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Posts Tagged ‘Things to do on Long Island’

Mill Neck Manor, formerly known as Sefton Manor.

Mill Neck Manor, formerly known as           Sefton Manor.

Keeping up with the elegance and luxury of the Gilded Age that now may be assigned to the Great Gatsby, Mill Neck Manor is one of the remaining historic estates on the North Shore of Long Island.  Once known as Sefton Manor, this granite Tudor Revival mansion overlooks the water of the Long Island Sound on eighty-six acres.  The majestic estate was the home of cosmetic heiress, Lillian Sefton Thomas Dodge and her second husband Robert Leftwich Dodge.

In 1949, Mrs. Dodge sold her estate to the Lutheran Friends of the Deaf, the founding organization for Mill Neck Manor School for the Deaf.  The Manor House became a residential school for the Deaf and then a day elementary school. In 2001, a new Deaf Education Center was built which left the Manor House vacant and it is now used for events, Designer Showcases and monthly tours.

Since re-reading the F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” in anticipation of the Christmas release of the new movie based on the novel, I have embarked on a Gold Coast tour and was thrilled when I secured tickets for the once a month tour of Mill Neck Manor.  I enjoyed touring the Mansion that cost two million dollars back in 1923 and was impressed by many of the unique features and the formal gardens.  I was equally impressed with the life of Lillian Sefton Thomas Dodge upon learning that it was her success as the company president of the Harriet Hubbard Ayer Corporation that financed Sefton Manor.  Below is a synopsis of my delightful afternoon at Mill Neck Manor.

The Manor House and Formal Gardens

Upon entering the home I walk through one of the most remarkable feature, the solid oak doors that are over 400 years old and were studded with iron detail.  After passing through the grand entrance the tour group convened in the Great Hall and learned about the history of the three-story residence.  The mansion did not have any original furniture of the Dodge family and many rooms were empty.  The vacant rooms allowed visitors to focus on the beauty of the engraved wood walls, ornate ceilings and the leaded stain glass-windows, depicting scenes from five Shakespearean plays overlooking the main stair landing.

The main entrance doors are 400 to 500 years old.

The main entrance doors are 400 to 500 years old.

Stained glass windows depicting scenes from five Shakespearean plays.

Stained glass windows depicting scenes from five Shakespearean plays.

Fireplace from Europe.

Fireplace from Europe.

Ceiling on the third floor.  No two ceilings in the manor are alike.

Ceiling on the third floor. No two ceilings in the home are alike.

The mansion consists of 34 rooms, 16 bathrooms and two elevators.  The Great Hall is on the main floor with a parlor to the right and the kitchen to the left.  Also on the first floor were fireplaces imported from Europe from the 16th and 17th century.  On the second floor was the bedroom of the Dodge’s only child, Mary.  This room served as an exhibit for  the Harriet Hubbard Ayer Cosmetic Company and had several original advertising pieces displayed on the walls.  The third floor rooms were for the servants.

Original Advertisement

Original Advertisement

Harriet Hubbard Ayer collection

Harriet Hubbard Ayer collection

In 1902, Harriet Hubbard published"Harriet Hubbard Ayer's Book of Heath & Beauty".

Harriet’s life was beset by tragedy and triumphs and it is documented in her biography written by her youngest daughter.

After checking out a room that featured a two-way mirror and two vaults that were hidden in the paneling walls that were constructed from the last wood of the Sherwood Forest,  I ventured out to the formal gardens.  The sunken gardens can be approached through a pair of bronze gates that were designed in Paris and are named the Gate of Sun and the Gate of Moon.  Three Limestone Temples framed the gardens that were originally arranged in the form of a sundial radiating from the Venetian fountain that is centrally located.  Small water pools give the gardens tranquility.

Gates to the formal garden.

Gates to the formal garden.

One of the three temples.

One of the three temples.

Lillian Sefton Thomas Dodge

Lillian Sefton was from Washington, D.C. and was a singer and actress before marring her first husband Vincent Benjamin Thomas.  Miss Sefton had appeared in a production with the daughter of Harriet Hubbard Ayer.  Harriet Hubbard Ayer had started a cosmetic company in 1886 to sell her cosmetic cream.  Ayer ended up losing control of her company to her business partner, but regained control through the courts.  Unfortunately, the bad publicity caused sales to crash.  Four years after Ayer’s death Benjamin Thomas purchased the company in 1907 for his wife when the beauty business was taking off.   Although Mr. Thomas was the president, it was Lillian that ran the company.  She became president after his death in 1918 making her the highest paid female executive in America earning $100,000 per year in 1937. Lillian remarried in 1925 to American Artist, Robert Leftwich Dodge whose works appear on the walls of the Library of Congress.  Mr. Dodge died in 1940 and Lillian sold the company in 1947 to Lever Brothers for $5,500,000, a low price considering the company had been grossing between six and eight million dollars annually.

Lillian Sefton Thomas Dodge

Lillian Sefton Thomas Dodge

What you need to know to tour the Mansion

Tours are held once a month and can be booked on-line.  Each tour consist of a group of twenty-five and the admission fee is $25 for adults.  The tour is approximately an hour and a half.  Upon the conclusion of the tour, tea and scones are served.  If you enjoy touring historical homes, I highly recommend making a visit to Mill Neck Manor, but do so in the spring or fall because the house of course does not have air-conditon and it is very warm during July and August.

The Manor House

Mill Neck Manor is faced with brown Westchester granite and trimmed in tawny limestone.

Have you visited the Gold Coast?  What is your favorite historical home tour?

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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?

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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

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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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Coe Hall

Camellia Greenhouse

Last week while roaming Barnes and Nobel, I stumbled upon what many people consider to be the “Great American Novel” on the summer reading table, The Great Gatsby.  I ended up purchasing The Great Gatsby wanting to re-read it from my high school days before the new movie comes out on Christmas Day.  Reading through F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel made me want to go visit the Long Island Gold Coast and step back into the time of the “Roaring Twenties”.  So after a little research this morning, I came up with a list of seven mansions that were retreats of the rich and famous during the turn of the century to the 1930’s. From the Gugggenheims and Vanderbilts to the Pratts and Coes, the Gold Coast was the place to be for high society and notable Americans.  Despite the heat and oppressive humidity, I decided today the place to be for me was at William Robertson Coe’s mansion which was built in 1921 and is more commonly known as the Planting Fields Arboretum.

Here is a recap of my visit to a great 1920’s Gold Coast Estate and what to expect for those who want to revisit a decade where everyone wore a hat and many carried a flask during a time of prohibition and prosperity.

M.O. & M.E. Hoffman Visitor Center

The former Hay Barn of this 409-acre estate now houses the visitor center.  With so much property to explore this was a great place to get my bearings.  I found a model display of the property, so I could easily locate everything I wanted to see.  In addition, there was a nice display and short videos narrated  by Mr. Coe’s grandson Michael, that provided me with the history of the Coe Family and their estate.  One fun tidbit that I picked up from the video was that the gates at the main drive entrance was originally created in 1712 for the Carshalton Park Estate in England and Mr. Coe had them transplanted to his estate.  You can see these gates on the silver screen in the movie, Love Story and Sabrina.  The visitor center was also a great place to cool off since there was air conditioning, so I browsed the gift shop and decided to get a drink from the Garden Cafe’ before heading back out in the 86 degree humid weather.

The Visitor Center, formerly the Hay Barn.

A great place to start your tour of the estate.

History of the Coe Family

William Robertson Coe moved to the United States with his family at the age of 14 from England. At age 15 he worked as an office boy for an insurance broker in Philadelphia and in 1910 he became president of Johnson and Higgins Insurance Company and was involved in insuring the RMS Titanic.  Mr. Coe was married three times.  He lost his first wife who died on a cruise to England.  His second wife was Mai Rogers, who was the daughter to the Vice President of Standard Oil and builder of the Virgininan Railway.  It was Mai’s fortune that went into the estate.  William and Mai had three sons and a daughter.  Their passion for horticulture, specifically interest in rare species of plants and trees led to botanical bliss. Mai passed away in 1924 and Mr. Coe quietly married a divorcee from Texas, Caroline Graham Slaughter.  Mr. Coe passed away at the age of 85 from an asthma attack in 1955. Caroline stayed in the home until her passing in 1960.

Coe Hall Mansion

The style of this beautiful mansion is of an English 16th century Elizabethan country house and was decorated by an interior designer from Charles of London.  I toured the mansion for $3.50 and the sweetest widow was my personal tour guide.  The entrance was grand with Romanesque arches.  I particularly enjoyed exploring the den which was Mr. Coe’s study that had a safe hidden beyond the wood paneling and a hidden bar off to the side. The Reception room  which was decorated in a 18th century French style  was used by both the second and third Mrs. Coe to entertain their lady guest.  Taking in the grand fireplaces, chandeliers and artistically carved doors was wonderful, but seeing family pictures in the Great Hall where the Coe’s only daughter was married made me feel like I knew the family.

The Reception Room

The Dining Room

The Den

The Mud Room where the family would mount their horses.

 Exhibit

Cocktail Culture – The Glamorous Gold Coast Years from Prohibition to 1960 – This exhibit can be viewed until September 30, 2012.  Coe Hall was built in the same year that the Prohibition Amendment became law which was appealed in 1933.  Long Island was one of the most notorious routes that liquor was smuggled in by boat in then by road to New York City.  Mr. Coe stockpiled liquor in 1918 and 1919 and spent $35,349.72 which today would be slightly under a half a million dollars.  I really enjoyed this exhibit and didn’t realize Long Island’s history in the prohibition era.   The exhibit also had several dresses from the 1920s reflecting the flappers independence and the birth of the “cocktail dress” around 1935.  The “little black dress” made its debut when speakeasies became legal restaurants such as the 21 Club which still exist today in NYC.  There was a picture of the Coe’s daughter in front of the bar  of the 21 Club in the early 1930s.

Cocktail Culture Exhibit

Radio Bar

Planting Fields Arboretum 

Gardens 

Hydrangea

Lily

The Italian Blue Pool Garden  is surrounded by spring-blooming perennials and a darling Tea House sits at the end of the pool.

Italian Blue Pool Garden

Tea House

The Rose Arbor and Rose Garden contain over 600 Tea, shrub, and miniature roses.  The Children’s Playhouse is not to far from the Rose Garden.  The Green Garden features a circular pool and the Azalea Walks and  the Vista Path are nearby.

Rose Garden

The Playhouse

The Synoptic Garden displays over 500 types of tree and shrub with little signs arranged in alphabetical order by botanical name.  I saw a few chipmunks in the Synoptic garden.

Greenhouses

Main Greenhouse  The Main Green house orchids, cacti hibiscus, begonias and more.  Kids can be a plant detective and collect stamps at plant stations.

The Main Greenhouse

Plant Detective Children’s Activity Map

Hibiscus House

Cactus House

Camellia Greenhouse – This is the largest collection of camellias under glass in the Northeast.

Camellia Greenhouse

Woodlands

There are over 200 acres of woodland at Planting Fields, with miles of walking trails through the woods.

Information needed to plan your visit

Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park is located at 1395 Planting Fields Road in Oyster Bay, New York.

  • Grounds are open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., except December 25.
  • A $8 per car from April 1st to Labor day, 7 days a week and weekends only from September 10th thru October 31st. Admission free during winter season.
  • Mansion Tours are an hour-long and are offered twice daily at 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m from April 1 – September 30.
 $3.50 Tour Fee for Non-Members / Members and all children under 12 are FREE .  THe guided tour focuses on the work of the servants during the 1920s.  The tour will lead visitors through the servants living quarters, kitchen areas, the flower room, and wine vaults.
  • The Main Greenhouse and Camellia Greenhouse are open year round from 10:00 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • The Visitor Center is open April 1st thru October 31st 11:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m daily.
 November 1st thru March 31st, Friday, Saturday and Sunday only.
11:00 a.m. – 4: 30 p.m.

While in Oyster Bay, you might also like to check out Sagamore Hill National Historic Site, the “Summer White House” to the 26th President, Theodore Roosevelt. Another site to explore is The Raynham Hall Museum which was once used as British headquarters during the American Revolution and was home to the Townsend family.  Robert Townsend was the first link in a chain of agents in the Culper Spy Ring.

If you are hungry check out Canterbury Ales Oyster Bar & Grill and then afterwards walk down to Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park to take in views of the Long Island Sound.

Are you ready for a day trip to explore the Gold Coast?

Stay tune for future post on other mansions like the Eagle’s Nest, Oheka Castle, Old Westbury Gardens, Mill Neck Manor, Condrie Hall and Falaise.

If you enjoyed this post, you also might like 12 Long Island Family Day Trips to Experience in 2012 and Touring the Top Five Presidential Homes.

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Greenport Tall Ships Challenge

Ahoy there matey!

This past Memorial Day weekend, my son and I visited the Village of Greenport on Long Island to check out the Tall Ships.  The TALL SHIPS CHALLENGE® Series is an annual series of tall ship races and maritime port festivals that educate the public about tall ships, maritime heritage and the power of sail training.  This series is just one of the many events sponsored by the American Sail Training Association. The race itinerary was selected to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812.  This year the tall ships travel the Atlantic Coast.  The challenge started in Savannah, Georgia, and then to Greenport, New York in May.  In July the Tall Ships will be in Newport, Rhode Island and in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Baltimore will also host the tall ships this coming week, June 13th-19th at the “Star-Spangle Sailabration” along the Inner Harbor and Chesapeake Bay.

Pride of Baltimore II

As you will see from the pictures it was a beautiful day when we went aboard some of the ships.  We toured the Pride of Baltimore II and the LYNX.  These ships are living museums and the crew on board was excited to share their knowledge of the roles that their respective ships played in the War of 1812.  Of course the highlight was the celebrity ship, the HMS Bounty.  The HMS Bounty was built for the movie “Mutiny on the Bounty” in 1962, but most would recognize this ship from “Pirates of the Caribbean”.  Even though my son and I were only an hour from home, we had to act like tourist and get a picture with “Jack Sparrow”.

HMS Bounty

We had a great time boarding the historical sailing vessels and spending time at the Tall Ship Festival.  The festival took place at Mitchell Park Marina.  There was no shortage of things to do, so we spent our time checking out the museum civic exhibit displays, shopping and watching families on the carousel.  My only regret was that we were not able to sail away on one of the Roseway excursions.  Of course the lobster roll at Claudio’s and live music on the main stage quickly had me forgetting our missed excursion to Bug Lighthouse.

Delicious Lobster Roll at Claudio’s

Carousel

Where to go in Greenport!

Do you plan on seeing the Tall Ships this week in Baltimore or checking out the TALL SHIPS CHALLENGE® Race Series and Maritime Festivals in Newport and Halifax?

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One of my favorite things to do is celebrate true meanings of holidays.  The Old Bethpage Village Restoration, located on Long Island, NY is a recreation of a 19th-century village.  This living museum is a smaller scale Colonial Williamsburg or Old Sturbridge Village.  With that said there is not as many live demonstrations, but you do receive more  individualized attention since the crowds are smaller.  This living museum host many events through the year, one being an Independence Day celebration set in 1865, so we decided to do something a little different on the 4th of July and took a step back in time to the explore the past.

The day was filled with fun events like the reading of the Declaration of Independence, a brass band concert, and a parade.  There was also Civil War military drills celebrating our country’s 89th Independence Day.  The actors were great , taking pictures with my son and answering his questions. You can enjoy your own picnic lunch and attend the “Temperance Society Picnic”  which is behind the Noon Inn while listening to fiddle music.  If you are in the mood for a cold cider, you can pick one up in the Noon Inn along with some pretzels.

Another fun thing to do is watch a 1860 period All Star Baseball game. The game is a recreation of League Baseball Clubs that were held in Brooklyn and Queens in the 1800s.  My son really enjoyed learning how much the game of baseball has changed.  He revealed how grateful he was that his Little League uniform doesn’t have long sleeves and is not made of wool.

We had so much fun spending the day back in time celebrating the 4th of July. We visited many different types of homes, a school, a church, stores and the farm.  Each building had someone to share information about the history and the actors were in period costumes.  We really enjoyed the farm and learned about the farming skills from years ago.  There were several animals on the farm like sheep, cows and hogs.  The hogs really seemed to be having fun in the mud.


This is a fun family outing that only cost $10 for adults and $5 for kids.  Just keep in mind  that the village is set on 209 acres, so there is a lot of walking.  Most of is flat, but there are a few hills.  Also, make sure you pack some water in those picnic baskets because there was no air conditioners in those 19th century buildings!

I know the 4th of July is usually reserved for barbecues and beach days, but doing something in the true spirit to celebrate our nations birthday really turned out to be a better than expected experience and was also educational.  I definitely think this is worth the visit and believe you will be singing “God Bless America” upon your departure!

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