New England with the Kids:
Massachusetts and Vermont
When it comes to American history and culture, New England is where it all began. Its history is one of the greatest attractions for vacationing families. But, history is not the only thing to attract you to the New England States. The states also have natural attractions that draw visitors: the beaches of Rhode Island, the rugged coasts of Maine, and the Green Mountains of Vermont. New England is not simply large cities; it is truly the small villages that define this part of the world.
New Englanders love their history and traditions, and have managed to maintain their past along with innovations for the future. It is this mix that makes touring New England with the family a unique and enjoyable experience. Many visitors to New England have specific destinations in mind when they plan their trip. Most folks include New England’s high points: the historic city of Boston, famous sites of the American Revolution, and the beautiful hills and valleys of the region.
The following suggested itinerary for a family vacation ensures that you will see all of those high points, and more. This tour, a sort of elongated U-shape, covers the city of Salem (situated along the coast north of Boston), through the mid-section of Massachusetts, and northwest into Vermont. You and your little adventurers can start and end your tour in Boston, with day trips to the nearby environs and a longer drive into surrounding states. A recommended tour would include Boston, Marblehead, Salem, Plymouth, Concord, Cambridge and Lexington, with an extended trip into Bennington, Manchester, and Vermont’s Green Mountain National Forest. Although this seems like an extensive list of sights, these destinations can easily be seen in a week’s visit since they are relatively close to one another (most of them within less than an hour’s drive from downtown Boston).
Of course, Boston should appear on every visitor’s itinerary. It is New England’s oldest, largest, and most historically significant city. The best way to get a real picture of Boston old and new is to walk the Freedom Trail. If you follow the full trail, (approximately 2 miles long, marked by a red line down the center of the sidewalks), it may take a full day to see all the important sites. If you have small children, you may want to cut the walk short and include a different type of activity during the day (for example spending the afternoon exploring the Boston Common). If you have time, be sure to visit the Boston Common, the nearby Granary Burying Ground, and the USS Constitution on Boston Harbor.
The beautiful Boston Common park was colonial Boston’s “common pasture land” where any town member could bring cows to graze. Today, the Common is the city’s most popular gathering place. Although the pasture ordinance is still in effect, it is unlikely that you will see any livestock grazing among the picnickers, sunbathers, joggers, and tourists. Instead, the people come to enjoy its ponds, paths, and pastures as a respite from the urban jungle.
Around the Common are some of the most interesting locales in American history. The Freedom Trail can be picked up at the Common. Across the street, at the Granary Burial Grounds, you can see where Paul Revere was buried—and patriotic individuals still leave him flowers. This small cemetery is also the last resting place of John Hancock, Samuel Adams, and other famous individuals. A short few blocks away you can visit the Old South Meeting House where a group of colonials met and set out in Native American dress to throw the Boston Tea Party.
In Boston’s neighboring cities be sure to see the handsome 19th century houses in Marblehead; see Revolutionary war re-enactments in Lexington; and visit Ralph Waldo Emerson’s house, Thoreau’s cabin on Walden Pond, and the home of Louisa may Alcott, all in Concord; and, see the House of the Seven Gables in Salem and visit the Witch Museum. Then, head for the mountains of Vermont where the kids can explore the ski resorts (also great outdoor fun in the summer); slip down an outdoor Alpine slide in Manchester; take an elevator ride to the top of the Bennington Battle Monument; and visit the Equinox Hotel where American Revolutionaries and the legendary “Green Mountain Boys” met in the hotel’s tavern.
Despite the large appeal of New England’s historic attractions, far too few western residents have visited the birthplace of American history. There is so much to learn about early America, our culture, and ourselves when visiting New England. As Arthur Frommer, a famous traveler and writer of popular guidebooks has said, “I feel that New England should come before Europe, Mexico, or Hawaii. It should come before Las Vegas or Reno. It has lessons to teach, role models to offer, and inspiration to provide, especially for children.”
He could not have put it better—our children need to be a part of the early history. They need to see, hear, touch, and explore the past. On a New England vacation, they can do just that! As we enter a new millennium we must remember that in our past we will discover our future selves.
As preparation for a New England trip, consider reading or watching these New England classics: Moby Dick, Herman Melville’s classic novel of the sea; The Scarlett Letter, Nathanial Hawthorne’s novel of sin and repentance among 17th century Puritans; and, share Little Women with the young ones. These will give you and the kids a small insight into New England history. As another preparation for your trip, remember that the New England tour suggested above, (and most other destinations in the region), can be especially busy in the summer and during the peak “fall foliage” time. Hotel rooms can be difficult to find so make reservations in advance during that time, whenever possible.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Contact the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism at:
Contact the Vermont Department of Tourism at:
Contact the Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau at: