When winter finally rolls out of town (this year around Mother’s Day), my family develops a bit of wanderlust. After being cooped up like hibernating bears, we enjoy taking a road trip. Every year we take a one week family vacation, but we are also big fans of overnight excursions. There are certain criteria – the destination cannot be more than 2 hours away, it has to include a hotel with a pool, and it must have at least two really good activities to do to warrant the overnight. We are not really beach people, so our list does not include Block Island or the Cape. I’ve decided to include some places that are family favorites and may not be as well known:
Springfield, MA/Pioneer Valley
Only about 90 minutes from Providence, there’s a lot to do. The Springfield Museums include an art museum, a natural history museum, and the recently opened Dr. Seuss Museum and Sculpture Garden. For the sports fan, it is the home of the Basketball Hall of Fame. If you go just a bit further to Amherst, you can also visit the Eric Carle Museum. This is one of our favorite places. Not only do you get to see storybook art from his books and others, they have an interactive art studio, library, and lots of places for picnicking. Look Park in Florence, MA has a lot of outdoor activities, and there is a great college vibe in this area thanks to multiple colleges in the area.
Plimoth Plantation is great for kids of all ages (although I do warn you that there is not a ton of shade to be had on a very hot day). You can take a whale watching tour from the harbor and visit Plymouth Rock and other the Mayflower II. If you have a kid who is into history, they will love it. We always stay at the John Carver Inn because of the fabulous pool with water slide.
This pushes the limits of two hours, but it’s worth the extra half hour in the car. We usually stay in either Pittsfield or Lenox. The Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield is a hidden gem, and we enjoy Hancock Shaker Village, which is similar to Old Sturbridge Village. For older kids or children interested in art and/or history there are lots of historic houses, the Norman Rockwell Museum, and several art museums. Great Barrington and Lenox both have fun downtown areas with lots of kid-friendly restaurants. There are also fantastic parks with hiking trails.
North Fork/Eastern, Long Island
I may be a bit biased since I grew up on the Island, but using the car ferry out of New London makes this a reasonably easy weekend destination. Long Island Aquarium in Riverhead is wonderful and the Long Island Game Farm, right off the Long Island Expressway, is a zoo that has quite a few exotic animals. Harbes Family Farm, located in the middle of wine country, has lots of activities including a barnyard, farm stand, hayrides and more.
One word – witches. If your kid is into all things spooky, there are plenty of attractions here. We did not take my kids until they were a bit older (for fear of needing to provide therapy after), so the scary attractions might need to wait until your child is at least age 7 or 8 (although you have to know your kid). Hammond Castle is modeled after a medieval castle, drawbridge and all, right near downtown Gloucester. The downtown areas of both have cute shops, delicious seafood, and an ocean breeze even on a hot day. Neither town has a lot of hotels, but Danvers does and that is where my kids fell in love with Sonic milkshakes.
One of the great things about Rhode Island is that there is so much to do here and so many other wonderful things so close by. This summer, pick a weekend, plan a trip, and show your family how many fun destinations there are right in their own backyard!