Sharpen the blades, tighten the laces, grab a hockey stick! Whether you’re chilling on the North Fork or in the Hamptons, ice skating is a great wintertime treat. Five favorite spots are East Hampton’s Buckskill Winter Club (where you’ll find the only refrigerated, NHL regulation-sized ice rink in the Hamptons), ice skating on the ocean at Gurney’s Montauk, the rink on the Long Island Sound in Port Jefferson, the Mitchell Park Ice Skating Rink in Greenport—especially at sunset—and the ice rink at Southampton Golf Range, which is back for its third winter of public skating and hockey. More info at buckskillwinterclub.com, gurneysmontauk.com, portjeff.com, greenportvillage.com and southamptongolfrange.com.
There’s nothing more beautiful than fresh fallen snow, and no better place to enjoy it than the Quogue Wildlife Refuge. When snow begins to fall, the 305-acre refuge and 7 miles of trails become a paradise for cross-country skiers, or anyone craving a cure for their cabin fever. Skis and snowshoes can be rented every Tuesday, Thursday and weekends throughout the winter. Visit quoguewildliferefuge.org.
Unleash Your Inner Artist
Touring the Parrish Art Museum is a wonderful way to expose children to art, especially when that art can immediately inspire the creative process. At the monthly Open Studio at Parrish, families are invited to learn about the art on view in the galleries, as museum docents take families on a tour that’s followed by a session in the studio where kids can create their own art through hands-on activities with a variety of materials and techniques. More info at parrishart.org.
Where to Head When It’s Time to Sled
Knowing where to go sledding on the East End is something akin to folklore—valued information passed from generation to generation. Our readers rave about such spots as Reeves Beach in Riverhead. Or, find joy in the wonderful irony of going to school on a snow day. Take your toboggans, tubes and saucers and head to the elementary schools of East Quogue and Westhampton Beach, Pierson High School in Sag Harbor or across the street from Mattituck High School.
Starry, Starry Nights
Crisp, clear winter nights on the East End make for some incredible stargazing, and few spots indulge everyone’s interstellar interests like the Custer Institute and Observatory in Southold. Established in 1927, the Custer Institute is Long Island’s oldest public observatory. It offers frequent lectures, classes, concerts, art exhibits and other special events, but the real fun comes when they open to the public every Saturday evening from dark until midnight, when you can get a tour of the facilities and see the night sky through their powerful telescopes. More info at custerobservatory.org.
We Fish You a Merry Christmas
Build a new family tradition this winter at the Long Island Aquarium. Check out the amazing Lost City of Atlantis Shark Exhibit, and everyone’s favorite, the sea lion show. If you’re lucky, weekends include the chance for a sea lion selfie. The exhibition center also includes an aviary, bug exhibit and butterfly house. Don’t miss the Santa Brunch on December 13. Enjoy a buffet brunch in the Sea Star ballroom, and take pictures with St. Nick himself! More info at longislandaquarium.com.
There’s something about the sweet-spicy sensation of gingerbread that has long made it synonymous with the holiday season. Why it has also inspired the creation of tiny creatures and the construction of edible abodes remains something of a mystery, but there’s no secret as to why kids of all ages have so much fun at Riverhead’s Gingerbread University, where GingerElves happily help guests decorated GingerBears, GingerTrees, GingerTrains and, of course, gorgeous gingerbread houses. More info at gingerbreaduniversity.com
Head to the End…No, the Other End
You’ll surely head to The End to see the Montauk Lighthouse all lit up for the holidays, but there’s also wintertime wonder to be found at the end of the North Fork. Bundle up and head to Orient State Park on a sunny day, where an outdoor adventure will include beachcombing for shells, taking in views of Gardiners Island and relaxing in the serenity of the season. More info at nysparks.com.
Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree
The East End is famous for people flocking throughout spring, summer and fall to the ample offerings of U-pick berries, apples, pumpkins and the like. The time’s now here for U to pick the perfect Christmas tree—and cut it down yourself as well. There’s nothing quite like the smell of pine in the chilly air while you stroll through Santa’s Christmas Tree Farm in Cutchogue, Shamrock Christmas Tree Farm in Mattituck, Lewin Farms in Calverton and Dart’s Tree Farm in Southold—where you just might spot Kris Kringle and his elves. Locate your special tree and create unforgettable memories along the way.