Monday, December 11, 2017

20 Fun Must-See New England Family Travel Attractions

The Salem Witch Museum, Salem, Mass. (photo by Eric)
Here are 20 fun, must-see New England family travel attractions to put on your Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont trip planning lists:

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.

Indoor Museums
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

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!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Scenic Motorcycle Fall Foliage Ride in Central Massachusetts and Northeast Connecticut

Editor's note: Mid-October is usually the best time to enjoy peak fall foliage in Central Massachusetts. For updates on best leaf peeping times, call the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism at 800.227.6277

Article by Tom K., avid motorcycle enthusiast

Bookmark and ShareThis route starts out in Rutland Mass., takes a scenic route through Charlton, Mass., and down to Pomfret, Conn., for lunch at the Vanilla Bean Cafe.

We then head northwest from the Vanilla Bean through the central Massachusetts towns of Southbridge, Sturbridge and eventually, Ware. From Ware, we head into Hardwick, around the eastern side of the Quabbin, up to Athol, and down the western side into Belchertown, but not without stopping at the Hamilton Orchards in New Salem for warm cider doughnuts, first.

I have taken this route many times and still enjoy the ride!

Start at Colonial Convenience/Mobil gas station at the Intersection of Route 122 (Barre Paxton Rd.) and Pleasantdale Rd. Follow Pleasantdale Road into Spencer where it merges with Route 31. Stay on Route 31, south into Charlton. Follow Route 31 south into Connecticut. Take a right onto RT 197 into Woodstock, Conn. Take a left onto Route 198 south. Follow Route 198 south into Pomfret. The Vanilla Bean is at the intersection of Routes 198 and 44. Enjoy the wide variety of menu items. Be prepared to wait in line on a weekend, but they move fast. Be careful of the gravel parking lot! More than one biker has taken a tumble here in front of everyone (not me, thank God!).

When you are full, head north on Route 169, again into Southbridge. Take a left onto Route 131 north. Follow Route 131 into Sturbridge. Take a left on Route 20 west into Fiskdale. Take a right onto Route 148 north. Follow Route 148 into Brookfield. Take a left onto Route 9 west. Follow Route 9 through West Brookfield toward Ware. Take a right onto Route 32 north toward Gilbertville. Take a left onto Route 32A toward Hardwick. As you head North on Route 32A, the eastern side of the Quabbin Reservoir is on your left. Just after you enter Petersham, if you feel like a walk (need to walk-off lunch so you can have those doughnuts), stop at Gate 40 on the left had side. This is the old road to Dana Commons. Dana was one of the towns that was taken by the State to create the Quabbin Reservoir. Dana Center is approximately 1.8 miles from Gate 40. There is a Granite marker where the town common was once located. There are cellar holes all along the road where old homes used to be. Check them out! Quite a thing to see what once was!

Back to the ride! Continue on Route 32A and take a left onto Route 122 north toward New Salem. You are now on the north side of the Quabbin. Take a left onto Route 202 south toward Belchertown. Keep an eye out for wildlife as you head south. I saw a bobcat cross the road last year! The Quabbin is on your left now and there are a few places to pull off and look at the beauty of the area. As you head south on Route 202, you will see signs about fresh cider, doughnuts, pies, and, of course apples! Stop at Hamilton Orchards on West St. in New Salem. Take a few minutes to enjoy the apples, treats, apple-smoked pork loin sandwiches (if you are hungry again) and, of course, the warm doughnuts! Take a few home with you and don’t forget to say "hi" to the doggies roaming around!

Continue down Route 202 into Belchertown. Take a left onto Route 9 east towards Ware. A few miles down on your left is the entrance to the Quabbin Museum at Windsor Dam. They have a history center that you visit to learn about the making of the Reservoir. Very informative. Continue down Route 9 east and a few more miles up on the left is the Quabbin lookout tower. Take this in and climb the steps and you can see for miles all the way south to Connecticut and north to Athol. Continue on Route 9 west through Ware and into West Brookfield. Take a left onto Route 67 north and follow into North Brookfield. Take a left onto Route 67 and then after the center, take a right onto Route 148 north towards Oakham. Follow Route 148 north to Route 122. Take a right on Route 122 South and follow back to the Colonial Convenience store on your left.

This will be an all-day ride. I usually leave Rutland about 10:00 a.m., stop for lunch at the Vanilla Bean about noon, hit Hamilton’s around 3 p.m., and then back to Rutland by about 5 p.m.. The total miles is probably close to 250, so gas up in Rutland, again in Southbridge, and then again in Belchertown.

Editor's note: We also recommend reading Tom's (and his wife Anne's) excellent article on camping around New England at

If interested in a book on motorcycle travel in New England, check out Motorcycle Journeys Through New England.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Magic of Jordan Pond, Acadia National Park, Maine

Jordan Pond in Acadia National Park, Maine, might be far away for most people, but it will surely be close to your heart, forever, once you visit this magical place.

Best known for the Jordan Pond House restaurant (open mid-May through late October) with its famous popovers, afternoon tea and Maine seafood, Jordan Pond, itself, is really the star attraction with its peaceful body of water, hiking trails to view different yet amazing perspectives along the way, dramatic open fields and big skies, and easy hike up the "Bubbles" where you can get a commanding view of the fresh water pond.

Acadia National Park is one of the jewels of the eastern seaboard with its mix of ocean and mountains; Jordan Pond might be the apex of this wonderful travel experience.

The Jordan Pond House Restaurant and Jordan Pond are located on the Park Loop Road in Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island.



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