We were up on a trip exploring New England a few weeks ago and found two great indoor activities for the kids (ages 6, 9, and 12). The weather was very rainy and we needed to get everyone out of the van doing something fun.
Montshire Museum in Norwich, Vermont
Calling this a museum is a bit of a misnomer; it's actually more of an exploratorium. It's a large, modern facility with scores of displays and hands-on activities illustrating science and the natural world. The kids (and adults) have plenty to do. We spent several hours there just indoors. The weather was poor, so we didn't get a chance to hike the signed nature trail or play in the outdoor water displays.
To name a few highlights, there were a lot of air/fluid flow exhibits that could be manipulated, giant bubble making tanks, and a wonderful set of aquariums. They also have a beautiful leafcutter ant colony. We spent three hours and would have stayed longer if they were not closing. Highly recommended. I know we'll be going back.
The Montshire Museum is in Norwich, VT just across the Connecticut River from Hanover, NH (home of Dartmouth.)
Upper Valley Aquatic Center in White River Junction Vermont
The other place we had a great time was at the Upper Valley Aquatic Center in White River Junction, VT. We'd hoped to get out and do some more camping and hiking in Vermont's excellent State Parks, but it was really pouring rain one day, so we took a motel room in White River Junction and played at the aquatic center. They have a small water slide, a warm zero-entry pool, and a splash park. There is also a 10-lane competition and lap pool.The highlight for all of us was the "current channel"--a winding loop of pool about five feet wide with a strong current that carries you around. We had a great time playing tag for at least two hours.
The equipment is oriented towards younger kids. (Teens would not be thrilled by the water slide.) But we dragged kids of all ages into our game of tag in the current channel. I think we'll be making more stops here as we pass through on future trips.
Vermont State Parks: Jamaica and Little River
I want to write more about some of our favorite state parks in the future: Jamaica State Park near Jamaica in southern Vermont and Little River State Park near Waterbury, VT.
Vermont has a fantastic state park system; we camped and hiked at the Jamaica park this trip. There was great hike up to Hamilton Falls that the whole family enjoyed. We also had lots of fun the new playground and would have swam in the river if the weather had been warmer.
I can't say enough good things about the Vermont state park system. They have large sites (so you aren't on top of your neighbors), super-friendly, helpful staff, clean facilities, and well-designed park layouts. Plus there is usually something fun for kids like a playground or a stream to splash in.