It’s practically a mantra at this point to say how expensive life on Long Island is — but a fantastic weekend of fun can be had for under a hundred bucks. Here are some spots that offer free or cheap things to do for reasonable rates.
The weekend starts when the workweek ends, so happy hours are perfectly timed to get things rolling. Virtually every alcohol-serving venue has a post-5 p.m. opportunity for special deals on beverages, but one spot that’s great on food, drinks and entertainment is Aura from 5-8 p.m. (1900 Hempstead Tpke., East Meadow; 516-794-1300, aurali.com), where a $10 cover gets guests half-priced drinks, a complimentary buffet and a DJ; keep an eye out for special events involving live music.
Both the Patchogue (52 W. Main St.; 631-569-5888) and Farmingdale (206 Main St.; 516-586-8880) outlets of That Meetball Place (thatmeetballplaceli.com) have a DJ-powered happy hour (5-9:30 p.m.) but cost nothing to enter, while offering half-price drafts, well drinks and wine by the glass plus a $5 food menu.
For those looking for some recreational fun on Friday night, head to George D. Costello Sr. Memorial Skating Rink in Greenport from 7-10 p.m. for open skate sessions. (102 3rd St.; 631-333-2644, greenportamericanlegion.org). The spot offers open skate for $5 at the door and $5 skate rentals; there’s also a full bar. Skating in Nassau County features glow-in-the-dark Fridays at United Skates of America (1276 Hicksville Rd., Seaford; 516-795-5474, unitedskates.com/seaford) from 6:30-9 p.m. for $12.50; their skates are also $5 to rent.
If you’d just like to sit back and be entertained, take it to Theatre Three in Port Jefferson (412 Main St.; 631-928-9100, theatrethree.com) for their mostly weekly 10:30 p.m. “Friday Night Face Off” improv comedy show. It’s been running for more than 15 years and pits funny people against each other; tickets are $15 at the door, but while beer and wine are served there’s no drink minimum.
If you’re looking to get some sun before heading back out to party, the good news is that afternoons are still relatively warm — that said, there’s no parking fees collected at state parks like Jones Beach (2400 Ocean Pkwy., Wantagh; 516-785-1600) in the fall and winter, and there’s never a fee to park in Long Beach to hit the two-mile-plus boardwalk (between Nevada Avenue and Pacific Boulevard; longbeachny.gov).
Entrance is also currently free at Sunken Meadow State Park (Route 25A and Sunken Meadow Parkway, Kings Park; 631-269-4333) — in fact, most state parks (parks.ny.gov) are free to enter until around April — so surfers can board up at Camp Hero (1898 Montauk Hwy., Montauk;631-668-3781) and Hither Hills (164 Old Montauk Hwy., Montauk; 631-668-2554, parks.ny.gov) State Parks for no charge.
For some indoor leisure, there’s no charge to enter The Clubhouse (174 Daniels Hole Rd., East Hampton; 631-537-2695, clubhousehamptons.com), where guests can dine, bowl ($50 an hour for up to six people, so six can split that $50 six ways; shoes included), play video games, shoot pool or even try indoor bocce and — if the weather is right — there’s an 18-hole mini-golf course out back.
For a more beer-minded afternoon, the Blue Point Brewing Co. (225 W. Main St.; 631-977-6800, bluepointbrewing.com) is one of the hottest spots on Long Island right now. Open between 11 a.m. and 10 p.m. Saturdays, it leads into the late-night area club scene from a second-story space loaded with beer garden benches. Live music kicks in after 4 p.m., and should the weather be solid, there’s kan-jam and giant jenga in the courtyard (leashed dogs can hang outside too).
Oyster Bay Brewing Co. (36 Audrey Ave., Oyster Bay; 516-802-5546, oysterbaybrewing.com) has a big space great for watching sports, as well as games like vintage hand-shuffleboard, beer pong arcade game and a pinball machine. Worthy to note: it recently introduced a craft hard seltzer, served in the tasting room.
For a variation on drinks, Riverhead Ciderhouse (2711 Sound Ave., Calverton; 631-591-0217, riverheadcider.com) has the drink which inspires its name plus beer, wine and live music Saturdays starting after 1 p.m.; you can cozy up to a pair of burning fire places should the temperature call for some added heat.
Live music is also a great option on Saturdays, especially as the recently renovated Mulcahy’s (3232 Railroad Ave., Wantagh; 516-783-7500, muls.com) has a live music calendar that includes shows from big stage cover bands that are usually under $20 at the door (or less in advance). 89 North (89 N. Ocean Ave., Patchogue; 631-730-8992, 89northmusicvenue.com) is a concert venue that also hosts cover acts on Saturdays, with admission generally in the $10-$12 range — as is Stephen Talkhouse (161 Main St., Amagansett; 631-267-3117, stephentalkhouse.com) which keeps rocking in the Hamptons on most Saturday nights right into January.
With Monday only hours away, Sundays are perfect for rest, relaxation and sports — and while some spots offer lively Sunday Funday events, for others it’s all about football. Most pubs offer specials on grub during NFL season, but for a unique experience, Your Mother's House (2349 Jericho Tpke., Garden City Park; 516-493-9030; mothershouseli.com) has more than 50 TVs (including a mammoth 270-inch projection screen) to catch every minute of the game. Not to be outdone, Bobby McCann’s Sports Restaurant and Bar (5590 Merrick Rd., Massapequa; 516-798-1496, bobbymccanns.com) also has more than 50 TVs to never miss a pass by your favorite team.
However, if you prefer to work up a sweat on Sunday, Spin City indoor cycling studio in Massapequa Park (1027a Park Blvd.; 516-809-7744, spincitymassapequa.com) offers a super-cheap $12 deal for first-time-ever customers; and single drop-ins in the future for $18 each.
If you're looking for some fun on the green, head to Eisenhower Park (Merrick and Stewart avenues East Meadow; 516-572-0327,nassaucountyny.gov ) North Woodmere Park (Branch Boulevard and Hungry Harbor Road North Woodmere; 516-571-7801,nassaucountyny.gov) or Cantiague Park's (West John Street east of Cantiague Rock Road, Hicksville; 516-571-7061,nassaucountyny.gov ) driving ranges to practice your swing. Players can get 40 golf balls for $7 or 60 for $9.
Perhaps your way to wind down a wild-yet-inexpensive weekend on Long Island involves mellow moments that stimulate visually, and Long Island has some truly fine art museums that fit the bill. The Nassau County Museum of Art (1 Museum Dr., Roslyn Harbor; 516-484-9338, nassaumuseum.org) is $15, and features work by some of the world’s most famous artists and offers a Sunday tour at 1 p.m., free with admission. The Heckscher Museum of Art (2 Prime Ave.; Huntington, 631-351-3250, heckscher.org) also offers a wide variety of pieces and is $8 to enter ($6 for Huntington residents) while The Parrish Art Museum (279 Montauk Hwy., Water Mill; 631-283-2118, parrishart.org) is only $12 for entry.