You had lots of plans for the summer. Museums and parks and beaches, family outings and overnight sojourns. And now it’s August. But that means there’s still time. Before the kids head back to school, the temps drop, and the busy quotidian sets in: get away! Here are some easy-to-do New England destinations, perfect for a late summer vacation.
Explore the city on a Boston stay-cay
Boston, consistently ranked as one of America’s best cities, drawing more than 20 million annual visitors, is right in our backyard. There’s always something new to explore, and plenty to see and do. Plan a sleepover in the city to make it feel like a real vacation. The Boston Marriott Copley Place (www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/bosco-boston-marriott-copley-place) is one of our favorites when traveling with family. It has a great location, an indoor pool, and suites with separate sitting areas and pull-out couches.
If you haven’t been to Boston’s Skywalk Observatory in a while (or ever!), you’ll be impressed (www.skywalkboston.com). Located on the 50th floor of the Prudential Center, this popular attraction, with 360-degree views of Boston and the surrounding area, is a must. Grab an audio tour handset to hear stories and learn about the sights on view (there’s a kid-friendly version, too). The Dreams of Freedom exhibit, a multimedia, hands-on display showcasing the history of immigration in Boston, is particularly timely.
Stroll through the blooming Boston Garden, and cool down with a sprint through the Ring Fountain on the Greenway, with 40 jets of water. End your evening on a sunset cruise with Boston Harbor Cruises (www.bostonharborcruises.com). The 90-minute narrated boat ride around Boston Harbor includes a water view of the USS Constitution as the crew fires its cannon and lowers its flag for the nightly sunset ritual.
The next day, pop into the New England Aquarium (www.neaq.com) to check out the new Indo-Pacific Coral Reef, a 9,000-gallon, floor-to-ceiling tank filled with brightly colored tropical fish. The Aquarium’s Simons IMAX Theater has two new movies, too: “Hidden Pacific” and “Australia’s Great Wild North.”
Go camping in Maine
Grilled hot dogs, gooey s’mores, and the great outdoors . . . what says summer fun better than camping? Pack the cooler, your bathing suits, and flip-flops and head to Sandy Pines Campground in Kennebunkport (www.sandypinescamping.com). Don’t want to organize and schlep all that gear, or hate sleeping on the ground? No problem. This unique campground overlooking a wildlife preserve and picturesque salt marshes strikes a lovely balance between roughing it — and not roughing it. Glamping! There are traditional tent sites and RV hookups if you want to go that route, but there are also cute 12-by-16-foot Camp Cottages, sleeping two in a king bed (linens included) with electricity, heat, and air conditioning. Family Camp Cottages are larger, with a king bed and two twin beds. There are wood and canvas glamp tents for families and couples, and tiny wooden A-frame huts with double beds, sleeping two.
Our favorites are the new Unique Retreats nestled in the back of the campground, next to the salt marsh, where it’s more private and quieter. There’s the Zephyr, a super comfy ’60s-inspired Airstream; the Astral, designed to resemble a shepherd’s hut; the Stargazer, a dome with 360-degree views; the Starry Nights, with huge glass doors and windows, and two Conestoga wagons, the Wild Blue Yonder and Chuck Wagon. The retreats sleep two, and include bed linens, towels, mini refrigerators, indoor and outdoor sitting areas, and whimsical, plush furnishings.
The campground itself is huge, some 300 sites. There’s also a kid’s play area, saltwater pool, general store, yard games, kayak and bike rentals, and special programs, like burgers and live music on Saturday and ice cream sundaes and bingo on Sunday.
Have a seafaring adventure in Connecticut
It’s all about the sea, past and present, in pretty seaport Mystic, Conn. We’d been to Mystic exactly one time before our recent visit, and skipped all the popular sites and attractions to hang out at a well-known spa. This time around, we explored and were significantly impressed. Our first stop was the something-for-everyone Mystic Seaport Museum, a real New England gem (www.mysticseaport.org). This sprawling living-history museum is jam-packed with things to see and do. Board the 1841 Charles W. Morgan, the last remaining wooden whaleship, to learn about the region’s one-time thriving whaling industry. Stroll in and out of dozens of historic buildings at Seaport Village, including the Fishtown Chapel, Geo. H. Stone General Store, James Driggs Shipsmith Shop, the Lobster Shack, Ship Carver, and Cooperage. Mosey over to the Shipyard to see boats being built and repaired, and stop to listen to storytellers and watch demonstrations, along the way. Several exhibition halls also have fascinating displays (don’t miss the Figureheads and Small Boats exhibit). Save time to get on the water; there are steamboat and sailboat cruises, catboat tours and harbor rides on the museum’s launch boat.
Stay at the nearby Mystic Marriott Hotel & Spa (www.marriott.com/hotels/hotel-photos/gonmm-mystic-marriott-hotel-and-spa/). It’s modern with high-tech bells and whistles, contemporary design, and a variety of room options. After a long day exploring, the indoor pool and lobby bar are welcome amenities. Head to Red 36 for dinner (www.red36ct.com), a bustling restaurant at a marina in downtown Mystic, where you can watch the boats come and go as you enjoy raw oysters and dishes like spicy seafood stew, chipotle shrimp cocktails, and Korean lettuce wraps.
The next day, visit Mystic Aquarium (www.mysticaquarium.org), with seals and sea lions, sharks and rays, and tanks of tropical fish. The live sea lion shows are especially popular with kids, but the beluga whales, housed in the largest outdoor beluga whale habitat in the country, are worth the visit to Mystic alone.
Play in the mountains of New Hampshire
Head to Waterville Valley Resort (www.waterville.com) in the White Mountain National Forest for its scenic beauty and one-stop, non-stop fun. The self-contained village, surrounded by mountains and forests, rivers and waterfalls, has activities galore, and condos and rooms to rent, starting at $113 a night.
The resort, about two hours north of Boston, sits on six-and-a-half-acre Corcoran Pond, with a small sandy beach (go swimming in the mountain stream-fed lake) and Town Square dock, where you can rent pedal boats, canoes, kayaks, or stand-up paddle boards.
There’s a par 31, historic golf course, one of the oldest in the state, an 18-hole disc golf course, a highly ranked tennis center, and an athletic fitness facility with indoor and outdoor pools, sauna and steam rooms, and a game room. Kids also love the Adventure Center’s Vertical Zone in Town Square, with an outdoor climbing tower and bungee trampoline.
Ready to try something new? Take a guided tour of the valley and surrounds on a four-wheel ResortBoard, or learn to ride a OneWheel, and then hit the trails with the instructor. And, don’t miss a ride up Snow’s Mountain chairlift for top-of-the-mountain views and access to miles of hiking and biking trails.