Play and Picnic North of Boston

Great Picnic Spots for North Shore Families and Children

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 on the Crane Estate

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.

Smolak Farms
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.

Lynch Park
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.

Waldorf School at Moraine Farm - Beverly MA

Deck The Halls: Hammond Castle

A holiday themed tour of Hammond Castle in Gloucester Massachusetts
For the first time in years, Hammond Castle will be open to the public to celebrate the holiday season! The Museum will be open for self guided tours beginning Saturday December 7th through Friday December 20th from 10:00am to 3:00pm daily (except for Sunday December 15th when the Museum is closed...

Gingerbread Decorating for Teens

Gingerbread Decorating at Flint Public Library in Middleton Massachusetts
Come to Flint Library for refreshments, crafts, and a countdown to noon! This celebration is perfect for little ones who want to celebrate the New Year, but may be too young to stay awake until midnight. Make your own party hat, create a festive collage, and help us to welcome 2020!

MarketStreet Lynnfield Outdoor Ice Skating and Warming Tent

Outdoor Ice Skating and Warming Tent at MarketStreet Lynnfield
MarketStreet Lynnfield will once again welcome guests to celebrate the magic of the winter season with the return of The MarketStreet Rink sponsored by Capital One.

Rockport Maker's Festival

Come celebrate the maker spirit in downtown Rockport Massachusetts!
Shop for the perfect handmade gifts in a seaside Christmas village! Join us for a town-wide festival and holiday market, with maker-themed events in the shops, festive food, holiday music and attractions—even horse drawn carriage rides! Plan your visit today! A Town-wide Festival!
12:00 am

MAC Holiday Toy Drive

Manchester Athletic Club Holiday Toy Drive - Manchester MA
With the need for toys at an all-time high for local children, Manchester Athletic is offering a generous benefit for your donation. Bring in any new and unwrapped toy to donate to the toy drive, MAC will waive the join fee.
6:00 am to 8:00 pm

Museum of Science Celebrates the Rails with an Assortment of Train Activities - Cambridge

Museum of Science Celebrates the Rails with an Assortment of Train Activities
Celebrate the winter season at the Museum of Science with a suite of train-themed attractions, sure to entertain the entire family. For the second year in a row, the Museum’s temporary model train exhibit, All Aboard! Trains at Science Park, makes its return, in a new space within the Museum,...
9:00 am to 5:00 pm

Homeschool Winter and Spring Sessions Registration Open

Waldorf at Moraine FArm Homeschool Winter and Spring Sessions
Waldorf Homeschool Program - Academic and Artistic Enrichment Classes for Homeschooled Students – First through Eighth Grade Level Classes Waldorf School at Moraine Farm is pleased to announce registration is open for the Homeschool Program on our beautiful Beverly, Massachusetts campus.
10:00 am to 12:00 pm

Sing & Dance with the Music Man

Sing & Dance with the Music Man Brian Doser in Hamilton visit Massachusetts
Come join the fun at Community House Of Hamilton & Wenham Monday, Thursday, and Saturday mornings at 10 a.m. for 30 - 45 minutes of great music with Brian Doser! Sing and dance with the Music Man during a family concert, featuring familiar and original tunes, performed by local dad and musician...
10:00 am to 10:45 am

Dog Friendly Shops at MarketStreet Lynnfield

Dog Friendly Shops and Restaurants at MarketStreet Lynnfield
Animal lovers will be glad to learn MarketStreet Lynnfield has over 40 shops and restaurants that are dog-friendly. Use #PupsOfMarketStreet on social media when you are there with your four-legged friend to get a free treat at PolkaDog Bakery. Enjoy!
10:00 am to 9:00 pm

Arts and Crafts for Little Ones with Colleen Apostolos

Art Classes for children with Colleen Apostolos
Certified Montessori teacher, artist and local mother, Colleen Apostolos-Marsh will guide your young artist in an exploration of color, shape, and texture. Using a variety of media, your child will be free to express their in a beautiful space while socializing and engaging in cooperative play....
10:15 am to 11:15 am

AJH: Mother & Baby Support Classes: Haverhill

Mother & Baby Support Groups at Anna Jaques Hospital in Newburyport MA
Mother & Baby Groups Anna Jaques is pleased to offer free group classes for all mothers in our community to provide support, encouragement and advice on parenthood and questions that arise after going home. Formerly named Lactation Support Groups, the Mother & Baby Group is facilitated by a...
10:30 am to 12:00 pm

Young at Art at CAM

Young at art is a program for toddlers at the Cape ann museum in Gloucester Massachusetts
Bring your toddler to Cape Ann Museum on the second Thursday of each month from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. for Young at Art, a gallery-based storytime! Recommended for children ages 4 and younger with an adult. This drop-in program is free for members or with Museum admission. To register please email...
10:30 am to 11:30 am

LEGO Club at Danvers Library

LEGO club at Danvers Library
Peabody Institute Library - Danvers invites kids to an afternoon of building and fun! Activities will include free build, themes and instructional design. All structures will remain on display in the Children’s Room till the following weeks's session
3:30 pm

Trustees Winterlights at Stevens Coolidge Place

Trustees Winterlight at the Stevents-Collodge Place North Andover
Winterlights at The Stevens-Coolidge Place - North Andover. See the Trustees' beloved gardens in a whole new light. Winterlights, the multi-week immersive holiday light display which welcomed over 35,000 visitors when it premiered last year. Get your tickets early before they sell out!
5:00 pm to 8:00 pm

A Little Night Music & Rhyme

Come sing, dance and get the wiggles out at Beverly Public Library
Beverly Public Library  invites families with kids under 5 (or so) to join the musical rhythmic fun! Come Dance, shake, move and sing and get the wiggles out.
6:30 pm

Friday, December 13

Rockport Maker's Festival

Come celebrate the maker spirit in downtown Rockport Massachusetts!
Shop for the perfect handmade gifts in a seaside Christmas village! Join us for a town-wide festival and holiday market, with maker-themed events in the shops, festive food, holiday music and attractions—even horse drawn carriage rides! Plan your visit today! A Town-wide Festival!
12:00 am

Santa's Workshop

Santa's Workshop in Newburyport, Massachusetts. Visit Newburyport MA during the holidays
Newburyport is a favorite local town to shop - especially during the holidays. The fantastic lights downtown, the tree in Market Square, all the beautifully decorated window boxes and of course, Santa's Workshop, where the kids can whisper their wishes to Santa.

Tree Jubilee at Marini Farm

The Tree Jubilee hosted by Marini Farm is a fun and unique charity event!!
Come to Marini Farm for the Tree Jubilee fundraiser to benefit The Ipswich Humane Group.  Tour the gallery of beautifully decorated trees and wreaths donated by local organizations, families, and businesses then choose the ones you want a chance to win! More than 50 spectacularly decorated trees...

MarketStreet Lynnfield Outdoor Ice Skating and Warming Tent

Outdoor Ice Skating and Warming Tent at MarketStreet Lynnfield
MarketStreet Lynnfield will once again welcome guests to celebrate the magic of the winter season with the return of The MarketStreet Rink sponsored by Capital One.

Gingerbread Decorating Workshop at Marini Farm

Kids will learn how to decorate gingerbrad houses at Marini Farm in Ipswich MA!
Celebrate the season with us, friends and gingerbread fun. Decorate your very own gingerbread house and take it home to eat or display as a centerpiece during your holiday celebrations. Enjoy endless decorating options, from frosted roofs, gum drop fences and cookie christmas trees.

A Christmas Carol Panto

Theater in the Open celebrates the holidays with their interpretation of Dickens' Christmas Carol at the Firehouse Center for the Arts in Newburyport!
Bah, humbug! Theater in the Open celebrates the holiday season with this Dickens classic, presented in true TITO style. So be prepared for anything to happen!

Gingerbread Decorating for Teens

Gingerbread Decorating at Flint Public Library in Middleton Massachusetts
Come to Flint Library for refreshments, crafts, and a countdown to noon! This celebration is perfect for little ones who want to celebrate the New Year, but may be too young to stay awake until midnight. Make your own party hat, create a festive collage, and help us to welcome 2020!

Deck The Halls: Hammond Castle

A holiday themed tour of Hammond Castle in Gloucester Massachusetts
For the first time in years, Hammond Castle will be open to the public to celebrate the holiday season! The Museum will be open for self guided tours beginning Saturday December 7th through Friday December 20th from 10:00am to 3:00pm daily (except for Sunday December 15th when the Museum is closed...

MAC Holiday Toy Drive

Manchester Athletic Club Holiday Toy Drive - Manchester MA
With the need for toys at an all-time high for local children, Manchester Athletic is offering a generous benefit for your donation. Bring in any new and unwrapped toy to donate to the toy drive, MAC will waive the join fee.
6:00 am to 8:00 pm

Museum of Science Celebrates the Rails with an Assortment of Train Activities - Cambridge

Museum of Science Celebrates the Rails with an Assortment of Train Activities
Celebrate the winter season at the Museum of Science with a suite of train-themed attractions, sure to entertain the entire family. For the second year in a row, the Museum’s temporary model train exhibit, All Aboard! Trains at Science Park, makes its return, in a new space within the Museum,...
9:00 am to 5:00 pm