My husband’s side of the family, all 21 of us—12 adults and 10 kids, gathers every summer at Martha’s Vineyard to celebrate the 4th of July.
His mom has been renting a home on the island for over 20 years running. It is a wonderful tradition and a lovely venue for the cousins (all under age 10) to explore the world and just be kids, free from organized activities, sports, clubs, lessons, or anything else that even resembles being contrived. They enjoy traditional summertime kid stuff like eating ice cream, playing on the beach, swimming in the pool, communing with nature, etc. etc. Our favorite tradition is to watch the 4th of July parade together.
The streets of Edgartown are closed briefly on the evening of July 4th for the incredible small-town parade. Hundreds of families line the sidewalks and sit on the curb to watch the big event. There are bagpipers, fire engines, dancing troupes, and other organizations that march the streets and throw candy to the children. The whole procession lasts about an hour and everyone gets a kick out of it.
The island of Martha’s Vineyard itself is best described as “traditional,” ”preppy,” or “quaint,”– the perfect Americana backdrop to celebrate the birth of our nation. You won’t find any name brand hotels, no Marriotts or Hyatts, no Ritz Carlton or Four Seasons. The island is only busy during the summer months—very few people actually live there full-time, making the entire city of Edgartown exceptionally boutique. All of the hotels are older and historic looking and the only name brand store is Vineyard Vines which just so happens to be founded there.
During our trips we enjoy staying at the Harborside Inn—it has a pool unlike any other hotel properties in town, cozy rooms, and its location on Main Street and Water Street is ideal. The whole old-school ambiance just kind of slows you down, relaxes you, and encourages you to be free from distraction and utterly present.
Although the house that my husbands family rents is large and could technically accommodate all of us, we think it’s nice to have some time to ourselves. My husband travels probably 40+ weeks out of the year so our vacation time together becomes rather scarce and therefore highly valuable.
I wanted to share my top 5 list of things to do while in Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard. It is such a magical place, especially around holiday weekends like the 4th. Pack your red white and blue and make sure to do the following:
There are several family-friendly beaches on Edgartown. One is walking distance from the center of town (Fuller Street Beach—no waves, lots of shells, shallow, rocky) and a few that require a ferry ride in the car (this is a fun spectacle for the kids). You drive out onto the beach for the latter which is great because you can load up the car full of picnic lunches, drinks, umbrellas, sand toys, etc. The water is freezing cold and the waves can be strong but the beach scene itself is fabulous.
This tiny ice cream shop in the middle of town only accepts cash and has maybe four tables and an old juke box. The ice cream is delicious and it has become a tradition to take the kids there.
NRO Kids is an upscale toy and clothing shop in town. If you are in the market for an $80 smock dress or Melissa and Doug paraphernalia, this is your spot. We always seem to pick up crafts here for rainy days on the island. Our 4-year-old daughter really enjoys browsing here and playing with the train table.
The Alpaca Farm
If you have a car on the island, the alpaca farm is a quick 20 minute drive. You can pet these cute creatures and explore the gift shop that sells everything alpaca (its almost like cashmere). The kids loved this.
Adjacent to Katama, one of the drive-up beaches on Martha’s Vineyard, is the bay. The bay is a very shallow body of water in which the children can wade with their buckets and find all sorts of wiggly creatures such as hermit crabs, minnows, and clams. Unlike the chilly ocean water, the bay is more temperate for the kids. The shallow nature of the bay provides toddlers a little more autonomy in the water. I sat on the shore with my sister in-law as our daughters waded 50 feet out and collected treasures together. Be sure to buy a permit in advance in order to drive on Katama Beach to get to the bay.