York is a southern Maine beach town with lots of history and activities for kids. It was famous for lobsters, fishing and boat building until the late 1800s, when it began to attract vacationers from Boston and New York. York is a little more than an hour north of Boston, and 45 minutes south of Portland. It snows 64 days, and rains 83 days a year. It averages about 50 inches of snow and 50 inches of rain a year. The frequent inclement weather makes indoor activities for children a necessity for working and vacationing families.
Parks and Recreation Programs in Summer
The York Parks and Recreation Department has 33 indoor programs for kids from 3 to 15 in its 2013 "Summer Youth Enrichment Programs." They offer four literacy, 10 arts and craft, four science and history, seven music and dance, and eight other programs. The literacy programs involve storytelling and activities pertaining to the children's favorite books. In the arts and craft programs children create fairy houses, dream catchers, pastel drawings, clay pottery, funky furniture, stamped artwork, projects for the garden and beach, wearable art and knitted accessories. In the science and history programs, children learn about ancient Egyptians, rainforests, and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) concepts. The music and dance programs teach kids how to sing in Broadway shows, play the piano and guitar, flash dance like Jennifer Beals, tell jokes, and act. The department also offers indoor summer classes for kids in yoga, cooking and babysitting.
Parks and Recreation Programs the Rest of the Year
The York Parks and Recreation Department also offers programs during the fall, winter and spring. Its Lego Clubs, where kids learn about STEM concepts while building simple machines out of Legos, are yearlong activities. It also offers yearlong drama classes. Kindergym is a three-season indoor playground where toddlers through the age of 3 engage in activities with their parents that promote bonding, socialization, coordination, mobility and the development of large muscle motor skills. The four-day 2013 Christmas festival features a student art showcase, craft fairs, luncheons and teas, breakfast with Santa, photo opportunities with Santa, poinsettia and wreath sales, a "fostering" tree festival, gingerbread house festival, cartoon festival, a book sale, ornament painting, sing-a-longs, a story hour, parade, performances of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" and a "Christmas Extravaganza" by the Boston String Quartet. One of the tea parties is the American Girl Holiday Tea Party and Cookie Swap for 7- to 12-year-olds and their dolls. Children enjoy holiday sweets, learn tea party etiquette, participate in craft activities, and swap homemade cookies and recipes.
The Children's Museum
The Children's Museum in Dover, New Hampshire, is 25 minutes southwest of York. The museum has exhibits where kids can build vehicles, 3-D impressions of themselves, mazes and throne rooms. They also can compose their own symphony and watch the sound waves. They can take a pretend trip to another country, visit a faux post office, and go deep-sea diving in a pretend submarine. They can explore the properties of dinosaurs, the ecosystem of a river, the properties of light and dark, masks from other countries, and Mexico's foods, language and traditions. The museum also has summer camps, garden clubs, story times, music and movement classes, sleepovers and assorted workshops for Scouts, early learning programs in science, drop-in playgroups for infants from 6 months to 4 years and their parents, and programs for children with special needs and their parents. Popular annual events include a New Year's Eve celebration and a Teddy Bear Clinic in which museum staff and “doctors” repair stuffed animals.
Woodman Institute Museum
The Woodman Museum, also in Dover, features exhibits on natural history, local history and art. The museum includes four buildings: the Garrison, Hale House, Woodman House and Keefe House. The Garrison is an original 1675 garrison with more than 800 items from the period including tools, cooking utensils, a dining table, cradles, rope beds and looms. The Hale House, built in 1813, was once the home of the abolitionist Sen. John P. Hale. The first floor of the house contains antique tools, powder horns, pewter, china, glassware, lanterns, toys, musical instruments, firefighting equipment, streetcar memorabilia, and a suit of Japanese medieval armor. Alcoves on the first floor contain memorabilia from the Cocheco mills that were closed in 1940; scrimshaw, navigational equipment and detailed models of ships; furniture, paintings, a Chickering piano, and a cradle from the senator’s home. The second floor features antique furnishings that belonged to famous local citizens. The Woodman House, built in 1818, houses the museum's natural history and war memorial collections, and a large collection of antique and modern dolls. The Keefe House, built in 1825, contains historical documents and exhibits on loan to the museum.
The Ogunquit Playhouse, nine minutes north of York, has been attracting show business legends for 80 years. Each season, from May to October, the playhouse has produced five to seven Broadway musicals entirely on-site. It also has an active children's theater program, which has featured Disney productions and plays about Dora the Explorer and Dr. Seuss' Cat in the Hat. The playhouse also offers three summer theater camps for 5- to 15-year-olds.