Your Summer Guide to the Merrimack Valley and Beyond
For those who aren’t sticking strictly to the Merrimack Valley this summer, here are a few suggestions on some light activities to get you off the couch and out of the house.
Scenic Railriders, located in Concord, N.H., offers one of the most unique activities in the Merrimack Valley. Riding their custom rail-bikes is an activity everyone can do — it’s a 6.4-mile trip around an abandoned rail track. Each tour takes about two hours from start to finish. During this time, riders get a short safety and operational briefing and two brief breaks in the middle as they turn the rail-bikes around for the return trip.
All ages are allowed to ride the rail-bikes, although children must be accompanied by a rider of at least 16. No person heavier than 300 pounds can ride. The tours will run rain or shine unless the conditions are going to be dangerous. Decisions to cancel a tour due to dangerous conditions will be made by the tour guides. Scenic Railriders also allows for cancellations or rescheduling within 48 hours of a tour for no extra charge. Cancellations of tours within 48 hours are nonrefundable, and rescheduling tours within 24 hours require a 20% rebooking fee.
Friendship Park in Chelmsford, Mass., offers some fun, light-hearted activities that cater to families. The playground features a tall structure with multiple types of slides, a climbing net, swings, sandbox, shaded seating and a natural play area. The park is free to attend.
For those who are traveling just outside of the Merrimack Valley for smaller day trips, the Saco River is the perfect place to spend a day leisurely on a kayak or canoe.
Don’t have a canoe? Saco River Canoe & Kayak in Fryeburg, Maine, rents out kayaks, canoes, tubes and other rafts starting at $45 during the weekends (Friday, Saturday and Sunday), and the price drops to $33 during midweek and the offseason. The offseason runs from the end of the summer until Columbus Day, and then they close for the winter and reopen midspring, depending on weather. Canoes and kayaks are meant for three adults at most, and trips on the river can be canceled at any time if conditions on the river are deemed unsafe. Life jackets are mandatory, and excessive disruption may cause groups to be removed from the river. For reservations and more information, call (207) 935-2369.
For inexperienced hikers or those looking for a quick day trip, Mount Monadnock on the Jaffrey, N.H., line is a quick four to 4 1/2 hour hike (two to 2 1/2 hours up, 1 1/2 to two hours down) that offers a tremendous view. The mountain offers a few more challenging routes, which are off the main paths. These paths are meant for either slightly more experienced hikers, or those who are searching for a quieter hike. Parking is $15 for the day and $5 per adult. Parking passes can be purchased in advance to guarantee a parking spot.
In the past, Groundswell Surf Cafe in Salisbury, Mass., has offered SUPing, or stand up paddleboarding. It’s exactly what it sounds like: The rider stands up on a long board, much like one used in surfing, and uses a paddle to push themselves through the water.
It’s not clear yet if Groundswell will offer SUP this year, although you can check out their beach yoga program as an alternative. If you don’t mind making a trip, check out Kite N Paddle, in St. Albans Bay, Vt. The helpful team provides newcomers with lessons and tips for SUPing, and also explains the therapeutic qualities that SUPing can have to strengthen your back and core muscles. The SUP boards range from $20-$30 an hour, and tour guides for SUPing are $25 an hour. Tours include Woods Island, Burton Island, Mosquito Island and Kill Kare State Park, and all are within 45 minutes from Kite N Paddle.
Kite N Paddle also offers kiteboarding, an activity for the slightly more adventurous. A combination of wakeboarding, windsurfing, paragliding and sailing, kiteboarding harnesses the wind with a large controllable kite. The sport has seen a recent surge in popularity as it is relatively inexpensive and another activity that utilizes muscles that might not have been stretched in quite some time. The courses allow first-time users to learn how to fly the power kites and learn proper technique, and they allow experienced kiteboarders to get on the water and ride freely. Rates are $55 per hour per person in groups of two or more, $70 per hour for private lessons and $100 per hour with the use of a jet ski or boat.
Outdoor experiences are endless at Hampton Beach. Walk, swim and dine in or around the beachfront and enjoy the beautiful view, as outdoor seating becomes available around the area.
Looking to get out of the house? Health experts advise us that there is no better way to keep your mind and body healthy than to walk, cycle or jog the great outdoors. Visit the Bruce Freeman Rail, which cuts through Lowell, Chelmsford, Westford, Carlisle, Acton, Concord, Sudbury and Framingham. This scenic route gives families an outing experience to gain a new perspective on the Merrimack Valley.
Open from sunrise to sunset, Great Brook Farm, located in Carlisle, Mass., features over 20 miles of trails and outdoor space, providing outdoor fanatics and families to partake in anything from a relaxing stroll to a hiking adventure. This 1,000-acre land is notable for its Native American sites and remains of cellar holes left by English settlers. If you’re looking to learn more about the farm and have a look behind the scenes, take a free guided tour of their working dairy farm. The dairy farm is the first in Massachusetts to have a robotic milking system. Once your tour has concluded, show yourself the way to the farm’s ice cream stand, which offers over 60 flavors of ice cream, sherbet, sorbet and frozen yogurt. There are a range of farm animals to feed. For 25 cents, you get a handful of grain and can feed alpacas, sheep, lambs, goats, chickens and pigs.
For those who want to go out but take things more leisurely yet still be a little quirky, Above Reality Hot Air Balloons in Essex Junction, Vt., provides fliers with a stunning view of the Green Mountains and Lake Champlain. Watch out for bears, moose and other critters below! Balloons can seat up to 14, and tickets are $285 per person, or $199 for children between the ages of 8 and 17.
If you aren’t willing to go all the way to Vermont for the experience, try High 5 Ballooning, located in Derry, N.H. Guaranteeing the lowest fare in New England, and with no increase since 1999, a rate of $200 per person includes a delicious complimentary picnic and post-flight champagne celebration. It’s a sightseer’s dream as you embark over the White Mountains, Atlantic Ocean, Boston’s skyline and the Merrimack River Valley.
With one of the finest systems in the world, their balloon envelopes are constructed from more than 1,000 square yards of rip-stop nylon fabric and over three miles of thread. More than that, the balloon envelopes stand between 75 and 83 feet tall. You can ride in a balloon where the envelopes are appropriately named Smile High and Horizon High. To assure passengers safety, their balloon systems are meticulously maintained to ensure a safe and beautiful ride. This scenic hot air balloon ride will be an adventure of a lifetime, as you get a new outlook on New England.
Great Freedom Adventures offers numerous outdoor cycling, hiking and walking active tours to embrace and be a part of New England’s beauty. No matter what tour you choose, the scenic experience is well worth it for nature lovers. The Great Freedom tour guides are knowledgeable, enthusiastic and fun-loving. They look forward to sharing the experience with you and showing you what you won’t want to miss, as you take on hidden backroads and find treasures right within their backyards. With a variety of different tours, destinations and adventure trips around New England, there is always going to be a new challenge, adventure and experience nothing like the one before.
Looking to watch a movie under the stars? A part of Nashua N.H. Summer Fun 2020, enjoy an outdoor movie night with friends and family. On Jul. 17, Aug. 21, Sept. 11, gather your blankets and your snacks while enjoying whatever cinematic film there is to offer.
The Milford Drive-In is another great outing where you can change up the cinematic screening experience. It’s the only remaining drive-in movie theatre in southern New Hampshire. This old-fashioned, two-screen drive-in movie theater is equipped with a snack bar and a remote-controlled car track.
Movie lovers should also check out the Mendon Twin Drive-In theatre in Mendon, Mass. With the summer air drifting in, and the late-night snacks a must, this drive-in experience is one for the summer bucket list, as a variety of different showtimes and screenings cater to all different ages and genres. Both drive-in movie locations rate at $30 per car, with a range of one to six people per car.
Celebrating 74 years of fishing and fun, Eastman’s Docks in Seabrook, N.H., offers many boating tours for an engaging day of excitement and relaxation as you embark on the water. Their wide variety of tours are available and catered for you and offer something for novice and pro fishermen, wildlife enthusiasts and sightseers.