4 April 2024

You don’t have to be a visitor to enjoy the Long Island Welcome Center! @I_LOVE_NY @TasteNY @nettle_meadow @colorourtown @discoverLINY #IloveNY @newyorkrestaurantshow #LongIslandWelcomeCenter

On April 8th, there will be a total solar eclipse that will cross New York State for about 2 ½ hours. We are inundated with messages about keeping our eyes safe and only using special solar eclipse glasses to protect ourselves when we watch the eclipse happen. Libraries, stores, and even the LIRR (at Moynihan Train Hall LIRR ticket windows) are handing out glasses for free. Last week, I learned that I Love NY would be giving them out at various Welcome Centers across the state. Unfortunately, that did not include any NYC locations, but I was going to be on LI for Easter, so decided to try the Long Island Welcome Center in Dix Hills and, boy, am I glad I did!

Early morning view of the front of the Long Island Welcome Center with the sun shining from the southeast

The first time I went to the Long Island Welcome Center (“LIWC”), they didn’t have any of the solar eclipse glasses, but we didn’t mind at all. The place is a revelation! Located between exits 51 and 52 on the Long Island Expressway, there are plenty of parking spots, an animal comfort station, and even charging stations for electronic vehicles. The LIWC itself is a charming building that looks like a beach shack, with a lighthouse by the roadside and a whaling vignette in front of the building, as an homage to Long Island’s whaling history.

Whaling vignette at the Long Island Welcome Center with a whale and a whaling boat

Directly in front of the doors, there is a Long Island Walk of Fame with plaques for famous Long Islanders. Did you know that Jackson Pollock is from Long Island? I didn’t. I knew about Billy Joel and Teddy Roosevelt, because I lived in Oyster Bay for a couple of years while I finished high school. LL Cool J was another cool surprise for me.

Long Island Walk of Fame plaqueLong Island Walk of Fame plaque for Theodore Roosevelt

Inside, you walk straight onto a map of Long Island with various sites highlighted to give visitors ideas of landmarks and activities that Long Island visitors should see.

Photograph of the interior of the Long Island Welcome Center from the entrywayMap of Long Island that makes up the floor of the Long Island Welcome Center

There are plenty of seats, plus very nice restrooms, and a hallway with an exhibit of artifacts from Long Island’s past, including a Teddy Roosevelt teddy bear and one of Billy Joel’s gold records.

Exhibit of Theodore Roosevelt teddy bear at the Long Island Welcome CenterBilly Joel's gold record for Glass Houses at the Long Island Welcome Center

There is also an I LoveNY photo op, where you are the I in the logo, plus various screens with highlights of places to go and lots of eclipse information.

I Love NY Photo Op at the Long Island Welcome CenterVideo Screen with solar eclipse information at the Long Island Welcome Center

 

The best part of the LIWC, for me, was the Taste NY shop. It was full of foods, beverages, toiletries, condiments, souvenir items, and more, from all over New York State. We bought a variety of treats to taste later, knowing we’d be coming back again to get our solar eclipse glasses.

Photograph of the Taste NY shop in the Long Island Welcome Center

One of my favorite cheeses, which I discovered at the recent New York Restaurant Show, is highlighted there. If you haven’t tried Nettle Meadow Farms cheeses, you should! They are delicious and local to NY state (near Saratoga Springs).

Photograph of two Nettle Meadow Farm cheeses at the Taste NY shop in the Long Island Welcome Center

We did go back about a week later to get our solar eclipse glasses. I called the night before and was advised that they only have a certain amount to give out each day and that there’s a line already when they open at 7 am. We were there by 6:40 and, indeed, there was already a line of about 20 people, but we did get ours.

Photograph of two pairs of I Love NY solar eclipse safety glasses

We loved the Long Island Welcome Center so much that we are planning to go again in the future and even bring the entire family when we next gather for the holidays. We’ll bring a cooler to stock up on Adirondack ice-cream and Ronnybrook chocolate milk along with our Nettle Meadow cheese. There are cookies, brownies, chocolates, and more, from various bakeries and chocolatiers across the state. My favorite souvenirs, which I didn’t get pictures of, was the Color Our Town coloring book and pencil set of Oyster Bay, which ended up in my mother’s Easter basket. I will definitely be going back to get one for myself!

The Long Island Welcome Center is open 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, but the Taste NY shop has limited hours that change seasonally, so be sure to check their website before you go. If you want the special I Love NY solar eclipse glasses, call the night before you go to make sure they still have some and get there before 7 am. They only give out 2 pairs per person, so make sure you bring enough people to get as many as you need, too.