Kid Friendly Activities in Western Massachusetts

Western Mass. Family Activities

Western Mass is a fabulous place to live with little ones. No matter the weather or time of year there is a wealth of fun, interesting, and stimulating activities going on.

The tricky part, especially as a new mom, can be finding all of these awesome baby friendly activities. Before you have kids of your own, it’s just not a realm you’ve explored yet.

Look no further! Whether you are a new mom who lives in Western Mass looking for something to do with your littles, or you’re planning a trip to Western Mass with your baby or toddler in tow, you’ll know where all the baby and toddler friendly spots are.

You can find the best activities for your baby or toddler in Western Mass in the following five categories:

  1. Playgrounds
  2. Museums
  3. Swimming Holes
  4. Outdoor Activities
  5. Indoor Activities

Best Toddler Playgrounds and Parks in Western Mass

Jessica’s Playground – Belchertown, MA

Jessica’s Playground is one of the best in the Western Mass area. It was built to be an accessible playground for all children and has a really cool and unique design. The entire playground can be accessed by wheelchair. Because of this, it means that the playground’s structure and platforms are wide, have railings and can be approached via ramps.

This makes it a great park to take crawlers and newly walking toddlers as well as older toddlers and preschoolers. There are also baby swings, and a smaller activity structure perfect for babies just learning to pull-up, stand supported, or newly walking. The ground is soft and there a variety of small and slow slides. You’re going to love it here.

Mill River Recreation Area – North Amherst, MA

Mill River Recreation Area is a smaller playground, but for me, one of the best around for toddlers and babies. The structures are very friendly to new walkers, there are baby swings, and some smaller slides and a playhouse perfect for babies and toddlers.

The recreation area also has a short hiking trail and fields. You will find a bridge and stream bank perfect for stick races and toddler rock-throwing, and wading on hot summer days.

Look Park – Northampton, MA

Look Park is a fun and large well-maintained park in Western Mass. There is something for everyone here! While there is an admission to enter, you will have access to a variety of fun. You’ll find playgrounds, biking trails, picnic areas, a splash park, mini golf, a train ride, petting zoo and more.

Be sure to bring a stroller to take advantage of the extensive walking trails and easily travel between playgrounds and fun spots. You may also want to bring your bike with a tow-behind cart or toddler seat. You’ll love exploring everything this park has to offer.

Be sure to check out their website when you are planning your visit. There are often fun activities and events happening that you may not want to miss.

Forest Park – Springfield, MA

Forest Park is another lovely option for you and your baby or toddler. This park has beautiful and extensive grounds filled with many activities. Bring your stroller or bikes and explore different picnic areas and gardens. Pack some bread to feed the ducks in the large duck ponds. Play on the playgrounds, cool off in the splash park, check out the animals in the zoo, or take a train ride. A full day of fun with your baby can be had at this park.

Nonotuck Park – Easthampton, MA

Nonotuck Park spans over 250+ acres and has something for everyone.  You will find two playgrounds, a spray park, various picnic sites, walking trails, sports fields, a public pool and more. It is free to visit on weekdays, but there is a daily parking fee associated with weekend visits.  They also host events throughout the summer and fall, so be sure to check their calendar when planning your visit.

Baby and Toddler Friendly Museum in Western Mass

Eric Carle Museum – Amherst, MA

The Eric Carle Museum is truly a local treasure here in Western Mass. Your baby or toddler will love exploring the kid-friend exhibits. The exhibits feature picture book art and usually involve an interactive and explorative component accessible to babies and kids of all ages.

There is a library full of books including board books for little hands, and developmentally appropriate toys for all ages. You will find an art room with daily crafts tailored to all ages, and a fun busy-board area that my daughter has loved since she was learning how to pull up to stand.

The museum doesn’t serve food, but you should pack snacks to enjoy in their large and accommodating cafeteria area, or on a nice day have a picnic outside on the museum’s beautiful grounds.

Springfield Museums

The Springfield Museums consist of five different museums on one campus. The one that will be the most fun for your toddler is definitely The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum. Admission to one museum gets you into all five. The Springfield Science Museum has many life-sized dioramas featuring North American animals, and an impressive African animal hall that your youngster will love.

The Springfield History Museum is a personal favorite of mine, and my daughter. And that is due to the HUGE Indian Motorcycle exhibit. If your little one loves trucks and motorcycles they will be in heaven.

For young babies, these museums offer a great place to bring your carrier or a stroller and enjoy a new place to explore as a mama.

Mass MoCA – North Adams, MA

While a bit of a drive north, this museum is worth the trip. Housed in an old mill building, Mass MoCA features larger than life installations of contemporary art. The giant galleries are great for your toddler to explore and your tiny babies will love the high contrast contemporary art found in their long-term Sol Lewitt Exhibition. They may also just love snoozing while you wear them in a baby carrier and enjoy the art.

Kids under 6 enter for free and they have an awesome Kidspace art studio that your older toddler may enjoy checking out.

Amherst College Museums – Amherst, MA

Amherst College is a quaint and charming college located right in downtown Amherst. The campus itself is a great place to walk with a stroller or explore on bikes. We love taking our daughter to run on the lawn and picnic while enjoying the stunning views of the Holyoke Range.

But, many locals don’t even know that there are two great museums on campus that are free to enter! The Beneski Museum of Natural History has a variety of prehistoric mammal and dinosaur skeletons to view and an impressive collection of gems and minerals. N loves to run around in here and talk about the giant teeth on the skeletons while yelling snap, snap, snap.

There is also a Fine Art Museum on campus with an impressive permanent collection including a Monet, and interesting rotating exhibits as well. When N was a baby we would often go here and I would wear her through the museum. As a toddler, she’s a bit too rambunctious though we have gone. So I’d stick to babies in the art museum, or calm toddlers (is that a thing? Ha!).

Holyoke Children’s Museum – Holyoke, MA

Holyoke Children’s Museum is a great spot for babies and children of all ages! There is a giant water table-esque play area and huge climbing structure. You will find an entire toddler-sized town of stores and restaurants for endless pretend play. There is a real ambulance and tractors as well as a fire station, mail room and more.

They have a tot lot designed for babies 6 months old and up who are not yet walking. It gives them a place to explore a quiet, carpeted and matted play area.

Before you visit it is worthwhile to call and see if there is a field trip or camp attending. It can get really crowded during school vacations as well so try to find an off-time if possible to get the most out of your visit.

Best Swimming Spots for Toddlers and Babies in Western Mass

Lake Wyola – Shutesbury, MA

Lake Wyola is definitely the most ‘remote’ of the swimming holes included on this list. Nestled on the Shutesbury and Leverett border, this lake is a beautiful spot in summer. There is a good-sized, guarded, sandy beach for playing and hanging out. The water gets deep very gradually, making it a great place for splashing, sitting babies and new walkers.

You pay to park for the day, or get a season DCR parks pass. The lake area has picnic tables, grills and bathroom facilities. One thing to be aware of is that no floatation devices are allowed (tubes, rafts, floaties) but life jackets and ‘puddle jumpers’ are okay.

This was my FAVORITE spot in Western Mass during the end of my summer pregnancy. So expectant mamas will delight in the cool water. Definitely pack the sand toys and get ready for a fun beach-like day.

Belchertown Beach – Belchertown, MA

Belchertown Beach is located on Lake Arcadia. It is a small lake and beach area, and a great spot to bring your baby. One thing I love about Belchertown beach is the fact that the beach area has shady areas thanks to large trees. There is also a grassy lawn area with shade where you can set up a picnic blanket to avoid sand in your food with the little ones.

Your babies will love splashing on the shoreline and your toddlers will be able to walk and wade in the water because this lake also gets deep very gradually. Belchertown beach is a guarded lake front with a snack shack. There is a fee to enter for the day or you can get a season pass, residents and non-residents are welcome.

Musante Beach – Leeds, MA

Musante Beach is located on a river not far from downtown Northampton. This is another guarded beach area that your baby or toddler will enjoy. There is a large sandy beach area and great swimming. Be sure to bring your sand toys, a blanket and snacks.

Green River Recreation Area – Greenfield, MA

The Green River Recreation Area is a nice spot because there is a playground, picnic pavilion and a guarded riverfront beach. You can easily fill an afternoon here with your toddlers and babies with playground fun and cooling off in the Green River for a swim. Nearby downtown Greenfield has an excellent co-op to get snacks, fresh local produce, and delicious pre-made food.

Puffers Pond – Amherst, MA

Puffers Pond is a great swimming hole located in North Amherst that is a favorite among locals. It is a clean and sandy beach front on a large pond. It is the only free swimming spot mentioned on this list.

Puffers pond has a fun sandy area for digging and playing and some shallow space to splash around, but does get deep more quickly than other places on this list. Tubes and rafts etc. are welcome here, but I should mention that this is an unguarded swim spot.

Baby-Friendly Outdoor Activities in Western Mass

Norwottuck Rail Trail Amherst – Northampton, MA

The Norwottuck Rail Trail is a paved ‘bike’ path that spans around 13 miles from Belchertown to Northampton. This is a wonderful walking path for new moms. Bring your stroller and enjoy a flat and peaceful walk. I love to start at the Lawrence Station in Amherst, because this stretch includes views of the Holyoke range, meadows, and an active beaver dam. There are also many benches and picnic areas along the way and many of the ‘stations’ or access points have restrooms.

As a new mom this is a great activity to meet up and do with other new moms. Meet up and walk and chat. Take breaks to nurse your baby on one of the many benches along the way. We use the bike path now with our toddler all the time. We love our tow-behind bike trailer and N has a blast.

Silvio Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge –  Hadley, MA

Silvio Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge is a smaller conservation area here in Western Mass but seemingly lesser known, and so awesome for new moms and toddlers! The entire path is wheelchair accessible, which also makes it perfect for strollers and new walkers.

You will find gravel paths and boardwalks through a variety of habitats including fields, woods, wetlands and river. The loop is exactly one mile and is a great way to get back into fitness after baby or meet up with new mom friends.

If you go to the right when you start the loop, you will quickly get to a look-out area with benches that is great for picnicking or exploring with your toddler without going too far.

Mt Sugarloaf – South Deerfield, MA

Mt Sugarloaf is a small mountain here in Western Mass but offers incredible views of the Connecticut River Valley. There is a paved road to the top that is very stroller friendly, or drive up and enjoy the views. The top has a well-maintained lawn, gardens, and picnic pavilion. There are also public restrooms and a look-out tower.

After N was born, I walked up Mt. Sugarloaf many times with the stroller, or wearing her, as a way to get active again after birth.

Flayvors Ice Cream at Cook Farm – Hadley, MA

Cook Farm is a really fun place to take your older babies and toddlers. Not only can you get delicious handmade ice cream, but you can also meet many friendly cows. You will see full-grown and baby cows, chickens running around, and sometimes pigs. There are picnic tables and a grassy lawn, as well as an indoor eating area. This is a favorite spot for many Western Mass families.

McCray’s Farm – South Hadley, MA

McCray’s is a family-friendly farm with a free petting zoo that your toddler or older baby will love. Seasonally, this is a go-to spot for pumpkin picking and hayrides. They also have mini-golf and ice cream for when your littles get a bit older.

Best Indoor Activities for Babies and Toddlers in Western Mass

Mill 180 – Easthampton, MA

Mil 80 is a must for you and your baby or toddler on a rainy or cold day in Western Mass! This is an indoor park located in a renovated mill building. Inside you will find tall ceilings and wall to wall turf. There are various platforms and ramps covered in turf that are perfect for crawlers and new walkers to explore. For young babies, set up a blanket and relax. Tons of families with youngsters take advantage of this awesome free indoor park, and you will never feel uncomfortable breastfeeding here.

In the center of the park there is a café that serves hot food, snacks, smoothies, coffee and even alcohol. One thing to be aware of, because the facility is free to enter, they do ask for no outside food to be brought in, so plan to eat and drink beforehand or buy food and drinks there.

SunnyTown Place South – Hadley, MA

SunnyTown place is an indoor play space that is set up like small town or village for your little one to explore. You will find scoot cars, spaces for imaginative play, dress up supplies, a small ball pit, slides and more. This indoor space is perfect for getting the wiggles out on cold, rainy, or snowy days.

Yankee Candle Village – South Deerfield, MA

Yankee Candle Village is the large flagship store of Yankee Candle. This store is a sight to behold! You need a map just to get around the place. Outside you will find beautiful gardens and places to picnic. Inside, each room has a different theme. There is a top-notch toy store area and a Christmas area that actually feels like the North Pole. It even snows in one of the rooms.

This is a fun place to take your toddler to get some energy out, and for little babies, a really nice climate controlled place to walk around with them in the carrier or stroller. Seasonally, it can get pretty crowded here. So going at off-times will make the outing more enjoyable with your baby or toddler.

Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory South –  Deerfield, MA

Magic Wings, this large, indoor butterfly conservatory truly feels magical. You will be in a warehouse-sized green house that feels like stepping into a rainforest. During your visit, you will walk through gorgeous gardens surrounded by thousands of butterflies. Your toddler will love running around and exploring the greenhouse and your baby will marvel at the bright colors.

Wear bright colored clothes to attract more butterflies to you!

Libraries – Various Towns of Western Mass

A list of indoor activities in Western Mass wouldn’t be complete without listing some of our favorite libraries with baby and toddler-friendly spaces and programs. From playgroups, to baby singing groups, to story time, or just drop in play, libraries are the best!

For library hours and kids program details, be sure to check each library’s website before your visit

Get out and explore baby and toddler friendly Western Mass!

There is so much to do in this part of Massachusetts. Your family now knows all of the great spots for babies and toddlers. No matter the season or weather, there is something to enjoy as a family and keep that growing little one of yours busy and engaged.

Have another great spot in Western Mass for babies and toddlers to add to the list? Please leave a comment below, I love to hear from readers.

Top 5 Things to do in Portsmouth, New Hampshire

A couple weeks ago we took a weekend trip from Boston to Portsmouth, New Hampshire. It was a beautiful early fall weekend and a perfect time of year to explore our eastern seaboard. We landed in Boston on Friday night and then drove out to Portsmouth staying two nights in town. It was a fun weekend and we got to enjoy great seafood, learn some history, and have fun exploring this culture-rich region.

Portsmouth is a coastal city of about 21,000 residents about an hour north of Boston on Piscataqua River. The town has a rich and long history. It was settled back in 1623, and prides itself on being third-oldest city in the U.S. Originally, it served as a shipping hub. While that’s no longer the case, the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard established in late 1800 still operates today.

Here are top five things to do during your Portsmouth weekend:

Explore Downtown Portsmouth

Portsmouth has a charming downtown area that features the North Church, Market Square and lots of shops, restaurants and galleries. It’s definitely worth checking out and spending a couple of hours wandering around. Bonus for shopping in Portsmouth? No sales tax!

While walking around Portsmouth make sure to check out the Portsmouth Harbor Trail. It passes many historic and scenic sites as well as shows off local flavor.

Visit Strawberry Banke Museum

The Strawberry Banke Museum is an outdoor museum site that covers 10 acres. It shows off Portsmouth’s earliest English settlements through historic houses and exhibits within the homes. We didn’t really expect too much since we’re not museum people, but this was a really cool part of our Portsmouth weekend. The area is very well kept and houses truly reflect their historic eras. It’s also a lot bigger than we thought, we spent a couple of hours walking around, exploring the homes, learning the history and taking pictures.

An interesting fact we learned in the museum is about people’s sleeping habits long ago. For heat reasons all home resident slept in one room by the fireplace. They would go to bed really early – when it got dark. Then wake up in the middle of the night and stay awake for about an hour talking and enjoying each other’s company before going back to sleep for the rest of the night.

We loved that there are U.S. flags by each home corresponding to the time that the home was built. So in addition to seeing houses we also got to see the history of U.S. flags.

Also, make sure to stop by the nearby Prescott Park, which offers gorgeous waterfront public gardens, walkways, grassy areas and flower walls.

Play on a Submarine

The USS Albacore Museum is a retired 1953 US Navy submarine that was turned to an interactive museum. It was the fastest in the world at its time with a unique teardrop shape. The 205-foot submarine was a research submarine testing unique and innovative technologies. In 1977 the Navy decommissioned USS Albacore and was headed for destruction until someone had an idea to turn it into a museum.

This was by far the most fun part of our weekend. We found Albacore by accident while driving and decided to check it out. We got there right when it opened and we had the entire submarine to ourselves. What was really cool is that this is not a typical museum with “do not touch” signs everywhere. In fact, in this interactive museum you are encouraged to touch, push buttons, check out all of the nooks and crannies, as well as play around with equipment.

Make sure to check out the story of bringing the submarine to its current location. It was towed 575 miles from Philadelphia. Then local engineers designed a plan to float the 300-ton ship a quarter mile inland from the Piscataqua. The Albacore sailed through a main road leading into Portsmouth and through the railroad trestle. The move had to be made at the absolute highest monthly tide. The museum has pictures and stories from the 1985 move.

Cruise to Star Island – Isles of Shoals

Star Island is part of Isles of Shoals, a group of small islands and tidal ledges 6 miles off the coast of Portsmouth. You can take a half day cruise to the island and explore it for a couple of hours. In season you can also stay in the island’s hotel.

We were there right at the end of the summer season, so the hotel was already closed. But it was still a great adventure walking around the island, checking out the small cottages and admiring ocean views. Isles of Shoals are definitely a great way to spend the day.

While on the cruise, you can also check out the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, lighthouses, old Naval prison and marine wildlife.

Walk to Maine

The Piscataqua river runs along the border of New Hampshire and Maine. You can take one of several bridges and cross over to Kittery, Maine while exploring Portsmouth. The two main bridges are:

The World War I Memorial Bridge is a vertical-lift bridge that goes across the Piscataqua River and connects Portsmouth, New Hampshire to Badger’s Island in Kittery, Maine. The current bridge opened in 2013, when it replaced a bridge from 1923 of similar design. The bridge is a “Memorial to the Sailors and Soldiers of New Hampshire who gave their lives in the World War 1917–1919.”

The Sarah Mildred Long Bridge is an another lift bridge that spans the river. The original bridge was in operation from 1940 to 2016. The new bridge opened in March of 2018, so it’s really new.

In season you can also see the bridges lifted to allow larger ships and sailboats to pass through. For bridge lifting schedule, check out the Portsmouth Yacht Club website.  Both bridges have a really cool and unique design.

While this was a quick weekend trip, we still had a great time exploring this unique area and learning about its history. We recommend checking it out!

Ps. The city name is pronounced Portsmuth or Portsmyth. If you’re doing research about things to do in Portsmouth, always make sure to add New Hampshire in your search. Otherwise, you’ll get results for Portsmouth, England.

Top 10 Best Tourist Attractions in Boston

Boston is the capital city of US state Massachusetts. This populous city has many amusement points which are interesting in many aspects. Boston has numerous types of historic museums, ancient buildings, extravagant parks and fabulous shopping places. Either you want to see greenery or art or cultural locations or even modern architecture, this marvelous city will not let you get bore. Boston is really an enjoyable place for vacations. Some of its famous zones are mentioned here that will describe how Boston is a good place to visit.

10) New England Aquarium

This family visiting aquatic museum was built in 1969. The preeminent specialty of this giant museum is its gigantic ocean tank of 20000 US gallons. People who came here are briefed that how this aquarium came into being. Tourists can explore the habitats of this underwater world. Penguins show and whale watching are most interesting pageant of this famous New England Aquarium. The New England Aquarium also houses a state-of art IMAX Theater will be a memorable experience for its visitors. A lot of fish, turtles and other water creatures are there to amaze you.

9) Fenway Park

Boston has a sporty baseball park named as Fenway Park. This huge stadium has seating capacity of 37,713 spectators. Boston’s visitors are amused themselves by watching different famous baseball leagues in this historic park. It also hosted some soccer matches, famous football leagues and some hockey games. Some of exotic and popular concerts of Boston are also held in Fenway Park. This stadium seems to be a focal point of games in Boston. As in 2016 a big skiing completion and snowboarding championship occupied here.

8) Faneuil Hall

The classic Boston Landmark designated Faneuil Hall was built in 1743. Though it was maintained and renovated time to time but still a masterpiece of history. This building is also titled as National Historic Landmark. This place is very old marketplace and commercial forum where you can find many shops and food outlets. Second floor of this monument has legendary meeting hall where many of famous debates were given by great leaders. Third floor is for history nerds, because here is a museum of ancient armor and artillery.

7) Museum of Fine Arts

The comprehensive Museum of Fine Arts is the fourth largest Museum of US. This encyclopedic gallery has more than 450,000 pieces of art. Isn’t it amazing? It has many departments in it Art of America, Art of Europe, Art of Asia and many much more to explore. Film, music, performing art and numerous types of art-related lectures are its different programs. This is surely a family visiting place as there is a lot to enjoy for kids also. Tourists of Boston stray in the exclusive exhibitions held in this museum.

6) Boston Children’s Museum

This great children’s museum of Boston is dedicated to education of children. All things that are displayed here are kids relevant. Plentiful academic and informative activities are arranged are children. Little ones, teenagers and youngsters all have amusement exercises to explore the world in a new way. Different types of festivals are celebrated in an enthusiastic way without any difference of race and religion. Various informative presentations and educational exhibitions are held here. Boston Children’s Museum is definitely an extravagant place to come and enjoy with family and friends.

5) Old North Church

In the north end of Boston this beautiful Old North Church is located. This National Historic Landmark is the most archetypal church of Boston. The enduring fame and its superb architecture of this church are reasons for the visitors to come and see this religious building of Boston. Church site is decorated with two elegant gardens and three big lawns. Mission of this church is really famous for its words Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts. Old North Church is categorically a worth-watching place for history lovers as it is a part of Boston National Historic Park.

4) Old State House

Boston Landmark designated building the Old State House is situated at junction of Washington and State Streets. This is purely a historic spot which is one of the memorials of Freedom Trail. Many momentous events have witnessed by Old State House and its grounds which change the fortune of Arkansas. This museum has very valuable unique things of past as well as an impressive photo gallery. Many exhibitions held here that’s why several educational institutes bring their students here, to equip them with knowledge of this great Museum.

3) Arnold Arboretum

Arnold Arboretum is basically a part of Harvard University. It is a chic fusion of lovely Public Park and remarkable research institution. The real reason of its popularity is its achievements and contributions in study and research of plants. It is only one of its kinds in the world because it exists on 281 acres acquiring enormous selection of trees and plants. Arnold Arboretum is an exotic point of Boston for the tourists as it is loaded with lush green sceneries and charming views of small ponds.

2) Boston Public Library

The classic Boston Public Library is an imaginary place for book lovers. This public library has both of influence, historic value and surely academic worth. It is accommodating more than 23 million items in it. This great library is also granting digital services to its visitors including downloading e-books, audio books, having collection of CDs and DVDs and videos. Its calm and graceful hall is ideal place for readers to study their favorite book. This library is decorated with many fascinating murals to impress its tourists. One cannot feel bore at this marvelous place.

1) Newbury Street

Let’s talk about most glamorous street of Boston, Newbury Street. This busy commercial street is crowded with hundreds of shops, boutiques, salons and delicious dining. Walkways are built there for shopping lovers. Exclusive international and local brands are there to entertain its visitors. The one who comes to Boston; this is a must visiting place for him. This popular destination is located in Back Bay area of Boston and gets renovated time to time. This shopping district conveys a charming urban landscape which makes it more trendy.

5 Best Ice Cream Shops in Ipswich, MA

From old fashioned homemade chocolate and vanilla to new-fangled candy-packed environmentally conscious flavors, Ipswich MA has some great ice cream.

Ipswich MA is best known for Crane Beach, and what better way to cool off after the beach, than with ice cream. Packed with candy, made from organic fruit or served with espresso, Ipswich has some of the best ice creams around. Here is a list of the top five ice cream shops.

Environmentally Friendly, High Quality, Down River Ice Cream

The hands-down, best ice cream in Ipswich comes from the Down River Ice Cream shop. Actually, it is right over the border in Essex, MA, off of 133 after the turn for Crane Beach. Their ice cream is rich, but not heavy, made from milk from local dairy farms. They go the extra mile to make the business green, with spoons, dishes, and straws that can be composted.

Every one of their 25 flavors is made on-site with the best quality ingredients. Their coffee ice cream, Mug Up, is made with actual coffee, and they grow the strawberries for their ice cream in a patch behind the shop. Beyond the basics, they have creative flavors that are loaded with candies, such as Monkey’s Uncle, which is fresh banana ice cream with Reese’s peanut butter cups mixed in.

Down River has two geographical disadvantages, which don’t stop ice cream lovers from flocking to their shop. The parking is really lousy and right off of route 133. Even though the owners have made extensive efforts to provide seating, the shop is wedged between marshes and the highway. The ice cream is reasonably priced for the quality, but more expensive than other shops in town.

Zumi’s Downtown Coffee and Ice Cream Bar

Zumi’s is a special downtown coffee shop and ice cream bar. Mixing hot and cold, they have a little something for everyone. Their ice cream is not fantastic, but all 20 flavors are of good quality at a fair price. What is great about Zumi’s is that they are more than just a business, they are a community-oriented cultural zone.

Enjoy your ice cream on the deck out back, next to the Ipswich Riverwalk. If it is too hot, come inside where there is air conditioning. Local artist’s paintings hang on the wall, and live musicians play on weekends and some weekdays. The wifi is free, and there are bins of toys to distract the little ones. The atmosphere is laid back. Simple, good.

Good Old-Fashioned Ice Cream at White Farms

The cow on the roof is a beacon for ice cream lovers to come and feast at White Farms. They serve copious amounts of over 60 varieties of homemade ice cream and share picnic tables with Sal’s pizza. “Chip” is their specialty: Chocolate Chip, Mocha Chip, Kahlua Chip, Mocha Almond Chip, Reverse Chocolate Chip, Coconut Chip, Mint Chocolate Chip, and Chocolate Chocolate Chip.

They have plenty of parking recessed from 1A at the border of Rowley and Ipswich. Picnic tables are available under a large tent, and there is a great sandbox for kids to play in. Sometimes on hot summer days, all the ice cream drips can get a little icky. Also, some flavors taste a little artificial, like the blue vanilla and the nearly fluorescent key lime pie ice cream, but some people like that.

Richardson’s Ice Cream at Russell Orchards

Russell Orchards is the closest shop selling ice cream to Crane Beach, selling premium Richardson’s ice cream made in Middleton, MA. They claim the secret to their rich ice cream is the extra butterfat. The Death By Chocolate ice cream is truly to die for, and the peach ice cream is made with real peaches. Russell Orchards features a select fifteen flavors served at reasonable portions and prices.

On a hot day, it is better to grab a dish than a cone because there are only a couple of benches outside under the shade of trees. Otherwise, visit the farm animals or let the kids play on the recycled toy playground while enjoying the ice cream. With plenty of parking, ice cream at Russell Orchard is worth the stop.

Dairy Queen and Orange Julius in Ipswich, MA

Dairy Queen is a fail-safe ice cream shop. Best bets are Blizzards loaded with candy, ice milk cones dipped in chocolate or refreshing Orange Julius. Located on 1A/133, there is plenty of parking, friendly service and the clean sterility one expects from a franchise. The stonescaped patio provides adequate seating but views the highway. Mosquitoes lurked in the marshlands behind the shop, so plan on eating ice cream in the car after dusk.

An American Girl Doll Tour of Boston

Visit Boston and Explore the Times of the Doll Felicity

Boston is famous for its colonial history, and visitors to numerous historical sites can learn about the times when American Girl doll Felicity grew up.

Felicity Merriman, American Girl’s colonial-era doll, and her friend Elizabeth grew up in Williamsburg, Virginia in 1774. Boston, Massachusetts, is closely associated with colonial history and the start of the Revolutionary War, and it is also the home to the American Girl Boston store. Families can visit historical sites in the Boston area and shop at the store.

Lexington and Concord

On April 19, 1775 the “shot heard round the world” was fired in Lexington, marking the start of the War for Independence. Minuteman National Historic Park is the place where that shot was fired. The park offers guided tours as well as special events such as historical reenactments, musical performances, and storytelling. Hours and activities are limited during the winter season.

From May to October visitors can go to the Hartwell Tavern, on Route 2A in nearby Lincoln, which was the home of the Hartwell family and their children. Tours will inform visitors of the lives of the family, which ran a tavern just as Felicity’s father ran a general store. The Tavern is part of the park system as is The Wayside, home to various authors since colonial times, including Louisa May Alcott, Nathanial Hawthorne, and Harriet Lothrop, who wrote Five Little Peppers under the pen name Margaret Sidney.

Also in the city of Lexington is the privately run National Heritage Museum. Admission is free, and the museum has special exhibits and special events year-round. It has a long term installation called “Sowing the Seeds of Liberty: Lexington & the American Revolution,” which was designed to appeal to adults as well as children. The exhibit includes The Loring Kitchen, which introduces visitors to family life during Felicity’s time and to understand how food preparation and cooking would have happened in colonial times. Children will experience the exhibit through the eyes of a cartoon character, Billy the Patriot Mouse.

The Concord Museum is a local historical museum that features family-friendly exhibits including a fife played by a young boy during the Revolution and treasure hunts and hands-on activities as well as many special exhibits geared for children all year-long such as craft workshops and story hours. Fans of the American Girl Book, Felicity’s Surprise: A Christmas Story might like to visit in December for its annual tradition, Family Trees: A Celebration of Children’s Literature, when the museum’s galleries are decorated with many trees decorated with different ornaments inspired by a selection of picture books.

Though unrelated to the colonial era, girls and their families might enjoy a visit to Concord to Orchard House, home of Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women.

Boston and Beyond

Children have all learned about the Boston Tea Party in school, and girls know that Felicity is fond of serving tea and has her own Tea Set. A replica of the ship is a museum in Boston Harbor, and one original tea chest is on exhibit. The ship and museum are undergoing an extensive renovation and are scheduled to reopen in Summer 2011.

One of Boston’s most popular tourist attractions is The Freedom Trail. Visitors follow a red line painted along the city’s streets which takes them from one attraction to another along the historic path that led to the creation of the United States of America.

John Adams, the second President of the United States, hailed from Quincy, Massachusetts (south of Boston), where his birthplace and home is now a National Historic Site open to the public. During Felicity’s time, John Adams was a delegate to the Continental Congress and one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

About an hour north of Boston, in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, is Strawbery Banke Museum. It is an American neighborhood restored to represent a community from the late 17th to mid-20th century. Special events often include topics specific to the colonial era. The museum has a popular Christmas time Candlelight Stroll.

American Girl Boston

The American Girl Boston store is located in the suburban city of Natick, in the Natick Collection Mall along Route 9.

The American Girl Bistro is open for brunch, lunch, and dinner. Advance reservations are highly recommended, which can be done online or by telephone.

American Girl Boston offers a variety of birthday and theme party options and has a Doll Hair Salon. The store also hosts special events throughout the years, such as craft making days and workshops.

Felicity grew up in Williamsburg, Virginia, which is now the site of the family-friendly Colonial Williamsburg living museum. However, visitors to Boston can also tour numerous colonial-era sites and learn more about Felicity’s world and can also go to American Girl Boston, the American Girl store. If taking a vacation along the East Coast, families can also visit New York City, just four hours away, and visits immigration sites related to Rebecca Rubin, the Russian-Jewish American Girl doll.

Quincy MA: The City of Presidents

Birthplace of the American Dream and Kilroy in Easy Reach of Boston birthplace of John Adams, John Quincy Adams, and John Hancock, Quincy played a vital role in the American Revolution. Today, much of their legacy remains.

Five miles south of Boston, just across the Neponset River, Quincy appears at first sight just like any other suburb. Stay awhile, there is a wealth of history that is impossible to avoid.

Quincy claims to be “The birthplace of the American Dream” and the “City of Presidents”. John Adams, John Quincy Adams, and John Hancock, who played a vital role in the fight for American independence, were all born here. John Adams, the first vice president, was born in 1735, the oldest of three brothers.

Their legendary forefathers have inspired succeeding generations to live the American Dream. Howard Johnson and Dunkin Donuts both started trading as small Quincy businesses before becoming household names.

The Adams Mansion was the summer White House for both presidents and home to their descendants until the early 20th century. Today, the mansion and the birthplaces of both presidents from the Adams National Historical Park A regular Trolley Tour departs from the Visitor Center in Hancock Street, visiting all three sites in about two and a half hours. Other historic sites include United First Parish Church – the burial place of both presidents and their wives, the historic Hancock Cemetery, and the Dorothy Quincy Homestead, the childhood home of John Hancock’s wife, Dorothy Quincy.

America’s first commercial railroad was founded in Quincy in 1826; transporting granite to Charlestown for the construction of the Bunker Hill Monument. Granite played a large part in the city’s population growth; with immigrants settling to work in the city’s quarries. The industry declined after 1945 with the advent of cheaper building materials and the last quarry closed in the 1960s. Examples of Quincy Granite can still be seen at the Bunker Hill Monument and the Women’s Titanic Memorial in Washington DC.

Parts of the original granite railway still exist, while old quarries are popular with hikers and rock climbers. The new Granite Links Golf Club stands on the site of some of the former quarries.

Many of the U.S. Navy ships that fought in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam were built in Quincy’s shipyards. Shipbuilding continued until the mid-1980s. The Fore River Shipyard is now home to the U.S. Naval Shipbuilding Museum, aboard USS Salem, the former flagship of the Sixth Fleet, built in Quincy in the 1940s

Kilroy was in Quincy- in fact he worked there. At Quincy’s Bethlehem Steel Shipyard, during World War II, James Kilroy chalked his name next to rivets he inspected, and so a legend started. With no time to paint over the markings before the ships went into battle, “Kilroy Was Here” traveled the globe, and soon became a GI’s rallying cry, scrawling it wherever they went.

The sea still influences modern Quincy, with 27miles of coastline and nearly a dozen beaches there are plenty of opportunities for swimming, picnicking and water sports. Marina Bay hosts a wide variety of restaurants, lounges and clubs, with a Nantucket-style boardwalk, offering a panoramic view of Boston’s skyline.

Easily accessible from Boston by road, the Red Line T subway or commuter rail, Quincy provides an enthralling mix of past and present.

Pick Your Own Apples at Russell Orchards in Ipswich, MA

Taste the difference local makes when you pick your own fruit at Russell Orchards in Ipswich, MA or visit the barn shop for cider donuts and fruit wine.

Satisfy your sweet tooth while doing something good for the environment at Russell Orchards in Ipswich, MA. A working farm since the 1920s, the Russell family practices agricultural sustainability so that they will be around for another 100 years. Located at 143 Argilla Road, they are the last stop for ice cream before Crane Beach. They sell local fruits, veggies, and other curiosities in the barn shop from 9am to 6pm, May through November.

Visit Big Boy the Pig, and the other farm animals while waiting for the hayride to the PYO orchards in June through October. Spoil the kids’ dinner with Russell’s famous cider donuts while they play on the recycled toy playground. At harvest time, watch apples being pressed into cider or taste over twenty varieties of fruit wines and hard ciders before buying pumpkins and apple pie.

Russell Farm: Diverse and Sustainable

On their 120 acres of farm, the Russell family lives, grows and sells agricultural sustainability leaving as little impact on the environment as possible. Their tractors run on biodiesel fuel filtered from the oil used to fry their delicious cider donuts. Little to no synthetic chemicals are used on the fruits, vegetables, and herbs, which are picked when ripe. Their taste is incomparable with unripe treated fruit that is often sold in supermarkets.

Biodiversity is key to sustainability. Russell Orchards features many fruits and vegetables that have disappeared from shopping carts and dinner plates. Black raspberries, jostaberries, and sour cherries are just some of the more “exotic” local fruits. They grow and sell flowers that attract bees that are good for the environment and good for honey, which is for sale in the barn shop.

Buying local is what keeps them in business and is part of their business. What they do not grow themselves, they buy locally. They sell cheeses and ice cream from nearby dairy farms. The gift shop features regionally made candy, soap, and small gifts. Products vary from season to season and year to year, so there is always something new to try from the Massachusetts and New England bounty.

Pick Your Own Apples and Berries at Russell Orchards

Even though the orchards are open from 9am to 5pm seven days a week, try to get to the orchards before 11 am to beat the sun and the tourists. Hayrides leave from the farm every half hour. Take a hayride into the orchards, pick a pint or a peck, and walk the half-mile back, in about an hour. Watch out for poison ivy and mosquitoes, which infest the shady trails in late summer.

It costs $3 USD (2010 rates) for anyone ages two or older to enter the orchards. The entrance fee is deducted from the price of the fruit picked. June is strawberry season. Raspberries blueberries and blackberries are available for picking in July and August. Twenty varieties of apples are available for picking in September in October. Check the Russell Orchards website to see what fruits are currently available,

Summer Live Music & Fall Harvest Festivals

Grab a Richardson’s ice cream cone and a bag of cider donuts and stroll around Russell’s farm, where there is always something going on. Listen to local musicians who play outside the barn most Saturday afternoons in summer and fall. Feed the goats, chickens, sheep and ponies, just don’t get cornered by the geese who can be quite aggressive.

Bring the whole family to the Strawberry Festival in mid-June which features music, balloons, hayrides, face painting and of course, strawberries! Start holiday festivities off early, celebrating the Apples and Wine Festival, the first weekend in November. Fresh and frozen apple pies and crisps are available in the bakery but please pre-order for Thanksgiving.

Enjoy A Day at Crane Beach in Ipswich, MA

On the Crane Beach Reservation pristine sandy beaches stretch for miles. Piping plovers nest contently in the protected grassy dunes. At low tide, tidal pools reveal glimpses of sea creatures. Escape the hassles of modern life on this beautiful marine wildlife reservation, about an hour north of Boston.

Open year-round from eight am to dusk, Crane Beach has something for everyone. Kids play along the shore while teenagers soak up the sun. Nature lovers hike through the grassy dunes and athletes swim in the chilly waters. In the fall until early spring dog walkers share the beach with horses and riders.

What Beach Gear to Bring and What to Leave at Home

Crane beach facilities are well equipped. During the summer the concession stand sells sandwiches, ice cream, and cold drinks. The bathhouse has showers and toilets. Drinks are available in vending machines and portable toilets are open year-round. There are no lockers for valuables, so if it is important leave it in the car.

When the beach fills up in the summer, umbrellas and tents are useful to protect from the sun as well as staking out a spot. Some good beach gear to bring is sunblock, towels, beach chairs, Avon Skin So Soft®, water, and snacks. Alcoholic beverages are prohibited, as are barbecues. The Crane Estate is carry-in, carry out, so bring an extra bag for trash.

The space available for beach toys and games depends on how many beachgoers are around. On a calm day, there is room for a volleyball set or a skin board. No flotation devices are allowed at the beach, from boogie boards to inner tubes. A pail and a shovel are always sure bets

Family-Friendly Summer Events at Crane Beach and Castle Hill

There are tons of fun activities during the summer at the Crane Estate. Learn about ocean creatures and their habitat during guided Beach Combers walks. Weekly picnic concerts on Castle Hill feature a variety of musical styles. Creativity is tested at the end of summer sandcastle competition. The Inn, Steeple Beach, and the Great House can be rented for a generous fee, but the grandiose functions held at the Crane Estate are unforgettable.

Fun Cloudy or Cooler Day Activities at the Beach Guide

Crane Beach has more to offer than just summer tanning. Explore the marshland and dunes with miles and miles of hiking trails. Take a tour of the Great House in all its turn of the century splendor between May and October for $10 USD. Bring your dog or your horse the rest of the year for $3 USD. Just dress warm and bring a windbreaker to ward off the sea breeze.

Commuter Rail and Beach Shuttle vs. Driving to Crane Beach

It is a toss up whether it is better to come to Crane Beach by car or beach shuttle. Riding the commuter rail with flip-flops and beach umbrella does seem a bit silly, but it is by far the most convenient way to visit during the summer. Compared to the $25 USD to park (2010 rates), the $5 USD beach shuttle seems like steal.

The shuttle brings passengers from the Ipswich train station to the beach and includes the entrance fee. It also guarantees entry, since the gates close to cars when the parking lot fills up by 11 am on hot sunny weekends and holidays, and does not open again to more visitors until 4pm. Parking information is available on Twitter.

On the other hand, driving makes more sense for large parties with lots of beach gear. Traffic is not bad coming from 1A or 133. Parking is half off after 3pm and there is plenty of parking on weekdays and off-season. The best option is to tag along with an Ipswich resident who gets in for free, and parks in the resident only parking lot.

Greenheads, Seagulls and Other Pests

People are not the only ones that love the beach; greenheads, seagulls and ticks love it too. Greenheads are vicious horse flies that leave welts. They swarm Massachusetts beaches in late July to early August, with different intensities from year to year. Avon’s Skin So Soft® works well as a repellent and is for sale at the Crane Beach concession stand.

Caution is the best remedy against getting bit by a seagull or tick. Never feed the birds, and keep a flip-flop handy to ward off aerial attacks when eating sandwiches. Ticks are not found on the beach, but live in the sea grass. Stay on the boardwalks and designated paths to avoid tick bites and check children carefully if they are little explorers.

Day Trips from Boston, Mass.

Cape Cod, Salem, Plymouth, Concord, Lexington, Lowell

Massachusetts offers visitors varied attractions. Beaches, outlet malls, museums, and historical sites like Plymouth, Quincy, and Lexington are an hour’s drive from Boston.

Downtown Boston offers ample shopping and sightseeing opportunities, but for anyone fancying a day away from the city here are 10 ideas for days out within easy reach.

Cape Cod

Explore the coastline of this popular peninsula. “The Cape”, as it affectionately is known is famous for wonderful beaches and fresh seafood. An hour’s drive south of Boston down highway 3 brings you the Sagamore Bridge, the gateway to Cape Cod. The area is very popular in the summer months and traffic congestion can be a problem.

Gloucester and Rockport

Just over 30 miles northeast of Boston, at the tip of Cape Ann, lie two small fishing villages with a wealth of history. First settled as early as 1623 the area was the inspiration for The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger.

Lexington and Concord

Trace the route taken by Paul Revere to the Revolutionary battlegrounds of Lexington and Concord. Visit the Old North Bridge in Concord and the Minute Man National Park, Lexington. Lexington and Concord are roughly 20 miles northwest of Boston on Route 2.


The Lowell National Historic Park is a series of historic buildings, in downtown Lowell, with trolleys and canal boats providing transport between them. Lowell is within easy reach of Boston via the I93 and I495. Rail passengers can take the Lowell Line, commuter rail train, from North Station.

Old Sturbridge Village

The largest living history museum in New England recreates village life in 1830. Watch master craftsmen at work, see a nineteenth-century school classroom, or visit a colonial-style garden. Old Sturbridge Village is 60 miles west of Boston down the Mass Turnpike (I90).


The lives of the Pilgrim Fathers still dominate Plymouth today. A replica of the Mayflower stands proudly in Plymouth Harbor and, two miles up the road, the Founding Fathers and Native Americans’ lives are recreated by role players at Plymouth Plantation. Plymouth is a 40-mile drive from Boston via highway 3. A commuter rail service to Plymouth/Kingston runs from South Station.


“The Birthplace of the American Dream” is just 5 miles south of Boston. Visit the birthplaces of two presidents on the trolley tour to the Adams’ family residences. To get to Quincy from Boston take the I93, commuter rail from South Station, or the red line subway.


Famous for the Salem Witch Trials in 1692, various museums and exhibitions recreate these events. 25 miles northeast of Boston, Salem is reached via I93 and route 128 or by the Rockport or Newburyport commuter rail line from North Station

Whale Watching

Do you fancy something completely different? Take a Whale Watching trip from either Boston Harbor or Gloucester. A camera and warm clothing are necessities as you watch whales in their natural environment. Trips leave daily between May and September.


If you want a bit more retail therapy, take a trip to the Wrentham Village Premium Outlet. Over 170 outlet stores offer designer goods at discounted prices, including Barneys New York, Burberry, and Saks Fifth Avenue. If you time it right, you can also take in a football or soccer game at the nearby Gillette Stadium. Wrentham is on route 1A at the intersection with the I495.

These are just a few of many attractions that the area has to offer, The Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism can provide more details.

Six Things to Do in Provincetown: Pilgrims to Whale Watching

Provincetown offers a unique culture and history from the first Mayflower Pilgrim landing to today’s vibrant gay population, whale watching, and seafood.

Provincetown, Massachusetts has its share of flamboyant people living and visiting there. There are also people with different hairstyles, tattoos covering the body, and unique choices of clothing like a cowboy hat, tighty-whities, and rollerskates.

It’s also known as a gay-friendly place. In addition to the large resident gay population, many others come to the area for events such as Gay Pride Week and Bear Week (big, burly, hairy gay men).

The street performers include a young teenager playing at saxophone to a mime painted in gold paint to a 78-year-old transvestite singing karaoke and “living his dream.”

Watch people watching people, and see the reactions some people have towards the more unusually turned-out individuals.

The Pilgrim Monument

Climb a series of 60 inclined ramps and 116 steps to the top of the 252-foot Pilgrim Monument for a great view of Provincetown. On clear days, Plymouth and the Boston skyline can be seen.

With construction finishing in 1910, the monument became the highest point on Cape Cod. The monument commemorates the landing of the Mayflower Pilgrims in 1620 in Provincetown. They only stayed five weeks because the sandy ground was not fertile enough, but wrote the Mayflower Compact while there.

Eat Seafood

In a fishing town, seafood is always a must and there are so many places to go to. Try the Lobster Pot. The seating is a bit cozy, even crowded, but that gives an indication about what people think of the food. Try the Shellfish Algarve – shrimp, mussels, littlenecks, scallops, fish, and calamari, steamed in a delicate blend of olive oil, butter, garlic, bay leaf, and a hint of crushed red pepper; served over noodles. Also, try the broiled scallops.

There’s also a full bar, lots of drinks, and a view of the harbor. If you are not in the mood to sit down to eat, along the harbor there are pick-up windows to order some fast, delicious seafood. Don’t forget to try the clam chowder.

Commercial Street

An eclectic mix of bars and restaurants, houseware and home decor shops, art galleries, wine stores, clothing stores, and souvenir shops line Commercial Street. Governor Bradford’s is a bar/restaurant located in the center of town that has good food and at night usually has interesting entertainment from cross-dressing karaoke to drag queen shows.

Hocus Pocus specializes in all types of piercings and, in Provincetown, that means all types of piercings. There’s Himalayan Handcrafts and Chadwick’s of Provincetown who bill themselves as having a “fascinating and unusual collection of home décor, accessories, and antiques.” Then there are Cape Treasures that has nearly everything under the sun.

Go to the Beach

Basically, five beaches exist in Cape Cod. There’s Race Point Beach (Cape Cod National Seashore) on the Atlantic Ocean, a great view of the sunrise. Located on Provincetown’s West End, Breakwater (Provincetown Harbor) allows for hiking to the very tip of Cape Cod at Long Point Light House.

Herring Cove (Cape Cod National Seashore), located along the Massachusetts Bay side of Provincetown, has miles of sandy beaches and Town Beaches (Provincetown Harbor) extends along with the town. Enjoy the beaches and even rent a boat or kayak to explore. Be aware the waters around the town are sometimes strong – physically and aromatically.

Whale Watch

Try one of the whale watching tours. The Portuguese Princess gives three-hour tours that usually find whales. The boat leaves from Macmillan wharf in Provincetown. On their website, they say, “Because we work with whales in the wild, each trip is different. The special habitat we visit is the summer home to such species as the Humpback, Finback, and Minke whales. The North Atlantic Right Whale is one of the most endangered species in the world, and may be seen in and around the waters of Provincetown and Cape Cod Bay. Toothed varieties such as pilot whales, white-sided dolphins, and harbor porpoise are often seen as well.”

Additionally, if it’s hot on land, a trip to the ocean will cool everyone down. If you get seasick or car sick, Dramamine might be good to take before the voyage begins. On the trip, a knowledgeable marine biologist talks over a microphone about the whales and, when whales are in view, she acts as a spotter and directs people around the boat for the best view possible.

Then relax, put an arm around a loved one and check out the sea and the lighthouses on the way back.