From the sandy beaches of Cape Cod to the White Mountains, there are many fun things to do in New England. See the fall foliage blanket the mountains from the top of Mount Washington or Acadia National Park’s Mount Desert Island. In the summer, visit New England family vacation spots like Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard.
Enjoy a wintertime family vacation in New England by heading to the ski areas in Vermont’s Green Mountains or see the holiday decorations adorn the historical homes in Newport, Rhode Island. Here are Trekaroo’s top 10 places to visit in New England with kids.
Fun Things to Do With Kids in New England
1. Go Whale Watching or Hiking at Acadia National Park
The crown jewel of the New England seashore is Acadia National Park. Craggy shores, majestic mountains, and historical lighthouses offer many options for the traveling family. Be sure to drive the park loop road from Bar Harbor and go to the top of Cadillac Mountain to see some amazing views.
More adventurous families can try some hiking. A kid-friendly favorite is the easy Ship Harbor Loop Trail that travels from forest to shoreline. Check the tide chart before leaving and maybe find tide pools for exploring.
More experienced hikers with older children will relish the iron rung hikes that are deemed strenuous and technical with iron bars to climb the granite cliffs near the shore on the Beehive Trail.
2. Ride the Cog Railway to the Top of Mount Washington in New Hampshire
The King of New Hampshire is Mount Washington. This over 6000 ft. peak may pale in comparison to other mountains across the country, but in these parts it knows little competition. The snow capped peak is visible on clear days which are fabled to not happen very often.
There are several ways to enjoy seeing and learning about the highest peak of the White Mountain chain. It can be viewed from afar while driving into the forest, however the best way is to see it from the top.
Hiking can be daunting and is recommended for only the heartiest of hikers due to unexpected and severe climate changes that can occur. Hiking a nearby summit for a better view of the peak is advisable.
Mount Jefferson offers this challenge. From the trail on Jefferson be on the lookout for the puffs of smoke from the Cog railway, which offers yet another way to get to the summit. Choose the vintage steam engine or environmentally friendly biodiesel option. The last option is to use the Mount Washington Auto Road. Brave families drive their own vehicle to the top.
If you are not ready to brave a trip to the top of the mountain, stop in downtown North Conway to experience the free weather center. Hands-on exhibits capture the severity of the weather on top of Mount Washington for young kids. While there, plan a road trip on the Kancamagus Highway which is especially gorgeous in the fall.
Planning a visit to New Hampshire? Check out Trekaroo’s Top 10 Things to do in New Hampshire.
3. Visit Vermont’s Largest City on the Shores of Lake Champlain
Lake Champlain straddles the New York, Vermont, and Canadian borders. This 490-square-mile lake creates a beautiful vista on the shores of happening Burlington, Vermont.
Check out these fun things to do in Burlington, Vermont with kids.
Many families soak up the leisure activities that the lake provides. Around the lake, children can frolic on the beach, enjoy the bike path, swim, and play at playgrounds. Families might also enjoy family resort areas such as the Basin Harbor Club right on the shores of the lake with family activities, outdoor pools, and a golf course.
The ECHO, a lakeside aquarium and science center, specializes in local wildlife and aquatics. Kids will love the hands-on exhibits, history of the ships that used the lake during war time.
Ten miles south of Burlington, families will find the kid-friendly Shelburne Museum. This museum houses a plethora of New England memorabilia including paintings by Whistlers Mother, a steam ship from Lake Champlain, other artwork and special exhibits designed to entice the whole family such as Circus Polooza.
Find more fun in Vermont. Discover the Top 10 Things to do in Vermont with Kids.
4. Walk the Historic Freedom Trail in Boston, Massachusetts
History enthusiasts need to look no farther than Boston for experiential learning. There are so many amazing things to do in Boston that real problem becomes finding time to fit it all in!
Plan a docent-led walk along the historical Freedom Trail. The trail highlights important sites from the birth of the United States and the Revolutionary War. Visit the Old South Meeting House where the infamous Boston Tea Party was planned.
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Nearby families can tour Paul Revere’s house and the Granary Burial ground where he is laid to rest. As part of the Freedom Trail, take a visit to Old Ironsides, a warship from the war of 1812 that also owes part of its history to Paul Revere.
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The perfect family day trip from Boston is a visit to Plimouth Plantation. This living history museum brings to life the village of the first settlers from England on American soil.
These folks are commonly referred to as Pilgrims, and guests of the plantation will not only learn about the lives of the early settlers from costumed docents, the ships that brought them to the new land, but also about local native people and their way of life.
Plan a road school adventure to learn about Boston’s history.
5. Take a Family-Friendly New England Vacation to Cape Cod National Seashore
As part of the National Park Service, the Cape Cod National Seashore consists of more than 40 miles of unspoiled New England beaches. The bluffs of the beach are magnificent as are the opportunities for wildlife viewing, hiking, biking, ranger-led treks, kayak trips, and historical lighthouse tours.
Families can make terrific memories spying seals bobbing their heads up while wading in the waves. Then stop for a tour of Nauset Lighthouse to learn the history of protecting the big ships from the craggy Massachusetts shore.
The northern most part of the seashore brings you to Provincetown, a small town known not only for its arts vibe and great food, but also for whale watching excursions. Here are even more Cape Cod towns your family will want to visit. And, when you get hungry, here are the best Cape Cod restaurants.
Dolphin Fleet Whalewatch will set you up on a trip into the Stellwagen Bay where visitors are almost certain to see the massive whales during the summer months. Spotting a breaching whale of mom and calf pair is unforgettable for wildlife enthusiasts.
Spend more time exploring the East Coast! Here are 13 East Coast cities to visit and add to your family’s bubcket list.
6. Shoot a Basket at the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts
Families with sports nuts, particularly basketball, won’t want to miss the giant basketball shaped dome that is the Basketball Hall of Fame. James Naismith got a team together at a local YMCA in 1891 to play his new game and the rest, they say, is history!
The Hall of Fame showcases many details and artifacts of famous basketball personalities throughout the years. Learn about local heroes such as UCONN championship coaches for men and women respectively: Jim Calhoun and Geno Auriemma, but also magnificent players like Michael Jordan or ‘Dr. J’ Julius Earving. Try your hand at shooting a few shots on the hallowed hoops of the hall of fame.
After a dose of basketball, head to the nearby Springfield Quadrangle to see the outdoor sculpture garden honoring Dr. Seuss and the friends he has brought to life for so many children. Horton, the Lorax, and the Grinch are celebrated here. The Quad also has a science museum and art museum for exploring.
7. Ride a Bike on Nantucket Island
Nantucket Island is located off of Cape Cod. Accessible by ferry, the quintessential New England Island allows for an escape from the mainland to a cobblestone lined historic island. Families can rent bikes to tour the island; a popular day trip is to Sconcet Beach to check out the waves.
Jetties Beach is more sheltered with a restaurant at the beach and less waves. At night the squid swim around the fancy boats moored at the dock.
The Maria Mitchell Aquarium is staffed by college students on internship. Also, the Nantucket Whaling Museum teaches visitors about the historic whaling trade of Nantucket. Oh and the sunsets….they are unforgettable!
8. Go Back in Time at Mystic Seaport, Connecticut
Connecticut’s shoreline history comes to life at the Mystic Seaport. The seaport is a living history museum that allows families to learn the details of a New England whaling village. The replica village with costumed historians allows everyone to learn about life in another time through hands-on experiences like clothes washing, knot tying, yarn spinning, carriage rides, and tours of actual whaling ships.
Wander around the indoor exhibits at nearby Mystic Aquarium to learn about local and exotic sea life. At the touch tank tykes young and old can pick up a starfish or crab while the nearby scientist tells them all about the creatures.
The aquarium is also a renowned rescue facility that nurses lost creatures back to health and releases them back into the wild. For the historical side visit the USS Nautilus at the Submarine Force Library and Museum in nearby Groton. A free glimpse of thousands of submarine artifacts and a tour of an actual submarine await your family!
Find more fun! Here are the 10 best things to do in Connecticut with kids.
9. Visit the Mansions and Cliff Walk of Newport, Rhode Island
The gilded history of the bygone days of summer cottages awaits travelers in Newport, Rhode Island. Tour at least one of these unbelievable fabulous mansions.
Imagine yourselves as part of the Vanderbilt family as you tour bedrooms and servants quarters of these ‘cottages’ that were the summer homes of the rich and famous of the era. The ballroom at The Breakers is utterly magnificent and will make your bonus room look like a doll house!
For a different view of the mansions walk the 3.5-mile cliff walk and admire the ocean vistas of these mansions as you see them from the back side. Most of the trail is suitable for young children with the guided eyes of mom and dad, as there are a few steep cliffs. More adventurous groups will opt to clamor to the ocean when possible to check out tide pools, rocks, and sea shells.
Read about the Top 10 Things to do in Rhode Island with Kids.
10. Tour the Gillette Castle
Connecticut has beautiful shorelines, mountains, river systems, and its own historic sites. There is a bit of everything. One of the most beloved attractions is the Gillette Castle State Park, which holds court over the state bisecting Connecticut River.
Gillette Castle was designed and built by famed Connecticut actor William Gillette who made his fortune portraying Sherlock Holmes. He must have found his love for mystery during those acting days because the castle is certainly filled with oddities. Interesting artwork, house fixtures, and a mirror system for surveillance highlight the tour of the castle.
Families can also choose to hike the trails that were once a railway around the property and picnic outside. Another way to enjoy the area is the Essex Steam train and riverboat ride. The steam train will be a must for all train enthusiasts, and the riverboat ride will allow river views of the famed castle.
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