Less than an hour from Penn Station by Long Island Rail Road, the city of Long Beach presents a vibrant local alternative to the Hamptons and the Jersey Shore. While many think of the Nassau County spot as a “beach town,” Long Beach welcomes a variety of year-round special events that enrich the community for both visitors and residents alike. With the beautiful Atlantic Ocean serving as its backdrop, this family- friendly beach and boardwalk destination retains a rich history and landmarks.
“There was a time where Long Beach was a great place for college kids to move to after they graduated. The West End bars were crazy party spots for young kids to be wild and drink. Once they got over that part of their life they would move out to a more family-friendly town somewhere else,” began Mark O’Connell, drummer of influential rock band Taking Back Sunday and Long Beach resident since 2005. He continued: “That’s not so much the case anymore. It seems as though younger crowds are moving to the area to raise their families because it’s an amazing place to live.”
In the case of Anthony Dalto, the Long Beach blogger behind the popular Sea By The City blog, a failed attempt at a day at the beach led to his discovery of the city. “In 2007, we came to the beach for the day and it rained,” he explained. “My wife and I decided to look at open houses for fun and we caught the Long Beach bug: ‘Wow, we can live near the beach. That’s sounds crazy, but let’s do it!'”
What makes Long Beach great will of course be different from person to person. For O’Connell, it’s the “riding bikes on the boardwalk, people playing beach volleyball or soccer or football or whatever on the beach.” For Leah Rosensweig Tozer of Engel & Völkers Long Beach, “it’s the people who live here” as her neighbors and friends “make this place have the best vibe anywhere on Long Island.” Ian Danby of The Cybernet Place LLC loves that you can “walk and cycle everywhere,” and that you “really can have a beach resort with a city feeling and just 45 minutes from New York City.” Jennifer Montiglio, owner of Ooh La La — commends its “great shopping, restaurants, and many healthy activities” that run all year. Fran Adelson of Douglas Elliman — who serves on the Long Beach Chamber Of Commerce alongside Tozer, Danby and Montiglio — moved to town over 30 years ago seeking “a suburb with a city vibe” and especially enjoys all the “different kinds of people, religions, ethnic diversity, [and] economic diversity.”
“What makes Long Beach a great place is that it’s bustling with activities and events year round,” agreed New York State Senator Todd Kaminsky, a Long Beach resident that graduated from Long Beach High School. “Whether it be our family-friendly New Year’s Eve bash in the ice rink, Irish Day & Parade in October, the Long Beach International Film Festival, the Annual Long Beach Polar Bears Super Bowl Splash, the local Scavenger Hunt, our Annual Fall Festival, or kicking back to watch a movie on the beach, there is always something fun going on.”
One of the attractions mentioned by Senator Kaminsky, the Long Beach International Film Festival, recently hosted its fifth annual edition. “This is an event that we look forward to every summer,” said City Manager Jack Schnirman. “It truly epitomizes the Long Beach Life.” Notable attendees over the years have included athletes (e.g. UFC champion Chris Weidman, Raging Bull inspiration Jake LaMotta), actors (e.g. Burt Young from Rocky, Grey Gardens star Daniel Baldwin), musicians (e.g. Joan Jett, Dee Snider), chefs (e.g. Barret Beyer from Hell’s Kitchen, Danny Gagnon of Top Chef) and comics (e.g. Joey Kola, Rob Magnotti). Last year featured the world premiere of the Talib Kweli documentary Prisoner Of Conscious, Live From Brooklyn, of which the rapper was in attendance. The Long Beach International Film Festival is not just a destination for movies, as it also includes Taste On The Beach, a gathering of select food, wine and craft beer vendors along the Atlantic Ocean with live musical performances as the soundtrack.
Beyond that festival, the beach area is full of visitors all year. The boardwalk has a bike-share program called SoBi Long Beach, which launched in April of this year, as aided by the boardwalk’s bicycle-only lane in its center. Towards its center is The Allegria Hotel — where a pilot for the TV series Civil was recently filmed for TNT — a full-service oceanfront hotel including the high-end bar and restaurant Atlantica. Those seeking quick serve fare can also find a food truck area known as the Shoregasboard, kiosks including Riptides 11561, Beach Local Cafe and Gentle Brew Coffee Roasters, and the West End’s Overlook At The Beach. Beyond eating, walking and cycling, there are two bocce ball courts, a mini-golf course, a trapeze school, and an Escape The Room-style truck. Not only are there several fireworks shows in Long Beach each year, but the ability to see the Rockaways, Coney Island and New Jersey’s Highlands from the boardwalk means catching neighboring light shows.
As a small city, Long Beach is a hub for gatherings related to all interests. There are athletic events (e.g. Annual Larry Elovich 5K Fun Run / Walk, Michelle O’Neill Volleyball Tournament), festivals (e.g. Long Beach Music Festival, Folk-2-Funk Festival, Long Beach Jazz Festival), parades (e.g. Irish Day Parade, Electric Light Parade), gatherings (e.g. Long Beach Farmers Market, Fall Festival, Car Show, Historical Society Arts & Crafts Fair), and promotions (e.g. Restaurant Week, Merchants Week). The City Of Long Beach Municipal Ice Arena — where the New York Rangers used to practice, as did 2016 NHL draft pick Charles McAvoy — is home to the North American 3 Hockey League’s Long Beach Sharks.
Beyond hosting entertainment, Long Beach has been the source of it for nearly 100 years. It was the setting for parts of both the novel and the movie version of The Godfather. It is the setting of the Robert DeNiro and James Franco film City By The Sea, although production actually took place in Asbury Park, New Jersey. It is mentioned in another DeNiro feature, Taxi Driver, and the James Patterson novel I Funny. Joan Jett, a long-time resident, produced a music video for “Change The World” around the boardwalk’s Franklin Boulevard entrance. Episodes of NBC’sThe Blacklist and the USA Network’s Royal Pains were filmed in-town in recent years. The 2011 Quiksilver Pro was held on the local beach, of which legendary surfer Kelly Slater was a part.
Billy Crystal, who grew up in Long Beach, talked about the area in his Broadway hit 700 Sundays. He remains active in the community, helping to fund the Long Beach Ladders to Success program earlier this year. Photographer and painter Chuck Close is a local, also keeping a studio in Long Beach. Other natives of the area include top music industry executive and producer Rick Rubin, WFAN host Mike Francesa, ABC’s Wide World Of Sports creator Edgar Scherick, Hal Kanter — who had written and/or directed for Bob, Hope, Jerry Lewis, and Elvis Presley — and former Avenged Sevenfold and Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy. If legend is to believed, Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, and gangster Arnold Rothstein all called Long Beach home for decades.
When it comes to dining options, there is no shortage of options or opinions out there. Anthony Dalto recommends Gentle Brew Coffee Roasters, New American spot Lost And Found, and Italian hub Grotto Di Fuoco. Leah Rosensweig Tozer leans towards Japanese restaurant Himawari and the Cuban cuisine of Corazon De Cuba. Ian Danby likes the Thai food of Chaba and the offerings of Lola’s Kitchen And Wine Bar. Jennifer Montiglio recommends the crepes of Fresco Crêperie & Café and also Gino’s Of Long Beach. Mark O’Connell agrees on Gino’s and adds, “If you ever come to this wonderful city, make sure you get a Grandma Pie. It’s unbelievably good.” Local resident and surfer Larry Feldman is a big supporter of another Italian spot, Saverio’s Of Long Beach, noting: “Saverio’s offers several homemade Bosco family recipes, a wonderful healthy selection, and traditional Italian dishes upon request.” For smoothies and other healthy options, this author recommends Bob’s Natural Foods, which came to Long Beach over 40 years ago, whereas the Long Beach Hotel – another great lodging option beyond the Allegria – offers up a spectacular, value-oriented Sunday brunch. Those seeking further dining options are still within 15 minutes of such, including Island Park’s Peter’s Clam House, which has been around for over 75 years and recently hosted Amy Schumer, and Lido Beach’s Marvel Frozen Dairy, a local staple for 65 years.
Although City Council President Len Torres was quick to point out that “the NRDC and Fox News recently published an article stating that Long Beach has the second cleanest beach in the entire United States” and that its boardwalk has been spotlight by Newsday as “the number one destination on Long Island,” he too echoed that the city has no shortage of year-round offerings. “With countless amazing shops and restaurants, there are endless options to satisfy everyone.”Long Beach also proves distinct as a city by having its own app for iOS and Android, the Long Beach Response mobile app. Torres noted, “Whether you are looking for a calendar of events or simply want to submit a question to City government, Long Beach Response has got you covered.” For more info on this essential destination, click on over to www.longbeachny.gov.