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Spend your first week in New Hampshire and Maine, as described above, then head south. The water off Massachusetts and Rhode Island is warmer than the northern New England surf (though it's all relative), but the attractions and distractions are just as enjoyable.

Days 8 & 9: Cape Ann

Use your first day to explore this lovely peninsula. Visit downtown Rockport for souvenirs and fudge. Push on to Halibut Point State Park, at the tip of Cape Ann, which boasts spectacular views and plenty of room to run around. Walk the waterfront boulevard that extends north from Stage Fort Park in Gloucester. Before or after blowing off some steam by running around Stage Fort Park, head west on Route 133 for fried clams at the legendary Woodman's of Essex.

On Day 2, head to the beach early, before the parking lots fill up. The rocky coast yields to welcoming strips of sand at several inviting spots. A good destination for families is Gloucester's Wingaersheek Beach, where kids will happily while away the day. Plan on an early dinner, because you have a long drive ahead of you tomorrow.

Days 10, 11 & 12: Cape Cod

Base yourselves in Brewster or Dennis; they're convenient but not in the heart of the tourist frenzy. On your first day, stick close to your home base and the child-friendly beaches that front Cape Cod Bay. On Day 4, venture to Falmouth by way of Sandwich. Be at the Heritage Museums and Gardens in Sandwich at 9am, and don't expect to get away without a carousel ride. Push on to the Woods Hole Aquarium. Mix and match your routes in each direction, combining the speed and boredom of Route 6 with the pokey pace and abundant distractions of routes 6A and 28 to accommodate the level of interest in the back seat. Day 5 may just be another local beach day, but a fun option is Cape Cod National Seashore in the Outer Cape, followed by a stroll around lovely downtown Chatham.

Let the family energy level dictate how you fill out your days. This area abounds with options for outdoor fun; depending on your kids' ages and interests, you might try biking, kayaking, or fishing. Just be sure to allow for some quality beach time and that timeless Cape combo, miniature golf and soft-serve ice cream. If it's summer, sports fans will want to take in a Cape Cod Baseball League game. Starting times are in the afternoon as well as the evening, a boon for parents who are working around naps.

Days 13 & 14: South County & Mystic

Work your way west from Cape Cod along the Rhode Island coast, taking advantage of a good excuse to experience relatively undiscovered South County. You'll reach Connecticut in time to explore the Mystic Aquarium. That leaves a full day for a visit to Mystic Seaport; fuel up first with a hearty breakfast at Kitchen Little.

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.