12+ Ways to Spend a Winter’s Day around the East Bay

Activities – indoors and out – for the best staycation ever

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Not headed to magical mouse-centric monstrosity in sunny Central Florida or the slopes of Aspen over school vacation week? No problem. Whether looking to fill your Feb with fun-filled family adventures around the Farm Coast or ways to keep boredom at bay over school vacation week, we have you covered. So grab those gloves, flop on a furry trapper hat, and zip up that parka because we’re hardy New Englandahs and a little chill never stopped us!

BE THE GOAT

Getting the kids to walk the family dog? Incessant nagging. Getting the kids to walk a goat? You’re a hero. Since 2019, Simmons Farm in Middletown has been offering farmer-led goat hikes on their 120-acre family farm overlooking Narragansett Bay that specializes in growing traditional and heirloom produce. Once you leash up your cute and cuddly caprine friend, farmer Karla Simmons, her daughter, or farmer Aidan will lead the leisurely stroll through the farm’s bucolic, hilly pastures – but this activity isn’t likely to get your heart pumping as the goats nibble along the way. On your adventure, you’ll pass a babbling brook, visit the farm’s portly pigs, peek in on their group of belted Galloway cows (affectionately known as the “Oreo cookie cows’’), and see their funny flock of barnyard bird friends, and you’re welcome to ask all the burning questions you’ve ever had  about farming in New England, the life of a farmer, or what a typical day looks like at Simmons Farm. After, as you make your way through the ducks and chickens milling about, stop by the petting zoo where you can feed the dairy goats, including the Tennessee Fainting Goats (yes, they really faint!). Goat hikes take place daily during school vacation week and on weekends throughout the winter. General admission tickets invite you to bring up to two children aged nine and under. Middletown

SEAL OF APPROVAL

While motoring through Newport Harbor seems like a quintessentially summertime sojourn, a mid-winter Newport Seal Tour and Seal/Rose Island Tour cruise might be just the thing you need to cure the winter blues. Harbor seals sunning themselves on Citing Rock and around Rose Island’s rocky shoreline are hard to resist. Save the Bay, the member-supported non-profit dedicated to protecting, restoring, and improving the ecological health of the Narragansett Bay region, has been offering seal watch tours and nature cruises for 15 years throughout the winter months, and it’s your best opportunity to see these majestic migratory harbor seals, dubbed the “dogs of the sea,” who love to frolic in the chilly waters of the bay (usually hovering around 40º F this time of year). Board one of their education vessels from Newport’s Bowen’s Ferry Landing, whether you opt for the one-hour boat-based seal tour or the one-hour and 45-minute tour that includes a visit to Rose Island. Dress warm and bring a camera to capture all the action, National Geographic style. Newport

THE WHEEL DEAL

A visit to the wildly impressive Newport Car Museum is an awesome family-friendly activity sure to get your motor running. Open daily, the 114,000-square-foot (that’s 1½ football fields – plenty of room to socially distance!) the museum featuring six galleries houses nearly 100 rare, collectible, and coveted automobiles from across the globe. With vehicles representing eight decades of modern industrial automotive design from the 1950s to the present, the museum features everything from Corvettes to fin cars, sure to appeal to all ages. Porsches? Please and thank you. Mercedes Benz? Oh mama. Jaguars? Just for kicks! BMWs? By George, yes. Recent additions include a 2017 Lamborghini Aventador SV Roadster, 2017 Audi R8 Spyder, 2010 Tesla Roadster, and a 1969 Camaro SS/RS 396 – a collection sure to rev up your inner Andretti. Need a moment to post your pics? Perch yourself comfortably on the mid-century modern furniture throughout the museum. Read more on page 9. Portsmouth

UNMATCHED FUN

What’s all that racquet about the museum at the International Tennis Hall of Fame? Located within the stunning 1880 Newport Casino, this awesome museum houses nearly 2,000 objects and artifacts related to the sport of tennis from the 12th century through today, but the interactive and educational exhibits are especially kid friendly – and admission is free for ages 12 and under! Think it’s easy to call a match? Try your hand in the broadcast booth and attempt to keep up (it’s not easy!) – you can make a recording to take home with you. An oversized touch table allows you to “serve” one another tennis trivia questions back and forth, while a five-foot interactive globe allows visitors to virtually visit a certain part of the world to learn more about tennis events that take place there (along with recent results and live scores). Want to spend some time with Roger Federer? We all do. Check out the next best thing: step into the holographic theater where a Federer hologram reveals his top 10 reasons why he loves the sport. And take in the virtual reality exhibit that makes it possible to experience the 1968 US Open from the perspective of the champion, Arthur Ashe. Keep young kids engaged with a complimentary museum scavenger hunt and kids activity book (ask upon entry). Newport

THE OUTSIDERS

Two distinct places but about a stone’s throw from one another, advance planning will allow you to explore both Norman Bird Sanctuary (NBS) and Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge in one day (and get all your steps in!). At NBS, you’ll find more than 325 acres of diverse habitats and seven miles of marked hiking trails able to accommodate everyone from novice explorers and little ones to families with older kids looking for a little adventure, including their 1,500-foot ADA-compliant Universally Accessible Trail, ideal for individuals who use wheelchairs and other mobility devices. Bring the binoculars so you can get a good view of native species, including red-tailed hawks, European turtle doves, fork-tailed storm-petrels, and if you’re especially lucky, you’ll spot a snowy owl. Or, DIY and unleash your inner Thoreau by following Hanging Rock Trail, a rocky walk along the most eastern of the sanctuary’s three ridges. Upon completion, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean, Gardiner Pond, the Sakonnet River arm of the Narragansett Bay, and the majestic spires of St. George’s School from atop “puddingstone,” or Purgatory Conglomerate. At nearby Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge, you won’t find any tree-canopied trails like at NBS – just absolutely inspiring trail loops with elevated viewing platforms ideal for spotting deer and other wildlife. If you love photography, this peninsula between the Sakonnet River and Rhode Island Sound is ideal for snapping stunning nature shots. Stop at the visitor center before getting underway to learn what critters to keep your eyes out for during  your explorations. On Wednesday, February 23 at 3:30pm, NBS is offering a free guided walk. Middletown

WINTER YARNS

The heartbeat of art and culture on Conanicut Island (the largest island in Rhode Island after neighboring Aquidneck Island), the Jamestown Arts Center inspires the community through extraordinary arts and educational experiences luring visitors far beyond its borders. The current exhibition, “Artistic Interpretations: Perspectives from Our Young Artists,” features the work of budding Picassos, pre-K through fourth grade, from nearby Melrose School. On view through March 5, it’s a perfect family-friendly outing. The current project, “Sweater Weather,” invites visitors to help cover the mural wall in cozy yarn. Jamestown

STRIKE DOWN SPARE TIME

A Warren tradition just shy of 85 years, Dudek Lanes opened its doors with duckpin bowling on just eight lanes in 1938, but today you’ll find 18 state-of-the-art lanes with an automatic scoring system. As any bowling aficionado will tell you, a bowling alley is nothing without its snack bar, and Dudek doesn’t disappoint with a menu of pizza, fries, mozzarella sticks, onion rings, nachos, burgers, and, because it’s Rhode Island, chourico hot dogs and stuffies. Teach your little ones how to bowl a strike by day’s end, or play a few video games at the small arcade. For families with older kids, get ready to groove during Rock n’ Bowl every Saturday night. The laser and strobe lights are in full force, the music is turned up, and the bowling is on point. Open daily, it’s fun, it’s cheap, and it’s a tradition. For a truly Warren experience, cap off a competitive family bowl-off with authentic coffee cabinets from nearby Delekta Pharmacy on Main Street, a family-owned pharmacy now focused on its soda fountain that’s been a local institution since opening in 1948 (the same building had been an apothecary since 1858!). Warren

HISTORY HIKE

Two adjacent bucolic beauties, Weetamoo Woods and the Pardon Gray Preserve boast equally peaceful pathways through striking forested wetlands with a combined seven miles of well-marked trails. The area is ripe with history, initially as the home lands of the Pocasset Wampanoag Tribe (Weetamoo was an honored sachem, or chief, who died in King Philip’s War, considered the country’s bloodiest conflict). Remnants of its Colonial past are evident along trails, from originally carved cart paths with cobble paving, cellar holes, dug wells, and the ruins of a sawmill. The most ‘grammable site is likely the stone slab arch bridge over Borden Brook. If Santa brought you some fat tire mountain bikes, they are welcome on Weetamoo Woods trails. For a closer look at authentic Rhode Island history, check out the Pardon Gray cemetery, where the oldest marker dates back to 1794 (the resting place of Pardon and Mary’s daughter). Tiverton

FIGURE EIGHTS

Landing a double axel on the northernmost tip of Goat Island in shadow of the Goat Island Lighthouse with the glow of the lights along the Newport Pell Bridge announcing themselves at dusk? Yes, please! Open to the general public and not just hotel guests, the skating rink at Gurney’s Newport Resort & Marina is a magical place to get your winter on. Bring your own skates or rent on site; the rink is open daily with Wednesday’s “Family Night” special offering $2 off admission (older “kids” in college can take advantage of the same deal on Thursdays with a valid college ID). Make the day a bonafide treat by reserving one of the “Après Skate Winter Wonderland” heated igloos, stocked with cozy decor, snuggly blankets, special menu, and cocktails. Newport

FUN-SIZED AQUARIUM

Audubon is perennially an awesome place for children and families, and come school vacation week, they really step up their game. The Audubon Nature Center and Aquarium is a natural history museum offering interactive exhibits that explore local habitats and wildlife found in the Ocean State. While kids can get a closer look at creatures that live in a tide pool, it’s the 33-foot life-size model of a North Atlantic Right Whale that seems to capture their imaginations most. Over school vacation week, special programs and activities are planned for each day (free with admission). Nature stories, “animal interviews,” crafts, learning how to make a bird-friendly meal, exploring animal tracks in the snow, and unique experiments with bubbles are all on the agenda (space is limited). Who? Who? Who wants in on the “All About Owls” program on February 21? (Literally everyone.) Outside at the 28-acre Claire D. McIntosh Wildlife Refuge, explorers young and old can traipse the quarter-mile boardwalk through fresh and saltwater marshes where they’ll be rewarded with a captivating view of Narragansett Bay. You’ll also find ADA-certified walking trails, and bikers and walkers can access the refuge directly from the East Bay Bike Path. Bristol

FARM FRESH

Mount Hope Farm is many things to many people. In the warmer months, it’s a magnet for amazing waterfront weddings. For outdoor enthusiasts, the miles of trails here offer a sea of serenity – and the new self-guided walking tour app provides an immersive way to experience the farm’s forested trails, rich history, native wildlife, preserved buildings, lush gardens, and family favorites: the resident chickens, miniature donkeys, and Nigerian Dwarf goats (who aren’t shy when it comes to being pet). The weekly farmers market on Saturday mornings features around two dozen local farms and food producers as well as a rotating selection of artisan vendors (don’t miss the microgreens and salad from Coastal Greens in Little Compton, the locally raised meat from Gnarly Vines Farm in Tiverton or the handcrafted cocktails to go from Bristol’s Two Gals Cocktails). For a family staycation to remember, stay at the farm’s historic Gov. Bradford Inn, a Georgian-style house built in 1745. Right now, the rates are the lowest all year and you can awake to the sounds of the nearby animals stirring as they start their day. Bristol

SEW MUCH FUN

Desperately trying to reduce screen time during school vacation week? Look no further than The Stitchery, a cozy learning spot offering sewing, knitting, and crafting classes for adults and kids alike. They’re offering a trio of half-day February Vacation day camps for kids with little-to-no experience, including Learn to Embellish a Knit Hat with Embroidery on February 23, Sew a Stuffed Animal of your Choosing on February 24 (prior machine class experience required), and Pom Pom Everything on February 25. COVID concerns? The studio has been reconfigured to have each sewing station at least six feet apart and everything needed for the day’s project will be in place at each station before students arrive, so there’s no need for anyone to interact closely. Other safety protocols are also in place. You may just unleash your little one’s creative genius! For more handmade fun, be sure to check Sew Nice Fabrics for Open Sew Studio events and classes, and Knit One Quilt Too for Needlepoint School and Knit Labs.

NOTE: reservations may be required for select activities, and health and safety requirements may change due to public health information available at the time. Please confirm each activity accordingly.

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