1. Where to Stay
East Hampton Point (from $300), a secluded waterfront resort on Three Mile Harbor, seems made for families: Its thirteen wicker- and floral-filled cottages come with separate master bedrooms, kitchenettes, and pull-out sofas (ask for No. 6, stocked with a Jacuzzi tub and full sleep sofa). Once you’ve settled in, bundle up for a walk on the windy bay beach—perfect for kite-flying.
It’s all about location at the Tudor-style Southampton Inn (from $150), an easy walk from the Hampton Luxury Liner bus drop-off, the train station, art galleries, restaurants, and boutiques. The hotel’s 90 rooms desperately need updating and staffers are sometimes less than hospitable, but families can make use of connecting rooms and pets are welcome.
The accommodations at kid- and pet-friendly Baron’s Cove Inn (from $95) in Sag Harbor are standard-issue motel. But visitors don’t spend much time in their rooms—even in the waterfront duplex with its views of the marina. Take a family stroll over to the Ice Cream Club on the Long Wharf, then cruise Main Street’s throwback nautical shops.
2. Where to Eat
Named for a seedy 1870s boardinghouse, Rowdy Hall is a low-key place to grab a bite before seeing a movie at the nearby East Hampton cinema. It’s a favorite of celebrity parents like Uma Thurman and Steven Spielberg, who come for the juicy burgers and New Orleans bread pudding.
Three generations of Hamptonites have been weaned on the pizza at La Parmigiana (48 Hampton Rd., Southampton; 631-283-8030). The ceramic-filled, old-fashioned pizzeria is packed with noisy, large parties during the summer, but in the off-season, there’s rarely a wait and service is warm and welcoming.
The most popular family breakfast joint in the Hamptons, the Fairway Restaurant at Poxabogue, also has the most unlikely location: inside the clubhouse of a nine-hole golf course. Sit on the outdoor patio and watch the action on the driving range while you munch on classic tuna melts, salads, and breakfast specials like sliced steak and eggs with home fries.
A Southampton institution for more than 30 years, the Fudge Company (66 Jobs Ln.; 631-287-5436; and 27 Main St.; 631-204-9211) is every child’s Willy Wonka dream come true, offering 13 flavors of fudge, 20 varieties of ice cream, and over 400 different types of candy. Don’t miss the moose-tracks ice cream topped with homemade caramel pecan or chocolate-cheesecake hot fudge.
3. What to Do
Though it’s a long way from boogie-board season, there’s still plenty for kids to do in the Hamptons. The preferred winter hangout spot is the Buckskill Winter Club, an open-air ice-skating rink open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. through March. After skating, families relax fireside inside a little cabin with hot cocoa or bowls of homemade soup.
The Children’s Museum of the East End (CMEE) offers year-round programs that teach kids to stretch their imaginations. In March, a sixteen-foot inflatable planetarium lands here, beckoning parents and tykes inside to watch a movie about life on Earth in 2081.
The Hamptons are famous for their wild beauty, so spend a few hours outside with naturalist Mike Bottini. He’ll share interesting tidbits about sand dunes, piping plovers, and cranberry bog, and in March and April, he takes groups to Montauk for the popular three-mile Seal Walk.
4. Insider’s Tip
Big family hotels like the Driftwood in Amagansett and the Surf Club in Montauk close from October through May, and what’s open in the off-season is usually couples-oriented and expensive. The best value and most comfortable option may be to rent a house by the week. Michael Kaufman of Accommodations Plus offers three- and four-bedroom homes in East Hampton with prices starting at $1,700 for a week. Kaufman can arrange for cribs, strollers, high chairs, and bikes, as well as reservations for charter fishing boats and golf tee times.
5. An Oddball Day
You don’t need to fly to the Caribbean to have an underwater adventure. Just a half-hour west of the Hamptons, at Atlantis Marine World in Riverhead, kids can spend a half-hour in a cage face-to-face with ten sharks, a 300-pound turtle, seven-foot-long moray eels, stingrays, and exotic fish. For $155 a person, visitors over 12 years old can earn major bragging rights by getting into scuba gear and dunking into a two-story water tank filled with real, live sharks.
6. Related Links
The owners of Storytime Toys in Southampton host Kid Hampton, an online directory of book readings and other activities.
East End Children breaks down services for kids into groupings like music & art, sports, parks, and camps.
If it’s happening in the Hamptons, then it’s in Dan’s Papers , the community’s bulletin board for more than 45 years.