No need to head to the Caribbean to island-hop this summer — hop instead from event to event on our own island for free. Here are seven activities, all of them outdoors and all of them gratis.
Backpack Adventures at Hofstra University
Pick up a “Let’s Explore” backpack at the Emily Lowe Gallery in the Hofstra University Museum and spend an hour or so with kids ages 5 to 12 exploring the outdoor sculpture collection on the university’s campus. Various themes are available, including animals, shapes, people and speak up (activists). Pick up backpack between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. weekdays and return the materials by 4 p.m. The gallery also offers a separate free booklet called “The Great Art Caper” which has families uncover clues among the outdoor sculptures to solve a mystery. Info: 112 Hofstra University, Hempstead; 516-463-5672; hofstra.edu/museum
Summer Arts Festival in Huntington
Grab a blanket or lawn chairs and head to Huntington’s Heckscher Park at 7 p.m. every Tuesday from June 26 to Aug. 7 for the Huntington Summer Arts Festival’s free, outdoor family performances. Sit on the slope for live shows such as “Aladdin,” “David Engel’s Pirate School” and the Hudson Vagabond Puppets’ “Mammoth Follies.” Come at 6 p.m. to make a free craft before the performance. Or bring a picnic supper and enjoy it alfresco before the performance. Ice cream and drinks are available for purchase. Info: Chapin Rainbow Stage, Heckscher Park, Main Street, Huntington; 631-271-8423; huntingtonarts.org
Children's Park in Rockville Centre
Waterspouts from six flowers painted on the ground of the fenced-in spray park area at Rockville Centre’s Children’s Park, where water also falls from a shower. A button starts the flow, and after 55 seconds it will go off, and someone else will have to push it. There’s also an adjacent playground area. A recent addition is a play structure that depicts a pirate ship on one side and a pond scene on the other. A QR code posted on the structure lets parents download an app that reads kids Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales. They can hear the story of “The Little Mermaid,” then act it out on the pirate ship, or the story of “The Ugly Duckling,” then act it out near the pond. The park is open daily, 8 a.m. to dusk. Info: 111 N. Oceanside Rd., Rockville Centre; 516-678-9338; rvcrec.weebly.com.
Kirk Park Beach in Montauk
It’s not so easy to find a free beach in the Town of East Hampton, but Montauk’s Kirk Park Beach offers free parking and entry to its Atlantic Ocean beach. Lifeguards are on duty weekends beginning Memorial Day and daily in July and August. There are restrooms, and the beach is within walking distance of village shops. Across the street is a park with a picnic area. Info:95 S. Emerson Ave., Montauk; 631-324-2417; ehamptonny.gov.
Living Planetarium in Northport
Lessons in astronomy continue during the summer at The Living Planetarium at Northport Park, led on clear nights by former science teacher Warren Barlowe. Participants use Barlowe’s telescope to view stars and planets. “We usually start shortly after sunset, about 8:30 or 9 p.m.,” Barlowe says. Frequently viewed objects include Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. Info: End of Main Street, Northport Village. 631-486-4818; telescope.hereweb.com
Darlene Graham performs in the Town of Hempstead
Long Island family musician Darlene Graham will blitz the Town of Hempstead with 11 free outdoor, daytime concerts during the week of July 13-20, sponsored by the town. She’ll call on audience volunteers to play beach bucket drums, wear sunglasses, dance, demonstrate swimming strokes and play clamshells as castanets. Summer-themed songs will include “Pool Time,” “Going to the Beach” and “Sunny Day,” and beach balls will be tossed into the audience for concertgoers to keep up high. Concerts will be at Seamans Neck Park in Seaford, Rath Park in Franklin Square, Oceanside Park in Oceanside, Veterans Memorial Park in Levittown, Newbridge Park in Bellmore, Terrace Gardens Park in Inwood, Roosevelt Pool in Roosevelt, Uniondale Avenue Park in Uniondale, Echo Park in West Hempstead, Averill Boulevard Park in Elmont and Azalea Park in Levittown. Visit the website for exact dates and times. Info: darlenegrahammusic.com.
Miniature train rides in Yaphank
By Memorial Day, the miniature-train rides offered by the Long Island Live Steamers are chugging away at the station created in Southaven County Park in Yaphank. Rides atop the two train lines — the ground line and the elevated high line — happen two Sundays each month from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dates this summer are June 10 and 24, July 8 and 29, and Aug. 12 and 26. Kids and adults can ride the five-minute loop for free, though the club that runs the trains encourages token donations, says president Keith Denton. The train area is separate from the park, so parking and admission are free. Info: Gerard Road entrance of Southaven County Park. 631-345-0499; lilivesteam.org.