Portland is one of those great cities that offers just about everything all in one spot. It has museums, botanical gardens, picturesque views of the ocean, historic lighthouses, great food and hiking trails that are as much fun on foot as they are on snow shoes or cross country skis. Portland is a great spot to kick off your summer vacation. In June, the city holds its annual Old Port Festival which is complete with live music, food from local restaurants, a parade and plenty of activities and arts and crafts that are specifically geared towards kids.
North Conway, New Hampshire
Just the drive from Boston to North Conway, New Hampshire could secure it a place on this list. The scenery alone makes it more than worth the trip. Once up north, you’ll be amazed at just how great the great outdoors can be. Even if you’re not a big camping, hiking, outdoorsy family, you’ll find a lot to love in North Conway. There are wonderful family-friendly tubing trips along the Saco River, no experience required, that will appeal to a wide range of ages. The town of North Conway is filled with wonderful little boutiques and fun places to eat. And if you’re up for more serious shopping, there’s a collection of outlet stores where your family can stock up on clothing at a very nice price.
Related: Boston’s Best Indoor Playgrounds
Nantucket Island, Massachusetts
Of course, the Cape comes immediately to mind when you think of day or weekend trips from Boston. But the little island of Nantucket has so much to offer families that it can’t go without mention. If your family has an interest in the outdoors, animals or science, the Maria Mitchell Association not only keeps an aquarium on the island, and runs some very fun discovery camps, but also has a lesser-known observatory. Three nights a week, the group gives a great tour of Nantucket’s night sky from the observatory. And best of all? It’s free.
Providence, Rhode Island
When it comes to destinations near Boston, it really doesn’t get much closer than this. Providence is an amazing city for families. With great food, great museums and other family fun, it is a must-see destination for families in Boston. The real highlight for most kids will be the Roger Williams Zoo, the third oldest zoo in the entire country. It boasts more than a thousand animals. This year alone, the zoo celebrated the births of a tree kangaroo and a giant anteater.
Related: Boston Area’s Best Petting Zoos
Rocky Hill, Connecticut
If there’s one universal truth about kids, it’s that, as some point, they fall in love with dinosaurs. But so many of our big dinosaur hot spots are located in places like the Southwest or Montana. Luckily, Rocky Hill, Connecticut offers a unique dinosaur attraction that will please the entire family. Dinosaur State Park is one of the largest dinosaur track sites in all of North America. Under a giant dome, which is open year round and protected from the weather, you’ll find an enormous array of dinosaur prints that were created 200 million years ago. On top of the show-stopping tracks, there’s a wide array of family-friendly interactive exhibits. The park also offers miles of hiking trails so if you have little ones that get restless, they can burn off some of that excess energy.
Renee Mallett is the author of several books about art, culture, and New England. She was the owner and director of an art gallery and has written about arts and entertainment on a national level for several print and online journals. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.