Sometimes, the family road trip is a whole lot more peaceful in theory than in reality... more >>
The Hamptons have long been considered the summer playground for Manhattan’s elite. Many endure hours on the Long Island Expressway in the sweltering heat for a chance to savor the Hamptons’ glitzy beach and nightlife scene. While celebrity appearances at the Hamptons Classic and decadent parties grace the society pages, less attention is paid to the throngs of families seeking to escape the concrete city facades in search of the quintessential American summer experience. Families making the Hamptons pilgrimage may be surprised to discover that its natural beauty out-dazzles the area’s legendary swanky way of life. An authentic Hamptons summer offers families berry picking and corn on the cob, biking through nature preserves and kayaking along picturesque harbors, and relaxed clambakes on the beach at sunset. Despite its reputed glamorous status, it is the Hamptons’ alluring reputation as a charming, undisturbed oasis that lures families back year after year. On its most basic level, the Hamptons offers city children the one thing they covet the most – outdoor space. **(C: see below)With long stretches of white sand and acres of state and county parks, the Hamptons have no shortage of playgrounds. Engage your children in a bike ride through the Northwest Woods of East Hampton or a nature hike through Montauk Point State Park, where they will discover wild turkeys, deer, turtles, and other natural wonders that call the East End home. In addition to the natural beauty of the area, the pretty village of East Hampton offers many diversions that allow you to continue your quality family time. At first glance, you think you are in an old-fashioned town, with the village’s fudge store, donut shop, and charming cinema. After a closer look, you will realize its charming storefronts also house outposts of J Crew, Scoop Beach, and Dylan’s Candy Bar, where you can indulge in good old-fashioned retail therapy. While you can spend the day shopping for the kids at Lily Pulitzer, Ralph Lauren and other local shops, your brood may be more engaged to pick up birdseed at Herrick’s Hardware Store, which you can take to the duck pond on David’s Lane. Children run along the sandy gravel paths, hopping over bridges and ducking past bushes to feed the fastidious duck population. Having grown accustomed to swarms of children throwing fodder their way, the ducks will gladly idle about the pond, pleasing and teasing toddlers to no end. For dinner, swing by one of the many farmers markets, where you can pick up fresh local seafood, corn, and more of the season’s finest ingredients for your outdoor grilling feast. Those with an aversion to propane and insects can safely bring the kids to bustling Serafina, where friendly waiters will greet your children with crayons and wiki sticks, and send them off with house-made gelato. Traveling with well-behaved youngsters? Fearlessly head to Hamptons favorite Della Femina for dinner. Be the first to arrive when doors open to nab a highchair and outdoor table as you sample fresh, local ingredients at one of East Hampton’s hottest dining spots. For your next journey to town, visit the sleepy village of Amagansett. In Amagansett Square, children of all ages will enjoy dining al fresco at Hampton Chutney. Refreshingly eccentric, its diverse and flavorful menu appeals to even the pickiest of eaters with a wide selection of dosas (Indian crepes), that can be chased with a mound of sweet mango ice cream. After lunch, explore the village’s eclectic local shops for unique children’s items. Pink Chicken, a tiny children’s boutique offering chic bohemian duds, is the latest store to hang its shingle on Main Street. Other diversions include Montauk, which feels more like Baja than the Hamptons. The drive to Montauk along scenic Old Montauk Road feels like a roller coaster, sure to provide entertainment for the kids. Worthy of a stop along the way are the stunning beaches and the gargantuan playground at Hither Hills State Park. Set amid grassy ocean dunes, the sandy playground will channel your inner Napolean Dynamite as you join your children in a game of tetherball. Older children can impress their parents by showing off their surfing skills as they ride the ocean’s magnificent waves. Put the evening to rest by indulging in a family-style Tuscan dinner at Harvest on Fort Pond, which many locals consider the best restaurant in the Hamptons. Following dinner, stroll around the corner to Puff-n-Putt, where families can challenge their budding golfers to a spirited round of mini-golf overlooking Fort Pond and older children can paddle boats or kayak on the pond. Time and again, families yearn for a 19th hole as they savor the colorful display of sunrays reflecting on the calm waters. On terrifically rainy days, or for a respite from the sun, head to old-world Sag Harbor. Unmistakably New England in character, this former whaling town offers quality indoor activities for the budding artist. Younger children will enjoy art, yoga and puppet playgroups at Goat on a Boat Puppet Theatre, while the older 8-12 set can explore music and theater programs at the Bay Street Theater. For kids of all ages, the Children’s Museum of the East End is a 10,000 square foot facility that offers cooking, music and tumbling classes for young children in the summer as well as a drop-in Art Studio. Before mentally preparing yourself to spend the remaining hours of your weekend parked on the LIE, don’t miss Ziggy’s restaurant in Bridgehampton. The uber-chic décor will remind you of your favorite hip joint in the city, but the light, healthy fare and the sandy and breezy outdoor scene are quintessentially Hamptons in character. Ziggy’s is perhaps the most family-friendly of all Hamptons eateries, where parents can fashionably toss back a margarita or two near the restaurant’s outdoor playground while sampling the tasty falafel platter. Children will enjoy scaling the miniature rock-climbing wall between courses, leaving parents free to revel in the simple pleasure of watching them shed off another week’s worth of stored energy before reluctantly heading back home.