Rhode Island make take some heat for being the smallest state in America, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in family-friendly fun. Providence, the state capital, is located one hour south of Boston and three hours north of New York City. My family has driven through the Ocean State several time on the way to visit family (check out my posts on nearby Newport, Bristol, and The Farmer’s Daughter) but we’ve never stayed in town for more than a day.
On our way home from celebrating Christmas in Boston, we decided to spend some time exploring Providence. Even though the weather was chilly (mid 20s-30s), we enjoyed lots of indoor and outdoor fun. Here are some of our favorite activities for family fun in Providence:
Dutchess County, located in southeastern New York, spans from Fishkill and Beacon to Rhinebeck and Red Hook covering (in total) thirty cities, towns, and villages. There are literally hundreds of ways to explore the area, but I thought I would share twelve ways families can enjoy all that Dutchess County has to offer together. The county borders western Connecticut and is about 90 minutes from Manhattan. Driving from the north end of Red Hook south to Beacon takes less than an hour, so you won't spend days in the car exploring the area.
Start your planning by checking out DutchessTourism.com, which is a well organized, well informed network of suggestions for eating, staying, and exploring the county. They have a section dedicated to family fun and even have itineraries broken up in one, three, and five day stays (in additional to organizing suggestions for shopping, craft beer, spa, LGBT and other themed trips).
Memphis, Tennessee is widely known as the Home of Blues, Soul, and Rock & Roll. Located on on the Mississippi River, in southwestern Tennessee, the downtown area is filled with plenty of chances to sample barbecue and a wide variety of music, making it a popular destination for couples and groups of friends looking to have a good time. However, as I planned for a summer road trip stopping in Tennessee, I quickly discovered that Memphis also has a lot to offer for families.
Start by going to memphistravel.com. It’s full of helpful suggestions for where to go, what to do, and where to stay. They’ve even categorized lists such as “Weird Things to Do” and “Best Barbecue.” I found the website incredibly useful in planning our visit. Here are some of our suggestions:
On a recent trip out west, we stopped in Little Rock, Arkansas for the weekend. I knew Little Rock is known for being the home of America’s 42nd President, Bill Clinton and I knew I’d want to stop at the Clinton Center and Park to explore the museum and earn a stamp in my Presidential Libraries passport.
Yet, as I read through LittleRock.com to search for other things to do, I quickly discovered that Little Rock is a very family friendly city and my list of “must visit” spots quickly grew! I was warned that Little Rock gets hot in the summer; Indeed, on the weekend we visited, it rose to almost one hundred degrees each day. However, the heat did not interfere too much with our plans- there are so many family friendly things to do inside (many of them are FREE!) that we could beat the heat and still have a lot of fun exploring the city. We found Little Rock to be very pedestrian friendly (drivers actual stop for people waiting in a cross walk!) and easy to walk from place to place. We walked to almost all of the following places from our hotel, but you could also take a Rock Region Metro Streetcar, which kids might enjoy. I am already planning another visit to Little Rock; it looks like they have just as many activities for year round fun!
Mystic is a small town located in the most eastern part of Connecticut and is known for its historic seaport. Mystic is part of New London County, which includes other family friendly towns and cities ranging from New London to Groton to Niantic down to Old Lyme. The area becomes flooded with visitors in the spring and summer due to its close proximity to the Long Island Sound and Atlantic Ocean. However, there is plenty to do in the “off season” too: food festivals throughout the year, the famous Pirate Invasion in the fall, the arrival of Santa via tugboat and holidays strolls in December, and the popular Mystic Irish parade in March. Recently, my family spent a few days of our April break exploring the area. We had so much fun we could have extended our trip to a few weeks! Lucky for us, the area is less than 90 minutes away, so we can return for day trips any time we wish. Here are some of our favorite spots:
New Bedford, a small city located in the southeastern part of Massachusetts (about an hour from Boston), is known as the whaling capital of the world, due to the protected deep water harbor of Buzzard’s Bay and ideal transportation routes. Indeed, New Bedford has a rich history in whaling, fishing, and commerce. At its peak in the mid 1850s, New Bedford employed over 300 ships and 10,000 fisherman.
My family recently took a weekend trip to visit the New Bedford area and were pleasantly surprised by the variety of family friendly activities, even in the “off” winter season. I started my research at DestinationNewBedford.org and found lots of helpful advice. I printed copies of the Kids Scavenger Hunt for my kids to complete while we were in town, although you can find copies at many local attractions.
Growing up on the South Shore of Massachusetts, and having an avid sailor for a father, my family took many a day trip to visit Newport, Rhode Island. I can remember touring the mansions as a child, admiring the boats at the Newport Boat Show with my dad, and enjoying the beaches, restaurants, and various outdoor recreational activities during the summer. As an adult, I have returned to Newport many time, with my husband for a weekend getaway and with girlfriends as an escape from the duties of motherhood. Recently, my family spent Thanksgiving weekend celebrating the start to the holiday season in the “City By the Sea.” You can read all about our holiday celebrations here.
However, you would need months (possibly years) to explore every place in the city, so I think Newport should be on everyone’s list; better yet, if you live within a few hours, it’s worth making visits each season. The city is filled with visitors during the summer months and you absolutely should visit during the summer. However, there is also plenty to do during the winter.
If you need help planning a visit to Newport, DiscoverNewport.org is the perfect planning tool. It’s extremely easy to navigate and full of ideas based on your preferences for activities, food, accommodations, and budget. There is also a massive directory for weddings planning. The online calendar was up to date and quickly linked me to websites and phone numbers. It also covers more than “just” the city of Newport, by including both Newport and Bristol Counties. I’ve organized suggestion based on two popular areas of town:
Salem Village, now known as the town of Danvers, dates back to 1626 when Puritans came to the area from England, seeking religious freedom. The town of Salem, where most of the now famous, and infamous, sites are located is on the North Shore of Massachusetts, about 30 minutes north of Boston, and has a beautiful harbor downtown. It’s most well known for it’s involvement in one of America’s darkest period, the witch hysteria of 1692.
I grew up visiting Salem each October and I have been wanting to recreate some of those memories with my own children. However, I wanted to wait until they were old enough not to be too scared. This year seemed like the perfect time and I started planning back in June. The fall is the most popular time of year to visit Salem (yay for Halloween!) and I wanted to visit early in September. I started my research on Salem.org. This website is the perfect planner: it’s well organized, has frequent updates of events, and plenty of suggestions of places to stay, eat, and explore. I used this website to research every stop we made.
I'm lucky enough to have first cousins all over the country. We've been trying to get everyone together every few years and this past month, we reconvened in York, Maine for "CousinFest". The oceanside community did not disappoint. The people were so friendly and welcoming, and I have never met a more pedestrian friendly place in all of my travels. York, Maine consists of four distinct areas: York Village, rich in history; York Harbor, with lots of cottages looking out at Long Sands Beach; York Beach, with many tourist attractions; and Cape Neddick, mostly residential, ocean front properties. Here's a list of some things we all enjoyed in York:
Rhode Island may be the smallest state, size wise, in the country, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in inviting beaches, interactive history, and plenty of family friendly activities.
Bristol, a town of about 23,000 people, is located between Newport (look for upcoming posts!) and the state capitol, Providence. A few years ago, my husband and I taught academic courses for Johns Hopkins University's Center for Talented Youth summer program on the campus of Roger Williams University. We were able to spend time getting to know this beautiful town that separates Narragansett Bay and Mount Hope Bay. Here are some of our favorite spots: (and I did fact check to make sure information is up to date as of June 2017)