Posts tagged ‘family vacations’

January 31, 2011

What Moms Want for Family Vacations. Does Acadia National Park in Maine Fill the Bill?

Even a Tiger Mom shares something with all mothers: she wants the best for her kids.  And that includes a family vacation that is full of what makes great memories.

Last summer President Obama and the First Lady chose Acadia National Park for a summertime vacation.  Perhaps it was because it fulfilled on Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” agenda.

What’s on your wish list? More family time?  Beach time?  Somewhere you’ve never been?  No in-laws?  Well, Acadia National Park can’t promise everything, but here’s a sampling of what most moms want and what you can expect.

Things We Can Do Together – All year family members are rushing in different directions – to soccer, gymnastics, and the SAT tutor.  Summer vacation is the time to bring everyone together through activities everyone enjoys.  Acadia National Park offers 130 miles of hiking trails and 57 miles of car-free carriage roads for biking – with a family picnic to celebrate reaching the destination. 

But Everyone Needs to Go Separate Ways Sometimes – A little bit of freedom for family members to assert their individuality is necessary for peace and a shot at something memorable for all.  Don’t worry.  Teenagers can take the free Island Explorer bus to shop, go to the movies and explore Bar Harbor, while other family members go for miniature golf.

An Opportunity to Learn – The National Park Service in Acadia offers ranger-led programs that are fascinating for individuals of all ages.  You may want to explore the Stars over Sand Beach, Birds of Prey, or Sketching by the Sea.

The Beach! Sand Beach, a stunning sandy crescent enclosed by dramatic cliffs, offers a respite everyone can enjoy.  Whether the goal is building a sand castle or getting some rays, it’s fun for all.  There’s even a hiking trail overlooking the beach.

A Chance to Try Something New – Rock climbing outings for the entire family let you find out that you can do what you never thought possible – for example, rappelling off a 60-foot cliff over pounding surf and then climbing back up!  Acadia offers adventure that includes whale watching trips, sightseeing flights, and sea kayaking trips.

Plenty of Options for Where to Stay – Mount Desert Island has an array of accommodations that range from free campgrounds to luxurious historic inns.  A great option for families is to rent a house.  You can find well-priced, spic-and-span homes that make breakfast easy.  And there’s always a lobster pot.

Lots of Choices for Where to Eat – What’s your pleasure?  BBQ at picnic tables at a local micro-brewery?  A lobster pound overlooking a working harbor?  Relaxed, but refined dining featuring the best in seafood and local organic produce?  Click here to get specific restaurant recommendations near Acadia National Park for all of these categories!

A Little Indulgence for Mom  Everyone needs a break and that includes hardworking moms.  Even if you opted for camping, you can get a little luxury at a nearby spa.  Bar Harbor, for example, is home to spas that range from elegant to “crunchy-set” spiritual.  Sunsets and gardens (Asticous Azalea Garden or Thuya Garden) are equally serene.

If you’d like to see a sample 7-day itinerary for a vacation to Acadia National Park, consult OUR ACADIA.  It has more tips on what to do with kids and detailed listings for kayaking trips, rock climbing guides, the best miniature golf course, restaurants, realtors, and places to stay.



August 22, 2009

To Whale Watch or Not: That is the Question for Families with Kids Visiting Acadia National Park

Check out the posts on TripAdvisor about whale watching, and you’ll find a lot of negatives – no whales, long trips, cold weather, and sea sickness. Still want to take your kids on a boat ride when you visit Acadia National Park? The Dive-In Theater gets rave reviews.

This five-star cruise leaves from a pier at College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor on the aptly christened Starfish Enterprise. Last week we embarked upon our two-hour trip into Frenchman Bay, a body of water so deep and cold that it provides a rich habitat for an array of sea life. The bay is spotted with small islands, which further enrich the Seals Frenchman Bayenvironment.

Suddenly the boat began to circle a small rock outcropping and there on the top sat a large bald eagle. Lying on rocks below and swimming in the area were about twenty harbor seals. Minutes of leaving this sighting, we spotted harbor porpoises gracefully creating arcs in the water.

But this was only the beginning of the show.

We moored at a dive site and Diver Ed suited up with considerable fanfare. Fanfare isn’t really the right word. It’s more shtick. (Clearly, only his love of Maine and kids has kept Ed from stand-up.)

Diver Ed

Diver Ed

Mini Ed #104

Mini Ed #104

With a little help from his friends, Diver Ed took the plunge with a collection bag, real-time video and sound equipment, and Mini Ed, his action figure alter ego, who would provide scale for the adventures on the ocean floor. We then learned that this was Mini Ed #104. (The prior 103 had been unsuccessful in their battles with lobsters and crabs from the deep.)

Sitting comfortably on our benches, we watched on a large projection screen as Mini Ed began to explore. I glanced away only occasionally to see such sights as the Margaret Todd sailing by.

Margaret Todd

Margaret Todd

What happened when Diver Ed returned with critters in tow? We touched them, of course.

Boy with Sea Cucumber

Boy with Sea Cucumber

Animated instruction from Diver Ed

Animated instruction from Diver Ed

Whether a beautiful sea star (starfish to the uninitiated), slimy sea cucumber, or angry lobster, these creatures of Frenchman Bay were taken into temporary (and protective) custody in touch tanks, as we learned more. Did you know that sea stars can not only regenerate lost arms, but themselves be regenerated from a single arm?

Does he know he has a crab on his head?

Does he know he has a crab on his head?

We gently probed their varied surfaces. (I will not say the same for the four-year-olds who thrilled to the chaos of the touch tanks and, inhibition abandoned, initiated some aggressive dive-bombing with the lobsters.)

Kids at Touch Tank on Starfish Enterprise

Kids at Touch Tank on Starfish Enterprise

Girl with Seastar

Girl with Seastar

Most of the families on the cruise seemed to have four-year-olds in tow, but the three eighteen-year-olds who came with me were pretty enthusiastic. But I surpassed them all.

If you’d like more information about things to do in Maine, visit OUR ACADIA. You’ll find itineraries for a vacation to Acadia National Park, tips for restaurants, and 22 ideas for activities with kids.

May 17, 2009

10 Things to Do with Your Kids on a Rainy Day in Acadia National Park

“What if it rains?” is the question that haunts every mother planning a vacation that’s focused on biking, hiking, and the beach. 

Don’t worry.  Bar Harbor and the surrounding communities on Mount Desert Island offer lots of good options to combat cabin fever if it rains.  Here are a few ideas, courtesy of Bar Harbor locals.  

Your kids are sure to love them as long as you don’t say the word “educational.” 

  1. Learn about lobsters – Visit the lobster hatchery and museum at the Mount Desert Oceanarium .  There are touch tanks and other hands-on exhibits, including phones for listening to the songs of whales. 
  2. Take in a show Acadia Repertory Theatre  in picturesque Somesville does adaptations of children’s classics every year.  Last summer they performed “Snow White and Rose Red” every   Wednesday and Saturday morning…see what their 37th season holds!
  3. Play with LEGOS designed by MIT to see how DNA divides and mutates.  Plus, there are touch tanks and an aquarium at the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory, a renowned research institution, which welcomes children on Monday and Wednesday mornings.
  4. See a movie – Check out to see what’s playing at Reel Pizza  in Bar Harbor where, in addition to theatre seats, there are couches and recliners and, in addition to popcorn and soda, delicious fresh-dough gourmet pizza. 
  5. Enjoy a story – Jesup Memorial Library in Bar Harbor has summertime story hours with special guests.  On the other side of the island, the Southwest Harbor Public Library also hosts story time for both toddlers and pre-schoolers, where older siblings are welcome.  Both get rave reviews from local parents.
  6. Visit the Bar Harbor Whale Museum – Unlike a lot of the other activities that are only open two days a week, this museum — dedicated to the whales and seals common to the Gulf of Maine — is open seven days a week.  Tell the kids they can walk underneath a real humpback whale skeleton.
  7. Take a family swim – MDI YMCA offers a family day pass for $16.  In addition to the pool, there’s a basketball court.  Check out the family swim times before you go.
  8. Go to college – Dorr Museum on the campus of College of the Atlantic has a touch-tank where kids can see starfish, sea cucumbers and various other sea life first hand.  There’s a gift shop, too, with a wonderful selection of books, gifts, toys and jewelry related to the natural sciences.
  9. Learn about Native Americans – Older children (6-15) with an interest in Native American heritage may enjoy visiting the Abbe Museum to learn about the Wabanaki Indians, Maine’s native people.  There are two locations, Sieur de Monts Spring in Acadia National Park and downtown Bar Harbor.
  10. Find a porch – With an old-fashioned board game and a few picture books, you can enjoy the sound of the rain.  This might just end up being the most relaxing point in your vacation. 

For more ideas of great things to do with your kids – both rain and shine! – visit OUR ACADIA.  You’ll also find tips for restaurants, guides for kayaking and family rock climbing trips, ideas for what to pack, and a lot more.


Tips for Kid-Friendly Restaurants in Bar Harbor

April 7, 2009

Put away your Blackberries and turn off the video games. It’s time for family nature camp in Maine.

Why do kids have all the fun?  Surely, in this economy parents need a real break, too.  Now College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine, has the perfect solution – a sensibly priced vacation of nature programs, boat trips, hiking, and biking.  It all takes place on Mount Desert Island, one of the world’s most beautiful islands.


whale-watch4The first big difference about this camp is that all activities are intended for the whole family.   The program is best-suited for children who are at least 5, but there doesn’t seem to be an upper-age limit.  Even the most skeptical adolescents, who dread the experience will be “lame,” seem to leave bestowing accolades. 


In fact, so many people end up loving Family Nature Camp that COA has designed special field trips designated for returning families.


Experienced staff helps plan activities for each family.  Most days are spent participating in two or three programs, including field trips with naturalists and local experts.  Activities are conducted at the college, which occupies 35 oceanfront acres, and in adjacent Acadia National Park.  What kind of activities?  Well…


  • Go on a whale watch 25 miles off the coast; if you’re lucky, you’ll see not only whales, but also harbor seals, gray seals, pods of harbor porpoises and North Atlantic puffins. 
  • Learn about the business and politics of the Maine fishermen.  Check out farming pens where Atlantic salmon are raised and watch your captain haul lobster traps. 
  • Go on a boat trip where the divers bring back a bag of underwater creatures such as lobsters, sea stars, scallops, sea cucumbers and other surprises – which you get to hold. 
  • Visit “active” beaver sites and get a close look at beaver lodges. 
  • Discover incredible facts about bats (some eat fish; other make tents!) and hear their ultrasound echolocation with the aid of a bat detector. 

star-fish1In addition, there’s free time for self-guided hikes, walks, and other activities.  (Sea kayaking is available for an additional fee.) Transportation is provided for most field trips, but families can be pretty independent as well.  For example, you can walk or take the free bus to the village of Bar Harbor to enjoy the shops, restaurants, art shows, and evening concerts.


Everyone stays in the College of Atlantic student housing on a campus that’s one of the “greenest” in America and eats in the college cafeteria.  Although the rooms and shared bathrooms are Spartan, meals include bountiful New England fare such as homemade fish chowder, chicken pot pie, and blueberry cobbler.  (If your kids have had past vacations staying in plush hotels with room service, there might be a lesson in these accommodations, too.)



Family Nature Camp rates are: Full Week – $900 for participants 16-years-old and older; $450 for children 15-years-old and under; Half Week – $500 for participants 16-years-old and older; $250 for children 15-years-old and under. These fees include housing, all meals, activities, field trips, and three boat trips! 


Now that’s an “eco-tourist’s all-inclusive.”

Summer 2009 Sessions: July 5-11, July 19-25, July 26-August 1, August 2-8.  For more information, visit College of the Atlantic Family Nature Camp.

For more information about Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park, visit OUR ACADIA.




January 19, 2009

7 Money-Saving Tips for Family Trips to Acadia National Park in Maine


Discover family fun that's free in Acadia National Park

Discover family fun that's free in Acadia National Park

Unemployment numbers and 401K statements don’t put any of us in the mood for planning a great summer vacation. But before you give up and give into a staycation, consider Mount Desert Island in Maine.

With its well-known village of Bar Harbor, MDI is the third largest island on the East Coast and has such spectacular scenery that it is regularly ranked among the most beautiful islands in the world. Yet, for families on a budget, it offers affordable places to stay, lots of dining options, and great things to do with kids of all ages.

What To Do

A key reason to go to Mount Desert Island is Acadia National Park. Occupying half of the island, this national treasure has 130 miles of hiking trails, including those to the top of Cadillac Mountain. Cadillac is the highest peak on the eastern coast of the U.S. — which you can also summit by roadway. There are also 57 miles of car-free carriage roads, where walkers, cyclists and horse-drawn carriages wind around lakes, streams, and evergreen forests.

For parents who want to “get the kids outside,” this is the answer.

An entrance pass to the park costs $20 and admits one vehicle for seven days. But it’s also your pass for a lot of entertainment. Park rangers host daily walks, talks, amphitheatre programs, and cruises. Parents will be as eager as the kids to learn about birds of prey, insects in a stream, and the stars over Sand Beach. Or families may want to split up — while Dad takes the kids to look for frogs and tadpoles during “A Frog’s Life,” Mom can get a lesson on photographing wildflowers. Most programs are free, although some do require nominal fees; many are customized for different age groups.

Oh, did you say teenagers? Don’t worry. My experience with teens in Acadia is they enjoy the hiking, biking, and kayaking as long as you also schedule some beach time at Sand Beach. Another big benefit is the island offers a free Island Explorer bus on eight different routes, so that teens can head into town independently to explore the shops and visit the Internet café.

Apart from the many activities in Acadia National Park itself, there are museums, whaling trips, miniature golf courses, and lots of other great things to do with kids on Mount Desert Island, especially in its largest town, Bar Harbor.

Where To Stay

If you have camping equipment, you can cut your lodging expenses to $20 a night and enjoy the beautiful wooded campgrounds of Acadia. The two primary park campgrounds are Blackwoods Campground and Seawall Campground, both within a 10-minute walk of the ocean. The island’s towns, especially Bar Harbor, also offer a wide range of motels, cottages, and B&B’s.

A great way to save money is to rent a cottage so that you can avoid eating all of your meals in restaurants. Bring some basics from home and go to one of the local markets and farm stands on arrival. I just checked the listings at one of Mount Desert Island’s top realtors and found a new 3-bedroom log cabin-style house with a deck — five minutes from the national park and 10 minutes to downtown Bar Harbor – that is $1250/week. Some realtors have told me that there is actually a greater supply of rental properties on MDI than demand, so this may be a good year to try some bargaining.

Getting There

Mount Desert Island is a little over three hours north of Portland. For a family it can be a great drive with a lot of interesting places to stop. Another option is to fly to Portland on JetBlue, which has low-price fares from New York’s JFK, and rent a car there. Because there’s the free bus service on the island, you may even want to consider one of the eight car-free options of getting to Mount Desert Island.

More Money-Saving Tips

  1. Bring your own bikes to cut out those steep rental fees.
  2. If you’re renting a house or cottage, look for one that also offers a kayak.
  3. Take the Island Explorer bus around the island and save on gas.
  4. Research options to some of the more costly cruise tours. Some local museums research laboratories have touch tanks — even if there aren’t all the bells and whistles of the commercial operations.
  5. Do a little more research and find an outdoor concert, book sale, or national park program as an alternative to more expensive movies or shopping trips.
  6. Cook out ocean-side at one of Acadia’s great picnic areas, including Seawall and Pretty Marsh, with grills provided by the park service.
  7. When you finally splurge on lobster (as you should!), choose a lobster pound that offers options for your kids if they prefer grilled chicken or even PB&J.

For more information on how to explore, eat, and relax on your visit to Acadia National Park, visit OUR ACADIA. You’ll find tips on the best times to visit, what to pack, and great things to do on a rainy day.


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August 17, 2008

Four Hikes in Maine’s Acadia National Park You and Your Kids Will Love

kids hiking acadia national park

“How much longer?” is not what you want to hear as you take in your first refreshing breaths of spruce-scented air.  “Can we do this again tomorrow?” is more like it.

However, that’s a sentiment that, frankly, takes some planning.  In addition to your kids’ safety and fortitude, you also have to take into account how to keep them interested for sustained periods of walking.

Choosing the right hike for your family is often the most challenging part of the experience.

I have surveyed online postings and hiking guidebooks to get recommendations for the most kid-friendly treks, then I hiked all of these trails myself.  In addition, I have the experience of a daughter who thought hiking was “boring” unless a hike offered special features or rewards.

If hiking with your kids is one of the things you want to do when you visit Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park, I’m happy to offer up these four alternatives.

Ship Harbor

Roundtrip Distance: 1.3 miles

Draw a map of a figure 8, tell your kids that’s the shape of this trail, and then ask them if they want to do the woods or harbor shoreline loop first.  Whatever the course, your outermost point is a scenic picnic spot where you can contemplate the wreck of a schooner that ran aground there in the early 1600s.  We loved the shoreline along Ship Harbor where we collected some beautiful sun-bleached shells. 

Bonus:  Nearby is Bass Harbor Lighthouse.  The kids will enjoy climbing on the rocks at its base with the headlight above and the pounding surf below.  Great photo opps.


South Bubble

Roundtrip Distance: Approximately 1.2 miles

You’ll encounter many families taking advantage of the terrain of this hike: it has some exciting elevation, yet the trail’s series of crib box surfaces make it much easier than hiking over rocks or roots.  The summit of South Bubble, at 768 feet, provides a dramatic vista southward over Jordan Pond.  Many families will be there with willing hands to take a great family shot for you.

Bonus:  Tell the kids they’ll have a chance to try and push over the famous Bubble Rock glacially transported to the top of South Bubble.


Jordan Pond

Total Distance:  3.2 miles

This longer hike will let you and your family walk all the way around scenic Jordan Pond.  Just about all of the circuit is close to the water, which can be 100 feet deep near the shoreline.  Although the terrain is flat, this hike engages my imagination because there are a bridge of flat stones, rock-to-rock hiking, a birch suspension foot-bridge, a section to tiptoe over extensive root systems, and bogwalks. 

Bonus:  At the end of your hike, pick blueberries below the tea lawn in front of Jordan Pond House.  Then have lemonade, popovers, and strawberry ice cream at the restaurant.  There’s a gift shop, too.


Flying Mountain

Total Loop:  1.5 miles

hiking acadia national parkOf all of the hikes listed here, this one probably feels the most like a “real hike.”  It’s relatively short, but there is a bit of climbing and elevation at the beginning that’s fun for energetic kids.  The views of Somes Sound, Sargent Drive, and Norumbega and Sargent Mountains are stunning.  (And mom may be intrigued by the spacious homes and lawns across the sound in Northeast Harbor.)  The return back to the car is easy along a fire road, where you can collect some dried cedar branches for the kids to make into cedar pillows. 

Bonus:The hike’s midpoint is at Valley Cove. The rock beach there is a great spot for the kids to skip rocks and play.  You may even see a peregrine soaring above Valley Cove.



It’s smart to hike with a map.  I highly recommend you pick up one of the good topographic maps published by Map Adventures  in one of the local shops.  While you’re there, look for Tom St. Germain’s A Walk in the Park, now the most dog-eared volume on my Maine bookshelf.  It provides detailed route descriptions and maps of 59 different hikes and was the source for the walking distances here.  A pair of inexpensive binoculars from WalMart or Amazon is also a great investment. Don’t forget plenty of water and some snacks, and these walks may become a mainstay of your family vacations. 


After expending all of that energy, where are you going to eat?  Mount Desert Island offers everything from ice cream shops with delicious blueberry pie to casual wine bars that will welcome your kids.  There’s even a lobster pound that serves PB&J.  So, rest assured, there are lots of restaurants to eat with kids when visiting Acadia National Park.  If you’re renting, you can also tap local markets on Mount Desert Island for superb local crabmeat, local goat cheese, organic vegetables — and lobster.  Many of the local markets also have very good wine selections. 


What’s on the agenda for tomorrow?  A ride on a lobster boat?  What if it rains?  How about an oceanarium?  Click here for 22 great things to do with your kids in Acadia – one of which is to plan another hike!


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July 20, 2008

22 Great Things To Do with Your Kids in Maine’s Acadia National Park

Last year friends of mine from New York took their two boys, 8 and 11, out of school for a year to travel the world. Since their dad was formerly the publisher of National Geographic Kids, they had a pretty wonderful itinerary. Acadia National Park was their second stop, and after two days younger son Stefan asked if they could just stay there for the rest of the year.


Stefan may have a future himself in travel publishing. Even at his age, he concurs with the editors of Travel and Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler who consistently rank Mount Desert Island as one of the most beautiful islands in the world. Its rocky coastline, boreal forests, spectacular fiord, and multitude of mountains apparently hold appeal for every age.


My daughter started visiting Acadia National Park regularly at the age of 14. She liked kayaking and the hikes with rock scrambling a lot. But what she loved was the rock climbing. Having grown up on New York City’s rock climbing walls, she felt comfortable with a 60-foot cliff and loved the fact that at its base was the pounding surf. Booking in advance for a climb or two with Acadia Mountain Guides became a standard part of our vacation planning.


Here are 22 great things to do with your kids if you visit Acadia National Park this summer:


1. Attend a ranger-led program – Offered free by the National Park Service, these are fun, interactive programs on subjects ranging from the constellations to birds of prey. (Did you know that owls and peregrines eat their prey whole and then regurgitate what’s not digestible in pellets?) Ranger-led programs include hikes, cruises, and simple drop-ins at interesting places. Find out more

2. Go hiking – Acadia National Park is unique in how its mountains rise out of the sea, so hiking should be high on your “must see” list. Considering that there are over 130 miles of trail, select a hike that’s right for your family by check out a guidebook, Web site (, or the Park Service’s hiking difficulty sheet. You might consider Wonderland and Ship Harbor because of their flatter terrain. The Bubbles (South Trail) and Bubble Rock are also very popular with kids.

3. Learn about lobsters – On the Lulu Lobster Boat tour, kids can learn about lobstering from Captain John and look for harbor seals in Frenchman Bay off of Bar Harbor. Or, for a rainy day activity, visit the lobster hatchery and museum at the Mount Desert Oceanarium.

4. Sail on a Friendship Sloop – These graceful sloops were actually the hard-working lobstering boats of the late 1800s. Today there is no lovelier way to experience Mount Desert Island and the many islands surrounding it than from the water on one of the charters offered by Downeast Friendship Sloop.

5. Go sea kayaking – For the more athletic, get out on the water in a kayak. Maine State Kayak offers breathtakingly beautiful tours, which are also educational, on “the quiet side” of Acadia National Park. There’s only one wrinkle: each child is required to paddle in tandem with an adult and must be at least 8-years-old (and 4 feet, 8 inches).

6. Take a horse-drawn carriage drive – Another unique feature of Acadia National Park is the carriage road system, conceived of and built by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. These picturesque car-free roads wind up mountains, along brooks, and through spruce forests. One great way to explore them is to take a horse-drawn carriage trip from Wildwood Stables in the park.  Try to book early enough to get spots on the sunset drive to Day Mountain, which is a favorite. Call 877-276-3622 for more information. 

7. Bike on a carriage road – Get some exercise and do some peddling! Eagle Lake is very popular and thus more crowded. I actually prefer exploring around Witch Hole Pond and Aunt Betty’s Pond, and the hills aren’t bad.

8. Go to a lumber jack show – This sounds tacky, but it gets great recommendations. The show is a demonstration of what a logging camp competition would have been in the Maine woods over 100 years ago…except the host of the show is Timber Tina (

9. Go miniature golfing – No family vacation would be complete without a couple of hours of mini-golfing. Bar Harbor’s “award-winning” adventure golf has a pirates theme (

10. Pick blueberries – Next to lobster, this is Maine’s best edible. They grow everywhere. Pick some, have them over ice cream, and read Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey, well-known for Make Way for Ducklings, who chose the Maine coast as the settings for many of his children’s books.

11. Go rock climbing – The competent team at Acadia Mountain Guides  can customize a special, affordable climb for your family. After meeting you and learning about everyone’s goals, your guide will select an area – from a lower angled climb to a cliff rising out of Frenchman’s Bay. For me this was an exhilarating experience, and my daughter loved it.

12. Visit a lighthouse – If you don’t want to do a technical climb, the kids will love rock scrambling on the huge granite boulders on the harbor side of the Bass Harbor Head Light. Constructed in 1876, the tower itself is off-limits, but the views here are wonderful – a perfect setting for the photo of this year’s holiday card.

13. Touch a starfish…and more. The Dive-In Theatre gets rave reviews (“educational,” “fantastic,” “extremely fun”). After a cruise in Frenchmen’s Bay, Diver Ed takes the plunge, explores the bay while on view on a topside LCD screen, and surfaces to provide a hands-on experience of what he has found. If the price is too steep for a larger family, Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory provides free touch tank demonstrations.  

14. Explore the tidepools – Sea stars, barnacles, mussels, anemones, crabs, and young lobsters live in the intertidal zone and are exposed twice each day by the withdrawing tide. Focused, quiet observation will open up a whole new world for your kids and provide a special kind of experience that’s an interesting alternative to some of the more commercialized options. Acadia National Park provides more information at

15. Have lemonade at Jordan Pond House – Ask for a table on the lawn and order popovers and strawberry ice cream, too. If there’s a wait (which is likely in July and August), go to the gift shop and buy blueberry jam to take home. Better still, skip rocks in Jordan Pond and explore the trail around its shoreline. (There’s more about Jordan Pond House at

16. Swim in Echo Lake – After a hike on Beech Mountain or Acadia Mountain, take a refreshing plunge. You can relax in the sun on a beach at the lake’s southern end or on wide granite cliffs on the eastern shoreline.

17. Build sand castles at Sand Beach – You may find it a little too chilly to swim, but the kids probably won’t. The setting itself is stunning with cliffs arching around the beach and Beehive Mountain as a backdrop. Hey, after all of that hiking and biking, pull out a paperback and take a quick doze if someone else is supervising the castle construction.

18. Let teenagers explore the island alone – If your teenagers are itching for some independence, suggest they take the Island Explorer Bus and meet the rest of the family at a given destination. Eight routes link hotels, inns, and campgrounds with destinations in Acadia National Park and neighboring village centers (for details see Since the buses are propane-powered, this is nice not only for parents’ nerves, but also for the environment.

19. Take in a show Acadia Repertory Theatre in picturesque Somesville offers a children’s program in the summertime. Every Wednesday and Saturday at 10:30am they are performing “Snow White and Rose Red,” a new adaptation of the children’s classic. Another option: see a movie at Reel Pizza in Bar Harbor where, in addition to theatre seats, there are couches and recliners and, in addition to popcorn and soda, there is delicious fresh-dough gourmet pizza.

20. Go to Seawall for an evening cookout – Seawall in Acadia National Park is a natural granite and rock seawall on the southwestern side of Mount Desert Island. Nearby on the ocean is a beautiful, spruce-studded picnic area where you can make a fire and grill. Check out the National Park program at the nearby campground that evening. Or just watch the night sky overtake the sea.

21. Enjoy Bar Harbor at night – It’s a great seaside resort town that attracts crowds for ice cream, fudge, T-shirts, and maybe even a quick reading by the local psychic. There are also excellent shops for guidebooks and outfitters if you forgot your fleece or want new hiking boots.

22. Reward the parents with a lobster dinner – Having arranged and managed such a wonderful family vacation, you deserve a special night out. How about lobster? For reviews of two of my favorite lobster pounds, Thurston’s and Abel’s, see (By the way, Thurston’s even has PB&J for fussier eaters.)


Writing this reminds me why I love Mount Desert Island so much. You don’t need kids to enjoy these New England summertime delights. Acadia National Park is also summer camp for adults.  When’s the best time to visit Acadia?  Should you rent a cottage or stay at a B&B?  What should you do if it rains?  Get answers to these questions and more at OUR ACADIA.


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The Best Ice Cream in Bar Harbor Tops Lists of the Best Ice Cream in America

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Four Hikes in Acadia National Park You and Your Kids Will Love — Easy Terrain and Big Payoffs