The Hamptons have long been the weekend playground of artists, writers, and bohemians. The idyllic setting, just two hours from New York city (without traffic) is a lush little sliver of paradise, with crystal-clear water, pristine beaches, and a thriving arts scene. East Hampton is situated between South Hampton, Sag Harbor, and Montauk, making it the perfect weekend getaway to experience the best of the Hamptons. Thanks to Long Island’s rich agricultural tradition, East Hampton’s culinary scene is flush with bounty from farms, bakeries, and fishermen along the South Fork. Summer is the perfect time to visit, when the produce is ripe, the ocean has warmed up, and the long days mean plenty of time for exploring, dining, shopping, and gallery hopping.
From New York City, try to leave as early as possible to beat the rush hour traffic. In the evening, the tiny downtown of East Hampton comes alive, with shops and galleries open late and al fresco dining on the sidewalks. After checking in to your hotel or rental, cruise around town to a few of the galleries, including Eric Firestone Gallery, where you’ll get a chance to peek at the art world’s next big thing. The gallery shows works by well-established artists alongside up-and-comers.
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Whether you’re staying there or not, settle in for dinner at the Maidstone Inn, a boutique hotel that perfectly blends old-school Hamptons style with hipster upgrades. Dinner here puts a Scandinavian spin on classic dishes. You can’t go wrong with anything local—look for seafood, corn, tomatoes, or Long Island duck.
Wake up early and do as the locals do—join a workout class. Two popular options are Barry’s Bootcamp and Soulcycle. Once you’ve worked up a sweat (and possibly spotted a celebrity), keep the healthy routine going with a raw breakfast at Juice Press.
Get ready for the beach and hop on your bike to head to Main Beach. You can pack a picnic from Citarella Market in town, or have lunch at the Main Beach snack shack. Claim your spot on the sand, go for a dip, walk along the dunes, gawk at the McMansions, or just sit and people watch.
Once you’ve had your fill of sun, hop back on your bike and go for a ride to the LongHouse Reserve. The sculpture garden is an impressive 16 acres of works by artists like Dale Chihuly, Yoko Ono, and Buckminster Fuller. The grounds are serene and lush and you can easily spend a few hours exploring.
Head back to your hotel or rental after the LongHouse to get ready for dinner. Dine at one of East Hampton’s most notorious restaurants, Nick and Toni’s. The food is upscale Italian, with a focus on authenticity and fresh ingredients. It’s a pricey meal, but you’re not just paying for the food—the restaurant is the place for Hamptonites to see and be seen.
After dinner, head to trendy Moby’s for a drink out on the expansive lawn. If you’re not ready for the night to end, pick up a copy of one of the many local magazines to see what fundraisers, concerts, or shows are happening in town.
Wake up and cancel out yesterday’s healthy breakfast with a couple of Dreesen’s donuts from Scoop du Jour. Head to the beach early and soak up your final rays of sun. Skip lunch in favor of an early dinner—a long bike ride or a short drive out to Napeague, halfway between Amagansett and Montauk. Eat dinner at either the Clam Shack or the Lobster Roll. There’s a fierce rivalry between the two restaurants that sit across the street from each other, but we don’t have a favorite. Just pick the one that has the best table available.
Where to Stay
The hip Maidstone Inn is one of the best choices for an easy East Hampton weekend, but there are two huge drawbacks: it’s prohibitively expensive and there’s no pool. For a more elegant (read: still expensive) vibe, get a room at either the Hedges Inn or the Baker House.
If you’re on a budget, however, the best option is AirBnB. There are some really cute cottages and guesthouses (with a pool!) that are a downright bargain.
When to Go
In July and August, the beach is peachy, the town is hopping, and the hotels and restaurants are full. Early September is still great beach weather, without all the summer people whose rentals end on Labor Day. October is quiet but still beautiful, and spring is lush. Do not under any circumstances visit during Memorial Day, Fourth of July, or Labor Day.
Getting to East Hampton is easy in theory, but it can be a nightmare. On a summer weekend (especially if it’s a holiday), the two-hour drive can take up to five hours. That said, driving is still one of the best options.
The Long Island Railroad has direct trains to the Hamptons from Penn Station in Manhattan and Hunterspoint in Queens. If you’re coming directly from either La Guardia or JFK, hop on a bus (or get a cab) to Jamaica Station in Queens and catch the train from there. There are six departures on Friday, and all of them are crowded—you might end up standing for the whole three-hour journey. If you’re taking the train, remember to pack light.
The Hampton Jitney has frequent buses that leave from stops in Manhattan and Brooklyn, but the buses are stuck in the same traffic-heavy routes as everybody else. Your best bet is to leave as early as possible on Friday (or better yet, Thursday).