Summer - it's the best time to Explore Long Island. That's why we're bringing you 50 must-do activities in our special weeklong series. It begins today with our top suggestions for things to do outdoors.
1. SLEEP UNDER THE STARS
Ritzy hotels, costing upward of $200 per night, dot the Montauk shoreline. But there's another, less expensive way to stay out east and save a few bucks - camping. For as little as $28 a night, you can get a small plot of land to pitch a tent or park your RV at Hither Hills State Park (631-668-2554). While the campground itself is relatively bare bones, the ocean is just 150 feet away, perfect for fishing, frolicking or being lulled to sleep by the sound of crashing waves. Each of the 168 camp sites has a picnic table, but be sure to BYO grill, food and libations. And don't forget - there's a weekly sand castle competition at 9 a.m. Thursdays in front of the main bathhouse.
Videos: Camping at Hither Hills | Sand castle competition
Photos: Hither Hills State Park
Read: It's a shore thing: Sand castle competition
2. GO FISH
Babylon's Captree has the island's largest fishing boat fleet. If you want a full day's getaway day at sea, choose from one of the 11 party boats docked here. In most cases, equipment is provided as you fish for fluke, flounder and other species - here's hoping you win the boat pool for biggest catch. Also try Freeport, Hampton Bays and Montauk for open boats (About $40-$70, captreefleet.com).
Guides: Fishing boats on Long Island | Freeport's Nautical Mile
3. RENT A JET-SKI
Count the number of times you crossed a bridge on the Island last summer and were jealous of people zigzagging the water on a Jet Ski or Wave Runner. Get your fix by renting one at Uihlein Marina in Montauk (631-668-3799), East End Jet Ski in East Hampton (631-728-8060) or Beaver Dam Boat Marina in Brookhaven (631-286-7816). You'll need a valid driver's license (or a boating license, if you're under 18). Price ranges from $70-100.
4. PLAY BALL
Here's something you probably never thought about doing. Grab a bunch of friends, friends of friends, co-workers, the guy or girl you secretly have a crush on, and play ball. You can reserve a softball or baseball field for $12-$24 an hour at Nassau County parks ($50-$100 for lights, 516-572-0200). Pack a glove, bat, ball and cooler - and enjoy a summer afternoon or evening in the park.
Read: Perfect parks for parties
Guides: Long Island's parks | Best parks for kids
Video: Tour Eisenhower Park
5. ROCK AT JONES BEACH
Long Island's greatest outdoor concert venue. Yeah, we said it. With crowd-pleasing concerts that appeal to all ages (from the Jonas Brothers and Rihanna for the younger set - to Jethro Tull and the Doobie Brothers for the more mature) - never let a summer go by without seeing a show at the 12,000-seat amphitheater. To save a few bucks on ticket prices, sit up top and enjoy one of the lesser-talked-about views: concert at the bottom, ocean beach in the background.
Events: Jones Beach concert and tickets
Guide: Outdoor music venues
6. GET RUNNING
Lace up your sneakers, stretch out those hammies and experience Robert Moses, Jones Beach, Sunken Meadow and five other state parks on foot with thousands of others during the weekly Summer Run Series, which kicks off June 14 at Heckscher State Park in East Islip. Races range from 4K to 10K (about 2.5 to 6 miles); half-mile kids' fun runs are held at four events. Registration, $15 per race or $70 for the full season, includes post-race snacks, sodas and beer (631-321-3510, flrrt.com).
Events: Summer Run series schedule
Video: The Summer Run experience
7. SEE AN OUTDOOR MOVIE
Remember the days of drive-in movie theaters and hooking up an audio box onto your window? Yeah, they're gone. But outdoor movies shown on big, inflatable screens on a huge plot of grass have become all the rage the past few summers on Long Island. Find a park, pick a movie, enjoy. Best part: You don't have to worry about getting caught sneaking in your own snacks.
Events: Updated outdoor movie schedule
8. TEE UP, AFTER DARK
Late night at the office and no time to work on your short game before this weekend's round of golf? No worries. Head over to Heartland Golf Course in Edgewood and play Long Island's only nine-hole, par-3 course under the lights. Each hole is designed from a famous par-3 hole around the world. Open nightly until midnight ($20, 631-667-7400).
Video: Playing night golf at Heartland
9. FLY THROUGH THE SKY
If you've ever had that fantasy of escaping reality and running off with the circus (or even if you haven't), now's the time to try trapeze. In its second season at Rockville Centre's Tanglewood Preserve, I. Fly Flying Trapeze will give you the basics at a 90-minute beginner session for $50 ($40 ages 14 and younger). At the end of the lesson, you might even get the chance to swing upside-down and be caught by an instructor - a feat sure to impress your most dubious friends (516-640-6995).
Video: Trapeze school
10. SMELL THE ROSES
Feeling stressed? A visit to Old Westbury Gardens might be the cure ($10, 516-333-0048). Stroll through the 200 acres with lush gardens, wooded trails and peaceful ponds, stopping frequently to take in the gorgeous views and vistas. Continue to recharge your batteries with Tai Chi (10:30 a.m. Wednesdays) and yoga (11:15 a.m. Thursdays and Saturdays), held on the grounds for $15 per session. Wednesday night Picnic Pops concerts, with dance lessons and live music, start June 30.
Videos: Old Westbury Gardens tour | Scottish Games
Events: Summer schedule for Old Westbury Gardens