The scent of summer flowers hits as you walk the path from Jones Beach Parking Field 4 to the Central Mall. It's one of the pleasant surprises on summer nights at the Jones Beach boardwalk.
Through Labor Day, the boardwalk stays open daily until midnight. You can play games, dance at the band shell or just stroll and escape the heat.
"A lot of people come just to walk on the boardwalk," says Sue Guliani, park director. The 2.1-mile boardwalk stretches from Field 1 to 6 and is lined with historic buildings. The shortest walk to the attractions is from Parking Field 4.
Natasha Lewis, 24, of Franklin Square, and her friend Marguerite Leslie, also 24, of Jamaica, Queens, were strolling on a recent hot and humid Saturday night.
"We just came down to enjoy the full moon and sit on the beach for some fun," Lewis says.
Sitting on the beach was not an option - beach access ends at sundown - but there are plenty of other ways to kick back and enjoy the summer night.
DANCING THE NIGHT AWAY
A large crowd was gathered at the band shell, just west of the Central Mall concession area. Dr. K's Motown Revue was performing nostalgic 1960s chart-toppers such as Martha and the Vandellas' "(Love is Like a) Heat Wave."
Admission is free to the concerts, which start at 7:30 or 8 every night except Monday. Themes vary. Sundays feature Latin music and dance, Tuesdays bring children's entertainment, Wednesdays are for contemporary line dancing and Thursdays, karaoke. Bands play on Fridays and Saturdays (see full Bandshell schedule).
Seating's not plush. There are wooden bleachers, but some people bring their own lawn chairs. Or you can get up and boogie on the concrete dance floor in front of the Art Deco-style stage.
With a full moon shimmering on the ocean, a number of couples embraced as they leaned against the boardwalk railing.
Sue Dambrosio, 44, and her husband, Andrew, 43, of Massapequa, played shuffleboard before they took a stroll. They were happy to find "something to do here rather than just walk," she says.
The cost: $2 for half an hour, including shuffleboard cues and discs.
FOR SPORTS FANS
Rob Kaplan, 55, a former Levittown resident who was visiting from Tempe, Ariz., played a game on one of the 15 lighted paddle tennis courts with his son, Gabe, 15. They rented wooden paddles and tennis balls from the equipment booth ($2 for half an hour).
Kaplan said that despite the humidity, they enjoyed a night of activity outside the house.
Nearby, the eight lighted sand courts for beach volleyball generally are available for non-league players on Friday and Saturday evenings until midnight ($10 to rent the court for an hour). Volleyballs are provided.
FOR THE KIDDIES
West of the band shell, an 18-hole miniature golf course is open until midnight. Each hole is designed to look like one of the region's state parks, with miniature details including the Jones Beach Tower and the Bethpage State Park clubhouse ($5 a game).
A lighted playground has two jungle gyms for children ages 3-7 that include ramps, ladders and other climbing features. Another play area with slides and tubes is designed for kids 8 to 12 years old.
IF YOU GET HUNGRY
The Central Mall food concession area stays open until at least 10 p.m. Choices include fried or "broasted" chicken, clam chowder, Nathan's hot dogs and soft-serve ice cream.
Jones Beach State Park Boardwalk
WHEN | WHERE Open daily until midnight through Labor Day
COST Free parking after 4 p.m. weekdays and after 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays