According to my friend, Marika, who is a regular visitor — Boston is an absolutely fantastic city to visit with kids because it is jam-packed with things to do for the whole family, regardless of age and interest. It’s also super easy to get around town, either on foot or by public transport. The centre of the city is tiny and most sights are within walking distance of each other.
Marika lives in London and has two daughters. She also travels more than any other friend I have! She and her family (photographed below) have just returned from another family visit to Boston and she has kindly written down a weekend guide for us. Makes me want to take the kids to Boston — there’s so much to do and it all sounds incredible.
SEE & PLAY:
- Boston Common– a huge open space right in the middle of town where kids (and grown ups!) can play, run around and enjoy some relatively fresh air! There is a nice playground and also the Frog Pond which is a shallow play pool with fountains for the children which is open in the summer. In the winter the pond gets frozen over and is used as an ice rink!
- Just across the road from the common is the Public Garden which was America’s first botanical garden and is much less formal than the common and also home to the Swan Boats; a very peaceful 15 minute lake tour and also the Duckling sculpture. The ducklings and their mum were cast in honour of the book Make way for the Ducklings and my children as well as many others always make a beeline for these birds and climb all over them!
- New England Aquarium — We have dragged the children (or perhaps it is the other way around!) to many Aquariums around the world everywhere from the former Soviet republic of Georgia (not worth visiting) to Dallas, to the famous aquarium in Monterey. For me, the Aquarium in Boston puts the others to shame. There is huge central tank housing over 700 sea creatures and there is a ramp that circles all the way around it so you can see all the action from any angle! Fish feeding by a scuba diver is ones of the girls’ favourites! There are loads of other exhibits and many of these are ‘hands on’. This is what makes this aquarium so special; we stroked stingray, picked up starfish and crabs and even got a behind the scenes tour for an additional charge you can even become a trainer for the day (ages 9 and up). Right next door to the entrance are the whale watching tours which take about 3-4 hours and guarantee a sighting! They did not operate in the winter and I do advise on bringing snacks (unless you or the little ones are prone to sea sickness and then DO NOT GO!) and warm clothes even in the summer as the wind can get really chilly.
- Children’s museum — Oh my, what fun we had here. My husband and I literally had to beg the kids to leave after 5 hours! Three floors full of stuff to do and play with! The girls stood inside a bubble in the Bubble Zone, made finger puppets in the Art Studio, got a tour around a fully reconstructed house from Japan just to name a few things we did! There are loads of other rooms too like a construction and a special area for the tiny ones with soft play, books and craft projects. For me and the girls the best part was however Kid Stage where every hour or thereabout there are theatre productions which last about 20 minutes and usually include the kids. On this visit we helped Arthur the Mouse build a tree house and also found out about how the Chinese picked the animals for the Chinese Zodiac. All this was included in hour entry ticket. Fantastic! (A quick mention about the food; there is a great common room if you want to bring a packed lunch but there is a very decent in house restaurant which serves sandwiches, soup etc.. and has a decent selection for kids too.)
- The Museum of Fine Arts has a family space that allows kids to experiment with art as well as appreciate it. There is usually a theme sometimes in conjunction with exhibitions. They also have children’s audio guides. The museum shop here has a great selection of children’s books on art.
- There is also The Museum of Science — another venue for which I would recommend the whole day. Jam packed with things to do and see like a giant dinosaur, a skeleton of a huge python, musical stairs to name just three! What is nice here, like the children’s museum, is that there is a specific area for the smallest member so the family. Under 5’s have their own space with experiments and water fun as well as a soft play area.
Pretty much everywhere in Boston is child friendly with most places having kids menus and high chairs. A special mention goes to
- Legal Sea Foods — a New England institution with several locations in Boston and in Cambridge. The adults can enjoy fresh fish and sea food (do not miss out on lobster and on fried clams!) while the kids get their own little fishing net with their own menu, colouring and crackers).
- Upper Crust Pizzeria — three locations: one in Harvard square, one in Charles Street, just off the Common, and one on Newbury Street. Fantastic thin crust pizza with pretty much every conceivable topping on offer here. Grab a takeaway pie or sit down at a communal table and enjoy the yummiest pizza around.
- Faneuil Hall –this is a great spot on the freedom trial and right next to the Great Hall (one of the historical buildings you can still enter for free). The area is packed with street entertainers and park rangers also give talks here around every 15 minutes. Quincy Market is right there too; essentially a giant food court with every type of food imaginable. Head here if one of the kids wants pizza, the other sushi and you, a souvlaki!
- Red Wagon– a great children’s shop on Charles Street has a fantastic selection of American and European of clothes and shoes. Funnily this is the place I always buy the shoes for my girls even if they come from Italy because the selection and the size availability is second to none!
- Curious George — This shop in Harvard Square has to be one of my favourite places in the whole world. Two floors dedicated to children’s books with knowledgeable and helpful staff to guide you to the right books from baby all the way to teenager. Although my girls are always given permission to choose two books each when we get here we always end up spending hours in here and walking away with at least a dozen!
- The Double Tree Suites offer several good locations around town and offer two interconnecting rooms at much more reasonable rates then anywhere else in town. They also have super large fridges in the rooms so stay in for breakfast and splash out more for the rest of the day.
- The Omni Parker Hotel is right in the middle of the Historic downtown and offers kids a backpack with activities and toys at check in. At bedtime milk and cookies will be waiting for the little ones in the room.
- The Kimpton Hotels (Hotel Marlowe and the Onyx) are also well known for being super family orientated with toys and fun at check-in and a lot of interconnecting rooms.
- At the high-end there is the Four Seasons; well known for being great to kids with pint sized slippers and bathrobes, welcome gifts and so on. Like the Taj, it is located at the edge of the park. The Taj is also a good option; opt for the ‘internal’ rooms. Although they do not have a view of Newbury Street they are much bigger! The girls got a ‘care package’ stuffed full of suites and toys as well as a colouring books made specifically for the hotel with fun facts and activities.