When it's not raining, I've enjoyed time these past few weeks at a few of my favorite family-friendly parks. We're so lucky to have a summer's worth of options to play and picnic here on the north shore.
Maudslay State Park
The lavish rhododendrons and gardens dating back to the family estate in the 19th century make this an idyllic spot for lunching al fresco. The arching stone bridge over the Merrimack River is a good spot for resting, or you might seek out a quiet spot along the rolling river bank. The white pine trees provide a towering canopy and serve as nesting areas for a population of bald eagles. During the summer, the park hosts open-air theater events. Parking is $2.
Castle Hill offers something for everyone! You can take tours of the castle, explore the surround ing grounds, have a picnic on the Grande Allée, or walk and hike along the grassy trails orund the estate. Members of the Trustees get free admission, Non-members pay $8 per car on weekends, $5 per car on weekdays. Lower rates apply for smaller vehicles like bikes and motorcycles.
Halibut Point State Park
Tide pools, seabirds, and wildflowers make up part of the scenery at this state park, but the real attraction is the sloping granite ledges from which you can see all the way to Maine and New Hampshire. “It’s a rocky outcropping on the ocean,’’ says Wendy Fox of Department of Conservation and Recreation. “It’s stunning. You can get up high and have beautiful views.’’ A longtime quarry in the 1800s, the area is primarily used for sightseeing and by picnickers who want to get close to nature.
This 300-year-old farm is a painted picture of lush fields and bountiful orchards. “It is as quintessential New England as you’ll find anywhere,’’ says owner Michael Smolak. “Twenty-five acres of apples are blooming right now — it’s just as beautiful as it gets.’’ Also in bloom now: strawberries. Don’t miss the farm stand (with bakery) and the ice cream counter. Parking is free.
Stage Fort Park
This Park is the historic site of Gloucester's first settlers in 1623. Dorchestermen set up fishing stages on this land. The Park consists of Half Moon and Cressy's beaches. Half Moon is a lovely small beach ideal for families with children. Cressy's Beach is a rocky, more natural beach. Stage Fort Park has an information center open during the season, rest rooms and on the grounds, a privately owned restaurant open to the public.
There is a playground. Visitors can bring grills for cookouts. During the season, there are outdoor concerts and story telling. Check the Calendar of Events for details. Stage Fort Park is pet friendly! Dogs are allowed in the Park but not on the beaches from May 1st to September 15th. Owners must pick up after their dogs. Parking is $10 per car in season. Anyone interested in obtaining permits for outings and functions in Stage Fort Park should contact Beach, Recreation and Public Properties at 978-281-9785.
On a sunny afternoon under the shade trees this is the place for "B" and me. 67 years ago, Beverly's beloved Lynch Park was born. Previously it existed as a Revolutionary War fortress, a leased home to President Taft, and was bequeathed to Beverly Hospital before David S. Lynch bought the land on June 23, 1943 specifically to provide Beverly residents with beautiful public parkland. This gorgeous 16-acre oceanfront park has plenty of open spaces for sports such as volleyball, badminton, and children's soccer; there are picnic tables and a concession area where you can buy hotdogs, pizza, beverages, and ice cream. Two beaches provide endless enjoyment - be sure to check the tide schedule.
On Sunday summer evenings from 6 - 8 you can stop by to hear a free concert played in the bandshell; different kinds of music are featured: classical, semi-classical, folk, blues, swing, rock, bluegrass, jazz, and more! The sunken rose garden dates to 1910 and is a dramatic backdrop where weddings still take place. Access is free to Beverly residents, yet another wonderful perk of living in the city of Beverly.
The stickers are available in the summers only, and only at the park. There is a small fee for non-residents. The park is open 8:00 AM - 10:00 PM. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, dogs are allowed in Lynch Park from 6:00 - 7:45AM. Restrooms are available from 9:00 AM until dusk. Don't forget to check out the summer movie schedule at Lynch Park! Bring a blanket and spread out under the stars, feel the breeze from the ocean, and watch movies this summer.
Bradley Palmer State Park
Whether you want to hike, run, walk the dog, or just spread out on one of the 700-plus acres of rolling meadow on this former estate, you’ve got options. On hot summer days the wading pool and picnic area get busy (parking is $5 per car). Consider grilling here, or, if you want to get away from the crowds, grab a map from the park headquarters and find a secluded spot along the Ipswich River. Just watch out for the wild turkeys.