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The Open Island


Like a typical fresser—to use a thoroughly New York phrase—who has stuffed his face full of too many chopped-liver and pastrami sandwiches, New York and Long Island suffer from clogged arteries. Times Square is only about thirty miles west of Bethpage State Park as the pigeon flies, but anything with wheels will need well over an hour to make the trip. Traffic progressively lightens as you venture farther east, past the suburbalopolis of Nassau County into Suffolk County. But the Long Island Expressway, the main east-west thoroughfare, lives up to its name primarily in the hours when most people are sleeping. You will need to rent a car to get around. The good news: Parking on Long Island is generally not a problem. Also, the L.I.E. functions as a kind of tape measure. Directions to almost anywhere tend to be expressed in reference to an exit number (the higher the number, the farther east). If you plan to stay on the Island itself, Kennedy Airport is a few miles closer than LaGuardia to Bethpage State Park. If you're staying in Manhattan, LaGuardia provides the shorter shot to the city. Midsummer can be hot and clammy, but golfable weather runs pretty reliably from late April to the end of October. September, in particular, sparkles, and in the last few years October weather has been nearly as mild.

The Hamptons: On summer weekends, it's said that New York is uninhabited by New Yorkers. That's because anybody who's anybody is in the Hamptons, on the Island's South Fork. Whether you're in East Hampton, Bridgehampton or Southampton, look for Main Street and you won't be far away from the sophisticated shopping, dining and nightlife. Of particular note is the American Hotel in Sag Harbor (631-725-3535). Its swanky bar features a humidor containing what many regard as the best selection of cigars on Long Island.

Jones Beach State Park: With six and a half miles of ocean beaches, Jones Beach is the most popular bathing destination in the New York City area and has been since Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt opened it to the public on August 4, 1929. Therefore, if the sun is out, expect crowds. The park is open year-round, however, and activities vary according to the season. World-class musicians, for example, often make the Jones Beach Theater a stop on their tours. Call 516-785-1600 or visit jonesbeach.org.

Robert Moses State Park: Due east of Jones Beach is another popular destination that is named after the man who made Long Island what it is today (applause or boos accepted). With more than five miles of beaches, Robert Moses sits on the western end of Fire Island and offers a host of year-round activities, including picnic areas (complete with barbeque grills) and an eighteen-hole pitch-and-putt golf course. Call 631-669-0449 or visit nysparks.state.ny.us/parks/.

Wine Country: Over the last twenty-five years, the Long Island wine industry has grown from a single small vineyard to nearly 3,000 acres of vines scattered over two dozen wineries. Although young, many area wines—particularly reds and red blends—are already beginning to receive high praise among the world's wine aficionados. Call 631-369-5887 or visit liwines.com.


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