Family Fun in Boston for July 4th!

 Posted by on June 22, 2013  Comments Off
Jun 222013
 

Boston FireworksBoston is a great city for family travel during the July 4th holiday week.  Every year the city goes all out as fireworks, historical reenactments, outdoor performances and food festivals are added as additional attractions beyond the city’s many year round historical sites and museums.   If your college visit or family vacation plans are bringing you to New England in July here’s a round-up of some great ways to celebrate early summer in the greater Boston area:

  • Harborfest is a five day celebration of Boston’s colonial and maritime heritage features more than 200 events ranging from historical scavenger hunts, opportunities for kids to sail the Harbor for free, 19th century gun drills, citywide trolley tours and of course Fireworks and food!   Children’s Day is July 3rd.
  • Fireworks and the Boston Pops on the Esplanade on July 4th.  This year they will be joined by Susan Tedeschi,  Ayla Brown and Ellis Hall for a free outdoor concert.  Get there early – many families arrive when the gates open, bring a picnic and sunscreen and spend the day celebrating the 4th.  Fireworks can be seen from the riverbanks along the Charles River on both the Boston and Cambridge sides at 9:30 PM.  Want to see the Pops without large crowds? They also perform at 7:30 PM on July 3rd.
  • Chowderfest brings together some of Boston’s best restaurants on July 7th for an outdoor cook off and taste test festival at City Hall Plaza to determine who makes the best clam chowder in Boston.  Tickets required.
  • Free Friday Movies will include E.T. at the Boston Harbor Hotel patio on July 5th while the Hatch Shell will feature Despicable Me on July 12 and Here Comes the Boom (which was shot in and around Boston) on July 26.
  • Free Friday Museums – each Friday starting June 28th through August 30th, six different Boston area museums and cultural attractions will open for free.   On July 5th, the free attractions include Salem’s Peabody Essex Museum which is highlighting a 230 piece collection of 230 Faberge treasures from the late 19th and early 20th centuries including enameled clocks, gold cigarette cases, hardstone carvings, ruby encrusted brooches and four imperial eggs made for Nicholas II and the Romanov family.

Beyond Independence Day celebrations, Boston is always a great family vacation destination.  Catch a whale watch, walk the Freedom Trail or the Emerald Necklace, visit Fenway Park, or stop by the Science Museum or the Institute for Contemporary Art.  Special for families, the Visitor’s Bureau has a downloadable  free Family Visitor’s Pass that offers discounts at more than 70 family friendly restaurants for Summer 2013.  Have a great visit to Beantown!

Photo courtesy of Boston July 4th

Stay Strong Boston!

 Posted by on April 16, 2013  Comments Off
Apr 162013
 

It has been a surreal 24 hours in Boston in the aftermath of the attack on the 2013 Boston Marathon.  The first responders, volunteers and medical teams have been amazing even as the city struggles to understand what happened.

Our prayers are with the families of the dead and many injured.   We are also praying for the first responders and spectators who had to deal with the immediate aftermath of the explosions.  We send particularly heartfelt thoughts to families who had children in the Copley Square area at the time of the explosions.  We hope the terrible memories from yesterday can soon be replaced with confidence in a better future.

Boston's Trinity Church in Copley Square

Boston’s Trinity Church in Copley Square in more normal times

The investigation into the attack will keep the Copley Square area and parts of the Back Bay closed for several days and we expect that security at major sporting events, college graduations and other large gatherings will be tight throughout the Spring.  Travelers using Logan Airport can expect that assessments at security checkpoints will be stringent in the days ahead, so allow some extra time.

Despite the pain caused by these awful events we know that residents of the City of Boston and the people of New England will recover even as we mourn those killed and injured.  Boston is a resilient City and we are sure that better days are ahead.  If you have spring or summer travel plans to bring your family to Boston please stick with them and come to show your support.

Stay Strong Boston!

Apr 022013
 

Since they were young, our kids have been fascinated by whales and other sea mammals.  To this day, our teen Princess can barely contain her excitement when she has an opportunity to visit an aquarium or aqua theme parks like Discovery Cove.   Living in New England, we are lucky that every spring and summer several types of whales, as well as dolphins and other sea creatures return to the waters off the Massachusetts Coast.   In fact, in just the last few weeks two rare 70-ton North American right whales have been spotted off of Cape Cod.   Humpbacks, minke whales and finbacks are also common visitors and are beginning to be sighted as well.

A humpback whale breaching at the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary off the Massachusetts Coast

A humpback whale breaching at the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary off the Massachusetts Coast

From early April to late October, whale watching voyages are available on a range of boats from high speed catamarans to slower day cruises or private fishing vessels docked in harbors from Cape Ann,  to Boston, to Cape Cod.   The New England Aquarium partners with Boston Harbor Cruises to steer a 400-passenger, three-deck custom built catamaran to the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.  The high speed boat makes the round trip in 3 hours.

Options north of Boston include 7 Seas Whale Watch and Cape Ann Whale Watch which both depart from Gloucester.  The Dolphin Fleet sails from Provincetown and   Hyannis Whale Watch Cruises leaves from Barnstable on Cape Cod.  Captain John departs from Plymouth, a 45 minute drive south of Boston.

Most of the boats bring along a naturalist to help identify the various whales – each has a name and a history.  We’ve gone on several whale watches over the years and each experience has been different.   One trip may feature dozens of whales feeding and breaching on a sunny day, while another may find few whales, rough seas, and wind driven rain.  Most boats will give you a free ticket for another day if you don’t see any whales at all but each boat’s policy is different.  Reservations are usually a good idea but check about cancellation policies in case of bad weather.  Mid-week trips are less likely to sell out than weekends.

Before making a reservation we find it helpful to read reviews and consider our family’s preferences for on board amenities, the size and age of the boat and the tradeoff between cost and speed and how much time you want to spend actually looking at the whales.  Prices typically range from $45 to $50 per adult and $30 to $35 for a child age 11 or younger.  Some fleets offer family discounts or reduced ticket pricing for last minute sales.   Be sure to leave yourself enough travel time to find the dock, park and get on board at least 15 minutes before your scheduled departure – you don’t want to get left behind!

If you hit a day when the whales decide to put on a show your whale watch might be the highlight of a family vacation to New England, a fun break from college tours, or a memorable outing to share with visiting relatives.  Don’t miss the opportunity to see the whales of New England up close this spring or summer.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia


Feb 042013
 

The recently renovated 364 room Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Boston North Shore, and the adjacent 65,000 square foot CoCo Key Boston North Shore Water Park, are centrally located for families with teens and tweens who want to explore both the City of Boston and classic New England destinations such as the historic witch city of Salem, the beaches and conservation areas of Cape Ann, the whale watches and nautical history of Gloucester, or the quaint artistic village of Rockport.  Families visiting nearby Merrimack College or boarding schools such as Phillips Andover will also find the Doubletree to be a convenient base camp.   The hotel is within a 30 minute (non-rush hour) drive of downtown Boston and most North Shore destinations.

A fully renovated room at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Boston North Shore

A fully renovated room at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Boston North Shore

We recently had the opportunity to stay at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Boston North Shore, and to enjoy CoCo Key, and were impressed with both the friendliness of the staff and the quality of the renovations.  We stayed in a standard queen double room, but the hotel also offers 40 family suites that feature a king size bed plus two youth beds.

All rooms include granite counter bathrooms, TVs, complimentary internet access and the famous Doubletree freshly baked cookies.  The hotel has its own Starbucks as well as the Tradewinds restaurant and lounge which serve breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Additional quick food options are available inside the CoCo Key water park.

The Atlantis Health Club pool at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Boston North Shore

The Atlantis Health Club pool at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Boston North Shore

In addition to the water park, which requires its own entrance fee, guests have free access to the Atlantis Health Club pool, cardio, and weight training facilities which are located inside the hotel.  A spa and business center round out the amenities.  The teens enjoyed the lazy river and water slides at CoCo Key but were also thrilled with the Atlantis Health Club, particularly the indoor pool and hot tub which they had nearly to themselves on a winter’s Saturday afternoon.

The hotel offers a number of family friendly discount packages that include water park access.  The hotel ballroom is also popular for receptions and events.  As a result, it is no surprise that the hotel is busy on the weekends.  If you plan to eat dinner at the hotel it is wise to make reservations, particularly if you have a larger group.  We enjoyed the pub style menu at the Tradewinds Lounge on Saturday night. We opted for burgers, sandwiches and salads after a busy afternoon at the water park but full entrees are also available on the menu.  Like all the hotel staff, our server was friendly and helpful even though it was a hectic evening.  The hotel is located just minutes from many other chain and local restaurants located along Route 1 if you want other dining options.

Dinner at the Tradewinds Lounge at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Boston North Shore

Dinner at the Tradewinds Lounge at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Boston North Shore

If your family travels bring you to Boston, or the idea of a weekend at Massachusett’s largest indoor water park sounds like a good time, the renovated Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Boston North Shore offers a comfortable, family friendly base camps with lots of activities, dining options and friendly service.

We want to thank the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Boston North Shore and CoCo Key for hosting our recent complimentary overnight visit to the hotel and water park.  The opinions in this review are solely our own.

Jan 272013
 

The 65,000 square foot CoCo Key Water Park Boston North Shore is a pretty impressive sight when you first walk through the doors. CoCo Key is the largest indoor water park in Massachusetts and any time it is open the park is a beehive of activity as kids, tweens and teens make the most of the park’s brightly colored slides, sprays, pools and water features.

CoCo Key Water Park Boston North Shore main water slide and spray area

CoCo Key Water Park Boston North Shore main water slide and spray area

Located in Danvers MA, just 19 miles north of Boston and adjacent to the 364 room Doubletree by Hilton Boston North Shore hotel, CoCo Key Water Park Boston North Shore includes multi-level water slides, spray decks, bucket dumps, water actvities, four-story high enclosed tube slides, a lazy river, and a wading pool for younger kids.   The action never stops as the kids scamper from one splashy activity to the next.

The stairs for the big slides tower over the rest of the CoCo Key Water Park Boston North Shore

The stairs for the big slides tower over the rest of the CoCo Key Water Park Boston North Shore

One of the best parts of visiting CoCo Key during the winter is that no matter what the weather is like outside, its is a near perfect 84 degrees inside.  It was well below freezing when we were there but the climate controls were working perfectly.  A quick serve restaurant and a bar overlooking the action offer refreshments for kids and adults (the margaritas looked pretty chill).  The water features are surrounded by plenty of tables to act as base camp for the day.  And if the kids need a break from the water, the arcade is well stocked with video games and prizes for all ages.

All ages get into the scene at the CoCo Key Water Park Boston North Shore

All ages get into the scene at the CoCo Key Water Park Boston North Shore

The park caters to families with kids ages 2-12, although families with slightly older teens and tweens can definitely enjoy CoCo Key as part of a family stay at the hotel.  On our recent visit to the Doubletree by Hilton Boston North Shore , our 16 year old teen and a friend were found enjoying the lazy river and the big tube slides before heading off for an hour at the arcade and an extended visit to the hotel pool, hot tub and workout area.  They said the Water Park was fun for a few hours and would be a great place to spend time hanging out with younger siblings during a family vacation to explore Boston and the surrounding North Shore towns including Salem, Rockport and Gloucester.

CoCo Key Water Park Boston North Shore is popular with kids, teens and tweens

The arcade at the CoCo Key Water Park Boston North Shore is popular with kids, teens and tweens

For local residents, day passes, half day passes and season tickets are available.  CoCo Key is also a popular destination for birthday parties and group outings.  Be warned that it can get crowded on weekends, particularly in the middle part of the day.  Hotel guests can avoid the crowds by visiting in the evening hours – the Water Park stays open until 9 pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and many school vacation days.

For hotel guests, family discount packages can mean a fun affordable weekend getaway or provide built-in evening entertainment when using the Doubletree as a base camp for visiting Boston and the North Shore.  However, if booking a hotel stay, be aware that the Water Park is often closed on non-holiday Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.  Book by January 31st for a discount on an overnight visit during the mid-February Massachusetts school vacation week.  The Ultimate Waterpark  Package includes CoCo Key access, arcade game cards, breakfast and overnight accommodations.  The hotel has recently renovated a number of rooms to create family suites located near the Water Park.

All and all, a day or a weekend at CoCo Key is a great way to get a break from New England’s cold winter weather while spending some fun time with family and friends.

We want to thank CoCo Key and the Doubletree by Hilton Boston North Shore for hosting our recent complimentary overnight visit to the hotel and water park.  The opinions in this review are solely our own.

 

Nov 102012
 

This year’s Boston.com Ski & Snowboard Expo featured lots of fun activities as well as an amazing array of ski and snowboard equipment, clothing, accessories and destinations.   Many resorts report they have completed major updates ranging from the addition of a huge indoor waterpark at Jay Peak to a new $1 million triple lift at Cranmore Mountain and Stowe Mount Resort’s investment of almost $5 million in new snowmaking.  Between now and Christmas we will be showcasing some of the best New England ski and snowboard destinations for families with teens and tweens but today we thought we’d give you a sense of what was going on at the Expo.  If you have time, it will be open until 6 pm Sunday Nov 11, 2012.

Ski and snowboard merchandise in every color

Ski and snowboard merchandise in every color

The clothing and equipment manufacturers offered lots of deals and opportunities to test out the latest gear.  And, although they couldn’t make it snow at the Boston Seaport, the show’s organizers made sure that boarders could work on their skills at the Waterville Valley Street Course.

Boarders work on their skills at the Waterville Valley Street Course

Nashoba Valley and many other destinations had lots of contests and give aways.  We won a free evening lift ticket at the Nashoba Ski-Bowl promotion.

Ski-bowling with Nashoba Valley

Stowe Mountain Resort got four stars from us for their gourmet quality food tasting.  They want to make sure that everyone knows that Stowe has great food to match the great skiing.

Stowe Mountain Resort featured gourmet food samples

The The 2012 World Slackline Federation World Championships attracted a big crowd!

The 2012 World Slackline Federation World Championships attracted a big crowd

The 2012 World Slackline Federation World Championships attracted a big crowd

All in all, the expo is a great opportunity to check in with a large number of resorts in a short period of time.  We found every booth well staffed with knowledgeable representatives who were happy to answer all questions.   If you haven’t started to plan your winter ski and snowboard getaways, it is definitely time!

Thanks to the Expo staff for offering us free media passes


Nov 062012
 

All across ski country the temperatures are dropping and the snow guns are roaring.  Most of our favorite New England ski and snowboard resorts expect to open between now and Thanksgiving.  Some, like Killington, have already opened.   For readers in the greater-Boston area, the November 8-11, 2012  Boston.com Ski and Snowboard Expo at the Seaport World Trade Center, offers one stop shopping for planning ski vacations, checking out new equipment, buying discount lift tickets and keeping the kids, teens and tweens entertained.

Olympic gold medal mogul champ Donna Weinbrecht at the Killington booth talking with young fan about her specialized ski programs.

Olympic gold medal mogul champ Donna Weinbrecht at the Killington booth talking with young fan about her specialized ski programs.

The Expo is expecting about 150 exhibitors, including just about every mountain in the East and many from out West.  Most of the major ski and snowboard equipment and clothing manufacturers will be there as well.   The Expo is generally a fun outing for families with kids of all ages.   Entertainment will include:

  • The World Slackline Federation (WSF) World Championships: a professional slacklining competition featuring the top world ranking pros performing aerial and gymnastics maneuvers while balancing on a two-inch wide trampoline known as a slackline
  • Poster signings  and meetings with such stars as Hannah Kearney, reigning Olympic mogul gold medalist and former Olympic gold mogul skier Donna Weinbrecht.  Olympic gold medalists Tommy Moe, Jackson Hole, WY, and Seth Wescott, Sugarloaf, Maine will also be on hand.
  • Greetings and meetings with Boston Red Sox mascot Wally the Green Monster on Saturday afternoon
  • The SkyRiders! aerial trampoline show of Guinness World Record holder Ken Kovach
  • The Stowe Kids SnowPark learning center where kids can get their first taste of sliding on mini-skis and snowboards.
  • A tour of the new WBZ Mobile AccuWeather Lab vehicle making its inaugural Expo appearance.
  • The Long Trail Beer Garden and performances by regional musicians
  • The Vitamin Water Fall Brawl Street Skate Contest on the Waterville Valley street course
  • The Cross Country Ski Areas Association Ski Demo Track

Check the Boston.com Ski & Snowboard Expo web site for show times, ticket prices and a schedule of what is going on each day, as different guests will be there at different times.  Hint: discount coupons are available on the web site.

We expect to hit the floor of the Expo over the weekend and will report back next week as to what we discover in the way of great ski and snowboard deals and destinations for families with teens and tweens.

Photo courtesy Boston.com Ski & Snowboard Expo