When winter finally rolls out of town (this year around Mother’s Day), my family develops a bit of wanderlust. After being cooped up like hibernating bears, we enjoy taking an overnight road trip near Rhode Island. Every year, we take a one-week family vacation, but we are also big fans of overnight excursions. There are certain criteria – the destination cannot be more than 2 hours away, it has to include a hotel with a pool, and it must have at least two really good activities to do to warrant the overnight. We are not really beach people, so our list does not include Block Island or the Cape. I’ve decided to include some places that are family favorites and may not be as well known:
Springfield, MA/Pioneer Valley
Only about 90 minutes from Providence, there’s a lot to do. The Springfield Museums include an art museum, a natural history museum, and the recently opened Dr. Seuss Museum and Sculpture Garden. For the sports fan, it is the home of the Basketball Hall of Fame. If you go a bit further to Amherst, you can also visit the Eric Carle Museum. This is one of our favorite places. Not only do you get to see storybook art from his books and others, but they also have an interactive art studio, library, and many places for picnicking. Look Park in Florence, MA, has a lot of outdoor activities, and there is a great college vibe in this area thanks to multiple colleges.
Plimoth Plantation is great for kids of all ages (although I warn you that there is not much shade to be had on a very hot day). You can take a whale-watching tour from the harbor and visit Plymouth Rock and Mayflower II. If you have a kid who is into history, they will love it. We always stay at the John Carver Inn because of the fabulous pool with a water slide.
This pushes the limits of two hours, but it’s worth the extra half hour in the car, and it still counts as an overnight road trip. We usually stay in either Pittsfield or Lenox. The Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield is a hidden gem, and we enjoy Hancock Shaker Village, which is similar to Old Sturbridge Village. For older kids or children interested in art and/or history, there are many historic houses, the Norman Rockwell Museum, and several art museums. Great Barrington and Lenox have fun downtown areas with many kid-friendly restaurants. There are also fantastic parks with hiking trails.
North Fork/Eastern, Long Island
I may be a bit biased since I grew up on the Island, but using the car ferry out of New London makes this a reasonably easy weekend destination. Long Island Aquarium in Riverhead is wonderful, and the Long Island Game Farm, right off the Long Island Expressway, is a zoo with quite a few exotic animals. Harbes Family Farm, located in the middle of wine country, has many activities, including a barnyard, farm stand, hayrides, and more.
One word – witches. If your kid is into all things spooky, this a perfect overnight road trip near Rhode Island. We did not take my kids until they were a bit older (for fear of needing to provide therapy after), so the scary attractions might need to wait until your child is at least age 7 or 8 (although you have to know your kid). Hammond Castle is modeled after a medieval castle, drawbridge, and all, right near downtown Gloucester. The downtown areas of both Salem and Gloucester have cute shops, delicious seafood, and an ocean breeze, even on a hot day. Neither town has a lot of hotels, but nearby Danvers does, and that is where my kids fell in love with Sonic milkshakes.
One of the great things about Rhode Island is that there is so much to do here and many other wonderful things nearby. This summer, pick a weekend, plan a trip, and show your family how many fun destinations there are right in our own backyard!