Traveler's Family Vacation Planner: Massachusetts

Adventure

Boston Bike Tours Boston is known as "the walking city," but that doesn't mean you can't bike! Pedal around the city on any of several different tour options, including the Freedom Trail, Emerald Necklace, and South Boston. Boston Common, Boston, MA; +1 617 308 5902. Fee (bike, helmet, water, and guide included).

Chesterfield Gorge Take an easy hike around the gorge and peer down at the churning white water of the East Branch of the Westfield River, a National Wild and Scenic River; go mountain biking along the East Branch Trail; look for ducks and trout in the pools. River Rd., Chesterfield, MA; +1 413 684 0148. Fee.

Crab Apple White-Water Rafting Indulge your inner thrill-seeker on a trip down wild rapids; start small children (as young as five) and beginners with tame introduction rapids; try out a "funyak" (inflatable kayak) on the lower section of the Deerfield River. 2056 Mohawk Trail, Charlemont, MA; 800 553 7238. Fee.

Fish Pier Charters Hook some bass, bluefish, or tuna aboard the Whit's End; have your experience documented by the ship's photographer. Afterward, watch the commercial fishing boats unloading the day's catch on the pier. Chatham Fish Pier, Yarmouthport, MA; +1 508 280 3559. Fee.

Mount Greylock State Reservation Hike along the Appalachian Trail; snowshoe in the winter; and stay overnight in the backcountry camping area (accessible only by foot). Rockwell Rd., Lanesborough, MA; +1 413 499 4262. Camping reservation fee.

Animals

Franklin Park Zoo Look up at the Masai giraffes; climb into a "crashed" Land Rover to view the lions; play with barnyard animals; see newly hatched chicks at the farm. One Franklin Park Rd., Boston, MA; +1 617 541 5466. Fee.

New England Aquarium See African penguins, fur seals, and harbor seals at play; try out games and art projects in the Curious George Discovery Center (twice a month); watch divers hand-feed sharks, rays, and turtles in the giant, four-story ocean tank. Central Wharf, Boston, MA; +1 617 973 5200. Fee.

Culture

Boston Center for the Arts Explore the changing exhibits in the Mills Gallery; enjoy a theater or ballet performance; look up in the Cyclorama, which houses a copper skylight dome. 539 Tremont St., Boston, MA; +1 617 426 5000. Fee.

Boston Children's Museum Get creative (and messy!) in the Art Studio; dig big in the kid-size Construction Zone; take apart a toaster or build your own boat at Johnny's Workbench. 300 Congress St., Boston, MA; +1 617 426 6500. Fee.

Boston Public Library Check out at the three major murals, including "The Quest and Achievement of the Holy Grail;" ask to see first editions and copies of rare books; look for the fossil shells embedded in the marble steps of the grand staircase. 700 Boylston St., Boston, MA; +1 617 536 5400.

Boston University's Photographic Resource Center Skim through some of the thousands of photography books and magazines in the Aaron Siskind Library; enroll in one of the popular summer photo camps; discover life from a different angle in the rotating exhibits. 832 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, MA; +1 617 975 0606. Fee (free for children under 18, and free for adults on Thursdays and the last weekend of every month).

Car Talk Headquarters Fans of this popular NPR show won't want to miss the opportunity to see the building where Tom and Ray Magliozzi tape their weekly radio broadcast; get your picture taken with cardboard cutouts of the brothers in front of the offices of "Dewey, Cheetham, and Howe" in Harvard Square on the corner of Brattle and JFK Sts., Cambridge, MA.

Copley Square Embrace your inner athlete at the Boston Marathon Monument; side with slow-and-steady or super-speedy at the Tortoise and Hare sculpture; cool off at the fountain near the farmers market. Between Boylston, Clarendon, St. James and Dartmouth Sts., Boston, MA.

Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden Take your picture next to the Lorax or the Cat in the Hat statues; see characters from the beloved Dr. Seuss children's books; bring your favorite Seuss story to read while sitting in the giant storyteller's chair. 21 Edwards St., Springfield, MA; +1 413 787 1548

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art See illustrations from famous children's books in this museum founded by the author and illustrator of The Very Hungry Caterpillar; create your own artwork in the hands-on studio; read any of the children's books in the library; watch a play or puppet show inspired by children's stories. 125 West Bay Rd., Amherst, MA; +1 413 658 1100. Fee.

Heritage Museum & Gardens Practice your sleuthing skills on one of the museum's Clue Tours; view the collection of Playthings of the Past; puzzle your way through the Hart Family Maze Garden; see antique race cars and cars that ran on electric or steam power in the automobile museum; ride the hand-carved carousel. 67 Grove St., Sandwich, MA; +1 508 888 3300. Fee.

Higgins Armory Museum Suit up for a trip through four floors of weapons and armor. The only museum in the Western Hemisphere of its kind, the Armory Museum houses Corinthian helmets, ornate suits of armor, medieval weaponry, and more. 100 Barber Ave., Worcester, MA; +1 508 853 6015. Fee.

Historic Deerfield Explore the streets of this restored New England village; enjoy demonstrations of arts and crafts from the colonial period; participate in a weekend family activity, such as making your own herbarium, weaving a wall-hanging from backyard fibers, or excavating a mock tavern site. Old Main St., Deerfield, MA; +1 413 775 7214. Fee.

Institute for Contemporary Art Attend one of the Institute's free Play Date programs designed for parents and children once a month, with hands-on creative activities in the Art Lab and performances and gallery talks geared for kids.; marvel at the quirky and engaging works of art; chill out on the waterfront plaza in front of the museum. 100 Northern Ave., Boston, MA; +1 617 478 3100. Fee for adults.

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Skip the cold, musty interiors of some art museums and opt for this lush, personal collection; hear concerts by the Gardner Chamber Orchestra; walk around the museum's exhibits; relax in the peaceful gardens of the courtyard. 280 The Fenway, Boston, MA; +1 617 566 1401 (recorded information) and 278 5156 (box office). Fee (free for children under 18 and all those named Isabella!)

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum Watch a film narrated by JFK about the former President's early life and career; follow him on the campaign trail; see original pages by Ernest Hemingway in the library. Columbia Point, Boston, MA; 888 535 1960. Fee.

Mapparium Cross the thirty-foot-long glass bridge to the three-story stained-glass globe where you can see the world from the inside out; check what time it is in different parts of the world; watch a multimedia presentation about the history of the Mapparium, which was built in 1935. 200 Massachusetts Ave. (in the Mary Baker Eddy Library), Boston, MA; +1 617 450 7000. Fee.

Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art Skip under the musical bridge on the way to the museum known as MASS MoCA; view works by current artists, including a "smart" clock tower and trees that grow upside down; listen to concerts; see films and plays; have fun in Kidspace with its ever-changing exhibits geared towards children. 87 Marshall St., North Adams, MA; +1 413 662 2111. Fee.

Museum of Fine Arts Check out the world famous mummies in the Egyptian collection; find out what George Washington really looked like; look for the Family Art Cart on Saturdays and Sundays with hands-on, art-centered activities. 465 Huntington Ave., Boston, MA; +1 617 267 9300. Fee.

Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists Learn about historical and contemporary works of art with African, Afro-Latin, Afro-Caribbean, and African-American roots; listen to spoken-word performances by young Boston-area poets and writers. 300 Walnut Ave., Boston, MA; +1 617 442 8614. Fee.

Paul Revere House Walk around inside downtown Boston's oldest building; see where Paul Revere lived with his family at various times between 1770-1800; and inspect some of Revere's metalworking in the courtyard. 19 North Square, Boston, MA; +1 617 523 2338. Fee.

Plimoth Plantation Hear about the arrival of the English from a Native American perspective; speak with the villagers to learn about traditional life and customs; visit a Wampanoag Indian home; see rare livestock breeds from the time period; taste venison burger and cranberry soup, watch artisans make crafts; experience colonial life in the first permanent English settlement in New England. 137 Warren Ave., Plymouth, MA; +1 508 746 1622. Fee.

Public Garden Ride the swan boats around the lagoon; see if the sword from the George Washington statue has been stolen; sit on the Make Way for Ducklings statues from the famous children's book by Robert McCloskey. Between Charles, Boylston, Arlington, and Beacon St., Boston, MA; +1 617 552 1966. Fee for boat ride.

Village of Shelburne Falls Take a ride in a restored trolley car at the Shelburne Falls Trolley Museum and climb aboard a big red caboose; walk across the Flower Bridge, a forrner trolley bridge that has been converted into a walking bridge; check out the nearby glacial potholes—natural pools carved out by glaciers (no swimming allowed). Information center at 75 Bridge St., Shelburne Falls, MA. Fee for museum.

Worcester Art Museum Act as museum curator at the interactive computer station; walk along the Discovery Gallery mosaic maze; dig around in the sandpit for "artifacts." 55 Salisbury St., Worcester, MA; +1 508 799 4406. Fee.

Entertainment

Beachcomber Boat Trip Hop aboard one of the bright yellow Beachcomber boats to spot some seals in Chatham harbor; take a shuttle to the Outer Beaches for a quiet picnic. 174 Chatham Rd. (for seal watching), Chatham Fish Pier (for beach shuttle), North Chatham, MA; +1 508 945 5265. Fee.

Boston Harbor Cruises Check out the humpbacks, finbacks and minkes on a three-hour narrated whale watch; take one of the four harbor sightseeing cruises; speed over the water (and prepare to get wet) on the "Codzilla" boat. One Long Wharf, Boston, MA; +1 617 227 4321. Fee.

Dolphin Fleet Whale Watch Watch the splashing and spouting of humpback, finback, right, and minke whales; learn about Cape Cod's ecology and marine life from a naturalist guide; refuel in the galley for breakfast or lunch. 132 Bradford St., Provincetown, MA; 800 826 9300 or +1 508 240 3636. Fee.

Fenway Park Touch the "Green Monster;" get inside the press box; try to land a seat in the legendary red bleachers in right field (where the longest measurable home run was hit inside the park). 4 Yawkey Way, Boston, MA; +1 617 226 6666 (tours), +1 877 REDSOX9 (tickets). Fee.

Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Go head-to-head with an NBA player in the virtual reality basketball game; try your sportscasting skills; tour the hall of inductees; practice shooting baskets and other hands-on activities. 1000 West Columbus Ave., Springfield, MA; +1 413 781 6500. Fee.

Old Town Trolley Tour See many of the important sites in Boston while riding in a vintage-style trolley car; hop on and off the trolley at your leisure to walk around museums and neighborhoods; receive free admission to the Old State House Museum as well as a souvenir guidebook to Boston. Long Wharf at State St. and Atlantic Ave. Boston, MA; +1 800 213 2474 or +1 617 269 7010. Fee.

TD Banknorth Garden Cheer for the Celtics or the Bruins; attend a show or concert,; sit in the old Boston Garden penalty box in the Sports Museum. 100 Legends Way, Boston, MA; +1 617 624 1000. Fee.

Witch Dungeon Museum Travel back in time during a reenactment of the Salem Witch Trials, complete with townspeople acting strangely; hear the stories of people before they were sentenced to death by hanging; after the show, tour the museum's dungeon. 16 Lynde St. Salem, MA; +1 978 741 3570. Fee.

History

Alexander Graham Bell's Laboratory See a replica of the machine Bell used to make his very first call, a copy of the original patent for his invention, and other artifacts of telephone history. 185 Franklin St. (inside the Verizon building), Boston, MA.

Boston Light Tour Travel to Little Brewster, one of the islands in Boston Harbor; learn about the British burning down the lighthouse at the end of the Revolutionary War; see the nation's oldest lighthouse site and the last lighthouse still staffed by the U.S Coast Guard, as well as two other lighthouses. Fan Pier, Boston, MA; +1 617 223 8666. Fee.

Connecticut Valley Historical Museum Check out historical artifacts from the area are on display, with a small exhibit on the town's local celebrity, Theodor Seuss Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss); see family photographs and learn about Geisel's childhood; play in the whimsical SeussScape area. 21 Edwards St., Springfield, MA; +1 413 263 6800 or +1 800 625 7738. Fee (admission includes access to other Springfield Museums and Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden, as well).

Freedom Trail Follow the red line of the Freedom Trail linking historical sites; hear the Boston Tea Party debate at the Old South Meeting House; see where the famous lanterns were hung for Paul Revere in the Old North Church; climb the 221-foot obelisk monument at Bunker Hill. 15 State St., Boston, MA; +1 617 242 5642 for a guided tour.

Massachusetts State House See the gold-plated dome of the State House and the wooden codfish hanging in the House of Representatives; scope out the view of Boston Common; be sure to ask your guide to explain how second graders got the legislature to adopt the ladybug as the State Bug. Corner of Beacon and Park Sts., Boston, MA; +1 617 727 3676.

Mayflower II View a re-creation of the cramped quarters where the Pilgrims lived during their 1620 voyage to America; meet re-enactors in period costume playing sailors and passengers aboard this meticulous reproduction; examine the rigging, lanterns, and hand-colored maps. Plymouth Waterfront, Plymouth, MA; +1 508 746 1622. Fee.

Museum of African American History Step inside the first building ever built to house a public school for black children in the United States; hear stories about African-American history and the Underground Railroad; see where Frederick Douglass gave one of his famous anti-slavery speeches. 46 Joy St., Boston, MA; +1 617 725 0022.

New Bedford Whaling Museum Learn why whaling was important before electricity; see one of only three blue whale skeleton displays in the world; experience for yourself what life was like aboard a whaling ship in the reproduced forecastle. For Melville enthusiasts, the museum holds an annual marathon reading of Moby Dick that lasts approximately 25 hours. 18 Johnny Cake Hill, New Bedford, MA; +1 508 228 1655. Fee.

New England Holocaust Memorial Reflect among the six glass towers that reach more than five stories tall, lit from within and etched with six million numbers, each one representing a person murdered in the Jewish Holocaust of World War II; read statements about the victims and heroes; view the memorial at night, when the towers are illuminated and the names of the death camps are lit by burning embers, a moving experience. Carmen Park (near Congress St.), Boston, MA; +1 617 457 8755.

New England Pirate Museum Discover authentic pirate treasure; board a pirate ship; explore a winding bat cave and maybe bump into some of the sea robbers themselves! 274 Derby St., Salem, MA; +1 978 741 2800. Fee.

Old State House Museum Set the time on the Old State House clock; see the balcony where the Declaration of Independence was first read to Bostonians; learn about how bloody the Boston Massacre really was. Corner of State and Washington St., Boston, MA; +1 617 720 1713. Fee.

Peabody Essex Museum Visit the Yin Yu Tang house, originally from southeastern China; examine the costume collection (among the top ten in the nation); read original ship logs and journals for a peek into the past. Family workshops offered include demonstrations, storytelling, and hands-on art activities. East India Square, 161 Essex St., Salem, MA; +1 978 745 9500, 866 745 1876. Fee.

USS Constitution Museum Find out how the design and construction of "Old Ironsides" made this 18th century warship invincible; try on a sailor's uniform from 1812; sit down to a pretend sailor's meal; hear about the Barbary pirates, and mark yourself with a temporary sailor's tattoo. Charlestown Navy Yard, Charlestown, MA; +1 617 426 1812.

Whydah Museum See artifacts recovered from the Whydah, a slave ship that became a pirate ship that later sank off Cape Cod; learn about the discovery of the Whydah's remains, how artifacts were recovered, and what life was like for real pirates. 16 MacMillan Wharf, Provincetown, MA; +1 508 487 8899. Fee.

Witch History Museum Visit Old Salem Village, hear the gory—and historically accurate—tales of accusations and death sentences; see scenes depicting the witch trials. 197-201 Essex St., Salem, MA; +1 978 741 7770. Fee.

Nature

Arnold Arboretum Take a leisurely stroll (leashed dogs welcome) among the trees and flowers; stop by the visitor center for family-friendly activities and events. 125 Arborway, Boston, MA; +1 617 534 1718.

Boston Common Let off some steam running around the oldest city park in the country; splash in the Frog Pond wading pool in summer; skate on the frozen pond in winter. Bounded by Beacon, Tremont, Park, Charles and Boylston St., Boston, MA; +1 617 635 2120. Fee for ice-skating.

Cape Cod National Seashore Kids between 5 and 12 years old can become Junior Rangers: tour a historic lighthouse, listen to stories around a campfire, explore and observe the wildlife around the shore. The whole family can hike, swim, bike, and watch birds and seals in this park with a variety of land and water environments. Nauset Rd. and Route 6, Eastham, MA; +1 508 255 3421. Fee.

Corn Hill Beach Dig for clams, swim in Cape Cod Bay, relax on the beach. Easily accessible from the public parking facility. Corn Hill Rd., Truro, MA. Fee.

Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge Meander along the miles of white sand beaches; take a photo in front of the picturesque Great Point Lighthouse; watch seals and maritime birds in their natural habitat; try out the marshes and shorelines for excellent fishing. Wauwinet Rd., Wauwinet, MA; +1 508 228 5646.

Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary Canoe along the Ipswich River; hike through the sanctuary on the various trails; look for river otters, painted turtles, and great blue herons at different times of the year. 87 Perkins Row, Topsfield, MA; +1 978 887 9264. Fee.

Parker River National Wildlife Refuge Watch migrating birds at one of the top birding sites on the East Coast; look for sand dollars on the six-mile-long Atlantic beach; spy wildlife on Plum Island. 6 Plum Island Turnpike, Newburyport, MA; +1 978 465 5753. Fee.

Purgatory Chasm State Reservation Picnic along the glacier-carved chasm; hike the trail inside the chasm where the granite walls rise as high as 70 feet. Purgatory Rd., Sutton, MA; +1 508 234 3733.

Science

Cape Cod Museum of Natural History Watch the bobbing moon jellies and other native sea creatures in the aquarium; listen to whale songs; see how the weather has shaped the Cape over many years; look for crabs on the beach. 869 Main St./Route 6A, Brewster, MA; +1 508 896 3867. Fee.

Harvard Museum of Natural History Shudder at the 42-foot Kronosaurus sea monster skeleton; touch meteorites from space; roam the dinosaur gallery. 26 Oxford St., Cambridge, MA; +1 617 495 3045. Fee.

MIT Museum Chat with Kismet, the first sociable robot; view the eye-popping holography collection; enjoy the kinetic sculptures exhibit; don't miss the other branches of the museum on campus with architectural and nautical exhibits. 265 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA; +1 617 253 5927. Fee.

Museum of Science Experience 3-D nature and space documentaries; see live demonstrations of lightning, magnetism, alternative energy, and engineering; blast off into outer space at the Hayden Planetarium. 1 Science Park, Boston, MA; +1 617 723 2500. Fee.

Springfield Science Museum Touch the massive fossilized footprints of dinosaurs; go on a safari through the African Hall; interact with kid-friendly planetarium shows; see creepy-crawlies from the tropical forests of South America and fish that live on coral reefs. 21 Edwards St., Springfield, MA; +1 413 263 6800 or 800 625 7738. Fee (admission includes access to other Springfield Museums and Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden, as well).