Hamptons GetawaySummer Playground
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 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 jungle 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 swanky way of life, which has recently been made even more famous by the television hit “Revenge.” An authentic Hamptons summer offers families berry-picking and corn on the cob, biking through nature preserves, kayaking along picturesque harbors, and relaxed clambakes on the beach at sunset. Despite its glamour status, it’s the Hamptons’ allure as a charming, undisturbed oasis that brings families back year after year.
On its most basic level, the Hamptons offers city children the one thing they covet most: outdoor space. With long stretches of white sand and acres of state and county parks, the Hamptons have no shortage of playgrounds. Hop on a bike to ride through the Northwest Woods of East Hampton or hike in Montauk Point State Park and discover wild turkeys, deer, turtles, and other natural wonders that call the East End home.
The pretty village of East Hampton is perfect for getting in some quality family time. At first glance, you’d think you were in an old-fashioned town, with the village’s fudge store, donut shop, and a quaint cinema. After a closer look, you’ll see that the storefronts also house outposts of J Crew, Scoop Beach, and Dylan’s Candy Bar, where you can indulge in some good old-fashioned retail therapy.
While you can spend the day shopping for the kids at Lily Pulitzer, Ralph Lauren, and Steph’s Stuff, your brood will probably be more excited to scoop up birdseed at Herrick’s Hardware Store, to take to the duck pond on David’s Lane. Children can run along the sandy gravel paths, hop over bridges, and crouch near bushes to feed the fastidious ducks. Having grown accustomed to swarms of children throwing treats their way, the ducks will gladly idle about the pond, pleasing and teasing toddlers to no end.
For dinner, swing by the new Whole Foods Market in Wainscott to pick up some of the season’s finest ingredients for your outdoor grilling feast. Traveling with well-behaved youngsters? 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 smiles.
For your next journey into 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), chased by a mound of mango ice cream. After lunch, explore the village’s eclectic local shops for unique children’s items. Pink Chicken, a tiny children’s boutique with chic bohemian duds, is the latest store to hang its shingle on Main Street. For beach time, Atlantic Avenue Beach is a worthy stop for its long stretches of sand, concessions stand and restrooms.
Other diversions include Montauk, which feels more like Baja than the Hamptons. The drive to Montauk on scenic Old Montauk Road offers the thrills of a roller coaster, with outstanding views along the way. Take a breather at 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 show off their surfing skills as they ride the ocean’s exciting 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 budding golfers can play a spirited round, and paddle boats or kayak on the pond. Time and again, families yearn for a nineteenth hole to 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 young artists. The little ones can enjoy art, yoga, and puppet playgroups at Goat on a Boat Puppet Theatre, while the older set can explore music and theater programs at the Bay Street Theater. The Children’s Museum of the East End is a 10,000-square-foot facility that offers cooking, music, and tumbling classes as well as a drop-in Art Studio.
For lunch, entice little tummies with burgers and milkshakes at LT Burger in the Harbor, on Main Street. McDonalds this is not. Here, chef Laurent Tourondel and Michael Cinque, owner of Amagansett Wines & Spirits, teamed up to offer the most exciting, All-American fare on the East End. To pick up the evening’s dinner and dessert, head to Division Street. Tim’s Prime Meats and Seafood has every protein you’ll need for your grilling spread, including excellent house rubs and marinades. Next door is the tiny new Sag Harbor Baking Company, where you can bid adieu to your tiny waist. The scents alone will have you sampling one of everything – homemade lemon bars, strawberry-shortcake cupcakes – before you choose which pie to bring home for dessert.
If the Hamptons were a resort, then Hampton Kids would be its Kids’ Club. Enter a supervised child-care facility with a bounce house, arcade games, skee-ball, outdoor playground, swimming pool, tennis and basketball courts, camps and classes. You name it, they’ve thought of it – and your kids will never want to leave. Hampton Kids is even conveniently located in the East Hampton Tennis Center, off Daniel’s Hole Road, so Mom and Dad can play, too. Also nearby is the new Hamptons outpost of Barry’s Bootcamp, where you can sink your teeth into burgers and slurp milkshakes.
Longer-term visitors seeking a traditional summer camp experience can sign up by the week at the Hamptons Country Day Camp. Campers are shuttled to camp in a school bus everyday, freeing up Mom’s days for visits to Physique 57 and lazy brunches at Babette’s. Children over the age of 3 participate in games, creative arts, and sports such as swimming, basketball and tennis. They can also explore the amazing playgrounds to their little hearts’ content. The Art Farm in Bridgehampton offers non-traditional camp programs focused on nature, animals, and art to children over 6 months old. Older children can perfect their surfing technique at the Art Farm.
Before spending the remaining hours of your weekend parked on the LIE, give in to back-seat cries for pizza at local favorite World Pie. The figure-conscious need not fret – this Bridgehampton staple has plenty of tasty low-carb fare. From your outdoor table, laugh as droves of fellow urbanites sit idly on Route 27. If you stay late enough, your children might fall into a pleasant slumber on the long ride back home. While you take the back roads, of course.