Summer fun at Jones Beach by train, bus or car

Jones Beach State Park is one of the greater New York City area's leisure-time jewels. A beautiful, expansive string of beaches in southern Nassau County, Jones Beach faces the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean and has been a popular recreation destination for New Yorkers and visitors to the area since its development in the 1920s. Traveling to Jones Beach from New York City is pretty straightforward, whether you drive or take public transportation. It's an easy drive by car, although the time of day you head out can make a big difference in the traffic you'll face. And all bets are off in the height of the summer season, when the beaches, roads and parking are packed.

Easy drive by car

Getting to Jones Beach from New York City by car is quite easy. Drivers leaving from the five boroughs should get on the Long Island Expressway or the Grand Central Parkway East to the Northern State Parkway East. Follow the Northern State Parkway to the Wantagh Parkway South, and then follow signs for Jones Beach State Park. You can also take the Belt Parkway East to the Wantagh Parkway and access Jones Beach via that route.

Depending on the time of day you leave, you might need to take traffic into consideration. During the week, it's best to leave before or after rush hour in the morning, roughly 7:30 to 10 a.m, and in the afternoon, about 4 to 7 p.m. Traveling to the seashore on a weekend can mean dealing with traffic in a car, but that might still be preferable to taking a train, especially if you're lugging coolers, towels umbrellas and other beach gear.

Public transit connections

Travelers hoping to get to Jones Beach via public transportation can take the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) to the Freeport stop and from there access the nonstop n88 bus to Jones Beach. The ride from the Freeport station to Jones Beach is approximately 20 minutes.

During the summertime, the beach is significantly more crowded, and public transportation leaves from the Freeport LIRR station more regularly. Buses leave hourly during summer weekdays, and every half-hour on summer weekends.

Trains and buses to Jones Beach during the off-season are far less crowded, although the n88 bus service does not run as frequently. If you are heading to Jones Beach during the spring, fall or winter, it might make sense to drive because there is ample parking, and you won't have to wait for the bus.

Make the most of Jones Beach

If you're making the trip by car, bring plenty of music, snacks and water to stay entertained and hydrated in case you hit traffic. During the summer and springtime, enjoy numerous concerts held at the Jones Beach Theater. These shows can be fun to attend, but the crowds often mean lots of traffic and difficulty finding parking. If you're traveling to Jones Beach for a show, consider taking public transportation so you can enjoy the ride instead of battling traffic and searching for parking in a crowded lot.

Beyond the 6.5 miles of beach and the theater, Jones Beach is also the site of the annual Bethpage Air Show in May, where jet pilots perform fantastic stunts to dazzle the crowd. The beach also has a boardwalk with food and drink options and a minigolf course. It's close to the Theodore Roosevelt Nature Center with exhibits depicting marine habitats and a butterfly garden.