Author Topic: Crowd sourcing New England vacation ideas  (Read 3962 times)

Poosalosomous

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Crowd sourcing New England vacation ideas
« on: March 28, 2016, 08:22:57 PM »
We are in the beginning stages of planning a New England vacation in October.  We will be attending a wedding in NJ at the end of our week in that area, so initially we were planning on going north into New England and road trip south and finally head to NJ.  However, we will be traveling with our son who will have just turned 3 and will likely be a bored little munchkin if we just road trip around as DH and I are wont to do, staying in a different spot every or every other night.  The little guy takes an afternoon nap, and is very spotty when it comes to sleeping in the car, so I think we'll need a "home base" from which to take short half-day trips. Any suggestions for a fairly central location for exploring and kid-friendly activities?  He's pretty happy just walking in the woods, but he might like a little variety.

Ricksun

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Re: Crowd sourcing New England vacation ideas
« Reply #1 on: March 29, 2016, 03:44:17 AM »
HAH!  I don't have much to add given my little one is only 1 right now, but clicked because I thought I was in wall of shame and someone was posting about crowdfunding their vacation.

put up a map and peg all of your places to visit...  Choose the city in the middle?  Boston is usually pretty good walkable city for kids, though expensive.

Ricksun

Poosalosomous

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Re: Crowd sourcing New England vacation ideas
« Reply #2 on: March 29, 2016, 05:45:34 AM »
I think we'll probably do Boston all on its own when DS is a little older. He'd like the aquarium for sure, but am afraid he'd be bored just trekking through a city the rest of the time. I'll probably end up using the peg in the middle method, but would like to choose an interesting place to be. I'm afraid I'll end up picking someplace with nothing to do unless you drive an 1-2 hours away, as we'll be stuck there virtually every afternoon due to napping hours.

mskyle

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Re: Crowd sourcing New England vacation ideas
« Reply #3 on: March 29, 2016, 07:45:43 AM »
What do you guys like to do, and how far are you willing to go for a half-day trip?

If you stay in/near Boston, you have a lot of child-friendly places to stop into (the Aquarium, the Children's Museum, and the Science Museum are all very child-friendly, though expensive), plus parks with ducks and dogs and things, and for walks in the woods you've got lots of reservations and preserves within a half-hour to an hour. You can also day-trip to the North Shore and the South Shore and even to the Cape or Maine.

Western Massachusetts has lots of nice hiking/walking in the woods, some cute towns (Amherst and Northampton in the Pioneer Valley; various towns in the Berkshires), Six Flags, the Basketball Hall of Fame...

October can be very busy in the foliage-ish parts of New England (which could include Western Mass), but North Conway and Bartlett are very nice up New Hampshire; mostly there's walking in the woods, but there's also a small children's museum (more of a play space) and some downtown candy-shop areas.

Portsmouth, NH, Newburyport, MA, or somewhere on the southern coast of Maine (Wells, Ogunquit, or maybe Kennebunk) might also be good home bases - they're nice towns with easy access to highways so you can get to Boston, Maine, or New Hampshire within an hour. Plus October is shoulder/off-season around there so you might be able to stay someplace nice for cheap.

I also love Portland, ME, but I think it's probably more adult-oriented during the non-beach season (great food and cocktails... generally not of interest to 3-year-olds). It does have some child-friendly activities though.

Catmandew

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Re: Crowd sourcing New England vacation ideas
« Reply #4 on: March 29, 2016, 12:19:04 PM »
MsKyle has offered some good points and locales.

If you are traveling in October, I would highly recommend taking advantage of the fall foliage that will be available during this time. Furthermore, this is one of the best features of New England.

My recommendation is to stick to central or western Massachusetts. North Hampton, MA is a great little town and is located off of I-91 in Western/Central Massachusetts. North Hampton has a town center with many neat shops and restaurants - it has a hippie vibe and this area is a very liberal college town (if this type of culture appeals to you.) You will have plenty of things to explore in this town, it is one of the more populated and lively towns in the area before you hit the rural areas of northern New England. :) Do NOT go or stay in Springfield, MA.

North Hampton, MA puts the following in decent proximity:
- Mt. Greylock in Adams, MA. - 1 hour West. (There is a road to drive to the top with a great tower and view, all free.)
- Quabbin Reservoir/Park near Belchertown/Ware, MA - 20 minutes East.
- Mount Tom and Mount Holyoke Parks - 15 - 20 minutes South.
- Berkshires - 1 hour West.
- Sturbridge Village, MA is about 45 minutes Southeast.
- W.E.B DuBois library on the UMass Amherst campus. Open to public, 26 floors, great place to view the sunset.
- You are a little over an hour from the Green Forest of Vermont.

I feel this location is a good spot if you're looking for access to woodland, but also access to some life in town.

If you are more focused on being in the woods and exploring nature, I would consider towns like Pittsfield, MA (Berkshires) Bennington, VT (Gateway to Green Mountains) or Brattleboro, VT (Central VT, but relatively quick access to Green Mountains and northern VT due to being on I-91).

bognish

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Re: Crowd sourcing New England vacation ideas
« Reply #5 on: March 29, 2016, 12:50:06 PM »
Not sure when in October, but foliage will be done in new England by the end of the month. Might still be happening in NJ or south.

I mainly know the Hartford & CT area.
Heublein Tower is a fun hike for 3 years old.
Mystic seaport and aquarium could be fun at 3 years old.
Essex Steam train in southern CT if he likes train rides.
Dr Seuss museum in Springfield MA.
Childrens museam in West Hartford CT
Hartford Science Museum.

Poosalosomous

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Re: Crowd sourcing New England vacation ideas
« Reply #6 on: March 29, 2016, 06:40:01 PM »
Thanks for the replies, everybody. This is definitely more information than my cursory search of some travel sites. Sometimes I get overwhelmed by general information, so I need to hear the people with experience. You've given us several good options to look into.

Lulee

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Re: Crowd sourcing New England vacation ideas
« Reply #7 on: March 29, 2016, 10:13:35 PM »
Check out www.yankeemagazine.com/travel and consider picking up their yearly travel guide for ideas (full disclosure: I worked for Yankee Publishing many, many years ago and Dublin is my home town).  They try to offer up a wide variety of suggestions for all kinds of visitors.  Welcome up to my neck of the woods!

Bognish is right about the foliage likely being gone in northern areas by the time you come through in October and Catmandew was right about its beauty.  This year may be a bit muted as we had a very low amount of snow this Winter and rainfall hasn't made up for it yet but on a sunny day, it’ll still knock your socks off.  If that's important to you, southern Massachusetts or Connecticut will be your best bet for later in the month but southern New Hampshire and Vermont are still a good bet earlier in the month.

You might want to consider how far into New England you want to travel in relation to how long a trip you want back to New Jersey for the wedding.  A good friend of mine used to make that trip frequently, leaving a while after midnight to get over busy bridges early to make it to his Mother’s with minimal traffic jam sitting.  Day travelling will require factoring in some extra time to account for your fellow “leaf peepers” who slow things down plus a number of breaks for the little one.  If you can use that travel distance to set an outer boundary, we might be able to give you some more useful suggestions.  We Yankees have a cranky old saying “You can’t get there from here” but that’s not really the case --- it just FEELS that way sometimes.☺

If Keene, New Hampshire (a bit east of the recommended Brattleboro, Vermont) isn’t too far north for you, and it may not be due to the proximity to Route 91, we have lots to do around the area including a kid’s museum, lots of state forests to hike in, nearby Mount Monadnock to hike up, and lots of wildlife all over (I swear on my life I saw a bald eagle go by my kitchen window once several years ago and we have moose, deer, bobcats, turkeys, bears, and other critters on the loose that will thrill the parents even if the little one may not be as excited).  Send me a message and I'll do my best to help you find some great ideas for you all to enjoy the visit.

norabird

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Re: Crowd sourcing New England vacation ideas
« Reply #8 on: March 30, 2016, 02:55:53 PM »
I think choosing a base in the Hudson Valley would make sense. Close to NJ, but lots to do--bear mountain, storm king, dia beacon, woodstock, hyde park; it's a good mix of outdoor and cultural activities.

kimmarg

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Re: Crowd sourcing New England vacation ideas
« Reply #9 on: March 30, 2016, 06:08:39 PM »


Portsmouth, NH, Newburyport, MA, or somewhere on the southern coast of Maine (Wells, Ogunquit, or maybe Kennebunk) might also be good home bases - they're nice towns with easy access to highways so you can get to Boston, Maine, or New Hampshire within an hour. Plus October is shoulder/off-season around there so you might be able to stay someplace nice for cheap.


Portsmouth NH sprung to mind.  It's got it's own good kid friendly things (seacoast sciecne center, beaches). It's not a bad drive up to Conway to the mountains, a day in Portland exploring the waterfront and headed down to Boston for the day is simple too because you're right on I-95.

kimmarg

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Re: Crowd sourcing New England vacation ideas
« Reply #10 on: March 30, 2016, 06:14:04 PM »
Also where do you live and what types of things do you like to do? October is prime foliage. I didn't realize how good New England foliage was until I moved away and saw other places with barely a red tree. That said no everyone is into red trees.

As someone hinted at, be sure to look up travel times on google maps or something. If you're from the midwest dont' estimate by distance! In Utah I did a 95 mile drive in 90min. In NH/ME I do a 62 mile drive in 100min. My Colorado relatives are forever thinking it won't take that long to get somewhere. It's true people here don't usually drive the 4,5,6 hours I commonly did when I lived in the intermountain west but also it's not interstate cruise control driving, it's every small town you've ever seen on a two lane road....

etselec

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Re: Crowd sourcing New England vacation ideas
« Reply #11 on: March 30, 2016, 08:28:26 PM »
I'll put in another vote for Western Mass with a home base in Northampton. It's a beautiful little town (and I'm only a little bit biased, since I live there!). Catmandew outlined a lot of the great things about it, but in a few minutes brainstorming activities that would be fun in October with a 3-year-old, I came up with:
  • Picnic in Look Park, there are great walking trails, a cute little train around the park, and free concerts sometimes
  • Pick apples at an orchard — Park Hill often has sculpture exhibits on the grounds too
  • Go hiking on Mount Tom! There are plenty of trails of varying difficulty levels
  • Bike to Hadley/Amherst — the old railroad bridge over the Connecticut River has gorgeous views
  • Visit the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst — I'm an adult and could happily spend hours in their picture book library
  • Eat ice cream at Cook Farm in Hadley — it's a working farm so there are chickens and cows that are fun for kids to look at

If you like biking, and can rent or borrow bikes, everything on this list is less than an hour by bike, or less than 20 minutes drive. There are beautiful bike paths that run from Northampton to Hadley/Amherst, Florence, and Easthampton.

ragesinggoddess

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Re: Crowd sourcing New England vacation ideas
« Reply #12 on: March 31, 2016, 04:38:17 AM »
Another vote for Northampton (one word) from another near-lifelong resident. I disagree with the recommendation not to go to Springfield, however. There's a lot of great children's museums there as as well as one in Holyoke, MA that is very interactive. You could also visit Old Deerfield (20 minutes away), check out Shelburne Falls where they have a Bridge of Flowers and a trolley museum open on Sundays, and also candlepin bowling (balls are small enough even for a three year old to give it a try). If you're looking for a place to stay, I haven't tried it myself but the Starlight Llama sounds amazing especially if your kid likes animals.

I wish you luck with your trip, wherever you go!

Gerard

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Re: Crowd sourcing New England vacation ideas
« Reply #13 on: March 31, 2016, 05:59:28 AM »
If you happen to be in central Connecticut, a 3-year-old might enjoy Gillette Castle:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gillette_Castle_State_Park

I know I did when I was little and we used to camp nearby.

Poosalosomous

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Re: Crowd sourcing New England vacation ideas
« Reply #14 on: April 02, 2016, 12:23:39 PM »
I think that based the drive times (per Google Maps- may not be accurate once we're on the roads) and our inexperience traveling with a toddler, we'll keep it simple. There's a lot of enthusiasm for Northampton, so I think we'll fly into Boston (from Louisville) and stay a couple of days to do the aquarium and/or children's museum, then head to Northampton and explore that area for the next few days. After that, we'll head to NJ.  Thanks for the advice!  If there's anything you think might be of interest between Boston and Northampton feel free to share.

Tyler Newleaf

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Re: Crowd sourcing New England vacation ideas
« Reply #15 on: April 04, 2016, 02:21:35 PM »
I live south of Boston and I just recently checked out North Hampton for a little get away for my wife and myself.  We rented a very primitive cabin in the woods and checked out Western Mass and really enjoyed it!  We hiked, walked around town and really enjoyed the feel of the place.  This was mid winter, so I can imagine that October would be a lot nicer!  I think the sugar shacks would be open and hopefully the treats will start to turn. 

Enjoy!

jacksonvasey

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Re: Crowd sourcing New England vacation ideas
« Reply #16 on: April 07, 2016, 01:15:21 PM »
If you stay in NorthHampton I would suggest a half-day trip to Springfield, and do Forest Park (costs $5 to get in I think, but it's a nice walk, and they have a petting zoo for $$ too if you want to pay it).  Springfield also has a Dr Seuss museum and the basketball hall of fame.  Those are in decent parts of the city.

I live in Northern CT along I91, and Northwest Park in Windsor CT is a great place to go for a nature hike, and they have a barn full of animals, a nature center, and a playground.  My 2yo loves it there, and so do we.

Lyman Orchards is great, it's south of Hartford though, but it's huge, tons of different apples to pick.

Look Park is nice from what I remember, and I think it's in/near NorthHampton.

Bettis

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Re: Crowd sourcing New England vacation ideas
« Reply #17 on: April 08, 2016, 01:45:56 PM »
Wow, I live in MA but never knew about the Dr Seuss museum.  It's actually going to be the theme for my son's 2nd birthday party.  Quick googling led me to believe it is opening in June.  Is it already open?

jacksonvasey

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Re: Crowd sourcing New England vacation ideas
« Reply #18 on: April 21, 2016, 12:43:41 PM »
Wow, I live in MA but never knew about the Dr Seuss museum.  It's actually going to be the theme for my son's 2nd birthday party.  Quick googling led me to believe it is opening in June.  Is it already open?

I think they may have closed the old one to rebuild/renovate.  So you probably can't go until the opening date.