Whether indoors or out, there are plenty of things to do with the kids on the Seacoast, whether it's a simple dip in the pool, a rousing nature walk (and lecture from Mom and Dad) to trying one's hand at mini-golf.
In Portsmouth there's the hands-on interactive Children's Museum of Portsmouth on Marcy Street (www.childrens-museum.org). There's always some great activity going on inside or out with art activities, pet clinics and music activities for all ages.
If the weather's good, walk over to nearby Prescott Park and watch the boats, or take a dip in the huge Peirce Island Outdoor Pool (www.cityofportsmouth.com/recreation/outdoor.htm).
Right in the neighborhood is the Strawbery Banke Museum (433-1100), a 10-acre historical site with displays, demonstrations of forgotten crafts like boatbuilding, blacksmithing, pottery, and needlecraft (www.strawberybanke.org).
Back to the water, The Isles of Shoals is a great place to explore the little nooks and crannies of a small island. Isles of Shoals Steamship Company can take the family on a lighthouse cruise or even a whale watch. Have a picnic on Star Island. (www.islesofshoals.com). Or take an authentic tugboat trip with Tugboat Alley Tugboat Rides. Find out what it's like to be aboard a working tugboat and cruise the Piscataqua River(www.tugboatalley.com).
And there's always amusement park water sports. Just three miles south of the Portsmouth traffic circle on Route 1 is New England's largest water park with huge slides and pools, raft rides and the exciting Adventure River (www.watercountry.com).
All along Route 1 there are some great mini-golf courses with all the little windmills and waterfalls we grew up with. Putt-A-Round Miniature Golf and Railroad in North Hampton (926-0888) has a little train that runs the course. Then there's Casino Mini-Golf on Ocean Avenue near Hampton Beach (929-4653) and the nearby Buc's Lagoon (926-0888) for a break from the waves.
For indoor fun when the weather's stormy, try Joker's with laser tag, and indoor train, rock climbing, a playhouse and snacks. It's on Route 1 in Portsmouth. (431-7770)
For nature lovers, the Sandy Point Discovery Center in Stratham is a 50-acre site, with a boardwalk that goes out into the bay, and a self-guided nature tour of natural and cultural history of Great Bay. There are also indoor activities and exhibits (778-0015).
The Seacoast Science Center at Odiorne Point State Park in Rye has just undergone a million dollar renovation. There are educational programs, hands-on exhibits, historic and nature walks, and plenty of children's programs. (436-8043).
At the Hampton Airfield, a private field just off Route 1, catch a bite to eat at the Café, before taking a helicopter or airplane tour. (964-9751).
Just a short drive up the coast brings the family to The York Zoo, an amusement park and zoo just off York Beach. There are many exotic animals, including 100 varieties of birds, lions, alligators, primate exhibits an Australian exhibit, and much more. The Wild Kingdom includes paddle boats, mini-golf and great picnic grounds (www.yorkzoo.com).
In Exeter, take a break at Planet Playground, with its many climbing spots next to the public pool if anyone needs to cool off, or go through the American Independence Museum in town to get a dose of local history.
If the kids need a break from the beach and their parents' outlet shopping, there are plenty of alternatives on the Seacoast.