Long Islanders on the road for one year or 50 never seem to forget their first time behind the wheel. Learning to drive, whether it be with a family member in the passenger seat or a driver's ed instructor, is a relatable and nostalgic experience.
We asked Newsday readers to share where they mastered the road. Here are the most common places they learned.
Driving and parking restrictions may have changed in these areas, and some locations have even shuttered since these Long Islanders' experiences. Be sure to check posted ordinances.
TOP 5 SPOTS
1. Jones Beach: As the most popular location mentioned by Newsday readers, several recall learning to drive in the Field 4 parking lot in the offseason. For some, it's even become a family tradition. "One of my first thoughts when my daughter was born was 'I'm taking her to Field 4 to learn how to drive,'" says Sean Ellis of Amityville. "Fast forward 22 years and two more daughters, we spent many winter days driving at Field 4."
2. Ocean Parkway: A relatively quiet and straight stretch for learning to drive in the offseason, Ocean Parkway is a go-to spot for those ready to graduate from the Jones Beach parking lot. "I taught over 18 friends and relatives how to drive my Mustang GT convertible which was a stick, on the roads of Jones Beach and Ocean Parkway," says Diane Michels of Oceanside.
3. The cemetery: A seemingly odd place to learn to drive, the cemetery serves as a mock town, with stop signs, curvy roads, low speed limits and parking areas, all without the traffic. "Both my daughters learned at … Pinelawn Cemetery," says Russ Crupnick of Dix Hills. Others mentioned learning at the nearby St. Charles Cemetery in Farmingdale.
4. Mall parking lots: The wide spaces offered by Hicksville's Broadway Mall, Massapequa's Sunrise Mall, Garden City's Roosevelt Field and Farmingdale's Airport Plaza are only the beginning. Long Islanders recall learning in the empty lots of now-shuttered businesses such as the Kmart lot Douglaston, Caldor in West Babylon, Sears in Hicksville and Billy Blake in Commack.
5. Sunrise Highway: Though now a busy stretch at nearly any hour, Long Islanders who got behind the wheel for the first time in the '50s and '60s commonly note Sunrise Highway as their debut driving experience. "It’s 1966 and my father has me in the parking lot of Korvette's on Sunrise Highway, in West Islip. We are in a '57 Chevy. I was 17. What a rush, driving," recalls Marie Boyle of North Babylon.
Where LIers learned to drive
OTHER POPULAR PLACES
Allen Park in Farmingdale
Overlook Beach in Babylon
Heckscher State Park in East Islip
Sunken Meadow State Park in Kings Park
Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park in Oyster Bay
Tanner Park in Copiague
Nassau Community College parking lot
Smith Point County Park in Shirley
Modell's parking lot in East Meadow
The Plaza Cinema & Media Arts Center parking lot in Patchogue
Mitchel Field in Uniondale