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Take the Kids

Take the Kids: Valentine’s Day is in the air, but you can take your littles on dates all year long

  • Discovery Room at Fish and Game Headquarters in Concord, N.H.<br/><br/>(Libby March for The Concord Monitor)

    Discovery Room at Fish and Game Headquarters in Concord, N.H.

    (Libby March for The Concord Monitor)

  • Discovery Room at Fish and Game Headquarters in Concord, N.H.<br/><br/>(Libby March for The Concord Monitor)

    Discovery Room at Fish and Game Headquarters in Concord, N.H.

    (Libby March for The Concord Monitor)

  • Discovery Room at Fish and Game Headquarters in Concord, N.H.<br/><br/>(Libby March for The Concord Monitor)
  • Discovery Room at Fish and Game Headquarters in Concord, N.H.<br/><br/>(Libby March for The Concord Monitor)

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, significant others everywhere are planning romantic dates (those who have forgotten may want to take this cue to stay out of trouble). But there’s another kind of date to keep in mind after the holiday’s over – one that’s meaningful in a different way, that’s perfect just about any day of the year, and that requires far less planning and expense: a one-on-one date with your child.

It can be difficult to really spend time together when there are so many other things competing for your attention: household chores, errands, activities, and especially other siblings. One way to carve out that time is by going on a “special date,” just you two – and the nice thing is, no matter what you do, no matter how much time you spend, it’ll be meaningful to you both as long as you treat it as such. You can plan in advance and build excitement for your date, or you can decide to have one on the spur of the moment – a quick stop for a treat on the way home can be the best of dates.

Here are a few Concord-area suggestions, ranging from free to less than $50 for the two of you. Choose one, or string together several for a longer date.

Bead It – This downtown shop is the perfect place to spend an hour or two. Boys and girls alike enjoy the projects they can make for as little as $5: beaded zipper pulls for backpacks, bookmarks, necklaces and earrings. The environment is kid-friendly (smaller children will even find some toys tucked away for them under one of the tables), and visitors of all ages will be fascinated by the thousands of different beads they’ll find. (146 N. Main St., Concord, 223-0146, beadit.biz)

NH Audubon McLane Center Tucked on a quiet road on the outskirts of town, the New Hampshire Audubon Society’s McLane Center is probably most popular for its network of quiet, wooded trails, fun to explore in all seasons. But follow the path behind the main building, and you’ll find an inconspicuous screened area that’s home to a small collection of rescued birds. Kids will likely be wowed when they’re eye to eye with a pair of fluffy barred owls, a red-tailed hawk, a peregrine falcon and – perhaps most majestic – a bald eagle. You can follow your encounter with these raptors with a visit to the Audubon’s main building, which has other exhibits on local wildlife and a gift shop with plenty of options for the budding bird-watcher. (84 Silk Farm Road, Concord, 224-9909)

Dollar Tree This date destination may be unexpected, but it’s lots of fun. The store is crammed with everything you might imagine, ranging from useful to whimsical. And in a shop where everything’s a dollar, you can say “yes” to your kid without hurting your budget. You’ll find art and craft supplies, fun hair clips, and an entire wall of toys and party favors. Our favorite purchase: the wide array of shiny, colorful helium balloons you can choose, just $1 each. (106 Fort Eddy Road, 223-0302 or 313 Loudon Road, 223-5068)

Concord Public Library, Museum Passes One of the best deals in town has got to be the set of free or discounted museum passes available at the Concord Public Library. The passes provide free admission or steep discounts for a number of local destinations, including the McAuliffe Shepard Discovery Center, the Museum of New Hampshire History, Canterbury Shaker Village, the Kearsarge Indian Museum, the Currier Museum of Art and several others. Visit concordnh.gov/library for details.

The quickest way to use one of those passes is to walk the three blocks to Eagle Square, where you’ll find the Museum of New Hampshire History. Young kids will find plenty to engage them here, starting with the mock Indian teepee at the entrance, which features a recording of a Penacook Indian creation myth. The second floor includes an old fire tower poking through the museum’s roof, where kids can get a different perspective of downtown Concord. (6 Eagle Square, Concord, 226-3189)

A few minutes away, on the NHTI campus, is the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center, another participant in the library’s discount system. The center’s exhibits cover a range of earth and space science. One display lets kids see live images of themselves rendered in infrared light. Across the hall they can host their own TV weather forecast, then watch themselves on a screen. Older children will likely enjoy the life-size model of the space shuttle fuselage, which they can “land” themselves. The center’s second floor has plenty of open space, a table with art supplies, as well as a couple of quiet nooks with comfy chairs and children’s books on the solar system and the environment. All in all, a great place to spend an afternoon.(2 Institute Drive, Concord, 271-7827)

Bona Fide Green Goods We never would have expected this to be a destination, but a recent shopping trip revealed a small children’s corner, complete with table and chairs and some really entertaining wooden games.

Our toddler spent a happy 20 minutes playing, and the child-friendly owner was quick to offer a small, organic lollipop afterward. (35 S. Main St., Concord, 224-9700, bonafidegreengoods.com)

Edible Arrangements This chain, famous for its fruit baskets, is a great downtown date stop: We’ve found that when there are samples of chocolate-covered fruit, employees will happily hand them out. Score! (57 N. Main St. No. 2, Concord, 223-2555)

Princess Nails Sometimes, a little pampering is called for. Parent and child can get side-by-side manicures, or pedicures, or both, at this nail salon on Loudon Road. The real draw here is the group of adorable small, bear-shaped chairs, just the right size and demeanor for kids.

Little ones can get a manicure for $10, a pedicure for $15, or both for $20. (374 Loudon Road, 230-4488, princessnailsofconcord.com)

New Hampshire Fish & Game Discovery Room You probably wouldn’t think to head to a state government office to find entertainment for your kids, but the folks at New Hampshire Fish and Game have a surprise for you: In the basement of the agency’s headquarters, on Hazen Drive on the Concord Heights, is a small corner of Granite State wildlife, designed just for children.

The Discovery Room provides an overview of the wonders of the outdoors: a pair of stuffed moose, two tanks of trout and bass mounted onto the walls; a stuffed fisher dangling from a tree; a bobcat prowling along a rocky outcropping.

Though it’s only open on weekdays, the Discovery Room will provide a much-needed break after a few hours spent navigating the traffic lights on Loudon Road. (11 Hazen Drive, 271-3211, wildlife.state.nh.us)

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