NH/MA/ME with the family
July 22, 2010 10:06 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for recommendations for family friendly day trips centered around Portsmouth, NH in August.

We're going to be in Portsmouth for a week in August with our kids, 10 and 8 year old girls. We do have some stuff we've got on the agenda (a visit to Salem, MA and a pilgrimage to Red's Eats), but I'm looking for other recommendations. I think the girls would love stuff like gazing at tide pools or playing in the surf - where's the best place to do those things? But other suggestions for must-see things would be great (a previous AskMe mentioned Old Sturbridge Village, for example - is this worth the trip?).

I'd like to keep stuff less than 2 hours drive away from Portsmouth. Other restrictions: no boat stuff (seasickness), and our weekend is taken up with other plans so no weekend-only stuff.

Oh! And will there still be people selling wild blueberries on the side of the road in August? Please say yes!
posted by Addlepated to Travel & Transportation around Portsmouth, NH (15 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Downtown Portsmouth is very walkable, and there's some neat stuff to see (Strawbery Banke, the USS Albacore). You might also consider a drive up to Freeport, ME (about two hours drive from Portsmouth) to visit LL Bean (open 24 hours), and all the other outlets there.
posted by holterbarbour at 10:36 PM on July 22, 2010

Best answer: Sturbridge is a little more than two hours one-way from Portsmouth. If you haven't seen one of these old reconstructed Colonial towns (like Williamsburg, Va.) and don't foresee another opportunity, it's a good visit, but just be aware that it will consume an entire day. Six Flags New England is fairly close to Sturbridge if you're looking to do the theme park thing.

No water? That's tough. I was going to recommend whale watching, kayaking near Plum Island or even a half-day on a fishing boat. Some nice public beaches around Portsmouth, though the water can be cold.
posted by stargell at 10:53 PM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you decide you want to go to the beach, the closest (good, public) beach to Portsmouth is in Wells, ME, about 25 minutes up I95. They also have killer mini-golf.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:05 PM on July 22, 2010

Best answer: the closest (good, public) beach to Portsmouth is in Wells, ME, about 25 minutes up I95

Actually, the best beach in the Seacoast area is in Ogunquit, which is even closer to Portsmouth. It's a big, wide, beautiful beach where, by some trick of sunlight and geography, the water warms up and is actually swimmable, at least compared to other Maine and NH beaches. If the kids are into exploring rocks and tidepools, you can take a walk along Marginal Way towards Perkins Cove, which is perfect for that.

If you want to do some hiking, you can make a quick trip up to Mt. Agamenticus in York, ME. It's got great views of both the White Mountains and the ocean from the summit. It's big enough that the kids will feel like they climbed a big mountain, but small enough to be totally reasonable hiking for an 8 year old.

The Whites, by the way, are totally worth a trip too. There's tons of hiking, of course, but plenty of other options too. You could go to Franconia Notch, see the Flume Gorge and ride the Cannon Aerial Tram. The kids would probably love both. The Whites are a bit of a haul, but a totally reasonable day trip from Portsmouth.

Portsmouth and the greater Seacoast, by the way, is really lovely, and could probably fill your whole week. Don't spend every day driving two hours to someplace else!
posted by dseaton at 12:47 AM on July 23, 2010

Best answer: You don't need to drive to Sturbridge to see a living history museum -- Portsmouth has its own, Strawberry Banke.

Saco, ME, about 45 min from Portsmouth, has an amusement/waterpark, Funtown/Splashtown that is a great place to take kids when the weather is hot.

Red's Eats is ok but it's not worth a 1.5 hour drive. There are many places to get better fried food and good enough lobster rolls that are not so far away. You would basically be paying $20 and driving 75 miles to have someone pull a lot of lobster out of the shell and stack it on a bun for you.
posted by mneekadon at 3:06 AM on July 23, 2010

Best answer: Sorry I don't have a lot of suggestions for lobster rolls -- if you are staying with family its best to cook your lobsters at home.

Oh, however, you probably won't see wild blueberries sold on the side of the road until you get a little further North. Note that the blueberries were early this year, so no guarantee there will still be a lot of them, but there could still be some.

Other ideas for day trip: 1A to Nubble Light (spectacular views, watch the surf spray high above the rocks), on to York Beach, possibly the Animal Park, have sandwiches at Goldenrod while the kids watch the taffy pulling machine.
posted by mneekadon at 3:16 AM on July 23, 2010

Best answer: Many a summer weekend morning my dad would wake the four of us up early. My mom would have had everything packed already. We were piled bleary eyed into the car and my dad would start driving.

We'd end up on the Kancamagus Highway, which is one of the prettiest drives I have ever experienced. There are plenty of things to do along the way. Our stops always included the Flume at Franconia Notch Park and Swift River.

It's about two hours from Portsmouth, but my family made that same length of drive from Maine with four kids with some regularity at least since I was seven and my youngest sibling was three. Once on the Kancamagus, there were enough stopping points and things to do that we'd all crash asleep on the way home.

I can't recommend that area for a daytrip enough.
posted by zizzle at 3:55 AM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: No one has mentioned Odiorne Point State Park, which has great areas for hunting in tide pools and nice picnic spots. They also have some cool WWII era bunkers. It was the perennial grade school field trip when grouping up in central NH and always a fun day.

There is also the Seacoast Science Center right at Odiorne Point, which I've never been too, but have heard good things about.
posted by chiefthe at 4:55 AM on July 23, 2010

Best answer: Portsmouth is just about an hour and fifteen minutes to Boston. If you make that drive you could go to the Boston Science Museum, which is perfect for your kids' ages, or do something more outdoorsy in Boston one day.

York Wild Animal Kingdom is an amusement park on York Beach--fun, a little tacky. You can walk around York and get salt water taffy or ice cream.

Marginal Way is a nice walk in York.

There should still be a (by donation) musical in Prescott Park in the evenings. Bring a picnic and a blanket and have a late night out.

In addition to Odiorne Park/beach (best for tide pooling) there is Wallace Sands Beach, Hampton Beach (boardwalk, tacky, fun), New Castle Common...

There is pick-your-own-fruit everywhere. Look online for local spots. There's also a nice farmer's market in Portsmouth on Saturdays. It'll be a bit late in the season for blueberries but you never know.

You can climb Mount Agamenticus (York area) or Mount Major (About an hour away.)

Have fun!
posted by tacoma1 at 4:57 AM on July 23, 2010

The Desert of Maine.
posted by JanetLand at 5:09 AM on July 23, 2010

Best answer: Water Country is right in Portsmouth. If I was a 10 year old girl I'd love going there. Heck I'm a 26 year old woman and I'd love going there.

There's pick-your-own blueberries going on right now in Ipswich, MA - not sure if it'll still be going on in August, but Russell Orchards has a calendar. I just actually went for the first time last week despite living here for 5+ years, and it was very cute - it has an area with some ducks, pigs, goats, chickens, horses, and there's some insane pheasant-looking things that run around. I know that I've picked blueberries in August before, but you may have to head north vs south for that, like the lakes region area.

And do what zizzle said and head up to Conway and the Kancamagus. Conway has the Alpine Slides! And another smaller waterpark also at Attitash. A scenic railroad. And a lot of outlet shopping. Worth a day trip for sure.
posted by kpht at 5:53 AM on July 23, 2010

Best answer: There are ferries out to Star Island, in the Isle of Shoals, from downtown Portsmouth. You'd probably see seals! And lots of boats, and pretty lighthouses, and the former home of Celia Thaxter, and a giant prison from the Spanish American War.

In Portsmouth, Prescott Park has outdoor performances (they're doing Peter Pan this summer), concerts, and other things. It's very close to the aforementioned Strawberry Banke.

My favorite beaches in the area are Wallis Sands (especially on a Sunday afternoon, it's very quiet and clean compared to Hampton) and Odiorne.
posted by ChuraChura at 5:56 AM on July 23, 2010

Oh bother, I'm sorry. I missed the no boat thing.
posted by ChuraChura at 5:57 AM on July 23, 2010

Best answer: Go to a Portland Seadogs minor league baseball game.

There are a lot of summer festivals and events - check out this website:

posted by Sukey Says at 6:22 AM on July 23, 2010

Best answer: And besides the day trips, there are some great places in the town as holterbarbour suggests. I loved eating a fun breakfast at Popovers on the Square and going for the northeast's best fried clams (and other seafood) at Bob's Clam Hut which is super family friendly with outdoor picnic tables and a great crowd. Of course you could also drop the kids off and head to the nearby Harpoon brewery which was one of my favorite brewery tours (ok, not what you're looking for).

You'll love it up there.. have fun!
posted by namewithhe1d at 6:56 AM on July 23, 2010

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