Whether you’re planning a family trip around New England this summer or just looking for a day’s outing with the kids, there’s plenty to do all over the region.
Story Land, in Glen, N.H., started out as a concept where storybook characters could come to life. Opened in 1954 (even before Disneyland), this children’s theme park now includes rides, attractions, shows and family-friendly games. The Roar-o-Saurus, led by Rory the Dino, is a wooden roller coaster in the area’s dinosaur-themed section of the park. This 12-passenger train has a lift height of 40 feet with a drop almost that size and provides plenty of thrills for the kids along with some great views.
An antique German Carousel and Cinderella’s Pumpkin Coach provide a tamer experience for the younger or less adventurous set. Mini antique cars and farm tractors let the kids experience driving on their own on roads or fields. More than a dozen other rides are offered, from spinning and thrilling to calmer and scenic. Among the attractions are play areas where kids can dig to uncover treasures, see their nursery rhymes come alive, play in mini geysers and visit their favorite, live storybook animals. The kids can rest a bit as they watch any or all of the daily 20-minute shows featuring all their familiar storybook and fairy-tale characters as well as an amazing magic show. And if the family is competitive, there are games of skill and chance.
New at Story Land for 2018, join Daniel Tiger and his best friend, Katerina Kittycat, for a fun day in Daniel Tiger’s neighborhood.
A drive from Story Land north through Crawford Notch and Franconia Notch, or south over the scenic Kancamagus Highway, brings you to Lincoln, N.H., home of Clark’s Trading Post. Celebrating its 90th anniversary this summer, this family-run attraction started in 1928 as Ed Clark’s Eskimo Sled Dog Ranch with a “stand” or trading post selling souvenirs to area motorists and tourists.
The Clarks began training black bears for show work in 1949, and today the fifth generation of Clarks still runs the business, which has grown to include not only a renowned bear show but also a host of other attractions including a train ride, circus act, climbing tower, Segway park and tours and fun on the water with blaster boats.
The signature attraction here is the famous bear show. The black bears, native to New Hampshire, delight and thrill audiences of all ages with their antics and tricks. Maureen and Murray Clark, descendants of the founders, are the bears’ current trainers. Working with these wonderful creatures, they perform and entertain unmuzzled and unleashed in half-hour shows. “Each performance is unique,” Murray Clark says. “The weather, dynamics in the den, audience reaction — any number of things can affect the bears’ attention and distract them from the performance.”
There will be several special events this summer, including the first Running of the Bears 5K Race. No, bears will not be running loose down Route 3, but human runners of all ages can participate as long as they run with a teddy bear during the race. Awards will be given in many age brackets as well as some fun awards like running with the biggest bear and the best bear costume.
When the last ice age moved across the earth, it dropped granite boulders at the base of Hawk’s Cliff in Rumney, N.H., forming narrow passageways. These passageways, now with some boardwalks and stairs, allow exploration down into the earth where, in places, you can actually touch a bit of winter’s ice, even in July or August. With nine different caves, visitors can squeeze, pinch, squish and weave their way through names like The Ice Cave, Fat Man’s Misery, The Bear’s Den, Devil’s Turnpike and more. The Rumney area is known for some of the best rock climbing in the Northeast. If you want to get a feel for it, Polar Caves’ Glacial Wall is the place to start. There are five climbing routes with both natural and manmade foot and hand holds, which range from the Little Cub Climb, 20 feet, for smaller kids to the difficult 42-foot climb for the older and more daring set. This is real rock climbing, not like an indoor wall. Of course there are ropes, safety devices and experienced instructors to guide you on your way. Kids will delight in the Animal Parc, home to Fallow Deer, a species from Europe smaller than the usual white-tailed deer we see in New England. They live all over the world, and at the Polar Caves, they love guests bearing treats, as do a big variety of pheasants and ducks. The mining sluice lets kids experience the way 19th century miners panned for gold and gemstones in the Old West. You can purchase a bag of “mining rough” and work it in the sluice just like they did in the frontier days. The Rocky Ridge Way is a series of nature trails offering views of the surrounding terrain and exploration of the park’s natural environment. And visit the Maple Lodge to see a sugaring operation and learn how the tasty maple treats you can try there are made. Visit the Polar Caves website before your visit so you will be prepared with proper clothing and footwear.
Wondering what to do on a rainy day? Head over to Funspot in Laconia, N.H., the heart of the Lakes Region. Billed as the largest arcade in the world — with more than 600 games, including video, pinball and classic games, kiddie rides, bumper cars and prize games — kids of all ages will have fun, win prizes and be entertained for hours. Enjoy bowling? No matter which type you like, you’ll find it at Funspot. Ten candlepin and 10 tenpin bowling lanes are available during regular hours, with Sunday, weekday and Wednesday evening specials. And you can enjoy fresh pizza while you bowl. You don’t have to wait for a sunny day to play golf. The 18-hole, 5,000-square foot indoor mini-golf course is open no matter what the skies bring. The Braggin’ Dragon restaurant serves all kinds of kid-friendly food, from chicken fingers to hot dogs to potato wedges, french fries, slush puppies and more. And adults can get away from the hustle and bustle, relax, enjoy a drink, shoot some pool or play a round of darts in D. A. Long Tavern. The tavern also has a great craft beer selection to go with some premium pizzas.
This is just a sampling of kids’ parks and attractions throughout New England. Each state has unique attractions varying from kids’ stuff to family fun, general interest to themed venues. Some will appeal to particular age groups while others cater to a wider range, even including adults. Get out this summer and explore the region. Have fun, get exercise, be educated and enjoy time with the family.