With the number of summer days slowly slipping away, now is the time to take advantage of the outdoors.
Long Island is brimming with spots where couples can spread out a blanket for an intimate picnic or families can unplug to nosh alfresco at a shaded park, alongside a pond or even within view of a lighthouse or vineyards.
Here are some particularly good settings:
WHEN | WHERE Dawn to dusk, off Robert Moses Causeway, Babylon
COST $10 parking 8 a.m.-4 p.m. weekdays, 7 a.m.-6 p.m. weekends
THE VIEW Idyllic, with the ocean and the Fire Island Lighthouse within direct sight.
With the beach just steps away and other activities within walking distance, Robert Moses State Park is a desirable picnic site. You can bring your own food and set up at the tables and benches, or buy from the concession stand, which sells fast food staples - burgers, hot dogs, French fries. A nearby gazebo provides a more secluded picnic spot, although it's next to a playground that can be noisy.
WHILE YOU'RE THERE Take a long walk on the boardwalk that leads to the lighthouse. Christine Mitchell, 44, of Deer Park says it's a favorite with her family when they hit the beach. "The kids have walked out to the lighthouse," she says. "It takes about 45 minutes."
WHEN | WHERE 11 a.m.-5 p.m. daily, 23005 Main Rd., Cutchogue
INFO 631-734-4111, pellegrinivineyards.com
THE VIEW Tranquil, with rows and rows of grapes growing in the vineyard.
Many Long Island wineries encourage patrons to picnic. At Pellegrini, visitors can buy a bottle of wine in the tasting room, then slip away from the crowds for a private picnic in a gazebo perched out in the middle of the vineyard - that is, when the scenic spot isn't being used for a wedding or a private party.
WHILE YOU'RE THERE Pellegrini's staff pours tastings of its wines ($4-$10) in an upscale outdoor courtyard or in the indoor tasting room.
WHEN | WHERE Dawn to dusk, Roslyn Road, Roslyn Heights
THE VIEW Scenic, with a large pond surrounded by trees.
Appealing for its quiet setting and varied landscape, Gerry Pond Park is a popular outdoor lunch spot on weekday afternoons. Rahs Zatar, 29, of Roslyn Heights, says he brings his young son there almost every day. "We bring lunch or a snack and sit on the bench and look at the ducks," says Zatar. "It's nice and shady." And on hot days, cooler by the water.
GOOD TO KNOW Although there's plenty of room to spread out, choose your spot carefully to avoid sharing your meal with the ducks. Hint: Walk across the small bridge over the water to find a more hidden-away swatch of grass.
WHEN | WHERE Accessible daily, West Hills County Park, off Sweet Hollow Road, Huntington
COST $8 parking on weekends
THE VIEW Expansive, overlooking Long Island Sound
At 401 feet above sea level, Jayne's Hill is the highest point on Long Island. Getting there involves a 3.7-mile hike on the Walt Whitman Trail. There's a bare-bones shaded picnic area at the base of the trail. A better option might be perching on a bench at the top of the hill and replenishing before the return trek.
WHEN | WHERE
7 p.m. Wednesday, 71 Old Westbury Rd.
INFO 516-333-0048, oldwestburygardens.org
COST $10 (free younger than 17)
THE VIEW Grand, with the regal Gold Coast mansion and lush grounds; good for people-watching.
It's the last call for Old Westbury Gardens' outdoor Picnic Pops series, which invites patrons to spread out on the lawn with sumptuous picnics (fancy encouraged) as a live orchestra serenades. The Harlem Renaissance Orchestra plays swing music this week. Gates open at 5 p.m., with a group dance lesson at 6:30.