Have you got Gatsby fever? This week, director Baz Luhrmann's film adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby opens with Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby, the tragic hero who amasses a fortune in an attempt to win back his first love.
As dreamy as DiCaprio will appear on screens around the world, the Oscar winner will be rivaled by his opulent surroundings. Fitzgerald concocted a fictional Long Island community of knockout mansions, swimming pools, and endless Roaring Twenties parties, and Luhrmann's film promises to deliver a typically over-the-top interpretation of that lost world. But you can actually take a peek at the way the real-life Gatsbys of the early 20th century lived on Long Island's North Shore, in an area known as the Gold Coast. Here, four beautiful mansions that inspired The Great Gatsby—and are open to the public less than an hour from New York City.
Oheka Castle. This 1919 mansion was the second-largest private residence in the U.S. and has long been rumored to be the inspiration for F. Scott Fitgerald's Gatsby mansion. Built by banker Otto Kahn, the estate's house and gardens once saw guests that included the opera singer Enrico Caruso, the composer George Gershwin, and the vaudeville star Fanny Brice. Today, it is available for private events but visitors can call ahead and request a tour or an overnight stay. (136 West Gate Drive, Huntington, NY, oheka.com)
Old Westbury Gardens. This 1906 home was built by philanthropist John S. Phipps for his family. The house is a Charles II-style mansion with a priceless collection of furniture and fine arts. Its 160 acres serve as an impressive botanical gardens, with more than 100 species of trees, gardens, and classical statuary. The grounds include a plant shop, gift shop, and café. (71 Old Westbury Road, Old Westbury, NY, oldwestburygardens.org)
Vanderbilt Museum & Planetarium. This vibrant museum would be worth visiting even if it weren't the former home of the great-grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt. Overlooking Northport Harbor and Long Island Sound, the mansion is open for guided tours, and the museum's planetarium is one of the best in the U.S., with high-definition sky shows. The museum also features an observatory on clear evenings for stargazers. (180 Little Neck Road, Centerport, NY, vanderbiltmuseum.org)
Nassau County Museum of Art. We associate major art collections with big cities, but here in Roslyn Harbor, in a three-story Georgian mansion that was once the Frick estate, you'll find a world-class collection of fine art, a sculpture park, the Art Space for Children, and a school for budding artists. (One Museum Drive, Roslyn Harbor, NY, nassaumuseum.org)
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