Long Island, which stretches for more than 100 miles east of NYC, is filled with art, history and glamour, dotted by charming towns and crossed by rustic roads that have inspired writers, poets and artists for more than a century. It’s where queer icon Walt Whitman penned his first poem and F. Scott Fitzgerald first dreamed of Jay Gatsby. It’s home to Fire Island, perhaps the queerest isle this side of Mykonos, and the Hamptons, a beautiful respite from city life. Easily accessible from Manhattan, Long Island is New York City’s beachfront backyard—its thriving LGBTQ past, present and future is yours to discover.
How to Get There
- The Long Island Rail Road provides rail service from Penn Station to nearly 125 stations, running all the way out to Montauk. Download the LIRR’s new app for schedules, fares and station locations.
- The Hampton Jitney is a daily bus service that departs from multiple stops in Manhattan and Brooklyn, making direct trips to Long Island’s North or South Forks.
- You can rent a car—either through a car-share program or one of the major companies—and drive to your destination. Note that parking can be difficult at some of the beaches, and a ferry is necessary for reaching Fire Island (which is car free).
- If the sky’s the limit (literally and pricewise), seaplanes and helicopters will also speed you out to the Hamptons.
In June, daytime temperatures on Long Island generally range between 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (21 to 26 degrees Celsius)—perfect for beach days and outdoor adventures—while average lows range from 57 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit (14 to 18 degrees Celsius).
What to Pack
For a day trip, all you really need is a bathing suit, comfy walking shoes, flip-flops, sunscreen, and a big towel. If you plan on going out in the Hamptons for the weekend, you’re going to need a bigger bag with some upscale ensembles mixed in with summery beachwear.
2019 PGA Championship
May 13–19, Bethpage, NY
The PGA golf championship—now in its 101st edition—was first held on Long Island in 1919 but has not been back since 1939. In recent years, the tournament has made strides to become more inclusive, with the PGA reaching out to the LGBTQ community, women and minority-owned businesses to participate in this epic event.
Bethpage Air Show
May 25–26, Wantagh, NY
Jones Beach State Park offers outdoor recreation with a gay section located just east of Field Six. Every Memorial Day, the United States Navy Blue Angels soar over the sand and ocean during the Bethpage Air Show. The annual demonstration offers food vendors, music and an exhilarating performance. (Oh, also sexy Navy officers in tight blue uniforms.)
Belmont Stakes Racing Festival
June 6–8, Elmont, NY
This is the final and longest of the Triple Crown horse-races and inspires some of the most exiciting moments of the year. Dress to impress—might we recommend a show-stealing hat?—and place your bets.
Pride on the Beach Festival
June 21–23, Long Beach, NY
This three-day celebration of LGBTQ rights and visibility is centered in and around Long Beach (just 50 minutes from Manhattan via LIRR). The festival features a street carnival, parties, a Pet Pride Parade and, the main event, Long Beach’s 29th annual Pride Parade—the second largest in the Tri-State area (behind NYC Pride), drawing more than 30,000 people.
Apollo at 50 Countdown Celebration
July 20, Garden City, NY
From 1961 to 1972, Long Island’s Grumman employees designed, assembled and tested the Apollo lunar models that successfully landed 12 men on the moon. This summer, celebrate those heroes with curated galleries, astronaut meet-and-greets, music and games. Take part in special events at the Cradle of Aviation Museum on July 20, the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing.
For queer travelers, the name Fire Island conjures lazy days on the beach, fierce drag queens at night, packed afternoon tea dances and exclusive house parties. The Pines and Cherry Grove remain the two gayest ’hoods, but with 32 miles of gorgeous coastline, the entire island is a beautiful, car-free break from the City. For the hikers and nature lovers out there, two national parks are worth the day trip. Enjoy the strange beauty of the Sunken Forest as well as the salt-marsh sunsets at Watch Hill, which has a campground for overnight stays.
Gold Coast Mansions
Long Island’s Gold Coast mansions are awe-inspiring feats of domestic architecture and design, capturing the grandeur of a bygone era. Taking a tour of these early 20th-century mansions, with many located close to the City in Nassau County, provides a historical look at the millionaires, presidents and artists who once called them home. Some of these homes even served as inspiration for F. Scott Fitzgerald's masterwork, The Great Gatsby.
This world-famous celebrity getaway is a paradise of art, cuisine and nightlife, where LGBTQ A-listers and their allies mingle in Gatsby-sized mansions, frolic on world-renowned beaches, sip local wines and experience the opulence of Long Island’s most glamorous destination. In East Hampton, E.M.P. Summer House (a pop-up restaurant from the crew behind Michelin-starred Eleven Madison Park) is one of the most sought-after reservations anywhere, while the Pollock-Krasner House is a must-visit for fans of abstract expressionism and art history. In Bridgehampton, Topping Rose House is a stately inn-restaurant for a sophisticated date night, and The Dan Flavin Institute is an art lover’s dream. Finally, no trip to the East End would be complete without visits to The Lobster Roll in Amagansett for amazing seafood and the famed Montauk Point Lighthouse on the tip of Long Island.
Long Island Wine Country
For queer travelers visiting the NYC region, a romantic weekend road trip through the rustic countryside of Long Island’s North Fork will rejuvenate you. Spend your days at wine tastings, exploring farm stands and quaint downtowns, and relaxing inside charming B&Bs. A trip to the lush, green and oh-so-serene North Fork wine scene is the perfect way to unwind.
Walt Whitman Birthplace State Historic Site
One of America’s most beloved 19th-century poets, Walt Whitman was born and raised on Long Island. This historic home, built by Whitman’s father in 1819, has been preserved to look and feel as it did while the writer was growing up in it. It also displays some of Whitman’s original manuscripts and letters, as well as portraits of the literary legend.
For more LGBTQ+ inspiration and information on places to explore on Long Island, visit discoverlongisland.com.