The North Fork is loved for its sunny beachside summers; fall pumpkin season; and the warming days of spring. But it has long been a quiet, closed-up place in the darker months of January, February, and into March.
Traditionally, this is the season when farmers and fishermen rested, visitors stayed home, and local businesses provided only the basic essentials.
Deep winter is still a perfect time to retreat and recharge, but for those days when you crave more activity, the North Fork now has plenty to do in the quiet season.
North Fork Winter Fun
Residents used to wait for ponds and inlets to freeze and then skate on the thick ice. Now, ice-skating is as easy as heading to Greenport’s Mitchell Park ice rink.
“What makes our rink special is that it’s located in the heart of the village, in Mitchell Park, which is the heart of Greenport,” says Sylvia Pirillo, Greenport Village Clerk. “It’s in a sunny spot right by the carousel and you can see the water as you skate.”
While many rinks use artificial ice, Greenport uses plain, old-fashioned frozen water.
“That’s the problem,” laughs Pirillo.
The ice needs overnight temperatures of 20 degrees or below, and January is off to a warm start. The Village hopes the rink will open by late January.
Fridays are family night, with $7 skating (including skate rental) from 5–9 p.m. The next free skate day, sponsored by Friends of Mitchell Park, is Feb. 5, from 11 a.m.–5 p.m., with free skating (including skate rentals) for those 17 and under. The rink also offers ice skating lessons, private rink rentals, and season passes. (For conditions: villageofgreenport.org, 631-477-1133)
Those who enjoy the Long Island Aquarium in the summer might not realize it’s a great place to visit in the winter. With fewer crowds and colder temperatures, many of the animals are more active. It’s always fun to watch the penguins playing in the ice and snow — and a good reminder that winter isn’t all bad!
For a behind-the-scenes look at the penguin pavilion exhibit, the aquarium offers the Penguin Encounter, where you can watch staff feed and care for the penguins. This 30-minute experience takes you behind the scenes to see African penguins up close. Photos are permitted.
“Nothing’s cuter than seeing them waddle, swim, even shake their tail feathers!” according to the website.
(Fri–Mon at 11:15 a.m.; longislandaquarium.com; 631-208-9200)
For a cozy wine-tasting experience, RG/NY offers greenhouses for 2–6 guests. “It’s a unique, private way to experience the vineyard during the winter. You get to enjoy a cozy, intimate slice of the vineyard, separate from the rest of the tasting room guests,” says Creative Director Amanda Rivera.
The 3-hour reservation includes sparkling wine, 2 glasses of wine, charcuterie, hot chocolate, and — in a nod to its Mexican roots — churros.
Rivera raves about the beauty of the vineyard in winter. “It’s really wonderful to sit in the greenhouse (out of the cold!) and look at the vineyard while sitting back and sipping wine,” she says. “The greenhouse is a great place to relax with a loved one, play some games with a group of friends, or enjoy a day out with your family.”
For a romantic Valentine’s Day treat, the winery is teaming up with local chef Lauren Lombardi for a Cena del Amor (Dinner of Love) on Saturday, February 11. Rivera says it will be a “special aphrodisiac-inspired wine–pairing dinner.”
The winery is also planning a Self-care Sunday series with a selection of relaxation, aesthetic, and other services provided by local experts. (6025 Sound Avenue, Riverhead; rgnywine.com; 631-298-0075)
For comraderie and some local music, head to Greenport Harbor Brewing Company on the Main Road in Peconic. With live music on Saturdays and Sundays and 12 beers on tap, this local brewery will warm you up. For more heat, the brewery is hosting the North Fork Chili Cook-off on Sunday, Feb. 5. Buy tickets online to taste and vote for your favorite (42155 Main Road, Peconic; greenportharborbrewing.com )
A Hot Cuppa
Looking for a perfect place to relax on a winter morning? When you just want to kick back, sink into a couch by the fireplace with a hot cup of coffee, visit North Fork Roasting Company. The business roasts their own coffee and also serves tea and baked goods. (55795 Main Road, Southold; northforkroastingco.com; open daily 7 a.m.–4 p.m.)
Into the Garden
And, if you just can’t wait for spring planting, check out the online gardening classes from Cornell Cooperative Extension. They have 1-hour classes in composting (Feb. 2), soil health (March 2), and organic vegetable gardening (March 6). See the website for details and registration. (ccesuffolk.org)
Before you know it, the dormancy of winter will be over, and the North Fork will be bursting with seedlings and activity. Enjoy the quiet!