Martha’s Vineyard for Kids

The Obamas are taking a week off at Martha’s Vineyard — and I can’t think of a better place to be with your kids. There’s oodles of things for kids to do: jumping off the bridge in Jaws, riding the Oak Bluffs’ Flying Horses Carousel, hiking, biking, flirting with each other by the Edgartown harbor (don’t think I didn’t notice!), or maybe feeding the pigs at the kid-run Farm Institute. When I visited recently I saw kids all over the island, usually part of an arc of overlapping generations. They come all their lives, and someday will return the favor to their kids.

It’s something much of America comes to envy. Growing up in Oklahoma, I spent summers dodging locusts, jumping fences for short-cuts to get to air-conditioned stores to escape the 100-plus temperatures, and going to most of America’s favorite destination: “the lake.”

If you’re not near a sea, you go to “the lake.” Often a muddy, artificial one like Tulsa’s Keystone — or the one made in Deliverance outside Atlanta (Lake Lanier). I remember vacationing near Kilgore, Texas, one hot summer and diving deep where water temperatures weren’t lukewarm, opening my eyes and seeing nothing but darkness — then a catfish poked its head out of the abyss, blew a bubble, and disappeared. I was scared.

It’s tempting for some us non-coasters to think of Martha’s Vineyard as an exclusive country club of Kennedys. But it really isn’t. I learned recently on the Vineyard that it’s far more accessible than one might think. First, the locals are a diverse lot, and equally welcoming (more so than the Hamptons). And you don’t have to pay $50,000 a week. There are campgrounds, hostels and $100 guesthouses, plus rental houses for about the same.

It’s just another form of lake, but with benefits.

If you go with kids, pick up a kids’ guidebook to the island called Quest at Vineyard Haven’s Bunch of Grapes bookstore. It features a few activity-based itineraries to island beaches, swimming holes and hiking trails — all created by island students.

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