5 Pine St., Carver, MA
Kids ages four and up are $37; children three and under are $32
Why trek to an amusement park in Massachusetts when we have Land of Make Believe, Six Flags Great Adventure and Dorney Park nearby? The answer is simple. It’s home to the only Thomas Land in the entire US. So if your kid is obsessed with Thomas and all his pals, you’ll want to put this on your must-visit list.
The kids will love picking up speed on the Troublesome Trucks Runaway Coaster, and taking a helicopter ride in Harold’s Lift-Off. Don’t miss Bertie’s Bus Tour, which boosts riders 28 feet up into the air. And there’s a Cran-tastic Cranberry Jubilee Live Show, plus a meet and greet with Sir Topham himself. Hop on board the signature Thomas the Tank Engine and scope out the park by the local cranberry bogs. There’s also Dino Land, a walk-through adventure featuring 23 animatronic dinosaurs, and the original Edaville Park that’s packed with traditional kid-friendly rides like carousels, Ferris wheels and mini-coasters.
Also Nearby: The park is about two hours away from well-known vacay spots like Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, all known for gorgeous beaches, incredible seafood and whale watching. You can also take a tour of Plimoth Plantation, a living history museum at the site of the original Plymouth Colony, home to the first pilgrims.
Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art
125 West Bay Rd., Amherst, MA
Adults are $9; kids are $6
Just north of Springfield, MA, next to the campus of Hampshire College, there’s an unexpected 40,000-square-foot museum. Famed author Eric Carle and his late wife Barbara created this huge collection that’s entirely devoted to children’s books. Filled with gigantic wall art using Carle’s signature primary colors, you’ve never seen a museum as vibrant as this. There are also many rotating exhibits dedicated to other famous authors, including Robert McCloskey of Make Way for Ducklings fame. There’s plenty of hands-on fun to be had in the reading library, where even the youngest members of your group can find a new favorite in the 4,500-plus book collection during story time. Kids can also make paper-crafted creations in the art studio.
Also nearby: Six Flags New England is right next door in Agawam. It’s a smaller and (typically) less crowded version of New Jersey’s Great Adventure, but still packed with thrill rides, including the tallest swings in the world. Stop by the can’t-miss Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden in Springfield, a huge park filled with bronze versions of the author’s most famous characters. Sports fans will love the Basketball Hall of Fame, also in Springfield.
55 Coogan Blvd., Mystic, CT
Adult tickets are $34.99; youth (ages 13–17) tickets are $28.99; children (ages 3–12) are $24.99; kids 2 and under are free
While we adore the Adventure Aquarium in Camden, the one in Mystic has something you can’t find in NJ—beluga whales! These magical, white dolphin-like creatures mesmerize as you watch them swim in a giant 750,000-gallon pool (and for an extra fee, you can have an unforgettable up-close encounter!). You’ll get to see some sweet African penguins, a stingray and shark touch-tank, a sea lion show and plenty of fish-friendly exhibits, including a huge coral reef, moray eels and a Pacific Northwest exhibit with northern fur seals. Once the kids are over aquatic life, they can visit the birds, lizards and snakes.
Also nearby: Experience historic New England charm at Olde Mistick Village, a picturesque shopping area straight out of the 1700s. For another quintessential New England experience, stop at the Museum of America and the Sea in Mystic Seaport. And don’t miss a chance to eat at Mystic Pizza, the inspiration behind the Julia Roberts movie. Neighboring Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun are known for their casinos, but the kids can stay and play in a hotel pool or eat at a child-friendly restaurant.
101 Visitor Center Dr., Williamsburg, VA
Tickets start at $25.99 for adults and $12.49 for children
Travel back in time to the 18th century, where every day features a historic reenactment of the Revolutionary War (perfect for the Hamilton fans in your family). The kids will learn what it was like to live during Colonial times and the war. They’ll get to dance, visit gardens and see how weapons were made thanks to some very convincing period actors.
Tour on your own or follow a guided trip. You can also download a free app, which has maps and daily events calendars, so you won’t miss the candle-making demonstrations and ghost walks (for the brave members of your brood).
Also nearby: Make the history buffs in your group happy with visits to the famed battlefield at the Colonial National Park in Yorktown or the Jamestown Settlement in Williamsburg. If the kids want to try something a little more thrill-filled, head to Busch Gardens, also in Williamsburg, for some big roller coaster rides in this classic European-themed park. You’ll also get to check out animals like Clydesdale horses, wolves and bald eagles. When it’s hot, cool off at a gigantic outdoor water park filled with wave pools, raft rides and more.
100 W. Hersheypark Dr., Hershey, PA
Tickets are $62.95 (adults); kids 3–8 are $39.95 and children under 2 are free. There are deals for multiple-day admission tickets.
Got kids who love chocolate? Take them to this amusement park filled with so much of the good stuff you can practically smell it wafting in the air. Start (or end) your day at Chocolate World to see how the famous chocolate’s made (and to have the kids make their own). Then head to the park for some mega-rides (including 13 roller coasters) that are sure to please your little daredevils, with mini-versions of all the big rides for younger kids. A water park boasts slides, spray grounds and surf simulators, all included with admission. There’s also a zoo right on site, which means you’re getting three parks for the price of one.
Also nearby: There are plenty of Hershey treats, like the museum and its gardens. (And if you stay at The Hotel Hershey, you can get a chocolate spa treatment for an extra fee!). On your way back, visit its smaller sister-park, Dutch Wonderland, for tinier rides that are perfect for your toddlers, or stop at the Strasburg Rail Road, a museum and steam train in the heart of Amish country, where you can take a spin on a traditional Amish buggy.