With Labor Day weekend on the horizon, you may be thinking “road trip!” But with tots in tow, extended stays aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be. So why not take a day trip to a fascinating destination that isn’t too far from Boston, but still feels worlds away? We’ve got nine nearby places to visit, plus exciting things to do when you get there. Fuel up and read on to make your long weekend plans!
Whether you've been may times or count this as your first, Plymouth is an easy (not to mention educational) trip for families to take any time of year. Families will find lots to do at the Plimoth Patuxet Museums, from the Patuxet homesite, to touring the Mayflower II and a 17th-century English village. It's a chance for kids to learn about the Native people who first inhabited the land, and the Pilgrims who followed. Timed tickets are available to each of the sites. We think kids will also get a kick out of the Ice Cream Cruise that runs around the harbor, where you can pile on the sprinkles and catch a great sunset too. Another sweet spot? Check out The Heritage Museum & Gardens to get your fill of brightly blooming flowers and classic automobiles.
Distance from Boston: 40 miles, about 45 minutes
A great destination for families with big kids, Amhurst is a mecca for day trippers from all over New England. The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art should top your list if you've got Littles in tow, and Puffer's Pond and waterfall will keep everyone happy on a hot summer day. Pack your swimsuits, sun hats and sunscreen and plan to spend at least a few hours cooling off here. For big kids (ages 8 & up) why not plan some adventures that go beyond the everyday? Race over to Pioneer Valley Indoor Go Karting to feed their need for speed. Or reach new heights at the nearby Central Rock Climbing Gym, where a day pass is all you need to try your hand at their rock walls.
Good to know: The Eric Carle Museum is closed on Labor Day.
Distance from Boston: 95 miles, about 1 hour and 45 minutes
Adventure awaits in the mountains of New Hampshire at the Gunstock Mountain Resort. Open Fridays through Mondays this summer, families can ride the mountain coaster, take a scenic chairlift ride or plan to zip through the trees. And that's all before you hit the hiking or biking trails that criss-cross around the mountain. The resort is hosting a Craft Fair over Labor Day weekend. After you've had your fill of mountain adventures, make your way to Stonebrook Hill Farm to pick blueberries or apples. One ends and one starts over Labor Day so you can really stock up on the season's best for your fam!
Distance from Boston: 98 miles, about 1 hour and 40 minutes
When you're traveling with kids, you can never underestimate the power of proximity. Enter Springfield Museums, with five fantastic spots to hit in one location. Grab tickets to The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum and the Memorial Sculpture Garden for your little bookworms. Then walk a few steps to catch the Wild Kratts exhibit at the Springfield Science Museum. It's leaving in September, so there's no time to waste! Keep the animal theme going when you bring the kids face to face with their wildlife faves at the Zoo in Forest Park before finishing the day at the Basketball Hall of Fame. 40,000 square feet of basketball history including a new Kobe Bryant exhibit? Yes, please!
Distance from Boston: 90 miles, about 1 hour and 30 minutes
Consider Roger Williams Park in Providence, Rhode Island, Boston Common II. Your kids will love the familiarity while you'll love getting out of the city for a long weekend. Ride the swan boats, rent a kayak or even take a pirate cruise around the waterways before catching a ride on the carousel. Or keep it simple with hikes along the park trails and rides on the new pump track in the bike park. Round out the day with a trip to the Zoo if animals are what your kids can't get enough of. Or put the Museum of Natural History on your can't-miss list if star gazing is your thing. A truly fantastic one-stop-shop.
Distance from Boston: 51 miles, about 1 hour
Bretton Woods, NH
If a resort destination without a resort stay sounds good to you, head to New Hampshire and the Omni Mount Washington Resort. There are so many ways families can play at this over 460-acre property. From zip lining and canopy tours that get you up into the trees to more down to earth adventures like fly fishing, tennis and mountain biking, there's something for everyone to enjoy. Psst...most activities are discounted for guests, so consider staying a night or two if the spirit moves you.
Distance from Boston: 157 miles, about 2 hours and 30 minutes
Another day trip steeped in history is how New Englanders roll. Head west to Stubridge and Old Strubridge Village where historians in full cosplay gear will let you in on all the 19th century gossip and goods so you feel like a village insider. Kids are free through Labor Day at the Village and tickets are needed to enjoy the experience. Wells State Park is another hot spot for families looking for a respite away from the city.
Distance from Boston: 60 miles, about 1 hour
Sometimes you don't have to travel far to find fun-filled adventures for your crew. Families from all over flock to Kimball's Farm for the 50 flavors of homemade ice cream, but it's the 50 acres of activities that make this more than an ice cream odyssey. Batting cages, a zip line and animal encounters should take up one part of the day, while the bumper boats, mini golf and bumper cars should take up the other. In between, get your fill of eats at the Grill & Seafood Shack. Also on our list of Westford must-sees: The Butterfly Place where hundreds of butterflies flit around and may just land on your shoulder. And Bobby's Ranch where you can book a family trail ride if you've got riders over the age of nine.
Distance from Boston: 35 miles, about 35 minutes
Make Mystic your destination if you've got mini marine biologists in your crew. Mystic Aquarium is where you'll find all the underwater action, from sharks you can actually touch to seals, sea lions and penguins. They even have dinosaurs! And no visit would be complete without taking in a show at the Foxwoods Marine Theater. Once you've learned all there is to know about marine creatures, head to the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center to learn about land animals. End the day with some high seas adventures at the Mystic Seaport Museum or by taking the kids on a public sail with Argia Mystic Cruises. Not only will your kids get to enjoy the scenic cruise along the beautiful coastline, but they'll get to see the ins and outs of life on a sailing ship too.
Distance from Boston: 100 miles, about 1 hour and 40 minutes