Friday, May 27, 2016

Summer Fun in the Upper Valley (VT/NH)

For quite a while now I've hoped to start sharing some family activity resources for the New England area. So with summer on the horizon it seemed like a great time to start sharing!

For this post we're focusing on summer activities in the Upper Valley region. The Upper Valley area is the Vermont and New Hampshire towns which border the Connecticut River. Visitors may be coming to the area for Dartmouth College, Dartmouth Hitchcock, the Vermont Law School, several local lakes, or favorite tourist stops like Woodstock and Quechee, VT. For many of us in the area, this is also the place we call home. Whether you're visiting or you live here, it's likely that at some point in the near future you'll be looking for something to do as a family.

We've collected some of our favorite places (and a few places we hope to get to) below.


Montshire Museum, Norwich, VT
One of our all time favorite local attractions, especially during the summer months. The Montshire Museum is a hands on, science museum with exhibits that interest all ages. As a local family we find a yearly family pass is more cost effective. In the summer, beyond the interior exhibits there are also lots of walking trails, outdoor explorations, and the science based water park. Kids love getting wet in the water park and visitors should plan to bring a swimsuit or a change of clothes.

Two of our favorite Montshire exhibits: The Water Park and the Bubble Exhibit. 

During the summer months visitors also have several picnic location options on the museum grounds. Under the picnic pavillion there is also a small kiosk where families can purchase sandwiches, snacks, and other lunch items.

VINS Museum, Quechee, VT
We have only been to VINS a handful of times, but it always intrigues us when we go. The center serves as a natural and environmental education center, as rehabilitation center for birds. Kids can see a varirty of local avian wildlife, although the larger birds of prey always catch my guys' interest.
(You can read a little more about one of our visits to VINS here.)

Treasure Island, Lake Fairlee, Thetford, VT
Although trickier to find an actual web link, this town beach and recreational center is one place you find us at least once a week in the summer. The sandy beach is on Lake Fairlee, which has both shallow and deeper swimming areas. There is also a playground area, volleyball and tennis courts, picnic tables and grills, and a small island great for younger kids to try fishing off of.

Cedar Circle Farm, Thetford, VT
One of our favorite places to get local veggies and fruits, Cedar Circle is more than just a farmstand. The farm also includes educational resources, gardening and perservation classes, a large sandbox, and the Hello Café. Definitely a place where families can go and hang for a little bit while they grab some yummy veggies for the week or pick up seedlings for their own gardens.

Billings Farm and Museum, Woodstock, VT
The farm at Billings Farm and Museum has a little bit for everyone: animals, historic information, current working farm machinery, ice cream, and more. This historic farm not only has exhibits on farming and traditional Vermont life, but also still operates as a dairy farm today. Throughout the summer visitors can be on the lookout for special presentations, hands on activities, and fun filled theme days. (You can read more about one of our visits to Billings Farm and Museum here.)

Norwich Farmer's Market, Norwich, VT
I have to admit we've never been to the Norwich Farmer's Market, but we've heard enough amazing things about it to know that we've got to make it one of our stops this coming summer! Saturday mornings the place fills up with local food and produce vendors, artisans, musicians, and more.

Path of Life Garden, Windsor, VT
While visiting the Path of Life Garden visitors walk through 14 acres of land decorated with 18 works of art, all representing different elements of human life. While adults will be able to take time to enjoy the art and be thoughtful about what they represent, kids enjoy the open spaces and meandering paths. Our boys loved racing exhibit to exhibit when we went.

Elizabeth's Park, Bradford, VT
Another all time favorite spot to visit locally, our boys never tire of a trip to Elizabeth's Park. This amazing wooden play structure provides endless hours of entertainment through all the twists and turns of the park. Families can bring a picnic or grab a local pizza and eat at one of the picnic tables. A small bathroom pavilion is also open and accessible during the daytime hours. (You can read about one of our early visits to Elizabeth's Park here.)

Quechee Gorge and Quechee Gorge Village, Quechee, VT
The Quechee Gorge and the quirky and fun village shops nearby our a classic tourist attraction in the Upper Valley. But it's not just for tourists, I can remember several stops myself as a child. This will be the summer we finally get our boys to do the hike along the Gorge.

Justin Morrill Homestead, Strafford, VT
Although a little off the beaten path, this historic site is worth the side trip. The home was owned by Senator Justin Morrill (Senator from 1867 to l898), and has been preserved over time to still represent what the house looked like when he lived there. Visitors can take a guided tour of the house and explore the grounds and barns by themselves. We like to bring a snack or picnic to eat near one of the pretty streams or gardens.

Front porch of the Morrill Homestead and our favorite picnic location on the grounds. 

New Hampshire

Lebanon Airport, Lebanon, NH
If you know us as a family, or even if you just follow us on Instagram, you know one of our all time favorite things to do is grab a bite to eat and hit the backside of the Lebanon, NH airport. While not a major airport, the side picnic area still proves to be a place to catch some sights of local air traffic. The picnic tables and viewing make for some fun and *free* entertainment. It's also a great way to have a little fun before doing the weekly grocery shopping.

Evening picnic at the Lebanon Airport. 

Lebanon Farmer's Market, Lebanon, NH
Another Farmer's Market that is so much more than just produce! Great food options including dinner, desserts, and snacks as well as entertainment make this market a popular place to be on a Thursday evening during the summer months.

Fore-U Golf Center, West Lebanon, NH
Big Brother has become fascinated with golf, especially mini golf, and so I know we'll be spending more time at the Fore-U Golf Center this summer. Located conveniently near the local shopping areas, the Fore-U Golf Center provides more than just mini-golf fun. The Center also includes batting cages, a driving range, ice cream, and a playground. We like it enough that we hosted a birthday party there this spring!

Fore-U Golf Fun as a family. 

Storrs Pond Recreation Center, Hanover, NH
Again, another location we have not yet visited but are looking forward to trying out this summer. Options include swimming, camping, picnicking, and tennis. The pool looks like an amazing way to cool off during the hot summer months!

St. Gaudens: National Historic Site, Cornish, NH
This historic site allows visitors to explore the home, grounds, and gardens of Augustus St. Gaudens, the famous sculptor. The gardens alone will entertain children alike with their layout and sculptures. Explore more of the grounds, or take a guided tour of the house.

Riverside Park & Pavilion, West Lebanon, NH
Another great place for families to stop and play, the Riverside Park & Pavilion in West Lebanon has a wide variety of options for families looking for a place to play. Several playground structures entertain and challenge children at different age levels. Multiple horseshoe pits can be used by adults, and a skate park across the parking lot is loved my active riders of all ages. A covered pavilion is also a great place to bring a lunch or dinner.

We'll keep updating this post as the summer months go on, and we look for more fun opportunities in the Upper Valley area! So check back in again. 

Interested in visiting other parts of New England? Check out these posts below:

Summer Activities for Kids in the Bangor, Maine area from Crafty Mama in ME. 
Visit Bar Harbor from The Heart of Deborah. 
Take a magical trip to Mackworth Island, Maine as shared by Magic Onions. 

Visit Story Land in New Hampshire, Our Whimsical Day Shares about their adventure. 

Visit the Roger Williams Park Zoo in Rhode Island as shared by Plain Vanilla Mom. 

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