As the weather warms and summer nears it’s the perfect time to begin planning weekday or weekend trips and explore new places or perhaps revisit some old favorites. There a number of day trips convenient to the North Shore. Depending on the age of your children and how they travel, a perfect day trip requires driving no more than four hours roundtrip (2 hours each way).  Below are 10 great locations to explore with your family this spring and summer and things to do while you’re there.

Portsmouth, NH – not even an hour drive north, fun awaits in this charming coastal city. Whether you’re in the mood for strolling the streets and checking out some shops (G. Wilikers Toys Shop is a fun spot to bring young kids) or visiting a number of parks like Strawberry Bank and stroll along the waterfront park at Prescott Park which is also a great place to have a picnic. Four Tree Island is also another great place to explore. One of the best ways to see Portsmouth in a short period of time is by trolley or with Portsmouth Harbor Cruises which would make for a fun-filled day.  When you’ve worked up an appetite there is are a number of great family-friendly dining options such as Lexi’s, Mr. Mac’s Macaroni and Cheese, The Friendly Toast, and Flatbread Company. Don’t forget to top off your meal with some homemade Annabelle’s Ice Cream. If you’re looking for more action, New England’s Largest Water Park, Water Country, is located in Portsmouth and offers fun for all ages, and promises to tire everyone out for the car ride home!

Kennebunkport, ME – about 30 minutes north of Portsmouth is the town of Kennebunkport.  This is a perfect place to bring the family to enjoy a day at the beach. One of the best family-friendly beaches is Mother’s Beach which has a pretty fantastic playground right next to it – perfect to keep the kids occupied. After some time digging in the sand, hop on a trolley tour of the quaint downtown and the scenic Ocean Avenue or take a Lobster Boat Tour. If you’re in the mood for more sightseeing take a tour of the Trolley Museum and the Wedding Cake House. There is plenty of shopping and eating to be had along Beach and Western Avenues where you can also enjoy some fried seafood at The Clam Shack and some delicious ice cream at Willard Scoops before heading home.

Boston Harbor Islands – If you’re looking for an active day with the family, take a short boat ride from Boston to the Boston Harbor Islands. There are more than 8 islands to explore and depending on your interest and activity level, you and your family can enjoy hiking, biking, and picnicking.  Georges Island offers a chance to explore a civil war-era Fort and plenty of grassy areas to have a picnic and have the kids run around. On Spectacle Island you and your family can enjoy hiking and swim at the beach. Explore hiking trails and historic structures on Peddocks and Lovells Island. Go tour Boston Light -the oldest Lighthouse in America on Little Brewster Island. Grape Island is known for its wildlife and wild berries -a great place to hike around on a sunny day. While primarily a camping island, Bumpkin Island is another great place to hike and relax on the beach. Thompson Island is a great weekend day trip for hiking and exploring the beaches but is not open to the public during the week. Definitely plan ahead for the weather, bring plenty to eat and drink and dress appropriately, and most importantly if you’re not planning on camping, don’t miss the Ferry back to Boston!

Whaling Museum, New Bedford MA – just about 1.5 hours south is a unique trip for all ages. In addition to being able to see five whale skeletons, you’ll learn about the maritime history of New Bedford. If you have little ones in tow, while they may love seeing the enormous whale skeletons they will love even more the large discovery center for kids where your kids can climb aboard a boat and help raise and lower a mast. Pack your lunch or step out of the Museum and within a short walk, there are several family-friendly dining options such as the Whaler’s Tavern and Dnb Burgers.  Don’t forget to check the Museum’s calendar of events to help plan your visit!

The Butterfly Place, Westford MA – about an hour west is another fun and a unique day trip to The Butterfly Place. Here you can walk along a winding path and observe butterflies in a natural habitat as well as birds and Koi fish. You’ll learn a lot from the staff members who are there to answer any questions and at the end of your visit, you can take home a butterfly hatching kit where you can watch a butterfly or moth hatch and release it. Most visitors only spend about an hour inside the museum, but your admission is good for the entire day so you can come and go as you please so plan to pack a lunch and enjoy a picnic outside at the picnic tables. The museum is typically very warm inside so dress accordingly. Be sure to check out their website for special offers and updated information.

Eric Carle Museum, Amherst MA – the longest of the day trips (just about 2 hours) will bring you out to Amherst, MA where your family, particularly those younger kids, will enjoy the Eric Carle Museum. This spring and summer enjoy Paddington Comes to America in the East Gallery and The Art of Eric Carle: Seasons in the West Gallery -celebrating the animals, plants, and activities associated with each season. There is much to explore at this museum and a number of daily programs and activities such as daily open play and art, music, and storytimes so be sure to check the calendar of events before you go! After you’ve explored the museum, enjoy a picnic lunch outside or head into Amherst to explore and enjoy some lunch/post-lunch treats like delicious donuts and ice cream at Atkins Farms Country Market. And after all of this, if you still have energy before the car ride home pop over to Mill 180 Park -a free indoor park where kids can play around before (hopefully) falling asleep on the way home.

deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Lincoln MA -a beautiful and unique museum to visit a little over an hour west is perfect for kids of all ages. Explore the sculptures outside with your active little ones (just remember no climbing on or touching any of the exhibits).  There are a number of family programs happening on a daily basis including Artful Play, Play in the Park, and MAKEmobile. Learn more here.  There is a fun viewing area on the Rappaport Roof Terrace – perfect for young kids and provides a great view of the pond and park.  If you’d like to stay for lunch, enjoy the deCordova Café or outside on the Sculpture Terrace.  If you’re ready for a change of scenery head nearby for a quick bite at Country Pizza, Rossini’s Pizzeria, or Lincoln’s Kitchen. If you still have the energy to explore more, Drumlin Farm is down the road where you can walk around and check out the animals before heading home.

Old Sturbridge Village, Sturbridge MA – take your family back in time for the day at Old Sturbridge Village – a living history museum a little less than two hours away.  A typical visit lasts about 3 hours so be sure to check the daily event happenings to plan your trip accordingly. This summer Old Sturbridge will bring to life Charlotte’s Web.  You can visit the piglets and watch the costumed historians recreate the Allen Piggery.  There will also be Charlotte’s Web-themed eatery as well as a number of other dining options. In addition to this performance, there are a number of trails to walk on along with exploring the historical buildings and gardens. While you can bring your lunches, there dining options in the museum such as the Bullard Tavern Cafeteria and the Village Café. Or if you’re ready to head out, you can leave the museum and head into the town of Sturbridge for more of a variety of dining options from Friendly’s to Jimmy D’s Ice Cream and Sandwich Shop to Old Sturbridge Pizza & Restaurant.

The Basketball Hall of Fame -Springfield, MA – some sports-minded families may enjoy a trip out to western MA (a little less than 2 hours) to the Basketball Hall of Fame.  This huge facility is home to more than 300 inductees and is your number one place for basketball history. Kids of all ages will enjoy this day trip,  and between June 29th and August 30th, there is the 60 Day of Summer Program which has various daily events from autograph signings, trick dribblers, jugglers, magicians, and give away prizes. For more detailed information to help you plan your trip visit the 60 Days site. Once you’ve enjoyed your visit and would like to grab lunch you can visit a number of on-site dining options such as Subway, UNO Chicago Grill, Cold Stone Creamery.  You may also order a boxed lunch from some of the on-site restaurants so just call ahead.  If your kids are a little older and you still have the energy to explore Springfield before the car ride home stop by the Dr. Seuss Memorial Sculpture Garden at the Springfield Museums or to really make the second half of your day and adventure head over to Six Flags New England.  If you want to get some extra energy out without having to go to an amusement park, explore Forest Park a large park known for its beautiful views, lake, and zoo.

Plimoth Plantation, Plymouth MA  – In under 2 hours you can get to the site of Plimoth Plantation, another great day trip for all ages. Plimoth is a living history museum that seeks to educate the public about the struggles of the early settlers and allows us to have a glimpse into the lives, worldview, and faith of the Pilgrims and Native People.  Here you can visit the Wampanoag Homesite, the Plimoth Grist Mill, and explore Waterfront Experience among many other highlights. While school-age children may get the most out of this visit, there is still plenty to do and see with young kids, especially the Nye Barn where young children can see Rare Breed animals.  When it’s time for lunch or a snack visit the on-site Plentiful Café at the Visitor Center or head into the quaint town of Plymouth to grab lunch or walk around. Bramhall’s Country Store is next to Plimoth Plantation and is a great spot to grab everything from fresh fruit to candy, hot dogs, and ice cream treats. 

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