Riverhead is having a moment! The historic waterfront town was named this week to Forbes Advisor’s “Best Places to Travel in 2023” — one of just 11 U.S. destinations on this year’s list. It’s part of a bonanza of positive press coverage generated in recent months — including stories in the New York Times and U.S. News & World Report — that spotlights Riverhead’s renaissance.
“It’s an exciting time for Riverhead, and we are thrilled to see our efforts grow from local to regional, and now global, recognition,” said Kristy Verity, executive director of the Downtown Business Improvement District. “Riverhead is such a unique mix of East End vibe, urban spark, history and experience. The vitality and vibrancy we saw at our 2022 events really demonstrated that Riverhead is on a fast path to renewal.”
In addition to the historic waterfront, the Forbes article highlights nearby local spots like Jamesport Farm Brewery and the Big Duck, an iconic architectural landmark located in Flanders.
Feeling inspired to take a trip? We’ve created our own itinerary to help you spend a winter day in the town of Riverhead.
7 A.M. Start the day with an early breakfast at the Star Confectionary, a charming 1920’s luncheonette serving old-school diner favorites. Afterwards, head over to the River Walk for a morning stroll along the edge of the Peconic River. At the end of the path is Milton L. Burns Park, where you can explore a series of outdoor art installations made by local artists.
9 A.M. Experience the bounty of the North Fork at the East End Winter Food Market. Peruse your way through over 40 vendors selling local food, wine, and other craft goods. The market is a popular stop for day trippers and locals alike and is open on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
10 A.M. It’s time for a coffee break! Tucked inside of LUMBER + Salt, a treasure trove of antiques and reclaimed materials, is Riverhead’s newest coffee shop: North Fork Moto. Try the Oak-Spiced Latte, a warming winter special that features a homemade brown sugar syrup with hints of oak barrel and spice. The artisan coffee bar, inspired by the owners’ love of motorcycles and dogs, is a cozy place to sip on lattes while checking out antiques and other products like candles, pet-inspired mugs, and biker accessories.
12 P.M. For lunch, head over to Barrow Food House, a farm-to-table, fast-casual restaurant located in an 1850’s farmhouse. There’s a reason why this local spot was named by our readers as having the best hamburger on the North Fork: their menu features a juicy smash burger on a brioche bun, cooked to perfection and topped with aged cheddar, bacon, pickles, shredded lettuce and house sauce. Make sure to add on a side of their addicting hand cut fries served with preserved lemon and black pepper mayo.
1 P.M. Spend the rest of the afternoon wandering through the Long Island Aquarium and learning more about its diverse inhabitants. The aquarium boasts more than 80 exhibits, featuring creatures from both the land and sea. Highlights include the aquarium’s majestic shark tank, vibrant coral reef displays, and interactive butterfly garden.
5 P.M. With so many great dinner options in Riverhead, it’s difficult to choose just one. For a fun and fast-casual vibe, grab a bite at Funchos, an indoor-outdoor spot that serves delicious Tex-Mex tacos, burritos and killer margaritas. For a more intimate dining experience, go to Turkauz Grill — a homey nook where vines hang from the ceiling and Middle Eastern staples like shish kebabs and falafel are served.
7 P.M. A day in Riverhead — wind, rain, snow, or shine — wouldn’t be complete without stopping at Snowflake Ice Cream Shoppe for homemade ice cream. Ranked best in New York State by Travel and Leisure Magazine, Snowflake has been serving wildly creative ice cream flavors, from Peconic Swamp Thing to Gold Rush, since 1953.
Staying the night? The Preston House is a stunning, modern boutique hotel located in the heart of historic downtown Riverhead.