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Suggestions/advice wanted for week-long New England trip next spring

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Hello everyone! My husband and I have wanted to do a Boston/New England trip for years (outside of Vermont, which we've already visited) and I think we finally settled on going next spring. This will be our first real vacation with our twins, who will be around 2 1/2 years old at the time, so my husband is a little nervous and still halfway pulling for a closer driveable trip. We would be flying from Charlotte and we would have about a week.

Before having our girls, we used to plan bigger European trips so I'm not used to needing advice for US adventures but I've done a bunch of research and I'm starting to get confused by all of the great-sounding options. So, here goes:

1) My original thought was to travel in April. After reading some posts on here, that seems less than ideal. Now I'm thinking early/mid May? We don't mind traveling off-season and, in fact, prefer it. But I don't want to end up in cute little towns with nothing open. This happened to us in Croatia (hint for those of you planning on visiting the country in November!) and it was inconvient on several occassions and we don't want a repeat. I also don't really want a big muddy mess. Chilly weather we can handle; I'm not looking for a beach trip.

2) I'm a bit concerned about how child-friendly the region is, but I'm not sure exactly what kinds of questions to ask in regards to this. I mean of course people in this area have kids of their own. I guess my concern is that some of the towns along the coast (RI, MA, ME) sound like they could be more upscale. Maybe I'm completely wrong? I like a nice dinner as much as anyone else, but I would never walk into a nice, fancy restaurant towing two two-year-olds. We are more laid-back in general and would prefer locations that fit that. The girls are still young enough that most of the "kid friendly" options (museums, etc) won't really apply to us so this would be mostly a scenic road trip with lots of walks, maybe bike rentals, and things of that nature.

3) And finally the favorite "where to go" question. Right now I know we would want at least a few days in Boston. From there we were thinking about heading up north, along the coastline, towards Kennebunkport and Portland. My guidebook raves about Lake Winnipesaukee so I'm intrigued about that as well. But I am also intererested in some of the towns along Cape Ann and then Cape Cod and perhaps Nantucket if we could fit it in. Obviously I know we can't do all of these things, but I don't know how to prioritize. This probably sound cliche, but we want to experience some of the "picturebook" New England if it still exists. I'm from the midwest (St. Louis) originally and this section of the US will be very new for us.

It looks like we could fly nonstop (prefered, since this will be our first flight with our twins) to Boston, Providence, Manchester and Portland (although less frequently) from CLT so I'm wondering if maybe it would be best to fly into Providence and out of Manchester or Portland (or vice versa)?

Thank you so much!
Tracy

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    May is certainly preferable to April in terms of weather. The later you can come in May, the better; more places will open as the month goes on, and the more northern areas will be greener. However, I don't think you have to worry too much about finding yourself in any "ghost towns" with nothing to do. I think the bigger problem will be having *too much* to do in just one week!

    With only one week to spend, I would probably suggest just a couple of days in Boston, followed by a trip along the North Shore (Cape Ann) to Portsmouth, NH; then along the South Coast of Maine to Portland (via Ogunquit, Kennebunkport). Myself and many others prefer the coastline beyond Portland, but with such a short time frame I think you will have to forgo the Mid-Coast region.

    From Portland, head inland to the White Mountains of NH and stay in one of the more quaint towns like Jackson, Bethlehem, or Sugar Hill (try to avoid North Conway). You could explore the Lakes Region from your base in the White Mountains or plan another overnight stay in this region. In addition to Lake Winnipesaukee, Squam Lake is also a great area. You've got frozen-in-time villages like Sandwich and Tamworth; family resort towns like Wolfeboro and Meredith; and classic tourist destinations like Weirs Beach and Castle in the Clouds.

    From here, it's a quick drive back to Boston or Manchester. I think the best thing would be to fly into Boston so you could spend a couple of days in the city without a car, then rent the car on your way out. Since you might incur additional fees for returning the car at a different location, it makes sense to fly out of Boston as well.

    I would advise against Cape Cod and Nantucket for a number of reasons: you're not looking for a beach trip, many places on the Cape are seasonal (as opposed to say, Portland ME), and driving out to the Cape or taking the ferry to one of the islands seriously limits your time to see the rest of New England. You get a small taste, but doing the more northern route gives you more diversity of landscapes (cities, coast, mountains, lakes).

    You really don't have to worry about New England not being child-friendly. Sure, there are fancy restaurants in Boston and Portland as in any large city, but there are also tons of super casual places. 99% of the restaurants in Maine and NH are casual family places, usually with picnic tables and everything. New England is a very family-oriented place. You might have an image of places like Newport being full of affluent socialites, but in reality these towns are popular family destinations for everyone.

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    TerrMys had me in agreement until s/he got to the White Mountains part. Considering the season and the length of time, I would do a loop - Boston - Cape Ann - up the coast to Portland - back to Boston.

    White Mountains in April/May might offer some scenery, but ski/snow season will be over and things that open for the summer not yet so. Similar for Lake Winnipesaukee/Squam - on the end, they are nice lakes with water activities and beaches - not much beyond scenery, antique shops, romantic inns off season - nice, but not with 2 year olds.

    Fly into Boston, stay a few nights. Then rent a car, drive to Rockport/Gloucester. That will give you the quaint (Rockport) and authentic (Gloucester) coastal village feel. Stay a night perhaps. Take the kids to one of the beaches to run around and dig in the sand. Some nice restaurants in both towns.

    Hit the road towards Portland. Bribe your DH to watch the kids and stop at Kittery Outlet stores to shop for a few hours. On Rte 1 in Wells, ME eat at the Maine Diner - esepcially have the pie.

    Head to Portland, ME. A nice, compact little city with shops and scenery. There is a nice drive where you can see various lighthouses and walk around in some of them. Even the kids might like that. Then back to Boston.

    Although winter temperatures in NC are not that much warmer than Boston (daughter is in college near Burlington, NC), winter in New England lasts forever - so bring warm clothing, even in May. Layers. And waterproof footwear. You could hit some really nice weather, or maybe not. Also week following 3rd Monday in April is a MA/ME holilday called Patriots Day - and public school vacation is the week following. So that would not be best week to find bargains. I think NH public school vacation is the week after that. (Schools do not get out for the year here until about 3rd week in June - that is why vacation is so late).

    Patriots Day is also date of Boston Marathon - an interesting spectacle, but again, not with 2 year olds and hotel occupancy will be difficult and expensive.

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    This is all good advice, but I can't emphasize enough that the later in May (except Memorial Day weekend) the better. The week after Memorial Day in June is better still. Everything is open but it won't be crowded. Why? As a transplanted Southerner, I can tell you that you are unlikely to have any weather that you would recognize as summer before then!

    Public schools in NE don't get out until the end of the second or third week in June, so it is a good time to go to kid-oriented attractions. On the other hand, it is hard to find hotel reservations in mid to late May in Boston because of all the college graduations. Harvard and MIT are usually the last, so if you come after theirs (google) you will be better off.

    One good thing here is that distances are so short that you can go lots of different places (Marblehead, Gloucester, and Rockport on Cape Ann, for example) without keeping the kids cooped up in the car.

    Stay in the Back Bay in Boston. There is a Marriott, a Sheraton, and a Hilton if you have points and a Star supermarket across from Copley Place where you can get anything you need for the children -- or yourselves. There is also a Trader Joe's in a basement across from the Hynes Auditorium.

    Get a copy of "Make Way for Ducklings" to read to the kids several times before they come up, and then they will enjoy the duckling sculptures in the Public Garden. They will also love a swan boat ride.

    You absolutely won't want a car in Boston, but you can pick up one in Park Square when you are ready to leave. You can visit Cpe Ann on the way north to Portsmouth, NH, which makes a great overnight. An incredibly walkable downtown, a great waterfront, casual restaurants, and a downtown Sheraton.

    The next day, you can take the coastal route to Portland through York, Ogunquit, and Kennebunkport, all of which have waterfront exercising options for the children and plenty to enjoy for you. Portland is like a larger Portsmouth but with lots of family lodging (Hampton Inn type) near the airport and mall.

    If the weather is good,

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    Sorry, I hit the send button in mid sentence, where I was going to say something like what Gail wrote about the White Mountains. If it is really warm -- and it csan be -- go there. Otherwise, go on to Brunswick, a quaint college town, and visit the rocky coast on Bailey's Island and Orr's Island, everybody's idea of Maine but a lot closer than Wiscasset or Camden. LL Bean is nearby if you want a major shopping experience.

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    Weather is really unreliable in April as others have said, so May ( which can be really warm, really cold or both) is a better bet. good advice to avoid graduations in Boston.
    I would definitely skip the inland part of the trip with such a short time and hug the coast. Mystic Seaport in CT is a really good site for kids, also. With two year olds, I would keep the schedule very loose and would visit less places, car time not being reliably fun.

    I'd do Boston, Cape Ann,Portland,York, Bailey's Island.

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    Thank you all so much. You've given me a lot to think about, and now I have names of some towns that sound like they would be of interest to work into some kind of itinerary. April definitely seems out. Now I'm leaning more towards early June. Since public schools sound like they are still in session, we probably won't get the crowds that we would likely come across later in the summer.

    I'm getting ready for a very long car ride (back to Illinois for the holidays) but I have a couple of guidebooks downloaded on my kindle so I'll be reading and doing more research over the holidays and will probably come back with more questions soon.

    Thank you again for all of your helpful advice! It's much appreciated!!

    Happy Holidays!
    Tracy

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    Hi Tracy,

    Another vote for late May or early June! IMO, that's the best time to visit b/c of nice weather, and hotels will be more affordable. Avoid early/mid May due to the college graduations - it's >$200 for a room at Hampton Inn!

    I definitely recommend a few days on the N Shore around Cape Ann area. No need to worry about your kids - there are plenty of kid-friendly places here! Good luck w/planning.

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    Another vote for late May but better the first week of June. Portsmouth NH is a nice walking city plus you have Prescott Park on the water and some nice city playgrounds. When we visited the Portsmouth farmers market several weeks ago, it was opposite a very popular playground with water views. Lots of kids, parents and kite flying. For longer walks there's the Urban Forestry Center and Odiorne Point. Hampton Beach isn't bad off season and some of the family restaurants like Petey's stay open year round (Rye). Fronm Prescott Park we like to take Rt 1B thru New Castle. The drive along the coast is the Rye area has some beautiful mansions/homes.

    York in ME is a very popular family beach with the popular long walk up to Nubble Light. Don't know when the ice cream stand opens or the Goldenrod where it's traditional to watch the taffy pulling machine. Again, nice little playground and benches in the short sands area closest to the downtown t-shirt shop area.

    The Old Port area in Portland ME is full of small shops. I think even window shopping would be fun plus a stop at MDI ice cream on Exchange St (very exotic flavors). This is a hilly area so you'll get a good workout pushing a stroller. Between York and Portland, there's not a good way to drive along beach areas. Most are hidden by homes. Rt 1 doesn't get any ocean views in this part of Maine.

    I agree with Meredith and Wolfboro as being lovely places on Lake Winnepesaukee in NH. And nearby Center Sandwich is truly frozen in time. But with a few days in Boston and a few days on the coast, you really don't have much extra time.

    One of the spring events you might see if you do some google searching is historic farms or farm museums that hold a plow day for draft horses or antique tractors. These are usually in May. The children are too young to appreciate the events but some of the farm museum events are lovely family days where you can enjoy the day and not rush around. I agree also with getting some sand toys and letting the kids play in the sand at one of the beaches. Come with a insulated bag for snacks. We usually carry bag chairs in the car for just sitting and enjoying a nice view.

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    It's true that a lot of the more kid-oriented attractions in the White Mountains don't open until Memorial Day weekend (Story Land, Santa's Village, Hobo Railroad, Clark's Trading Post, etc.), but for a trip that is mostly focused on "a scenic road trip with lots of walks, maybe bike rentals, and things of that nature," there is plenty to do in the White Mountains for a day or two. Also, the Lost River Gorge opens on May 11th and the Flume Gorge on May 12th.

    Personally, I would a feel a little bit cheated if I visited New England but only saw the built-up coastline between Boston and Portland, then got on the highway and drove back to Boston. Don't get me wrong - the coast is fantastic - but if you're looking for that "picture book" New England, I think a couple of days in the mountains and/or lakes are a must. Just my two cents!

    There's definitely more to do in June, although in the Lakes Region a lot of places open in early or mid-May. The Squam Lakes Science Center opens on May 1st, Castle in the Clouds opens May 12th (weekends only until June), and Funspot is open all year long. Visiting local farms is also a good idea; some of them have petting zoos and the like for the kids.

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    Hi Tracy, glad you're coming home to your roots. We will have good weather for you over the weekend, so say the weatherpeople.

    Anyway, I just finished planning a trip to NE for mid and late May. You'll love Maine. Portland is a neat city. Just remember that a lobster a day keeps the doctor away! We'll be doing the other states on this trip. Can't help you with those as I'm no good in the kid department, but can tell you that downtown Boston hotels are outrageously expensive, as I'm sure you know.

    The best value deal I found was at the Boston Park Plaza for $136 a night with a AAA discount, not including parking which is another $31. (Most hotels there charge for parking.)

    The Park Plaza doesn't have free wifi. But with every other place being so dang expensive and the location of the Park Plaza being so good, we're "sacrificing" some of the usual amenities.

    Here's the Park Plaza's website: http://www.bostonparkplaza.com/ In reading up on it on TA, some of the rooms can be really small so most recommended the King size room (300 sq ft) which comes with a view!

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    Of course, you know your kids and what they might like, but when our son was their age we gave up road trips and overseas trips for a few years in favor of settling into a beach cottage for a week or two. You might think about that -- coming a bit later (summer really starts over July 4th weekend in New England) -- and renting a cottage in RI or MA on the Cape or islands if you like to swim, or north, if you like a picturesque coast to look at (my preference). Lakes in NH or Maine might be another choice. Just something to consider.

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    The weather in May is very changeable in New England. The past 5 years we have vacationed on Cape Cod and Nantucket after Memorial day, the first week of June and have been lucky. It is warmer, with more sunny days. Personally, I would never plan a trip in April or May to this part of the country. Of course I realize you could go in June and it could pour everyday.This has just been my personal experiance over the past years. Enjoy!

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    Like everyone else, I recommend going as late into May as possible. Not only do the sleepy towns wake up around Memorial Day, but you're more likely to have better weather. Do check and make sure that the dates you pick don't coincide with any major college graduations (BU, Harvard, MIT and maybe even BC) because hotel rooms will be very difficult to come by. I used to live in Boston and took my daughter back when she was 1. She had an absolute blast. Definitely check out the Children's Museum, they have an interactive section for younger kids. I've been to children's museums in several cities in the US and in Europe and think Boston has the best one, hands down. Your kids will also like the Public Garden as there is plenty of room to run around (and be sure to get photos of them on the "Make Way for Duckling" statues). They will probably fall in love with the T - I think the highlight of every trip I've taken with my toddler has been the metros and trains. Beware that the T is NOT stroller friendly, few elevators to be found. Same goes for many buildings in the Back Bay of Boston, you'll find yourself needing to climb a few steps just to get into a restaurant.

    I haven't traveled far past Boston with my daughter but pre-kids I went to all the NE states and I think Maine has the loveliest coastline, FWIW. The lakes and mountains of NH are beautiful as well.

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