When the final bell rings this afternoon at schools across Long Island, it signals more than just the start of another weekend. It means that (most) schools are out for summer!
So what are your plans for keeping the kids -- and yourself -- busy for the next couple of months?
If you're stumped and have no plans at all, you're in luck. Here are some ideas:
Summer - it's the best time to Explore Long Island. That's why we're bringing you 30 must-do activities.
10 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 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.
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.
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 East End Jet Ski in East Hampton or Beaver Dam Boat Marina in Brookhaven You'll need a valid driver's license (or a boating license, if you're under 18).
4. PLAY BALLHere's something you probably never thought about doing. Grab a bunch of friends, friends of friends, co-workers, 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.
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 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.
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 kicked 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
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.
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
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.
10. SMELL THE ROSES
Feeling stressed? A visit to Old Westbury Gardens might be the cure . Stroll through the 200 acres with lush gardens, wooded trails and peaceful ponds, stopping frequently to take in the gorgeous views and vistas.
10 SUMMER ACTIVITIES FOR KIDS
1.GRAB A BRASS RING
Sit on the colorful wooden horses - or even a lion - at Nunley's Carousel on Museum Row in Garden City. The carousel's border is painted with Long Island attractions ranging from Sagamore Hill to Bethpage State Park's Black Course. Riders can catch a brass ring for a free ride - "All rings must be returned," a sign warns. A $485,000 restoration project resurrected the 1912 attraction, which had operated at Nunley's Amusement Park in Baldwin from 1940 to 1995.
2. SPEND TUESDAY EVENING IN THE PARK
When the weather is swell, the stage is set for a wonderful evening at Huntington's Heckscher Park - literally. At 7:30 p.m. on summer Tuesdays, children's performers take to the Chapin Rainbow Stage for free outdoor shows. Bring your own blanket.
3. TAKE A RIVERBOAT TOUR
Learn about the North Shore's wetlands ecosystem aboard the "Discovery" in Stony Brook. The 90-minute sightseeing tours aboard a 35-passenger pontoon boat are led by a naturalist. Trips leave morning, midday and at sunset and cost $22-$25
4. RIDE THE RAILS
The five-minute loop on the railroad tracks at Southaven County Park mesmerizes the little ones who are enamored with trains. The Long Island Live Steamers club runs the miniature engines and sit-on-top cars on the second and last Sundays of each month all summer.
5. PADDLE WITH YOUR FEET
Colorful paddle boats are a hit with kids, who may have an easier time working their feet than they would rowing a boat with oars. The paddleboats at Belmont Lake State Park in North Babylon can fit a family of four, two paddling and two who can sit back and relax. Life jackets provided.
6. ENTER THE BIG TOP
The Big Apple Circus makes its annual trip to Eisenhower Park in East Meadow for 35 performances under an outdoor tent June 11-July 4. This year, Bello Nock, the clown with the hand-in-the-socket hair and trademark tuxedo, is back for the one-ring festivities. He's joined by acrobats from Italy, flying trapeze artists, horses, dogs and a juggler.
7. LACE UP YOUR SKATES
It may seem counterintuitive to put on ice skates in the summer, but it can be one of the best times. "It's a break from the heat, which makes it much more pleasant," says Fred Nielsen, owner of Port Washington Family Skating Center. "It's much less crowded than it is the rest of the year." Summer family skating sessions run 10 a.m.-noon Saturdays and cost $7 a person, plus $4 skate rental
8. SKIPPER A BOAT - FROM LAND
A new concession in Eisenhower Park lets visitors rent remote-controlled model sailboats to pilot around the lake. The Eisenhower Park Sailing Center will be open daily during the summer, weather permitting. Rentals cost $10 for 30 minutes
9. FEED A GIRAFFE
At the Long Island Game Farm in Manorville, kids can bottle-feed baby animals, hand-feed a giraffe and see kangaroos, buffalos, ostriches and zebras.
10. FLY A KITE
At 10:30 a.m. June 19, build your own kite, then fly it on the 145 acres of the Nassau County Museum of Art in Roslyn. The one-day event costs $30 for a parent-child kite-making team, plus $2 parking
10 GREAT ALL DAY GETAWAYS
1. RIDE TO FIRE ISLAND
Ocean Beach is a daytripper's paradise - beach, bars and easy summer fun with a relaxed tropical rock vibe. Ocean Beach is the party scene, but you can also tour the Sunken Forest or walk from Robert Moses Beach to Kismet.
2. TRACE HISTORY IN OYSTER BAY
Start with a historic walking tour around town (get a headset at BayKery Café), then spend a few moments at Teddy Roosevelt's house at Sagamore Hill. From there, head to the actual bay at Theodore Roosevelt Park. Relax by the beach (very few waves, like most North Shore beaches), learn to sail or rent kayaks.
3. TOUR THE NORTH FORK
More than 35 vineyards dot the countryside from Riverhead to Greenport, most offering tastings of their wines for about $5. Even those who aren't wine lovers will enjoy visiting the area. Many vineyards have picnic areas, food and live music on weekends, plus an open invitation for kids and dogs to run freely throughout. Active sorts can try a winery bike tour with Adventure Cycles & Sports, while groups might opt for a guided tour with the North Fork Trolley Co.
4. GET WET IN RIVERHEAD
It doesn't matter how old you are - water parks always rock. Splish Splash has water slides for the adventurous and scaredy-cats alike. When you're done, towel off and shoot over to Tanger Outlets or head over to Riverhead Raceway for demolition derbies and mini-school bus figure 8 races.
5. SEE THE QUIETER SIDE OF THE HAMPTONS
Sure, there's the much-hyped beaches, restaurants and clubs for seeing and being seen - but there's another side to the Hamptons. Sag Harbor is the perfect place to experience it. From full theatrical productions to comedy shows and singer-songwriter nights at Bay Street Theatre to perusing the shelves at Canio's Books or Book Hampton.
6. GET FISH 'N' SIPS ON NAUTICAL MILE
By day, you can reel in your own fish aboard one of Freeport's party or charter boats. Upon returning to the port, say hello to a progressive food and drink tour, since you'll have a choice of 20 restaurants and bars. For kids, there's mini-golf and a park. Come dessert, it's ice cream for all.
7. STROLL NORTHPORT
Quaint Main Street has shops, plus outdoor dining, local theater and art galleries. Take a walk along the harbor with its gorgeous scenery, then channel your inner Jack Kerouac at Gunther's Pub, try the takeout meatballs at Maroni's and wrap it up with Wolfies Custard. Kids will enjoy Cow Harbor Park and Crab Meadow Beach.
8. ESCAPE TO SHELTER ISLAND
Getting there by ferry is half the fun. The area is compact enough to explore by bike (you can rent one at Picozzi's). Book a tour with Shelter Island Kayak Tours, play mini golf at Whale's Tale or hike through the 2,039-acre Mashomack Preserve. After taking a dip in the calm waters off Crescent Beach, relax and enjoy the scenery, drink in hand, from the patio or rooftop deck at Sunset Beach Hotel.
9. HIT THE SAND IN LONG BEACH
First stop, natch, is the beach, where you can gather a group for a game of volleyball, take surf lessons with Surf2Live or people-watch as you stroll the boardwalk, where there are free summer concerts on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings. Nightlife venues such as The Saloon or Minnesota's host happy hours with outdoor seating. Or you can take a short drive to Island Park for an al fresco seafood feast at Jordan Lobster Farms followed by a cold drink at Paddy McGee's or Montego Bay.
10. TAKE MONTAUK BY SPORT
Yeah, yeah, we know all about the beauty of the beaches and the coolness of the bluffs at "The End." But there are also tons of great hiking trails at the state parks, horseback rides on the beach and a six-mile bike ride from the center of town to the lighthouse that can be conquered. Wrap up Saturday at swanky hotel Sole East's pool party, which is open to the public.