Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Dreaming of Summer by the Shore

I don't know about you, but I'm already daydreaming about summer weekends on the beach.

The Hamptons on a budget may seem like an oxymoron, but it is possible if you do your research. Last summer I made the requisite trip to the Hamptons, but was determined to do it my way, i.e. no bottle service at Pink Elephant or house shares with 16 "friends" crammed into three bedrooms at $1,000+ a person.

Here's the thing: when you take away the ridiculous New Yorkers just looking for an upscale summer scene, the Hamptons can actually be quite charming. Think quaint towns reminscent of New England with great beaches.

As you begin to plan your summer weekend getaways, don't let what you've heard about the Hamptons scare you away. My weekend in East Hampton was just what the doctor ordered -- good food, good company, relaxation, and no post-Hamptons credit card debt.

Known for its picturesque windmills, East Hampton is home to celebs like Tommy Hilfiger and Ben Bradlee. While the downtown streets are lined with shops like Tory Burch, Coach and Cole Haan, East Hampton really is old beach town meets new money extravagance. Weather-worn wooden farmhouses dating back to the 1800s have been invaded by ostentatious mansions with monogrammed gates blocking off mile-long driveways.

But don't be deterred; there is room for all types in this town. If you want to explore the scenic beaches for the weekend, forget renting a house or staying in an overpriced hotel. Try a bed and breakfast instead. Blake's Lodging, run by local Jeanie Blake, has been featured in Elle magazine and The New York Times, yet still remains a treasure. Situated a mere five-minute walk from the center of town, the 1810 farmhouse offers quiet, comfy accommodations (see photo) at a reasonable price ($135-$210 per night depending on the season). There is a two night minimum and Jeanie serves breakfast in the backyard garden each morning. Plus, she knows the town well and can offer helpful tips for tourists.

The best way to explore the beaches is the rent a bike and ride around town. I was able to hit up several beaches by bike, complete with basket. Rent bikes for fair prices at Khanh Sports -- an East Hampton staple. Khanh has been running the local sports shop for years. It beats cabbing it to the beaches and is the best way to get a sense of the town. Get lost on side streets, admire the homes and pick out the beach that best suits your sunbathing needs.

Like Manhattan, restaurants in the Hamptons aren't cheap. Check out Turtle Crossing, a Southwestern-style local hotspot with outdoor seating for inexpensive summer dining. If you're looking to pack a picnic lunch for the beach, grab a sandwich at Citarella. Their soft-shell crab sandwich is a must try! For a treat or romantic date, go to East Hampton Point restaurant and dine overlooking Three Mile Harbor and watch as the yachts dock. The restaurant has an outdoor bar and every Saturday night you can catch fireworks from the deck.

Share your ideal summer weekend getaway at fabulouslyfrugalnyc@gmail.com.

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