We live on Long Island, in the Incorporated Village of Lake Grove, which is about the center of the Island. We're just about 60 miles away from NYC to the West, and 60 miles away from Montauk or Orient Points to the East - give or take a few miles. Getting to NYC is a breeze since we live about 10 minutes from the Ronkonkoma LIRR train station. Once there, the express will get you into Penn Station (33rd and 7th) in a little over an hour. No traffic, just a cup of joe and a short nap. Heading out East to one of the points is a bit longer and involves a nice leisurely drive, unless its Friday afternoons in the summer - then you hit the Hamptons traffic.I've compiled some highlights to visit if you find yourself on Long Island. If you want to see more that Long Island has to offer, visit Long Island Press. It's a great resource for news and information about the island.
Now, let's talk about what you can do around here that's either just a short walk or drive away.
There are literally dozens of restaurants around here, one as close as a half mile walk, and the rest just a short 5 - 10 minute drive. The closest restaurant is The Good Steer and it has the best onion rings and burgers for miles around. People travel from all over the downstate area to this place. You gotta try it. Let's see. There are the chains like Applebees, T.G.I. Fridays, Cheesecake Factory, and Chilli's. We've got a new Bobby Flay's Burger Palace about 2 miles away. There's a great pub around the corner called John Harvard's Brew House. There are too many others to mention by name. Let's just say you can have Indian, Japanese, Chinese, Jewish, Mexican, Spanish, American, Italian, Thai, German, Korean, Vietnamese, etc. You get the picture.
So, you want to talk shopping? Just down the road - a 2 mile walk - is the SmithHaven Mall. The mall obviously has all the mandatory stores that I won't bore you with. We've got a Walmart, Target, Bestbuy, Kmart, Sports Authority, Barnes and Noble, Lowes, Home Depot, and Home Goods. Of course there is the Tanger Factory Outlets in Riverhead, a 35 mile drive East. The place is huge, and filled with great deals. Otherwise, locally, I can't even count the number of small shops and boutiques.
Leisure and fun? Some of the nicest places on the Island are the North fork vineyards on the way out to Orient. There are quite a few, but our favorite vineyard, and Long Island wine, is Pindar. Its about an hour drive out there, and once you actually get to where the forks split, Long Island turns from suburbia into small villages, farmland and vineyards. During the summer months they offer tours of the winery and vineyards, wine tasting of all types, and live music outside, under the pavillion.
If you want to keep on driving, you can take the Orient ferry across to CT, and head over to the Mohegan Sun or Foxwoods casinos. There are buses that take you from the ferry to the casinos, and there are tons of freebies. We like to leave late on Saturday afternoon, take the ferry over, gamble all night, then take the first ferry in the morning back to the Island. The one way trip, from door to door, takes about 3 hours or so, what with the driving, the ferry ride, and the bus trip.
Much closer to home is the harbor village of Port Jefferson, that's about 20 minutes away on the North shore of the Island. There are quite a few restaurants down on the water, and most are outstanding. Our favorite was Dockside, which I believe has changed names. There are many cafes with sidewalk seating and the sunsets are phenominal. Besides restaurants, Port Jeff is a quaint town with small shops, a mini-mall, and lots of just pleasureable walking through the bustling town. Of course, a walk out onto the docks to watch the yachts come in and out is always nice. The folks are usually kind and will give you a tour of their boats.
About 20 miles South East of us is the Southaven County Park. The park's 1,356 acres has hiking, camping, picnicking, freshwater fishing, rowboat rentals, canoeing, hunting, and bridle paths.
If ocean swimming is your thing, then head on over to the south shore, where you can take a bridge over the Great South Bay onto the Fire Island National Seashore. I grew up going to the beach at the Smith Point County Park. There are miles of white sand beaches, off-roading, swimming, a boardwalk, and camping. If you are so inclined, you can take a westward walk along the beach where there is a nude beach. That is if you're inclined. If you'd like to, you can visit the TWA Flight 800 International Memorial.
Just to the South of Lake Grove on Bald Hill in Farmingville (which is where I grew up) is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Suffolk County. The monument and park are on the second highest elevation in Suffolk County. The memorial was designed by Bob Fox, a Vietnam veteran from Massachusetts.
Switching directions, you can drive 40 miles West to Port Washington and the Sands Point Preserve with it's Castles on the Gold Coast of the Island. There you will find castles built at the turn of the century that have been mostly restored to their original condition. There are beautiful walking tours that can take you from the majestic gardens and yards, down to the bay. They often have arts and sciences shows such as the full size dinosaur motion models for the kids.
In the town of Bethpage (about 15 miles West), you can find the world class Bethpage State Park Golf Course, where the US Open has been played. Speaking of golf courses, there are so many others that I'll just point you to this guide. You can also visit the Old Bethpage Village Restoration. According to the website: "From spring through December, Old Bethpage recreates the atmosphere of a pre-Civil War Long Island Village, illustrating agricultural, domestic and commercial activities through the actual practice of crafts and skills." I've been there quite a few times and it's a great day for the whole family.
If science is your thing, you can take a visit to the Brookhaven National Laboratory in Brookhaven (10 miles East). BHNL is the home to the first Relatavistic Heavy Ion Collider in the world that is capable of colliding ions as heavy as gold. Here, physicists from around the world study what the universe may have looked like in the first few moments after its creation. Or, you can visit the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in Cold Spring Harbor (about 25 miles West). The lab was instrumental in the human genome project. Or, you can visit the Vanderbilt Musem and Planetarium in Centerport (about 20 miles West). Or...you could check out the The Cradle of Aviation just about 30 miles West. Bev's former boss, Don Axinn was a major donor and driving force behind building this place. Here you can see the history of Long Island in the aviation industry. P.S. at the opening party, I met and had a chat with Nelson DeMille, who also played a part in building the museum.
Whew. Well that's just some of the things you can do around these here parts. Of course, as I mentioned at the start, you can always head into NYC. Just an hour-and-a-half ride by train, and you will be in one of the greatest cities in the world. I can't even describe all the attractions you could vist, but some of them include: the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, the Museums (the Met, the MOMA, the American Museum Of Natural History, the Guggenheim, etc.), the UN, Rockefeller Center, Times Square, the Village, Soho, South Street Seaport, Radio City Music Hall, Little Italy, Chinatown, and Broadway - just to name a few.