February vacation: It’s very cold and the kids are home. Television and video games do beckon. However, wise parents know that keeping the kids cooped up inside is not a banner plan.
In Massachusetts, February vacation is this week and in New Hampshire it’s next week. To help fill all that free time, here are ideas for activities you might not consider when school is in session.
All of these establishments are open throughout the month, some hosting special events during vacation weeks.
Usually off-roading in the mountains of New England in the middle of winter is a terrible idea. However, for Alpine Adventures in Lincoln, N.H., it’s an opportunity to show off what their Pinzgauer vehicles can do.
These powerful trucks originally were developed for military use, but have become available as one of the most effective vehicles for off-road recreational use. Alpine Adventures was among the first civilian owners of the vehicle in the United States, taking adventure seekers off-road up to the top of Barron Mountain. Along the way, you’ll see the White Mountains from a whole new perspective.
“(The tour is) a different experience in the winter altogether,” said Randy Farwell, a representative of Alpine Adventures. “Driving through a snow-laden forest, it’s like traveling through the tunnel with the evergreen trees. People really like it.”
Alpine Adventures also has three separate zip line courses of varying intensity, all of which remain open in winter.
More information and booking is available at www.alpinezipline.com.
Maple Syrup Tour
Pancakes, time outdoors and education: It’s a sweet combination.
If this sounds like a perfect morning for your family, the Massachusetts Audubon society has you covered. Check out the February Flapjack Fling & Sugaring Tours at the Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary. It’s the ideal vacation event for anyone looking for fresh air, pancakes and New England maple syrup. Through the tour and breakfast, you’ll see the full journey of the syrup, from tree sap to pancakes.
For younger kids, the sanctuary is holding a whole series of events during Massachusetts vacation. Children in grades kindergarten through 5 can learn how to identify and tap sugar maples and see how the syrup is made. They also can be educated about how animals survive the winter on tracking tours.
Advance registration is required. For more information and to register, call 978-887-9264. Event details at www.massaudubon.org.
Franklin Park Zoo’s Tropical Forest
If you’re trying to get away from the cold, The Franklin Park Zoo in Boston has some great winter exhibits: ring-tailed lemurs, western lowland gorillas and ocelots, for example. Explore a vibrant exhibit filled with lush rain forest plants and cascading waterfalls. Tropical animals mean tropical climate and at 72 degrees, these exhibits are as warm as summer.
The zoo has several events and activities planned for Massachusetts vacation, including multiple arts and crafts sessions. And on Feb. 17, there’s a birthday party for Little Joe, one of the gorillas.
More information is available at 617-541-LION or at www.franklinparkzoo.net.
Blue Man Group: Lounge-U-Lum
During Massachusetts vacation, Blue Man Group is performing two shows a day all week. The group’s surreal, goofy sensory overload approach to entertainment is perfect for kids. And before each matinee they’re offering a bunch of free perks to the younger guests.
At shows Monday through Wednesday, ticket-bearing children can have their face painted like a member of the group before taking their seats. All week, they can explore “Lounge-U-Lum,” an interactive music-and-light installation in the Charles Playhouse lounge. The ticket also entitles kids to free dinner at MJ O’Connors in Park Plaza with a purchase of an adult entrée. All in all it’s a perfect excuse to bring the family into Boston.
For more information and to purchase tickets, go to www.blueman.com/boston/school-vacation-week.
Maker Week at the EcoTarium
Do you find your kids tinkering with your electronics, or assembling elastics, silverware and tape into foreboding contraptions? This week, help them learn to channel that creative impulse into a lifelong hobby and a vibrant community.
During the Massachusetts vacation, The EcoTarium, a pointedly kid-friendly museum in Worcester, is hosting Maker Week. Kids are invited to check out demonstrations by local makers, -- including Technocopia, a nonprofit group who will be demonstrating a 3D printer and a full-size catapult -- and will gain access to an assortment of tools, including solder irons, wire cutters and duct tape, to experiment.
“A maker is somebody who invents, creates, really anything, using their own hands and some sort of material,” said Julieane Frost, manager of communications and marketing at the EcoTarium. “It’s kind of a modern day word for tinkerer. It includes people who are creating things out of paper or fabric. Really, it’s a word that embraces tinkerers and crafters together. It’s really a growing movement.”
An introduction to Making can be a way for kids to explore unknown talents, learn work ethic and personal pride, and learn to think creatively about their resources and take control of their environments. But above all, it’s immense fun.
For more information go to www.ecotarium.org
Winter Ranger Camp
If your kids can’t wait to get out in the snow and explore, the New Hampshire Audubon Society might have the best program for them. Kids who follow animal tracks around the yard, who wonder what happens to the rabbits and frogs and bears in the snow, will find a welcoming place during the New Hampshire vacation at the February Vacation Fun Camp.
“It’s a day camp,” said Kevin Wall, the N.H. Audubon Society director of education. “It’s all environmental education focused so if everything goes as planned most of our time is spent outside. Both of our centers are connected to pretty large sanctuaries.”
The society has been holding February vacation camps for about 25 years.
“Both centers have live animals,” Wall said. “That’s usually part of each day -- something to do with live animals. There’s usually tracking involved, games, snowshoeing if the weather permits. Each day has a particular theme, so we build our activities around whatever our theme is that day.”
The N.H. Audubon Society is celebrating its 100th anniversary during the New Hampshire vacation, too. Kids who attend camp on the 26th will get to join in on some extra celebration.
“The theme for the day is winter sleepers,” Wall said. “But a lot of the focus for that particular day is helping us celebrate our birthday.”
The camp is being held at both the Manchester, N.H. and Concord, N.H. reservations. For more information and to register go to http://www.nhaudubon.org/programs/camps/
Cooking & Art Camp
Kids who get creative in the kitchen might be cause for concern, but cooking camp offers three huge advantages: It’s fun, they learn how to experiment and the learn about kitchen safety.
During the New Hampshire vacation week, The Culinary Playground in Derry, N.H., is hosting cooking camps. They’ve also partnered with You’re An Artist, to offer painting in the afternoon for kids who haven’t burnt through all their creative fuel for the day.
The cooking camp takes place Tuesday through Thursday mornings. “If they stay the whole day, they go over to You’re An Artist to do canvas painting in the afternoon,” said Kristen Chinosi, owner and an instructor at the Culinary Playground.
“We’ve done it for many years,” she said, but the art sessions are new. “This is their first year in the plaza, so this is our first partnership with them.”
You can reserve a spot in the classes for your kids at www.culinary-playground.com/vacation-camps.html or by calling Kristen at (603) 339-1664.
Explore and Experiment
New Hampshire kids and parents who want to immerse themselves in an artistic experience this vacation can check out the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, N.H. They offer free admission during New Hampshire’s vacation week as a way of saying thanks to everyone in the area for their support.
They’re also hosting several events, also free, throughout the week. Younger kids can attend one of the two Storytime in the Gallery sessions, where they can watch a live reading of Kaern Beaumont’s “I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More,” then go try out painting themselves with watercolors.
Older kids and parents might be interested in the Family Studio, where they can experiment with a variety of art supplies.
This year’s New Hampshire February vacation also lines up with the 75th anniversary of the museum’s Art Center, and there are going to be special exhibitions celebrating that as well.
For more information, go to www.currier.org/calendar/february-vacation-week/
N.H. Children’s Museum
The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire is ready to entertain and educate students from both New Hampshire and Massachusetts with events both weeks.
Both Fridays, the museum works with PBS’s NOVA Education to host the Making Stuff program.
“We’re going to have different making activities, from science experiments to using real tools,” said Jane Bard, the museum’s president. “We’ll have different stations set up in the museum to explore a variety of science materials, technology and making of all kinds.”
New Hampshire students can come on Tuesday, Feb. 25, for Bubble Play Day.
“We’re going to have one room with hands-on bubble experiments, from making bubble walls to bubble colors, experimenting with different bubble shapes and bubble related art projects,” Bard said.
Massachusetts visitors can come a week earlier on Feb. 21 for Build It Fly It.
“Visitors of all ages are going to be able to create their own flying contraptions using recycled materials and test them in our two story build it fly it exhibit,” Bard said.
There’s no additional cost for any of these events. They’re included in the $9 price of admission.
Snow-loving vacationers from both New Hampshire and Massachusetts can head north on Sunday, Feb. 23, for the 25th Annual Chocolate Festival in Intervale, N.H. Visitors are invited to cross country ski, snowshoe or drive from inn-to-inn along the trails, stopping in on over a dozen local attractions including 10 trail-side chocolate stops.
The festival, which is a fundraiser for the Mt. Washington Valley Ski Touring and Snowshoe Foundation, will take place regardless of weather or trail conditions. Based on past years around late February, they’re expecting great trail conditions.
If you’re heading up there to try something new, they’ll be running a shuttle continuously from 1 to 5 p.m., so you don’t have to worry about getting stuck halfway through the tour and miles away from your car.
Tickets $30 dollars in advance, $35 on the day of the event. You can find out more and register at http://mwvskitouring.org/Chocolate-Festival.html.