality and weather, so check the website beforehand). Then grab a quick lunch with a view at neighboring George’s Lighthouse Cafe. Spend the afternoon spotting humpbacks and shearwaters on a five-hour whale-watching boat tour with Viking Fleet (July–Mid-September; advanced reservations recommended).

The boat returns you back just in time for dinner at Gosman's Dock, a dining and entertainment complex where you’ll find breathtaking views of Montauk Harbor as well as a seafood restaurant, cafe, clam bar, fish market, ice cream shop, and even free concerts on the weekends (May–Mid-October). If you’re traveling outside of peak season, check out South Edison, a popular downtown seafood restaurant open year-round.

spend the week

family at Old Westbury Gardens

Monday

Explore a different side of Long Island’s history, the roaring 'twenties, at the stunning Old Westbury Gardens (pictured), with 200 acres of gardens to explore, and OHEKA Castle, the 100-plus-room estate that inspired the lavish mansion in The Great Gatsby. OHEKA is now a luxury hotel with spectacular grounds and gardens, perfect for living out a fairy tale fantasy (which explains why it's a popular wedding destination). Marvel at the beauty of Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park in Oyster Bay (with more than 600 types of rhododendrons and azaleas, at their peak in May), and check the schedule for events like a summer concert series in a tree-lined setting. Get out on the water that surrounds this region by renting a kayak, paddle board, or sailboat at the Waterfront Center.

Blue Angel at Cradle of Aviation Museum

Tuesday

Get ready for an aerospace-inspired adventure and celebrate Long Island’s rich aviation history at the Cradle of Aviation Museum (pictured). Exhibits include more than 75 air and spacecraft, a state-of-the-art planetarium, and a dome theater featuring the highest quality film in the world. Head over to Stony Brook Village Center, a commercial district built to look like a traditional New England village with white clapboard buildings. While there, be sure to check out Brew Cheese for its Tuba Cheese (aged in the subways of New York City), Chocolate Works (where you can sample signature truffles or make your own chocolate), and enjoy a leisurely afternoon tea service at Robinson’s Tea Room (the fourth best place for high tea in the US per Travel & Leisure).

 

Lifeguard stand at Jones Beach

Wednesday

Stroll the boardwalk and take in the beautiful white-sand beach at Jones Beach State Park (pictured), one of the most popular beaches in the New York metro area. You can also fish or play a game of beachside mini golf, shuffleboard, or basketball. Visitors with disabilities can even borrow a WaterWheels floating beach wheelchair. Jones Beach is also home to Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater, a premier concert venue featuring top acts in an open-air amphitheater. New York State counts several Presidents among its native sons and this region is full of presidential history. Have a bully good time at Sagamore Hill National Historic Site, the home of #26, Teddy Roosevelt, which was used as his “Summer White House” while in office, located in the lovely town of Oyster Bay.

Main Beach in East Hampton on Long Island

Thursday

If you want to rub shoulders with the rich and famous, the picturesque beaches of the posh Hamptons are the place to be. Coopers Beach in Southampton has received top honors from the experts at Dr. Beach, making it one of the best places for a beach trip in the US. Best of all, you don’t have to own a multi-million dollar home to enjoy the beach—you can purchase a day pass onsite. Southampton Village offers a fabulous dining and shopping scene in a walkable downtown area. The Hamptons are also a hot spot for art, boasting numerous galleries, the world-class Parrish Art Museum, and the Pollock-Krasner House, former home of the famed artist Jackson Pollock and his abstract expressionist wife, Lee Krasner. Another beach in the area that has received accolades from Dr. Beach is Main Beach in East Hampton (pictured).

sharks at Long Island Aquarium

Friday

Say hello to some of New York’s wettest residents at the Long Island Aquarium in Riverhead (pictured). This aquarium offers adventures and interactive experiences for everyone's bucket lists. The bravest of the brave can dive with sharks (ages 12+, ages 12–17 must be accompanied by a parent/guardian), and everyone else can paint a masterpiece with a sea lion, take photos with penguins, and hold giant beetles. Little ones will love the stingray feeding station (they don’t actually sting, but you might get splashed) and butterfly garden. Shop ‘til you drop at the Tanger Outlet Center, where you’ll find more than 165 manufacturers and designer outlets. Whether you’re into huge slides, wave pools, kiddie pools, or lazy rivers, head over to family-favorite Splish Splash for 96 acres of waterpark fun.

Chocolate cakes from North Fork Chocolate Factory

Saturday

In summer or fall, stop by Harbes Family Farm, where you’ll find a farm stand selling produce, U-pick apples and pumpkins, an epic corn maze, and a wine barn. The area’s rich soil makes for reds, whites, and rosés, so sample them all in Long Island Wine Country (organized tours and shuttles make it simple!). For sweets, stop at the North Fork Chocolate Company (pictured) or grab a cone at the Magic Fountain, an old-timey ice cream shop with modern flavors. Find unique shops and stellar farm-to-table restaurants in Greenport. Ride the 100-year-old carousel, visit the East End Seaport Museum and Marine Foundation to learn about Long Island’s maritime heritage, and take a cruise to the Long Beach Bar "Bug" lighthouse. Nearby Lavender by the Bay grows beautiful lavender fields each summer and offers a cute gift shop.

Dunes at Hither Hills State Park

Sunday

Visit the famous (and older than 200 years!) Montauk Point Lighthouse, affectionately nicknamed “the end of the world” due to its location on the easternmost tip of Long Island. Climb to the top of the tower for stunning 360-degree views and visit the museum to read about a history that includes George Washington, World War II, and more! Explore downtown’s bustling restaurants and pubs, many offering live music during the summer. If you're coming in winter, try a seal-watching walk in Montauk Point State Park. If you’re in town between July and September, take a whale-watching cruise with Viking Fleet, which boasted a 100% whale-spotting success rate for their 2018 expeditions. In the summer, take a dip in the ocean at Hither Hills State Park (pictured), where you can spend a night camping under the stars.

 

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getting there

By Train

Take the LIRR from Penn Station in New York City. Check the LIRR getaways page for special deals that include admissions to major attractions and guided day tours.

By Car

From New York City: under 1 hour
From Philadelphia: 2 hours, 15 minutes
From Albany: 2 hours, 45 minutes
From Boston: 4 hours, 15 minutes
From Washington, DC: 5 hours, 15 minutes

By Plane

Long Island MacArthur Airport (ISP) is located in Islip.
John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK): 30 minutes
LaGuardia Airport (LGA): 30 minutes

By Bus

Service from New York City to the Hamptons, North Fork, and Montauk is available on Hampton Jitney and Hampton Luxury Liner coaches.

By Boat

If you’re going to Fire Island, the only way to get there is by ferry service from Bay Shore (served by the LIRR) as no cars are allowed. Ferries to Shelter Island leave from Greenport and North Haven. Ferry lines also connect the island to Bridgeport and New London, Connecticut.

Bonus Tip

Visit Discover Long Island for more information.