Drives With Children (northern tour)
NEW ENGLAND FAMILY DRIVES: Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine
New England is a perfect spot for a family getaway with children. It’s easy to mix learning with holiday fun for children at the numerous interesting attractions and museums throughout New England. This tour through the northern states offers a family vacation of fun and wildlife, history re-created and sports. Come face-to-face with falcons and moose, then take on the man-made thrills of twisting coasters. Eat the best ice cream on the planet: New Englanders consume more than any other region of the USA. Buy a cone and find out why!
- Lowell, Massachusetts: Boott Cotton Mills
Set on the powerful Merrimack River, Lowell was at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution. In the massive Boott Cotton Mills Museum, renovated looms are noisy reminders of working practices in days gone by. Part of the Lowell National Historical Park.
- Salem, New Hampshire: Canobie Lake Park
This amusement park is a century old, but its 50 rides are bang up to date. Try the water ride, the Corkscrew Coaster, and the Yankee Cannonball roller coaster.
- Jaffrey, New Hampshire: Mount Monadnock
Climb a mountain! At just over 3,000 ft, Mount Monadnock is the world’s most climbed mountain; some 125,000 hikers make it to the summit each year. Allow between 1½ to 4 hours: on a clear day, the reward is views to all six New England states.
- Charlestown, New Hampshire: Fort at No 4
The Fort at No 4 Living History Museum takes you back over 250 years to early settler days, when New Hampshire and Vermont were the frontier, with the French and Indians eager to attack. Regular events help to recreate the past. This site is reopening in 2011.
- Chester, Vermont: Green Mountain Flyer
From the 1920′s Bellows Station, the Green Mountain Flyer train runs to Chester Depot through wonderful scenery along the Connecticut and Williams Rivers.
- Bromley, Vermont: Speed thrills
Whiz two-thirds of a mile down the mountain on the Alpine Slide at Bromley ski resort.
- Woodstock, Vermont: Classic town, country lore
Woodstock makes a lovely base for visiting local conservation projects. Birds of prey such as peregrine falcons and red-tailed hawks are the stars of the raptor center at VINS (the Vermont Institute of Natural Science). At Billings Farm & Museum, a working dairy farm, milking is at 3pm. Next door is Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, with its mansion and 550-acre forest.
- Norwich, Vermont: Montshire Museum of Science
The lively hands-on displays about technology, ecology and other sciences are fun for all ages at the Montshire Museum of Science (part VerMONT, part New HampSHIRE). The outdoor Science Park covers two acres, but there are over 100 more, criss-crossed by a network of walking trails.
- Waterbury and Stowe, Vermont: Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory
Get the scoop on the men behind one of Vermont’s most popular attractions: Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory. Free tastings afterwards, and a must-visit scoop shop. Afterwards, work off those calories in Stowe, either mountain biking or following the gentle 5.3-mile Recreation Path.
- Side trip: Burlington, Vermont: ECHO
ECHO stands for ecology, culture, history and opportunity. This aquarium-cum-science center, with over 100 interactive exhibits, is on the Burlington Waterfront.
- New Hampshire’s White Mountains: Family Fun!
Many of the ski resort cable cars run in summer, so you can glide up to glorious views. In Lincoln, climb aboard the 15-mile Hobo Railroad, get soaked at the Whale’s Tale water park and visit Clark’s Trading Post. Pan for gemstones at Lost River in North Woodstock, then hike up the Flume Gorge in Franconia Notch. At Bretton Woods, chug up Mount Washington on the world’s oldest mountain-climbing cog railway. In Jefferson, celebrate Christmas at Santa’s Village. Ride in a pumpkin coach like Cinderella at Story Land in Glen. At North Conway, you can board the Conway Scenic Railroad. Near Plymouth, go underground at Polar Caves Park.
- Gray, Maine: Maine Wildlife Park
Injured and orphaned wildlife, such as bald eagles, are cared for at the Maine Wildlife Park.
- Freeport, Maine: Desert of Maine
The Desert of Maine is a geological oddity. See the sand dunes on a ‘safari tour’; children can hunt for gemstones.
- Side trip: Maine attractions: Family Fun!
If you are driving north, there’s plenty more family fun. In Augusta, the state capital, Old Fort Western, the oldest wooden military building in the US, dates back to 1754. With its imaginative displays dedicated to subjects such as music, art and anatomy, experts rate Bangor’s Maine Discovery Museum (a children’s museum) as one of the best in the Northeast. The same goes for the Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport, with its historic boats. Cars and planes, many in working order, are the pride and joy of Rockland’s impressive Owl’s Head Transportation Museum.
- Portland, Maine: Children’s Museum of Maine
A lobster boat and car repair shop, a tidepool touch tank and climbing wall: no wonder this museum appeals to children of all ages. Don’t miss the Camera Obscura, the only one in New England.
- Saco and Old Orchard Beach, Maine: Watery fun
Among its rides and slides, Funtown/Splashtown USA (Saco) has New England’s longest and tallest log flume ride, while Palace Playland at Old Orchard Beach is an amusement park right on the ocean. In summer, the Thursday night fireworks are a tradition.
- Portsmouth, New Hampshire: Living history
Walk into the past at the excellent Strawbery Banke Museum, where some 40 houses reflect 300 years of domestic life and architecture. Watch craftsmen at work, perhaps potting, coopering or building wooden boats. See how gardening changed from 1728 to 1944. The regular special events are particularly popular.
- Salem, Massachusetts: Witches and more
The most haunted city in America has a sad tale to tell about the cruel 1692 persecution of witches. Hard to believe today, the gruesome details are spelled out at the Salem Witch Museum (suitable for older children). There’s also a Salem Pirate Museum and Salem Witch Dungeon Museum. But don’t overlook this city’s rich maritime past with a self-guided or organized tour and a trip on the schooners Friendship or Fame.