Rail Explorers carts offer riders young and old the chance to take a hands-free, laid-back autumn pedal through woodlands and along the shore of Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay.Photo Credit : David Mielcarek & Blonnie Brooks for WAGS Media
Back-to-school time reminds us just how fast children grow up—so why not plan a day-trip this fall with multigenerational appeal? Driving along foliage-tinted roads to one of these playful attractions is half the magic. Just park once, and make memories all day.
While a six-mile bike ride might not be in the cards for every member of your family, a Rail Explorers expedition can be. Head to Rhode Island to experience these easy-to-pedal, steel-wheeled tandem and quad rail vehicles, which can be linked up so your whole clan can sightsee together (as long as a few people exert a bit of effort, that is). Riding on train tracks that were first laid in the 1860s, you’ll skirt Narragansett Bay and get the chance to watch sailboats glide, osprey soar, and leaves scatter like golden confetti. Portsmouth, RI. 877-833-8588; railexplorers.net
Outdoor adventures at this New Hampshire resort are the answer to “What now?” after you’ve leaf-peeped along the Kancamagus Highway. The best deal is an attractions park ticket, which covers unlimited rides on the Nor’easter Mountain Coaster, two alpine slides, and ski lifts here and at nearby Wildcat Mountain. Lift-serviced mountain biking is also included, with rental bikes available if needed. Attitash’s ZipTour is a worthy add-on: You’ll have eagle-eye views, and two ziplines means you can fly side by side (as long as your sidekick is 10 or older). Bartlett, NH. 800-223-7669; attitash.com
Hours go by as you trivia-puzzle your way through an eight-acre corn maze—and you’ve still conquered only a fraction of the 50-plus activities included in your play-all-day ticket at this seasonal Massachusetts attraction. After visiting the petting zoo, taking aim in the paintball shooting gallery, and pedaling a quad cart around a scenic track, your kids might not be done, but you are. Kick back by a fire pit with a craft beer and Kansas City–style barbecue and listen to live music while you watch your little ones bulldoze corn kernels or whoosh down the bouncy slide. Sterling, MA. 978-422-8888; davismegafarmfestival.com
When Retreat Farm was established in 1837 as a therapeutic facility for psychiatric patients, fostering well-being by connecting to nature was a pioneering notion. Happily, it’s widely embraced today—as you’ll appreciate on an autumn visit to this 500-acre Vermont property, now a nature and farm education nonprofit. Let your kids tug you into the refashioned barn to snuggle with bunnies and brush happy-to-be-pampered pigs, then head up the hill to feed Carlos, the one-ton ox. Purchase a food-truck lunch or nibble samples from Grafton Village Cheese next door before setting out to explore the farm’s nine miles of trails. The Harvest Festival on October 5 brings even more hubbub: music, pumpkin painting, and old-school fun like eating cider doughnuts from a string, no hands allowed. Brattleboro, VT. 802-490-2270; retreatfarm.org
When autumn comes, bears gobble berries, squirrels scavenge incessantly, and monarch butterflies pack up for Mexico. But if you visit this Connecticut family favorite on the Saturday before Halloween, you’ll meet a few creatures who’ve paused to hand out goodies and tell kids why they’re scurrying. The costumed critters who make “Track-and-Treat” a highlight of the annual Hobgoblin Fair (be sure to pre-register) are part of the team behind the super-creative programming at this facility, which also plays a big role in saving injured wildlife. View environmental exhibits, walk woodland trails, step inside a model Native American longhouse, and meet resident raptors. And if there’s an “animal hospital” patient, you might even get to observe its care. Canton, CT. 860-693-0263; roaringbrook.org