Photo Source: Discover Long Island
I love a destination that can offer diverse experiences. Why choose between adventure, culture, or foodie travel when you can have it all? Recently, I found precisely such a gem right outside of New York City. Can you guess where? I’m talking about NYC’s backyard, Long Island.
Out of the handful of times I’ve visited Manhattan, honestly, I never really thought to check out its next door neighbour. At least not until last September, when Discover Long Island invited me to come and explore. Upon spending a couple of days in Long Island, I was blown away by how big the island actually is and all the fun things there are to do.
Want to know why you should visit Long Island, New York? Keep reading to find out what makes LI special.
*Big thanks to Discover Long Island for sponsoring my trip. All opinions expressed in this post are my own.
The stunning beaches
Photo Source: Discover Long Island
First and foremost, Long Island has endless pristine beaches. Whether you love swimming, surfing, seaside volleyball-ing, or simply sun soaking, you will never be too far from the ocean. This is amazing for aquaphiles like me.
We spent a morning at Long Beach, a popular beach with a 2.2 miles board walk and tons of hip restaurants. After hitting up Allegria Hotel for an ocean view brunch (which was both tasty and very Instagrammable), my friends and I rented some bikes and took a ride down the boardwalk. It was such a blissful experience riding along with sounds of the waves, scents of the sea, and sights of shirtless hot male joggers. *cough I mean…sights of the sand.
I can’t wait to explore more LI beaches in the future! Top on the bucket list: Main Beach in the East Hamptons. Apparently that’s where all the cool kids hang out (I hear Beyonce and JLO go there!)
Top on the bucket list: Main Beach in the East Hamptons. Apparently that’s where all the cool kids hang out. (I hear Beyonce and JLO go there!) Click To Tweet
The delicious local foods
The food in Long Island is amazing! With Suffolk County being one of the best farming regions in the New York State, many restaurants use locally harvested ingredients. Since the beginning of our trip, where we stayed at Indigo East End Hotel, we enjoyed farm-to-table breakfasts with cheese from nearby dairy farm and freshly picked berries. Yum!
And as its surrounded by water, it’s also no surprise that Long Island is an excellent producer of seafood. Truth: I never met a lobster roll I didn’t like while in LI, and we had many. October is when the famous Oyster Festival takes place in Oyster Bay. Featuring an oyster-eating contest, it is a shellfish lover’s dream.
Drooling yet? Check out these stellar restaurants in Long Island
The world class wineries
Did you know that Long Island is rated as one of the “10 Best Wine Travel Destinations” in the world by Wine Enthusiast Magazine? There are tons of tours you can take to experience the 60 wineries in Long Island Wine Country. So many award winning wines of different variety to try! Cheers!
We visited Jamesport Vineyard in the North Folk. This family owned vineyard, created by a father and son duo, has a really cozy and relaxed vibe. The outdoor lawn is beautiful on a summer day. Don’t miss a photo-op amongst the grapevines!
For the wine tasting, if you are decision-making-challenged like me, get the Flight of 5 so you can taste a couple of wines. I really liked the Estate Riesling, which has the aromas of apricot, pear, and apple. The sweet Estate Glacé dessert wine is delicious as well. My friends and I also recommend getting a wheel of cheese and some prosciutto to share. Oh the gluttony!
The exciting festivals
Long Island knows how to throw parties! There is always something going on year round, big or small. Some examples of LI’s signature events include: Winterfest in February to March, Pride on the Beach in June, Jones Beach Fireworks in July, Hapmtons International Film Festival in October, and so many more.
I was invited to attend Diner En Blanc Long Island, an al-fresco-fancy-dress-mystery-ball. I promise I’m not being extra when I say, it was the coolest public party I’ve ever been to! First of all, the aesthetics were incredible. 2,000 people came dressed to impressed in all white. All the fashion and style, ugh I could not even handle. The same kind of creativity went into the event decors. You guys know how much of a visual person I am, so I loved it! Then there were the entertainments. The night started with some killer performances from singing and dancing troupe, and gave way to DJs spinning fiery tracks of Hip Hop, Reggae, and Soca in the later evening. Everyone was dancing and having a good time. (Those Long Islanders are good dancers!) There was so much more going on to tell, from a massage booth, to sparklers, to napkin waving, to champagnes flowing. Let’s just summarize and say I had an amazing time. Well done Long Island! Can’t wait to party with you again!
The abundant outdoor activities
Long Island is a wonderland for active souls. Other than the phenomenal water sports, there are ample outdoor activities to choose from. Golfing, fishing, hiking, camping, zip-lining, horseback writing, sky diving, the list goes on.
I got to watch my first ever polo game at Bethpage Polo in the Park. It was a sport I’ve never encountered before, so it was very exciting for me. The players looked so graceful, as they attempted to hit the ball into goal, while riding horses. <- Sorry for possibly the worst description of Polo. Can you tell I’m a complete newbie? The point is, I was impressed by their agility and coordination skills. I also found out that the players came from all over the world, like Canada and Argentina. How International! Definitely experience a polo game at Bethpage. You can even meet some cute horses, like I did.
The rich historical sites
Culture buffs, you won’t be disappointed. Besides numerous museums that house artifacts and tell stories from Long Island’s past, stop by interactive landmarks like Long Island Heritage Trail or one of the several ancient castles.
We visited the Old Westbury Gardens, a former property of John Shaffer Phipps, a steel tycoon from the 1900s. The grounds is now a beautiful historic site. The Westbury House, an extravagant Gastby-style architecture, is a must see. You can join a free tour that takes you through the mansion. The guide we had shared many anecdotes about the luxurious lifestyle of the past owner and pointed out ornate details around the house. The tales were fascinating and the mansion was simply gorgeous. You might want to bring an extra memory card for your camera because the grounds is so photogenic!
The charming local towns
I am a sucker for quaint small towns vibes. Long Island is scattered with charming little villages that welcome guests with open arms. We had a fun night out in Patchogue, a village on the south edge. The whole downtown felt like just 3 blocks (at least from my impression), but it was very lively. Restaurant RHUM is the place to be. The Carribean mood here makes it easy to feel relaxed. There are adorable swings you can unwind in on the rooftop patio, while you sip on some island-inspired drinks and bop your head to Bob Marley music.
I also loved the quirky store in Patchogue like Paperdoll Curiosity. My friends and I could not stop laughing and taking photos of the random hilarious things around the shop. Like, a gorilla man wearing a fanny pack? Why? Don’t really know…Thanks for entertaining us Patchogue!
The unique places to stay
Lastly, I would come to Long Island simply for staycations. Even during the short time we were there, I saw so many cool and stylish places to stay that made me want to say “just leave me here forever please”. Here are some of my favourite accommodations:
Preston House and Hotel is one of my top picks. The hotel is a modern restoration of a historic home (previously owned by Henry H. Preston, the first salaried sheriff of Suffolk County). You can see the blend of old and new in the details throughout the facility. The rooms are absolutely to die for with its chic minimalist design.
This dazzling new hotel is right on Long Beach. You can step onto the board walk right after you finish breakfast. The sophisticated indoor decors will make you feel oh-so-fancy. I have noted down Allegria as one of my future wedding venue options. I am not joking. It’s that pretty.