Summer has a way of flying by, and it seems there’s never enough time to get to all the fun things you planned way back when the season was as new and fresh as a jonquil. The good news is there’s still time to squeeze in some classic pleasures you might’ve missed, with this added bonus: You might have some of the sweetest spots to yourself since many are already in back-to-school mode. Here’s a checklist of ideas to consider.
STROLL A BOARDWALK
There’s still time to get a henna tattoo, ride a coaster, Whac A Mole, and gorge on takeout hot dogs, fudge, and fried dough. Just head to one of New England’s classic and wonderfully kitschy seaside promenades. Ocean Beach Park in New London, Conn. (860-447-3031, www.ocean-beach-park.com, $6 weeknights, $17 weekdays, $22 weekends) has a sandy beach on Long Island Sound, but most of the action is along its bustling boardwalk, with access to a swimming pool, water slides and spray park, old fashioned kiddie rides, mini-golf, and a slew of souvenir shops and food vendors. You can walk the pier, play midway games, and ride coasters at Old Orchard Beach, Maine (800-365-9386, www.oldorchardbeachmaine.com), home to 4-acre Palace Playland(207-934-2001, www.palaceplayland.com, $31.96 unlimited all-day pass). The popular 3-mile boardwalk at Hampton Beach, N.H., (603-926-8717, www.hamptonbeach.org) is fun for all ages; there’s live entertainment most nights, free movies, fireworks, and special events, along with food joints, tattoo parlors, and T-shirt shops. You’ll have views of Lake Winnipesaukee and distant mountain slopes as you stroll the boardwalk at Weirs Beach, N.H. (603-524-5531, www.lakesregionchamber.org). This is the place to find guided boat rides, train rides, jet ski rentals, and fishing excursions, and the main boulevard is lined with souvenir shops, takeout joints, and arcades.
DIG YOUR DINNER
Summer wouldn’t be complete without mucking around in the mudflats, digging a bucket of clams for dinner. It’s easy enough to do, and kids love it. Wear water shoes or old sneakers; take a bucket and a rake or shovel for digging, and head to your favorite Cape Cod beach at low tide. You’ll also need a shellfish license for the town you’re digging in (available at most town halls, www.capecod.com/community/cape-cod-permits-licenses) and a gauge to measure clams to be sure they’re large enough to keep (you can buy these at local bait shops). Not into DIY digging? Cape Kayaking (508-247-7402, www.cape
kayaking.com, $60) offers a guided three-hour kayaking trip with a stop in the mudflats near Nauset Bay, where you’ll learn how to scratch for shellfish the traditional way — with bare feet and hands.
SPLASH IN A SWIMMING HOLE
Is there anything more refreshing than a dunk in clear, cold mountain waters? Start with a scenic drive down the Kancamagus Highway in New Hampshire. It’s a gorgeous slice through the White Mountains, and there are several places to pull over and slip into swimming holes below the small waterfalls and tumbling cascades of the Swift River. Families love to hike the wide and fairly level Lincoln Woods Trail leading to a set of waterfalls and idyllic swimming spots; Franconia Falls, one of the prettiest in the Whites, is an easy 3½-mile walk from the trailhead. The Lincoln Woods trail is about 5 miles east of Interstate 93 near Lincoln.
CRACK A LOBSTAH
Sit at a picnic table overlooking the rocky Maine coastline at the Lobster Shack at Two Lights
(207-799-1677, www.lobstershacktwolights.com) in Cape Elizabeth. Enjoy just-caught lobster-in-the-rough, within sight and scent of the sea, and raise your paper cups to salute the outgoing summer season.
CATCH SOME FIREWORKS
If you need a fix of the rocket’s red glare, head to Salisbury Beach, where just about every summer Saturday night feels like the Fourth (at least until Aug. 30, when the season ends). Park a lawn chair in the sand to hear live bands play on the beach stage (7:30 p.m.), followed by fireworks (10:15), shot off from a barge in the ocean. Cue the “1812 Overture’’! Free. www.salisburychamber.com.
EXPLORE AN ISLAND
Take a 15-minute ferry ride to Chebeague Island (207-846-3700, www.chebeaguetrans.com, $16 adults, $3.50 children ages 6-11), the largest of the Casco Bay Islands in southern Maine, where you can soak up the Downeast atmosphere, dine on fresh seafood, and escape the crowds. You can do it as a long day trip, but better to stay a night at the historic Chebeague Island Inn (207-846-5155, www.chebeagueislandinn.com, starting at $210), a rambling waterfront resort with bright, airy rooms and sweeping water views. The best way to see the island is to pedal back roads to picturesque coves and easy-to-access beaches. Guests at the inn have free use of bikes or bring your own. Don’t miss Indian Point; the sweeping swath of sand is a great place to look for shells, sea glass, and sand dollars. To see more of the islands, hop on an authentic, working mailboat (Casco Bay Lines, 207-774-7871, www.cascobaylines.com) to Little Diamond, Great Diamond, Long, Cliff, and Chebeague islands.
PICK SOME BLUEBERRIES
Perhaps you missed the chance to pick-your-own strawberries and raspberries this summer, but blueberry season is in full swing in Maine, the state that produces 98 percent of the nation’s wild blueberries. The season runs through early September in northern Maine, according to the Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine — plenty of time to visit a pick-your-own farm and re-create “Blueberries for Sal,’’ minus the bears. To find blueberry farms, visit www.umaine.edu/blueberries/value-added-products/. Look for “pick your own” in the description.
BAG A PEAK
Even families with kids in tow can hike up Bald Mountain and around Artists Bluff in Franconia Notch State Park (www.nhstateparks.org). It’s short — only about 1½ miles round trip — not too tough, and the views of the Franconia and Kinsman ranges are impressive. Follow the red blazes through a hardwood and pine forest, and then scramble over rocky ledges to reach the 2,340-foot summit. After enjoying the views, head back down, this time taking the short spur trail to Artists Bluff, with open ledges and views of Echo Lake and Franconia Notch.
HIT A DRIVE-IN MOVIE
Scratchy speaker boxes, kids in jammies, animated hot dogs dancing across a giant screen — nothing says “vintage summer fun” like a drive-in movie. These days, they look and sound better (the audio is broadcast through your car radio), and even the snacks are better: For example, you can get freshly-made tacos and burritos at the circa 1953 Mendon Twin Drive-In (pictured at right; 508-473-4958, www.mendondrivein.com, $25 per car), now owned by the Andelman brothers of Phantom Gourmet fame. Then there are the Wellfleet Drive-In Theatre in Wellfleet (508-349-7176, www.wellfleetcinemas.com, adults $9, ages 4-11, $6) and the Rustic Tri-Vue Drive In in North Smithfield, R.I. (401-769-7601, www.facebook.com/RusticDriveIn, $25 per carload). Other towns with drive-ins include Hinsdale, N.H., and Fairlee, Vt.
PITCH A TENT
For many of us, a family campout is a treasured rite of summer. Even on Labor Day weekend, you should be able to snag a campsite at pretty-but-often-overlooked Stillwater State Park in Groton, Vt. (802-584-3822, www.vtstateparks.com, tent site $20-$22 for nonresidents), one of several woodsy campgrounds in 26,000-acre Groton State Forest. The park has a small swimming area, a boat launch, and a nature center. (Don’t tell anyone but there’s an even nicer beach at nearby Boulder Beach, a day-use park, and campers can park-hop for free.) In Maine, 20 percent of all campsites are available on a first come, first served basis, perfect for procrastinators. (Tip:
Arrive at check-in time which is 1 p.m.) Rather not leave it to chance? Decide where you want to go, visit www.campwithme.com to determine availability, and contact the call center or book your reservation online. A great one to try: Mount Blue State Park in Weld (207-585-2347, www.maine.gov/dacf/parks/. $25 per site for non-residents). It’s got a nice beach on Webb Lake, boat rentals, an amphitheater, nature center, and excellent hiking on Tumbledown Mountain. Bring on the S’mores!
ENJOY A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC
Although the summer concert season is winding down, it’s not too late to groove to music-under-the-stars at one of the most stunning spots in New England: the Grand Allee at Castle Hill (a.k.a. the Crane Estate) in Ipswich. This rolling, statue-bedecked lawn provides a Gatsby-like setting for the estate’s Thursday night picnic-concert series. Catch local act (and fan favorite), the Orville Giddings Band (boogie blues) on Aug. 28, the season finale. Atlantic breezes keep you cool as you dance — and you will. Most people pack a basket full of goodies, but there’s food available for purchase too; adult beverages are sold onsite (no BYOB) by Ipswich Ale Brewery and local Mill River Winery. (www.thetrustees.org, 978-921-1944, members $20 per car; nonmembers $30.) Gates open at 5 p.m. for picnicking; concerts run from 7-9 p.m.
SAVOR FARM TO TABLE
Celebrate the late-season bounty with dinner at a farm, where chefs prepare multicourse meals using just-picked crops from the field. Cloudland Farm in North Pomfret, Vt. (802-457-2599, www
.cloudlandfarm.com, $31-$46) offers two- and three-course menus on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings, served in a post-and-beam barn that overlooks the fields. Just Right Farm in Plympton (pictured at right; 781-936-5330, www.justrightfarm.com, five-course $120) prepares sophisticated farm-to-table dinners on Friday, Saturday, and some Sundays. Coonamessett Farm in East Falmouth (below; 508-563-2560, www.coonamessettfarm.com, $21.95 adults, $12.95 ages 4-9) features a family buffet, with an array of salads, soups, and entrees, showcasing the day’s ripe picks.