7 Best Hidden Gems of Long Island

11.06.2018 Long Island, New York, USA

Situated just 100 miles from Manhattan, the North Fork of Long Island is like a wallflower that holds quaint downtowns, vineyards and local jaunts, typically undiscovered in comparison to the popular South Fork of Long Island a.k.a The Hamptons. If you carefully observe, the Long Island on the map is shaped like a fish, and the twin forks are its two tails.


A place, called Riverhead, is situated on the mouth of the twin forks that splits Long Island into two tines - The North Fork and The South Fork, making it a perfect base that can take you where you need to go and bring back home to relax.

“It’s as if the North Fork reminds us of to slow down and explore more, where South Fork tells us to rediscover what’s already known. It is up to us, on which fork entices us more. “

Here are some of my 7 favorite hidden gems from Long Island:

1. The Village of Patchogue: The charming village of Patchogue, located 50 miles from Manhattan, has a happening downtown that has some of the punniest shop names as you walk down the street.

Our first stop was Rhum, the first open rooftop bar in Patchogue.

“So, let’s forget about our worries for a little while, eat some great food, sip some rum and have some laughs…” -David Hersh, Owner says.

With Viola Wang of The Blessing Bucket

It is also where we met a random gentleman who claimed himself to be the mayor and later laughed it off. We joked amongst us, is the vibe of this place for real. People seem to have found their place to unwind, let go and simply be merry.

Rhum, is famous for Rum based concoctions and what better than having it on the rooftop bar with the view of the city and the swing of the hanging benches.

This Caribbean inspired cuisine and rum bar welcomes you to the three-floor bar: The top floor has a rooftop bar and hanging benches or swings and the rest of the floors has wooden accents, greenery and artwork. Even the stairs have a view of the barrels hanging, and hence walking up and down the stairs is a pleasurable experience here. It is also very handicap friendly with an elevator that can take you directly to the second and the third floor.

One can also get some of the local Caribbean fare here such as Jerk Chicken and Duck empanadas and a Key lime for a happy desert ending!

“This place has a vibe of reminiscing, as if the Caribbean is calling us and our hearts are yearning for that lighthearted banter with breeze under our feet and Caribbean spices in our bellies. Just a perfect place to hang out. “

They also have a recurring Fall Live Music Series at RHUM on Thursdays and Sundays for those who want to enjoy live music with the ambience.

Further down the street, is Paperdoll Curiosity Shoppe - A gift & retro clothing shop selling wares of the weird, wonderful & mysterious!

We really appreciated the flapper dresses, the vintage throwback assortments specially the quirky gloves with witty printed messages on them and the 7-foot tall Sasquatch statue.

The village of Patchogue is booming with a flurry of new up and coming restaurants, shops and lively events that have both visitors and locals flocking to the recently revitalized town. If you are dreaming of a getaway in a charming town, with lots of lively nightlife and restaurant options, then Main Street in Patchogue is the place to be.

Where we stayed: We stayed at Hotel Indigo East End, 25 minutes away from Patchogue. Situated in the heart of north fork, this place is close to shopping outlet such as the Tanger outlet and wineries.

Hotel Indigo is a decent place for a stay that has all the amenities you might need (including bike rentals and car rentals), a full functional gym, a spa which they call their treatment room and a handicapped accessible swimming pool with lush green walls and patios and fireplace.

“We actually do weddings - people love to do gorgeous ceremonies & bridal parties over here. We focus on most of the things local. Our furniture like beach chairs and light fixtures are custom made and our breakfast this morning was farm to table where the berries, vegetables, cheeses and wine came from local farms, dairy farms and local vineyards. We also have several packages that includes popular wine tours and we offer an amazing railroad tour called our Long Island Railroad Spirited Getaway, “says Kristen of Hotel Indigo.

2. Diner En Blanc: A mass “Chic Picnic in all white” in public secret space was one of the most intriguing Al-Fresco-Fancy-Dress-Mystery-Ball in Long Island this September.

The concept of Diner En Blanc began in Paris in 1988 when Frenchman Francois Pasquier invited a group of friends to an elegant outdoor dinner asking them to dress in white so that they could find each other. Today, Diner En Blanc is a worldwide event, spanning 6 continents where guests come in all white to enjoy food, wine and music.

Last year Long Island had its first Diner En Blanc at the de Seversky Mansion where white garbed people attended the Island’s first, dining on the lawn to the strains of opera which, as the evening wore on, gave way to a DJ spinning hip hop. Techno dub step and R&B classics.

"Diner En Blanc was a celebration of anonymity and purity to me. Here we were at Long Island Marriott for our stay in the morning, oblivious of the dazzling night that followed that very night in its backyard. A secret and a surprise packed in one."

 Thousands of people gathered in their best white everything - including the dining setups, the shimmers, the hats, the dresses, the shoes, the laces, the lighting fixtures, the shirts, the pants - just the everything. It was past dusk, and the ambiance felt like little sprinkles of stars, shimmers and fairies and gentlemen bought down from heaven to earth for this very day - because the sparkles of white in contrast to the setting night was simply unbelievable.

What followed was, a photo op with an elegant Diner En Blanc setup, dance performances on live music, wines, mass waving of white napkins as we raise toast to the start of dinner, the spa experience, mass raising of the mass sparklers, as we danced on the 80’s music to end our night.

About Invitations: Only a select number of participants who have previously signed up are made privy to the location the day of the dinner, and generally converge in an iconic city location. We were here by invitation of Long Island Tourism, and this was my first time at Diner En Blanc. On my online research prior, I read that If you attended last year, you will already have received an invitation.

For novices, registration opens a few months prior to the event here ; For more information, read Nadeen’s blog on Diner En Blanc, she has been to Diner En Blanc before, and she would be the best person to know really!

Where we stayed: Long Island Marriott turned out to be the perfect location. Diners are required to provide their own food, tables, chairs and tablecloths at Diner En Blanc. Since we were at Long Island Marriot, we chose to try the in-house restaurant - Crop & Kettle. I tried the Bourbon marinated Flat Iron Steak and it was good. The breakfast buffet also has a wide array of options to choose from.

3. Polo at Bethpage:

Bob Ceparano, Meadowbrook Polo Club’s field manager and CEO says, “Compared to Golf this is difficult and Golf is difficult. In Golf, they have two big feet planted firmly on the ground, two hands on the club, ball sitting still. Now you got, you are sitting on a thousand pounds horse, with a weapon and a 52 inch Mallet on your left hand and you are balancing with your right hand, and the horse is doing 38 miles an hour, the ball travels at 120 miles an hour, and somebody’s bumping you on a horse, trying to stop you from hitting it. That’s called for a crazy earthquake. “

Now as an amateur who has watched this sport for the first time at Bethpage, my experience from the V.I.P stall was no less than an amusement - the food served at the stall was delicious, the drinks were good, and the polo match was exciting to watch.

When I asked someone, who was equally as novice as me, she said, “Well, there are two goals and it looks like it is played like Soccer.”

Debronap, an announcer at Bethpage Polo says, “We have a wonderful event. Polo has been played for many many years, I played the game for over 26 years. It’s just so addictive. We have a field that’s 300 yards long by 150 yards long, we play 4 at a side, we go for one goal at first and if the goal is made, we switch goals. “

When I did a little more research online, I came to know, that Polo recognized as ‘The Sports of Kings’ is one of the world’s oldest known team sports. This horseback mounted team sport is played by two opposing teams with the objective of scoring goals by hitting a small hard ball with a long-handled wooden mallet, and through the opposing team's goal. Each team has several mounted riders, and the game usually lasts one to two hours, divided into periods called chukkas (or "chukkers").

Although the exact origins of the game are unknown it most likely began as a simple game played by mounted nomads of Iranian and Turkish origin of Central Asia from where it spread to rest of Persia and beyond. In time polo became a Persian national sport played extensively by the nobility and military men.

Modern polo originated and is derived from Manipur, a northeastern state of India, where the game was known as 'Sagol Kangjei', 'Kanjai-bazee', or 'Pulu'. It was the Anglicized form of the last, referring to the wooden ball that was used, which was adopted by the sport and propagated by officers of the British Military in the mid 19th century in Manipur. The first polo club was established in the town of Silcher in Assam in 1833. So, we do have a significant Indian connect from the game. Polo gained momentum in the 19th century, when James Gordon Bennet imported it from England. It arrived in the US in early 19th century and was spread by wealthy families.

Several players such as Johnny Redlich, Argentina; Agustin Bottaro, Argentina; Poroto Cambiaso, Argentina; Darien Huang, Toronto, Canada had travelled from across the world to play at Bethpage, Long Island. Johnny says, “I started to ride horses when I was 6 or 7 years, and then I started to follow this sport. When I finished school, someone invited me to Europe. I went there, and next year I got an offer to play in States and I kept coming here”.

Where we had dinner: Steaks and Fresh Seafood are served at City Cellar, a place that is defining the new cuisine of American Modern. A robust wine cellar of 500 labels features bottles from every corner of the world. Do not forget to get your Instagram worthy shot at the “LOVE” lightening fixture next to the bar or Do not forget to try the delicious Ahi Tuna!

Coming up: Watch my vlog on Long Island that has interesting things to do in Long Island and that will feature some more polo players from the field.

4. Old Westbury Gardens: Welcome to this ornate country estate that is an extraordinary example of the gracious era that is surrounded by 200 acres of formal gardens, treelined walks, woodland, lakes, pool and ponds. Old Westbury Gardens, registered on the national Registrar of historic places is a formal country estate of John S. Phipps, heir to a U.S Steel Fortune and his wife Margarita Phipps. Work on the estate began in 1903, when John promises his British Fiancée, Margarita that he would build her a home in the US that resembled her family estate in Battle Abbey.

The property was converted into a museum home in 1959. The house contains 23 rooms and has fine English antiques and decorative arts. The mansion and gardens have served as locations for the movies “Hitch”, “American Gangster” and “Cruel Intentions” and have also appeared in TV shows such as “Royal Pains” and “Gossip Girl”. Looking for the classics? Old Westbury gardens also hosts classical concerts.

After we joined the docent led tours, we were intrigued by not only the design but the detail the mansion has. He said to us, “How you see it is pretty much how it was”.

We walked past the painting that had eyes that follows us, we came to know about the fake book binds that has a secret wall that opens and has a secret passage where John had kept his favorite precious antique Violins of Stradivarius and Guarnerios, we came to know that they had four children – Michael being one of them who was a great polo player considered one of the top polo players of that time and he was an artist who created self-portrait of himself, we saw carpets made from needle point by several women who weaved them in Somerset, England, we saw the afternoon porch and the tea room, we saw the chandeliers & the mirrors of the mid 1700’s, we saw his desk in Mahogany and Leather, we saw the entrance gate that came from England and was painted in 24 Carat Gold leaf, we saw several guest rooms, master bed rooms and bathrooms, we saw mirrors from where you could see the stairway for the mother to keep a track of their children, we saw mirrors that was painted from the inside, we saw walls in Chinese motifs, we saw 1 inch thick teak floor – they say we are standing on one of the most expensive floors in the country.

That seat that you see, is actually a 1906 Toilet seat! Simply wow.

Few of these books have fake book binds that has a secret wall that opens and has a secret passage where John had kept his favorite precious antique Violins of Stradivarius and Guarnerios.

Rose Garden is one of the many gardens in Old Westbury Gardens

5. Jamesport Vineyard: Located in North Fork, Jamesport Vineyard is an amazing place to have wine tasting flights and visit the vineyard. The Vineyard is a father son collaboration that began in 1986 making it one of the North Fork’s oldest vineyards. Since Ron Goerler Sr. acquired the 165-year-old barn that houses the winery and tasting room a lot has changed, both aesthetically and agriculturally.

When I asked the pourer, who works at Jamesport Vineyards, he says, “1986 was our first wine made and we were one of the first four wineries here. Initially when we were growing here, it wasn’t easy, because we did not know which way to get the wines as it goes with the wind."

He continues," Today, we make 12 different varieties of wine and we make estate batches i.e. we try to make small batches of wine like 60-100 cases of our reserved wines and rotate it between summer and winter. We have won awards in various competition where people have loved our wines!”.

As we entered the Vineyard, we loved the aesthetically rustic decor that houses the tasting room. Guests can choose upto 5 wines for the tasting flight. The great lawn out back provides the perfect setting for Jamesport weekends where people can gather and enjoy wine and light fare. The garden also has a few shrubs and vegetables that grow. Next to the lawn with the seating are the Vineyards.

 I loved the desert wine “Estate Glace 2013” that is made from handpicked grapes in late November when the grapes have frozen on the wines and has flavors of baked apple, honey and ginger. Some of the other wines that I tried that was good was Cinq Blanc, Reisling Demi Sec and Merlot. We had these wines with some great cheese. Do not forget to check some of the local items before you leave!

6. The Preston House and Hotel

Bryan from the Preston House says, “This was an old historic house from 1905 that was left to fall apart, and they came and renovated it. Originally the idea was it was just going to be a hotel – then they found old barns and then decided we are going to do a 3- level restaurant and a boutique hotel. The Petrocelli family are the sole owners here and they are partners across the street with the Aquarium and the Hyatt. Located in downtown Riverhead on Long Island, the house was once owned by Henry H. Preston, the first salaried sheriff of Suffolk County. So, its old and its new."

He continues, "We have 1905 wine lounge with original walls, floors, columns and cellar. The wine lounge has ceilings where they used to grow mushrooms and so the ceilings has mushroom work and the same has been passed through kiln to get that old cellar feeling! We have put in a lot of effort to retain the old. The fitness room still has papers and artwork of 1905 and the level two restaurant has the old century dividing pockets.”

It’s interesting how you can smell different wood in different parts of Preston house. From the interior artwork to the graffiti work to the rooms it is an ideal example of artistically minimalistic well done.

Situated just opposite to the Aquarium, it’s a great place to have some creative cocktails or the seafood menu (The lobster roll rocks!).

                                    A  Fall cocktail that has apple and apple cider vinegar! 

As we take the elevator upstairs, we wouldn’t help but stare in awe the different rendition of artwork done by local artists from NYC every time we exit from the elevator such as Sean Sullivan and Scott Zimmerman. The pop of color that contrasts the minimalistic and contemporary décor is unimaginable. No wonder it is a hit with bridal groups.

7. Biking at the Broadwalk & Breakfast at Atlantica Allegria Hotel

Situated next to the broad walk at Long Beach with the views of the endless Atlantic Ocean, The Atlantica of the Allegria Hotel is where we had our breakfast. The decor at the Atlantica was nothing but a steal. We couldn’t stop ourselves from admiring the view and the natural elements used as the minimalistic decor inside that embodies the relaxed “beachy” elegance. I had the Salmon for breakfast and it was good.

Post our breakfast, we went for biking on the broad walk of the Long Beach. What a fun way to feel the breeze overlooking the ocean. A must do for everyone who comes here!

There is excitement galore at Long Island. Festivals such as Oyster Festival (Oct 13-14, 2018), Winterfest (Feb 22-March 18) and Hamptons International Film Fest (Oct 4-8, 2018) and many more keep the spark alive. My first visit to Long Island was to Montauk lighthouse (listen to the rumble of stones on the shore here) and Jones beach with friends but I never knew that there is so much to do here until now.

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