The storied Massachusetts island is a great place to take kids—and these often-overlooked family experiences are worth seeking out.
Martha’s Vineyard is generally thought of as a family vacation destination, and one that’s been written about a lot. At this point, you probably know that Mad Martha’s ice cream exists, and you can only go look at the spot where 1975’s Jaws was filmed so many times before your teenagers start complaining. If you’re looking for family fun that can actually involve every family member without eliciting groans, here are some lesser-known activities you need to try.
1. Catch some a cappella.
The island’s oldest vocals-only group, performing since 1992, is called Vineyard Sound (pictured above). It’s traditionally an all-male-identifying group with about a dozen members, give or take, all dressed in their best Vineyard wear: pastel long sleeves, multicolored shorts, stumpy ties—but always in bare feet. The Vineyard Sound has made singing into a full-time job, with concerts that happen five or six nights a week over the course of the summer in every neighborhood of the island.
2. Do yoga… with goats.
Native Earth Teaching Farm leads several donation-based goat yoga classes offered per week over the summer on Martha’s Vineyard. You arrive, you set up your mat, and then you try to focus on the vinyasa flow as several mini goats clamber around you, bleating. It’s a fun way for older kids to fold some exercise into their day while also making a new furry acquaintance. (Also, on Sundays, the farm puts out a vat of indigo ink so you can dye your own clothes, a diversion that might appeal to artsy-type teens.)
3. Explore the island via paddleboard.
You need to take advantage of the waveless water in the Vineyard because it’s the perfect environment for family-friendly paddleboarding. Plus, getting on a board gives you some autonomy to investigate the island on your own terms. At Wind’s Up, you can rent paddleboards (or kayaks, if that’s more your thing) either hourly or by the day and use them to explore the island by water. Wind’s Up is open regularly from May to October, and by appointment for the rest of the year.
4. Cheer on the Vineyard team at a baseball game.
For the sports fans out there, the Vineyard actually has its own minor lease baseball team, the MV Sharks. Tickets are super cheap, and the season lasts for the entire summer. Plus, the games take place at a high school stadium that’s on the water in Vineyard Haven, so you can hit the beach in between innings.
5. Get in line for nighttime donuts.
Backdoor Donuts is the place to be at night on Martha’s Vineyard, especially for people who are too young to hit the bars. Located in Oak Bluffs, this bakery operates from its front counter until 5pm, selling all sorts of baked goods. Then, at 7pm, the business pivots to selling freshly-made donuts from its eponymous back door. The line is always long, but fast-moving. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a donut that’s still warm.
6. Pet bunnies at a bakery farmstand.
Can you think of a more divine collab than cute bunnies and warm pastries? Grey Barn is a farm with a year-round farmstand that publishes its ever-changing bakery schedule a week out, with specific release times for particularly popular items like baguettes and challah. Challenge yourself to get up early for these in-demand pastries—but if you don’t make it before they sell out, think of it as a free petting zoo: You can still get to know the resident floppy-eared bunny, Scooby (pictured below) or one of his descendants. There are also some chickens and friendly cats milling around, which add to the overall cuteness.
7. Go thrift shopping.
If you love shopping secondhand, there’s no better location for that kind of shopping on Martha’s Vineyard than Chicken Alley, a barn in Vineyard Haven that’s full of vintage and thrifted items. The selection is decidedly unpicked-over, so it’s easy to happen across a hidden gem in between corny stuff like “Live, Laugh, Love”-inscribed tchotchkes. Chicken Alley is open year-round, Tuesday through Saturday.
8. Snack on chocolate and try on costume jewelry.
The best chocolate on the Vineyard is sold year-round alongside antiques and costume jewelry in a tiny house in Oak Bluffs. This shop is called Enchanted Chocolate (pictured below), and it plays with a witchy theme, which only adds to the intrigue. Try the chocolate pretzels, and check out the dazzling array of unique rings.