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Take the Kids

Take the Kids: A day in Peterborough

  • Masks hang on a window of the Mariposa Museum and World Culture Center overlooking downtown Peterborough on Wednesday, February 27, 2013.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

    Masks hang on a window of the Mariposa Museum and World Culture Center overlooking downtown Peterborough on Wednesday, February 27, 2013.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

  • Solis Bergquist, 5, and his father, Erik, of Keene, sit at the pipe organ on the second floor at the Mariposa Museum and World Culture Center in Peterborough on Wednesday, February 27, 2013. The textiles on the walls are part of the newest featured exhibit called "The Kopanang Creation Canticle, the Story of the Universe as told through the textiles of South African Women."<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

    Solis Bergquist, 5, and his father, Erik, of Keene, sit at the pipe organ on the second floor at the Mariposa Museum and World Culture Center in Peterborough on Wednesday, February 27, 2013. The textiles on the walls are part of the newest featured exhibit called "The Kopanang Creation Canticle, the Story of the Universe as told through the textiles of South African Women."

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

  • Solis Bergquist, 5, of Keene, asks his dad, Erik, questions about different parts of a world map puzzle at the Mariposa Museum and World Culture Center in Peterborough on Wednesday, February 27, 2013.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

    Solis Bergquist, 5, of Keene, asks his dad, Erik, questions about different parts of a world map puzzle at the Mariposa Museum and World Culture Center in Peterborough on Wednesday, February 27, 2013.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

  • Marionettes hang on the wall at the Mariposa Museum and World Culture Center in Peterborough on Wednesday, February 27, 2013.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

    Marionettes hang on the wall at the Mariposa Museum and World Culture Center in Peterborough on Wednesday, February 27, 2013.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

  • The Mariposa Museum and Culture Center in Peterborough showcases everything from films and lectures to exhibits with pieces and collections from around the world.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

    The Mariposa Museum and Culture Center in Peterborough showcases everything from films and lectures to exhibits with pieces and collections from around the world.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

  • The Mariposa Museum and Culture Center in Peterborough showcases everything from films and lectures to exhibits with pieces and collections from around the world.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

    The Mariposa Museum and Culture Center in Peterborough showcases everything from films and lectures to exhibits with pieces and collections from around the world.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

  • The Mariposa Museum and Culture Center in Peterborough showcases everything from films and lectures to exhibits with pieces and collections from around the world.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

    The Mariposa Museum and Culture Center in Peterborough showcases everything from films and lectures to exhibits with pieces and collections from around the world.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

  • Masks hang on a window of the Mariposa Museum and World Culture Center overlooking downtown Peterborough on Wednesday, February 27, 2013.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

    Masks hang on a window of the Mariposa Museum and World Culture Center overlooking downtown Peterborough on Wednesday, February 27, 2013.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

  • Masks hang on a window of the Mariposa Museum and World Culture Center overlooking downtown Peterborough on Wednesday, February 27, 2013.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)
  • Solis Bergquist, 5, and his father, Erik, of Keene, sit at the pipe organ on the second floor at the Mariposa Museum and World Culture Center in Peterborough on Wednesday, February 27, 2013. The textiles on the walls are part of the newest featured exhibit called "The Kopanang Creation Canticle, the Story of the Universe as told through the textiles of South African Women."<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)
  • Solis Bergquist, 5, of Keene, asks his dad, Erik, questions about different parts of a world map puzzle at the Mariposa Museum and World Culture Center in Peterborough on Wednesday, February 27, 2013.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)
  • Marionettes hang on the wall at the Mariposa Museum and World Culture Center in Peterborough on Wednesday, February 27, 2013.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)
  • The Mariposa Museum and Culture Center in Peterborough showcases everything from films and lectures to exhibits with pieces and collections from around the world.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)
  • The Mariposa Museum and Culture Center in Peterborough showcases everything from films and lectures to exhibits with pieces and collections from around the world.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)
  • The Mariposa Museum and Culture Center in Peterborough showcases everything from films and lectures to exhibits with pieces and collections from around the world.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)
  • Masks hang on a window of the Mariposa Museum and World Culture Center overlooking downtown Peterborough on Wednesday, February 27, 2013.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

Blessed with a relaxed, rolling landscape, plenty of white-steepled villages and no interstates, the southwestern pocket of New Hampshire always seems to inspire a leisurely mood. It also offers any number of great day trips for a family with young children. Here’s one itinerary that includes some pretty drives, some easy hiking and a bustling downtown with plenty of child-sized art and culture.

Peterborough lies smack in the heart of the Monadnock Region and is a straight shot from Concord along Route 202. Depending on your schedule, you can reach Peterborough in less than an hour’s drive. Or you can break up the trip with a handful of brief, varied detours.

Let’s take the detours.

First, if the weather calls for some leg-stretching outdoors, no matter the season, make a stop in Antrim at the McCabe Forest. The main trailhead is right off Route 202, on your left, just past the cemetery before downtown Antrim. This patch of woods, maintained by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, occupies the site of an old farmstead, and the trails cut through old fields, orchard land and woodlots. It’s a relatively flat and easy-going walk (or snowshoe) for all, and in all seasons. The best spots for walking are along the meandering bends and oxbows of the Contoocook River.

After a stroll in the woods, continue southwest along Route 202, through Bennington and the wide Contoocook Valley. If your younger traveling buddies are begging for a bite, turn right on Route 137 for the road to Hancock. This detour adds a couple of miles to your trip, but it’s well worth it. Hancock itself is a gem of a village – charming without being precious – and has a Main Street seemingly untouched by a century’s worth of progress. Fiddlehead’s Cafe is one of our favorite lunch stops. This little cafe, with local art hanging from the walls, serves breakfast and lunch, plus plenty of baked goods, ice cream and other treats. Sandwiches are generously portioned and freshly made. On a nice day, the covered porch provides a fine little al fresco New England experience. In fact, you may be tempted to spend the whole day in the quiet shade there. More likely, however, your kids’ pleading will urge you onward.

If you aren’t done soaking in the invigorating atmosphere, delay your arrival slightly by continuing on the back roads toward Peterborough. Our favorite route is very short but beautiful in all seasons: Follow Route 137 south out of Hancock, and take the left onto Middle Road. Follow the signs for Boston University’s Sargent Center, but stay on the main road, which takes you through some rambling countryside of perfectly maintained old farm houses, stunning 360-degree views of the surrounding hill country, and ruminative livestock taking it all in.

Turn left when the road ends for a short descent down Union Street into downtown Peterborough, your true destination.

For kids, the best spot in town is the Mariposa Museum and World Culture Center. The name may seem grandiose, but this is definitely a kid-oriented place. It’s small enough so as not to overwhelm in a single visit, but it boasts a collection of sufficient variety to keep children entertained and engaged for an afternoon. Best of all, the Mariposa invites kids to explore its exhibits with their own hands. There’s a wonderful puppet and marionette collection, complete with a miniature stage for children to host their own impromptu shows. Another nook holds several dress-up chests of international costumes, for both boys and girls.

And on the top floor you’ll find an impressive collection of instruments from around the world. Here’s where the museum’s “hands-on” part gets its most vigorous workout: a dozen drums, several exotic-looking keyboard instruments, and lots of unfamiliar percussion tools that each have their own unique sound.

The museum occupies an old Baptist Church, and your kids may have fun spotting the remnants of the building’s former life, including unexpected windows and alcoves, and the soaring choir loft.

At the core of the collection are the examples of child-friendly folk art and toys from around the world: Russian nesting dolls, Chinese dragons, Native American dolls, and so on.

The Mariposa also hosts numerous educational programs, performances, art-making workshops, seasonal celebrations tied to international festivals, and rotating exhibits.

It’s just a great place for kids to spend an afternoon.

For children – especially older ones – with a particular interest in the arts, Peterborough offers several other places to stir creativity. The Sharon Arts Center hosts a gallery with a rotating collection of paintings, sculptures and installations from professional artists. The center also has a large and varied gift shop with children’s painting sets and other artsy souvenirs. The blocks along Grove and Depot streets are also home to a handful of small art galleries and antique shops.

You might find another kid-friendly stop in town at the Toadstool Bookstore. This is a fine place to buy books of any kind, but we often find ourselves drawn to the sprawling collection of secondhand kids’ books, in the back room. You’ll know you’ve found it when you see the dozens of model airplanes dangling from the ceiling. The books here range from preschool picture books to young-adult novels and are, in general, modestly priced and in very good condition. There are also plenty of places for young readers to snuggle up with their choices before making a final selection.

If you need a bit of nourishment before heading home, there are a handful of spots in town.

Twelve Pines is an upscale deli with plenty of delicious (though not cheap) salads, pastas and sandwiches, either to eat in or take out.

The Peterborough Diner is a classic 1950s dining car serving the staples: grilled cheese sandwiches, burgers, shepherd’s pie and the like.

Finally, Harlow’s Pub is a cozy, often loud, family-
friendly restaurant serving simple bar-style food.

We recommend the nachos. They’ll go perfect with the dog-eared copy of Where the Wild Things Are you picked up on the cheap at Toadstool.

(You can reach Daniel
and Danielle Barrick at
takethekidsnh@gmail.com.)

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