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Summer in Queens means fun for free

Okay, so you’re broke. You also happen to be living in one of the nation’s, if not the world’s, most expensive cities. But rather than have you spend the entire summer cooped up indoors, feasting on ice water and crackers, we’ve saved you the legwork of ferreting out those free (yes, free!) or ridiculously cheap summertime attractions in your beloved borough, so that you can enjoy all Queens has to offer without squandering every last penny of your savings.

If it’s physical fitness that gets you pumped, head to Socrates Sculpture Park, located at 32-01 Vernon Blvd. at Broadway in Long Island City, on Saturdays and Sundays for yoga, Pilates, capoeira, and tai chi in the park through Sept. 20. These programs are not only free, but are taught by skilled instructors, said Tara Sansone, director of public programs and community relations for Socrates Sculpture Park.

She suggests bringing a mat or towel and water to drink. For more information and program times, visit socratessculpturepark.org.

“I recommend the free fitness programming to people of all ages,” said Sansone. “I’ve seen mothers with small children in tow doing yoga in the park.”

For those looking for a respite from the steamy summer sidewalks, hop into a kayak at Hallets Cove, located at Vernon Boulevard and 31st Avenue, for a free paddle on Sundays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. though Oct. 25.

The program, offered by the Long Island City Community Boathouse, allows paddlers of all levels to take self-guided tours that typically last 20 to 30 minutes of Hallets Cove, located at the northern end of Socrates Sculpture Park. The only requirement is that participants can swim, and that they wear pants and shoes that can get wet, said Ted Gruber, chair of the Long Island City Community Boathouse. Families can partake in the fun, as children aged two and up are allowed to participate.

“It’s our mission to introduce Queens residents and visitors to our estuary,” said Gruber. “We love what we do, and we want to share it with others who don’t have that opportunity. We’re motivated by the happy faces that we see.”

The all-volunteer boathouse provides all equipment. No advance registration is required for the Sunday afternoon Hallets Cove paddles. The group also offers Friday Night Chill Paddles that meet at Anable Basin in Long Island City at 5:30 p.m., which fill up quickly and require advance registration.

All paddles are weather-permitting, so if you’re in doubt about what the day holds, check the boathouse’s Web site, licboathouse.org, beforehand.

For culture vultures, Queens offers a veritable smorgasbord of no-cost activities this summer, whether it’s film, music, theater or art that you crave.

Cinephiles can get their fix with a variety of free film screenings. Socrates Sculpture Park, in collaboration with the Museum of the Moving Image, presents Outdoor Cinema 2009, a free film series that showcases domestic and foreign films on Wednesdays through Aug. 19.

Pre-screening performances begin at 7 p.m., followed by such films as the Israeli animated feature “Waltz with Bashir” and Julian Schnabel’s “Lou Reed’s Berlin” at sunset. Local eateries including Astoria’s 718 and Vesta Vino serve up reasonably priced meals that range between $7 and $10 during screenings. More information is available on the Socrates Sculpture Park Web site.

The Greek Cultural Center in Astoria pays homage to filmmaker Costa-Gavras and Greek-American cinema during its annual Summer Film Festival on Saturdays at 7 p.m. through Sept. 5. Films include “Missing,” starring Jack Lemon and Sissy Spacek, and “Mad City,” featuring Dustin Hoffman, John Travolta and Alan Alda. All movies are shown at the Greek Cultural Center, located at 27-18 Hoyt Ave. South in Astoria. More information is available at the Web site, greekculturalcenter.org.

If your idea of a perfect summer day involves soaking up culture outdoors, then you’re living in the right borough.

Head to Long Island City for performances that range from site-specific modern dance to an indie rock revue featuring local performers, as part of the Live at the Gantries series. The free series is held primarily on Tuesday evenings through Aug. 18, and takes place at Gantry Plaza State Park, located on the waterfront at 49th Avenue and Center Boulevard in Long Island City.

Live at the Gantries is a great entertainment option for everyone, said artistic director Chris Henderson.

“Families get a chance to enjoy some free quality entertainment,” he said. “Music fans get to appreciate the talented work of acts that don’t always come to Queens. And everyone gets to spend an hour by the waterfront as the sun goes down.”

For more information, visit liveatthegantries.com.

Get your groove on with a little jazz, swing and mambo at the Flushing Town Hall Summer Garden Concert Series. Catch the final performances of the season with The Lew Picardi Orchestra performing Aug. 9, and Willie Martinez: Mambo in the Sunshine Aug. 23.

These free events begin with dance lessons at 1:15 p.m., followed by musical performances at 2 p.m. at Flushing Town Hall, located at 137-35 Northern Blvd. in Flushing. Food ranging from $4 to $14 is available at the concerts, courtesy of chef Ashbell McElveen’s Global Grill at Flushing Town Hall. More information is available atflushingtownhall.com.

For fans of Shakespeare in the Park who would rather skip the excruciatingly long lines often required to score tickets, the Hip to Hip Theatre Company presents Free Shakespeare in the Park right here in Queens.

The company will perform “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” Aug. 12-16 and “Romeo and Juliet” Aug. 19-23 at various location in the borough, including Sunnyside Gardens Park, Fort Totten Park and Socrates Sculpture Park. Visit hiptohip.org for specific locations and start times.

The Queens Museum of Art in Flushing Meadows Corona Park provides attendees with access to an international cornucopia of cultural offerings with its Passport Fridays 2009 series. The free outdoor dance, music and film series transports visitors to countries including Iran, Taiwan, Jordan, and Bangladesh on Fridays through Aug. 28.

Events include screenings of the films “Brick Lane” and “Persepolis,” as well as music and dance performances from the Astoria-based Bangladesh Institute of Performing Arts and Shusmo, a group that blends elements of Middle Eastern music, jazz and Latin rhythms, who have appeared at Joe’s Pub and BAM Café.

Dance and music performances begin at 6:30 p.m. and films begin at 8 p.m. For more information, visit queensmuseum.org.

At Socrates Sculpture Park, art aficionados can view “State Fair,” a group exhibition centered on the theme of American rural life, through Aug. 2. Young Queens crafters and their parents can partake in Saturday Sculpture Workshops, which provide children and teens ages four to 14 with workshops that cover everything from constructing topographic maps of fantasy lands and making rock pets to turning old tin cans into treasures.

The workshops are offered in the education area at Socrates from noon until 3 p.m. though Sept. 26. All children and teens must be accompanied by an adult.

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