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.

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.

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.

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.

William Cullen Bryant Homestead, Cummington MA

William Cullen Bryant wrote his most famous poem, Thanatopsis, a meditation on death, at his tranquil homestead in Cummington, Massachusetts.

William Cullen Bryant’s poetry was inspired by the peaceful, bucolic countryside overlooking the Westfield River Valley in Cummington, Massachusetts. He was considered a prodigy when, at the age of ten, he published his first poem. He began his most acclaimed work, Thanatopsis, a poem about death, when he was 17 and he continued to expand and embellish the poem throughout his life.

William Cullen Bryant

A prominent journalist, William Cullen Bryant was editor of the New York Evening Post for fifty years until his death. He was also a lawyer, philanthropist, and was politically active as an abolitionist, a supporter of the rights of workers, and an environmentalist before the term even existed.

The Homestead

The Bryant Homestead was a two-story farmhouse that Bryant expanded into a three-story Victorian cottage. He also expanded a barn and orchards on the land, which – to Bryant – represented the picturesque beauty of rural America. Bryant traveled extensively in the United States and went abroad numerous times. His house features both Colonial and Victorian articles as well as exotic items from his travels.

The 195 acres of land surrounding the house include woodlands, pastures, and streams. Open to visitors year-round, The William Cullen Bryant Homestead offers:

  • Guided tours of the house and farm scheduled on various dates throughout the year.
  • A self-guided tour of the “Rivulet Trail,” leading to the stream which inspired Bryant’s poem Rivulet, published in 1823.
  • Two and a half miles of trails, including footpaths and carriage roads.
  • A maple sugar bush that has been tapped for over 200 years.
  • The “Pine Loop,” with pines among the tallest found in New England, some growing 150 feet high.
  • A gift shop and visitor’s center, open seasonally.

Thanatopsis, a Poem about Death

For the literary tourist, the most interesting thing about the Homestead is that it was in this idyllic retreat that William Cullen Bryant wrote Thanatopsis. A poetic treatise on death, Thanatopsis was published in 1817 in The New York Review. Thanos is the Greek term for “death personified.”

Bryant’s poem identifies death as the common fate shared by all of humanity, which ties us together so that no one can ever die alone.

“All that breathe/ will share thy destiny…” (60-61)

The natural beauty of the quiet aerie where Bryant wrote the poem influenced his view of death as oneness with all living things and all of nature. In spite of his conservative religious upbringing, he describes the passage to death as joining in nature’s eternal cycle,

“to mix forever with the elements” (26).

He often compares death with “sleep” (57), alluding to it as “slumber” (59) “rest” (58) “bed” (66) and “couch” (59). The closing words of the poem are “… pleasant dreams.” (81)

“Thanatopsis Realized”

On June 13, 1878, an article in the New York Times served as the obituary for William Cullen Bryant. It was named “Thanatopsis Realized” because Bryant died peacefully in his sleep, several days after suffering a fall.

The article also noted that Bryant was blessed to die in June. The Times noted that in his poem June, which praises the natural wonder and beauty of the month of June, Bryant expressed a petition to die in June, and not in the cold and darkness of winter.

The William Cullen Bryant Homestead: A Literary Travel Destination

The William Cullen Bryant Homestead is an excellent literary travel destination and is not far from the home of Emily Dickinson. Almost 50 years ago, as a child, I enjoyed chamber music on the lawn followed by a tour of the house. Today the Homestead offers even more for the literary traveler who is visiting New England.


“Thanatopsis Realized,” The New York Times, June 13, 1878, © The New York Times.

Thanatopsis excerpts from Yale Book of American Verse. Ed. Thomas R. Lounsbury. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1912. © 2002

Whistler’s Inn – Haunted Hotel in Lenox, Mass.

Whistler’s Inn overlooks beautiful gardens from leaded windows and has charming hosts, but what lies beneath the quaint charm? Charming ghosts?

Whistler’s Inn History

Set in the rolling Massachusetts countryside, the lovely mock-Tudor house that is now known as Whistler’s Inn was built in 1870. Railroad tycoon Ross Winans Whistler bought the house and lived there with Theodora after they married in 1884. The house is situated in a small valley and was originally called Hidden House. The gardens are romantically planted with Wisteria and roses.

Ross Whistler died in 1927, leaving his wife in the huge rambling house. The widow, grieving and faced with spending the rest of her life alone, hired a young woman from Sweden to help her. Nancy complained that she couldn’t cope and was given permission to bring her sister and brother-in-law to work at Hidden House. There was a hidden passion between Nancy and her brother-in-law, Paul, but he died, very young and very suddenly, perhaps from the stress of his wife and her sister, his mistress, in the same house. He was buried in the graveyard across the road. Some of the rooms at the Inn now overlook the old graveyard. Perhaps that is what gives people the idea that ghosts walk here.

The Rivals & The Tycoon

Nancy and her love rival sister remained together in the house, but it was not easy. They are buried across the road too, and there is speculation that the three lovers, and the one-time owner of the house, millionaire Ross Winans Whistler, all cling to the old place. Ross didn’t die here, though; he succumbed to heart disease in Nassau, Bahamas, at the age of 69. Three of the fourteen bedrooms are said to have a spiritual presence and the attic is a very uncomfortable place for living people.

Who is in Room 7?

When the current owners inherited the house they found that things would suddenly flood. Walk into a room, immediately turn and walk back out, and find you are wading through an inch of water. This happened to Richard Mears the first time he stayed in the house alone and went to check on room 7 just before leaving. Pipes would then burst on a fairly regular basis. He and his wife noticed areas of warmth and cold too, particularly in rooms 1, 5, and 7.

The possibility of spirits has brought customers to the Inn but it has meant some extra work when people have wanted to change rooms, for undefined reasons. A feeling of discomfort, uneasiness, and sudden changes in temperature are some of the quoted issues. There have been no reports of visualizations or of being touched by anything. Strange things still happen with the plumbing, even 30 years later. There was the time a window fell out too, but that could happen anywhere. Couldn’t it?

Cape Cod Whale Watching Tour

Cape Cod Boat Trip – Humpback Whales & Seals

From April to October visit feeding grounds for humpback and other whales off Cape Cod National Seashore. Tour Provincetown before or after your whale watch cruise.

The Gerry E. Studs-Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, a major feeding area for marine wildlife, sits less than one hour from Provincetown by whale watch boat. Whales are found here every summer in huge numbers, as are pelagic seabirds, seals, and fish. There is also easy access to the Cape Cod National Seashore’s beaches and biking and hiking trails.

Whale Watch Tour

Portuguese Princess Excursions provide multiple daily 3 or 4 hours (depending on the whales and weather) whale watch cruises out to Stellwagen Banks. On leaving the harbor, keep an eye out for common and grey seals traveling the waters near the Cape Cod National Seashore beaches. Often the whales come into range long before the feeding grounds are reached. Minke and Fin whales may be seen traveling along the Cape Cod coast. Schools of Atlantic white-sided dolphins are common as well.

Support Whale Research

While waiting to see whales, the onboard naturalists provide plenty of interesting things to see and do, starting with some basic information about the marine wildlife of Cape Cod and surrounding areas. Learn about the research being done in conjunction with the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies on humpback, right, and other whales.

Or browse the Photo Identification Catalogues of the humpback whales of the area. Many have been known for generations, first seen as calves, now coming back with young of their own. Those photographers lucky enough to get clear pictures of the flukes of humpbacks can contribute to this ongoing record.

Whales, Dolphins, Birds & Fish of the Area

Once the whale watch boat has reached Stellwagen banks, humpback whale sightings are nearly guaranteed. Occasionally, especially early and late in the season, there may be a sighting of an endangered North Atlantic Right Whale, traveling through to feed in the Bay of Fundy. Basking sharks have been seen, as well as Mola mola or ocean sunfish, and bluefin tuna. For bird watchers petrels, shearwaters and jaegers are all likely finds.

Provincetown & Cape Cod National Seashore

Taking the first whale watch cruise of the day has several advantages. Often the boat is less crowded, making viewing easier. And Portuguese Princess Excursions offers a discount on this trip. Best of all, the boat is back in Provincetown in time for a leisurely lunch at one of many waterfront eateries.

After lunch, a tour of the town may be in order. With museums dedicated to the Pilgrim Monument, history, nature, and the arts there will be no lack of things to see. If staying out of doors is preferred, a walking tour of the town and its docks provides a leisurely way to stroll away that lunch.

Or head for Race Point Beach where the possibility of further seal and whale sightings is strong. If no marine mammals appear, the beach is perfect for walking, swimming or fishing. Or the Provincelands, another part of the National Seashore, is a great place to bike or hike, ending a great day savoring the wildlife and natural beauty of Cape Cod.