The Fire Island Lighthouse, one of the best things to do in Long Island

33 Best Things to Do on Long Island (in 2022)

Just east of New York City lies Long Island: a coastal gem lined with beaches and filled with historic buildings, sprawling gardens, and top notch food. There’s more to explore on Long Island than meets the eye, no matter the time of year (yes, even winter!).

As a born and raised Long Islander, I’m here to highlight some of the best things to do on Long Island, so you can enjoy everything it has to offer!

From the Gatsby-era mansions of the North Shore to the sandy beaches along the Atlantic Ocean, Long Island is full of treasures. Whether you’re dreaming of a relaxing oceanside getaway or craving a wine tasting weekend out east, Long Island is sure to scratch your travel itch!

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33 Best Things to Do in Long Island

Jones Beach State Park

Stroll the boardwalk and play in the surf

A lifeguard chair in Jones Beach State Park

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (516) 785-1600 | Website | Hours: 8 am – 8 pm daily | Entrance: $10 per vehicle

When it comes to Long Island beaches, Jones Beach has it all. From sandy shores and waves perfect for swimming in, to a miniature golf course and live music, there’s something for everyone at this beach.

Grab a frozen treat as you walk along the boardwalk, or test your pickleball, shuffleboard, or corn hole skills. Or, visit the Jones Beach Nature Center to learn about the local environment and get up close and personal with marine life in the center’s touch tank.

👉 Looking for family-friendly thrills? Check out Jones Beach’s very own adventure course, featuring obstacles, zip lines, and games.

Planting Fields Arboretum

Wander through acres of gardens and trees

The author in Planting Fields Arboretum during cherry blossom season
Me visiting Planting Fields during cherry blossom season – highly recommend visiting in April!

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (516) 922-9210 | Website | Hours: 9 am – 5 pm daily | Entrance: $8 per vehicle between May 1 and Labor Day, free during the off season

The North Shore town of Oyster Bay is home to Planting Fields Arboretum, a sprawling former estate turned public garden. There are five miles of walking trails throughout the arboretum, lined with towering trees, flowers, and benches.

A nod to its past life as a wealthy family’s estate, the mansion on the property has been kept in pristine condition and is beautiful to walk through. Guided mansion tours are available, so you can check out the vintage decor and stunning architecture after wandering the grounds.

👉 Pro Tip: Oyster Bay things to do: Raynham Hall Museum, Roosevelt Beach Sands Point Preserve Gold Coast Estate

The Big Duck

Take a gander at this quirky roadside attraction

View of the Big Duck statue in Long Island

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (631) 852-3377 | Website | Hours: 10 am – 5 pm Sunday, Monday, & Wednesday – Friday, 10 am – 3 pm Tuesday & Saturday | Entrance: Free

The Big Duck is just that: a building-sized duck on the side of a Long Island road. This hard-to-miss building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and has been Long Island’s most beloved roadside a-quack-tion since 1931.

Inside the Big Duck, you’ll find a gift shop filled with souvenirs, as well as information about the history of duck farming on the island.

👉 Pro Tip: If you visit in late November, you can attend the Annual Lighting of the Duck to kick off the holiday season!

Cradle of Aviation Museum

Learn about mankind’s journey to the skies

Aircraft displayed in Cradle of Aviation Museum
(photo: zhukovsky / 123RF)

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (516) 572-4111 | Website | Hours: 10 am – 5 pm daily, Closed Mondays | Entrance: $16, adults, $14 children 2 to 12

The Cradle of Aviation Museum houses more than 75 air and spacecraft on display, some of which you’re free to climb into. Take a walk through more than 100 years of Long Island aviation history, from hot air balloons to fighter jets and spacecraft.

This museum also features an advanced, full-dome planetarium. Here, you can attend a showing of “Mars 1001” or “Birth of Planet Earth” to have an immersive virtual reality experience that you won’t soon forget!

👉 Pro Tip: The Long Island Children’s Museum is only a quarter mile from here – bring your kids to both for a fun-filled, educational day!

Clamming

Dig up dinner…with your feet

The author holding the clams that she collected in Long Island
Me with my hard-earned “catch” – to be made into baked clams later that day!

Website | Free for recreational shellfishing

If you’re up for an adventure that will leave you muddy but well fed, clamming could be right up your alley. Long Island, particularly areas like the Great South Bay, is teeming with delicious shellfish. Just make sure the area you’re clamming in is open to shellfish harvesting – then go get muddy!

To find a clam, wiggle your toes down into the mud til you feel one, then pull it up! Once you’ve gathered enough, you can grill, stuff, broil them, or even eat them raw.

📅 Read Next: When is the best season to visit Long Island?

Long Island Sites & Attractions

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Fire Island Lighthouse

Climb a spiral staircase to the top of a lighthouse

The author sitting on a tree trunk with the Fire Island Lighthouse on her background
Me on the beach by the Fire Island Lighthouse.

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (631) 583-5901 | Website | Hours: 10 am – 5 pm daily | Entrance: Free; Tower Tours: $10 adults, $5 children 12 and under

The Fire Island Lighthouse is the tallest of more than twenty lighthouses on Long Island. You can climb to the top of the lighthouse for incredible views of the ocean, the bay, and the barrier beach. On very clear days, you can catch a glimpse of the New York City skyline.

Formerly designated as the keeper’s quarters, the lighthouse’s museum is free to enter. Here, you can learn about the lighthouse’s history and its importance to Long Island. There’s also a gift shop downstairs, filled with books and Fire Island Lighthouse merch.

Old Westbury Gardens

Explore sprawling gardens on a historic estate

View from the Old Westbury Gardens in Long Island

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (516) 333-0048 | Website | Hours: 10 am – 6 pm daily, Closed Tuesday | Entrance: $14, adults, $8 children 7 to 17, free for children 6 and under

Take a leisurely stroll through the exquisite gardens and manicured lawns of Old Westbury Gardens. This former estate is now a museum – you can take mansion tours through the 44-room home that sits on the property.

Old Westbury Gardens makes a perfect picnic destination, and hosts events throughout the year for people of all ages. From afternoon tea and plant sales to live concerts and educational kids’ programs, Old Westbury Gardens is not to be missed.

👉 Want more mansion tours? Head to Sands Point Preserve for another North Shore former estate you can explore. Sands Point Preserve is home to another mansion and hundreds of acres of gardens and lawns.

Go “Out East”

Road trip your way to Long Island’s countryside

The author in the sunflower field in Long Island
All of my sunflower dreams coming true in a field out east.

📍 Google Maps

On the North Fork of Long Island, you’ll find everything you’d expect from a charming country area- sunflower and lavender fields blooming during summer, and corn mazes, apple picking, and pumpkin patches during the fall.

Check out local farmstand produce, jam, pie, and honey, or head to one of the North Fork’s vineyards to sample local wine. Going out east is the perfect way to spend a family-friendly day on Long Island.

Belmont Racetrack

Cheer on horses as they race for the win

A racehorse happening in Belmont Racetrack

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (718) 641-4700 | Website | Entrance: $5 General Admission

To win the prestigious Triple Crown, a thoroughbred has to win three specific races, one of which is the Belmont Stakes. This well-known horse race takes place right on Long Island at the Belmont Racetrack, where you can catch horse races throughout spring and summer.

General admission during the season is inexpensive at $5 per ticket, and general admission to the Belmont Stake itself is relatively affordable as well, at $30 to $40. So pull out your best sports jackets and fascinators, and hit the track for a day at the races!

Riverhead Raceway

Gear up for a night of fast-paced racing

Racecars during a competition in Riverhead Raceway

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (603) 557-9721 | Website

Long Island isn’t known for its racing scene, but as home to the only NASCAR stock car track in the state, Riverhead Raceway is quite the hidden gem. Here, you can catch all kinds of races: tight-turning figure eights, lengthy enduros, stock cars and modifieds, and more.

Some nights, Riverhead Raceway hosts the legendary school bus demolition derbies – my personal childhood favorite event. More highlights include monster trucks, car demolition derbies, and school bus figure-eight races. This racetrack offers lots of fun for the whole family.

Outdoor Activities

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Surfing

Hit the swells at one of Long Island’s best surf spots

A surf board on the sand of Fire Island
Sets of waves rolling in on Fire Island.

During the summer, Long Island is perfect for surfing – miles of beaches, warm ocean temperatures, and of course, waves. Gilgo Beach, Democrat Point, Long Beach, Ditch Plains, and other South Shore beaches are popular surf spots on Long Island.

If you’d like to scope out the surfing scene for yourself, Bunger Surf Shop offers board rentals as well as surf lessons at Gilgo Beach. Locals surf Gilgo well into winter – if that kind of thrill piques your interest, make sure you have a thick wetsuit!

Hiking

Walk through the woods any time of year

A trail sign going to Paumanok Path in Manorville Hills County Park
Trail sign inside Manorville Hills County Park in early spring.

Nature lovers, rejoice – Long Island is home to a variety of parks and hiking and walking trails. The Long Island Greenbelt Trail alone covers more than 200 miles of nature trails, so you can get out and explore the outdoors.

Long Island hiking is generally pretty flat, and includes habitats like forests, pine barrens, marshlands, and beaches. Heckscher Park, Connetquot, Sunken Meadow State Park, and Caleb Smith State Park are popular places to hike. 

👉 Pro Tip: If you’re looking for walking trails near the beach, check out one of Long Island’s boardwalks. The Long Beach boardwalk, Jones Beach boardwalk, and Sunken Meadow boardwalk are all great spots to stretch your legs.

Boating & Sailing

Hoist the main and explore Long Island by sea

Sailing toward Montauk with the view of the colorful sky during sunset
Motoring toward Montauk as the sun sets.

As an island, activities revolving around the water are popular here, including boating and sailing. Exploring by sea is an exciting experience, and allows you to take in the sights of the Great South Bay and the Atlantic Ocean at a relaxing pace.

You can charter a boat through local companies like MTK Cruises, which take you out on the sea in a motorboat or sailboat. They also offer evening cruises, as well as tours where you can learn about local history and ecosystems.

Seal & Whale Watching

Spot Long Island’s cutest marine mammals along the coast

A seal going into the water of Long Island
He didn’t let me get too close – but here’s a seal I spotted this spring!

Long Island winters are chilly, but that doesn’t stop whales and seals from vacationing here! It’s common to spot seals, whales, and even dolphins right off Long Island beaches during winter and spring. Just head to Fire Island and walk along the shore with your eyes peeled.

This spring, I spotted a few seals and a pod of dolphins near Democrat Point, as well as a couple of oystercatchers. There’s always something to see, especially when crowds have thinned out thanks to colder temperatures.

Cycling

Pedal your way across the island

The author's bike by the lakes in Brightwaters
My bike posing by the lakes in Brightwaters.

From road cycling to mountain biking, cyclists on Long Island have many options. Places like Edgewood and Manorville Hills are fun mountain biking spots, with trails for everyone from beginners to advanced riders.

Road cycling can be a little trickier, as Long Island isn’t a particularly bicycle-friendly area. But what it lacks in bike lanes, it makes up for with the Jones Beach Bike Path. This smooth, flat path travels the length of Jones Beach Island, and offers beautiful views of the beach and coastal homes.

Fishing

Cast to your heart’s content, from boat or beach

The author holding a fishing road and a fish that she caught in Long Island
I caught a small striped bass, or “schoolie,” right off the beach. Catch and release!

Fishing is a quintessential Long Island experience, and there are plenty of opportunities to dip your feet in. You can board a fishing boat out of Captree Island, charter a private fishing trip, or bring your own gear and fish right off the beach.

Some Long Island fish that make for good eating are striped bass, weakfish, fluke, blackfish, and further afield, tuna. If you don’t find any luck fishing, head to a local seafood market like White Cap Fish Market in Islip to try the island’s staple fish.

📚 Related Reading: Looking for more to do in the tri-state area? Our guide to the best places to visit in New Jersey is here to help!

Museums

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Vanderbilt Museum and Planetarium

Explore the home and grounds of Long Island’s Vanderbilts

The Vanderbilt Museum and Planetarium from the outside
(photo: littlenySTOCK / Shutterstock)

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (631) 854-5579 | Website | Hours: 12 pm – 4 pm Friday through Sunday, 7:30 pm – 10 pm Friday & Saturday | Entrance: $10, adults, $7 children 2 to 12

On the North Shore of Long Island, Gatsby-era mansions have been preserved and turned into museums. One such former estate is the Vanderbilt Museum, which features sprawling grounds, mansion tours, a natural history museum, and a state-of-the-art planetarium.

You can easily spend a full day here, exploring dioramas filled with wild animals, artifacts, the Hall of Fishes, and attending a show beneath the planetarium’s dome. This museum brings history to life and allows a glimpse into life during the glory days of the Gold Coast.

Sagamore Hill National Historic Site

See where former President Teddy Roosevelt lived

View of the Sagamore Hill National Historic Site

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (516) 922-4788 | Website | Hours: 7 am – 5 pm daily | Entrance: Free to park and walk the grounds; $10 adults, $1 children for a guided tour of the home

Designated as a national historic site, Sagamore Hill is the place where President Teddy Roosevelt and his family lived. While he was in office, Sagamore Hill was known as the Summer White House, though 47 acres of the estate was working farmland.

Today, you can tour Roosevelt’s historic home and walk the grounds of the estate. Walking trails lead through the woods down to the water, where you can see ospreys and other water birds.

The Whaling Museum & Education Center of Cold Spring Harbor

Dive into Long Island’s whaling history

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (631) 367-3418 | Website | Hours: 11 am – 4 pm Thursday through Sunday, Closed Monday, Tuesday, & Wednesday | Entrance: $6 adults, $5 children 4 to 18

Whaling plays a large part in Long Island’s history, and the Whaling Museum in Cold Spring Harbor brings that history to life. With exhibits including more than 6,000 artifacts from the whaling era, like scrimshaw, ship’s gear, navigational tools, and archived firsthand accounts, this museum is worth a visit.

Nassau County Museum of Art

Experience art, sculpture, and winding trails

The Nassau County Museum of Art from the outside
(photo: Jay Gao / Shutterstock)

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (516) 484-9338 | Website | Hours: 11 am – 4:45 pm daily, Closed Mondays | Entrance: $15 adults, $5 children under 12

Located on the North Shore, the Nassau County Museum of Art displays modern and past local and regional art in a historic mansion. Their current exhibit focuses on impressionism, with an upcoming exhibition revolving around the supernatural in art. 

The outdoor grounds of the museum are prime for exploration as well, with a sculpture garden, arboretum, garden, and walking trails. The museum hosts live music events, tours, and lectures for those looking to add on to their artsy experience!

Beaches

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Fire Island

Soak up the sun along miles of coastline

The author sitting on the sand of Robert Moses Beach
Hanging out at Robert Moses Beach just before sunset.

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (631) 669-0449 | Website | Entrance: $10 per vehicle during summer hours, Free from November 7th – Friday before the first weekend in April

Cross the Great South Bay to Long Island’s iconic barrier beach island: Fire Island. Fire Island is home to miles of coastline, with silky soft sand and warm summer waters. Here, you can relax on the beach, surf, swim, fish, picnic, climb the lighthouse – whatever floats your beach vacation boat.

There are a few tiny towns with big personalities on Fire Island, where you can find restaurants, bars, and nightlife. Ocean Beach, Cherry Grove, and Kismet are some popular destination towns on the island.

Montauk

Take in the salty air in a quaint fishing town

The Montauk Lighthouse from afar in Long Island

📍 Google Maps

At the easternmost point of Long Island, you’ll arrive at Montauk – “The End,” as locals call it. Montauk is home to beachside bluffs and rocky beaches perfect for hikes and exploration. Overlooking the beach is the Montauk Lighthouse, which you can enter and climb to the top of.

In Montauk, you’ll find working fishing boats at the docks, as well as restaurants serving fresh, local seafood. Head to Salivar’s for a hot bowl of Montauk’s finest New England Clam Chowder – you won’t regret it!

👉 Pro Tip: Depending on where you stay on Long Island, the drive out to Montauk can be a long haul. Rent a car with DiscoverCars to travel on your own time, without having to worry about the railroad schedule.

The Hamptons

Relax on some of the Northeast’s most iconic beaches

Seagulls by the beach in The Hamptons

📍 Google Maps

The Hamptons tend to be the first thing that comes to mind when people think of Long Island. This eastern area on the South Fork is known for its pristine sandy beaches, luxurious estates, and designer boutiques. But it’s not just for the rich and famous – anyone can come to enjoy the Hamptons.

Head to Cooper’s Beach for fun in the sun, or go wine tasting at one of the Hamptons’ gorgeous vineyards like Wolffer or Duck Walk. The Hamptons are highly bikeable, so you can rent a bike in Sag Harbor and explore each of the little towns on wheels.

👉 Pro Tip: If you’re visiting with kids (or just have a competitive streak), stop at Hamptons Mini Golf for a quick round. There’s also a driving range and batting cage on site, as well as a tiny burger joint.

Food & Drink

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Pizza

Grab a cheesy slice of heaven

View of a half pepperoni and half cheese flavored pizza on a box
“Sharing” a half pepperoni, half cheese pie with my brother.

On Long Island, it’s almost impossible to drive through a town without spotting multiple pizza places. We take our pizza seriously here – thin crust, homemade sauce, gooey cheese, and an array of tasty toppings.

If you’re visiting Long Island, walk into any local pizza place and grab a pie for the family – it’s sure to be a crowd pleaser. Popular toppings include pepperoni, sliced meatball, and breaded eggplant.

Wine Tasting

Sip on local wine on Long Island’s North Fork

The author holding a glass of white wine from Kontokosta Winery during sunset
Enjoying a glass of white at sunset at Kontokosta Winery.

📍 Google Maps

For a relatively small island, Long Island is home to lots of wineries. On the North Fork, you’ll find vineyards like Macari, Kontokosta, and more serving up local reds, whites, and roses.

Long Island wine country is a popular destination for bachelorette weekends, couples’ getaways, and friend group trips. Here, you can schedule a tour to take you from vineyard to vineyard for tastings, or take an in depth tour of the winery of your choice.

👉 Love wine tasting? Book a Long Island wine tasting tour so you don’t have to worry about driving between vineyards!

Local Breweries

Crack open a can of local beer for a taste of Long Island

Menu on board from Port Jeff Brewing Company
The menu at Port Jeff Brewing Company. 

Much to the delight of beer lovers, the craft brewery scene has really taken off on Long Island over the last few years. All over the island, you’ll find spots serving up local brews, from hazy IPAs and amber ales to mead and hard seltzers.

The Brewers Collective, Port Jeff Brewing Company, and Secatogue Brewing Company are just a few local spots to put on your list. Most of them serve food, as well, or bring in food trucks for a rotating selection of eats!

👉 Love Craft Beer? Head to Hops Scotch Bottle Shop in Deer Park to try their rotating selection of beers on tap, and grab a growler to go. Their grilled cheese is also phenomenal! 

Bagels

Bite into the best breakfast on the island

Different kind of bagels on a basket
So many choices! Personal recommendation: egg everything (bottom center).

Rivaled only by the beloved bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich, bagels are New York’s first choice for breakfast. Sure, you can get a bagel anywhere – but you can only get a New York bagel here, and it’s worth the hype.

This doughy creation is best served toasted with butter or cream cheese. If you really want to commit to the Long Island experience, try it with lox (smoked salmon) and cream cheese!

Kid Friendly Things to Do

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Long Island Aquarium

Check out marine life of all sizes

The Long Island Aquarium from the outside
(photo: quiggyt4 / Shutterstock)

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (631) 208-9200 | Website | Hours: 10 am – 4 pm weekdays, 10 am – 5 pm weekends | Entrance: $42.99, adults, $29.99 children 2 – 12

The Long Island Aquarium is filled with much more than fish. From its Atlantis shark exhibit and amphibian alley to its coral reef exhibits and marmosets, the aquarium is teeming with exciting animals. There’s a ray touch tank for the bold, and enchanting seahorse and octopus exhibits.

The Long Island Aquarium hosts educational events, with lectures about sea otters, sharks, and the lagoon habitat. Kids can also enjoy the aquarium’s craft room, tree activity center, rock wall, and arcade.

Long Island Game Farm

Interact with deer, goats, and other animals

Deer eating in Long Island Game Farm

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (631) 878-6644 | Website | Hours: 11 am – 4 pm Thursday – Sunday | Entrance: $24.95 adults, $18.95 children 3 – 12

Animal lovers and their children will enjoy a visit to Long Island Game Farm, where you can meet, feed, and pet goats, deer, llamas, sheep, and more. The Farm also houses a giraffe, zebras, wallabies, bison, emu, and lemurs.

The Farm’s animals are largely rescues, some of which go on to be rehabbed and rehomed. But while they live on the Farm, you’re free to visit them and have an animal experience you won’t soon forget!

Splish Splash Water Park

Slide into summer at one of the country’s best water parks

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (631) 727-3600 | Website | Hours: opens at 10 am, closing time varies from 5 to 7 pm

When the summer sun is blazing, Splish Splash Water Park is the perfect place to cool off and have some fun. The park has all kinds of rides, wave pools, waterslides, and a separate area for younger kids. There are plenty of food options in the park, so you can stay all day.

Long Island Children’s Museum

Hands-on fun for kids and teens

View of the Nunley’s Carousel in Long Island Children’s Museum
Nunley’s Carousel, a historic ride adjacent to the museum building. (photo: Ritu Manoj Jethani / Shutterstock)

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (516) 224-5800 | Website | Hours: 10 am – 3 pm Tuesday through Friday, 10 am – 5 pm weekends, Closed Mondays | Entrance: $15 per person

Exhibits featuring dinosaurs, creative building, sound showers, local ecosystems, and even a climbable sculpture make Long Island Children’s Museum a unique stop. This museum prioritizes highly interactive exhibits that keep kids engaged for hours.

The museum also runs programs for children, from stories and art to music and movement. What better way to keep your kids entertained and sneak in some educational content?

Shopping

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Roosevelt Field Mall

Shop in style at the biggest mall in New York

People inside the Roosevelt Field Mall
(photo: littlenySTOCK / Shutterstock)

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (516) 742-8000 | Website

Garden City, Long Island is home to the largest shopping mall in New York State – Roosevelt Field Mall. Roosevelt Field has more than 270 individual stores, among them Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus, Macy’s, Nordstrom, and more.

Roosevelt Field Mall has everything from high-end clothing and basics to furniture and a food court, so there’s something here for everyone. Parking can fill up fast around the holidays, so come early to secure a spot.

Tanger Outlets Riverhead & Deer Park

Snag deals on designer brands at these outlet stores

Cars parked outside the Tanger Outlets
(photo: BrandonKleinPhoto / Shutterstock)

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (631) 369-2732 | Website | Hours: 10 am – 9 pm Monday through Saturday, 9 am – 6 pm Sunday

With locations in Deer Park and Riverhead, Tanger Outlets offers a selection of designer outlet stores in an aesthetic promenade setting. They also offer dining options, and the Deer Park location is home to a movie theater. Both Tanger Outlets locations make good rainy day destinations, as well as a nice place to cool off in air-conditioned stores during summer.

***

When it comes to things to do in Long Island towns, beaches, and parks, you’ll find something fun around every corner – this list is just the tip of the iceberg! I hope you find this guide useful and that it helps you hit some of the highlights when you visit. 

👉 Heading to New York? Check out our guide to where to stay in New York City and plan the Manhattan trip of your dreams!

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