Summer calls for some post-school decompression. Parents know: Kids are full of energy. And although summer camps may have them busy for some or all of the week and weekends, off-days are as ripe as strawberries and blueberries for exploring the South Fork as a family.
Where to go and what to do? The opportunities can feel as endless as the shoreline but overwhelming for an already-busy parent. You don’t need to resign yourself to a summer of slime and glitter-related crafts, though. We rolled up our sleeves, kept the glitter in the bottle and created a Hamptons’ bucket list for every family and craving (food and otherwise). Consider this your guide to kid-friendly fun in the Hamptons this summer.
Summer school may not have an A+ reputation for good times, but a trip to this hands-on spot for little learners does. The East End Children’s Museum uses a windmill to teach kids about wind power and turns a mini golf course into a physics and math lesson. Your kid won’t even notice school is in session. The drop-off kids club classes are sold out, but a baby-and-me summer session full of songs (and opportunities for adult conversations) is still open.
For easy, wholesome fun: Kites of the Harbor, 75 Main St., Sag Harbor, 631-725-9062
A perk of having younger kids: Small things are a source of absolute awe and wonder. A kite flying high in the sky? Endless entertainment, even for a tiny tyke with an otherwise age-appropriate short attention span. Kites of the Harbor sells an eclectic mix of kites, sometimes with colorful bears, emojis and other creatures of wonder. It’s always a fun surprise to see what’s in stock. You’ll also find pool floats, flags for celebrating summer’s patriotic holidays, toys and lawn décor.
For beach days: Multiple
Beach days are a quintessential part of any Hamptons summer. You may have access to one through your home or rental. If you don’t, the area is home to several public beaches. A few stand out for families: Cooper’s Beach in Southampton is more than soft white sands and picturesque dunes. Chair and umbrella rentals reduce the number of things you need to put in your wagon, and concession stands are ideal when you are out of snacks. Bridgehampton’s Mecox has a lifeguard on duty, making swimming safer, and a snack stand and souvenirs to keep bellies full and hearts happy. And East Hampton’s Main Beach is an oft-lauded beach that welcomes surfers and families alike.
For life’s “oops” moments: Jack’s Marine, 188 N. Ferry Rd., Shelter Island Heights, 631-749-0114
Should you find yourself between the ferries without your favorite beach chair or sans life preserver, consider Jack’s Marine your lifeline. The shop is a one-stop spot for beach days and essentials for fishing trips. Think nets for fresh catches, buckets for making sand castles and straw hats that make an added layer of sun protection look fashionable.
For days at the farm: Amber Waves Farm, 367 Main St., Amagansett, 631-267-5664
Amber Waves brings the classroom outside with a series of weekday and weekend programming for little kids of all ages. Expect farmer and music classes and circle time for the tiniest of tykes. Toddlers can take plant seedlings, smell herbs, and, most importantly, dig in the soil as part of a farm class. There are also cooking classes for toddlers through teens. Kids of all ages can attend Exploration Garden sessions on Saturdays at 9:30 a.m., where families can stop and smell the flowers (or search for insects) together.
For park trips: Multiple
Not every outing needs to be a well-orchestrated, Instagram-worthy adventure. The Hamptons are home to numerous parks with waterfront vistas and playgrounds for getting out all the energy that comes from a life without recess. Hither Hills State Park in Montauk has a playground, ocean beach and plenty of room to picnic. If you want to create a well-orchestrated adventure, there’s a campground set on the ocean. Further west, in Hampton Bays, Meschutt County Park stands out for its laid-back beach, concession stands that serve ice cream and ample playground.
For under-the-sea fun: Long Island Aquarium, 431 E Main St., Riverhead, 631-208-9200
It’ll be a while before little ones can snorkel or scuba dive. But they can make like Ariel, Sebastian and Flounder and head under the sea at Long Island Aquarium. The aquarium is home to sea lions, tigers and a butterfly room — oh my! Have a sea lion encounter (ages 10+) or a bug encounter (ages 4+) or head out on a guided tour open to people of all ages.
For food with a side of playtime: Cowfish Restaurant, 258 E Montauk Hwy., Hampton Bays
Dining out can come with a helping of stress for parents who want to enjoy a dinner other than nuggets and fries but don’t want to manage bored, cranky kids in public. Cowfish offers a solution: A pirate-ship playground overlooking the canal. Enjoy an al fresco beverage and live music. Or — even though bribing kids is no longer en vogue — make an exception and sit inside and devour your French Toast topped with the freshest of berries as you promise your child post-meal playtime for dessert.
For backyard clam bakes: Duryea’s Montauk, 65 Tuthill Rd, Montauk, 631-668-2410
Duryea’s self-serve digs are laid back, but the iconic seaside views and light, airy space draw an upscale clientele. It can be intimidating for a parent. But families can bring fresh seafood to their backyards by ordering takeout. Think all-things lobster (rolls, salads), essential sides, like corn on the cob and fries, and a clam bake perfect for backyard family dinners. Duryea’s can also pack picnics ideal for taking to the beach.
For dessert: Sip ‘n Soda, 40 NY-27A, Southampton, 631-283-9752
There are many Hamptons ice cream shops to write home about. But Sip ‘n Soda has become an institution since opening its doors in Southampton in 1958. The family-owned luncheonette serves homemade ice cream in cones, cups and retro-style sundae glasses. Think traditional flavors like vanilla, chocolate and strawberry and new-age goodness like Nutella. The cherry on top? The always friendly service makes it feel like your family is a part of Sip ‘n Soda’s (there are also actual cherries).