Year-Round Family Fun in New England
Picture it: Your family is gathered around the dining room table trying to come up with either a quick, weekend getaway or a cool activity to do on a weekend or day off from school. Inevitably the one time you all agree on something low and behold – the attraction or locale isn’t in season (but they’ll open again two months from now when you’re bombarded with sports activities and birthday parties).
Have no fear, in the New England area there is always something to tickle your fancy. With a ton of family-friendly options that range from educational to downright silly, these spots are just as fantastic in the summer as they are in the winter.
There’s tons to see and do when visiting some of New England’s most family-friendly museums.
Head over to Boston Children’s Museum (308 Congress St., Boston, Mass.) at literally any point during the year and you’re likely to find a variety of different kid-centric events to delight your family, aside from the tried-and-true mainstay exhibits like the Art Studio, Construction Zone and Kid Power. Your littles won’t even realize how much they’re learning because they’ll be too busy playing … and that’s the whole point right?
For a different type of museum, Waterworks (2450 Beacon St., Boston, Mass.) explains the fascinating way in which we get the very water we drink, and on an even grander scale, how our water affects the way Boston has grown as a city. Located on site of the original Chestnut Hill Reservoir and pumping station, you’ll never look at your H2O the same way again.
Don’t wait to get your kids into science, the time is now. And there’s no better way to foster an interest than by a visit to the Museum of Science (1 Science Park, Boston, Mass.). Permanent exhibits include A Bird’s World, Butterfly Garden, Cosmic Light, Discovery Center and Math Moves!: Experiencing Ratio and Proportion. There’s so much to explore that you’ll probably find your family requiring multiple trips to experience everything – not to mention the arrival of visiting exhibits that will make the museum feel brand new again.
If you find yourself in Rhode Island, you’ll likely never have to utter the words don’t touch at Providence Children’s Museum (10 South St., Providence, R.I.), where kids can be kids, exploring to their heart’s content. All year long the exhibits, designed for kids ages 1 to 11, are at the ready to provide informative fun. Pretend you’re a worm in Underland where you can search through tunnels and critters’ burrows, or hit up Play Power where you’re invited to build magnetic mazes and send cool stuff flying through air tubes.
If your littles love all things transport-related, stop by the Connecticut Trolley Museum (58 North Road, East Windsor, Conn.) where you can take unlimited trolley rides with admission and learn about this mass transit of yesteryear. You’ll also find the Connecticut Fire Museum on the grounds, which preserves antique fire trucks and gear. Your aspiring first responder will love exploring the fire alarm office and a 1948 American LaFrance ladder truck.
Sometimes you truly just need to bounce it out, and that’s what Launch Trampoline Park (570 Providence Highway, Norwood, Mass.) is here for. There are no age restrictions at Launch and keep in mind that guests under the age of 2 jump for free with a paid adult admission. They do have an area for kiddos 42 inches and under so that they feel like they can safely jump as much as they want, but are allowed in the other areas as well. And if you’re feeling particularly sporty you’ll definitely want to participate in a round of Extreme Dodgeball!
The question shouldn’t be what can you do in Johnny Appleseed Country (1000 Route 2 Westbound, Boston, Mass.), it should be what can’t you do – which is pretty much nothing. There are so many activities to get you moving (and learning!) at this popular destination that you’ll definitely find yourself wanting to check it out year-round. From hiking and rock climbing to horseback riding to winter activities, not only will Johnny Appleseed Country get your family going, you’ll make unforgettable memories (so don’t forget your camera!).
Looking for a little less talk and a lot more action? Then you have to check out Mountain Fun (340 Quinnipiac St., Wallingford, Conn.), a climbing gym for kids as young as 6 years. If rock climbing is new to you and your family, they offer one-hour Try a Climb sessions Tuesday through Sunday. If you find you’ve caught the climbing bug, you can cross the street to Prime Climb afterwards for a Beginner Lesson or an Advanced Try a Climb session.
Get away for the weekend during any time of year by booking a visit to Gunstock Mountain Resort (719 Cherry Valley Road, Gilford, N.H.). In the winter the resort is a premier destination for family-friendly skiing, tubing, and even winter camping. In the summer experience the exhilaration of ziptour ziplines, aerial treetop adventures, off-road Segway tours and so much more.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Santa’s Village (528 Presidential Highway, Jefferson, N.H.), New Hampshire’s popular destination for celebrating the jolly guy in red almost year round. With rides like the Skyway Sleigh (a monorail that travels 30 feet above the park), the Chimney Drop (exactly what it sounds like and not for the faint of heart) and Little Elf Flying School (perfect for the littles), families are immersed in the spirit of the holiday season even during summer months.
The Hasbro Boundless Playground (1000 Elmwood Ave., Providence, R.I.) was designed with children with physical disabilities in mind. Ideally they should be able to participate in 70 percent of the play activities the space provides without the need of their support equipment. And there’s nothing sweeter than seeing all kids laugh and play together.
Take your kids to the heart of our country’s rich history with a visit to Plymouth County. Check out Plimoth Plantatation (137 Warren Ave., Plymouth, Mass.) where you can see the Mayflower II, learn how they lived in a 17th century village and so much more. There’s no better way to learn about history than to feel like you’re right in the middle of it. Trust us when we say not only will your kids love it here, but you will, too. And while you’re in the area, head over to Plymouth Rock (79 Water St., Plymouth, Mass.) in Pilgrim Memorial State Park to see the pilgrims’ actual steppingstone to the New World.
It’s time to take a walk down memory, make that history, lane by exploring the Freedom Trail (139 Tremont St., Mass.), a two-and-a-half-mile route (lined in red) that will lead you to 16 historical sites, learning more and more about the American Revolution with each stop. Boston Common, Park Street Church and the USS Constitution are just a few places you’ll see.
For a seriously cool experience, make the drive to DeLorme (2 DeLorme Dr., Yarmouth, Maine) because the tech company houses Eartha, the biggest rotating and revolving globe in the world. Kids and adults alike can’t help but say, “Whoa,” when they are confronted with the ginormous three-dimensional scale model of our planet with mountains and other landforms in 3D. It’s so huge that Eartha is a Guinness World Record holder.
If your child dreams of outer space, plan a visit to Seagrave Memorial Observatory (47 Peeptoad Road, North Scituate, R.I.), which is open year-round every clear Saturday evening (weather permitting, of course) for a chance to learn and explore the night sky with members of the Skyscrapers Astronomical Society. You’ll never look at the stars the same way again.
Kelly Bryant is associate editor of Boston Parents Paper.