Stepping Out

Old Westbury Gardens welcomes summer

Its 'Midsummer Celebration' is among the seasonal pleasure to enjoy this weekend


That fleeting time of year that is summer is now moving into high gear. It’s time to enjoy all that our area has to offer. Yes, a day at the beach or the latest summer flick is always a possibility, but there’s so much more to take in.

Here’s a sampling.

Shakespeare re-imagined at Old Westbury Gardens

Inspired by the magical tale of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” as interpreted from photographs of Old Westbury Gardens’ founder Peggie Phipps Boegner and her cousins dressed up in costumes as they recreated scenes from the play decades ago, combined with elements of Northern European summer solstice celebrations, Old Westbury Gardens transforms itself this weekend for “Midsummer Weekend.”

Music and dance blend seamlessly into the appealingly decorated gardens, already bursting with seasonal color.

It’s a chance to enjoy the unique sights, fragrances and feel of the gardens, Friday and Saturday, June 21-22, at a special time of day: twilight. Visitors will become captivated by a totally different perspective of the grounds, illuminated by lanterns and candles, and watch as the grounds become inhabited by magical “fairies.” The lush gardens are decorated with wreaths, garlands, and other festive floral arrangements, as Old Westbury Gardens’ horticulture staff puts their unique twist on “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

“It’s great fun to see the many stoic-like statues take on a different look when dressed up in colorful garlands,” said Vince Kish, Old Westbury Gardens spokesman. “When just about any kind of event, exhibit, or performance is presented at Old Westbury Gardens, the quality of that event is immediately enhanced by this incomparable environment. But some events seem to work particularly well here and blend wonderfully with the beauty exuded by these 200 bucolic acres.”

Try some “Midsummer Jazz,” on Friday, 7:30-9:30 p.m., with the appealing gardens as a backdrop. Stroll the Walled Garden and listen to the cool sounds of live jazz. Light refreshments will be served.

Then, on the following day, the main event, “Midsummer Night” will enchant the entire family. The gardens, illuminated with lanterns, take on a special splendor with their striking decorations, as the grounds fill with dancers from Lori Belilove’s acclaimed Isadora Duncan Dance Company.

Over 20 cast members dressed in Greek, Roman, and Renaissance-themed tunics and drapery will guide audience members from scene to scene throughout the grounds. Others will act as living statues in slow motion. Greek mythology will be used as thematic reference points for a variety of dance vignettes, including the Three Graces, Narcissus, Homage to Apollo and Dionysus, Tanagra Waltz, Dance of the Furies, and others. Musical selections will vary from modern composers Brian Eno and Enya to classical favorites such as Chopin, Schubert, and Gluck.

“Already long associated with music, with the enthusiastic response to our Midsummer Night programs, Old Westbury Gardens is also establishing a reputation as an ideal venue for dance,” Kish noted. “The Isadora Duncan-style lyrical dancing is extremly appealing and flows throughout the grounds. It’s a nice night for families to get in the spirit of a midsummer celebration.”

Dancers perform throughout the gardens, including the Boxwood Gardens near the Colonnade, the Rose Garden, along the Primrose Path, and at the Thatched Cottage


“It’s a relaxed evening,” Kish said. “Families can wander along with the dancers or simply stroll and enjoy the gardens, which have a much different look at this time of day.”

Families are encouraged to bring a blanket and picnic meal, to add to the tranquil, summery experience.

Advance registration is required for Midsummer Jazz on Friday, which costs $16. Saturday admission is $15, free for children 17 and under when accompanied by an adult. Old Westbury Gardens is at 71 Old Westbury Rd., Old Westbury. For tickets and information, call (516) 333-0048 or

Those Gold Coast days

Another piece of Long Island history, the Falaise mansion, is also well worth a visit this time of year. This elegant mansion, built in the style of a 13th century Norman manor house, is one of the last of the remaining great estates that once made up Long Island’s Gold Coast.

Falaise, which reopened for tours this month (and remains open through Oct. 27), was built on a bluff above the Long Island Sound in 1923 for Harry F. Guggenheim and his wife, Caroline, on what is now the Sands Point Preserve. The mansion’s fascinating architecture is French eclectic, based on a 13th-century Norman manor house. Exterior features include an enclosed cobblestone courtyard, thickly mortared brick walls, a steeply pitched roof of heavy tile, and a round tower.

The son of noted 19th-century industrialist and philanthropist Daniel Guggenheim, Harry Guggenheim was himself a businessman, diplomat and philanthropist who served as a Navy pilot in both World War I and World War II. Guggenheim’s lifelong fascination with aviation led to friendships with Charles Lindbergh, a frequent visitor to Falaise, and rocket pioneer Dr. Robert Goddard. Guggenheim also started up Newsday with his third wife, Alicia Paterson.

Perhaps the most impressive of the North Shore’s early-20th-century estates, Sands Point first served as the home for railroad heir Howard Gould and was later purchased by Daniel and Florence Guggenheim. The preserve is dominated by the massive English Manor house, Hempstead House, as well as the 100,000-square-foot stable, Castlegould.

Falaise is furnished with antiques, many from the 16th and 17th centuries, woodcarvings, sculptures and Renaissance paintings. These and other furnishings recall Guggenheim’s military career, passion for aviation, public service, interest in thoroughbred horse racing, and long friendships with. Lindbergh and Goddard, among others.

At a private tour just prior to the official public opening, Charles Lindbergh was quoted saying that he considered Falaise, “One of the most beautiful buildings in the world.”

The grand home officially opened to the public in 1973, two years after Guggenheim passed away.

Falaise is open for tours, Thursday through Sunday. Admission is $10. The tour bus leaves Castlegould at 12, 1, 2 and 3 p.m. Falaise, which is not wheelchair accessible, is at 127 Middleneck Rd., Sands Point. Call (516) 571-7900 or for information or