A Weekend with Kids in New England

A Weekend with Kids in New England

We’ve moved back to the States from two years abroad in Spain. Unsure of our next destination, we opted to spend the summer on the east coast with family.

My husband envisioned a quiet summer spent with the grandparents – the kids happily entertained. We’ve been together for 16 years. He should know better!

Our quiet summer turned into a crazy tour of the U.S. Eastern Seaboard (plus, a parents-only, 6-day trip to San Francisco). Based between New York City and Philadelphia, we traveled to Duck, North Carolina (future post to come), Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine.

Beech Hill Farm & Bison Ranch, our Maine destination.
Beech Hill Farm & Bison Ranch, our Maine destination.

The only itinerary new to us was southern Maine. It turned out to be a great destination with kids. My aunt and uncle own Beech Hill Farm & Bison Ranch in North Waterford, Maine, which was our launching point for just short of a week.

Bentley, Beech Hill Farm & Bison Ranch's
Bentley, Beech Hill Farm & Bison Ranch’s “greeter.”

The “town” of North Waterford, located in southern Maine has not a single store, restaurant or stop light. In the surrounding towns, as is the case with most of New England, however, we were able to find everything we needed plus some little luxuries, including a toy store, a wine shop, and a cafe.

Buy local! Local book shops are a great place to pick up books, activity packs and, often, toys when you're on vacation.
Buy local! Local book shops are a great place to pick up books, activity packs and, often, toys when you’re on vacation.

New England has plenty of quaint, small towns that are worth a visit. Do a little pre-departure research and ask for advice from friendly locals. You’ll be strolling down “Main Street” like a resident and popping into the local wine shop like an old friend.

Perusing the offerings at a local wine (and yarn) shop.
Perusing the offerings at a local wine (and yarn) shop.

Lodging

If you can find lodging on a farm, do so. Chances are there will be tractors to climb on, pets to tend to and gardens from which to pick fruits and veggies.

Staying on a farm usually has the great advantage of offering on-site
Staying on a farm usually has the great advantage of offering on-site “climbing structures” to play on.

Attractions and Activities

There are berry farms and orchards all over New England. There is likely to be somewhere to pick fruit at any given time between June and November.

Maine has a lot of pick-your-own orchards. Between May and October, you are practically guaranteed to be able to find a place to pick some fruit.
Maine has a lot of pick-your-own orchards. Between May and October, you are practically guaranteed to be able to find a place to pick some fruit.

Visit a local farmers’ markets. Find the local library and check to see if they have story time for kids (this is a great chance for your kids to meet other kids). Check out a nearby lake and go for a boat ride or a swim.

Blueberry picking at Crabtree's Pick-Your-Own Highbush Blueberries in southern Maine. They charge by the pound and definitely should have weighed this kid on the way in and the way out!
Blueberry picking at Crabtree’s Pick-Your-Own Highbush Blueberries in southern Maine. They charge by the pound and definitely should have weighed this kid on the way in and the way out!

Local Shops

Across the US and in many other countries, the buy-local movement is trending. People are following their dreams, hanging a sign and selling some really great, artisanal goods.

The artisanal bags made locally at Rough & Tumble are amazing! They are simple, beautiful and of such great quality that she could definitely charge more (but don't tell her until I get the chance to buy another). This shop is the epitome of what can come of someone following their dream!
The artisanal bags made locally at Rough & Tumble are amazing! They are simple, beautiful and of such great quality that she could definitely charge more (but don’t tell her until I get the chance to buy another). This shop is the epitome of what can come of someone following their dream!

Visit those shops! Not only will you find some unique items but you’ll discover a human element and maybe a new knitting pattern, wine producer or clothing designer.

We loved the aptly (and wittily) named Fiber & Vine. A knitting and wine shop in one, it was opened by a local who had fled small town life for New York City only to return years later and open this charming shop.
We loved the aptly (and wittily) named Fiber & Vine. A knitting and wine shop in one, it was opened by a local who had fled small town life for New York City only to return years later and open this charming shop.
The beautiful yarn for sale at this knitting and wine shop made me almost want to take up knitting. I said almost...
The beautiful yarn for sale at this knitting and wine shop made me almost want to take up knitting. I said almost…

Food and Wine

There may not be any restaurants, cafes or wine shops in the town where you’re staying. Gasp! You won’t be left cooking dinner every night and drinking wine from the local grocery, though. There is sure to be a decent, maybe even great, place to eat (and pick up a few bottles) in another nearby town.

With a toy box to occupy the munchkins, a good wine selection and a super friendly owner, it's possible we stopped into Fiber & Vine three days in a row...
With a toy box to occupy the munchkins, a good wine selection and a super friendly owner, it’s possible we stopped into Fiber & Vine three days in a row…

Ask for recommendations from locals. Cafe Nomad, in the nearby town, had recently started offering dinner on the weekend. We would not have known about this dining option had a town resident not mentioned it.

By chatting with locals, we found out that this cafe had recently started serving dinner Friday and Saturday nights. Cozy up to local residents and you'll often get the inside scoop on the best places to eat and things to do.
By chatting with locals, we found out that this cafe had recently started serving dinner Friday and Saturday nights. Cozy up to local residents and you’ll often get the inside scoop on the best places to eat and things to do.

Go with the flow

Life in these small towns tends to be slower. Enjoy it! Adopt the pace as your own. Let your kids wander, explore, dilly-dally with no time constraint.

Strolling down Main Street in Norway, Maine. This kid loved the freedom and lack of time constraint to roam and explore.
Strolling down Main Street in Norway, Maine. This kid loved the freedom and lack of time constraint to roam and explore.
There's no hurrying these little legs. And, with a slow-paced, small town vacation, there's no need to.
There’s no hurrying these little legs. And, with a slow-paced, small town vacation, there’s no need to.

And, do the same yourself. If it rains, grab an umbrella and head outside. If it’s hot, take a dip in a nearby lake. Snow? Find a sled and a hill.

Make the most of
Make the most of “bad” weather. Get outside and see things in a different light.

Have you been to any small towns in New England (or elsewhere)? Found any cool, local shops or restaurants? Met any locals with whom you’ve kept up? We’d love to hear about it in the comments! We are always looking for new places to check out.

* This post was also featured on Walking on Travels , where you can find more inspiring travel posts and tips.

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Post Discussion

5 thoughts on “A Weekend with Kids in New England

  1. Brenda Tharp

    Great post, Kara! I love this site and what it stands for. We need to get in touch, I’m home through end of year, amazingly (except for a 10 day trip to southern Utah late Oct/early Nov).

    3 years ago Reply

    1. Kara Suro

      Thanks! Yes, we need to connect. Love following your photography trips through FaceBook. Such amazing work!

      3 years ago Reply

  2. Mary {The World Is A Book}

    It looks like you’ve made a great start to your back to the states, Kara. What a wonderful way to spend the summer. I love all the small town atmosphere and feeling of community especially buying local in the New England area. We did the foliage viewing trip many years ago and loved the small towns. I think we need a return trip soon. Looking forward to your stateside adventures.

    3 years ago Reply

    1. Kara Suro

      Thanks, Mary! Fall really is the best time to go because the foliage so amazing! Though summer, with it’s warmer days and garden bounties was fun too. We’ll definitely need to go back again during fall.

      3 years ago Reply

  3. Michele {Malaysian Meanders}

    We really enjoyed our time in Maine many summers ago. This summer, we also returned to living in the USA after spending many years abroad. Like you, the weeks after landing were filled with busy days with the grandparents. Welcome home.

    3 years ago Reply

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