1. Watch the sun go down on Long Island’s beautiful beaches
In season, you may have to pay to go to some of those lovely Long Island beaches (especially if you’re not a resident of the town or village.) But before Memorial Day and after Labor Day, and usually after 5 or 6 p.m., you can sit on the sand for free at places like Long Beach and watch as the sky turns a deep shade of red and the sun sinks below the horizon. You can also sit on the waterfront at places like Port Washington and Cold Spring Harbor to view spectacular sunsets.
2. Long Island Wine Country - Free Entertainment
Visit some of the many vineyards and wineries on the North Fork, and a few on the South Fork. Although most charge a nominal fee for wine tastings, many feature free music and special events. For example, every Saturday and Sunday from May through September, the Peconic Bay Winery features free live music every Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. and an open mic night on Thursdays from 6 to 9 p.m. There is no cover charge for these events. Call the winery for more info at (631) 734-7361.
Wolffer Estate Vineyard in Sagaponack hosts its popular Twilight Thursdays from 5-7:30 p.m., with free snacks of artisanal cheese and crackers and live jazz from May to November. Also in season, Wolffer’s wine stand hosts Sunset Fridays starting at 5 p.m.. Free cheese and crackers plus live music. Call (631) 537-5106 or go to Wolffer Estate Vineyard
3. Free Long Island Festivals
Long Island has a vibrant festival scene, and many of these celebrations are free. There are a variety of admission-free events with entertainment, music and more, from the the annual Oyster Bay Festival to the Cow Harbor Festival in Northport and Suffolk County Community College’s annual Long Island Shakespeare Festival in the summer, usually in June and July.
Check my Long Island blog and my Special Events & Festivals on Long Island for updated listings.
5. Free Long Island Museums
Enjoy a day of culture at a number of free museums on Long Island. The American Guitar Museum, located in a former farmhouse in New Hyde Park, houses treasures like the John D’Angelico guitar played in the wedding scene of The Godfather, one of Les Paul’s original Gibson guitars and an 1840 La Cote guitar.
The African American Museum of Nassau County in Hempstead highlights the many cultural contributions of the African American community. The permanent collection features Eubie Blake’s piano, and there are special events and changing exhibits. Admission is free.
6. FREE Events at LI Libraries
Check with your local library to see which free events they offer. From concerts to shows for the kids, most libraries feature a variety of regularly scheduled, cost-free entertainment.
7. Take A Hike!
Long Island is home to a number of hiking trails like the ones in Garvies Point Preserve, which lead down to a quiet beach, and some wonderful wildlife refuges like the Oyster Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The Nature Conservancy’s Uplands Farm features a double-loop trail surrounded by red cedar, oak, hickory and other tall trees. Butterflies and birds, as well as wood frogs and salamanders frolic in the area’s pools in season.
You can also enjoy walking through shaded trails in Long Island gardens like the Bailey Arboretum and Clark Garden, which have no admission charge (although Clark Garden greatly appreciates voluntary donations.)
Long Island's own big bird was built in the 1930s by duck farmers to attract passersby to their duck emporium. The famous building is free to visit, but you might want to spend some money inside on the "duck-a-bilia" that's for sale. And don't forget to visit on the first Wednesday after Thanksgiving each year. That's when there's an annual holiday lighting of the Big Duck.
The Big Duck
Please call (631) 852-8292 for opening hours.
9. Art Galleries
It’s always free to browse through art galleries, and it’s as much fun as viewing paintings in a museum. Visit galleries throughout Long Island, and don't forget that some colleges here also have art galleries that are free and open to the public. Adelphi University has its Adele and Herbert J. Klapper Center for Fine Arts Gallery, the University Center Gallery and the Swirbul Library Gallery in Garden City. Suffolk County Community College’s Lyceum Gallery at the Eastern Campus in Riverhead and the Gallery East on the Michael J. Grant Campus in Brentwood both offer free exhibits during the academic year, and there are artists’ receptions that are open to the public.
10. Free Movies
During the summer, view outdoor films at the Lakeside Theater at Eisenhower Park (near parking fields No. 6 and No. 6A) They usually show weekly movies on a giant screen, including family favorites and classics. All movies are free and begin at dusk. There is no formal seating in the theater, so please bring a chair or blanket.
For more information and schedule, call Nassau County Parks at (516) 572-0200 or the Special Events Line at (516) 572-0223. And remember to check my Special Events & Festivals on Long Island for updated listings.
The Town of Oyster Bay also features free summer concerts and films.