Nantucket, Massachusetts is a beautiful, quaint island off the coast of Cape Cod. And if you happen to visiting in the summer, you likely plan to spend most of your time near the water. The beaches on Nantucket are amazing, but sometimes, it’s nice to get a change of scenery. So, if you and your kids need a change of pace, here is a list of six free activities that don’t involve the beach.
1. Take a walk. Explore the moors, grasslands, cranberry bogs, salt marshes, or forests of the island. You can choose areas for a leisurely stroll of under a mile or pack a picnic and go on a six mile walk. Check out The Nantucket Conservation Foundationand Nantucket Islands Land Bank for different preserved areas to explore. Growing up on the island, I loved visiting Sanford Farm , the Milestone Cranberry Bog, Tupancy Links, and the Lily Pond. If you are walking out in nature, be sure to take precautions against ticks.
The architecture, stores, docks and cobblestones of downtown Nantucket are also best explored on foot and make for a nice walk. Bear in mind that the sidewalks and roads are not necessarily stroller friendly. There are cobblestones, brick sidewalks made curvy with huge tree roots and lots of cars park on the sidewalk. It’s doable to get a stroller through all this, but make sure you bring a dose of patience.
2. Go on a bike ride. Nantucket has over 30 miles of bike paths and in general is very bike friendly. However, roads, especially in the downtown are narrow and traffic can be congested. The easiest, safest biking with small children (and adults!) is on the bike paths.
3. Read books at the Nantucket Athenaeum Public Library. Located downtown, the venerable Athenaeum has a children’s wing, the Weezie Library. They offer children’s events ranging from Toddler Storytime to Building a Salt Water Car to Yoga for Teens. Check out their events calendar to find out what’s going on when you’re visiting. Be aware that many events are have a cap on participants, so plan to arrive early. Also, the library has a small park with benches, garden beds and a couple trees that are just the right size for climbing. This can be a great place to relax with a coffee while your children let out some energy.
Location: 1 India Street, Nantucket, MA 02554
4. Enjoy an outdoor concert through the Nantucket Pocket Park Series. We happened upon a lovely concert at a downtown pocket park one evening, attended by many families. The atmosphere was relaxed and the band, Woodford, Line had my toddler transfixed. Check out the Nantucket Pocket Park Series website for upcoming events and locations, which also include childrens’ book readings and poetry readings.
5. Learn about recycling at the Town Dump, “America’s First Green Landfill.” Yes, it smells. But, it’s fun to take a load of recycling and trash to the Nantucket Environmental Park. You get to divide your recycling (plastics, cardboard, glass, trash etc.) and dump them down chutes or into huge bins. You can walk across the parking lot to a small building called the Take it Or Leave it. People leave stuff here that they no longer need from furniture to clothing to books. And then even more people sift through the piles looking for stuff they can use. I’ve found a cashmere sweater there before, so it’s worth a look. The dump is also a great spot for truck watching. You might even get to see trucks adding to or smoothing out the hills of the landfill.
Location: 188 Madaket Road
Landfill hours, summer:
Monday-Friday: 7 AM – 3 PM
Saturday – Sunday: 8 AM – 12 PM
Take It or Leave It Hours:
Monday: 8 AM – 2:30 PM
Tuesday – Wednesday: Closed
Thursday – Friday: 11 AM – 2:30 PM
Saturday – Sunday: 8 AM – 11:30 AM
Contact Waste Options Office at (508) 228-4283 for winter hours or with other questions.
6. Get some energy out at a playground.
- Children’s Beach: this place has it all. A harbor beach, newly installed playscapes, a rope climbing structure on the beach, a bandstand, a snack bar, a green space circled by a paved path with benches and trees around the edges. The only downsides are that it can get crowded quick.
Location: Harborview Way
– Jetties Beach Playground: these playscapes are tucked between the parking lot and a very kid friendly beach. There is also a restaurant at this location. Again, this can whole area is popular with families and can get crowded.
Location: to the right off the Jetties Beach parking lot, 4 Bathing Beach Road
– Winter Park: This mid-island park sits in a residential neighborhood. It has a parking lot, a field, nice playscapes and little trails that head through the woods, connecting the park to other streets.
Location: Essex Road (About 1/10th of a mile from Essex Rd and Miacomet Ave)
– Nantucket Elementary School: This playground has playscapes, a large playing field, a rope climbing structure, a basketball court, and a labyrinth. There is also a skate park near the elementary school parking lot.
Location: 30 Surfside Road, park as close as you can to the back of the school and then follow paths behind the school.
– Tom Nevers Park: This playground is in a windswept, almost desolate location with lots of parking and lots of paved area for children to practice biking.
Location: The end of Tom Nevers road
About the author: Alison Fader-Brock has lived in Austin, Texas for over 10 years. She came here on a whim from the East Coast and Barton Springs, the breakfast tacos and great people have kept her happily here. She was inspired by her work at a criminal defense firm to earn her Masters of Science in Social Work at UT Austin. She has worked mainly with adolescents in school-based settings. She currently spends much of her time exploring Austin with her toddler.