Hey Borderhounds! Needless to say… I’ve been extremely busy the last few weeks and have had minimum time to do much posting on social media, or writing any BrimBLOGs. Therefore – this is going to be a BIG one with a lot of really cool info that you won’t want to miss out on! For those who are unaware, I reside on Long Island in New York. I’m about an hour away from Manhattan in one direction; or the Hamptons in the other… with a ridiculous amount of incredible locations and places to visit in-between. That being said, it STILL feels like a chore when trying to think of a fun day trip to take with my family on those rare occasions where we can pick up and just wander off for five to fifteen hours! Therefore, I figured I would offer up a little information on SIX locations curated and approved by yours truly (and my family), as well as a couple of annual events you’ll want to advance schedule into your calendars. Of course this being a BrimBLOG – I’ll be offering my personal experiences… keep in mind that each person’s experience is different and yours will be as unique as mine in your own way!
1) New York Museum of the Moving Image
Let’s start off with a HIDDEN GEM in the New York Museum of the Moving Image (36-01 35th Avenue, Astoria, New York 11106). This place literally took me by surprise as I had NO idea that it existed (Meanwhile, I’m pretty well tuned in to what’s in my own backyard) until I was scouring the interwebz to find something new and interesting, and came across MMI! Parking is tricky in this neighborhood; but you can find something on the street nearby if you look hard enough. Now I may be a bit bias considering my long-term love affair with the entertainment industry and where I got my start. For those of you not already ‘in the know’ – I started my career as a child actor on Sesame Street… so the fact that this museum had a Jim Henson Exhibition, I absolutely needed to see what it was all about! It literally blew my mind – throwing me back in time, allowing me to relive my childhood. Saying that the exhibit blew my mind was quite simply an understatement. It is
legit taking a stroll through everything Henson – You’re greeted by an early version of Kermit the Frog that was puppeteered by the man himself! One of the interactive displays allow visitors to try their hand (pun intended) at puppeteering which was a lot of fun to mess around with for sure. Around the corner was a display with Rowlf the Dog that the little kid in me got REALLY excited for – For those who didn’t know (or are too young to know), Rowlf started out in a series of Purina Dog Chow commercials in 1962 and was actually the first Muppet to achieve stardom nationally on the Jimmy Dean Show. He then went on to legendary status via The Muppet Show.
Delving deeper into the exhibit, I discovered something that warmed my heart like not many things can… I came across a Sesame Street display which enclosed Prairie Dawn, Elmo, Cookie Monster and my pal Big Bird! Now, the reason that I got all tingly… was because the Big Bird costume that was on display – was the one worn by my old friend Carroll Spinney on-screen with me as a child! I quite literally ran into a piece of my history – it was honestly a bittersweet experience being as psyched as I was because it made me miss Carroll all over again since his passing. We’d reconnected a few years prior to his death while signing on the convention circuit and it meant a lot that he’d embraced our history together. Again, a truly bittersweet experience for me. Heading around the corner, you enter The Muppets area which is filled with an array of
favorites including Statler and Waldorf, Swedish Chef, Zoot and Miss Piggy! Truthfully amazing to see these gems up close and personal – I went nuts over Animal’s outfit sitting in a Plexiglas box… pure joy. I enjoyed the Fraggle Rock display complete with a trio of Doozers, Gobo and Uncle Traveling Matt – as well as some David Bowie screen worn garb from the film Labyrinth; but my mind-blowing moment came when I realized they had a HUGE collection of the puppets from, The Dark Crystal… any fan of this classic will be drooling over this display of memorabilia! The exhibition is called Creatures from the Land of Thra: Character Design for The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance. You’ll find there are TONS of
television and film memorabilia from Seinfeld to Star Wars and everything in-between… I suggest blocking out a few hours to spend an adequate amount of time exploring the goods they are offering. Another AWESOME exhibit is Behind the Screen, which immerses visitors in the creative and technical process of producing, promoting, and presenting films, television shows, and digital entertainment. Now here’s a little tip for any fans of The Walking Dead – They will have a brand NEW exhibit titled Living with The Walking Dead which will be running from Saturday, June 25, 2022 through January 1, 2023 and will include original costumes and props, concept art, storyboards, scripts and prosthetic makeup used to create walkers on the show. I know I’ll be there, will you?
2) Old Westbury Gardens
Next up, I want to introduce you to Old Westbury Gardens (71 Old Westbury Road, Old Westbury, New York, 11568) – It’s split up into two parts: The Gardens and the Westbury House. Now before I get into it – Let me offer up a little known bit of information… a quick tip if you will! Did you know that you can actually reserve passes from your local library to a large grouping of museums and gardens FREE OF CHARGE – Yeah, I said FREE! I bet some of you are heading out to renew your library cards as we speak. Anyway, the location is gorgeous – I suggest going once the flowers are in bloom so you can savor every morsel of how truly beautiful nature can be. The grounds are massive, so be ready to walk – also make sure to bring a camera to capture your visit. The mansion itself is enormous and strewn with history. You can either spend a full day exploring this place; or just go to hang for a couple hour get-a-way! Here’s a tip: May 20th – 22nd is the 2nd Annual “Garden Days” Event which is a fun weekend that celebrates the joy of gardening.
3) New York Aquarium, Coney Island Beach & Boardwalk
Coney Island Beach & Boardwalk (Surf Avenue and Stillwell Avenue, Brooklyn, New York 11224) is a landmark location that you’ll need to experience at least once in your lifetime! It is home to a plethora of different interesting things to see and do (You can find them HERE); however I’m going to focus on my specific visit recently where I visited the New York Aquarium (602 Surf Avenue, Brooklyn, New York 11224). Street parking is a tad sketchy, so you may have to suck it up and park in the lot that is right next to the Aquarium itself. Staying parked anywhere over a couple of hours is a hefty price tag of $40; but you can at least park there for the duration of your stay and enjoy the entire area while your vehicle is
safely tucked away in a pretentious lot. Also, a quick tip: Admission to the Aquarium is FREE on Wednesday’s – so if you’re on a budget… you can still enjoy the wildlife! Now this specific Aquarium isn’t the largest I’ve ever seen firsthand; but it is every bit as beautiful. As a guy who’s had his fair share of tropical, salt water and brackish fish set-ups… I always appreciate experiencing the variety of bright and bold sea creatures! I loved the NEW shark exhibit, Ocean Wonders: Sharks! – It pretty much puts you dead center of a busy shark infestation under the sea. More of my personal favorites were the various Jellyfish displays, as well as the Penguins, Sea Lions and Otters – The three latter found in the outdoors areas.
You’ll also want to catch the shows which are a lot of fun; but make sure to get to them early otherwise you’ll be waiting awhile to get in! Family time here is a blast and I suggest you try visiting on a weekday rather than opting to navigate over the weekend. Once leaving – the place to go for a bite to eat is the ORIGINAL Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs location (1310 Surf Avenue, Brooklyn, New York 11224). For over 100 years – this location has stood its ground and become not only a Coney Island tradition; but legendary in its own right. You can imagine my dismay when I strolled up and the doors were closed!!! I'd even double checked their hours of operation on Google before heading out and it showed that they were open until 10pm. I was really annoyed about it… I was even petty enough to write a Google review about it stating that my two star review that ‘I had’ written would be adjusted as soon as they updated their Google hours! They did promptly respond - So I'll give them that... we’ll see what happens from there folks!
The following day – I was right back into Brooklyn for my annual appearance judging for the INSANELY awesome event: Brisket King NYC (Traditionally held at Pig Beach BBQ: 480 Union Street, Brooklyn, New York 11231). Now before continuing, make sure you pre-plan and schedule for Food Karma’s other annual premier events that include Rib King NYC (May 28th, 2022 at Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden: 1000 Richmond Terrace, Staten Island, New York 10301) and Pig Island (September 10th, 2022 at Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden: 1000 Richmond Terrace, Staten Island, New York
10301). If you DO show up to these stellar events – make sure you find me to say hello while I’m walking around judging! Ok – Back to it… the 2022 showing of competitors was off the (meat)-hook! Bad joke, I know; but really… it was yet another incredible grouping of chefs and cooks who brought the flavor behavior to new levels of tastiness. Essentially, hundreds of BBQ based foodies attended the event for the grand opportunity to taste the meaty-goodness brought forth by whoever may be crowned the newest Brisket King! The grand champion of this year was SmoKing of Meats (500 Cortlandt Street, Belleville, New Jersey 07109), with jaw dropping offerings from Blue Smoke NYC (255 Vesey Street, New York, New York 10281) who took home ‘Best Traditional Brisket’ and Bark Barbecue who won ‘Best Bite’ to name just a few. I also wanted to shout-out Tong (321 Starr Street, Brooklyn,
New York 11237) who won ‘Best Dish’ for their Massaman Brisket Curry – completely different take on brisket and won not only the judges hearts; but our taste buds as well! Meanwhile… let me just say – I absolutely adore my co-judges for these events. Not only are the personalities big and boisterous, everyone’s knowledge of food, paired with true passion for judging - makes it a pleasure to work with this group of meat loving misfits! I also wanted to send a personal shout out to Jimmy Carbone – the man behind Food Karma and the purveyor of these events. Jimmy works tirelessly to put together some of the BEST foodie events that I’ve had the honor and privilege to work with. Looking forward to continuing the trend for years to come!
4) Sleepy Hollow Cemetery
Are YOU familiar with Sleepy Hollow? I was thrilled to have an available day that was PERFECT for visiting our friends at one of the most famous cemeteries... Sleepy Hollow Cemetery (540 North Broadway, Sleepy Hollow, New York 10591)! Now, it's been WAY too long since I've been able to visit - I'd missed this place SO much. Now, not only is this Cemetery beyond massive, incredibly gorgeous and full of famous residents including historical figures; but they also have the coolest and most knowledgeable grounds manager whom I am lucky enough to be friends with! HUGE shout out to Jim Logan who made my wife and daughter’s first visit extremely fun and memorable! Albeit, you can
certainly navigate the grounds on your own (they sell maps for a small fee), there's nothing like having a personal tour guide who lets you play with skeleton keys and open up crypts!!! We enjoyed such rich story-telling of the legendary Headless Horseman, author Washington Irving, cosmetics queen Elizabeth Arden (including her REAL NAME and where she is actually buried), the Hamilton Family, and many more… this folklore mixed with true stories always make such an impact on the visit. There is literally SO much to see and experience on its 90 acres including well-over 45,000 graves dating back hundreds of years, and the babbling brook better known as the Pocantico River – which runs through the grounds and beneath the bridge that the Headless Horseman made famous. We
enjoyed visiting the final resting places of William Rockefeller, Leona Helmsley, Andrew Carnegie and Walter Chrysler (who had a beautifully built mausoleum overlooking the nearby body of water), as well as had the opportunity to actually go IN to a few handpicked tombs before calling it a day and heading out for lunch. Quick tip: Make sure to visit during October for peak Halloween action at the Cemetery as well as in town – haunted hayrides, Gothic mansions, blazing pumpkins, farmers markets, live music, street fairs and a whole lot of Headless Horseman! The Cemetery does candlelight guided tours and other really fun (and creepy) stuff; but keep in mind… tickets sell-out quickly! If you’re looking to make the trip – Make sure to look HERE for adequate planning.
When in the area, you’ll want to grab a bite over at Horsefeathers (94 North Broadway, Tarrytown, New York 10591) – Fantastic restaurant that serves American Fare who absolutely killed it with a stellar lunch and awesome ambiance. The owner Julia McCue is one of the good ones who during the pandemic, looked after the first responders and helped to feed her community… this is the type of place you want to make sure to support! Again, the food was really good – we worked up a hunger trekking around the Cemetery for a few hours… so we went to town and ordered a bunch of appetizers along with our entrees. Make sure to try the Bacon Potato Skins – WINNING!!! A completely different and simplistic version
of an old favorite. Thinly sliced potato skins, fried to a light crisp, tossed with chunks of smoky bacon and laid to rest with gooey, melted cheddar cheese. SoOoooOooo delicious! Another honorable mention would be the Beer Battered Onion Rings – BOOM!!! The flavor behavior did a tango on my taste buds for real… HOMEMADE and over-sized! I would suggest grabbing an order or two. I personally devoured the Pig Out Burger with Mozzarella cheese and Bacon – 8oz of Fresh angus beef that legit melted in my mouth. It came well-seasoned and uber tasty with chunky hand cut fry wedges that made me smile! We were SO incredibly full that we had to pass on dessert; however there were a lot of yummy choices that I would have loved to try… there is always NEXT TIME! Again, this restaurant is a hot-spot during October – so plan ahead and make arrangements with that in mind.
5) Waterdrinker Family Farm & Garden
Here’s a super fun one to do on a warm, sunny day… Waterdrinker Family Farm & Garden (663 Wading River Road, Manorville, New York 11949). We happened to visit our friends at Waterdrinker for the annual Tulip Festival; however you can visit most of the year to shop, enjoy their Family Farm Adventure or to have a drink in their Brewery. Quick tip: They have a plethora of different annual events including the Sunflower Festival, Fall Festival and Winter Wonderland – So make sure to plan ahead so you can ensure you won’t miss the opportunity to experience each season! We had such a blast visiting – Yes. I will tell you that the crowds are REAL. If you are concerned about being around a lot of people… aim
to visit a little later on in the day. The tulips in bloom were incredibly gorgeous and to say that the photo ops were all over the place, would be an understatement! The Waterdrinker Family does a fantastic job guiding the crowds and ensuring am enjoyable time for every visitor (small, medium or large – even the furry kind). They take extreme care in spreading out the attractions to make it so there is little to no bottlenecking at all and the flow seemed to be smooth. Make sure to take a look in the gift shop also as there are a lot of goodies in there to purchase including some insanely beautiful plants that I don’t normally see when I’m out grabbing flowers for around the house. Perfect for yourself, with a significant other, friends or family – You are guaranteed a fantastical time!
We happened upon a really solid place for dinner close by in Ridge called, Drifter’s Kitchen and Bar (1600 Middle Country Road, Ridge, New York 11961). Really solid menu and the food was extremely tasty – Hitting the proverbial spot with every dish. I suggest the Wings – Try the Jack Daniels BBQ, Spicy Korean and Sweet Chili… all WINS. I would also implore you to order the Short Rib Grilled Cheese – A heaping amount of beyond flavorful barbeque short rib, sprinkled with red pickled onions and tucked into the toasted country white bread by a gooey blanket of a mozzarella, American and fontina cheese blend. I could have eaten this for days and will absolutely have it again the next time I’m in the area! My pick for dessert was the Toasted Almond Cream – Amaretto soaked lady finger cookies with mascarpone and toasted almonds… Bliss. Anyway, give them a try if you happen to be in the area!
6) Harmony Vineyards
Long Island, mainly the East End is rich with different vineyards – Harmony Vineyards (169 Harbor Road, Head of the Harbor, New York 11780) is located on the Gold Coast, so essentially you can enjoy a few hours at the winery without driving hours out into the Hamptons for your fix. Unbelievable aged wines tasted in a Historic 1690 Waterfront Tasting Room. I had actually never been to this area of the Island in my over forty years of living here – I can tell you that this is a well-hidden gem that you really need to check out! I went with my wife a couple weeks ago when we found ourselves sans children for a day – Romantic and a beautiful couple of hours out on the town. Make sure you find your way there if you have a chance.
I hope this little grouping helps you make your own magic – If you do visit any of the above… please make sure to tag me on social media so I can see the experience YOU had! Thanks again for reading and please make sure to SHARE this with anyone who you feel could benefit from the information. As always – Eat Well and Prosper! - Brim