(PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE check your local library, if you live in Nassau County and see what museum passes they have to lend out. The museum you want might be there!)
I am going to start with the basics.
One of the perks of living on Long Island is the short distance to one of the greatest cities in the world. And yes the commute can be costly (don't even get me started on the rates of the LIRR). Going to see some of the world's masterpieces don't have to be! Many of the main attractions are SUGGESTED DONATIONS, which means that the price listed is only a suggested donation. You can pay anything and you can go in. So go on, get your art on!
Here are some of the suggested donation museums in NYC
American Museum of Natural History
The Queens County Farm Museum is in fact always free and really is a favorite of mine. Walk the beautiful grounds, pay a couple of dollars for feed, and feed the sheep and goats. Watch the piggies hanging out in their sty, and go visit the cows that know to linger by the gate. Next to the gate is an apple tree and they love it when you give them some of the apples that have fallen on the ground. They have great events all year round that may have some cost to them, but since it goes to the upkeep of the farm itself I don't mind at all!
The Bronx Zoo is free on Wednesdays . Don't let them make you feel bad about giving the suggested donation either, especially since they still hit you up for the fifteen dollar parking charge! Expect large crowds, so go early or really late in the day! REMEMBER that the child's zoo part of the zoo is an additional cost; so is the gorilla forest and other sections of the zoo itself, so although the general entrance fee is free, you are still gonna be giving them some money if you had a visit to those areas on your mind!
The New York Aquarium is "pay what you wish" on Fridays from three pm on. This leaves you with two hours to go around the park since the park closes at five pm. I am not sure about any parking fee. http://www.nyaquarium.com/
The Brooklyn Children's Museum has free hours as well. Admission to the museum is free on every third Thursday from 4:00–7:00 pm and on the first full weekend of every month from 2:00–5:00pm, except on holiday weekends. Specifically, this Spring the days coming up will be May 5 &6, and 17th, and June 2&3, and 21. It is better to drive to this one. There is a parking lot and a playground there too (museum is located next to Brower Park). http://www.brooklynkids.org/
The Museum of Modern Art offers free admission for all visitors during "Target Free Friday Nights", which are held every Friday evening from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. These tickets are not available in advance. Their website offers suggestions for visiting with a family. http://www.moma.org/
Here are some "little known" things to do that are on the Free side of the street
Holtsville Ecology Center & Animal Preserve, I have yet to have been here but am definitely planning on going this summer because I have heard great things!
Hours: Monday – Sunday 9:00 – 4:00pm
Verizon Telecom Pioneer Museum
445 Commack Road
Commack, NY 11725
Hours: 1:00 – 4:00pm 1st
Sunday of the month (except holidays)
Fee: Free, donations appreciated.
This volunteer-run museum has re-creation of Alexander Graham Bell’s workshop, wire used in
first telephone transmission, models of early phones, photos, animated figures, and library.
Features an exercise-trail fitness course; zoo and ecology center, featuring buffalo, mountain
lions, eagles, children’s petting zoo; ecology exhibits and tours; free compost; greenhouses;
picnic area. Contact for special events/programs.
Quogue Wildlife Refuge
3 Old Country Road
Quogue, NY 11959
Hours: Refuge Trails & Distressed Wildlife Complex are open ever day from sunrise to sunset.
Nature Center Building is open Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday & Sunday 11:00am – 4:00pm.
The center is a 305-acre expanse of protectedSweetbriar Nature Center
land with over seven miles of trails where you
can explore a variety of habitats including Pine Barrens, bogs, wetlands, a field and a tidal
sanctuary. The main trail is wheelchair and stroller friendly and all of the trails can be enjoyed
in every season. There is also a Distressed Wildlife Complex which houses animals that have
been injured and would not be able to survive in the wild. Inside the Nature Center, you can
observe wildlife through huge windows that overlook Old ice Pond, as well as visit a variety of
exhibits, turtles, snakes, a touch table and children’s room.
Sweetbriar Nature Center
62 Eckernkamp Drive
Smithtown, NY 11787
Hours: Office: Open 9:00 am - 4:00 pm Monday through Friday; 12:00 pm - 4:00 pm Saturday
and Sunday. Preserve: Open 8:30 am - 4:30 pm everyday. Vivarium: Open 10:00 am - 4:00
pm daily (In Season).
Fee: Free, donations accepted; butterfly house $3, Seniors and Children under 12 $2.
Includes 54 acres, hiking with views of Nissequogue River; butterfly house. Mock rain forest.
Long Island Greenbelt Trail runs through the preserve. Wildlife rehabilitation with eagles,
hawks, and owls.
Wantagh Train Museum (This museum has been reviewed! Please look in the "reviews" folder)
Wantagh Museum Hours:
Sunday from 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM, from mid April through mid November. For specific dates, please refer to the Wantagh Calendar. Hours are subject to change, as the Museum is staffed by all volunteers.
The Wantagh Museum resides in three structures, The Station, The "Jamaica" Railroad Car and the Original Wantagh Post Office. The Station was built in 1885 and originally stood on Railroad Avenue, east of Wantagh Avenue. In 1966, The Station was moved to its current location to save it from demolition when the Wantagh Railroad service was expanded. After this move, The Station was restored to its 1904 appearance, and in 1982, the Wantagh Preservation Society opened the structure to the public as a museum. The ticket booth in The Station was restored to reflect the presence of Emma Whitmore, the first woman to serve as ticket agent in the Wantagh Station.
The New York Transit Museum operates a gallery annex in Grand Central Terminal that presents changing exhibitions. The gallery annex is located just off the Main Concourse in the Shuttle Passage, next to the Station Master's office. Please go to What's New on this web site for information on the gallery annex's current exhibition.
The Lido Nature Preserve (Review in the Review Page!)
Also known as the Lido Beach Marine Conservatory, this preserve is on 40 acres of restored land & water that was saved from development. It is located on Lido Boulevard in Lido Beach. It is free to walk to grounds, and is full of beautiful trails, plants, and animals-including seals, turtles, and many colorful birds! Bring your binoculars!
Norman J. Levy Park & Preserve
1600 Merrick Road, Merrick NY
Info: (516) 804-2000
This park features trails, boating, and abundant plants and animals-including Nigerian dwarf goats, chickens, Guinea fowl, and lots of birds! It is free to come but you can pay to have a guided tour.
Center for Science Teaching and Learning/Tanglewood Preserve Review is available in the Review Page!
1 Tanglewood Road, Rockville Centre NY 11570
This is a nice little preserve with trails, a pond, and a science center (CSTL). There is an indoor/outdoor animal exhibit featuring mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and birds, which costs only $6 a person!
Clark Botanical Gardens
193 I.U. Willets Road, Albertson NY 11507
Open daily from 10am-4pm, this is a 12 acre facility dedicated to plant life. Gardens include roses, lilies, wildflowers, medicinal plants, herbs, and much more! Voluntary donations appreciated.
Hofstra University, Hempstead NY 11549
Open daily from dawn to dusk, this 240 acre campus is recognized as an arboretum and has more than 12,000 trees representing over 625 species. There is also a 2 acre bird sanctuary.
Restaurants where kids can eat free:
Moe's Southwest Grill- kids eat free with purchase of an adult meal, Tuesdays from 5p.m. until closing! There is a Moe's in Oceanside, Garden City, Greenvale, East Meadow,and Woodbury.
Best Buffet, 179 Walt Whitman Road, Huntington Station NY- children under 3 ft. tall eat free! every day, any time.
Cattleman's Steakhouse, 127 Montauk Highway, Lindenhurst NY- kids eat free with purchase of an adult meal (except sirloin steak). Sunday-Thursday, 4p.m.-closing.
Miller's Ale House, 3046 Hempstead Turnpike, Levittown NY- kids 12 and under eat free with purchase of an adult entree. Tuesdays at any time.