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For a great kid-friendly day trip, head to New Bedford

Read online: For a great kid-friendly day trip, head to New Bedford

The Boston Herald

Moira McCarthy (March 30, 2023)

For a great kid-friendly day trip, head to New Bedford

My two granddaughters love what we call “Rara Days;”  when I take them to do all kind of fun things until  they’re so tired they crash off to sleep that night.

They can be demanding though.

“We want to go to a zoo! And some museums! And can we take a beach walk? And Rara – we need a really great playground!”

I have a secret weapon that allows me to say “Absolutely!” to all of it.

New Bedford ( has long been known for whaling and its rich history, but it’s also quietly built itself  to be one of the best family destinations around.

We like to start our day at Noah’s Playground, an incredible ADA accessible playground located at lovely Pope’s Island. Noah’s was built in 2017 with funds raised by the family of Noah Fernandes, a boy who lost his life at 14 after battling a disease that left him in a wheelchair.

Besides being accessible to all, Noah’s setting is pretty with great water views. There are clean public rest rooms and comfortable benches for parents and grandparents. Kids can stay busy all day there.

Then we hit the Buttonwood Park Zoo ( – known as one of the best smaller zoos in the nation, with  a vast variety of animals to see up close, lots of learning and fun activities, and even some special events like their “Party For the Planet” coming up on Sat., April 22.

With 127 species (even elephants and pandas), kids of all ages love the spot. It’s affordable too. Non-resident adults entry is just $10, kids are just $6, and kids under three are free. The Bear’s Den Café is perfect for snacks or lunch, and there’s a carousel too.

The New Bedford Whaling Museum ( and its surrounding New Bedford Whaling National Historic Park could take up your entire day. Inside the museum, kids can learn – in a way that captivates them – all about whales and whaling.

There are five massive whale skeletons that kids absolutely love, as well as the world’s largest whaling ship model (Lagoda) to see.

Outside, you can meander along cobblestone streets (bring a jogger stroller if you’ve got one in a stroller; easier on cobblestones) and visit cool little shops, learn the history of all kind of lovely homes and buildings and enjoy the fresh air.

Right down the street at the New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center ( kids can dress up in fishing gear, learn how all kind of fish are caught (as well as how the fishing industry cares about nature) and even leave with their own salty fisherman nickname chosen from the many they have listed there. A walk along the city’s impressive docks, where big, beautiful and interesting fishing boats are docked, amps up the fun.

Fort Tabor Park is a great spot to let the kids run free a bit. It also has gorgeous views and history like cannons from war days and statues dedicated to regional heroes.

The New Bedford Harbor Walk which runs from the East Rodney French Blvd boat ramp to Gifford Street, hugs the shore for about three quarters of a mile, a perfect walk or bike ride down and back on a nice day.

You’ll have no issue finding just the right nosh for the family in New Bedford. Ma’s Doughnut Shop on Acushnet Avenue is a great morning treat (have one there; bring a bunch home.).

Brick Pizzeria not only delivers the goods for food (tater tots, pizza, other easy to hold meals), they keep the kids busy with arcade games and more. The Whale’s Tale is an outdoor clam shack on Pier 3 where your kids can dine looking out over the fishing fleet – great for a nice day. And because ice cream is a must, Dairy Maid, located near Clark’s Cove, is a great stop.

A family adventure to New Bedford will be one your kids love.

Noah’s Playground is ADA accessible, and includes comfortable benches for parents and grandparents to enjoy while kids have a blast. (Photo Moira McCarthy)
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