Lauren Oak's children sported party hats and feasted on birthday cake during a recent camping trip to Cedar Point County Park in East Hampton. No one busted the piñata because there wasn't a place to hang it.
About 30 children attended, but it was no one's birthday -- just another gathering of the Mothers of Twins Club of Suffolk County, which has visited the campsite each summer for the past 17 years.
"I like the beach, being able to get down there easily from the campsite," said Oak, 37, of North Babylon, mother of twins Emily and Abigail, 7, Molly, 4, and Rebecca, 19. "It's not rough water, so you don't have to worry about being swept off. There's a playground, and they have areas big enough where we could put all the families on one big site."
Cedar Point is a Suffolk County park situated on 607 acres with views of Gardiners Bay and the Cedar Point Lighthouse. Campground amenities include bathrooms, showers and water hookups. There are also nature trails and picnic areas, and campers can rent rowboats, fish and visit the General Store. Visitors can camp at the park through Columbus Day.
Lesley Longmcleod, also a mother of twins and the group's parliamentarian, agrees that Cedar Point works for practicality as much as fun. She said the lack of distractions has helped create great family time over the years with daughter Sarah, 20, twins Ian and Cassandra, 19, and husband Kevin.
"My 19-year-old son spent the major part of his days reading three historical biographies," Longmcleod, of North Babylon, said of last month's trip. "No video games, no laptops, no TVs, no videos, just families sitting out there and reading."
At Wildwood State Park in Wading River, Michael Sarmiento, of Levittown, recently enjoyed some downtime with his family -- wife Imee, 33, and sons Kyle, 6, and Avery, 3.
"We've been going there almost every summer the last few years," said Sarmiento, 32. "Location-wise, it's really close, you don't have to drive all the way up to Lake George."
Like Cedar Point, Wildwood is large -- 600 acres -- comes with water views (it overlooks Long Island Sound) and offers various amenities, including fishing, hiking and cross-country ski trails.
Rates vary at the two campsites. At Cedar Point, the daily rate for a campsite is $15 for Suffolk residents with a Green Key Card, and $30 for residents and nonresidents without one. Discounts are available for veterans, seniors and the disabled. Though there are water hookups, there is no electrical service available.
Wildwood's campsites are open through Columbus Day, which is Oct. 14. Rates for unimproved, or basic, campsites are $15 a day; on weekends the fee is $19. Improved sites, which come with concrete platforms, are $18 a day, $22 on weekends. Trailer sites with utilities are $27 a day, $31 on weekends.
According to data from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, attendance at Wildwood from the start of peak season on Memorial Day weekend through mid-August is up more than 10 percent over last year. The park has seen 150,874 visitors, said Randy Simons, public information officer for the Parks office. He noted that the number is "pretty impressive when you consider the weather was less than ideal for the first half of our season."
Kyle and Avery helped their dad pitch the tent and make s'mores at their Wildwood campsite. It's simple fun with fishing and amenities like a volleyball court, but Sarmiento also liked having the Splish Splash water park nearby in case things got too quiet.
"[Wildwood] is clean, it's safe, it's great to be outdoors," he said. "There's security around the clock; I can let the kids roam around and ride their bikes around the park."
PLACES TO CAMP
Wildwood State Park
790 Hulse Landing Rd.
Wading River; 631-929-4314
Open through Oct. 14
Cedar Point County Park
5 Cedar Point Rd.
East Hampton; 631-852-7620
Open through Oct. 14
Hither Hills State Park
164 Old Montauk Hwy.
Open thru Nov. 23
Sources: New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation; Suffolk County