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Summer Travel

Summer Travel: Family

By Michael Blanding
May 16, 2010

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Underwater world Maine: At Diver Ed’s Dive-In Theater, visitors aboard the Starfish Enterprise watch as marine biologist Eddie Monat plumbs the depths of the Gulf of Maine for natural treasures with an underwater camera, while his wife, Edna – no kidding – narrates topside. The real fun begins when Eddie brings sea cucumbers, lobsters, and other creatures on board for close-ups. The two-plus-hour tours (reservations required) include plenty of silly humor along with genuine science. 105 Eden Street, Bar Harbor, 800-979-3370, http://divered.com

Get a Moo On Vermont: When you desperately need to unplug the kids from the PlayStation, Billings Farm & Museum might be just the ticket. With 70 Jersey cows in its herd, the dairy farm introduces visiting children to the pleasures of rural life through demonstrations and hands-on programs. Summer options include Time Travel Tuesdays, in which youngsters pitch in with chores and play old-fashioned games, and Ice Cream Sundays starting July 18, in which they can help churn cream into dessert. 5302 River Road, Woodstock, 802-457-2355, http://billingsfarm.org

Welcome to Seussville Massachusetts: Beloved children’s author Theodor Geisel – a.k.a. Dr. Seuss – grew up in Springfield, and much of the city’s architecture inspired his fanciful tales, including a real-life Mulberry Street, the castle-like Springfield Armory National Historic Site, and the Zoo in Forest Park, where his father was zookeeper. Yertle, Horton, the Lorax, and the Grinch are rendered in bronze alongside a life-size depiction of the doctor himself in the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden at the Springfield Museums. While there paying homage, check out the new giant Lego sculptures exhibit at the museums (it opens June 16). Springfield Armory National Historic Site, 1 Armory Square, Springfield, 413-734-8551, http://nps.gov/spar; Zoo in Forest Park, 302 Sumner Avenue, Springfield, 413-733-2251, http://forestparkzoo.org; Springfield Museums, 21 Edwards Street, Springfield, 800-625-7738, http://catinthehat.org

Monkey Business Vermont: Who says you’ve got to go to California to commune with tall trees? Located in the Northeast Kingdom, Twin Pines Recreational Tree Climbing takes adults and kids 12 and older high into the canopy to climb ropes and lay in a hammock. In one three-hour course, participants as young as 5 climb trees up to 60 feet high. 299 Maple Lane, Danville, 802-684-9795, http://newenglandtreeclimbing.com/vermont.html

History in the Hiking Maine: The easy hike along the base of Elephant Mountain in Greenville hides an unusual secret – the wreckage of a B-52 bomber that crashed in 1963 during a training exercise. Parts of the plane are amazingly well preserved, so be on the lookout for pieces of the wings, wheels, and fuselage through the undergrowth. While this part of the trail is only a few hundred yards long, it’s easy to spend several hours investigating. A memorial to the crew provides a contemplative end to the visit for children and parents alike. Off Lily Bay Road, Greenville; contact the Greenville Chamber of Commerce for detailed directions, 207-695-2702

Resort to Remember Massachusetts: The Winnetu Oceanside Resort on Martha’s Vineyard strikes the perfect balance between pleasing kids and their parents. Among the lures for the former are a giant chessboard in the courtyard, a complimentary half-day kids’ program, and outings to the beach and the farm next door. But the best part for parents is the Lure Grill, which has a separate room for kids so Mom and Dad can go on a grown-up date. 31 Dunes Road, Edgartown, 866-335-1133, http://winnetu.com

Up in the Air Connecticut: The New England Air Museum packs the entire history of aviation into three hangars at Bradley International Airport, outside Hartford. The museum displays more than 80 full-size aircraft, ranging from a 19th-century balloon basket to an F-14 Tomcat. The latest edition is KidsPort, a child-size airport with interactive computer exhibits explaining everything from how air traffic control works to how the airport doesn’t (or does) lose your luggage. Throughout the summer, Family Fun Fridays feature activities for children around changing themes – rocket building, paper-airplane races, and more. Bradley International Airport, 36 Perimeter Road, Windsor Locks, 860-623-3305, http://neam.org

Dinosaur Road New Hampshire: The closest thing to a time machine back to the age of the dinosaurs is a gentle hike through Heath Pond Bog Natural Area in Ossipee, a prehistoric landscape of orchids, mosses, and carnivorous plants that’s a registered National Natural Landmark. You won’t find any pterodactyls or stegosauri on the trail, but you may spot a beaver or porcupine. The highlight of the walk is a “quaking bog,” where a dense layer of moss grows that shakes slightly when walked upon. (Care should be taken with small children, as the moss layer is not safe to tread on too close to the pond.) Off Route 25 East, Ossipee, http://ossipeelake.org

Shore Bet Rhode Island: Located on the southwestern tip of the Ocean State, the seaside village of Watch Hill, in the town of Westerly, is a throwback to old-fashioned summer beach resorts (http://visitwatchhill.com). The village’s East Beach is wide and sandy, with a shallow pitch that’s perfect for small children. The smaller Watch Hill Beach is equally calm, with the added attraction of the Flying Horse Carousel (Bay and Larkin streets, 401-348-6007), open Memorial Day to Columbus Day and only to children ages 2 to 12. The carousel’s wooden horses are hung from metal chains, so the faster the carousel spins, the farther out riders fly. Across the street, soak up more atmosphere in the Olympia Tea Room (74 Bay Street, 401-348-8211, http://olympiatearoom.com), which features picture windows looking out onto Little Narragansett Bay, along with boat-fresh seafood in elegant preparations. But not everything here is a throwback. There is a bevy of upscale clothing and home furnishings boutiques to keep Mom and Dad shop-happy, as well as The Candy Box (14 Fort Road, 401-596-3325, http://candyboxwatchhill.com), which produces some of the best fudge and butter crunch in New England. At sunset, make the pilgrimage up the hill to the Watch Hill Lighthouse that now guards a vantage used as a lookout for everyone from Niantic Indians to Revolutionary War scouts. The setting sun lights up the butter-yellow facade of the 138-year-old Ocean House (1 Bluff Avenue, 401-584-7000, http://oceanhouseri.com), the last of Watch Hill’s once-ubiquitous grand seaside hotels. Newly rebuilt, it’s scheduled to reopen this week, ready to welcome a new generation of visitors.