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New England Aquarium, Boston MAThe 41 Best Family Vacation and Travel Attractions in New England

by Eric Hurwitz. Article updated 10-31-2016. Photo credit: New England Aqaurium Press Room.

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Here are 41 fun, must-see New England family vacation and travel attractions to put at the top of your Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont trip planning lists:

Outdoor Living Museums in New England
Old Sturbridge Village, Sturbridge, Mass. 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. Web site: https://www.osv.org

Plimoth Plantation, Plymouth, Mass. 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. Web site: https://www.plimoth.org

New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, New Bedford, Mass. The New Bedford Whaling District is splendid with its 13 block area of cobblestone streets and colorful weathered buildings from the whaling era. The New Bedford Whaling Museum is the world's foremost museum devoted to the historic interaction of humans with whales worldwide. This historic part of New Bedford is indeed an interesting day trip for those interested in an area that maintains the spirit, feel and history of Herman Melville's book, Moby Dick. Web site: www.nps.gov/NEBE

Old Mystic Seaport, Mystic, Conn. 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. Web site: www.mysticseaport.org

Battleship Cove, Fall River, Mass. 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 on one. It makes 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 Tel. (508) 678-1100. Web site: battleshipcove.org/

Indoor Museums
Boston Museum of Science, Boston, Mass. 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. Web site: https://www.mos.org

Ecotarium, Worcester, Mass. A world-class indoor/outdoor museum, the Ecotarium's mission is to "contribute to a better world by inspiring a passion for science and nature through discovery." A planetarium, animal educational classes and displays (the bald eagles are a must-see), geology displays, memory and perception exhibits and an express train that takes you through a wild habitat with red fox, red-tailed hawks, and if you're lucky a glimpse of Kendra the polar bear. The Tree Canopy Walkway at the EcoTarium is offers kids and adults the experience of what it's like to walk at the tops of the trees-- or be a treetop scientist! EcoTarium, 222 Harrington Way, Worcester, Mass., Tel. (508) 929-2700. Web site: www.ecotarium.org

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Mass.   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. Web site: www.mfa.org

Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, Springfield, Mass. 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. Web site: www.hoophall.com

Providence Children's Museum, Provdience, R.I.  Proof that the Providence Children's Museum is a great attraction for children ages one to 11 is that no one is sitting around bored. One of the best children's museums in New England, the Providence Children's Museum is set in a bright, colorful and modern setting with enough interactive activities to spend the day. Some highlights include learning about pets and people, teeth, a walk-in kaleidoscope, Rhode Island historical displays, a woodlands environment and a waterways room where children can discover the power and properties of water through a live exhibit. Providence Children's Museum, 100 South St., Providence, R.I. Tel. (413) 273-KIDS. Year-round activities. Web site: www.childrenmuseum.org

Salem Witch Museum, Salem, Mass. 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. https://www.salemwitchmuseum.com

Maple Grove Farms of Vermont, St. Johnsbury, Vt. 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. Web site: www.maplegrove.com

Aquariums
New England Aquarium, Boston, Mass. 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. Web site: www.neaq.org/

Mystic Aquarium, Mystic, Conn. 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. Web site: www.mysticaquarium.org

Amusement Parks, Theme Parks and Zoos
Canobie Lake Park, Salem, N.H. 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. Web site: www.canobie.com

Old Orchard Beach, Old Orchard Beach, Maine 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. Web site: oldorchardbeachmaine.com

Roger Williams Park Zoo, Providence, R.I. One of America's oldest museums that has constantly updated through the years to the point of being one of the best zoos in the country, the Roger Williams Park 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. Web site: www.rwpzoo.org

Southwick's Zoo, Mendon, Mass. This zoo is more fun than a barrel of monkeys! Some great fun can be found at Southwick's Zoo, beautifully situated on 330 acres in the heart of Massachusetts' scenic and serene Blackstone Valley. Arguably New England's finest zoo, Southwick's houses hundreds of animals, some of which are endangered species. You'll see the usual suspects such as giraffes, lions, tigers, monkeys and kangaroos along with lesser known animals like a pygmy goat, ankole bulls and Nilgai antelope. An extensive array of birds and reptiles will satisfy fans of those species. Southwick's also offers amusement rides, a play area created from recycled materials, animal shows and presentations, educational outreach focusing on animal ecology, and some lovely shaded picnic areas with snack shacks. Southwick's Zoo makes for one of the best family-oriented places in New England. Be sure not to miss it as part of your New England vacation. Southwick's Zoo, 2 Southwick St., Mendon, Mass., Tel.: 508-883-9182. Web site: southwickszoo.com.

Santa's Village, Jefferson, N.H. A perennial New England travel favorite, with all Santa-themed activities in one delightful location. Santa's Village, 528 Presidential Highway, Jefferson, N.H. Tel. (603) 603-586-4445. Web site: www.santasvillage.com

Storyland, Glen, N.H. 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. Web site: https://www.storylandnh.com

Clark's Trading Post, Lincoln, N.H. 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. Web site: www.clarkstradingpost.com.

Water Country, Portsmouth, N.H. 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. Web site: https://www.watercountry.com

Tours and Other Family Attractions Gems

Acadia National Park, Maine Acadia National Park is one of the most spectacular national parks in the United States, with its beyond scenic rocky coast, and forested valleys, lakes and mountains, carved by glacial force. It cannot be fully described, only joyfully visited. Truly a visual treat, this 40,000 acre geographical wonder offers endless scenery. Take, for example, the dramatic sunsets at 1,500 foot Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the U.S. Atlantic Coast. From Cadillac, one can see incredible views of Penobscot, Frenchman and Blue Hill Bays. From the top of Gorham Mountain, you get an amazing view of the glacial blue Atlantic Ocean. Then there is Thunder Hole, with its waves creating a sonic boom. For those in touch with a more isolated nature, miles and miles of trails and bicycle paths will bring you in touch with beautiful wildflowers, a wonderful variety of trees and some great fresh and salt water swimming. The 27-mile loop at Mt. Desert Island offers endless ocean and mountain scenery, unlike anything you've seen before. Web site: www.nps.gov/acad/

Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream Tour, Waterbury, Vt. 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 amy.weller@benjerry.com. Web site: www.benjerry.com/about-us/factory-tours

Boston Duck Tours, Boston, Mass. 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. Web site: www.bostonducktours.com

Cliff Walk, Newport, R.I.  This free recreation trail indeed affords many spectacular beach, ocean, cliff side and Newport mansion views along the eastern shore. The first 3/8 miles of this designated National Recreation Trail within a National Historic District are well-paved, with about 2/3 of the walk being a rather easy one. Beyond the well-paved area, however, please be careful! The Cliff Walk Web Site states that on the public right-of-way over private property, “just a couple of feet from the path are abrupt drops of over 70 feet.” The total time of the walk for a person in good shape is about two-and-half-hours. We personally like to walk the 3/8 of a mile. You get a good walk in, and certainly will experience enough outstanding scenic ocean views! People run and jog on the well-paved area, but we feel that walking is best. By taking the slower pace, you simply have the chance to appreciate every  scenic step of this fabulous Rhode Island coastal travel attraction. The walk begins at Eastern or First Beach at Memorial Blvd., with parking at First Beach or Narragansett Ave. Web site: http://www.cliffwalk.com/

Cold Hollow Cider Mill, Waterbury Vt. You can experience incredible local cider and traditional Vermont charm at the Cold Hollow Cider Mill (3600 Waterbury-Stowe Rd., Route 100, Tel. 800-327-7537) in Waterbury, VT. Cold Hollow makes it cider with a rack and press built in the 1820s-- the final product is bursting with apple flavor. The cider donuts certainly worth a taste, too! Cold Hollow also features also a fudge-making room, a toy shop and a winery that with Vermont-made wines and hard cider. The surrounding countryside is beautiful, located with views of the Vermont countryside in Waterbury and neighboring Stowe -- home of Mt. Mansfield, the highest peak in Vermont at 4393 ft. One of our favorite Vermont rural attractions! Web site: www.coldhollow.com

Colt State Park, Bristol, R.I.  A coastal wonderland, Colt State Park offers a stunning three-mile scenic drive with panoramic views around the east side of the Narragansett Bay. Hiking and biking trails, 464 acres of fruit trees, 10 large playfields, swimming (at adjacent Bristol Town Beach), fishing, boating and six picnic groves (with 464 picnic tables!) picnicking all make for a splendid day at what is one of the best representations of the New England coast for tourists to see. Colt State Park, Hope St. Bristol, R.I. Tel. (401) 253-7482. Year-round activities; best during warmer weather. Web site: www.riparks.com/Locations/LocationColt.html

Eastern States Exposition, West Springfield, Mass. New England's largest and most fun family fair takes place from mid-to-late September. The Big E has something for everyone including amusement rides and arcades, horse riding competitions, animal displays, shopping, music, agricultural exhibits and some of the most amazing junk food on the planet -- from fried dough to incredible donuts (there are some great lunches and dinners, here, too, including the wonderful colonial Storrowtown Tavern restaurant and kiosks featuring kabobs, london broil steaks and fried chicken).  Don't miss the Big E, one of VisitingNewEngland.com's favorite New England attractions! Eastern States Exposition, 1305 Memorial Ave., West Springfield, Mass Tel. (413) 737-2443. Web site: www.thebige.com

The Freedom Trail, Boston, Mass. If you’re looking for a “revolutionary way to save money while visiting Boston, Mass., The Freedom Trail offers tourists a free way to learn about America’s Revolution by walking a 2.5 mile red brick walkway that includes historic meeting houses, museums, churches. This easy walk features the Boston State House, Old Corner Book Store, Park St. Church, Old South Meeting House, site of the Boston Massacre, the Paul Revere House and Faneuil Hall.  What a great way to get to see our city, find about about a vital period of American history and get your exercise in — instead of losing weight through the wallet! Web site: http://www.thefreedomtrail.org/

Gillette Castle State Park, East Haddam, Conn. This 24-room castle with medieval German design looks like the real McCoy, set within a 184-acre park with sweeping views of the Connecticut River. Tours are available, which is a good thing; otherwise you might get lost in this massive architectural gem. Picnicking and hiking also highlight the experience at the State Park. Gillette State Castle Park, 67 River Rd., East Haddam, Conn. Tel. (860) 526-2336. Seasonal. Web site: www.ct.gov/deep/gillettecastle.

Kimball Farm, Westford, Mass. Kimball Farm, known for many years as one of the best ice cream stands on the planet, has expanded greatly and also features an outdoor seafood and grill dining area (featuring lobster rolls, burgers and fried seafood), two state-of-the-art mini golf courses, a country store with cafe (with baked goods and tea), batting ranges, ziplining, arcades, bumper boats, a driving range, pitch and putt, and an animal display area. You could eaisly spend a whole day here! Kimball Farm, 400 Littleton Road (Rt. 110) Westford, MA. Tel. (978) 486-3891. Seasonal.  Web site: http://kimballfarm.com/westford/

Lexington Minuteman Statue, Minuteman National Park Lexington, Mass. The Lexington Minuteman statue is located at famous Lexington Battle Green in the heart of beautiful, historic Lexington, MA. This sculpture of Capt. John Parker -- the first American to die in the Battle of 1775 -- is known as one of the United States' true landmarks, in memory of our country's quest for independence. Today, the statue stands tall as part of Lexington's impressive retaining of history, including the Lexington Battle Green, Revolutionary Monument, Old Burying Ground and pre-Revolutionary War buildings remarkable preserved -- the Buckman Tavern, Munroe Tavern and Hancock-Clarke House. Lexington Minuteman National Park, with over 900 acres of open land, has original parts of the Battle Road used on April 19, 1775. The National Heritage Museum offers great exhibitions of American history and current culture in a modern building.While history permeates the Lexington way of life, there's also enough 21st century offerings to make this well-known town a complete tourist destination. The brick downtown sidewalks lead to fine restaurants, coffee shops, arts and crafts stores and fine walking neighborhoods with incredibly "American" large older homes -- much like its neighboring equally famous town, Concord. Web site: https://www.nps.gov/mima/index.htm

Marginal Way, Ogunquit, Maine  Marginal Way is one of New England’s finest walks, a mile and a quarter-long cliff walk with aubundant plant life on one side and the stunning, rocky coast Maine ocean on the other. For more rocky coast, Long Sands Beach (free foot access) in York Beach, Maine, features about two miles of sand perfect for walking and distant views of scenic, Nubble Lighthouse. Marginal Way, 23 School St. Ogunquit, Maine. Web site: http://www.townofogunquit.org/index.asp?Type=B_BASIC&SEC=%7B86431777-8363-4DDF-8A8F-3DD6F177A6A7%7D

Monadnock State Park, Jaffrey, N.H.  One of the United States' most frequented Mountain hikes, and with good reason: one can see all six New England states from the summit, 3,000-plus feet above sea level. The hike is not as difficult as other New Hampshire mountains, and there are plenty of other things to do in this classic New Hampshire state park: picknicking, camping, ski touring and easy hikes. Monadnock State Park, 2 miles west of Route 124. Tel. (603) 532-8862. Year-round activities. www.nhstateparks.org/visit/state-parks/monadnock-state-park.aspx.

Newport Mansions, Newport, R.I. In the late 1800s, America's wealthiest families chose Newport as their premiere resort destination. Today, visitors marvel at the magnificent Gilded Age mansions they built on Bellevue Avenue. Regarded by many as the grandest of Newport's treasures, this wide, tree-lined avenue is lined by Gothic Revival cottages, shingle-style houses, and opulent French and Italian-style palaces. Many of the mansions are now open for tours, and are always a impressive experience! Web site: www.newportmansions.org

Nubble Lighthouse, Cape Neddick, Maine Generally recognized as one of the most photographed lighthouses in the country, Nubble Lighthouse is the perfect place to rest, and get hypnotized by the rough ocean waves and prototypical Maine rocky coastline --it is a picture-perfect postcard come to life. Sometimes, Mother Nature's fury can be viewed in the form of some spectacular storms with biting high winds and crashing waves. Nubble Lighthouse, Follow Nubble Road from Route 1A in York. Web site: www.nubblelight.org

Old North Bridge, Concord, Mass. The scenic and serene grounds at the Old North Bridge contrast with its violent past where local Minutemen experienced its first American Revolutionary War victory by forcing the British to retreat back to Boston on April 19, 1775.The Old North Bridge location, famous for the "shot heard around the world," today seems more like a peaceful walker's oasis with the placid Concord River, a quiet country path leading to "secret gardens" and the stately visitor center known as the Buttrick Mansion. As part of the U.S. National Park Service's Minute Man National Historical Park network of historical attractions around Concord and Lexington, the Old North Bridge makes for a special visit -- full of rural personality and historical significance. We consider this location one of New England's finest attractions, in part due to something that can't ever be written into words. You just have to be there to catch the incredible feeling of this famed area. Web site: https://www.nps.gov/mima/north-bridge-questions.htm

Valley Railroad and Riverboat Cruise, Essex, Conn. Twelve miles of great Connecticut scenery on a turn of the century train and an option to connect to a one-hour Connecticut River cruise allow you to see the "real Connecticut." This travel gem brings you in touch with scenery that's as good as it gets in New England with rolling hills, amazing panoramic views of the Connecticut River, and a peaceful feeling so unlike the Connecticut many travelers experience on the urban dominated stretches of Route 95. Valley Railroad and Riverboat Cruise, 1 Railroad Ave., Essex, Conn. Tel. (860) 767-0103. Year-round activities. Web site: essexsteamtrain.com

Vermont Country Store, Weston, Vt. Weston may be a quiet town, but it does have a retail district. It's called the Vermont Country Store, purveyors of Yankee bargains, Vermont-made clothing and just about anything else under the sun. No trip to New England would be complete without a visit to this esteemed New England landmark. We, at Visiting New England.com, have always adored its Weston location set in a perfect picture village in the Green Mountains. They have something for everyone including the latest holiday gifts. Vermont fudge, cheese and crackers highlight the myriad food selection. Wonderful clothing, kitchen gadgets, "problem solvers," health and beauty items, furniture, and so many hard-to-find "brands from the past" items from yesteryear are amongst the 5,000 great products available at this New England legend. Vermont Country Store, 6547 Main St., Weston, Vt. Tel. (802) 824-3184. Web site: http://www.vermontcountrystore.com/store/company/static/Visit-Us/Stores.

Also keep in mind... It doesn't really fit into any category here, but let's not also forget about The Flume, a natural gorge extending 800 ft. at 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. Web site: https://www.nhstateparks.org/visit/state-parks/flume-gorge.aspx

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