For any tourist visiting the United States, a visit to the famous East Coast is considered almost inevitable. Think East Coast, and almost immediately the images of New York state and New York City flash across your mind. The world’s largest and most famous metropolis, New York offers everything under the sun to anyone visiting this magnificent city.
But do you know that there are many other equally attractive destinations in and around New York? One such place is Long Island. Without any doubt, New York City is beautiful and great, but then the suburbs of Long Island offer you historic castles, beautiful beaches, lush and lovely gardens, Gold Coast Estate and various mansions, Vineyards, trekking, and walking trails, just to name a few. There are a lot of fun things to do on Long Island if you’re really up to it. Itching to visit this stunning place? Let’s go….
Where is Long Island?
Long Island is a vast and expansive island towards the South-Eastern part of New York state, that stretches further eastward from New York City. It faces the Atlantic Ocean. Along its long coastline are Jones beach state park, Fire Island national seashore, and Montauk Lighthouse.
No matter what type of activity you’re looking for, whether it’s indoor or outdoor activities, Long Island always has something up its sleeve for you to enjoy. The island has everything lined up for your enjoyment, right from world-class, pristine beaches to lovely and lush parks. There is even a miniature Golf Park, as well as bowling alleys if that’s your passion.
Traveling across Long Island is also very easy, what with the Long Island Railroad connecting all parts of the island.
So, without any further delay, let’s now see what are some of the most fun things to do in Long Island.
Jones Beach State Park
The Jones beach state park is a beautiful 7-mile long beach of pure white sand on the south shore of Long Island. It’s nearly 2,500 acres of a complete maritime environment. This place draws in more than 6 million tourists and other visitors each year. Many are repeat visitors who keep coming back to enjoy their own private little space at the beach. Most visitors are from New York City who come here on day trips.
The entire park has been designed on the theme of an Ocean Liner. Here you can take a dip in the pristine blue waters of the Atlantic, or take a stroll on the Boardwalk, go on fishing trips, or grab a bite at one of the multitudes of Concession Stands dotting the beach. Further, you can dine in at The Gatsby On The Ocean restaurant, or enjoy the WildPlay Adventure park.
For sports and adventure lovers, you can play miniature golf, basketball, shuffle ball, table tennis, and many other sports. For the artistically inclined, regular concerts are running at the Northwell Health Theatre. You can also learn about the fragile marine environment at the Jones Beach Nature Center.
Jones Beach Nature Center
This is a very unique Educational Institution exploring the intertwined relationships between man, consumption of energy, and environmental conservation. It explains the science and history of energy through beautiful and interactive exhibits that can be enjoyed by both adults and children alike.
Sands Point Preserve
Another place with a long history, Sands Point Preserve gets its name from the legendary Sands family, whose lineage goes back right up to Robert de Sandys, born in England in the year 1379. After this, in 1691, Captain John Sands and his family shifted to Cow Neck, where they built their estate on around 500 acres. This house still stands on Sands Point Road today.
Today, the Sands Point Preserve is a stunning 216-acre park that includes historic mansions and the Phil Dejana Learning Center. The entire preserve is now owned by Nassau County, New York. It is maintained and operated by The Sands Point Preserve Conservancy, a non-profit organization.
For walking enthusiasts, the Sands Point preserve offers many walking trails that branch off from the main path, giving you beautiful views of little hillocks that are a photographer’s delight.
Garden City, on western Long Island, was one of the first planned communities to come up in the USA. In 1869, textile merchant Alexander Turney Stewart bought a 7,000-acre piece of land in western Long Island. His descendants then set up the Garden City Company which progressively guided and developed this planned community till it got itself incorporated as a village, in 1919.
Garden City today, is notable for its beautiful residential areas and a garden-like atmosphere. It is also known as the site of the English Gothic Cathedral of the Incarnation, and also the George Mercer Jr. Memorial School of Theology. The Roosevelt field here, was the starting point of Charles Lindberg’s historic flight across the Atlantic Ocean, in 1927.
Long Island Sound
This is an estuary of the Atlantic Ocean, lying mainly between Connecticut State to the North, and Long Island to the South. It stretches nearly 180 km from the East River to the west of Long Island Sound, to Block Island Sound towards the East.
Being an estuary, Long Island Sound is the merging point for fresh water coming in from rivers to the west, and the saltwater from the Atlantic Ocean. Estuaries are some of the greatest ecosystems on the planet, as they are the feeding, breeding, and nursing grounds of many unique species that spend most of their lives in the ocean.
Long Island Game Farm
This always comes up at the top of any list of fun things to do in Long Island. The full name of the Long Island Game Farm is Long Island Game Farm Wildlife Park and Children’s Zoo. It features hundreds of animals and birds, amongst which is an 18-foot giraffe.
The Game Farm also has red kangaroos, cougars, peacocks, and the only set of lemurs born and bred on Long Island. The collection here includes both exotic and indigenous breeds.
The most unique thing about the Long Island Game Farm is that, unlike most zoos, this place has actual “petting areas” where guests can actually interact and even feed the animals!! The motto here is “Please Touch”, especially in the Petting Areas of the zoo.
The full name of the Aviation Museum is the Long Island Cradle of Aviation Museum. This is a fantastic place to learn in detail about America’s aviation history and its pioneers.
On entering the Cradle of Aviation Museum, the first thing you see to your left is the Junior Jet Club. This is a special interactive play area for children under the age of 6, where they can touch, feel and explore the installations.
Next to the main gallery. Here is where you’ll find the really large and complex aircraft. Many airplanes on display here were actually built on Long Island, at Grumman. For instance, the F-14 Tomcat, and the A6-F Intruder, both built by Grumman, are featured in various hangars here. It also has the El Al Boeing 707 flight deck on display.
Just knowing about each aircraft and its history is more than enough to keep the adults engaged and entertained. For kids, climbing into the actual cockpit of a Boeing 707, or hopping into the front seat of a helicopter gives them all the thrills they need.
Oyster Bay on the north shore of Long Island is a census-designated hamlet in Nassau county. It also has its own railway station on the Oyster Bay Branch of the Long Island Railroad. This is a town with a rich history and is just a 45-minute drive from New York City.
Oyster bay is tightly intertwined with Theodore Roosevelt and his Presidential ambitions. Many of his offices, artifacts and his summer home still remain or have been restored to their past glory. But this is not the only reason why Oyster bay is so famous. It has a lot of historic sites that you can explore just by walking. Places like Sagamore Hill, which is also termed the Summer White House, or Raynham Hall, will surely take you back in time to a gloried past. Added to this is the fact that Oyster Bay is part of the iconic Gold Coast of Long Island.
Long Island Aquarium
The Long Island Aquarium opened in the year 2000 in the Riverhead area of New York. The main and most famous attraction of this aquarium is its humongous Coral Reef Display Tank, the largest in the Western Hemisphere. Additionally, it has a 120,000-gallon shark tank, Penguin shows that run through the year, numerous touch tanks, and 100-plus different exhibits of various butterflies, bugs, and birds!!
The butterflies and birds exhibits are in huge and lavish indoor gardens where you can watch both North American as well as tropical free-flying butterflies. Long Island Aquarium is the only insect display of its kind in the entire North East.
Then there is the awesome Shark dive where you can actually get into a Tank and dive into the Lost City of Atlantis shark exhibit. Alternatively, you can also opt for the Penguin Encounter, where you can get up close and personal with lovely penguins. There is even an option for snorkeling with tropical fish from all over the world!! Thus Long Island Aquarium is yet another one on the list of fun things to do on Long Island.
Long Beach Boardwalk
The Long Beach boardwalk is a long oceanfront strip, nearly 3 miles long, that provides a perfect beach getaway for families. The Boardwalk was destroyed when Superstorm Sandy hit the East Coast. It was eventually rebuilt and opened to the general public.
The Long Beach Boardwalk offers visitors everything, from surfing to beach volleyball and many other beach sports. It also hosts concerts regularly. Additionally, it is also a foodies paradise, with its multitudes of food trucks and other food joints to help you grab a bite whenever you are hungry. Head to the Boardwalk for a long leisurely walk facing the ocean.
Long Island Children’s Museum
Yet another topper on the agenda of the fun things to do on Long Island, the Long Island Children’s Museum opened in 1993, as a private, non-profit institution. The very idea of establishing this museum started just as a casual dinner conversation in 1989 between a group of Long Island educators, artists, businessmen, and parents. The conversation soon moved into the realm of commitments, and that’s how this nationally recognized asset was born.
The museum initially came upon a 5,400 Sq.ft donated demo site. But soon, the local communities started supporting it overwhelmingly. Because of this kind of support, it was decided to look for a larger and more permanent site for constructing the museum. That’s when the Nassau County itself came forward with a proposal to the Board to check out a site at Museum Row, a parcel of land at Mitchel Field.
The permanent museum opened on 27th February 2002. It now consists of 14 interactive and hands-on galleries, a large 140-seat theatre, and 4 learning studios. Apart from all of these, there are many other indoor and outdoor spaces for learning that encourage development as well as quick learning of concepts and building up skills.
Fire Island Lighthouse
The Fire Island Lighthouse is the most visible landmark on the Great south bay, in Suffolk County, New York. It is on the western end of the south shore of Long Island. It was an important landmark for ships coming into New York from across the Atlantic, during the last century. The Fire Island Lighthouse was the first sign of land for ships arriving in America.
The first lighthouse built on the fire island was completed in 1826. This tower was not considered effective due to its limited height. So it was demolished, and its stones were reused to construct the terrace of the current lighthouse.
The Fire Island Lighthouse is currently the tallest in all of Long Island. You can see the New York City skyline while standing at the top of the lighthouse. But for that, you need to climb up 182 steps to reach the summit. But with such glorious and stunning views all around the lighthouse, do you want to count steps?
The Vanderbilt Museum and Planetarium was built by William K Vanderbilt II. Vanderbilt II loved collecting fish, various marine life forms, birds, and many other cultural artifacts. He had plans of keeping and maintaining this vast collection in his private museum. That’s how the idea of the Vanderbilt Museum and planetarium came into existence.
William Vanderbilt exhibited all of the specimens he had gathered, numbering in the thousands, in his private marine museum. It was originally called “The Hall of Fishes”, and he opened it to the public in 1922. At that time, this was one of the world’s most extensive private collections.
Today, this huge 43-acre museum has an incredibly vast collection of more than 40,000 individual objects and artifacts. It has its mansion, the Curator’s cottage, a hangar for seaplanes, and a boathouse. It has separate sections for antique home furniture and also rare art. It also has the complete photographic record of William Vanderbilt’s travels across the world, and also his books printed on his travels. That makes the Vanderbilt Museum and planetarium, yet another not-to-be-missed destination when you’re in Long Island.
Westbury Gardens or Old Westbury Gardens was originally the estate of businessman John Shaffer Phipps, in Nassau county. The former estate was converted into a museum in 1959. Westbury Gardens is open for tours from April to October, every year.
Construction work on the original estate began in 1903. It was completed in 1906. The Westbury House in Westbury Gardens has 23 rooms. The estate covers another 160 acres.
Many more fun things to do on Long Island
Apart from the above famous locations, there are many more fun things to do on Long Island, where you can spend quality time with family and friends. Some of them are listed below –
1) Brickhouse Ceramic Art Center
A place where you can learn the intricacies of pottery throughout the year, the Brickhouse Ceramic Art Center is a boon for individuals who want to dabble and go in-depth into pottery.
The Center offers courses for wheel-throwing, hand-building, and glaze. For people interested in buying pottery instead of building it, the Brickhouse Ceramic Art Center has its Gift Shop selling beautifully crafted pottery that includes, plates, cups, mugs, jewelry, and many other items.
2) Planting fields Arboretum
The Planting Fields Arboretum also goes by its complete name of The Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park. It includes the Coe Hall Historic House Museum. The Park covers more than 400 acres of park space and is located in the Upper Brookeville village, in Oyster Bay, New York. It’s a lovely place with greenhouses and gardens. It also is a place where regular concerts are held.
3) Heckscher Museum
The Heckscher Museum of Art located at the Heckscher Park in Huntington regularly hosts a wide and varied schedule of changing exhibitions on American contemporary art, thus encouraging beautiful educational experiences for students. It also hosts many public programs for audiences of all ages.
4) Gantry State Park
Built upon nearly 13 acres of lush green gardens, the Gantry State Park offers stunning views of midtown Manhattan, whilst you wander inside the park. Containing 4 piers, mist mountain, multiple basketball and handball courts, playgrounds, it is a joy for sports junkies. The Gantry State Park even has its own dedicated fishing pier with dedicated cleaning tables.
5) Long Island City Community Boathouse
The Long Island Community Boathouse offers boat tours and volunteer-assisted paddling programs throughout the year. It has three primary programs – Weekday paddles, Hallet Cove paddles, and Kayak rides. It’s the perfect place for a quick weekend getaway.
The weekday paddles in the Boathouse give you stunning views of Roosevelt Island, Manhattan City, Queens, and Brooklyn. The weekend boat tours take you through Hallet’s Cove at the North end of the Socrates Sculpture Park. Kayaking brings you to the Anable Basin.
6) Museum of the Moving Image
This unique museum is completely dedicated to the history, techniques, methods, and technology of television, films, and all other digital media in existence today. The Museum of Moving Image showcases more than 400 movies and videos across classical, contemporary, and digital styles. It also offers varied educational programs and tours for movie connoisseurs and movie buffs. A unique place not to be missed, whenever you’re making a list of fun things to do on Long Island.
7) Sag Harbor
An incorporated village in Suffolk County on Eastern Long Island, Sag Harbor developed as a port on Gardiner’s Bay. It is one of the hidden gems of Long Island. The Harbor has a very rich maritime and whaling history and is full of marine attractions and nautical stuff. It’s the perfect place to spend time, especially for sailors and other similar sea-faring people.
8) Cooper’s Beach
Cooper’s beach is considered amongst the best beaches in America. Tourists and regular visitors arriving at this beach can enjoy pristine white sandy beaches dotted with historic mansions and a vibrant natural backdrop. The beach has dedicated parking spaces, beach umbrellas, chairs, and bathhouses.
9) Brooklyn Museum
The Brooklyn Museum is quite well known for its vast collection of Egyptian and African art. Additionally, it displays artwork from the 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th Centuries, from a wide variety of art schools. The works on display here include paintings, sculptures, and other decorative art.
10) Brooklyn botanic garden
The Brooklyn botanic garden is famous for its wide variety of cherry trees. It has more than 200 cherry trees across 42 Asian species and many other cultivated varieties. This makes it amongst the most famous cherry blossom viewing sites in the world, outside of Japan.
Apart from all of the above locations, Long Island also has some new and upcoming tourist attractions like the Empire Adventure Park, an indoor amusement park that is coming up in Samanea New York, a mall in Westbury, less than an hour’s drive from New York.
So, as you might have understood by now, Long Island is among the most famous tourist attractions in America. It remains the most populous island in the U.S. Added to this, is the fact that it has many of the most beautiful locations across the country, many of them listed above, and you will never feel lonely or bored in Long Island. If you want to know about the top fun things to do on Long Island, the above list should serve you well.
Also read “Things To Do in Queens“