|The Salem Witch Museum, Salem, Mass. (photo by Eric)|
Outdoor Living Museums
Old Sturbridge Village A long-time favorite New England family travel attraction, Old Sturbridge Village depicts rural New England life in the 1800s "in the company of farmers, craftsmen and fascinating characters." The well-preserved homes and buildings on the premises will warm your heart and the hired staff, playing theirs roles convincingly, bring you back to another era when life was much more simple. Old Sturbridge Village, Route 20 (two miles west of I-84 and I-90), Sturbridge, Mass. Tel. (508)347-3362.
Plimoth Plantation OK, so the Pilgrims actually first landed on Cape Cod, but Plymouth was their first permanent settlement. The Pilgrim village has been built as realistically as possible and the actors and actresses employed there are worthy of winning Oscars for sticking so close to their traditional Pilgrim roles -- they give no hint that they are of this 21st century world. Plimoth Plantation, three miles south on Rt. 3A, Plymouth, Mass. Tel. (508)746-1622.
Old Mystic Seaport This is America's largest living outdoor maritime museum. Educational and entertaining, you'll find many memorable exhibitions and hands-on exhibits, including a fabulous collection of smaller vessels, a whale ship (you can board this!), a square rigged ship or fishing schooner. Mystic Seaport, 75 Greenmanville Ave., Mystic Conn. Tel. (860) 572-5315.
Battleship Cove This large collection of historic Navy ships is an awesome site, where you can sail through the Cold War on USS Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., sound the diving horn on the Submarine Lionfish, crank the hand wheels on Big Mamies 40mm guns, or climb on board a high-speed missile corvette that the Soviets designed to fight us. You simply don't know how big these boats are until you get one. It made us greatly appreciate the craft that went into making theses ships and our brave Soldiers that protected our freedoms on these vehicles. Battleship Cove, Five Water St., Fall River, Mass. Tel. (800) 533-3194 New England only, P: (508) 678-1100, f: (508) 674-5597.
Boston Museum of Science More than 500 exhibits (many hands-on) highlight this world famous science museum that also includes a planetarium and Imax films. Boston Museum of Science, Science Park, Boston, Mass. Tel. (617) 723-2500.
Museums of Fine Arts, Boston A recent renovation and expansion makes a world-class museum even that much better with more collections and and an appealing modern look. The museum features a collection of about 450,000 objects, including Art of the Americas; Art of Europe; Contemporary Art; Art of Asia, Oceania, and Africa; Art of the Ancient World; Prints, Drawings, and Photographs; Textile and Fashion Arts; and Musical Instruments. Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Ave., Boston, Mass. Tel. (617) 369-6500
Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Very nicely presented, the 40,000 sq. ft. Basketball Hall of Fame wonderfully celebrates the best basketball players in the history of the game, as well as exhibits that focus on "skills challenges, live clinics, and shooting contests." Basketball Hall of Fame, 1000 West Columbus Ave., Springfield, Mass. Tel. (413) 781-6500
Salem Witch Museum Highly entertaining, the Salem Witch Museum focuses on this famous city's witch culture trails in 1692 through a tour that offers the visitor life-size figures, lighting and a lively narration. Salem Witch Museum, 19 1/2 Washington Square North, Salem, Mass. Tel. (978) 744-1692
Maple Grove Farms of Vermont You've probably seen Maple Grove maple syrup products in the supermarket; here at the Maple Grove Farms Sugarhouse Maple Museum, you can learn the process of making maple syrup. Maple Grove Farms, 1052 Portland St., St. Johnsbury, Vt. Tel. 1-800-525-2540 ext 5547
New England Aquarium When it comes to aquariums, there are plenty of fish in the sea, but the extensive collection of fish as well as an extremely knowledgeable staff make the New England Aquarium a premier aquarium that is a "must-sea" when visiting Boston. New England Aquarium, 1 Central Wharf, Boston, Mass. Tel. (617) 973-5200
Mystic Aquarium The Mystic Aquarium is perhaps a close runner-up to the New England Aquarium, and regarded as one of the better aquariums in the United States according to a marine expert friend. Not only is the collection of fish spectacular and the physical plant simply beautiful, but the Mystic Aquarium is also dedicated "to inspire people to care for and protect our ocean planet through education, research and exploration." That means it's not just looking at fish here; the chance to learn here is tremendous. Mystic Aquarium, 55 Coogan Blvd., Mystic, Conn. Tel. (860) 572-5969
Amusement Parks, Theme Parks and Zoos
Canobie Lake Park In a world of locally-owned amusement parks closing, Canobie Lake Park has been a role model of the independents that have remained opened by giving the customer what they want: a mix of more than 100 traditional and modern amusement rides, an impeccably clean park, and pride of ownership from management to staff. Admission prices have remained reasonable, too, of the utmost importance to many families feeling the economy. Canobie Lake Park, 85 North Policy St., Salem, N.H. Tel. (603) 893-3506
Roger Williams Zoo One of America's oldest museums that has constantly updated through the years, the Roger Williams Zoo is set on 40 acres and home to more than 100 animals from around the world. Roger Williams Zoo, 1000 Elmwood Ave., Providence, R.I. Tel. (401) 785-3510
Old Orchard Beach Old Orchard Beach in Old Orchard Beach, Maine, has pleased the generations with its mix of sun, sand, and amusements. It's a bit honky tonk, but family-friendly and with a beautiful stretch of beach, and plenty of shopping and dining options.
Storyland Mother Goose, Cinderella and many other famous fairy tale characters come to life in a village setting (there are relevant amusement rides here, too, including Alice's Tea Cups and Cinderella's Coach). Especially great for the younger kids! Storyland, Route 16, Glen, N.H. Tel. (603) 383-4186
Clark's Trading Post The most famous attraction here is the trained bear show, but Clark's is also worth a visit for a scenic train rides through the woods, a haunted house, bumper boats, an "Americana" Museum and an excellent gift shop. Clark's Trading Post, Daniel Webster Highway, Lincoln, N.H. Tel. (603) 745-8913
Water Country The largest water park in New England features some traditional and innovative water rides, including Dr. Von Dark's Tunnel of Terror (how did they come up with that name?), the Double Geronimo, Thunder Falls and Wild Canyon, and the Triple Giant slides. Water Country, 2300 Lafayette Rd., Portsmouth, N.H. Tel. (603) (603) 427-1111
Boston Duck Tours What better way to see Boston by land and sea than in an amphibious landing vehicle? Depending on the tour, you'll see many of the great Boston attractions like Quincy Market, Bunker Hill, Old Scollay Square, Old State House, Beacon Hill and Old North Church. Call (617) 267-3825 for more information.
Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream Tour Fun, fun, fun! You'll see a historical "moovie," a visit to the production room and receive a free sample of ice cream, afterwards! This fun 30 minute Factory Tour is located at the Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream Factory at 1281 Waterbury-Stowe Rd. (Route 100) in Waterbury Vt. You can make a reservation by calling (802)882-2040 or sending an email to email@example.com.
It doesn't really fit into any category here, but let's not also forget about The Flume, a natural gorge extending 800 ft. as the base of Mt. Liberty in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with a rise to a height of 70 to 90 feet. It's a bit scary as I've heard of many moms that just prefer to wait in the car. You can walk the gorge or do the two-mile loop. I like the latter; it's a great workout and lots of nice scenery along the way! The Flume, Rt. 3, Lincoln, N.H. Tel. (603) 745-8391
Editor's note: please share this article with anyone you know who you feel is interested in family travel attractions. You can use the social media buttons below to spread the word. Also, please share with us in the comment box further below, some of your favorite New England family travel attractions. Your feedback will be most helpful to those planning family vacations. Thanks!