Travel Destinations

Family-Friendly Places to Play on the Chesapeake Bay

Mid-Atlantic
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July 2017
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By
Susan
Elnicki Wade

To squelch summer monotony, here's a packet of destinations guaranteed to turn temperamental toddlers into cheerful cherubs and entice teens to put down their cell phones. With our Summer Survival Guide in hand, you can experience an enchanting world of Chesapeake treasures, ranging from historic forts to water parks, pirate ships to pony rides, and fearsome battleships to hidden islands.

Maryland

FORT MCHENRY - BALTIMORE

After a short introductory film at the visitor's center, explore the star-shaped fort that inspired Francis Scott Key to pen our national anthem during the War of 1812. Battle reenactments, awe-inspiring fireworks and engaging guides make this a grand destination for young historians.

NATIONAL AQUARIUM - BALTIMORE

It's easy to spend hours strolling through spectacular exhibits, coming face-to-face with schools of aquatic creatures ranging from jellyfish and sharks to dolphins and tiny seahorses. As you meander around displays of coral reefs and living seashores, you're surrounded by tanks teeming with exotic fish.

CHESAPEAKE BEACH WATER PARK - CHESAPEAKE BEACH

From Memorial Day to Labor Day, your family can splash around in water activities designed for kids of all ages. Water slides, fountains, a lazy river, the little guppies' activity pool and more provide unlimited fun.

CALVERT CLIFFS STATE PARK - LUSBY

Formed 10 to 20 million years ago, the massive cliffs are a timeless cache of remains of prehistoric sea creatures, sharks, whales, rays and seabirds. Fossil hunting, swimming, beachcombing, hiking trails and picnic areas make this an extraordinary summer destination.

C&D CANAL & MUSEUM - CHESAPEAKE CITY

To see a endless parade of all types and sizes of boats, head for the C&D Canal. This 14-mile man-made causeway between the Chesapeake Bay and Delaware River is a sight to behold. The museum is located in an original pump house, and a nearby lighthouse offers visitors a glimpse into the past.

DELMARVA BALLOON RIDES - CHESTER

Leave the Earth's terra firma below to get a bird's eye view of the Eastern Shore. After ascending about 1,000 feet above the treetops, your children will be awestruck by defying gravity the oldfashioned way to see the landscape from a unique perspective.

CHESAPEAKE BAY MARITIME MUSEUM - ST. MICHAELS

Climb to the top of a 19th-century lighthouse, tong for oysters and help shipwrights build vessels in the boatyard. This interactive museum houses a floating fleet of historic ships and buildings with exhibits that preserve the water culture, history and recreation on the Chesapeake Bay.

DELMARVA DISCOVERY CENTER & MUSEUM - POCOMOKE CITY

This hidden-gem museum takes you on a timeless journey through the river ecology and human history of Pocomoke River and Delmarva. Interactive exhibits reveal info about wildlife in Cypress Swamp, watermen culture, Colonial times and Native American traditions dating back 12,000 years.

Virginia

HISTORIC YORKTOWN - YORKTOWN

The location where George Washington's troops defeated Cornwallis' British army in 1781 is packed with historic sites, battlefield reenactments and museums. This charming waterfront town bustles with events and activities all summer long, and you will find family-friendly restaurants along the river walk and beach.

ALLIANCE TALL SHIP DAY SAILS - YORKTOWN

Sailing on-board the schooners Alliance and Serenity carry you away from the battlefields to glide along the York River in 18th-century style. Your kids will love to help set sail, steer the ship or watch for dolphins and osprey while developing a deeper understanding of maritime history.

COLONIAL WILLIAMSBURG - WILLIAMSBURG

This epicenter of Colonial America takes kids who yawn over dull history books and converts them into 18th-century experts. The era comes alive when actors in period clothing portray tradespeople, shopkeepers, slaves and politicians all around the city. Restored buildings, museums, events and activities are geared for all ages.

BUSCH GARDENS & WATER COUNTRY USA - WILLIAMSBURG

Nestled amid a plethora of Colonial sites awaits a destination where children can goof off and have fun. With both an amusement park and water park, this destination's got everything from roller coasters and water slides to bumper cars, playgrounds and shows to entertain the entire family.

HISTORIC JAMESTOWNE - JAMESTOWN

Some visitors say the archaeological dig where John Smith built a fort in 1607 is the best part of this destination. Others prefer presentations of life in America's first permanent English settlement. But everyone agrees the wooded island along the James River where Pocahontas once roamed is ripe for family adventure.

FORT MONROE - HAMPTON

For 400 years, this piece of land at the mouth of the Bay has played a role in U.S. history. It's been a fort, Civil War slave sanctuary, prison for Jefferson Davis, military base and more. Recently decommissioned and open to the public, its miles of beaches, historic sites and grand buildings make it a sweet summer getaway spot.

NEWPORT NEWS PARK DISCOVERY CENTER - NEWPORT NEWS

This 8,000 acre waterfront menagerie of fun is one of America's biggest city parks. Its Discovery Center showcases displays of local wildlife creatures, as well as artifacts from the Civil War. On the grounds, you can enjoy hiking trails, picnic areas, model airplane flying field, disc golf course, archery range and more.

VIRGINIA WAR MUSEUM - NEWPORT NEWS

U.S. military history buffs salute this impressive collection of personal war mementos, guns and weaponry, tanks and vehicles, uniforms and artifacts from 1775 to the present. Must-see exhibits: Women at War and the propaganda poster gallery.

NAUTICUS - NORFOLK

The massive Battleship Wisconsin docked out front with gun barrels aimed at the sky proves your family is in for a boatload of nautical fun. Exhibits include military technology, vessels in this bustling port, U.S. naval history, shipwrecks and weather phenomena. The horseshoe crab cove and shark tank are new crowd hits.

VIRGINIA SPORTS HALL OF FAME & MUSEUM - PORTSMOUTH

This multimedia, interactive tribute to regional champions presents sports highlights from early baseball greats to a Redskins skybox experience. Kids can call plays like television announcers, celebrate college victories, explore sports medicine science, hone math skills through scorekeeping, kick soccer balls and lots more.

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Camden, Maine
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True boaters say the real Maine coast doesn’t start until you reach Penobscot Bay. This is “Down East” from Kennebunkport and Portland. The dramatic stretch of coastline from Camden to Mount Desert Island sparkles with granite shores, dotted with archipelagos of pine-tree covered islands and mountains cascading into the sea. This region offers some of the best cruising ground in the world.

Camden is a magical little seaside town in the heart of Maine’s mid-coast. It’s historic but hip. “Where the Mountains Meet the Sea” is their moniker, as Camden Hills and 780-foot Mount Battie stretch down toward the bustling waterfront where this 1769 New England village sits, creating a postcard scene.

Camden is super foot-traffic friendly, starting at Harbor Park and the beautiful brick Public Library that graces the top of the bay by the Town Docks. Enjoy a picnic on the sprawling park lawn; there’s often a craft festival or free concert at the outdoor amphitheater. From the waterfront, stroll the quaint sidewalks leading to cafés, boutiques, craft stores and art galleries, pubs, and surprisingly trendy restaurants.

You can hike, bike or drive the toll road up Mount Battie in Camden Hill State Park, which encompasses 5,500 acres and 30 miles of trails. Your reward is spectacular panoramic views of the harbor and Penobscot Bay below.

Eaton Point, at the eastern entrance to the harbor, is home to a new Lyman-Morse yacht facility. Camden remains a working harbor with lobster fishermen, boat builders, ferries and tall-masted schooners taking folks out for scenic sails.

Camden hosts festivals throughout the summer season of jazz, film and its trademark Windjammers. In winter, the U.S. National Tobogganing Champion-ships are held at Camden’s namesake Snow Bowl – our country’s only ski area with views of the Atlantic.

Camden is an ideal boater’s gateway with all the services and shops you need in walking distance from the waterfront. Excursions from this protected harbor are countless and legendary. A quick cruise brings you to quiet Lasell Island for a sunset anchorage. Farther on you reach Maine’s Maritime Academy home in beautiful Castine, and the rustic islands of North Haven, Vinalhaven and Deer Isle. Ultimately you can cruise north and east through beautiful Merchants Row, or the more protected Eggemoggin Reach, to Mount Desert Island, home to famed Acadia National Park, Northeast, Southwest and Bar Harbors.

WHERE TO DOCK

Camden Public Landing
Town Docks
207-691-4314

Contact the harbormaster for overnight slips, limited but in town, and moorings throughout the harbor.

Lyman-Morse at
Wayfarer Marine
207-236-7108

Across the harbor on Camden’s east shores, this revamped marina is a half-mile walk to town, with new docks and a marina facility, home of Lyman-Morse Boatyard and 30 slips plus moorings.

WHERE TO DINE

40 Paper
207-230-0111

Relish artful cuisine locally sourced from farmers, fishermen and “foragers.” In an historic wool mill in downtown Camden, it’s comfy but chic. Savor octopus, lamb, mussels, salmon and more with fresh produce and creative sides. Save room for dessert made from scratch.

Peter Otts on the Water
207-236-4032

Get your chowder and Maine lobster fix from Chef Peter. This classic setting overlooking the harbor is a Camden staple you “ott” not miss. Open for lunch or dinner.

Franny’s Bistro
207-230-8199

With a neighborhood feel, Franny’s serves up lobster fritters, crab cakes, shrimp dumplings and land-lubber faves, too. A fun menu in a cozy setting.

Bagel Café
207-236–2661

For fresh-brewed morning coffee and daily “boiled then baked” bagels or breakfast sammies served all day.

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Jamestown, Rhode Island
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Located on Conanicut Island, Gould Island and Dutch Island, Jamestown welcomes boaters to Narragansett Bay.  Its southernmost point is on Gould Island and marked by Beavertail Lighthouse and State Park. The northernmost point is marked by Conanicut Island Lighthouse.  While Conanicut Island is the second largest island on Narragansett Bay, it is near the western mainland in Kingston, and Newport lies to the east on Aquidneck Island.  Hop on the Jamestown Newport Ferry to get the lay of the land and sea.

Jamestown was settled early in colonial history and was named for James, Duke of York, who became King James II in 1685.  By 1710, many of Jamestown’s current roads were already in place and a lot of its early architecture is well preserved. Soak up some local history at the Jamestown Fire Memorial Museum, Beavertail Lighthouse Museum and Park, Jamestown Windmill, Watson Farm, Conanicut Island Sanctuary, Fort Wetherill State Park, and the Jamestown Settlement museum.

The main town, shops and restaurants are located on the eastern shore of Conanicut Island.  But even from the western side, Dutch Harbor and other attractions are easily accessed with a one-mile walk.

WHERE TO DOCK

Conanicut Marina
401-423-5820

This full-service marina has a ships store/chandlery, gift shop, extensive dockage and a large mooring field.  It’s located in the heart of town overlooking Newport and the Pell Bridge, but bring your fishing poles for the kids.

Dutch Harbor Boat Yard
401-423-0630

Located on the west passage of Narragansett Bay, this small, local marina has good moorings, launch service and facilities.  At times, the harbor can be rolly from a SW wind up the West Passage.  The holding ground is excellent for anchoring, but the dinghy dock is by seasonal permit only.

Safe Harbor Jamestown Boatyard
401-423-0600

Jamestown Boatyard is renowned for excellent workmanship on all types of boats.  It also has a large mooring field and is in a beautiful location on the East Passage.

WHERE TO DINE

Slice of Heaven
401-423-9866

This family-owned café and bakery with an outdoor patio is an ideal spot for breakfast and lunch, especially if you’re looking for tasty gluten-free and vegetarian options.

J22 Tap & Table
401-423-3709

This lively, year-round restaurant specializes in classic American cuisine and local seafood dishes such as New England clam chowder, lobster tail and seared yellowfin tuna while accommodating meat eaters with wings, burgers and steak tacos.

Village Hearth Bakery & Café
401-423-9282

Take a seat inside this rustic eatery or outside on the patio to enjoy wood-fired bread, pizzas and pastries with a cool beer or wine.  To start your day with a smile, order a cup of the eco-friendly coffee.

Bay Voyage Restaurant
401-560-7979

Inside the Wyndham Bay Voyage Inn, this casual dining establishment presents a seasonal menu of American cuisine standards and seafood with fresh ingredients and a stellar view of Narragansett Bay.

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Explore the Spirited Lakefront of Burlington, VT
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A vibrant, compact city hugging the eastern shoreline of Lake Champlain, Burlington abounds in scenic beauty, four-season recreation, a college town vibe, arts and culture, and a quirky character all its own.

Burlington - destinations - marinalife
Burlington Church Street | Michelle Raponi on Pixabay

Eclectic shops named Anjou & the Little Pear or Common Deer, and restaurants called Zabby & Elf 's Stone Soup or The Skinny Pancake dot the urban landscape. A local artist's satirical comment on the bureaucracy of urban planning called File Under So. Co., Waiting for..., consists of 38 filing cabinets welded together to a 40-foot height. Birds frequently nest in the upper chambers.

History buffs stroll through the Ethan Allen Homestead Museum or the Fleming Museum of Art's multi-era artifact collection while hikers trek the 12.5-mile path at Burlington Waterfront Park, which offers bicycle, rollerblade and kayak rentals. In season, the path connects to the Lake Champlain Islands via bike ferry.

burlington - destinations - marinalife
Burlington Bike Path | Michelle Raponi on Pixabay

Since the 1800s, the Old North End has been the city's melting pot, and global cuisine from Nepalese dumplings to the African Market can be found here today. Between munches, stroll over to historic Elmwood Cemetery, whose residents include Revolutionary War soldiers. Hear their stories and perhaps have a chance encounter with a local spirit on a Queen City Ghostwalk Tour. Liquid spirits rule when the internationally famous, regionally beloved and hidden gem breweries line up for the annual Vermont Brewers Festival. Year round, enjoy homemade bratwurst and drafts at Zero Gravity Craft Beer. At acclaimed Foam Brewers, the patio faces Lake Champlain waterfront and the Adirondack Mountains. Hop on the Sip of Burlington Brew Tour for a dozen tastings and the sights of this dynamic, energetic city.

Where to Dock

Burlington Community Boathouse Marina

802-865-3377

This full-service marina is the centerpiece of a growing waterfront. Amenities include 105 slips up to 65 feet, Splash Café and a fantastic sunset over the Adirondacks.

Burlington Harbor Marina

802-540-6869

With 160 slips (60 transient slips up to 80 feet), this new marina's tranquil harbor setting is convenient to downtown amenities and recreational activities.

Where to Dine

Honey Road

802-497-2145

Savor sophisticated Mediterranean small plates, cocktails and creative desserts in a comfy tavern setting.

burlington - destinations - marinalife
Burlington Church Street | Needpix

The Farmhouse Tap & Grill

802-859-0888

This farm-to-table gastropub dishes up local burgers, charcuterie and innovative specials. Sip on local brews in the beer garden.

RíRá

802-860-9401

According to Irish playwright Brendan Behan, The most important things to do in the world are to get something to eat, something to drink and somebody to love you. RíRá fuses classic Irish with pub grub to satisfy the first two.

Leunig's Bistro & Café

802-863-3759

Step inside the lush garden courtyard to watch fresh local fruit, vegetables, meat and seafood transform into classic French dishes. Come enjoy a romantic evening meal.

Hen of the Wood

802-540-0534

Enjoy a true Vermont dining experience in a romantic, rustic atmosphere adjacent to the Hotel Vermont.

Read More

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