Free Things to Do on Long Island 🐚⛺️ | Fun, Free Long Island Activities for the Whole Family!
As a Long Island tourist or resident, it can feel like simply leaving the house costs money. While the cost of living on Long Island isn’t cheap, there’s a surprising number of free things on Long Island to explore. Here’s a huge list of free stuff on Long Island for families, couples, and singles including outdoor activities, museums, and seasonal attractions.
15 Free Things to Do on Long Island
You don’t need to spend money to have fun. Here are 15 ideas for fun and cheap things to do on Long Island including the best places to visit in Long Island for free, outdoor activities, and more.
Swimming, Sunbathing & More at Free Beaches in Long Island
What better way to beat the heat and have fun without spending money than visiting one of the many free Long Island beaches? Long Island Sound beaches on the North Shore are great for walks and amazing views while South Shore beaches are where you want to go for warm, sandy beaches.
As a general rule, parking is free before Memorial Day or after Labor Day, or after 5 to 6 pm year-round. Visit Tobay Beach during the day and you pay up to $50 per day – or absolutely nothing after 6 pm! Otherwise, public beaches in Long Island charge varying non-resident fees of up to $50.
You don’t need to avoid the beach during peak hours just to save money, though:
- An Empire Pass ($80) saves you up to $10 per car at six Long Island beaches including Robert Moses, Shadmoor, and Montauk Point. It also grants free entry to most state parks.
- A Suffolk County Green Card ($30/residents) offers reduced admission for Suffolk County beaches like Smith Point and Cupsogue. Discounted cards are available.
- A Nassau County Leisure Pass ($32/residents only) reduces the fee for Nickerson Beach in Lido to $13 from $35.
You can even bring along your four-legged friend for a a day at the beach with the whole family! Check out our guide to Long Island dog friendly beaches and parks for more information.
Stroll Along Long Island Boardwalks
One of the best things about Long Island living is the peaceful strolls along the island’s many boardwalks. These boardwalks are all free and open to the public, but be aware you’ll probably need to pay for parking. You might also want to bring a little spending money for a treat and activities like miniature golf.
- Jones Beach State Park Boardwalk (Wantagh) – There’s tons to do along the 2-mile boardwalk including shuffleboard, miniature golf, and playgrounds.
- Eel Creek Boardwalk (Oyster Bay) – This 366-foot boardwalk is behind the Old Orchard Museum at Sagamore Hill and offers views of Lloyd Harbor and Centre Island.
- Long Beach Boardwalk (Long Beach) – It’s the perfect place for a run or jog and the Magnolia Boulevard playground is right at the corner. Use the Long Beach SoBi program to rent a bike!
- Sunken Meadow Boardwalk (Kings Park) – Enjoy a walk along the Long Island Sound thanks to this 0.75-mile boardwalk at Sunken Meadow State Park.
Unwind at Free Gardens & Arboretums on Long Island
Looking for free things to do on Long Island this weekend? Add a visit to your local arboretum to the list! There are several botanical gardens and arboretums to visit with free admission. Many even offer free programs and events.
- Bayard Cutting Arboretum (Great River) – This 691-acre state park is home to an arboretum designed by the renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead. There is a Vehicle Use Fee of $8 per vehicle which is waived if you are an Empire Pass holder. Tour hundreds of species and lounge in Adirondack chairs at the Cutting Estate.
- Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park (Oyster Bay) – This 400-acre nature preserve and park boasts woodlands, trails, and public gardens with regular free Long Island activities for families.
- Clark Botanical Gardens (Albertson) – The Town of North Hempstead’s Clark Botanical Gardens is one of the best free things to do in Nassau County throughout the year. Visit the AAS Annual Display Garden to see the latest AAS Annual winners and explore 12 acres of rock garden plants, butterfly plants, and other collections.
- Bailey Arboretum (Lattingtown) – Home to the largest Dawn Redwood in the world, is a 42-acre accredited arboretum with gardens, trails, woods, and ponds to explore. There are regular community programs, workshops, and events throughout the year and a fun children’s habitat.
- LIU Post Arboretum (Brookville) – Long Island University’s Post campus is home to a large community arboretum that started in 1921 when it was the country estate of the Post cereal heiress. Explore acres of trees, a rose arbor, a walled flower garden, and a water garden.
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Catch Free Concerts & Music Festivals on Long Island
Did you know there are more than a dozen Long Island music festivals, many of them featuring major national and international acts. The most famous are the Great South Bay Music Festival and the Montauk Music Festival, but there are plenty of free summer concert series and music festivals to catch.
- Huntington Summer Arts Festival (Huntington) – Celebrate the arts with six weeks of free performances through June and July.
- Montauk Music Festival – Four-day music festival in August with free shows at 45+ venues in Montauk culminating in an open-air concert at the Montauk Lighthouse.
- Long Beach Jazz Fest – This annual music festival in September features smooth, Latin, and traditional jazz over three days.
- Sea Shanty Maritime Music Festival (Port Jefferson) – This seafaring and pirate-themed music festival in October takes place in the heart of this historic shipbuilding village.
- Girls Rising Music Festival (Glen Cove) – Music, food, and art festival with national headlining female artists
- Jones Beach Boardwalk Bandshell (Wantagh) – Free concerts and summer movies right on the boardwalk.
- Summer Concert Series (Town of Babylon)
- Summer Concert Series (Nesconset)
- Downtown Sounds (Glen Cove)
- Morgan Park Summer Music Festival (Glen Cove)
- Summer Concert Series (Lindenhurst)
- Sounds of Summer Concert Series (Deer Park)
- Music in the Park (Northport)
- Music Under the Stars (Oyster Bay)
- Family Concert Series (Smithtown)
- Concerts in the Park Series (Southampton)
- Summer Concert Series (Stony Brook)
- Summer Concert Series (Westbury Square)
- Long Beach
- Summer Concert Series (North Hempstead)
Watch Free Outdoor Movies
One of the many free, fun things to do on Long Island for family fun is watching an outdoor summer movie with the community. There are several popular summer movies across the island:
- Lakeside Theater at Eisenhower Park in Nassau County
- Summer Movies by Moonlight – Town of Oyster Bay
- Summer Movie Series @ Tanner Park – Town of Babylon
- Movies Under the Stars – Riverhead
- Outdoor Summer Movie Series (Hamptons International Film Festival) – East Hampton
- Drive-in Movie Series – North Hempstead
Visit Long Island Parks
There are hundreds of parks on Long Island worth exploring, from large county and state parks to community parks. Enjoy a picnic during the summer, take a long hike, spend a day at the lake, or even plan an affordable family getaway at one of the many Long Island campgrounds.
There are two national parks on Long Island: Fire Island National Seashore (Patchogue) and Sagamore Hill National Historic Site (Oyster Bay). Neither park has entrance fees.
There are more than one dozen state parks on Long Island, many of which have low parking fees, plus a huge number of Nassau and Suffolk County parks. Here are just some of the cool spots on Long Island to visit.
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- Caumsett State Historic Park Preserve (Lloyd Harbor) – Enjoy the best sightseeing on Long Island on this peninsula that juts into Long Island Sound.
- Eisenhower Park (East Meadow) – Looking for what to do in Nassau for free? Visit one of New York’s largest open public spaces. It’s larger than Central Park with three golf courses, miniature golf next to the aquatic center, playgrounds, summer entertainment, trails, and more.
- Sunken Meadow State Park (Kings Park) – One of the best public beaches in Long Island, this state park has three miles of beach on the Long Island Sound. It’s a great place for boating and collecting seashells.
- Blydenburgh County Park (Smithtown) – 627 acres on the Nissequogue River with horseback riding, fishing, hiking, camping, and the Blydenburgh Farm and New Mill Historic District
- Cathedral Pines County Park (Middle Island) – 320-acre Suffolk County park offering camping and the adjacent Pines Nature Preserve with hiking, a playground, and mountain biking
- Lake Ronkonkoma County Park (Ronkonkoma) – Scenic park with tons of recreation including fishing, game fields, and an accessible pier
- Bethpage State Park (Farmingdale) – Take the Wantagh State Parkway to Jones Beach, go sledding in the winter, or visit from June to October to watch polo matches
- Hempstead Lake State Park (West Hempstead) – One of the top free parks on Long Island, enjoy fishing at three ponds, hiking, horseback riding, tennis, and large playgrounds.
- Theodore Roosevelt Sanctuary and Audubon Center (Oyster Bay) – 14 acre songbird sanctuary with trails, ponds, gardens, and a nature center.
- Cold Spring Harbor State Park (Cold Spring Harbor) – The park offers tons of free things to do in Long Island for every season with great views of the harbor, bird-watching, hiking, kayaking, and snowshoeing.
Go Fishing on Long Island
A day of fishing is one of the top cheap things to do on Long Island. You can try your hand at fishing on the sea, whether you take a boat out or just fish from one of the many piers and docks that dot the coastline. You can also fish at many ponds, lakes, and rivers.
A New York fishing license is required only for freshwater fishing. The cost is just $5 for one day, $12 for 7 days, or $25 per year ($5/year for seniors 70 and older). Free or reduced fee and lifetime licenses are also available to certain residents.
You don’t need to buy a license for saltwater fishing, but you do need to register. Here’s the marine fishing registration page.
Lake Ronkonkoma is one of the top outdoor activities on Long Island with great bass fishing and a 100-foot pier. Jones Beach offers saltwater fishing piers and surf fishing. Just be aware you need a Night Fishing permit to fish after sunset.
Visit Free Long Island Museums
Want to know what to do on Long Island when the weather is bad? There are dozens of great Long Island museums and many of them are free!
Here are the best free museums on Long Island:
- American Guitar Museum (New Hyde Park)
- Museum of Natural Science (Stony Brook)
- Nassau County Museum of Art (Roslyn Harbor) – Free on weekdays, only $2 on weekends for the parking fee
- African American Museum of Nassau County (Hempstead)
- Center of Education and Applied Art (Hempstead)
A little-known perk offered by most Long Island libraries is the free museum pass program. Get free museum passes to several museums on the island as a cardholder! Depending on the library, you may get up to four passes that you can print at home or pick up and return to the library. Long Island museums with library perks include:
- Long Island Children’s Museum
- Nassau County Firefighters Museum
- Cold Spring Harbor Fire House Museum
- Cradle of Aviation Museum
- American Airpower Museum
- Hofstra University Museum of Art
- Garvies Point Museum & Preserve
- Holocaust Memorial & Tolerance Center of Nassau County
- Fire Island Lighthouse Preservation Society
- Heckscher Museum of Art
- Long Island Museum
- Long Island Maritime Museum
- Whaling Museum and Education Center
- Suffolk County Vanderbilt Mansion Museum and Planetarium
- Walt Whitman Birthplace State Historic Site
- Parrish Art Museum
- South Fork Natural History Museum
If you have a Bank of America debit or credit card, you can visit these Long Island attractions that participate in the Museums on Us program for free admission:
- Long Island Children’s Museum
- Old Westbury Gardens
- Hecksher Museum of Art
- Long Island Museum
Enjoy Free Events & More at Long Island Libraries
You’ll definitely want to get a library card to take advantage of free events, classes, and resources at your local library. Most libraries offer a host of free activities on Long Island like crafts and read alouds. Many also offer makerspaces! Merrick Library’s Walter Mintz Makerspace offers a 3D printer for kids to use. You’ll also find high-tech tools at libraries in Smithtown, the Middle Country Public Library, and the Sachem Public Library.
Tour Art Galleries
Take in the local art scene by spending a couple hours strolling through art galleries on Long Island. Nearly any commercial art gallery is free to visit with changing exhibits that may focus on a medium, subject, or artist. Here are a handful of great Long Island art galleries to check out.
- Adelphi University (Garden City) – Four art galleries open to the public plus items from the university’s collection throughout the campus
- Suffolk County Community College (Selden, Brentwood, Riverhead) – Three campus galleries including the Lyceum Gallery on the Eastern Campus dedicated to digital illustrations and photography
- East End Arts (Riverhead) – Two public art galleries in Riverhead with major art exhibitions several times per year
- Gallery North (Setauket) – Free exhibitions of contemporary regional art
- Nova Constellatio Gallery (Greenport) – Open studio of Isabelle Haran-Leonardi, a realist oil painter
- Firehouse Plaza Art Gallery (Garden City) – Public exhibitions in Nassau Community College
- FotoFoto Gallery (Huntington) – Photography gallery with free exhibitions, lectures, seminars, and more
- Haven Gallery (Northport) – Monthly exhibitions of “narrative surrealism” from emerging and established artists
- Art League of Long Island (Dix Hills) – Atrium-style gallery displaying works by local artists
Visit Long Island Lighthouses
There are 25+ lighthouses on Long Island and five are open to the public. Even the ones that aren’t open to tour are worth visiting if you’re looking for free places to go in Long Island with kids. Enjoy picturesque walks along the shore and nearby amenities at historic lighthouses like:
- Montauk Point Lighthouse (Montauk)
- Horton Point Lighthouse (Southold)
- Huntington Harbor Light (Huntington)
- Fire Island Lighthouse (Fire Island)
- Long Beach Bar Light Station aka Bug Light (Greenport)
- Old Field Point Lighthouse (East Setauket)
- Orient Point Lighthouse (Orient)
Check Out the Free Petting Zoo & Ecology Exhibits in Holtsville
Entry to the Town of Brookhaven Holtsville Ecology Site & Animal Preserve is free. The facility offers free ecology exhibits and tours, free compost for the community, and greenhouses to view. There’s also a petting zoo that’s part of the free admission.
Visit the Sweetbriar Nature Center in Smithtown
The Sweetbriar Nature Center is free to visit with exhibits, a reptile room, a rainforest room, gardens, and an outdoor discovery area. The butterfly vivarium has a small admission fee of $5 for adults and $3 for kids under 12 and seniors.
Tour the Jones Beach Energy & Nature Center in Wantagh
Located in Jones Beach State Park, the Jones Beach Energy & Nature Center explores relationships between people, the environment, and energy systems with rotating and permanent exhibits, educational resources, and public programs. Free walk-in tours are offered Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 12-3 pm.
They also have a calendar of public programs including Seal Walks, Creature Features, STEAM Workshops, and crafts. The programs require registration and a small fee that’s usually just $4 per person.
Have a Blast at Long Island Festivals & Seasonal Events
Looking for free things to do on Long Island this weekend? Here are tons of fun places to go on Long Island for seasonal family fun including the best Long Island festivals and events.
Spring & Summer Festivals
- Asian American Festival (North Hempstead) – Enjoy cultural activities, live performances, and amazing food.
- Mattituck Lions Strawberry Festival (Mattituck) – This fun Hamptons event features strawberries in every preparation you can imagine with vendors and live music.
- North Fork Dock Diving (Peconic) – Hundreds of dogs compete for the greatest distance jump from the dock at Greenport Harbor Brewery!
- Alive on 25 (Riverhead) – This multi-day July event features a pop-up street market with vendors, performers, dining, and live music on six stages.
- Alive After Five (Patchogue) – This summer festival series returns to Main Street!
- Stars Over Montauk – Live music and a 4th of July fireworks show.
- Summerfest (Sayville) – Live music, games, rides, and food plus a classic car show!
- Hamptons Summer Festival (East Hampton) – Don’t miss one of the most anticipated things to do Out East Long Island: food trucks, art and luxury car showcases, and more bring an end to summer.
- Labor Day Weekend Street Fair (Ronkonkoma) – Hundreds of vendors with live music and rides for kids.
- Long Beach International Film Festival (Long Beach) – The free annual event features live music followed by Shorts on the Beach at the Beach Theatre.
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Long Island Fall Festivals
- Cow Harbor Festival (Northport) – This celebration of Northport features the Great Cow Harbor 10k race, a nationally ranked 10K and voted one of America’s top 100 races. There’s also a weekend concert, parade, vendors, and a lighted boat display on the Village Dock.
- The Oyster Festival (Oyster Bay) – The largest waterfront festival on the East Coast draws in 150,000+ people every year. Enjoy pirate shows, rides, ships, live entertainment, and the famous oyster eating contest.
- Nassau Barkfest (East Meadow) – Visit Eisenhower Park for Long Island’s largest free pet costume contest and parade.
- Howl-O-Ween Dog Festival and Pet Costume Contest (New Hyde Park)
- Port Jefferson Dragon Boat Race Festival (Port Jefferson) – A day of family fun with boat teams from across NYC and Long Island competing.
- Long Island Fall Festival (Huntington) – Admission is free with four stages of entertainment.
- Harborfest (Sag Harbor) – Long Wharf is packed with food and drink vendors, live music, and activities for kids.
- Annual Italian Festival (Port Washington) – Rides (for an extra cost) plus live music, Italian food, and fireworks.
- Dockside Family Festival (Babylon) – Tons of free activities for kids: interactive pirate show, pony rides, magic shows, and a boat ride around the bay!
- Annual East End Maritime Festival (Greenport) – Kayak races, classic boat and maritime displays, live music, kid’s activities, and the Merfolk parade.
- Native American Heritage Celebration (Hempstead Lake State Park) – Celebrate Native American culture and heritage and learn about the history of the Montauketts of Long Island.
- Great Jack-o’-Lantern Sail (North Babylon) – Lit jack-o’-lanterns are placed on flats and sailed around Belmont Lake behind kayaks. The festival also features a spooky house for kids, a petting zoo, games, and trick or treating.
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Long Island Winter Events
- Charles Dickens Festival (Port Jefferson) – Frequently ranked as the best annual event on Long Island, this cherished tradition celebrates Charles Dickens with Dickensian inspired food, a transformed village square, and a troupe of actors.
- Huntington Harbour Boat Parade (Huntington Harbour)
- Patchogue Christmas/Holiday Boat Parade (Patchogue)
- Winterfest at Heckscher Museum (Huntington) – One of the best free things to do on Long Island with kids in the winter, Heckscher Museum offers free “Draw In!” art activities for kids.
- Port Jefferson Village Ice Festival (Port Jefferson) – Tour the village to see ice sculptures, marshmallow roasting, carriage rides, and more.
- HarborFrost (Sag Harbor) – Scavenger hunts, ice carvings, fire dancers, and more!
- Santa Parade (Port Jefferson Village)
- Christmas Animated Story at Hicks Nurseries (Westbury) – Every year features a new animated story to stroll through.
- Winter Wonderland (Wantagh) – Food trucks, vendors, raffles, live music, and a holiday lighting ceremony.
- Annual Holiday House Decorating Event (Long Beach) – Take a tour to see the best decorated houses during the holidays.
Ready to upgrade from tourist to resident? It’s easy to see the appeal of living on Long Island with so much to do for families and nature lovers. Give us a call at Zippboxx to discuss your moving plans and get a free, personalized moving quote from our top-rated movers!