It would surprise most adults how wonderful a laid back afternoon at a closed lighthouse can be for a young child. As parents, we typically spring cash for a trip to a theme park or search for places and events that are interactive and engaging so we don’t have to worry about crabby little ones who are bored to death; kids, however, are smart and creative, and capable of making their own fun.
Even when closed, Portland Headlight in Cape Elizabeth, Maine is the ideal way to spend a relaxing spring, summer or fall day with family and friends. A trip to the lighthouse itself is entertaining as little kids take in its grand size. Ask them to guesstimate how many four-year-olds it will take to reach the top of the structure. Walk around it and explain why lighthouses used to be so very important. Stand together at the wire fence overlooking the sea; your children will giggle with delight as the waves smash into the rocks, exploding into billions of tiny droplets of water. Take advantage of the giant binoculars stationed at strategic points along the fence to gaze deep out into the Atlantic for a big boat or a playful seal.
Back towards the entrance lies Fort Williams Park. Although most of the structures are very run down, young children still love to frolic, play and imagine as they traipse about the ruins of this old military installation. The structure closest to the ocean provides ample space to climb, jump and explore. If they ever tire of creating their own adventure in this old, cave-like structure, the beach below provides a great deal of entertainment.
Jump over the choppy waves or pick up rocks and try to locate sea creatures in the tide pool. The state of Maine is famous for its stunning rocky coast—and with good reason. Start up a family adventure by setting out together for a rock climb. Although this particular excursion is rock climbing horizontally versus vertically, your kids won’t mind. This experience will actually help them work on balance, physical strength, knowledge of their own body and tucker them out at the same time—what more could you possibly ask for?
I lived in Maine for almost 20 years and never once saw a lighthouse in person. When my little guy was a toddler, I promised him that we would go see one. It wasn’t until we moved out of state and came back for a visit that I stepped up to the plate and our trip finally came to fruition. I was a little bit worried that we’d have to scrap the afternoon because he would need something more active to keep him occupied, but as it turns out, all he needed was a beautiful New England day and his own imagination.
Shauna Armitage is a parenting blogger, a freelance travel writer and the co-founder of Pure Wander Magazine. Follow her on Twitter @CarpeCalamus