Although The Five-Year-Old loves a good Pajama Day at home, I get cranky if we string too many of them (read: >1) in a row. But there are only so many times you can go to Capron Park Zoo, Jamaica Pond, the Boston Public Garden, Moose Hill, or even the Boston Museum of Science. Consequently, I’m always looking for good day trips with The Five-Year-Old, and with summer coming up, I was pretty happy to find this book at our local bookstore last week.
Kim Foley MacKinnon has been a travel writer for years, and her experience shows in this book. It’s exceptionally well-organized. The Boston area, which this book defines rather generously as all of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Connecticut and Rhode Island, is broken up into 11 zones. True to the title, eighty of the day trips are located in the six zones centered around Boston. The remaining twenty, which are included as ideas for building simple weekend or overnight trips around, are scattered throughout the remaining five regions (Western Massachusetts and the surrounding states).
Even better, MacKinnon includes four “10 Best” lists immediately after the Table of Contents that make it easy to find the best nature centers, swimming holes, winter destinations, and toddler parks around Boston.
Immediately after the 10 Best lists is the At-a-Glance Trip Planner, which lists the pertinent facts about each destination for quick decision making. Here you’ll see the suggested age range for each destination, fees, and whether or not you can take the dog, the stroller, your bikes, your swim suits, or camping gear. Trip highlights are listed here too, giving you an idea of whether this is just a glorified trip to a playground or whether there’s a beach, lighthouse, nature trails, or museums to explore as well.
The bulk of the book is taken up by two-to-three page descriptions of each destination. There you’ll find useful information like hours, fees (if any, most destinations are free), bathroom locations, whether or not water and snacks are available for purchase, directions, suggestions for parking and/or public transportation if available at the site, where to eat nearby, and of course, what to see while you’re there.
My favorite part, though, is Plan B. Stuff happens when you’re out exploring. For those days when the weather (or your child) fails to sign on to your original plan, MacKinnon lists at least one suggestion for an alternate day trip nearby.
Before diving into all those trip descriptions, MacKinnon spends a few pages on enjoying your trips outdoors. Here she provides useful tips on:
- how to dress your kids to protect them against sun, bugs, the wind, the rain, and winter
- what to do when you get outside to keep your kids engaged
- how to pick out snowshoes, paddling gear, and other equipment needed on site
- what to pack in your little explorer’s backpack
- what you should carry in yours
- how to avoid poison ivy, lightning strikes, getting lost and other hazards of exploring the great outdoors
All in all, this is one of the best travel guides to exploring Massachusetts with children that I’ve ever seen. I can’t wait to get out there with The Five-Year-Old. Is it Spring Break yet?