What to do this summer before the kids head back to school

Where to go and what to do for last-minute summer fun

August has arrived, which means the clock is ticking on summer 2017. Has your family made the most of it? From kid-friendly adventures to all-ages destinations throughout the state, here’s how to seize the day and have some last-minute summer fun and excitement in the Granite State.

One last splash

With stores filled to the brim with school supplies and fall clothes by Aug. 1, it’s too easy to feel like the season has already changed. Need a reminder that we are in still in the dog days of summer? Head to the beach. Along the sandy oceanfront stretch that is Hampton Beach, the only supplies your kids need are sunscreen, their bathing suits, and a towel. Have fun in the waves — the water temperature of the Gulf of Maine actually peaks in August — and hit the Hampton Beach boardwalk area for arcade action and tourist shops. Looking for a less-crowded beach experience? Try family-friendly Wallis Sands Beach in Rye.

Elsewhere in the Seacoast region, another cool spot to visit before summer’s end is Water Country in Portsmouth. Toddlers can take a dip in the Big Ollie spray pool, the under-seven set will love the more adventurous Tahiti Treehouse, and for ages 8 to 88-plus? Water Country’s Double Dive Boggan, Geronimo slide, and giant wave pool more than fit the bill. Minimum height restrictions apply on some slides.

For Seacoast summer fun that’s off the beaten path — and miles from land — take to the seas and spend the day visiting Star Island, one of the Isle of Shoals off the coast of Portsmouth. In this wind-whipped place, get an idea of what it was like for the first settlers in the area when the caw of gulls was the only sound that rose above the roar of the surf. Visit the island aboard the S.S. Thomas Leighton, with departures from Portsmouth daily. You can spend the day, or even the night. The island’s Oceanic Hotel built in 1873 offers basic rooms for an unplugged family overnight.

Away from the coast, there is no shortage of destinations for families looking to spend a lazy August day swimming, picnicking and playing. If you live in the Manchester or Concord areas, it’s only a short drive to Bear Brook State Park in Allenstown, where you will find a sandy swimming beach with lifeguards, canoe rentals, boat launch and a fishing area on Catamount Pond. Hiking trails and a campground are located nearby in the park. It’s a huge place to explore, so consider making this an overnight camping trip.

Also close by is Clough State Park in Weare. Besides hiking trails and great spots for a picnic, the park is home to a 900-foot long sandy beach swimming beach along Everett Lake.

Peak summer fun

Why not top off your family’s summer with a trip up New Hampshire’s tallest peak, 6,288-foot Mount Washington? By foot, you can reach the “Rooftop of New England” by scaling Tuckerman Ravine, a great challenge for experienced teen and adult hikers (find the trailhead at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center). For summit views without the blisters, try the Mount Washington Cog Railway or the well-traveled Mount Washington Auto Road. Besides breathtaking vistas in all directions, the summit houses a cafeteria, gift shops, the Mount Washington Observatory and its museum, and the historic site of the Tip-Top House, once part of a mountaintop hotel.

For more White Mountains adventure, zoom down the mountainside on a zipline tour. Extreme sports fans can get their thrill on at Alpine Adventures in Lincoln, Cranmore’s Aerial Adventure Park in North Conway, and the Bretton Woods Canopy Tour, the longest zip line tour in New England and one of the longest in the United States. The tour descends over 1,000 feet in elevation.

Root for the home team

While the Boys of Summer are still around, nothing beats an afternoon at the ballpark. Sure, you can make your way to Fenway, but stay close to home and check out Manchester’s minor league home team, the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. Many of the players eventually make it to the major leagues, so consider it an advance preview of the baseball stars of tomorrow. Plus, the Cats really know how to turn an evening at the ballpark into a real ball for kids. A special play area, activities for kids during the game, and a huggable mascot are all part of the fun. For schedule, go to www.nhfishercats.com.

August amusements

For classic amusement park fun, it wouldn’t be summer in New Hampshire without the trained bear shows at Clark’s Trading Post in Lincoln. Yes, they’re still as good as you remember when you were a kid. After the show, take a train ride with the infamous Wolfman in hot pursuit, go on the blaster boats and plummet down the Anaconda raft ride. For more splish-splashy fun, head to Lincoln’s Whale’s Tale Water Park where you can streak down the speed slides, twist through the flume slides, or spend a summer’s day frolicking in the calmer waters of Castaway Cove.

Finally, at the venerable Story Land in Glen, kids can take a spin in a teacup, travel in pumpkin coach-style on the way to see Cinderella’s castle, and scream along on the popular park’s brand new roller coaster, the Roar-O-Saurus, the only wooden roller coaster of its kind in northern New England. Elsewhere in the park, kids can visit with animals straight out their favorite fairy tales and everyone can have fun riding the classic merry-go-round. Spend the day here and consider it your storybook finish to summer 2017. 

Jacqueline Tourville is PNH’s travel and tourism guru.

Categories: Summer Essentials