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On my recent trip to Atlanta I was looking to dine out at a authentic southern restaurant.  I asked a local for a recommendation, and he advised me to check out Sweet Georgia’s Juke Joint.  My first thought was what the heck is a Juke Joint?  Thanks to google and my smart phone, I quickly discovered that juke joints were like our bars of today and they began popping up after emancipation.  Juke Joints primarily catered to African-American sharecroppers and plantation workers in the southeast and provided them with a place to socialize with friends while enjoying a meal or having a couple of drinks. They were also known for their music, especially the blues.

When I told my friend from San Francisco about Sweet Georgia’s Juke Joint she was just as excited to try a restaurant authentic to the south.  Originally a southerner before moving to NYC, I too couldn’t wait to take a look at the menu and was also excited because we were also going to be able to see, or should I say hear one of Atlanta’s best blues bands.

As soon as we stepped in the restaurant we were greeted with the jiving sound of the Breeze King’s harmonica, historical photographs of juke joints in a collage on the wall and chatter and laughter from the crowded tables.  The ambiance in one word was cool.

A little history on the wall.

Would you like to try some moonshine?

Our energetic and genuinely friendly waiter also shared something else that was pretty cool – a selection of Midnight Moon Moonshines.  Of course we had to sample a little because how many place offer moonshine?  After toasting our shot glasses and throwing it down I literally screamed “wow, that burned” and quickly realized how the juke joints of the past became so rowdy.  We both decided to ensure that we made our meeting the next morning we most probably should layoff the moonshine and switch to beer.

Did you say Fried Green Tomatoes?

At first glance at the menu, I was disappointed.  Just kidding!  I was only disappointed that I couldn’t try practically everything on the menu!  I debated back and forth over the southern starter and the seafood gumbo to start and between the fried chicken, pork rib rack , the shrimp and crawfish e’toufee and the shrimp and grits for my entrée.  Ultimately we went with the southern starter because it included fried green tomatoes which I hadn’t enjoyed in most probably twenty years.  For the entrée, Nicole decided on the Fried Chicken which is one of the more popular dishes according to our waiter.  I ended up going with the shrimp and grits.  Everything was so delicious.

Shrimp and Grits

Fried Chicken

The Breeze Kings

Hopefully if you find yourself in Atlanta and plan on going to Sweet Georgia’s Juke Joint it will be on a night that there is live music.  Consider yourself lucky if you are there on a night when the Breeze Kings hit the stage.  They have been voted Best Blues Band in Atlanta nine separate years.  Their pumping, smooth style and rhythm really tied together the whole juke joint experience.  These guys were truly talented and I really loved the harmonica player.  Can I use the words authentic and cool again?

The Breeze Kings

“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.”

James Michener

When you travel do you sample the region’s most famous foods?

Thirty-three million copies of Margaret Mitchell’s Pulitzer Prize novel, Gone With The Wind has been read since it was first hit book stores in 1936.  This historical romance is the 8th most read book in the world.

Gone With The Wind is the eighth most read book in the world!

I am one of those thirty-three million.  I truly love the book and the movie which was released in 1939 and won 10 Academy Awards in 1940.  Scarlet O’Hara was one of my favorite characters growing up.  My Granny gave me a Scarlet O’Hara Madame Alexander doll for my ninth birthday and on that very same year I also had a Scarlet O’Hara birthday cake.  Of course when I was nine, I had not read the book yet, but had seen the movie, which was enough for me to reenact the romantic drama in my pretend world with my Scarlet Doll and Ken Barbie.

My Madame Alexander Scarlett O’Hara doll from 1977.

My Scarlet O’Hara birthday cake with my aunt, cousin, sister and granny in the background.

With such fond memories, the first place I decided to visit on a scheduled business trip to Atlanta was the Margaret Mitchell House. So a week ago today, I arrived a half a day early for my meeting, braved the rain and navigated the Marta from my downtown hotel to the Birthplace of Gone With The Wind.

Apartment # 1

Margaret Mitchell and John Marsh’s apartment.

Margaret Mitchell and her second husband John Marsh lived in the Crescent Avenue apartment in the 1920’s. In 1926, Mitchell left her job as a journalist for the Atlanta Journal to recover from ankle surgery.  While homebound in Apartment # 1 (which she referred to as “the dump”) and bored with reading, her husband suggested that she write her own book.  As we know today, that is exactly what she did over a three-year period.

A week has past since my visit and I am still excited that I spent time in the very apartment which she lived and penned one of my favorite stories.  The apartment was pretty small and crowded with furniture with a desk near the front window where she wrote her now famous novel.  When I say small, I mean like Manhattan apartment small.  There was no eat in kitchen and the breakfast table was actually in the only bedroom. Apparently she didn’t mind, because she didn’t like to cook for guest.

The living room with Margaret’s desk in the corner where she wrote Gone With The Wind.

The bedroom that also served as a small dining room for Margaret and John.

The small kitchen off the bedroom. The icebox was just outside the back door.

Margaret Mitchell:  A Passion for Character Exhibition

This exhibit focused on Mitchell’s life as a writer and ranged  from her early childhood to her time as a reporter at the Atlanta Journal.  The exhibit also looked at how the book affected her life.  She never had any children and referred to her novel as her child.   I really enjoyed this exhibit and found myself fascinated by the interesting facts about her family that came out in her writing.  For instance Mitchell returned home from college one day after her mother died from influenza, just like Scarlet returned home to Tara one day after her mother died.  I also wondered like many others if Rhett was based on Red, her first husband and if Ashley was based on her second husband John.  She claimed that no character was based on any one person, but on characteristics and the lives of many people she knew.  I also got a kick out of learning that after dancing to ragtime at the Georgian Terrace Hotel in the 1920s, Margaret Mitchell was denied membership to the Atlanta Junior League. In 1939, the league asked her to be the guest of honor at a costume ball for the premiere of “Gone With the Wind,” but she declined their invitation.

Margaret’s desk from the Atlanta Journal. The legs had to be cut down since she was 4’9”.  I love the picture above the desk of Margaret surrounded by men just like the opening scene of Gone With the Wind when Scarlett was surrounded by men on the steps of Tara.

A picture of a picture – Margaret’s risque dancing.

Gone With The Wind has been translated in 35 different languages.

The Making of a Film Legend:  Gone with the Wind Exhibition

The first thing I saw when I opened the doors to this exhibit was the original doors from Tara.  They were beautifully restored after being stowed away in a Georgia barn after being removed from the set.  When I turned left the next thing that I saw was the original portrait of Scarlet that hung in Rhett and Scarlet’s Atlanta Mansion.  The portrait was restored because it was damaged by the whiskey glass that Clark Gable threw at it while filming the movie.  It would have been cool if they had left it in its original state.  There was also a short film in the exhibit that detailed the transformation of the novel  to the classic film.

The original doors from Tara.

The original portrait of Scarlet O’Hara that hung in the Atlanta Mansion in the movie.

It’s hard to believe that after reading 1037 pages and watching a four-hour movie numerous times that I only spent about an hour in the home where Gone With The Wind began. Although it was only an hour it was a very happy hour which was actually around noon and not five o’clock.  Learning about Margaret Mitchell has given me an even greater appreciation of Gone With The Wind. This is something that I never would have imagined as a nine year old girl playing with my Scarlet O’Hara doll and quoting lines like “Fiddle-dee-dee” and “After all…tomorrow is another day”  in my most southern voice or giggling as I cursed for the first time whenI made my Ken Barbie say “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn”.

When is the last time you have seen

Gone With The Wind?  

If it has been a while, and you don’t have four hours

check out this 2 minute clip from SUPERCUT on YouTube!

Welcome to Coney Island

When I told my thirteen year old son this summer that we were headed to Brooklyn to take in some history, I received his expected moan as he said “Mom, enough with the history trips already”.    I just laughed and told him to call a friend to join him, because this history lesson revolved around roller coasters and thrilling rides.

Coney Island is just a stone throw from Manhattan.   Okay, not really, it is the last stop on both the D and F subway lines, but well worth the trip.  If you haven’t been there in the last two years you might have a different opinion, but since the renovations in 2010 it is a really fun place to spend the day.  The best thing about Coney Island is the atmosphere that places like Disney World, Six Flags and Busch Gardens can’t replicate.  Coney Island has many attractions like the New York Aquarium, the Brooklyn Cyclones (Met’s Farm team), the Coney Island Circus Side Show, and the Coney Island Museum.  Our mission however, was to spend the day at Luna Park and Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park and then end the day chowing down at Nathan’s Famous Hotdogs.

Luna Park

The original Luna Park was open from 1903 to 1944.  It recently reopened in 2010 and many of the rides pay homage to the original parks, Steeplechase Park and the first Luna Park.  As soon as we arrived we loaded up our Luna Cards with  Luna Credits (40 credits- $35, 60 credits – $60 & 125 credits – $100).  The Luna Credits were valid at Luna Park, Scream Zone, and the Cyclone Roller Coaster.  We were able to use the cards for rides, games, and food.  The boys loved the Scream Zone and did a lot of screaming themselves on the Soarin’ Eagle and the Steeplechase. The Steeplechase was ridiculously fast and it was cool to know that this ride was based upon the original mechanical horse ride over a hundred years ago.  The only thing that was missing was the attendants were not dressed in jockey uniforms like years past.

Soarin Eagle

Steeplechase

The Coney Island Raceway which is also in the Scream Park just opened this year.   It was a great track and my son gave it a ten when comparing it to the many other go-kart tracks that he has dragged me to over the years.

Coney Island Raceway

The Luna Park Rides were divided into high, moderate and mild thrill rides.  We focused on the high thrill rides and the Brooklyn Flyer (swings), The Tickler and Wild River were our favorites.

Electro Spin

Of course the grand daddy of the rides was the historic Cyclone Roller Coaster which was declared a NYC landmark in 1988.  2012 marked the 85th Anniversary of the cyclone, so of course we had to celebrate by riding the landmark.  All I have to say is that I thought The El Torro was scary at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey, but the first drop on the Cyclone brought back the same frightening feeling 10-fold. In addition to the rides, there were plenty of games in Luna Park, and both boys came home with many angry bird prizes.

The Grandfather of the American Roller Coaster

Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park

This amusement park is sandwiched in between the Scream Zone and Luna Park. The Luna Card is not accepted here since it is under different ownership and you can buy tickets at one of the booths in the park.  Deno’s has a great kiddie park with 17 rides and four adult rides including the famous Wonder Wheel.  The Wonder Wheel was built in 1920 and is 150 feet high.  No matter if we were looking at the Atlantic Ocean or the skyline of Manhattan, the views were amazing.  The boys also had a great time on the bumper cars and I loved the Thunderbolt mainly because it brought me back in time to the days I visited Pontchatrain Beach in New Orleans when I was young.

Deno’s Wonder Wheel

Nathan’s Famous Hotdogs

You can’t go to Coney Island without eating a hotdog from Nathan’s Famous. Charles Feltman actually invented the hotdog in Coney Island in 1867, but it was a Polish immigrant named Nathan Handwerker that opened up a small hot dog stand in 1916 that now is the home of the “World’s Best Hotdog”.  Ninety-five years later my son, his friend and I ended our exciting day of thrill rides and games with an original dog and a cheese dog just like the many generations before us that flocked to Coney Island for some family fun.

It’s time for the original

The original and a cheese dog

Have you been to Coney Island?  What was your favorite thrill?

Both amusement parks are open on the weekends through the end of October.

If you want to get the full educational lesson, click this PBS website before visiting America’s First Amusement Park.

The fun never stops at Coney Island!

“The tower of books about Abraham Lincoln, symbolizing that the last word about this great man will never be written.” – Ford’s Theatre

Last month we were in Washington, D.C. and we visited the Ford’s Theatre Museum and Center for Education and Leadership.  One of the most amazing sites was the 34-foot tower of books about Abraham Lincoln.  Fifteen thousand books about our most honored and reveled president in history proves that it is unlikely that the fascination and desire to learn about Lincoln will never end.  My son and I are definitely intrigued to learn every detail about Abraham Lincoln’s life just like all the authors of those books and the millions that have read them.

Of course I have read some great books on Abraham Lincoln (Lincoln on Leadership, Killing Lincoln, and Presidential Courage which highlights Lincoln’s presidency in three chapters) and my son has read Chasing Lincoln’s Killer in school.  Learning about Lincoln from the written page combined with our love of historical travel has put us on a “Lincoln Expedition” over the last couple of years.  Below is a picture gallery of the places we visited to learn about one of our country’s greatest presidents who had the character and courage to preserve our country and abolish slavery.  I wish I could tell you that I had a favorite place, but seeing his humble home in Springfield, Illinois, going to Gettysburg, following his second inaugural ball dance steps in what is now the National Portrait Gallery, or seeing where he lost his life at the Ford’s Theatre makes it too difficult because each place had their own historical significance and I felt a connective pull to history at each visit.  One place I will never get tired of seeing is the Lincoln Memorial and I can’t help but stand in awe each time I visit.  I love it so much I want to go to Chesterwood in Stockbridge, Massachusetts to learn about Daniel Chester, the sculptor of the memorial.  In addition to visiting Chester’s home, believe it or not, there are numerous other places we want to visit to increase our knowledge about Lincoln and making our way to Kentucky is on our list of places to see.

Until our next trip, we have countless memories of a president that I sometimes feel like I personally met.  We are also counting down the days to two new movies. On November 16th Daniel Day-Lewis will star in the new movie LincolnKilling Lincoln which is based on O’Reilly’s book is set to air on Nat Geo Channel in early 2013 with Tom Hanks.

 Lincoln’s legacy will forever live.

Abraham Lincoln’s Home in Springfield, Illinois

2009 – Celebrating the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth by visiting his home in Springfield, Illinois.

Great Western Depot

After a short speech to his friends and family who came to see him off, Abraham Lincoln left the Great Western Depot on his inaugural journey to Washington with his oldest son Robert.

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois.

David Wills House 

Abraham Lincoln crafted the Gettysburg Address at the David Wills House.

Lincoln at Gettysburg

This monument marks where Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address.

National Portrait Gallery

The National Portrait Gallery used to be the U.S. patent office…it is one Washington’s oldest public buildings, being built only after the white house and capitol. When we visited, we were lucky enough to enjoy “The Honor of Your Company Is Requested:  President Lincoln’s Inaugural Ball” Exhibit.

Ford’s Theatre 

2012 – In front of Ford’s Theatre

The Presidential Box at Ford’s Theatre

Petersen House

The bed in the Petersen House where President Lincoln took his last breath.

National Museum of American History

The hat that Lincoln wore the last night of his life is on view at the National Museum of American History.

Lincoln’s Tomb

The final resting place for Abraham Lincoln and all of his family except his eldest son. Robert Lincoln rest at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C.

Lincoln’s Memorial

One of the most beautiful places in Washington, D.C.

What books have you read about Abraham Lincoln?  After I read Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Lincoln, I had to see the Ford Theater and the Petersen house for myself!   Have you ever read a book that lead you to a historic site?   

The quote says it all.

At the Gettysburg Visitor Center

The sun gleaming on the Peconic River

So have I enticed you to visit Riverhead yet?  With a few more weeks of summer and fall upon us, it is the perfect time to head east of  NYC to this busy town on Long Island.  I mean seriously, the kids just started school this past week, but anyone in the New York tri-state area knows that they are already off for a 4 day weekend, September 15th through 18th, and are also off September 26th and October 8th!  As you know from Part One and Part Two of this series, there is no shortage of things to do with the kids . . . aquarium,  Long Island Railroad Museum, kayaking , biking and hanging out with some farm animals.  The nice thing though about Riverhead is that you can slip some things in for Mom and Dad too, heck you can even bring the grandparents!  No matter who makes the trip, you can bet on a good time. We always do. So sift through the different ideas on the previous list and the one below and start planning what attractions, farms and outdoor activities for your own travel itinerary.

21.  Enjoy a live performance – The Vail-Leavitt Music Hall which was established in 1881 and was modeled after Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C.  This music hall host productions from the East End Children’s Theatre Co., songwriter showcases, concerts and comedy shows.  As of Dec. 31, 2012, the Suffolk Theatre will be another place to catch a live performance ranging from musical acts, plays and comedy shows.  In addition the Suffolk Theatre which originally opened in 1933 will once again show films that span from popular box office movies to classic, foreign and independent films.  I am so excited that this historical single screen art deco movie theater that was once compared to Radio City Music Hall will be re-opening with such a range of productions.  It is located within walking distance of the Hyatt Place and there are many restaurants close by , like the Riverhead Project, that you will definitely be able to make it a night out on the town.

Vail-Leavitt Music Hall

The Suffolk Theatre scheduled to open again on Dec. 30th, the 80th anniversary of when it first opened its doors.

22.  Visit a farm-stand – It is apple picking time!  It’s also pumpkin picking time too!  Farm stands and orchards are popular stops for families to pick up some fresh produce. Many farms also offer “pick your own” strawberries, peaches and pumpkins in season. For a list of Riverhead Farm Stands, click on this link.

I love stopping off at the many farm-stands, especially for a fruit pie.

23.  Tea Time Cottage – This Long Island Teahouse is adorable.  It is a wonderful, cozy place for a cup of tea and a warm scone or a great freshly made wrap and a cup of soup.  The Tea TIme Cottage is close to Hallockville Museum Farm and the Gingerbread University, so once you are finished decorating cookies or hanging out on the farm, cap off your day with afternoon tea, minus the white gloves.

Tea Time Cottage

24.  Hit the Golf course – If golf is your game, there is several courses where you can tee off or hit the driving range in Riverhead.  The four public courses are Cherry Cree Golf Links, Long Island National Golf Club, Sandy Pond Golf Course, and The Woods At Cherry Creek.

25. Do a little fishing Flander’s Bay offers saltwater fishing where  you  can reel in striped bass, bluefish and snapper. If you would like to fish by boat, rentals are available and of course you can always fish by shore.  The Peconic River is another great place to fish and you can also find striped bass and snapper here too.  The town docks behind Main Street provide the easiest way to cast your rod and is a great place to fish with kids.  Regardless of where you go fishing, don’t forget that anyone over the age of sixteen in New York needs a fishing license.  You can pick one up at Sports Authority on Old Country Road or the Town of RIverhead  at 200 Howell Avenue for five dollars.

Fishing from a rented canoe on the Peconic River

Fishing off the dock

26.  Camp & Hike at Indian Island County Park – Open year round, camping is quite popular at Indian Island, with trailer and tent campsites. Restrooms and shower facilities are available for the comfort of all campers.  Picnic tables, grills, comfortable benches make it easy to set up shop.  Other features are fishing, playgrounds, hiking trails, and  a bike hostel. Dogs must be leashed. If you are looking to connect with nature and get away from it all,  Indian County Park is the place  to escape to where you can enjoy 287 acres and views of the peaceful Flanders Bay.  Click here for camp reservation information.

Camping

27.  Go Antiquing– Antiques Etc. is a located in an old barn on McDermott Ave. between the Peconic River and Main Street.  When I visited there were some gorgeous pieces of furniture.  I fell in love with a large farm table and a mirrored chest of drawers.  Too bad there is no room in my house.  Another great place on Main Street is the Red Collection which is a consignment shop featuring home furnishings many made by top designers.  The store is 8,000 square feet and items range from $10 to 10,000.  Since my favorite channel is HGTV, all I can say is I love this place.

28.  Get your history fix at the Suffolk County Historical Society Museum – There is a lot of history on Long Island.  Think about it, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence , William Floyd resided in Suffolk County, the Culper Spy Ring operated in parts of Suffolk County, and being on the east coast, colonial life was largely prevalent.  Of course Suffolk County also was where the first wireless signal was transmitted, where Albert Einstein spent  his summer in 1939 and was the home  of the first US Navy Submarine base.The museum has a vast collection that includes 20,000 historical artifacts. There are permanent and changing exhibitions.  The artifact collections are broad, but  mainly focus in the areas of  history and the arts.  The majority of the collections are from the 19th century, but  Native American artifacts from the prehistoric to modern time are also represented.

29.  Check out Long Island Antique Power Association Conveniently right next door to the Hallockville Farm Museum, you will find the Long Island Antique Power Association.  Here you can check out antique trucks, tractors and equipment. So if you are into cars and like to check out engines or think it would be fun to see a tractor pull, stop on by.  Rumor has it that the association hopes make their operation a full-time working farm museum so the public can participate sowing wheat and planting potatoes and them harvesting them.

Where else can you experience lawn mower racing or garden tractor pulls?

30.  Venture out to neighboring towns – Well, if the previous 29 places were not enough, within 15 to 20 minutes from Riverhead, you can star-gaze at the Custer Institute in Southold on Saturday night or for the Annual Astronomy Jamboree October 19th- 20th.  Another must see, especially for kids is to  visit the Big Duck, a roadside attraction in Flanders.  If you can’t wait for the Suffolk Theater to open, you can catch a live comedy show or music performance at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center.  You can always find a great line up here which is nice when you don’t want to head into NYC.  For example, on Columbus Day weekend the Gregg Allman and Band  and Bill Cosby will be performing.

The Big Duck

Yes, the list is long, but with 30 Reasons to Vacation in Riverhead that is expected.  Believe it or not there is even more places that are on the horizon in this busy town.  There is an ice rink and pavilion in the works and it looks like dinosaurs will be back on Main streett.  Most places that are mentioned are fairly inexpensive, but there are a few places that can be pricy, so make sure you look for discounts in the Your Local Kids Source, which is a free magazine that you can find in the hotels and restaurants.  I have found coupons for the aquarium up to 30% discounts in this coupon book or  you can just go to their website and create your own coupon.

30 Reasons….what is your families’ reason to vacation or make a day trip to Riverhead?

Kayaks and Canoes are also for rent at the Peconic Paddler at the traffic circle next to Milton L. Burns Park.

Did you enjoy part one of  30 reasons to vacation in Riverhead?  As mentioned before, the great thing about Riverhead is that there is something for everyone. Mom’s and daughters will enjoy having tea at Tea Time Cottage, decorating Gingerbread cookies at The Gingerbread University and shopping at the outlets. Fathers and son’s will enjoy Riverhead Raceway and the Railroad Museum of Long Island.  Families that enjoy the outdoors can rent kayaks and paddle down the Peconic River or rent bikes and cycle by the riverfront. Science comes alive at the Long Island Science Center or Atlantis Aquarium and history buffs will enjoy Hallockville Farm or the Historical Society Museum.  Below is the continued list with details and links to make planning your getaway to Riverhead simple and stress free.

11.  Ride the mechanical bull and do a little line dancingCody’s BBQ offers more than just the typical barbecue fare, it host line dancing on Saturday nights and an opportunity to ride a mechanical bull.  The inflatable mechanic bull is set up outside on the back deck.  If you are thinking about going, check out their facebook page because events seem to be updated more than on their website.  This sure is a fun night out and there is not to many places for you to get “your Cowboy on”!

The Mechanical Bull, photo credit: Cody’s BBQ

12.  Shopping – If shopping is your thing, there will be no shortage of stores at the Tanger Outlets.  Stores include accessory shops, children’s apparel, apparel for men and women, footwear, specialty shops and housewares and home furnishings.  Make sure you check out their website for coupons and special offers.  Another great place to check out is 73 Main in the historic downtown area.  I am sure this new boutique will be one of many with Main Street be revitalized and the addition of the Hyatt and approaching opening of the Suffolk Theatre.

Shop at the Outlets

13.  Long Island Science Center – This hands-on interactive educational museum emphasizes science, technology, engineering and math.  Families will have great time exploring the exhibits like CSI and solving the crime or creating  a small toy with tinker toys or building their own creation with legos.  Also offered are family workshops.  Admission is $5 per person.

Long Island Science Center

Time to Investigate

14.  Hallockville Museum Farm – Hallockville, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, sits on 28 acres where visitors can tour their historic houses and barns from the mid-18th century.  In addition to touring the museum’s buildings, gardens and collections, families will get to experience real farming in the fields and get to meet animals like cows, sheep and chickens.  One of the best times to visit  is the third weekend of September when they have their annual Fall Festival & Craft Fair.  Make sure you check out their website for other fun events, like Geology hikes.

Hallockville Museum Farm

15.  Spend the day at Reeves Beach – On the shore of the Long Island Sound, this beach is about a ten minute drive from the center of town.   A gazebo sits atop a cliff overlooking the Sound and beach and there is restrooms and parking.  Parking however requires a beach permit from Memorial Day to Labor Day.  Day permits can be purchased for $10 at the Recreation Office at Stotzky Park.

The Long Island Sound

16.  Railroad Museum of Long Island –  With two locations in Riverhead and Greenport, train enthusiast will love this museum.  Admission includes a ride on the World’s Fair miniature train and a guided tour of the Riverhead and Greenport site. Families will also like the model train display in the visitors center.  The best way to enjoy the day though is to arrive at the Railroad Museum of Long Island (RMLI), Riverhead site, at approximately 10 AM when it opens, on any Saturday and Sunday between Memorial weekend and Columbus weekend. Visit the Riverhead site and then walk over to the LIRR Riverhead station (across the tracks) and take the Eastbound 11:25 AM train to Greenport arriving at 12:05 PM. Visit the Railroad Museum of Long Island (RMLI), Greenport site, located across the parking lot from the West end of the Greenport train platform. After visiting you now have two choices. Return to Riverhead on the 1:11 PM train leaving Greenport and arriving Riverhead at 1:50 PM. Or if you want to do additional sightseeing in Greenport Village, return to Riverhead on the 6:11 PM train leaving Greenport and arriving Riverhead at 6:50 PM. When you return on either train, pack a lunch or snack, ride on the upper level of the train, and enjoy the view as you pass through Long Island Wine Country. (The LIRR fare is extra, but family fares are low-cost.)  Two annual events that you will want to keep in mind is the Riverhead Railroad Festival, always the weekend before Labor Day and the Holiday Open House with Santa, the first full weekend in December at the Greenport location.  The Riverhead location is also hosting Toy Train Play Days Columbus Day weekend.

Model Train Display in Riverhead

Railroad Museum of Long Island

17.  Dine at Riverfront Restaurant – The Peconic River flows just south of Main Street and there are some really great places to enjoy a meal with the family.  The cuisine at Turkuaz Grill is Turkish and Mediterranean.  I love the atmosphere under the trees with paper lanterns and the sigara boregi, (Turkish Cigars, which is fried thin dough rolled with feta cheese and parsley – yum).  If you are in the mood for Italian, The Roadhouse has great brick oven pizza and pastas.  Both Turkuaz Grill and The Roadhouse are reasonable priced and family friendly.  I also love Farm Country Kitchen, which is tucked away from the road on the banks of the river. They have quite a selection of wraps and salads made with the freshest ingredients.  There soups are wonderful too.

Turkuaz Grill

Enjoy pizza, pasta or wings along the river at The Roadside.

18.  Give into your sweet tooth – After dining along the riverfront, make sure to save room for dessert. Across the street from The Roadhouse, you will find the best homemade ice cream at Snowflake Ice Cream Shoppe.  The historic downtown area offers up great shakes at the Star Confectionery, which is 1920s “classic” “mom‑and‑pop” luncheonette.  Just a couple of doors down, you will find the Baker’s Workshop. This cafe is part of the Suffolk County Community College Culinary Arts and Hospitality Center and the pastries here are spectacular.

Snowflake Ice Cream Shoppe

The Star Confectionery

19.  Explore Polish Town, USA – Polish Town is a small neighborhood in Riverhead settled by Polish immigrants at the turn of the century.  This is a great neighborhood to explore with kids and expose them to a different culture.  The streets are lined with red street signs and polish flags, so it gives you a feel that you are no longer in Riverhead.  It is here that you will start craving kielbasa and pierogisis even if you were not hungry.   No worries, if that happens, because the popular Polish Town Deli or Birchwood is on the main drag, Pulaski Street.  The best time to visit Polish Town USA is in August when they typically have the Polish Town Fair and Polka Festival.

Welcome to Polish Town, USA

Polish Town Fair and Polka Festival

20.  Grumman Memorial Park  – Families can pay tribute to the aviation and aerospace history that took place on Long Island at Grumman Memorial Park.  This free attraction is now home to some of  Grumman’s Long Island-built fighter planes, including one of the best known, the F-14A Tomcat, a supersonic fighter that could shoot down enemy aircraft in the middle of the day or night.

Grumman Memorial Park

Believe it or not, there is still 10 more places to highlight in this busy little town!  Stay tune for the continued list in Part Three of  the 30 Reasons to Vacation in Riverhead.

Main Street, Riverhead by the Community Garden

Sunflowers along Roanoke Avenue in Riverhead.

Riverhead, New York is small town on the east end of Long Island sitting at the mouth of Peconic River.  Many people associate Riverhead with the Aquarium, the water park Splish Splash, and the Tanger Outlets.  These might be the most popular attractions, but Riverhead has so much more to offer.  Affordable hotels (that are scarce further east out in the Hamptons) make it a great destination to visit with families.  This post is the first of three and families will be thrilled to find something to do for every family member.   There really is a lot to do, regardless of the season or your age, so check out my list below and make plans to venture out to the east end of Long Island for a day trip or a vacation in this family friendly destination 76 miles east of New York City.

1.   Long Island Aquarium & Exhibition Center The aquarium has been one of our family’s favorite place to visit.  It is not a huge, but it has so many exhibits and interactive experiences.  In addition to seeing beautiful fishes and the sea-lion show, the aquarium is the home of three Japanese Snow Monkeys and adorable Penguins.   When my son was three he was happy touching the stingrays in Ray Bay and now at age thirteen he has enjoyed the thrill of the shark dive  and the pirate snorkel adventure.  Other fun things for the family is the Discovery Tower, climbing Poseidon’s Peak,  touring the Peconic River on the Atlantis Explorer Tour boat or hanging out in the tranquil Butterfly Exhibit.

My little guy checking out the stingrays

Not so little any more doing the shark dive with his friend.

2.  Splish Splash– This of course is a seasonal attraction and is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day.  With 96 areas of water slides and wave pools, it is no wonder that it was voted one of the best water parks in America by the Travel Channel.  One of the things I like best about Splish Splash is how the park is nestled in the trees for shade.

The Lazy River

3.  Riverhead Raceway – This is a fun way to spend a Saturday evening.  I promise the race cars whipping around the track, demolition derbies and classic carnival food will keep your family entertained.  Races are only on Saturdays starting at 6 pm and the pit opens in the afternoon where you can check out the practice and modified trials.

Riverhead Raceway

4.  Martha Clara Vineyards – More than just award-winning wine, the Entenmann’s family friendly farm is inviting for the whole family.  The kids will get a kick out of seeing the turtles, goats, pigs, cows and other animals.  This family friendly vineyard host dog walks (yes, your furry four leg friend is welcome), live music, horse and carriage rides and of course wine tasting for the adults.  The weekend we visited we were also able to pick our own sunflowers from the field and families were sprawled across the lawn with their picnic lunches while listening to the Live Reggae Music by The Roots Foundation.   The kids played games like tag and bean bag toss while adults were playing bocce. The vineyard is opened year round, so make sure you check out their website for events and live music schedule.

Check out the doggie in the wine tasting room.

The Roots Foundation keeping the crowd entertained.

Say hello to the alpaca

Walking through the sunflowers.

Saying hello to one of the horses that pull the carriage through the vineyard.

Families playing on the lawn.

The Vineyard

5.  Treasure Cove Rentals – Located behind the Hyatt Place, the Treasure Cove Resort Marina rents bicycles, canoes & kayaks, water bikes and electric tour boards.You can rent by the one or two hours or for a half a day for four hours and venture out on the Peconic River.

Kayaking along the Peconic River.

6.  Gingerbread University – This is such a fun activity to share with kids and not just for Christmas.   Families can pick from decorating their own Gingerbread house or cookies.  Each month has a theme and when I stopped by they had cute whales to decorate for summer.  There is plenty of candy in the sweet shop to add to the decorations too.  Walk ins are welcome, but it is best to make a reservation.

Gingerbread University

Gingerbread cookies waiting to be decorated.

Decorating Kits

7.  East End Art Gallery – Located in downtown Riverhead on Main Street, this gallery is run by the East End Arts Council.  The Gallery produces eight shows a year and the gift shop showcases work of the member artist.  Admission is free and open to the public.  The day I visited there was an exhibit titled Found Objects and a fabulous women named Janet gave me a little background of some of the works of art.  I found many of the sculptures and paintings whimsical and thought it would be a great exhibit for kids to get their imaginative juices flowing by looking at works of art that were made of old alarm clocks and a kitchen strainer.  My favorite  object was a very large wastebasket that looked like a Starbucks cup made from Starbucks cups found on the ground.

A work of art made from found objects.

Kids would love this.

8.  Out East Family Fun  – This is an outdoor family entertainment center opened from March through November.  Miniature golf, batting cages, and jump shot basketball (a trampoline basketball game) will definitely ensure a great time. Summer seasonal activities include all water attractions which include 4 inflatable water slides, water wars (a slingshot water balloon game), shoot and shower (a basketball splash game), and a splash zone for the little ones. This place is a must, since vacation always should include a round of mini golf!

Mini Golf for $7 per person at Out East Family Fun

9.   Affordable Accommodations – There are three options for family accommodations in Riverhead – Holiday Inn Express East End, Hilton Garden Inn Riverhead and the Hyatt Place Long Island East End, all averaging about $150 a night.   Both the Holiday Inn Express and the Hilton Garden Inn are both located on Old Country Road which is close to the outlets, Splish Splash, Riverhead Raceway & Out East Family Fun.  The Hyatt Place, which opened up a year ago is on Main Street in the historic downtown section of Riverhead and sits along the Peconic River.  It is next to the aquarium and is close to the Long Island Science Center and the Railroad Museum of Long Island.  Treasure Cove Marina is also located on the premises for kayak rentals.  Each hotel has a pool, which is another attraction in itself when traveling with kids.

10.  Picnic at the Peconic Riverfront Park – Pick up lunch at one of my favorite places, The Country Rotisserie, and head down to Milton L. Burns Park which is behind the bank on Main Street.  This is a phenomenal park and you will feel like you are in an outdoor art gallery with the carved pilings along the river.  Seriously these pilings are a work of art, and you will find carvings of the Statue of Liberty, 911 Memorial and the Empire State Building.  There is a performance area , benches and checkers and chess tables.  The gardens are beautiful with many blooming flowers. This a charming retreat with pathways, grassy areas and some shade trees.  At the entrance off of Main Street there is a new playground and community garden. Across the street, south along the river you will find Ammann Riverfront Park.  This park runs behind the southern storefronts on Main Street.  Here you will find picnic tables along the riverfront with boat moorings. Sometimes a farmers market will be set up and the park ends at the aquarium.

Milton L. Burns Park

Statue of Liberty

See, they really are works of art!

Chess anyone?

Are you impressed with all that Riverhead has to offer?  Well this is just the tip of the iceberg, with twenty more reasons to vacation in Riverhead, make sure you check out my continued post later this week!

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