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  • Exploring the Museum of Fine Arts (Boston, MA): Parents hear "magnificent Egyptian collections." Kids think: "Mummies!" Even the most hyper youngster manages to take it down a notch in these quiet, refined surroundings, and the collections at the MFA simultaneously tickle visitors' brains.
  • Experimenting in the Museum of Science (Boston, MA): Built around demonstrations and interactive displays that never feel like homework, this museum is wildly popular with kids -- and adults. Explore the exhibits, then take in a show at the planetarium or the Mugar Omni Theater. Before you know it, everyone will have learned something, painlessly.
  • Catching a Free Friday Flick at the Hatch Shell (Boston, MA): Better known for the Boston Pops Fourth of July concert, the Esplanade is also famous for family films (like Shrek or Pocahontas) shown on Friday nights in summer. The lawn in front of the Hatch Shell turns into a giant, carless drive-in as hundreds of people picnic and wait for dark.
  • Visiting the Heritage Museums and Gardens (Cape Cod, MA): This site with museum buildings spread over 76 acres will delight both children and adults. Kids will especially love the gleaming antique cars, the collections of soldiers and Native American clothing, and the 1912 carousel that offers unlimited rides. Outdoor concerts free with admission take place most Sunday afternoons in season.
  • Whale-Watching off Provincetown (Cape Cod, MA): Boats leave MacMillan Wharf for the 8-mile journey to Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, a rich feeding ground for several types of whales. Nothing can prepare you for the thrill of spotting these magnificent creatures feeding, breaching, and even flipper-slapping.
  • Deep-Sea Fishing: Charter fishing boats these days usually have high-tech fish-finding gear -- imagine how your kids will react to reeling in one big bluefish after another. The top spots to mount such an expedition are Barnstable Harbor or Rock Harbor in Orleans, on Cape Cod; Point Judith, at the southern tip of Rhode Island; and the Maine coast.
  • Riding the Flying Horses Carousel in Oak Bluffs (Martha's Vineyard, MA): Some say this is the oldest carousel in the country, but your kids might not notice the genuine horsehair, sculptural details, or glass eyes. They'll be too busy trying to grab the brass ring to win a free ride. After your ride, stroll around the town of Oak Bluffs. Children will be enchanted with the "gingerbread" houses, a carryover from the 19th-century revivalist movement.
  • Biking Nantucket (MA): Short, flat trails crisscross the island, and every one leads to a beach. The shortest rides lead to Children's Beach, with its own playground, and Jetties Beach, with a skate park and watersports equipment for rent; older kids will be able to make the few miles to Surfside and Madaket.
  • Visiting Mystic Seaport and Mystic Aquarium (CT): The double-down winner in the family-fun sweepstakes has to be this combination: a visit to the waterfront settlement of the Seaport, which captures the look and feel of a 19th-century seafaring village, and a trip to the Aquarium, with performing sea lions and a display of glowing, fluorescent coral. These are the kinds of G-rated attractions that have no age barriers.
  • Visiting the Ben & Jerry Ice Cream Factory (Waterbury, VT): Kids and ice cream are a great combination, and the half-hour tours that leave every 10 minutes in summer won't tax anybody's patience. Browse the small ice cream museum, enjoy the playground and cow-viewing area, and make sure to save room for the free samples.
  • Exploring the Shelburne Museum (Shelburne, VT): This museum contains one of the nation's most singular collections of American decorative, folk, and fine art. Kid favorites include the Circus Building, with a 35,000-piece three-ring miniature circus; an operating vintage carousel; a collection of dolls and dollhouses; and automata, large (sometimes 3 feet tall), often comical wind-up toys.
  • Riding the Mount Washington Cog Railway (Crawford Notch, NH): It's fun! It's terrifying! It's a great glimpse into history. Kids love this ratchety climb to the top of New England's highest peak aboard trains that were specially designed to scale the mountain in 1869. As a technological marvel, the railroad attracted tourists by the thousands a century ago. They still come to marvel at the sheer audacity of it all.
  • Exploring Monhegan Island (ME): Kids from 8 to 12 especially enjoy overnight excursions to Monhegan Island. The mail boat from Port Clyde is rustic and intriguing, and the hotels are an adventure. Leave at least an afternoon to sit atop the high, rocky bluffs scouting the glimmering ocean for whales.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.