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For the Culture Buff: Nassau County Museum of Art and More

Nassau County's Cultural Treasures: Art, History, and Nature Await

Located an hour from Manhattan, you might be surprised to find that Nassau County is a thriving arts and culture hub.

Follow in the footsteps of F. Scott Fitzgerald, seek out art both ancient and contemporary, or catch your favorite musician. Whether you’re an art enthusiast, Long Island resident, or day-tripper, the list of things to do in Nassau County only seems to grow the deeper you dive.

From art museums to grand estates and waterfront mansions that harken back to the Jazz Age, skip the long trip into the city and explore one of Long Island’s hidden gems. These are some of the best arts and cultural experiences in Nassau County, New York.

While there are many wonderful art museums scattered around Nassau County, perhaps none are more impressive than the Nassau County Museum of Art. Once a mansion owned by the influential Frick family, their impressive collection of antiquities and artworks, gathered over decades of international travels, was eventually donated to the museum. 

You’ll find a permanent collection of both American and European art from the 19th and 20th centuries alongside an ever-revolving door of new exhibits, from Impressionist paintings to Andy Warhol. The grounds are just as impressive as the artwork with a sculpture garden, nature trails, and a formal garden designed by Marian Cruger Coffin, one of the foremost garden designers of the early 20th century. 

If you find yourself inspired by their collection, take one of the museum’s public art classes in disciplines from silk scarf painting to Japanese woodblock printing. There are also workshops specifically designed with kiddos in mind! 

If your pursuit of the arts isn’t quite satiated, head over to the Hofstra University Museum of Art. This truly formidable collection includes over 5,000 works of art that date as far back as 1500 BCE and showcase famous artists like Andy Warhol, Edouard Manet, and Salvador Dali. You can also enjoy the arts outside, as there are 70 different sculptures scattered around the campus.

Another art museum tucked away in a university is the Steinberg Museum of Art. Their permanent collection contains upwards of 4,000 pieces of art and objects that span the ages from contemporary to Pre-Columbian. The museum is inside Long Island University and dedicated to educating the public through children’s activities and other educational programs.

Explore the Theater in Nassau County

While you might think you need to head to Broadway to experience New York’s thespians or fight the crowds at Madison Square Garden to see your favorite band, Nassau County’s Tilles Center 

delivers over 50 performances a year. As Long Island’s premier concert venue, you’ll find everything from classical music concerts by the Long Island Concert Orchestra to dance and acrobatics. Even famous musicians like John Legend and Patti LaBelle have graced these halls. 

They have two performance venues: the main Concert Hall which seats 2,200, or for a more intimate experience, the Krasnoff Theater holds just 500. The Tilles Center is a pillar of the Nassau County community, providing educational opportunities and bringing the performing arts closer to home.

Get Outside in Nassau County

Did you know that you can stand in the very spot that inspired F. Scott Fitzgerald to pen The Great Gatsby? Sands Point Preserve is a rich, historic fixture in Nassau County and was once the model for Fitzgerald’s ritzy “East Egg.”

As the original Guggenheim Estate, there’s so much to explore—from Castle Gould to Hempstead House to the sprawling gardens. Visitors can hop on docent-led tours of both the Hempstead House or Falaise, both of which have beautiful antiques that date back to the 16th and 17th centuries. 

You’ll also find interesting features like Hempstead House’s Clue-like spaces including the sunken Palm Court and Billiard Room, and learn more about the home’s fascinating history (Hempstead was used as a foster home for European children seeking refuge during WWII).

The preserve also provides a good excuse to get outdoors by going for a hike, bringing the kids to play on the Woodland Playground, or bringing a picnic to enjoy. Fun activities like forest bathing, monthly meditations, and classes on horticulture are held throughout the year.  

If your interest is piqued in early 20th-century mansions, head over to the Old Westbury Gardens. You can tour the sprawling estate, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, with its striking formal gardens and English antiques, while learning more about the early-20th century mansion, Westbury House. 

You’ll discover fun experiences like the “Secret of the Service Wing” tour, which examines what life was like for the working class at Old Westbury, and even art exhibitions at times. A tour also provides the opportunity to get an up-close look at their dedication to preserving the estate and grounds. They recently brought in British slaters (one of whose ancestors helped install the original tiles) to replace the roof and meticulously restore Georgian mirrors! 

Situated on 200 acres of woodlands, the estate is interwoven with plenty of hiking and nature trails. If you find yourself in need of a bite to eat, you can pay a visit to the Café in the Woods where you’ll find gourmet sandwiches, salads, and delicious baked goods from Polka Dot Pound Cake. 

For a stroll that’s educational and has waterfront views, head down to the Bay Walk Waterfront Park in Hempstead to the Bay Walk Nautical Art Museum. You’ll find multiple educational plaques and sculptures that tell the story and rich maritime history of the area. The path overlooks the pretty Manhasset Bay.

Whether you’re looking for an excuse to get outside this weekend or simply want to emerge from your day off more culturally savvy, we’ve got your back. Combine a few of these destinations or tick them off over the year as a way to broaden your cultural horizons without the need to travel far! There’s no doubt that you’ll leave wondering why you didn’t explore Nassau County sooner.

Read our other post on the Nassau County Museum of Art and check out our suggested itinerary for your visit! Want more ways to experience Arts & Culture in Nassau County? Share your pics @VisitNassauCountyLI and be entered to win some Nassau County faves!

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