Wednesday, September 10, 2014

You mean the Hamptons are still busy after Labor Day??

On Labor Day, one of our guests stopped by the kitchen at 11:05 to say she would be checking out late, after she’d had her run and a shower. I assured her that we had downstairs facilities for her to shower and change, but she needed to have her bags out of her room at our standard 11:00 AM check out time because we needed to clean it for arriving guests.

Her eyebrows went up. “You mean you have people coming in today?”

There is a common misconception among many of our summer visitors that somehow the Hamptons roll up like a yoga mat, put away until next Memorial Day. That the oceans somehow turn arctic cold on Tumbleweed Tuesday, and that all the shops and restaurants close and move to their winter locations in West Palm Beach.

Ah, but you and I know differently. With the advent of autumn, the Hamptons become an entirely different type of destination. Summer lingers on through September with temperate weather and still-warm oceans and bays. And correspondingly, different types of visitors come to appreciate our unique beauty and charm.

First of all, the oft-forgotten former economic engine of the Hamptons – farming – revs its motor as the leaves begin to turn colors. While summer guests appreciate our farm stands, it is fall where they really shine as the harvest gets underway. Corn, zucchini, sun-ripened tomatoes, potatoes, greens, squash and much more overflow their bushel baskets. And speaking of squash, beginning mid-September, nothing can beat our East End farms for agritourism. Pumpkin picking? Bring the family and grab a red wagon and spend hours at Hank’s Pumpkintown…the kids enjoying the slides and forts and climb-aboard tractors before picking out the perfect enormous pumpkin in the field. Or opt for an elegant cream or sage-colored pumpkin from the flatbed parked at the Milk Pail, where you can choose to do your picking from one of the Halsey family's twenty different varieties of apples in the adjacent orchard and pick up a container of the freshest local apple cider available. You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy a corn maze, and one of the best is to be found on Horsemill Road at Fairview Farm, where the "maize" (a pun on Indian corn) is carefully cut each year into a design that, viewed from the air, is a work of art. Choose from almost a dozen different trivia categories to help you navigate the maize. Questions are multiple choice; your answer will determine whether you should turn right or left when faced with such an intersection.

Fall means cooler temperatures, when outdoor activities often benefit from a bike ride is a perfect outdoor choice. And with beach traffic nonexistent, a perfect cycling excursion might be to wend your way through the estate districts where wide, tree-lined streets are almost empty of drivers. Rent a boat from Strong’s Marine and spend a day exploring Peconic or Shinnecock Bay, or hire a kayak and paddle through places like Georgica Pond or Northwest Creek, where your only company may be the egrets and ospreys. Fall is also the perfect time to hike Mashomack Preserve, the Nature Conservancy’s vast 2100-acre property that comprises nearly a third of Shelter Island.

And then, of course, there are our wineries. The harvesting of grapes is a big event (Wolffer Estate’s Harvest Party sells out every year) and all the East End wineries are in their full glory. Look for wine tasting events, weekend entertainment in many of the South Fork’s three and the North Fork’s almost fifty vineyards.

For well over 100 years, artists have flocked to the East End to paint, and with the fall comes that season of light where you can completely understand their motivation. The sun, lower on the horizon, casts a peerless golden glow over our farmfields and dunes. It’s Mother Nature’s blessing on the East End.

Fall means festivals, notably SeptemberFest in Southampton (September 26-28), the Montauk Seafood Festival (September 13-14), Harborfest, the celebration of Sag Harbor’s whaling history (also September 13-14), and the San Gennaro feast in Hampton Bays (October 4-5). Check out the Arts and Crafts fair in Westhampton Beach (October 11-12), the Fine Art show in Bridgehampton, or the Chili Cookoff in Hampton Bays.All feature events and activities for the entire family. 

And oh yes, our restaurants are still open. As are our shops. Parking is easier, and so is traffic, compared to steamy August weekends.

In short, whether you’ve experienced the Hamptons during our summer heyday or never before, the season of plenty is a wonderful time to visit!