No matter how devoted they are to Manhattan, New Yorkers flock to Long Island to frolic in more serene surroundings just a short train or drive from home in all seasons.
In the summer, the island’s famous beaches beckon from the Hamptons to lesser-known state beaches closer to the city. Come fall, the changing of the leaves washes over the bike trails in Long Island’s wooded state parks and award-winning vineyards. In the winter, the charming villages in the Hamptons empty of tourists and offer a zen retreat; in the spring, the historic gardens of restored mansions showcase world-class flower shows.
“We have almost anything you want,” said Joan LaRosa, director of sales for the Long Island Convention and Visitors Bureau and Sports Commission. “If you want to be close to the airports and the city, I have that. If you want to feel like you’re far away, I have that in Montauk, the Hamptons and the North Fork, which is so quiet. If you want to be in a boutique hotel, I have that. I have waterfront. There’s so much diversity that except for an urban setting, we have anything you might be looking for. We’re 118 miles long.”
For many years, New Yorkers had Long Island’s treats all to themselves. But on the leisure side, the island hit headlines in 2013 when “The Great Gatsby” publicized the lavish lifestyle of Long Island’s Gold Coast mansions with its explosive visuals from Baz Luhrmann and John F. Kennedy International Airport opened a $1.4 billion upgrade to one of its major terminals.
Now is the time for meeting planners to join the party and reap massive savings in the process.
Full-Service Hotels Without Full City Prices
In the meeting travel space, Long Island has long served as a place to land before crossing the river to Manhattan, but its state-of-the-art hotels (many freshly renovated); wealth of historical venues available for unusual off-sites events; and affordability make it an easy choice for groups who want New York without paying city prices.
“It’s so much less expensive,” said LaRosa. “People think it’s the same [as New York], but the room rates are half what they are in the city. The occupancy tax is much lower, as are the county taxes, which are 11.625 percent in both Long Island counties. Those kind of incidental fees add up.”
New York City has the highest hotel taxes in the country, according to a study conducted by the Global Business Travel Association, making hotel nights and meeting space rentals on Long Island, even if your groups wants to do activities in New York, a budget-saving bargain. New York City hotel occupancy tax is 5.875 percent, and there is an additional room rental charge of 14.375 percent in additional to $3.50 per night.
The Long Island area encompasses Nassau and Suffolk counties. There are several counties or boroughs of New York City, such as Queens County where the airports are located, that lie on the island of Long Island but are not considered part of the area known as Long Island.
A whopping 1.5 million square feet of meeting space and 17,000 hotel rooms are spread throughout Long Island’s two counties. However, despite the number of hotel rooms available, there is no convention center, so LaRosa recommends that groups of no more than 300 look to hold their meetings on Long Island.
The largest venue in terms of meeting space is the Long Island Marriott, located in Nassau County, convenient to the city. The 615-room Marriott’s 28,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, which includes a 9,720-square-foot grand ballroom, is usually divided into 17 rooms but is capable of accommodating 28 breakout rooms when needed.
Two other major full-service hotels have also recently concluded renovations. The 358-room Hyatt Regency Long Island has just finished a complete hotel renovation, bringing its total meeting space to 17,000 square feet. The hotel added a two-story ballroom in a glass atrium looking out over the gardens of the 160-acre resort and an adjoining 2,000-square-foot patio, which is available in warmer seasons. The preexisting ballroom, the 9,779-square-foot grand ballroom, can hold up to 1,000 theater-style or for a reception.
In 2014, the Garden City Hotel, which has welcomed Vanderbilts, Kennedys and Clintons, completed a $35 million renovation for its 140th anniversary. The 272 guest rooms and suites, the lobby and 25,000 square feet of meeting space were all completely overhauled.