School’s out. What now? There’s plenty to be said for riding bikes in the neighborhood, playing catch in the backyard, and, of course, hitting the beach. But sometimes, you need a plan for amping up the fun. So we’ve rounded up 20 ideas for making sure you and your kids have your best summer yet.
1. Movies at the castle. Each Thursday night during July, Hammond Castle Museum will show a different magical, fantastical movie – The Wizard of Oz, Encanto, Willow, and Labyrinth – on its waterfront lawn. Reserve tickets ahead of time online.
2. Scout out a new playground. Some of our favorites include Patton Park in Hamilton, which includes a zip-line and adventurous climbing structures; waterfront Lyons Park in Beverly with its parent-child swing and playground merry-go-round; and the classic sprawling wooden structures of Action Cove in West Newbury.
3. Hit an old-fashioned arcade. For nostalgic fun we recommend skee ball and bumper cars at Salem Willows or pinball and air hockey at Joe’s Playland in Salisbury.
4. Shop a farmer’s market to support local farmers, get the freshest food, and maybe explore some new flavors (kohlrabi, maybe?). Try Beverly on Mondays, Amesbury on Wednesdays, Salem on Thursdays, Andover or Rockport on Saturdays, or Newburyport on Sundays.
5. Get some classical culture. On July 1, acclaimed classical ensemble A Far Cry will play a free family show at the Shalin Liu Performance Center in Rockport as part of the Rockport Chamber Music Festival.
6. Paint with light. On July 10, Cape Ann Museum will be hosting a workshop to create a giant cyanotype mural, in which the sun imprints shapes of natural and maritime objects on specially treated fabric.
7. Blueberry and Flower Fest at Cider Hill Farm. On July 16, 17, 23, and 24 you can pick you own blueberries, cut your own wildflower bouquet, catch a hayride, and perhaps dine on blueberry pie.
8. Throughout July, the Firehouse Center for the Arts will be putting on Seussical the Musical at Heritage park in Amesbury. Dates and tickets here.
9. Go on a food quest. Pick a favorite cuisine and wander the North shore looking for the absolute tastiest version. Hunt down fantastic fish and chips, the best burgers, incredible ice cream, perfect pizza… the options are endless and delicious.
10. Watch some whales. Choose from two options out of Gloucester – 7 Seas Whale Watch and Cape Ann Whale Watch – for a chance to spot humpbacks, fin whales, and maybe even an endangered right whale.
11. Drag the family to the theater. From July 12 to 24 the North Shore Music Theatre presents its twist on Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, featuring drag queen Jujubee, who has starred on RuPaul’s Drag Race.
12. Venture down the rabbit hole at Long Hill in Beverly with the new self-guided tour that features local artists’ interpretations of the classic story Alice in Wonderland scattered throughout the gorgeous gardens.
13. Visit the Peabody Essex Museum’s CreateSpace for drop-in art activities like making houses out of clay, collages, and kaleidoscopes.
14. Turn back time. On August 6 and 7, the Crane Estate will by hosting its annual Roaring 20s lawn party, a two-day extravaganza of swing dancing, picnicking (bring your own or shop the available food trucks), vintage vendors, and lawn games. There will be dance lessons, a suffrage march, and plenty of retro fun. And admission is free for kids 11 and under.
15. Splash around the water park. The Ipswich YMCA features an outdoor splash pad and water slides, that are open to Y members and the public alike; the splash pad at the Cape Ann YMCA is open to members from around the region. Or take the action indoors at the Water Park of New England in Danvers.
16. Do some summer reading. Whether the kids have an assigned list of titles or just more time on their hands, head to one of the North Shore’s amazing independent bookstores to find some books for rainy days and down time.
17. Book some time at a DIY studio like Clay Dreaming in Beverly or Create and Escape in Peabody to paint your own mug, sign, or handmade gift.
18. Set sail. The North shore offers plenty of schooners with public sails, but two of the most family-friendly options are both based at Gloucester’s Harbor Loop. Kids under 18 sail free on the Schooner Adventure and a trip on the Schooner Ardelle includes admission to Maritime Gloucester’s educational exhibits, aquarium, and touch tank. A voyage on either schooner includes opportunities for younger passengers to get hands-on experience with the operation of the ship.
19. Hit some balls. In Middleton, Golf Country offers a batting cage, mini-golf, and driving range, with the added bonus of Richardson’s flagship ice cream shop right there for a post-game treat. Sun ‘N Air in Danvers features a driving range and a three-hole practice course and, again, very convenient ice cream (Cherry Farm Creamery shares the parking lot). And in Stoneham, local mini-golf institution Hago Harrington’s will be celebrating its final year in business, so get in for a round before it’s gone.
20. Have an adventure for the birds. Every Friday from July 1 to August 19, the Joppa Flats Education Center in Newburyport hosts a free, 90-minute family birding walk that lets kids hunt down herons and seek out shorebirds.