There's a place where cultural arts lovers can hear the New York Philharmonic play, see work by local and international artists, and watch Broadway actors perform live onstage -- and Long Islanders don't have to cross a bridge or tunnel to get there. It's all right here.
In fact, buying a home on Long Island affords culture seekers "a very distinctive environment and culture for the arts that one cannot enjoy in either more urban or more rural venues," says Karl Emil Willers, director of the Nassau County Museum of Art.
"There is both a sophistication and an intimacy to the arts scene on Long Island that is not available anywhere else," he says. "We have major performing arts centers, important museums and innovative galleries, as well as many vibrant colleges and universities."
Proximity to venues such as the NYCB Theatre at Westbury was part of what attracted Marc Bender, 38, an assets manager, to his Roslyn Estates home in 2010. "It's not like going to an event at Madison Square Garden with 19,500 people . . . which doesn't give you anywhere near the intimate feeling you get when it feels like whoever is performing is essentially performing for you," he says. (Read about his home, listed for $2.998 million, in Rich Cribs. He's building a new home elsewhere on the Island.)
Christine Petersen, vice president of the relocation division of Daniel Gale Sotheby's International Realty, says Bender's desire to live near the Island's cultural centers is not unusual -- it's a common wish list item for her clients. "When people are deciding where on Long Island to move, coming from another part of America or the world . . . very often people want to know about the cultural amenities, and it's a big draw," says Petersen.
Here are some picks for great places to live on Long Island if you want easy access to a cultural arts scene -- and a sampling of what you can get for each county's median sale price (or close to it): $390,000 for Nassau and $300,000 in Suffolk as of April, according to the Multiple Listing Service of Long Island.
For artists, "the East End has always had its own attraction -- initially, the combination of the light and the land is what visual artists were attracted to . . . the way the light diffused, because it was surrounded by water," says Hofstra University journalism professor Peter Goodman, a former Newsday music critic and cultural arts writer.
A major opening in the art world last year was the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill (pictured). "The one place I think would serve as a year-round attraction is the new Parrish because of its size and its location," says Goodman. The sunny, lofty space exhibits American artists, with a special focus on those from the East End.
East Hampton is home to Guild Hall, which has an art museum, a theater and an education program. Guild Hall Museum collects, preserves and presents the works of internationally known and new local talent. Events at the John Drew Theater at Guild Hall include concerts, comedy, film and dramatic readings. East Hampton also has about two dozen art galleries.
Other live venues include Amagansett's The Stephen Talkhouse, where the summer lineup features Dar Williams, Shawn Colvin and Suzanne Vega, the 425-seat Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center, which will showcase big-name comics such as Kathy Griffin and Tracy Morgan and musicians such as Natalie Cole and Michael Bolton this season, and Sag Harbor's Bay Street Theatre, presenting plays and musicals (currently "Lend Me a Tenor").
For East End cultural arts without the Hamptons price tag, follow the glow of the dazzling marquee to the 350-seat Suffolk Theatre in Riverhead. The restored movie theater-turned-playhouse has live performances several nights a week, including music, comedy, magic and dinner theater.
Riverhead is also home to East End Arts, which offers juried art exhibits and poetry shows, events such as Winterfest Jazz on the Vine and classes, workshops and mentorships in the arts. Riverhead's Vail-Leavitt Music Hall, standing since 1881, entertains, too.
This two-bedroom, one-bathroom co-op in the Montauk Soundview is about to have a face-lift: Listing agent Lillian Elsis of Douglas Elliman Real Estate says the building's exterior is scheduled to undergo renovation. The lowest-priced home in the Hamptons is a mobile home in Hampton Bays listed for $50,000. At the high end, there's a six-bedroom waterfront home listed for $12.5 million in Sag Harbor.
"If you're buying a home and looking for cultural life, Huntington is definitely the first place to look," says Hofstra's Peter Goodman. Music lovers rejoiced when the old vaudeville theater that housed Huntington's former Inter-Media Arts Center was reborn in September 2011 as the Paramount, an urban-style concert hall boasting a diverse list of well-known performers. For instance, this month's lineup includes the Psychedelic Furs, Peter Frampton and Courtney Love.
Also in Huntington is the Heckscher Museum of Art (pictured), which offers exhibits and art education. The current show, "Car Culture: Art and the Automobile," is an exhibition of car-related works by photographers, painters and sculptors.
And Huntington is also home to several art galleries. Goodman highlights b.j. spoke gallery, which is a cooperative gallery owned and run by 21 member artists. It is the result of the 1990 merger of two long-standing cooperative galleries. "The benefit for the public is there is a constant stream of new work coming in. They have a fairly eclectic group," says Goodman.
And don't forget the Cinema Arts Centre, which screens classic, international and art films in the venue's three theaters, as well as classes, discussion groups, talks and special appearances.
This two-bedroom, one-bathroom cottage dates back to the 1920s. It's listed with Kristi Munder of Signature Premier Properties. Prices in Huntington range from $199,000 for a five-bedroom high-ranch -- that's a short sale -- to $3.295 million for a six-bedroom Tudor.
NASSAU NORTH SHORE
For home buyers who love theater and music, Tilles Center for the Performing Arts (pictured) at the LIU Post campus is a huge draw, says Daniel Gale's Christine Petersen. "They have award-winning shows straight from Broadway or the New York City Ballet," she says. Scheduled performances this year include artists such as Lyle Lovett and the New York Philharmonic.
Petersen says relocation clients also are attracted to the Nassau County Museum of Art in Roslyn Harbor. "People relocating to Long Island often want to know . . . that there are cultural benefits in whatever town they choose to live in." The main museum building is a 19th century Georgian mansion on the former Frick Estate. Summer is a great time to stroll the grounds and visit the museum's outdoor sculpture park, which features about 40 works by artists such as Tom Otterness, Richard Serra, Mark di Suvero, Manolo Valdés, Allen Bertoldi and Fernando Botero.
If you want a community that offers proximity to these venues and an artsy vibe, you might consider Roslyn, Glen Cove, Sea Cliff or Port Washington, Petersen says. "Sea Cliff and Port Washington, which are close to each other, have excellent amateur theatrics, amateur dance. There's a strong tradition of town-based arts and culture in Sea Cliff and Port Washington. People tend to get very involved in those communities in the arts there."
Port Washington's 425-seat Jeanne Rimsky Theater at Landmark on Main Street offers an entertaining mix, from folk music to children's theater to comedy. This month's lineup includes a performance by Broadway actress Megan Hilty, who plays Ivy in the NBC series "Smash."
GLEN COVE $395,000
This three-bedroom, 2 1/2-bathroom town house features a wood deck off the kitchen. It's listed with Damian Ross of Daniel Gale Sotheby's International Realty. Prices in Glen Cove range from $105,000 for a one-bedroom co-op to $4.138 million for a five-bedroom waterfront villa.
SUFFOLK NORTH SHORE
The Three Village-Port Jeff area boasts a diverse mix of arts offerings. The summer concert series at Port Jefferson's Theatre Three has a little bit of everything, from "A Tribute to Johnny Cash" to The Amazing Kreskin. "Les Misérables" opens in September. For a more casual experience, each spring the village holds its annual Art Walk and Pet Adoption Awareness Weekend during which visitors can stroll, see the works of local artists on display -- and possibly adopt an animal.
Stony Brook University's Staller Center (pictured) is home to the Stony Brook Film Festival, an annual summer event featuring new, independent shorts and features. This year's festival runs from July 18 to 27. At other times, you can see everything from concerts to circus acts to comedians.
Don't overlook Stony Brook Village's Long Island Museum of Art, History & Carriages, says Hofstra's Peter Goodman. "They have one of the world's greatest collections of carriages and a permanent display, but they also . . . have rotating shows." The museum exhibits Long Island pieces from its collection of art and artifacts from the late 1700s to today, including an extensive collection of works by 19th century Setauket artist William Sidney Mount.
Setauket offers artist exhibitions. The nonprofit Gallery North displays the works of local contemporary painters, photographers and sculptors. The Setauket Neighborhood House, a historic house and former inn, periodically showcases musicians and artists.
PORT JEFFERSON $300,000
This two-bedroom town house in the Highlands condo community has 11 / 2- bathrooms and access to amenities such as a pool and tennis courts. It's listed with Laura Panetta and Melanie Karakatsanis of Signature Premier Properties. Prices in Port Jefferson range from $115,900 for a one-bedroom cottage in the Comsewogue school district to $1.295 million for a waterfront contemporary.
SUFFOLK SOUTH SHORE
East Islip has the double appeal of live theater and an art museum. Those who love stage performances can visit BroadHollow Theatre Company's BayWay Arts Center, which offers dramas, musicals, comedies and more. "Monty Python's Spamalot" is playing June 22 through July 7. And the Islip Art Museum (pictured) presents five exhibitions a year in the galleries of East Islip's Brookwood Hall Mansion, featuring contemporary works by international, national and emerging local artists.
The YMCA Boulton Center for the Performing Arts in nearby Bay Shore offers a main stage concert experience with shows such as this month's "Drum Wars: The Music of Carmine and Vinnie Appice."
If you prefer not to be bound by ticketed seats, you often can find live music with your dinner and drinks at local venues such as Fatfish Wine Bar and Bistro and Molly Malone's Pub and Restaurant.
A short drive away, you can find a mini-Huntington experience in up-and-comer Patchogue. At the 1,166-seat, nonprofit Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts, you'll find a mix of music, theater and comedy; this month's schedule includes the Mickey B's Golden Oldies Summer Spectacular. Patchogue's Plaza Cinema & Media Arts Center offers film screenings, classes and events such as an all-female comedy night.
You also can catch bands performing at local nightclubs such as The Emporium and the BrickHouse Brewery.
EAST ISLIP $299,000
This four-bedroom, two-bathroom Colonial is on a 50-by-150-foot lot in the East Islip school district. It's listed with Laura Prince Vomvos of Meg Smith & Associates. Prices in East Islip range from $91,000 for a one-bedroom co-op to $4.5 million for a seven-bedroom home on 3.31 acres.