5. Great Neck

Kings Point Merchant Marine AcademyThe Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, Great Neck

Great Neck, on Long Island’s North Shore, includes nine villages like Kensington, Saddle Rock, and Kings Point, and is one of the most culturally diverse places in Nassau County. With high demographics of Iranians and Chinese families, the area has become both an unofficial Chinatown and a little Iran. Great Neck rose to fame after F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby was published, with “West Egg” representing the affluence of the peninsula.

Great Neck was originally inhabited by Mattinecock Native Americans, who referred to the peninsula as Menhaden-Ock. That name later evolved into Madnan’s Neck, which supposedly comes from a nickname given to the Puritan Anne Hutchinson, who tried to establish a settlement in Kings Point. Early on, the local government was very strict, establishing a liquor tax and a religious code of ethics. Once Madnan’s Neck gained political and economic independence from the rest of the island, technology like a grist mill was established, and modern-day Great Neck grew into a commuter town after the New York and Flushing Railroad opened.

Former UN temporary headquarters

Great Neck was a major hub in the Roaring Twenties, with figures like the Marx Brothers and Eddie Cantor bought homes in Great Neck. By the end of World War II, the area became a haven for Ashkenazi Jews. The United Nations also had its temporary headquarters in Lake Success, in the southern part of Great Neck, from 1947 to 1952, during which Eleanor Roosevelt led the UN Commission on Human Rights. A large influx of Persian Jews settled in Great Neck following the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Saddle Rock Grist MillSaddle Rock Grist Mill

From the mansions and ornate homes of Kings Point to the views of Manhattan from a number of parks, Great Neck has quite a lot to explore. Parks like Great Neck Estates Park and Steppingstone Park are typically only open to residents during the summer, but others like Kings Point Park (which has a number of hiking trails), Grace Avenue Park, and the Village Green are open to everyone. Great Neck is also home to the US Merchant Marine Academy (which has one of the lost eagles of Penn Station) as well as a number of other places to see the water like the Saddle Rock Grist Mill. Great Neck also features a number of public artworks, including the Handful of Keys mural in its downtown by the Gold Coast Arts Center and a giant giraffe statue in Kensington. There are at least 15-20 synagogues within Great Neck as well, each with different architectural styles.

Kings Point ParkKings Point Park

Great Neck’s food scene features a wide variety of cuisines, from Persian to authentic Chinese to Israeli. Perhaps best known is Peter Luger Steak House, with a location in Williamsburg, as well as Morton’s The Steakhouse with locations across the U.S. The north of town features predominantly Kosher eateries like Persian restaurant Shiraz and Bistro Burger, while the main downtown houses a number of Israeli places like Grill Time and Noir Bakery & Cafe. Chinese eateries like New Fu Run, Kitchen Melody, and Coco Palace serve up spicy dishes from places like Dongbei and Yunnan. More upscale Asian places like Soku Asian Fusion, Zen Garden, and Shoshaku take on more modern approaches to Chinese and Japanese fare. Other notable restaurants include long-time favorite Kensington Kosher Deli, French bakery Marie Blachère, and La Rotonda.