Family reunions, graduations, big birthdays - they're only a few reasons you'd gather a crowd for a summer party. Long Island's public parks can be glorious settings for get-togethers. For a nominal fee, you get a reserved spot - often with tables and a barbecue grill or two - plus perks such as a nearby playground, wading pool or ballfield for (bored) kids to entertain themselves during the big event.
"I like being out in the fresh air and the kids having all the space to run around," says Louis Aiciano, of North Babylon, who was celebrating son Isaiah's 14th birthday at Belmont Lake State Park on a recent weekend.
Here's a look at some popular parks for summer parties - in most cases, you'll need to nab a reservation in advance, and perhaps apply for a permit, depending on the size of your gathering.
This centrally located park is Nassau County's largest - and it has plenty of activities to keep partygoers entertained. "You have mini golf, batting cages, fitness trials, indoor pool . . . a whole range of things you can do," says Parks spokesman David Ring.
Who can get a spot: Nassau County residents with Leisure Pass
Reservations: 516-572-0348, must have Nassau County Leisure Pass to get a permit
Party size: 100-200 people per site, maximum 950
Cost: About $100-$200 per site, plus $45 alcohol permit and $5 parking nonresidents
Water / electricity: Some sites have electricity; there are water fountains throughout the park.
Good to know: Don't have a reservation? There's a first-come, first-served party site for up to 75 people at Parking Field 3 (hint: get there very early).
This beach side park has "mushroom" pavilions - some fully glass-enclosed - with concrete floors, long tables, plus built-in ice chests and grills.
Who can get a spot: Town of Hempstead residents
Reservations: 630 Lido Blvd., Lido Beach, 516-431-6650, townofhempstead.org
Party size: 50-750
Cost: Starts at $138 for half-mushroom (50-100 people); $7.50-$22 per vehicle or $8.50 walk-in.
Water / electricity: Yes
Good to know: Proximity to the beach is the main appeal here - and there's easy access to showers and restrooms.
Elbow room won't be a problem in this 1,300-plus-acre park. And, if you feel guilty after your third helping of potato salad, burn calories with a walk, rent a rowboat or take to the ballfield. Other amenities include the Long Island Live Steamers miniature trains in residence some summer Sundays (longislandlivesteamers.org).
Who can get a spot: Any Suffolk County resident
Reservations: 631-854-4964, suffolkcountyny.gov
Party size: 50-150 most sites, up to 1,500 in pavilion
Cost: $50-$600; $30 alcohol permit; $3-$8 parking
Water / electricity: Yes
Good to know: There's only one covered picnic area - the rest of the sites are in open fields.
Its 459 acres include a large lake with paddleboats, plus playing fields and courts. There is ample parking near picnic areas and lots of shady spots. Four covered pavilions can be reserved.
Who can get a spot: New York State residents
Reservations: 631-321-3515, nysparks.com
Party size: Up to 250
Cost: $250 for a pavilion, free elsewhere in the park; $25 fee for alcohol permit; $8 vehicle fee.
Water / electricity: In pavilions
Good to know: Groups of 50 or more are welcome to picnic in first-come, first-served areas - no charge - but must still register in advance.