Lazy days at the beach, outdoor movies at a park, weekends spent in the water -- with summer comes two gloriously long months to enjoy Long Island's outdoor mainstays.
The third annual exploreLI "50 Best Things to Do This Summer" series kicks off today with our best suggestions for how to spend your leisure time. Here are 10 picks worthy of planning a day trip out to the East End.
BIKE THE VINES
It's an unconventional way to sample the North Fork wineries. Three companies are now running guided vineyard tours by bicycle that depart from the Mattituck Long Island Rail Road station -- each includes bike/helmet rental, gourmet picnic lunches and a full itinerary of pit stops.
Vintage Bicycle Tours' "Signature Tour" is a 12-mile excursion to two vineyards that includes sampling of eight wines, extra-virgin olive oil and fine vinegars. You'll stop at farm stands, too ($119, 516-713-1039, vintagebicycletours.com). Adventure Cycles & Sports runs a six-hour tour that includes tastings, fresh fruit, cheese and dessert platers at three wineries spread over 16 miles ($160 includes bike rental, 516-755-2453, gorideabike.com).
Bike and Roll's excursion is the longest at 22 miles -- you'll visit two wineries, taste cheese at Catapano Dairy Farm and take self-guided tours at Horton Point Lighthouse and Cutchogue Village Green to view 17th century buildings ($129, 212-260-0400, bikenewyorkcity.com).. (May 19, 2012)
DAY CAMP IN MONTAUK
The vibe is "summer-camp-for-grownups" at Ruschmeyer's, a recently refurbished hotel-bar-restaurant near Fort Pond in Montauk. Dine al fresco on the lawn of The Magic Garden, hung with Chinese lanterns and outfitted with a giant teepee, an ideal place to frolic for kids and/or their parents. At the Sand Bar, an outdoor recreation area that sits atop a sand-filled former swimming pool, you can play pingpong or hang out at umbrella-topped picnic tables. (631-668-2877, kingandgrove.com). (2011)
JOIN THE PIE CULT
If you've driven down Sound Avenue in Riverhead on a weekend afternoon, you've probably seen it: a line snaking out the side door at Briermere Farms. They're in it for the pies -- fruit and cream concoctions in unusual flavors (think peach cherry, blackberry apple, apricot) -- two dozen or so varieties are sold daily at $15-$29, and it's not unusual to see customers leaving with two or three. Hype? You'll have to decide for yourself (631-722-3931, briermere.com). (Oct. 8, 2011)
BUY (AFFORDABLE) ART
Consider it the budget alternative to July's ArtHamptons and artMRKT, where high-end art goes for staggering prices. Guild Hall's Clothesline Art Sale in East Hampton (9 a.m.-4 p.m. Aug. 4) is a wildly popular sale of work by 400 East End artists. In-the-know buyers line up before the doors open for first crack at the art -- which is hung on walls, fences, chairs, clotheslines. Prices start at $50 with nothing over $2,000 (631-324-0806, guildhall.org). (2009)
MEET THE AUTHORS
Hobnob with East End literati at the eighth annual Authors Night Aug. 11, a benefit for the East Hampton Library. The evening starts with cocktails under the tent at Gardiner Farm, where you'll rub elbows with founding co-chair Alec Baldwin, Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Robert Caro, bestseller David Baldacci and others. Afterward, author dinners at private homes around the area offer the opportunity for more intimate literary chat. Tickets go on sale in late May; $100 for the cocktail party, up to $2,500 for the dinners (631-324-0222, authorsnight.org).(August 13, 2011)
ESCAPE TO SHELTER ISLAND
Between the frenzied glitz of the Hamptons and agricultural bustle of the North Fork lies Shelter Island, an oasis of indolence reachable via ferry from either fork. The dearth of cars makes cycling a pleasure (Piccozzi's Bike Shop, 631-749-0045, rents bikes), or hire a kayak and paddle instead of pedal (Shelter Island Kayak Tours, 631-749-1990, kayaksi.com). Naturalists will enjoy the hikes at Mashomack Preserve (631-749-1001, nature.org/mashomack). Dinner at locavore magnet 18 Bay (631-749-0053, 18bayrestaurant.com). (2009)
PORCH & PATIO B&B TOUR
Five North Fork bed & breakfasts will throw their doors open wide to give you a peek on this annual self-guided tour, noon-5 p.m. June 9. At each stop, you'll sample local wines and culinary treats from area restaurants. It's a leisurely introduction to life on the North Fork, ($75, 631-734-7549, bbnofo.com).
MELLOW OUT WITH MEXICAN
The beauty of nature and the glory of authentic Mexican food converge at La Fondita, a veritable East End landmark in Amagansett. There are lovely trees by the benches in front; in the back, you'll find picnic tables and pastoral scenery. Revel in such Mexican street food classics as a fish taco, chorizo torta (sandwich) or posole (soup) with pork and chili. For locals and celebs alike, it's a Hamptons summer must (631-267-8800, lafondita.net).
You can spend the better part of a weekend afternoon trolling tiny antique shops sprinkled along Route 25 on the North Fork. Start in Jamesport, where you can browse goods old and new at Material Objects, set within a converted barn. Continue on through Cutchogue, Southold and finally Greenport, where you can park and stroll to a good number of shops downtown and get a bite to eat.(May 20, 2012)
NORTH FORK LUNCH TRUCK
In the parking area of the North Fork Table & Inn sits The Lunch Truck, a wallet-friendly alternative to the four-star dining room. (Oct. 2, 2010)