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Hamptons delights on a budget

The Mill House Inn, a Bed and Breakfast

The Mill House Inn, a Bed and Breakfast in East Hampton has an extensive breakfast menu, homemade cookies baked throughout the day, suites with gas fireplaces, dog friendly rooms. The front enclosed porch overlooks the historic Old Hook Windmill and just steps to the village shops and restaurants. (Jan. 19, 2013) Photo by Randee Daddona Photo Credit: Randee Daddona

The Hamptons are known for glitz and glamour and beautiful beaches, but for many, the true magic of the area is its natural beauty and history, and so much is available for very little cost.

Although town officials of Southampton and East Hampton banter back and forth over which is the "oldest town" on Long Island, it is clear from the renovation and salvation of their past structures that both take history seriously. Any one of these detours can begin or end with what the Hamptons is known for: people-watching along the main streets.


1. FREE OUTDOOR CONCERTS

In the center of Southampton Village is the pastoral Agawam Park -- 60 acres on a pond -- with a children's playground. On Wednesday nights during the summer, the Southampton Cultural Center holds its free "Summer Concerts in the Park" series at both Agawam Park and Coopers Beach. Bring a blanket and picnic dinner to the Agawam dates, which start at 6:30 p.m. and include acts ranging from doo-wop group The Precisions (July 24), to big band pop sounds of New Life Crisis (Aug. 21). Dates for Coopers Beach include Project Vibe, a local reggae-sounds band (July 31). There's no fee for parking after 6 p.m. (631-287-4377, southamptonculturalcenter.org).


2. BROWSE ART

Southampton Cultural Center, across from Agawam Park at 25 Pond Lane and host of the concerts there, has opened the Levitas Center for the Arts, a gallery with the modernistic (and minimalistic) feel of high ceilings and windows bathing it in white light. The Southampton Artists Association exhibits local painters and sculptors. "The Flower Show," running till July 7, highlights 10 artists' interpretations of flowers. Gallery hours are 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday to Saturday (or by appointment); admission is free.


3. ROAM BRIDGE GARDENS

One place to take in nature is the 5-acre public garden in Bridgehampton run by the Peconic Land Trust. Bring a picnic meal and mosey along the paths among the lush flowers and shrubs, such as the rose garden, bamboo room, topiaries and unique hedgerows. A four-quadrant herb garden contains culinary, medicinal, textiles/dyes and ornamental plantings.

Open Wednesday through Sunday at 36 Mitchell Lane, Bridge Gardens also offers live music every other Friday starting July 5 at 6 p.m. Admission to the grounds is $10 a person or $20 for a group of four (631- 283-3195, peconiclandtrust.org).


4. VISIT THE ARTISTS' HOUSE

You can tour the East Hampton home of legendary Abstract Expressionist painter Jackson Pollock and his artist wife, Lee Krasner.

The Pollock-Krasner House, declared a National Historic Landmark in 1994, offers tours during the summer. While visitors can walk through the house on their own, it's worth the cost of a guided tour, which includes walking (with disposable slippers, of course) across the floor in the barn where Pollock would fling paint to make his works of art.

"It gives you an insight into their lives," says Helen Harrison, the center's director. "When you go to a museum, you see their work. When you come here, you see their relationship, and relationship to the local community, as well."

The grounds, abutting Accabonac Creek, are spectacular and were a large part of why the couple loved their country home. The house, at 830 Springs-Fireplace Rd., has one-hour summer tours at noon Thursdays-Saturdays ($10 adults, $5 younger than 12, reservations required). Self-guided tours, $5, are available from 1 to 5 p.m. (631-324-4929, pkhouse.org).


5 CLIMB A WINDMILL

The Hook Windmill, at the juncture of Route 27 and Main Street in East Hampton, is known to anyone who has driven through the town. The three-story, English-style 1806 windmill is open to visitors, who can see the inner workings, such as the two sets of grinding stones used for grain and a large brake wheel.

"It has all its working parts," says Hugh R. King, historic site director for East Hampton Village, which owns the windmill. It's $2 for adults and $1 for kids. Open July and August from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Sundays, 2-4 p.m. (631-324-0713, homesweethomemuseum.org).

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