When my family of four was exploring cities and towns where we may want to buy a home last year, we were quite literally all over the map. Between my husband and I, apart and together, we have spent time living in Boston, Watertown, Somerville, Arlington, Cambridge and finally Watertown again for a five year stint in the condo we bought just after our first daughter was born.
After the arrival of our second daughter in 2012, we knew that it was time for a bigger space, a lack of single family homes in Watertown that were available and met our criteria made it clear early on in the process that we would be moving elsewhere. Truthfully, neither of us wanted to stray too far from the city.
Neither of us are Massachusetts natives and what brought us here was the draw of Boston. We wanted our kids to grow up experiencing Boston and all that it has to offer on a regular basis and not as a special pilgrimage that happens a few times a year. We also, however wanted a yard of some sort, tree lined streets and access to beautiful natural. A huge part of why we ended up choosing Melrose over several other towns was because we loved that we could leave our house and be in Boston in 20 minutes, but we could also easily access some other gorgeous quieter places that feel about a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
I grew up in a city but I still spent a tremendous amount of time outdoors, collecting bugs, climbing trees, and generally getting covered in dirt. To be clear, our family will not be going camping anytime soon (our idea of roughing it when traveling is a hotel or motel with no air conditioning). Just because at the end of the day, I like to fall asleep in a nice, cushy bed doesn’t mean that I don’t love being outdoors with my kids every chance I get. Especially after the endless winter that we all just endured. With that in mind, here are a few of my favorite local outdoor locations to visit with my family.
The theme among all of these spots is that there is no agenda–there is no playground or specific thing that you “have” to do. These are just the places where we go ‘sploring, as my oldest used to say. (That’s exploring for the rest of us.) Sure, bring some snacks and bug spray but let the kids lead the way and let the day take you where it may. We’ve been making a thing of going out to explore places like this since both kids were babies so it’s something that they genuinely love and it’s a nice way to break up all of the playground trips, structured activities and organized sports that kids are involved in every week. There’s so much research that shows that kids (and adults) need time outdoors and that one major benefit of outdoor play is that it is so often self directed. Chances are that unlike taking them to a chaotic and overcrowded museum or zoo on a Saturday, this kind of activity might bring your own blood pressure down in the process too.
Ten spots where you can explore the great outdoors
1. Habitat, Belmont (deifnitely buggy here so bring some spray!)
2. Fresh Pond Reservation, Cambridge
3. Minuteman National Park, Bedford
4. Broadmoor reservation Natick
5. Breakheart reservation, Parking in both Saugus and Wakefield
6. Wright Locke Farm, Winchester
7. Arnold Arboretum, Boston
8. Walden Pond, Concord
9. Middlesex Fells, (Parking in Medford, Stoneham, Winchester)
10. Elm Bank, Wellesley
What are some of your favorite places to explore without an agenda?