Bridgehampton: Bridge to Somewhere

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Bridgehampton: Bridge to Somewhere

The hamlet of Bridgehampton is a juxtaposition of sorts. While visiting "Bridge," a drive down Ocean Road will bring you past huge mansions with names like "Warbler's Den" and "Sand Dollar," while on that same road you are likely to pass a tractor as it slowly sputters along toward the fields just a couple of blocks away. Quaint nearby farm stands sell homemade pies and fresh-cut sunflowers, yet the same farm stands also sell privet used to hedge those mansions. You can still get a chocolate malted at the Candy Kitchen luncheonette that's been there for years and years but you'll have to vie for a parking space to do it...in-between a long row of luxury cars: Lexus, Mercedes, Audi, Land Rover, BMW, the occasional Ferrari, and the list goes on (and on and on, down the entire length of the street).

This mix of hometown charm and sophistication are evident in antiques shops like Eclectiques (Antiques at Hayground), an old-fashioned antiques store but with Louis Vuitton trunks, English Country Antiques, with both new and antique home furnishings, Laurin Copen Antiques, and Hampton Briggs Antiques. Visit nearby Bridgehampton Commons, where Victoria's Secret and Gap sit alongside the local supermarket, Kmart, and TJ Maxx. In the heart of town you'll find J. McLaughlin, Anne Moore, Maison 24, Tutto Bene, and a favorite of ours, Out of the Closet, a fantastic vintage and used clothing shop set inside a charming old two-story house.

VIPs and celebrities who have discovered the charm of Bridgehampton include newcomer to the fold, Madonna, now the owner of a multiacre horse farm. Other "names" with homes here: Kelly Ripa, artist Chuck Close, sportscaster and former NFL player Boomer Esiason, and Bridgehampton native and baseball Hall-of-Famer Carl Yastrzemski.

Bridgehampton is a popular destination, too, because of great annual events that take place here. The Hampton Classic, a horse-jumping competition, draws equestrians from around the world. The Classic also has a vast array of outdoor activities for the kids, plus lots of outdoor booths that sell— what else?—horse-related products. ArtHamptons, another annual event, is one of the top fine art fairs in America, set on the sprawling acreage at Sayre Park. The Mercedes-Benz Polo Challenge, promoted by Lawlor Media Group in New York City, takes place at the Blue Star Jets Fields at Two Trees Farm. The polo matches are a unique and interesting way to spend the summertime Saturdays. Tailgate it with friends and family... unless you're lucky enough to be on "the list" for the VIP tent!

Two gorgeous nearby beaches, Mecox Beach and Cameron Beach, are part of the draw for tourists and those looking to settle here or buy a second (or third) home. Of course, the local vineyards might play a part in Bridgehampton's appeal, too. Visiting Wölffer Estate Vineyard is like visiting Italy without ever leaving the Hamptons. It has a charming Old-World interior with a view of graceful rolling vineyards. Live music is offered through October, from 5pm to sunset, on "Twilight Thursdays" and "Sunset Fridays," and be sure to check their website for their "Happenings." (There was a fête to celebrate Martha Stewart earlier this summer.) Equally appealing but in a totally different way is Channing Daughters Winery. It has vineyards, a tasting room and classes, and lots of fun, quirky art, most of it smack in the middle of the vineyard...including a 40'-tall sculpture of a pencil!

Low-key ways to relax while in town: a visit to Hamptons Hot Yoga, which focuses on Bikram Yoga, a series of beginner yoga postures that become an energetic form of exercise done in a heated room. Another calming activity is a visit to the non-profit South Fork Natural History Museum and Nature Center (SoFo), popular with all age groups. Whether in the museum or in the field, this is a fun way to learn about nature, with interactive exhibits, live reptiles and amphibians, a marine "touch tank," nature walks, hiking trails, and children's programs. History lovers should visit the Bridgehampton Historical Society, where visitors can enjoy the Corwith House, old steam engines, a 1902 jailhouse, and a blacksmith shop. The Society also conducts tours of the 1820 Beebe Windmill, a National Historic Landmark.

For the kids: take them to a farm stand, get some pictures of them in front of a windmill, have lunch at a local luncheonette, check out some live theater, go fishing, and visit the Montauk Point Lighthouse. Then be sure to head to the Children's Museum of the East End (CMEE). It's a miniature East End! Interactive exhibits let children experience a pretend farm stand where the kids can "buy" and "sell" fruits and veggies; there is a small, indoor windmill, a pint-sized play luncheonette, a "theater" where kids can dress up and go on stage, a "fishing" station, a lighthouse area, and much more. They have lots of classes for children, too. But be warned: it's very easy to miss the museum, even when you kinda-sorta know where it is. (Can someone please put up a big sign by the road?)

After making the rounds, you'll need a bite to eat, and good restaurants abound. Be on the lookout for celebrity sightings at cozy Yama-Q, which offers healthy Asian and sushi dishes, along with vegan choices, all in a Zen-like atmosphere with a relaxing vibe (perhaps due to sake intake?). World Pie has fun and friendly décor, reasonably priced pizza and salads, a nice bar area, and large umbrella-topped tables outside that overlook the action on Main Street. Almond, set in a ramshackle house-like setting, is covered in charming flowering vines. The inside has a French bistro feel, nice menu, and fair prices, making this a place that locals and tourists visit again and again. Citarella is a gourmet food shop, open seven days, which offers outdoor seating with umbrellas—a convenient way to have a bite to eat before stocking up on groceries. Bobby Van's, a staple in the Hamptons and the place to see and be seen in Bridge, is the steak place of choice. The atmosphere is comfortable yet elegant (read: linen tablecloths), and offers lunch, dinner, additional outdoor seating, and a full bar (which is always a good thing). Plus you never know who will be seated next to you...

While mentioning what the hamlet has to offer, it is important to also note Bridgehampton National Bank. Known for its community support and for helping non-profit organizations, the bank is celebrating its 100th birthday this year. What started as a tiny bank with only $25,000 in deposits now has 17 branches and almost a billion dollars in assets!

And of course, there is always that one question visitors ask: What is that statue in the middle of Highway 27? Answer: The Founders' Monument, commemorating the history of Bridgehampton. Unveiled on July 4, 1910, the monument marks the hamlet's 250th anniversary, and honors local war veterans—all the way back to the Revolutionary War!

Whether you're here for a visit or live here year-round, Bridgehampton is a growing and always-changing place filled with small-town goodness and sophistication, making it an ideal destination.

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