The municipal mechanics are tuning up the engines on the big yellow school buses; the Pats are almost finished with their preseason schedule; and many B&Bs in Vermont are already booked for foliage season. But don’t let summer go without a fight. There are still a handful of precious weekends to squeeze in some New England rites of summer before the autumnal equinox. Here are 10 suggestions.
EAT LOBSTER AT THE WATER’S EDGE
Do you have any idea how many millions of tourists flock to New England to eat lobster? And you haven’t had our signature New England crustacean all summer? Grab a nutcracker and a set of picks (or a heavy rock and a fork) and get cracking. The picnic tables at the Lobster Pool in Rockport (329 Granite St., Folly Cove, Rockport, 978-546-7808, lobsterpoolrestaurant.com; market price) face west. You can bring your own libation, order a lobster and melted butter, and crack and dip away while watching the sun go down.
CRUISE IN A CONVERTIBLE
At least once, everyone should have the chance to roll down the top on a convertible, rest an elbow nonchalantly on the open window, and cruise slowly down the strip at the beach to see and be seen. It’s easier than you think. The downtown Hertz office (30 Park Plaza, 617-338-1500, hertz.com; convertibles from $113 per day) rents Chrysler 200 convertibles — perfect for cruising the strip at Revere Beach and continuing along the coastal route to make a circuit of the twisting roads of Cape Ann. Ladies can add sunglasses and headscarf for the Audrey Hepburn look.
JUMP IN A SWIMMING HOLE
Even with all the great ocean beaches around New England, there is nothing more refreshing than a dip in a river bend, a pond, or a lake. That’s especially true in the clear, cool water of the glacial kettle ponds of Cape Cod. Alas, some of these hidden ponds are open only to town residents. Good bets for everyone are Flax Pond and Cliff Pond in Nickerson State Park (Route 6A, Brewster, 508-896-3491, www.mass.gov/dcr/parks/south east/nick.htm). They are the only swimming beaches in the park, but neither has lifeguards. BYOT (bring your own towel).
PLAY A ROUND OF MINI-GOLF
Mini-golf is not just for children. Last time we were at Skull Island Adventure Golf at Bass River Sports World (934 Route 28, South Yarmouth, 978-398-6070, www.bass
riversportsworld.com; mini-golf $8 per player) we found ourselves backed up behind an adult Mensa threesome that took great delight in calculating the angle and timing of each shot as they sought to evade the hazards and minimize their strokes. For a game with fewer bells and whistles but accompanied by an ice cream stand (including soft serve), it’s hard to beat the 18-hole retro course at Route 1 Miniature Golf & Batting Cages (1575 Broadway, Saugus, 781-233-2811, www.theorangedinosaur.com, mini-golf adults $6.75, seniors $5.50, under 13 $5.75). Just look for the orange T. Rex out front.
BUILD A CAMPFIRE ON THE BEACH
Building an evening fire on the beach can be a summer three-fer. You can gather friends and family around the flames, sharpen the end of a stick to toast marshmallows for s’mores, and end the night with scary ghost stories. Many public beaches have banned fires, but the Cape Cod National Seashore issues free permits for the park’s six swimming beaches. Apply up to three days in advance at the Province Lands Visitor Center (Race Point Road, Provincetown, 508-487-1256, www.nps.gov/caco) for National Seashore beaches in Truro and Provincetown, or at the Salt Pond Visitor Center (Route 6, Eastham,
caco) for Eastham and Wellfleet beaches. Apply in person for preference over telephone applicants.
SEE A DRIVE-IN MOVIE
Whether you sit on the hood of your car or snuggle in the covert recesses of the back seat, catching a flick on the big screen is a vanishing summer pleasure. The cheesier the film, the better. The two-screen Mendon Twin Drive-In (35 Milford St., Mendon, 508-473-4958, mendondrivein.com; $25 per auto, $35 for campers and 10-12 passenger vans) and the three-screen Leicester Triple Drive-In (1675 Main St., Leicester, 508-892-4400, www.leicester
drivein.net; $20 per auto) keep the screens lit through the Monday and Sunday, respectively, of Labor Day weekend. Wellfleet Drive-In Theatre (51 Route 6, Wellfleet, 508-349-7176, www.wellfleet
cinemas.com/drive-in-theatre, adults $9, ages 4-11 and 62 and older $5) operates nightly through Labor Day and on weekends through September. All three drive-ins take cash only.
CATCH AN OUTDOOR CONCERT
Many summer concerts have concluded, but there’s still the giant blowout of Cajun, zydeco, Tex-Mex, blues, bluegrass, and vintage rock at the Rhythm & Roots Festival (Ninigret Park, 4890A Old Post Road, Charlestown, R.I., 888-855-6940, www.rhythmandroots.com; tickets $25-$50 per day, full festival $125, full festival with camping $160) Friday through Sunday of Labor Day weekend, Aug. 31-Sept. 2. Bring along lawn chairs or a blanket to make yourself comfortable as you catch the tunes with like-minded folk. Spend a day or really catch the last gasp of summer by camping at Ninigret Park and experiencing the whole festival. For those who just can’t sit still, organizers promise to set up a large covered dance floor next to the main stage.
GET A BRAIN FREEZE EATING ICE CREAM
New England has no shortage of places to get good ice cream, but if you’re aiming for a total brain freeze from flooding your mouth with deeply chilled goodness, it’s hard to beat the ice cream sundae buffet at the Kellerhaus (259 Endicott St. North, Weirs Beach, N.H., 603-366-4466, www.kellerhaus.com; sundae buffet from $3.95 for single scoop to $12.95 for 10-scoop “Colossus”) just a stone’s throw from Lake Winnipesaukee. Company founder Otto G. Keller began making ice cream year-round in 1920, using ice harvested from the lake. Current co-owner Dave Dutton makes all the ice cream in Keller’s vintage machines and still uses the original recipes for the fudge and chocolate sauces and smooth marshmallow topping.
SCREAM YOUR HEAD OFF ON A ROLLER COASTER
The 23 thrill rides at Six Flags New England (1623 Main St., Agawam, 413-786-9300, sixflags.com; daily admission $39-$52) use speed, gravity, and momentum to induce sheer terror. The Bizarro roller coaster (formerly Superman: Ride of Steel) was chosen as the No. 2 steel coaster worldwide by an amusement-park trade magazine last year. If you’ve already ridden Bizarro, Goliath is new for 2012. Known as an inverted coaster because riders often hang upside down like so many speeding bats, it zips 1,200 feet in one direction, then doubles back (complete with twists, turns, and spirals) to its starting point. You’ll need ice cream afterwards to soothe your inflamed throat.
PADDLE A KAYAK
Gliding through the water in a kayak is a kinder, gentler, and more contemplative ritual of summer. One of the prettiest and most idyllic paddles around is the upper section of the Charles River Basin between Newton Lower Falls and Waltham. Rent a kayak from the Auburndale location of Charles River Canoe & Kayak (2401 Commonwealth Ave., Newton,
617-965-5110, paddleboston.com; rentals from $15 per hour). To explore the beautiful pocket harbor and islands of Wickford, R.I., join one of the harbor tours or sunset harbor tours organized by the Kayak Centre of Rhode Island (9 Phillips St., Wickford, R.I., 401-295-4400, www.kayakcentre.com; tours $40).