Let the East End be your family’s playground this holiday season. Whether you’re enjoying a visit with Santa, playing in the snow or even learning about art, make memories throughout the Hamptons and North Fork that will last a lifetime.
Gingerbread House Rules
Gingerbread is a tasty winter treat. Why it also inspired the creation of tiny creatures and construction of edible abodes remains something of a mystery, but there’s no secret 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. Find info at gingerbreaduniversity.com.
Arts & Crafts
Exposing your kids to the arts early in life is a gift that will keep on giving throughout their lives. 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. A session in the studio follows where kids create their own art through hands-on activities with a variety of materials and techniques. Look for children’s art programs at Guild Hall in East Hampton, too. Find more info at parrishart.org and guildhall.org.
Look, Up in the Sky!
The Custer Institute and Observatory in Southold, established in 1927, is Long Island’s oldest public observatory, but there is always something new to discover at this treasured spot. It offers frequent lectures, classes, concerts, art exhibits and other special events, and the real fun comes when they open to the public every Saturday evening from 7 p.m. until midnight, when you can get a tour of the facilities and see the night sky through their powerful telescope. Visit custerobservatory.org for more information.
Have Yourself a Merry Little Fishmas
The Long Island Aquarium is open year-round, and the holidays are no exception. Check out the amazing Lost City of Atlantis Shark Exhibit, and everyone’s favorite, the sea lion show. If you’re lucky, you’ll have a chance to snap a sea lion selfie. The exhibition center also includes an aviary, bug exhibit and butterfly house. Don’t miss the Santa Brunch on December 16, where guests will enjoy a buffet brunch in the Sea Star ballroom and take pictures with St. Nick himself! More info at longislandaquarium.com.
Skate Your Cares Away
Whether you’re chilling on the North Fork or in the Hamptons, ice skating is the perfect wintertime outing. Some favorite spots include East Hampton’s Buckskill Winter Club (where you’ll find the only refrigerated, NHL regulation-sized ice rink in the Hamptons), ice skating by the ocean at Gurney’s Montauk, the Rinx 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 another winter of public skating and hockey. More info at buckskillwinterclub.com, gurneysmontauk.com, therinx.com, greenportvillage.com and southamptongolfrange.com.
Toboggan Your Noggin
Every kid loves to go sledding, but it’s important to know where to go. 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.
The Quogue Wildlife Refuge is a great place to enjoy the snow. When the white stuff begins to fall, the 305-acre refuge and seven miles of trails become a paradise for cross-country skiers, snowshoers, or anyone craving a cure for their cabin fever. Snowshoes can be rented throughout the winter. Visit quoguewildliferefuge.org for details.
Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree
Forget fake Christmas trees. The time’s now here for you to pick the perfect tree—and cut it down yourself. 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—in search of the perfect tree, creating unforgettable memories along the way.