The best farms and educational centers to visit
If you’re looking for a great, local experience where your kids can have some “hands-on” fun and it won’t break your budget, then consider checking out one of New Hampshire’s great farms or educational centers. You can visit with animals, travel back in time, discover the solar system or explore caves, rocks and boulders. There are great options in every area of the state, so make some time this spring or summer to check one out.
Please note that admission costs reflect 2019 pricing and you should always call or go online before visiting to make sure each attraction is open when you plan on visiting.
Here are seven of our favorites places for your family to explore:
Why you should check it out: If you live in the greater Manchester area, then Charmingfare probably isn’t too far from your home. Located in Candia, Charmingfare is home to some fun and unique animals as well as year-round events and entertainment. If your kids love animals, then they’ll love visiting with the sheep, donkeys, horses, goats and miniature horses. And if they’re in awe of predators and big cats, then don’t miss the lynx, black bear, wolves and mountain lions. Santa’s reindeer have also taken residency at Charmingfare, so be sure to stop by and say hello (or come back in December for Santa’s Big Party, the Lighted Winter Wonderland or a sleigh ride). Oh, and make sure you take time for a horse drawn hay ride or tractor ride through the grounds. You’ll tour the beautiful grounds and even get to see the CSA gardens.
Admission cost: $19 for ages 2 and up. There is a $24 per month family membership option if you think your family will visit often and membership includes free tickets and deep discounts for the special events.
Squam Lakes Natural Science Center
Why you should check it out: If your kids and family love nature, hiking and exploring the great outdoors, then Squam Lakes Natural Science Center is perfect for you. In addition to great walking paths through wooded areas, there’s Kirkwood Gardens (which is free and open to the public), lake cruises, animals to visit with and a predator-prey playscape playground. During the summer of 2019, families can also enjoy a very special Dinosaurs Alive! exhibit, which is on display through September 30.
Admission cost: Admission is $20 for adults, $15 for kids 3-15 and seniors 65+ are $17. If you’re thinking about going a couple times or more a year or going on a couple cruises, then you should consider getting a membership. Basic membership is $90 for four people and includes reciprocal admission at 200 other participating nature centers and zoos.
Seacoast Science Center
Why you should check it out: Explore the fun of the ocean without putting on a bathing suit or applying sunscreen! The Seacoast Science Center in Rye is the perfect place for your family to connect with the world of marine science and all of the great creatures that live in the ocean – from snails to whales. Kids can have fun holding star fish or getting up close to lobsters, seahorses and flounders. This is a great spot for hot or rainy summer days as most of the activities are inside (although on nice, dry days there are things happening outside). From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily there are hourly programs so there’s always something for the kids to check out.
Admission cost: Admission for ages 13 and up is $10, seniors and military are $8 and kids ages 3-12 are $5. We encourage you to spend a couple extra dollars ($4 for adults and $2 for kids ages 6-11) and explore Odiorne State Park (the center is actually located on the state park property). So go ahead and pack a picnic or bring your bikes and explore the trails.
McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center
Why you should check it out: Located in New Hampshire’s capital city, the McAuliffe-Shepard Discover Center is a great place to spend a super hot summer day, rainy afternoon or any day! This place is perfect for kids who love learning about outer space and exploring the universe. The center offers different programming for different ages like Super Stellar Fridays for kids ages 8 and up and Little Explorers perfect for ages 3-4. There are also some great exhibits featuring an amateur radio station, Mercury capsule, space shuttle model and special tribute area to America’s first astronaut, Alan Shepard, and NASA’s Teacher-in-Space, Christa McAuliffe. Starting on July 20, 2019, the Discovery Center will open To the Moon!, a special exhibition on lunar science and exploration, past, present and future.
Admission cost: $11.50 for adults 13 and up, $8.50 for kids ages 3-12 and $10.50 for students (age 13 through college). Want to stick around for a show at the planetarium? Add $5 to each admission ticket. Memberships are also available for those who plan to visit often.
Why you should check it out: We love the Friendly Farm and have some great memories of visiting this farm from when we were kids. This is a fun, but low-key farm for little ones who want to pet animals and explore but might get tired after a couple hours. This is also the perfect farm to interact with animals instead of just looking at them from afar or behind fences and walls. At Friendly Farm you’ll find the usual barnyard furry friends such as goats, pigs, turkeys, chicks and chickens, rabbits, sheep, cows and horses. There are hands-on staff members to answer questions and the grounds are very clean and tidy.
Admission cost: Admission is $8.50 for adults and $7.50 for children (ages 1 to 12). Kids can become a Junior Farmer (membership) for $30 and receive a tee shirt, free admission and bag of feed each time they visit.
Lost River Gorge and Boulder Caves
Why you should check it out: If you’re heading to the White Mountains and looking for an outdoor attraction that will keep the kids entertained (and tire them out!), then check out Lost River. You can truly make your visit into an exploration and kids will feel like they’re part of the Journey to the Center of the Earth movie set. They’ll get to trek along the rivers and streams, navigate caves and boulders and even pan for gemstones and minerals. Make sure everyone has plenty of water and sneakers because this is an action-packed day outdoors. Want to try something truly special and fun? Go on an evening lantern tour (not recommended for kids under 5).
Admission cost: Tickets are $21 for adults, ages 4-14 are $17 and kids under three are free. Season passes are available, so if you plan to go more than twice this year, then this is a great deal! Want to do some exploring for free? Lost River has a couple of free hikes and walks for families and more experience hikers.
Massabesic Audubon Center
Why you should check it out: The Audubon Center is a really fun place to just go out and explore. Take a walk along the trails and get lost in the beauty of nature alongside Massabesic Lake as you head toward Battery Point. Inside the Audubon Center, there are knowledgeable staff and volunteers who are happy to talk to you about the animals that live in the surrounding woods and, of course, all about the active birdlife. The center has some creatures for your little ones to visit and touch including snails, frogs, hermit crabs, turtles snakes, raven and owl. This would be a fun and unique place to have your child’s birthday party, too.
Admission cost: There is no cost to visiting the Audubon Center or checking out its great trails, but donations are always welcome. There are fees for various programming and special events throughout the year but it’s very reasonably priced.
More places to explore:
- Beaver Brook in Hollis, NH: check out the free and public trails and gardens.
- Remick Country Doctor Museum and Farm in Tamworth, NH: explore this 200+ year old historic home and working farm in the beautiful Lakes Region; definitely don’t miss their special and seasonal events.
- Prescott Farm Environmental Education Center in Laconia, NH: check out the trails, family-friendly programming and visit the natural playscape.
- NH Farm Museum in Milton, NH: tour and learn the history behind a three century farm and make sure you visit with the animals.
- Inn at East Hill Farm in Troy, NH: enjoy and experience life on a living farm and then relax once the day is done by spending the night at the inn or one of the on-site cottages.
- The Fort at No. 4 in Charlestown, NH: visitors can travel back in time to Plantation No. 4, once the northwestern most village within the British colonies.