50 Free Things to Do With Long Island Kids This Summer
Does the thought of summer vacation make you dread empty pockets? From summer camps to weekend trips, the next two months can be costly. But summer doesn’t have to drain your wallet. We've compiled a list of 50 FREE things to do for Long Island families. From outdoor concerts and movies to museums, classes, and festivals, Long Island has something FREE going on all summer long.
Find got even more bucket-list seasonal fun in our Summer Fun Guide.
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1. Watch a Movie Under the Stars
Various parks in the Town of Oyster Bay are hosting movies under the moonlight this summer.
2. Have a Picnic on the Water
Pack a picnic at Greenport's harborfront Mitchell Park. The Greenport Carousel is on-site at only $2 a ride.
Celebrate summer every Friday night on the promenade in Garden City. Photo courtesy of the Garden City Chamber of Commerce
3. Celebrate Friday Nights
Every Friday this summer, enjoy themed nights such as St. Patrick's Day or '80s Night at Friday Night Promenade in Garden City.
4. Build Something
Prefer using a hammer? Home Depot has kids' workshops on the first Saturday of the month.
5. Explore Riverhead
6. Go Back to the School
School's out, and your local elementary building grounds have unique playground equipment, fitness stations, swings, and more to explore.
Grab a pole: Is there a better place for fishing than Long Island? Photo by the author
7. Go Fishing
Cast a line and catch some fun as you fish from these Long Island piers and beaches.
8. Listen to a Story
Explore new literary adventures at Barnes & Noble's weekly virtual storytimes.
9. Get Crafty
Our list of Boredom Busters is chock full of recipes, games, crafts, and more using commonly found household items.
10. Discover Sagamore Hill
Visit the lush grounds of Sagamore Hill, the former home of Teddy Roosevelt. The 366-foot Eel Creek Boardwalk leads to expansive views of Centre Island and Lloyd Harbor.
Thrill to Fourth of July Fireworks at Jones Beach. Photo courtesy of the New York State Parks and Historic Sites
11. Celebrate Independence Day with a Bang
It's not July 4th without fireworks. Read on to see where you can get the best views.
12. Meet Farm Animals
The resident furry friends at Catapano Farms in Southold are eager to greet visitors. Check the milking schedule to see these animals at work.
13. Feed the Birds
Bring some birdseed to the Elizabeth A. Morton Wildlife Refuge and watch these feathered friend nosh right from your hand.
RELATED: The Best of Port Jefferson for Kids
Celebrate America at Port Jefferson's Independence Day parade. Photo courtesy of Port Jefferson Village
14. Enjoy a Day in the Village
15. Take a Virtual Trip
From Mt. Everest to Buckingham Palace, visit some of the world's most famous landmarks, all from the comfort of your couch.
16. Boogie the Night Away
Family-friendly music, movies, magicians, and more can be found at The Common Ground's Family Fridays this summer July 9, 15, 23, 30, and August 6 and 13.
17. Get Some Culture
Take the LIRR into the city and visit these museums on their free days.
Snuggle up with a bunny at the Sweetbriar Nature Center. Photo courtesy of the center
18. Go Wild in Nature
Check out some FREE nature centers, like the Holtsville Ecology Site & Animal Preserve, Sweetbriar Nature Center, or Garvies Point Preserve, which charges admission to the museum, though its walking trails are open for all.
19. Get Wet
Cool off at a FREE Long Island sprayground favorites include Blumenfeld Family Park in Port Washington, Clark Street Playground in Long Beach, Andrew J. Parise Park in Cedarhurst, and Port Jefferson Harbor.
20. Search for Sea Shells
Discover all sorts of beach and ocean critters on these East End scavenger hunt-like strolls along the seashore of Hallock State Park on Sunday, June 27, or Orient Beach State Park on Saturday, July 17.
21. Discover Art After Dark
On four evenings this summer and fall, Grangebel Park in downtown Riverhead is a walkable art-after-dark experience.
Discover the wildlife that calls Mashomack Wildlife Preserve home.
22. Explore an Island
While you have to pay for the ferry ride to Shelter Island, there's plenty to explore for free once you arrive. Try hiking the majestic Mashomack Preserve.
23. Hit the Trail
Long Island has many family-friendly hiking trails, including some that offer beautiful views of Long Island. Some parks charge for parking.
24. See a Live Show
The Huntington Summer Arts Festival brings a roster of exciting performing artists to the Chapin Rainbow Stage in Heckscher Park each year.
25. Wander Through a Sculpture Garden
See how far your family can ride on two wheels.
26. Hit the Bike Trails
Pack up the bikes and see where two wheels can take you.
27. Join the Street Fair Fun
Riverhead's Main Street is the place to be for Alive on 25, an annual street fair with music, food trucks, kids activities, and more on Wednesdays, July 15, 29, and August 12. Bonus: A free fireworks show will be held on the first evening.
28. Explore a Living Museum
Take a stroll through the flourishing gardens of Clark Botanic Gardens, a 12-acre living museum, and educational facility.
29. Take Advantage of All the Library has to Offer
Many libraries offer FREE museum passes to their members, where families can check out places like the Long Island Children's Museum and Cradle of Aviation, both in Nassau County. Some even lend out Empire State Parks passes to our local beaches.
Fraser Park in North Merrick is a delight for little ones. Photo by Kimberly Chacon
30. Hit the Playground
Check out a new playground on Long Island.
31. See a Real Fighter Jet
Get up close with fighter jets and learn some history at Grumman Memorial Park in Calverton.
32. Knock Down Some Pins
Turn back the clock by learning about scrimshaw art and more at the Southampton History Museum. Photo courtesy of the Southampton History Museum
33. Step Back in Time
Step back in time to the Southampton History Museum. Learn skills such as knot-tying, herb gardening, and scrimshaw art. It offers FREE programs and activities at various times each week..
34. Experience the Wetlands
The Marine Nature Study Area in Oceanside has boardwalks that meander throughout a 52-acre marshland. Look down for marine life and up for cranes and osprey, who call this waterfront oasis home.
35. Take a Walk in Great Neck Plaza
Various streets transform into a promenade on Wednesdays in Great Neck and are closed to traffic, allowing pedestrians to explore the quaint downtown.
36. Forage for Tasty Treats
Show the rescued animals at Quogue Wildlife Refuge some love. Photo by Jaime Sumersille
37. Enjoy Nature
Take a short hike among the pine barrens and stop in to visit the animals at Quogue Wildlife Refuge.
38. Spend the Day on Fire Island
The Fire Island National Seashore visitor center hosts free hikes and other family-friendly nature education programs.
39. Get Down on Saturdays
Summer Saturdays kick off this year at the Delano Steward Plaza in Wyandanch with free activities including yoga, hip hop, Zumba, a farmers market, music, theater, and more.
40. Talk to the Animals
Head to Goodale Farms and pal around with some goats, cows, and chickens before heading inside for some farm-fresh goodies.
Check out the cool creations at Riverhead's Cardboard Boat Race.
41. Enter a Boat Race
With cardboard, tape, and paint being the only allowable materials, see how durable the entrants in the Riverhead Cardboard Boat Races really are on Saturday, August 7.
42. Play Scientist
Get elbow-deep in STEM fun with these 64 Easy Science Experiments for Kids to Do at Home.
43. Buy from the Source
Visit your local farmers' market to see what's in season. Many markets offer FREE entertainment and music.
44. Travel Back in Time
Visit Montauk Point Lighthouse for Colonial games, leather making, and traditional pottery Saturday, August 7-Sunday, August 8.
Explore the beautiful beachy boardwalks.
45. Take a Walk on a Boardwalk
Stretch the family's legs and take in the sea air on these Long Island boardwalks.
46. Hang with the Cool Kids
Carve an ollie or pop a wheelie at one of these skateparks. Tell mom not to look!
47. Discover Aztec Culture
The Paumanauke Pow-Wow returns to Babylon Township this year, and kids under 12 are free.
48. Have an Adventure Close to Home
Plan a backyard camping trip. Don't forget the s'mores!
49. Cuddle up on the Couch and Watch a Movie
Whether you have a big screen TV indoors or an outdoor projector, we have your family movie night blockbuster hits all queued up.
50. Visit the Most Unique Museum on the Beach
After the standard beach parking fee, the Jones Beach Energy & Nature Center is free to explore. It also offers programs for a nominal fee.
This piece is updated annually.
Unless noted, photos by the author