When the summer Hamptons crowds have gone home, it is time to bring your toddler out to the eastern shores of Long Island to play. This area, also known as the North and South Forks, offers the perfect weekend escape during the off-season. Traveling east during the autumn months is much more affordable and still packs a great deal of fun for your little one. The activities are diverse and are off the beaten paths from your typical seaside jaunts.
Take your toddler to see the magnificent, historic tall ships that set sail to the seaside community of Greenport each year during the Maritime Festival. The festival is held annually, typically during the third week in September. Your young one will be in awe of the grand ships and can even tour their interiors. They will have a blast dancing around during the live pirate show, take part in nautical arts and crafts including designing and drawing your own tall ship and treasure map, be dazzled by the spectacular firework show just over the harbor. Bring your own lunch for a picnic on the lawn next door after your toddler takes a ride on the Antique Carousel, featuring an enclosed, glass pavilion and restored painted horses. Your child will experience a different dimension of excitement as they step back in time to the 1920’s, listening to light melodies similar to a nostalgic, windup music box while gazing out on the seascape. Another fun activity that you must not pass up is an excursion to the Bug Light, Greenport’s Lighthouse, a beautiful countryside style lighthouse set on a nearby bed of rocks. Take this moment to explain the history of the lighthouse and how they serve as a beacon for directing incoming ships.
Apple and Pumpkin Picking
One of the most memorable events during your trip will be visiting the Milk Pail in Bridgehampton and apple picking with your toddler. Bring home some locally made artisanal chocolates, apple cider, jams and honey. Teach your toddler about the different flavors of apples by letting them sample bite-size pieces and have them decide on their favorite apple. You also must explore Hank’s Pumpkin Town in nearby Watermill. This adventurous farmland and orchard offers hayrides, a giant tube slide, playgrounds and a mesmerizing corn maze your toddler will love racing through. You and your family can easily spend half the day at Hank’s without realizing any time has gone by.
Rainy Day Activities
Just in case of rain, don’t make your toddler stay cooped up indoors. Let your toddler run wild at Safari Adventure in Riverhead, an 11,000-square-foot indoor play space that is cleaned thoroughly each morning before guests arrive. Climb, slide, bounce, tunnel and explore the multi-level playground or jump high on one of their four gigantic inflatable bouncers all day long. Don’t forget socks! Another option is to visit the innovative Children’s Museum of the East End in Bridgehampton. The museum’s permanent exhibits feature a world of interactive exploration, fun and experimentation, provoking learning through play. The building is a modern masterpiece that includes an indoor windmill, a community library, a musical forest and a fantasy tree house bedroom that will let your toddler’s imagination run wild. And if you are in the mood for aquatic adventure, skip right on over to the Long Island Marine World Aquarium and Exhibition Center in Riverhead. Be dazzled by the sea lions, otters, penguins and butterfly exhibits and bring your child to the Mommy and Me children’s programs that include live animal encounters, hands on activities, arts and crafts. These programs provide a wonderful educational experience.
If you are planning to stay overnight, there are family friendly hotels in the Hamptons, though to save even more money, there are your standard chain hotels in Riverhead such as the Holiday Inn Express and the Hilton Garden Inn. Or, choose to stay right next door to the aquarium at the Hyatt Place so your aquatot can enjoy all of the incredible amenities it has to offer just steps away from your hotel. Southampton Inn is pet friendly and located within walking distance to the Southampton Village. If you do not mind traveling a bit further out east, The Maidstone is close to town and offers cozy cottages for your stay and an unbeatable Scandinavian style brunch and dinner.
Do Not Skip
For you and your little one’s dining experiences stop by The Candy Kitchen, a popular old-fashioned soda shop in the center of Bridgehampton, to create a sundae masterpiece. For an old-time family oriented diner, try tasty sandwiches and milkshakes at the Star Confectionery in Riverhead, which has been around since 1911. Note that they are only open for breakfast and lunch and close by 3pm. Finally, seal your trip with a photo op in front of The Big Duck, originally built by a duck farmer in 1931. Although it has since moved locations multiple times, it is now situated on Flanders Road in nearby Riverhead. It is now listed on the National Register of Historic places and has a museum filled with nifty artifacts, postcards and gifts.
Vanessa Pinto is a freelance writer and English language instructor residing in New York. She received her Master of Arts in Education from New York University while also studying abroad at St. Edmund’s College, Oxford. You can follow Vanessa on Twitter at @EastEndTaste