The dog days of summer: What to do in New England this weekend

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BOSTON – Back-to-school sales and earlier sunsets mean families around New England are looking for the best way to make a few more lasting summer memories before autumn descends. Whether you and yours prefer stunning natural vistas or entertaining jaunts through history, below is a list of day-trips and weekend activities the entire family can enjoy.

Explore Boston’s haunted side and learn the city’s sordid tales


A tour guide on one of Boston’s ghost tours/Corey Balazowich (Flickr Commons)

For those who like to dabble in the supernatural, why not take a Boston Ghost Tour? The 90-minute tours run nightly at 8 p.m., as the sky darkens and guides lead tourists by lantern through the winding streets near Boston Common, telling the city’s most haunting tales, dating from the Colonial era to the present day. Whether visiting for the day, or a native Bostonian, don’t miss this chilling activity, which guests affirm is “saturated with some of the seedier history of old Boston.”

Wander up the road to Maine for some truly spectacular scenery

The view from Acadia Mountain/Mohammad Noman (Flickr Commons)

The view from Acadia Mountain/Mohammad Noman (Flickr Commons)

If the great outdoors is beckoning, New England, with its dozens of national and state parks, has no shortage of stunning natural beauty to explore. Founded in 1916, Acadia National Park in Mount Desert Island, Maine is one of the nation’s oldest national parks. Spend the day hiking one – or a few! – of Acadia’s seven summits, all with panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean and of varying degrees of difficulty for avid climbers and first-time hikers and kids. Afterward working up an appetite, head into the picturesque coastal village of Bar Harbor for a lobster dinner, freshly plucked from the sea, and a slice of Maine’s famous wild blueberry pie.

Head up the coast to “Little Boston”

Downtown Portland/ Axel Drainville (Flickr Commons)

Downtown Portland/ Axel Drainville (Flickr Commons)

If Acadia is a bit far, try stopping a little further south in Portland, Maine’s biggest city. Nestled in the Casco Bay Harbor, Portland offers all the charm and cobble-stoned streets of Boston’s North End but without the congestion of a large city. Stroll along the pier or in and out of the unique shops of the Old Port. If you’re feeling hungry, duck into Becky’s Diner, a family-run business for over 20 years, that’s been featured on not one, but two Food Network shows. If you’re in the mood for live music and colorful cocktails, Sonny’s Restaurant and Bar, is just a short walk away. As the sun sets, head up along the Eastern Promenade, and admire the picturesque scene of sailboats bobbing in the bay.

Skip the grocery and head to a bustling farmer’s market

Burlington Farmer's Market/ Jonathan's photos (Flickr Commons)

Burlington Farmer’s Market/ Jonathan’s photos (Flickr Commons)

Shopping can be a chore, but New England is teeming with vibrant marketplaces, so why not make a family outing of it? Some markets, such as the Summer Farmer’s Market in Burlington, Vermont have been offering much more than culinary delights for over three decades. With over 90 stands featuring everything from seasonal produce, fresh bread, and artisanal wares, the Market also features live music by local artists. Feel free to listen while chatting with growers, and stocking up on some of Vermont’s famous maple syrup.

Take a trip under the sea

A sea turtle relaxes at Mystic Aquarium/ Amanda L. Viana (Flickr Commons)

A sea turtle relaxes at Mystic Aquarium/ Amanda L. Viana (Flickr Commons)

If this summer’s release of Finding Dory has gotten you in the mood for some marine entertainment, try a visit to Connecticut’s Mystic Aquarium. Stay to watch an African Penguin feeding session, or even let a ray eat out of you hand. For the more adventurous among you, the aquarium provides a “Shark Encounter” exhibit, where you can run your hand along the back of a tamed shark. Be sure to stop by the aquarium’s rescue clinic, where dedicated staff and volunteers rehabilitate stranded sea life and return them to the wild.

Come see where “fantasy lives”


The view from Cinderella's Castle at Story Land/ John Henry F. (Flickr Commons)

The view from Cinderella’s Castle at Story Land/ John Henry F. (Flickr Commons)

Spend a magical day, or several days, at Story Land in Glen, New Hampshire. Opened by Ruth and Bob Morrell, and currently run by their descendants, the amusement park offers a local spin on the world-famous Disney World and DisneyLand, both of which opened after the Morrell’s “fairytale dream” became a reality in 1954. Combining moderate thrill rides with fairytale characters and settings, Story Land has survived and thrived for over sixty decades. As historian Jim Miller notes, “Parents can take pictures of their kids in the same exact spot where they posed as kids. You’ll see three or four generations of families return … Story Land binds people together.”

Take an interactive jaunt through New England’s colorful past

Strawberry Banke's town center/Unknown (Flickr Commons)

Strawberry Banke’s town center/Unknown (Flickr Commons)

New England has no shortage of living history museums, where workers wear period dress and speak in the dialect of the era. Want to experience four centuries in one day? Visit Strawberry Banke Museum, a 10-acre outdoor history museum in Portsmouth, N.H. Stop to chat with Mrs. Goodwin, wife of the New Hampshire’s Governor as she tends her garden in 1870. Or say hello to Edie Jalicki on her morning commute to her welding job at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard during WWII. If you’d rather stay in rural New England, take a trip back to 1830 and visit Sturbridge Village, one of the nation’s oldest and largest living history museums. With 200 acres, Sturbridge Village is filled with historians in full costume, carrying out the daily activities of a nineteenth-century New England village. For a glimpse into the lives of our Founding Fathers, stop by the John Adams Birthplace just outside of Boston. Walk through the cottages where the 2nd U.S. President and his son, John Quincy Adams, were born. Then relax on the porch of the Old House, home to the Adams family for four generations.