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10 Places to take the kids in mud season

There isn't a child alive that doesn't get a thrill on a horse drawn wagon ride. Even before the grass gets green there are a myriad of things to do in New England to keep the kids excited.
There isn't a child alive that doesn't get a thrill on a horse drawn wagon ride. Even before the grass gets green there are a myriad of things to do in New England to keep the kids excited.
©Stillman Rogers Phography 2013

This is the in-between season. The best of skiing, dog-sledding and skating are over, but trails are not ready for hiking, the water is too cold for swimming and still ice-covered enough so we can’t kayak or sail. Seasonal places aren’t open yet, we can’t go camping, and the White Mountain attractions haven’t opened for the season. So what can you do? Plenty. Here are my kid's top 10.

Catching a train, Conway Scenic Railroad, Conway NH.
©Stillman Rogers Photography 2013

1. Enjoy an uncrowded ski area

There’s still snow on the mountains, and the next couple of weekends all the bigger areas will still be running – and without lift lines. Best of all, the other resort activities – the swimming pools, climbing walls and other facilities -- will be almost empty. Some, like Okemo Mountain Resort in Ludlow, Vermont, have action-packed spectator events planned. On Saturday, April 5, you can watch costumed Slush Cup competitors schuss toward an 80-foot-long slushy pond and try to make it across without falling in.

2. Go ice skating

No, not on that slushy pond, but on an indoor rink; my kids like Tri-Town Ice Arena in Hooksett, and I like their low prices, only $6 to skate and $4 to rent skates. For little kids not sure of their footing, there are little walkers to use until they gain confidence. At Waterville Valley, the rink is included in the activity pass that comes with any lodging package.

3. Have fun at FunSpot

Variety is the name of their game – or games, as there are more than 500 of them, for all ages at FunSpot in Weirs. Rides for younger children, 20 bowling lanes and indoor mini-golf are fun any time of year. Buy $20 worth of tokens and get 25 more free, with the coupon on their website.

4. Play and learn

Kids won’t even realize it’s educational because the exhibits at the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire in downtown Dover are so fresh and engaging. It’s one of the few places where kids of widely differing ages can find activities to share and to do separately all under one roof. My kids like it especially because it’s a short walk to lunch at Harvey’s Bakery. The weekend of April 5-6 is even more fun, with the museum’s consignment sale of gently used children’s clothing.

5. Tap a Tree

No maples in your yard? No worry, At the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests’ Rocks Estate in Bethlehem, the whole family can take part in the sugaring process, from learning which trees produce sap to boiling it into syrup – and of course tasting the results. Horse-drawn wagon rides are part of the fun on April 5. Reservations are a good idea.

6. Take a ride

The Conway Scenic Railroad in North Conway is the first of the White Mountain attractions to open for the season, with train rides through the valley beginning on April 12. And it’s not too soon to buy your 2014 White Mountain Attraction passes; they are limited in number, so be sure to get one while they last.

7. Feel the wind blow

While you’re in North Conway, take the kids to the Mount Washington Observatory’s free Weather Discovery Center on Main Street, where they can perform their own weather experiments and learn about the world’s worst weather atop Mt. Washington. Highlights for my kids are the pool where they can move toy sailboats in and out of the harbor by operating fans around the shore, and the replica of the first weather station on Mt. Washington’s summit. They can stand inside and feel the building shake and its timbers groan as the wind reaches its highest recorded velocity.

8. Meet baby animals

Family-friendly Baby Animal Day at Billings Farm & Museum in Woodstock, Vermont is April 19 this year. Kids can meet lambs, chicks and calves, go for wagon rides and learn about old-time farming from 10:00 am to 3:30 pm. The 1890 Farmhouse is open for tours and there are rides in the horse-drawn wagon.

9. Make stuff with mud

OK, maybe not mud, but clay is a close cousin. Every Saturday afternoon, Studio550 Art Center in Manchester holds Family Clay Workshops where parents and children can work with wet clay to create their own pots, mugs, boxes and other masterpieces. Leave them to be fired and pick them up later.

10. Go to Boston

A trip to the city is exciting for kids of all ages, and Boston has something for everyone. The youngest ones love the Children’s Museum, everybody likes the Museum of Science and the Boston Aquarium, and older kids enjoy following the Freedom Trail. My 13-year-old likes it especially because it ends up in the North End. The trail doesn’t actually end at Modern Pastry, but for us it does, with fresh filled cannoli in hand.

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