Many first-time visitors to New York City spend the bulk of their time in Manhattan and Brooklyn, but you don’t want to miss out on nearby Long Island! For example, visitors to Long Island enjoy an ocean setting, and it’s a wonderful place to visit for beaches, lighthouses, museums, and parks. This is also an area filled with historic mansions, wide-open spaces, and quaint waterfront villages. To help you narrow down your sightseeing options, here are some of the top things to see and do on Long Island.
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Relax at a Local Beach
One of the top reasons why people visit Long Island is to spend time on the beaches. The Hamptons of Long Island is a classic summer getaway spot and always popular with the wealthy and famous celebrities. One great beach to visit is Cooper’s Beach in Southampton because it has more than seven miles of sand and is perfect for picnics, walking, swimming, and surfing. Foodies love hanging out at Long Beach because of all the great eateries here, Jones Beach is popular with families, and Main Beach is where Hollywood stars sometimes hang out. Meanwhile, Atlantic Avenue Beach in Amagansett is a fun party beach to spend the day at.
Visit the Old Westbury Gardens
One can’t-miss attraction on Long Island is Old Westbury Gardens, which is a lovely mansion on a couple hundred acres of land and surrounded by landscaped grounds and ponds. Inside the historic home, you’ll find antiques and original art, which you can learn more about on a visit. The regular hours for the site are Wednesday through Monday from 10am to 5pm, with special hours on summer weekends and around the winter holidays. Group tours are offered for groups of 15 or more people.
Photograph the Montauk Point Lighthouse
A famous Long Island landmark is the Montauk Point Lighthouse in Montauk Point State Park. It’s located at the eastern tip of the island and surrounded by trees and ponds that serve as habitats for native animals. This is the oldest lighthouse in New York and had historical significance during waves of immigration and World War II. Climb to the top for views of the surroundings and visit the museum in the keeper’s house. The Montauk area is also a wonderful place to go sailing with a local guide company to take you out on the water for a sunset cruise or perhaps a swimming trip.
Check Out a Lavender Field
Lavender by the Bay is a Long Island attraction with lavender fields in the countryside. It is a very picturesque place that’s perfect for amateur photographers and that sells lavender products on site. The lavender fields typically begin blooming in June, and the big bloom is usually during the first couple weeks of July. This is a 17-acre farm with more than 80,000 plants. The farm is open daily in East Marion on Mondays through Thursdays from 10am to 5pm and on Fridays through Sundays from 9am to 5pm. The Calverton farm is open on weekends from 9:30am to 5:30pm only. You can even bring your dog along for the fun!
Hike at a State or County Park
There are numerous parks on Long Island that offer refreshing scenery and a dose of nature for New Yorkers and travelers. There are beach parks, such as Jones Beach State Park, with its sand, saves, and boardwalk café. Meanwhile, other parks are more wooded and perfect for hiking. Hither Hills State Park offers beachside camping if you’re looking for an overnight trip. Additional Long Island state parks are the Belmont Lake State Park, Gantry Plaza State Park, and Caumsett State Park.
Explore Fire Island National Seashore
It’s also fun to visit Fire Island and feel like you’re hundreds of miles away from New York City. This island runs along the south shore of Long Island and parallel to it. The national seashore spans about 26 miles of the island and is accessible by ferry or other boats. Fun things to do on the island include wildlife viewing from the nature trails, swimming, wilderness camping, beachcombing, and ranger programs.
Attend the Oyster Festival
Long Island is also home to many foodie-centric events, such as the Oyster Festival. This is a free event that takes place on a weekend in October. There’s a main stage with entertainment, about 135 artisans in three huge tents, and over 60 food choices with incredibly fresh seafood. This large waterfront festival attracts over 150,000 people each year and has lots of family-friendly activities and rides for kids too.
Learn About the Sagamore Hill National Historic Site
Sagamore Hill is located on the northern shore of Long Island and was once home to former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt. This was a summer home for Roosevelt and also where he died in 1919. Today, this luxury home is a national historic site and a museum dedicated to the late president. You can tour the Roosevelt home, but tickets sell out early in the summer and on weekends.
Sample Long Island Wines at a Vineyard
It’s also possible to visit Long Island and spend your entire weekend at the local vineyards! Some of the many popular vineyards and wineries here include Jamesport Vineyard in Jamesport, Bedell Cellars in Cutchogue, and Lieb Cellars in Cutchogue. Most wineries are on the North Fork, and lots of the local wineries offer free tastings and onsite entertainment.
See the Colorful Fall Foliage
Long Island is also a wonderful place to escape to for the weekend to see the colorful fall foliage when the autumn season rolls around. Some nice places to see fall foliage are Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park, Bayard Cutting Arboretum State Park, and the Sands Point Conservancy. If you’d rather take a driving tour, you can drive along Route 25A through Cold Springs Harbor and Huntington to see the beautiful leaves.