Family Day Trips

Sometimes you've just got to get away from the house - for the kids' sanity, and for yours. So following are our favorite ways to grab a change of scenery, a breath of fresh air, and hopefully a little perspective in the process.

The DeCordova Sculpture Park
51 Sandy Pond Rd.
Lincoln, MA
Well-kept lawns and scenic woods stretch across the 35-acre stretch of park belonging to the DeCordova art museum and practically beg restless kiddies to run, jump, and frolic throughout. That said, it's also a terrific place to chill out on a blanket, tuck into some lunch, and soak up a little high culture; the park is home to no fewer than 75 sculptural works of art. Some of it will have you and the whippersnappers gasping at its beauty, and some may have you scratching your head with confusion. But it's all food for thought - meaning you're feeding your family's creative side as well as its appetite. Free outside of museum hours (Tuesday through Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.) or with admission to the museum ($9 for adults, $6 for kids ages 6 to 12 and seniors, free for kids under 5). Lincoln residents are also free. No alcohol or outdoor grilling allowed.

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art
125 West Bay Rd.
Amherst, MA
Little fans of ''The Hungry Caterpillar'' everywhere, unite: author/illustrator Eric Carle co-founded a museum just for you, and it's brimming with images you know and love from bedtime reading: ''Pat the Bunny,'' ''Where the Wild Things Are,'' and of course the works of Eric Carle. There's plenty more as well - in the three galleries of rotating exhibits dedicated to international illustrations; in the art studio that arms kids with plenty of materials to conjure up their own personal opuses; and in the library, where kids and parents can kick back, just reading or listening to the regularly held story hours. It's a full day's activity - especially when you factor in the museum's cafè, where healthy meals are de rigueur - that is, with the exception of the ''caterpillar cookies'' (served with one bite already taken by a hungry insect who shall remain nameless). Adults are $7, seniors and kids from ages 1 to 18 are $5.

Plimoth Plantation
137 Warren Ave.
Plymouth, MA
Even kids who yawn at history lessons inevitably get into the spirit of things once they set foot on this re-created 17th-century New England Colony, done up as it existed seven years after the Mayflower's arrival. Here, everyone is in character - fishermen, weavers, potters, and the like - right down to their funny accents and dialect. Kids love interacting with the villagers and the members of the Wampanoag enclave close by, and learning about what their lives were like, the livestock they bred, and how they survived. They also love boarding and exploring the re-created Mayflower, and eating what the first settlers ate - thankfully, the on-site Patuxet Cafè serves as many burgers with fries as it does venison and cranberry soup specials. Adults are $28, seniors are $25, and children ages 6 to 12 are $18.

World's End
250 Martin's Ln.
Hingham, MA
No, we're not talking about that wretched third installment of ''Pirates of the Caribbean.'' World's End in Hingham is a 251-acre peninsula of conservation land that juts into the ocean and mesmerizes everyone who visits with jaw-dropping views of Hingham Harbor and the Boston skyline. Best of all, there are multiple hills to see it all from that offer not just great minihikes but dappled photo spots set against the gorgeous harbor background. The car-free area also has tons of running space, plus glades in which kids can scamper and great picnicking spots. In winter it's a study in graphic white branches. In spring it's green as can be. Summer covers it with wildflowers, and fall blesses it with unimaginable foliage. It's not only picturesque, it's also peaceful and restorative. Most unlike the movie of its namesake. Adults are $5, children under age 12 are free.

Castle Island
William J Day Blvd.
South Boston, MA
Free, with equally free parking. That's just how we like our family day trips - but there's also a whole lot more to like about Castle Island. Fully accessible by car and foot from the mainland since the 1930s, the 22-acre park has a spacious beach, a fishing pier, a fun eatery (Sullivan's), and scads of history (Fort Independence is here). A ringed walkway over the water (known as The Sugarbowl) makes for a fantastic walk for parents and older kids, while the recently updated jungle gym and play area is a magnet for youngsters. Meanwhile, the views of neighboring islands and Logan Airport are tough to beat. Spread out a picnic blanket and some fixings, and spend an hour counting planes taking off and landing - arguably some of the best entertainment our kids have seen in months. Free or otherwise.

Roger Williams Zoo
1000 Elmwood Ave.
Providence, RI
Not for nothing is this considered to be one of the best zoos in the country. For starters, it's the ideal size - not overwhelmingly big, but spacious enough to house an impressive spectrum of animals. (As in, more than 1,000 total, from every corner of the planet, Madagascar to Australia.) Animals are given a respectable amount of space to roam, exhibits include great hands-on methods for children to learn about the species (the lemur exhibit is one of our favorites), plus a great petting zoo and just-for-kids conservation program that doles out tips on how to help the earth. Adults are $12, seniors are $8, and kids ages 3 to 12 are $6.