15 Ways to Explore the Crane Estate on Castle Hill in Ipswich, Massachusetts

On a recent visit to the North Shore of Massachusetts, we explored one of the most beautiful Gilded Age estates, the Crane Estate, set high on a hill above one of the most beautiful beaches, Crane Beach, in Ipswich, Massachusetts. The estate has been carefully restored and preserved by the Trustees, who oversee more than 100 properties throughout Massachusetts.  The Crane Company, founded by Richard Teller Crane, in 1855 was well known for their brass fixtures and bells, most famously used to help build the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.  Later, his son, Mr. Richard T. Crane, who focused the company on manufacturing various bathroom fixtures, purchased Castle Hill and began renovating and expanding the property. The Cranes, who were based in Chicago, had summer homes in London, England and Jekyll Island, Georgia. The first home on the Ipswich property was built in 1912 but later torn down as it was properly outfitted to withstand the elements of the nearby ocean. The current estate, with 59 rooms, was built in a timeless English style similar to the Cranes’ London estate and finished in 1929. Over the years, the Cranes restored over 3,500 acres in Essex Bay, Choate Island, and Ipswich. The estate also includes the 700 acre Crane Wildlife Refuge, made up of Castle Neck (which borders Crane Beach), five islands, and salt marshes.

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Playing “I Spy” at Canterbury Shaker Village in New Hampshire

On a  recent trip to beautiful Concord, New Hampshire we stopped at nearby Canterbury Shaker Village for an afternoon of exploration and learning about the history and lifestyle of the Shakers. The Shakers first formed in the early 1700s in England. Known as “Shaking Quakers” because of their erratic dancing during worship, the founders were previously members of other religious groups, including English Quakers and Methodists. A group of nine people, led by Mother Ann Lee, came to New York in 1774 to build “Heaven on Earth” and eventually made their way to Canterbury, New Hampshire, just north of Concord, in the early 1790s.

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40 Ways to Have Fun this Summer at Rocking Horse Ranch Resort in NY

Rocking Horse Ranch, a top rated family resort in the heart of New York’s Hudson Valley, has been our must-visit list for years. A few years ago we explored many parts of the Hudson Valley and several locals told us we had to check out resort. This past week we finally had the opportunity to explore the 500+ acre resort, which is less than two hours from both New York City and Hartford (Connecticut) and three and a half hours from Boston, Massachusetts.

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Playing “I Spy” at the New Britain Museum of American Art in Connecticut

One of the oldest museums dedicated to American art, the New Britain Museum of American Art began in 1853 as the New Britain Institute, a cultural resource for the vibrant city of New Britain. Located in the Historic section of New Britain on the edge of Walnut Hill Park, known at one time as the Hardware City of the World, New Britain was booming as a manufacturing industry in the 20th century. 

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Eight Ways to Have Fun at the Lupa Zoo in Springfield, MA

The 20 acre Lupa Zoo in Ludlow, Massachusetts (just 15 minutes from downtown Springfield, Massachusetts) is home to over 500 animals, including everything from bobcats, zebras, bears, and donkeys to camels, antelope, goats, ostriches and emus.  Polish immigrants Henry and Joan Lupa owned a landscaping and construction business in the 1960s and 1970s and later grew such a large collection of farm animals that locals began visiting. The Lupas decided to open a zoo to the general public in 1996. Today, there are additions that include ponds with several species of birds, a critter garden, and an indoor habitat for sloths, lizards, snakes, and more! Kids of all ages will enjoy learning about, and seeing up close, over 100 species of animals.

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Playing “I Spy” at the Vermont State Capitol

Vermont, the 14th state in the union, chose Montpelier as the state capital because of its central location and accessibility to the nearby Winooski River. The first State House, a traditional wooden meetinghouse, was open from 1808-1835, and then moved and expanded to a nearby, larger space from 1836-1856, until a fire destroyed most of the State House in January of 1857. The third, and current, State House was completed in 1859, built in an Italian Renaissance revival style, with all features made from masonry and cast iron; only the dome (57 feet high and covered in gold leaf) is made of wood. (Even the doors and staircase railing were painted to look like mahogany!) The Vermont Senate Chamber, which has 30 members, is the oldest senate chamber in America that is still actively used and still has all of the original furniture and lighting from 1859 (except for two filing cabinets and a computer). The 150 member House Chamber is the largest room in the State House. Vermont legislators have no private offices at the State House; they conduct business at their chamber desks or in groups in large committee rooms on the first floor. And unlike most state Capitols, there is no rotunda inside the Vermont State House, the dome is an exterior ornament.  Hubbard Park, located behind the State House, is home to walking trails, a fitness trail, an interpretive trail, a 54 foot stone tower, and picnic shelters. The State House complex welcomes visitors all year and encourages exploration of its grounds.

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