While many parents think South when considering a school vacation trip in April, North can often be just as much fun -- and much cheaper.
During vacation week next week (for most), Amtrak's Downeaster train offers special deals to families riding north from Massachusetts and New Hampshire to Freeport. The classic New England village has more than 200 outlet and boutique stores and is a mecca for outdoor adventurers. The famous L.L. Bean's flagship store, open 24/7 and a veritable play land, is replete with an indoor trout pound and Wednesday morning story hour.
Families can enjoy evening time live performances at the Freeport Theater of Awesome. Smudge Studios offers a make-your-own pottery adventure.
Portland, just a 20-minte ride south via the Downeaster, is Maine's largest city. There is a fabulous children's museum, a multitude of art museums and the world-renowned Cryptozoology Museum, not to mention the best and most innovative, creative restaurants in Maine. Portland also has street performers, wood fired pizza and some of the best minor league basketball and baseball teams around.
Wait just a few months longer and take the Downeaster to Southern Maine's 30 miles of sandy beaches, perhaps the only in New England accessible via Amtrak. The Amtrak Downeaster arrives one block from Old Orchard Beach, a seven-mile stretch of sand and surf. Everything is within walking distance including the pier, where you can shop, eat, go dancing, watch fireworks and listen to concerts.
You can enjoy ferris wheels, waterslides and arcade games at Palace Playland, the only beachfront amusement park in New England.
Take the Downeaster train from Boston's North Station, Woburn and Haverhill, Massachusetts, or Exeter, Durham and Dover, New Hampshire, to the Old Orchard Beach stop. For those visiting Maine beaches early in the season (May and early June) or for those traveling after July 4, there are deals on overnight stays. visit DowneasterPackages.com for details.
Wells Beach is a bit more laid back and, at just over three miles long, perfect for a leisurely stroll or a day building sandcastles. Known for its white sands, the space is faily unencumbered, though it does boast a small village near the beach's midpoint, with snack bars, gift shops, restrooms, a scenic overlook with benches and an arcade. The Amtrak Downeaster stops about three miles from the beach and on-the-ground transportation is available during the summer months.
For more details, visit www.amtrakdowneaster.com.