Once in a lifetime trip for 4 tweens in New England
June 6, 2012 5:35 AM   Subscribe

I have 3 boys, age 11, visiting CT for a week from GA. Ideas for day trips & experiences they will never forget.

My son's 3 best friends (age 11-12, tween boys) are coming to stay with us for a week. WHEEE! They'll be here mid-June.

We are taking them to NYC for 1.5 days. (Staten Island Ferry, Empire State Building, Playing Chess in Central Park. More/better ideas welcome).

What other New England Must See/Must Do Experiences should we do. I am willing to drive 4/5 hours and do an overnight for the right experience.
This may be their only trip to this area... so we want to make it count.
posted by LittleMy to Travel & Transportation around Dartmouth, MA (24 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Is the Mystic Aquarium still good? What about taking a ferry ride to Long Island, then going to Splish Splash water park in Riverhead (not positive it will be warm enough, but kids like that stuff).
posted by kellyblah at 5:46 AM on June 6, 2012

* pulls up chair and sits down *

Within Connecticut:

Mystic Marine Life Aquarium, if they're not "too cool" for that yet.

There are a gabillion places in Connecticut that do hot-air balloon rides.

The Natural History Museum at Yale. You can pair that with the "Dinosaur State Park" in Rocky Hill.

A trip to UConn's agricultural building - visit the cows and the sheep and the pigs and stuff. Finish off with some ice cream made on the premises. Or, check out the puppetry museum at UConn (it's one of the few universities with a puppetry program).

There's a helicopter museum in Stratford, and Groton would be cool if they're into submarines.

The Barnum Museum in Bridgeport also has some funky stuff.

The prerequisite link to the Roadside America page on Connecticut is here.

Finally, the best cheeseburgers on the planet can be found in Mansfield, Connecticut, at a place that also offers homemade ice cream and milkshakes made therefrom.

In New York City:

....You're taking these kids to New York for a day and a half in the summer and you're not considering Coney Island?

Depending on when you're there, there are tons of free movies and concerts around in the summer. Grab a copy of TIME OUT NY and check out the date you'll be there.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:51 AM on June 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

Schooner in New Haven.

Lake Compounce.

A hike up trails of appropriate difficulty at Sleeping Giant State Park. There a castle-style tower at the top, and the main (easy) trail marks the spot where some kids were playing and one fell and died 100 years ago, which always gets my kid's attention.
posted by troywestfield at 6:00 AM on June 6, 2012

Empress C, Shady Glen's in Manchester, not Mansfield (I know you know this--it's probably just too early).

Big yes on the natural history museum, btw--it's one of my family's favorites. (It's usually listed as the Yale Peabody Museum, or just Peabody, if you're looking on the internet.)

This guy's site is wonderful for finding CT entertainment resources, and he always comments on kid friendliness.
posted by dlugoczaj at 6:06 AM on June 6, 2012

There's so much, this question is sort of paralyzing me:-)

OK, Mystic is the obvious answer.

They're probably too old to still like the Essex Steam Train, but some kids that age might.

The beach! My favorite is probably Rocky Neck but there are lots of choices. Hammonasset is nice, Ocean Beach has all kinds of stuff to do beyond the actual beach part. If they like more rugged/outdoorsy type things, Bluff Point would be better. There are lots of non-beachy outdoor places; a few of my favorites are Haystack Mountain and Chatfield Hollow, though the latter might be too mellow for kids that age.

Museums - check out CTMQ - Steve is a very cool, funny guy who basically reviews every museum in the state, and you can gauge kid-friendliness of places well from what he writes.

Farms/ ice cream stands! They're very CT/New England. I like Buttonwood in Griswold (they have fields of sunflowers) and Rich Farms in Oxford, but there are tons more, and they're almost all really good. Just check Yelp for whatever towns you're going to be near.

Have to go now, but will post more later!
posted by DestinationUnknown at 6:07 AM on June 6, 2012

At that age I would have hated anyone that took me that close to Boston and didn't take me to a game at Fenway. However, back then you could get bleacher seats for $1 an hour before the game. Your level of difficulty, and financial commitment, will be much much greater.
posted by COD at 6:19 AM on June 6, 2012

COD: I can't help but note that a trip to Fenway is also contingent on whether the kids in question were Red Sox fans. If they're Yankee or Mets fans, then insert that attempt as appropriate.

Or, if they just dig baseball, you could also make a Coney Island Cyclones game part of their New York visit.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:36 AM on June 6, 2012

If Fenway Park is too far/difficult/expensive, there is minor league baseball in New Britain, Norwich, and Bridgeport.
posted by otters walk among us at 6:38 AM on June 6, 2012

Baseball game--either Yanks or Sox, depending on exact schedules, or one of the minor league teams (I grew up in New Britain and the Rock Cats do right by families.)

Nth-ing Mystic, Essex train ride, Rocky Hill dino museum. I did those a lot as a kid.

Another idea for farm stuff--go to a pick-your-own place. I'm not sure what's out in mid-June; it might be a little late for strawberries and a little early for blueberries.

Do the three of them have any shared obsessions? There are tons of little museums around. For example, if they're kids who like the idea of secret passageways and the like they might like Gillette Castle.
posted by tchemgrrl at 6:41 AM on June 6, 2012

Mystic Seaport, of course! It's a great time for kids and adults. It's a large outdoor/indoor history museum all about ships, boats, and the sea. You can take rides on the water in the Sabino or in a catboat, or rent a rowing dory or small sailboat for short spins in the protected harbor. You can go to the shipyard and watch the last stages of restoration being done on the world's last remaining wooden whaleship, getting her ready to sail again in a year or two after ninety years in the harbor. You can also climb the giant scaffolding to walk on the decks and below on the ship while they work aboard. Definitely plan to watch the Demonstration Squad climb aloft to set sails, and they'll usually invite families to join them in raising sails and pushing on the capstan. It's a really fun, diverse, interactive day. The schedule of events will look something like this - after June 17 every day has a schedule like this one, this week the weekdays are a little bit quieter than weekends.

The Seaport is really close to the Aquarium and to downtown Mystic, also, so you can make a full day of visiting Mystic (though don't skimp at the Seaport - go early in the day so you can be sure to see all the demonstrations you want. The Aquarium doesn't have nearly as many changing timed events so you can see it any time of day). Follow up with ice cream at Mystic Drawbridge in downtown Mystic, and eat it in the park while you watch the boats come and go and the drawbridge go up and down.

I used to host my little cousins from Wisconsin at Mystic Seaport, and the whole salty/seagoing/Yankee experience was highly memorable to them, being so different from home. Much recommended.
posted by Miko at 7:00 AM on June 6, 2012

Take them to Fall River to see the Battleship Massachusetts and the other ships and submarine they have. I saw that when I was around that age in Boy Scouts and it was awesome. http://www.battleshipcove.com/
posted by a3matrix at 7:09 AM on June 6, 2012

Here's a few more:

Submarine Force Museum/ Nautilus in Groton.

Dinosaur Place in Montville.

Connecticut Science Center in Hartford.

Maritime Aquarium and IMAX in Norwalk.

Shoreline Out & About and CT Out & About have event listings for upcoming weekends, including a section for kids events.

(It's too bad they're not coming in July, because then there'd be OpSail and Sailfest.)
posted by DestinationUnknown at 7:27 AM on June 6, 2012

Do you have a farm league baseball team? I'm a fan of the Pawsox but I assume there's one closer. (I think Fenway for four kids has basically become unobtainable.) Nthing Mystic.

In the city, I am less convinced about the Empire State Building but I would for sure troop them through FAO Schwarz while in the city. You can feed them hotdogs for lunch and then take them to Serendipity for frozen hot chocolate for dessert.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:34 AM on June 6, 2012

Go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Visit the weapons collection. Nothing says "11-12 year old boys" like suits of armor. Check out the Temple of Dendur while you are there. Mummies are even cooler than armor.

Go to the USS Intrepid and check out the airplanes and the submarine (USS Growler, I think). As I write this, the Intrepid is getting it's very own Space Shuttle. For real!

I forgot the street, but there is a Texas BBQ place near the Intrepid called 'Daisy Mae's Texas BBQ' that is well worth the price of admission.

the Natural History Museum has fossils, and a life sized model of a Blue Whale that must be seen to be believed.

For baseball, I'd stick to a minor league game. It sounds like you would be taking ~6-ish people to a game, right? You might have to take a vow of poverty to get tix for the majors in NYC.

If you run out of things to do while at home (not NYC), find your local homebrew store and get the stuff to make root beer. They will remember that. Making pickles is really easy also.

Good Luck! Let us know how the trip went! I don't know about the others, but I'm jealous!
posted by dfm500 at 9:05 AM on June 6, 2012

This place, in Bridgeport, is also a winner.
posted by troywestfield at 9:23 AM on June 6, 2012

Gillette Castle --- I ADORED that place as a kid.

USS Nautilus at New London Submarine Base.
posted by easily confused at 10:33 AM on June 6, 2012

Gillette Castle

There's an option to combine Gillette Castle with the Essex Steam Train, too - you get off the train before the Riverboat connection and hike up to the Castle, and the train picks you up again on the way back.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 11:09 AM on June 6, 2012

I came in here to suggest Gillette Castle.

The Nautilus is a close second (if any of the kids are into submarines). Mystic Seaport is great too, although it can get pretty crowded in the summer.

If it's a really hot day, there are a number of rivers where you can go tubing. My favorite as a kid was at a place called "Satan's Kingdom" (yes, really) on the Farmington River. It's a bit of a drive from the NYC-suburb part of CT, though. The water in that part of the river comes out from the bottom of a dam, so it's always cold even on really hot days. Builds character.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:27 AM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Airplane museum
posted by Abinadab at 3:15 PM on June 6, 2012

Everything on my must-see list for CT and New York has been said, so I'll just add the Freedom Trail in Boston if you decide on a 1.5 day extra trip.

Also if your route through CT includes passing by Stew Leonard's grocery stores, it's absolutely worth the side trip (not worth it as a destination in itself, but for "hey, let's stop for snacks/ice cream..." pitstop it's pretty unforgettable)
posted by Mchelly at 3:44 PM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Do they like pizza? If so, a visit to Frank Pepe's in New Haven might be in order.
posted by spaceheater at 4:46 PM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

I also came in to suggest Stew Leonard's. They will love it!!
posted by pupstocks at 7:22 AM on June 7, 2012

Thanks for all these awesome suggestions! I'll let y'all know what we do with the boys and what they think of it...
Probably not a major league baseball game (they have all been to see the Braves in Atlanta) or the aquarium (no aquarium is going to hold a candle to the Georgia Aquarium). All four boys are science-loving kids so some of the boat/sub ideas seem right up their alley. They're all scouts so some of the castle hikes might be cool, too.
posted by LittleMy at 8:39 AM on June 7, 2012

If in Western Connecticut, drive up Route 7 to any of a zillion beautiful parks on rivers, ponds, or lakes.
posted by zippy at 1:05 AM on June 8, 2012

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