Three Last-Minute Family Day Trips

Make the most of the rest of the winter with one of these family-friendly itineraries in Newport, Mystic, Connecticut or Woodstock, New Hampshire.

The goats, skating rink, and fire pits at Gurney’s Newport.

Where is winter going? It’s almost over, believe it or not. But the last few weeks and days might drag, so it’s better to keep busy to make the time fly until spring arrives. That’s what my family and I did this winter. We planned a weekend jaunt and lots of day trips to pass the coldest New England season by, and now it’s almost over. Here are some ideas for fun family trips.

Ice Skating and Igloos at Gurney’s Newport

There are only a few more days left to enjoy the skating rink at Gurney’s Newport. Take in views of the Newport waterfront while lacing up your skates and gliding across the rink. When it gets too cold, escape into one of the heated igloos on site to warm up. The same igloos are available for reservations at night for adults craving cocktails with friends. Sit inside the toasty igloos and sip drinks while the Newport Pell Bridge is lit up in the background. There are also several fire pits along the patio and the outdoor path that winds around the hotel grounds. Don’t forget to meet the hotel’s resident Goat Island goats, Cornelius and William, who live in a recreated wooden mansion shelter modeled after Bellevue Avenue’s Marble House. Word on the street is that “The Bachelorette” might be filming at Gurney’s at the end of March, so better hurry before the city gets busy again. Book a stay and skate package for tonight, Wednesday or Thursday night. The rink is open through February from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Gurney’s, 1 Goat Island, Newport, 401-849-2600,

The heated igloos at Gurney’s Newport.


Take a Day Trip to Mystic Aquarium

It had been awhile since I visited the Mystic Aquarium, and now that I have two children who can really experience everything it has to offer, it made it so much more fun. We started out a drizzly but mild day wandering the outdoor exhibits that included beluga whales, penguins, seals and sea lions, then went indoors to explore the baby shark, skate, crab and sea star touch tanks and tropical fish exhibits. My children loved the sea lion show in the Foxwoods Marine Theater that showcased sea lions imitating various popular TV shows, like “Bay Watch” (aka “Seal Watch”) and “The Voice” (aka “The Bark”) as well as a sea lion fashion show. Then we headed into the Jurassic Giants adventure to observe twelve animatronic dinosaurs, including T-Rex and Triceratops, plus rainforest animal exhibits, including amphibians and reptiles like lizards, frogs, alligators and snakes. Of course, we had to sing “Baby Shark” while taking in the Sand Tiger and Nurse sharks in the large tanks of the main gallery. We made a day trip out of this visit by stopping at the renowned Sift Bake Shop in downtown Mystic for take-home Parisian-inspired desserts like Opera cake, which is espresso-soaked almond sponge cake layered with chocolate ganache and coffee and hazelnut mousse, chocolate raspberry torte with fresh berries and delicate French macarons. We also enjoyed a more rustic lunch of Buffalo wings and babyback ribs at Boneyard Barbecue in Ashaway. Boneyard Barbecue is completely family-friendly with reasonable kids’ meals and crayons and coloring books at the table to keep the little ones busy. 55 Coogan Blvd, Mystic, Connecticut, 860-572-5955,; Sift Bake Shop, 5 Water St., Mystic, Connecticut, 860-245-0541,; Boneyard BBQ, 15 Frontier Rd., Ashaway, 401-377-8000,

There’s lot to see and do at Mystic Aquarium, including outdoor penguin and beluga whale exhibits, touch stations and tropical fish and jellyfish tanks.

Animatronic dinosaurs and a tree frog at Jurassic Giants exhibit at Mystic Aquarium.


Ice Castles in Woodstock, New Hampshire

Earlier this winter, we headed for a weekend in New Hampshire, with a scheduled visit to the Ice Castles in Woodstock. Of course, we booked our tickets nearly two weeks in advance, and it just so happened the day we visited was the coldest day of the entire winter. We bundled up in layers with snow pants, parkas, hats and ski gloves and winter boots, and it still was not enough to keep out the cold. But it was worth braving the frigidity. What did we expect, it to be warm? Visiting the ice castles is like a real-life immersion into the movie Frozen, and on the day we were there, Elsa stayed true to her ice-blasting character by wearing her trademark dress during visits. The towering ice corridors, canyons and archways and tunnels give off a blue glow in the open-air environment. Kids will enjoy exploring small caves and crevices, ice thrones and benches, and there’s even an ice slide to plummet down (wear your snow pants). At night, the ice castles and a fountain are illuminated in colorful LED lights and you might catch a fire show. The only thing I would change about our visit is to pack hand and boot warmers so we could have lasted longer in the cold. It’s also really difficult to take photos unless you have gloves with phone compatible fingertips. I almost froze my fingers off to get a few good pics…but I earned my winter-weather stripes at Syracuse University in upstate New York, and the cold never bothered me anyway. The Ice Castles in New Hampshire are open through this weekend, but check the website for possible future openings. 24 Clark Farm Rd., North Woodstock, New Hampshire,

Ice Castles in Woodstock, New Hampshire.



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