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10 Things to Do in Boston with Kids
A world-class children’s museum. Fabled Fenway Park. Swan Boats. The Freedom Trail. It’s no wonder Boston is one of North America’s favorite family destinations. Here are 10 great reasons to visit Boston now.
1. Ride the Swan Boats
Crank up the excitement factor, and read Robert McCloskey’s 1941 classic Make Way For Ducklings before ambling over to the bucolic Boston Public Garden to ride the ever-graceful Swan Boats, the only boats of their kind in the world. Swanning around the lagoon is a “wicked steal” as they say around here. This quintessential Boston experience costs $2.75 for adults, $1.75 for kids, and has been a Boston tradition since 1877. Afterwards, stroll over for pics on the statues of Momma Mallard and her clan. You can continue the adventure across Charles Street to the Boston Commons to wade in the nearby Frog Pond (no frogs), a fun, free way for kids to cool off.
2. Tour the Freedom Trail
Boston makes history come alive, and nowhere is this more apparent than on the four-kilometre Freedom Trail. Feel the chills standing in Paul Revere’s 1680 colonial house, the last remaining structure from 17th century Boston. Learn about his famous midnight ride, then step over to the Old North Church, of ‘one if by land, two if be sea fame.’ The 1723 structure is still a working church. No family pew? No worries. There’s one for “strangers and wardens” (those folk who would poke anyone falling asleep or noisy children). Children will love following the trail’s red brick line through cobblestoned streets where the American Revolution was born. Every step tells a story, and you can do as many or as little of the 16 official sites as you like. Need to refuel en route? Stop in the North End — Boston’s oldest neighborhood with a labyrinth of narrow streets and today’s “Little Italy” – at one of the great bakeries or restaurants. Don’t miss Mike’s Pastry, legendary in these parts.
3. Tour Fenway Park
“Are you ready to see a beautiful ballpark?” Rick the guide asks as we stand outside America’s oldest and arguably most storied professional ball park. You’ll get shivers standing by the yellow Fisk Pole and learning of the ’75 series against the Big Red Machine: Game 6. Extra innings. Carlton Fisk belts one near the foul pole line. He stands at home plate, waves the ball fair. Church bells ring from Maine through New Hampshire. That’s the kind of sweet lore that goes with this place, where the Babe pitched, The Kid hit and Yaz dazzled. Tours are offered year-round and go mostly every hour from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. You sit in the oldest (grandstands) and most coveted (Green Mons-tah – no ‘R’s around here) seats in baseball, see the famous red seat, and one of the last remaining manually operated scoreboards. Just never admit to being a Yankees fan. “We select one and when we get to the Mons-tah seats, we throw them over,” jokes one guide.
4. Visit Faneuil Hall Marketplace – Quincy Market
A visit to Boston would not be complete without a visit to Faneuil Hall Marketplace, a gift to the city in 1742. With its cobblestone streets and long history, it’s so, so Boston. Once home to merchants, fishermen and produce sellers, it has provided a platform to famed orators and is where colonists protested the Sugar Act in 1764. Today, as you walk this history, you wander by a delightful mix of pushcarts, buskers, street theatre, shopping, and restaurants. One of Boston’s top attractions, Faneuil Hall is actually four places in one location – Faneuil Hall, Quincy Market, North Market and South Market, all set around a cobblestone promenade where jugglers, magicians and musicians entertain passers-by. The small fry may even be called into a busker’s act.
5. Take a Duck Tour
Quack. Quack. No joke. The Boston Duck Tours are seriously worth it. Not only do you cruise by sites like the golden-domed State House, Bunker Hill, and Boston Gardens, the in-character ConDUCKtors offer great insights into the city, from the first ragtag group of rebels to the Big Dig. The kid factor? “We will be quacking. They will quack at you. We’ll quack back. We’ll do it all together. My magic word is ‘Hip Hop,’ our conDUCKtor, M.C. History says. Bonus? Where else can kids drive a Duck? Drivers let young passengers take the wheel of the original 1942 WWII style amphibious landing vehicle when its in the Charles River. The river gives wonderful views of the Boston and Cambridge skylines. And if you start your tour at the Museum of Science location you’re in a prime spot to discover this fascinating museum afterward.
6. Explore Boston’s Children’s Museum
You’ll hear a lot of “Mom! Look at me!” at this world-renowned facility on Congress Street that offers over 400 hands-on, minds-on exhibits. “Don’t touch,” is not a phrase you will ever hear in this bustling museum where kids ping-pong from one activity to the next. They can literally dance in the Arthur theme song (a personal favorite), rock climb, visit an art studio and touch, test, and play to their heart’s content. The facility also offers many parenting tips on helping children learn through play and exploration. Arriving early? Even the outdoor Harborside Walk promotes learning and fun. Play hopscotch or identify seabirds as you wait. Be sure to pack a lunch. There’s a large indoor lunch room or you can grab a table outside. The onsite Au Bon Pain offers fruits, salads, sandwiches and more. It’s reasonably priced and the café has free wifi.
7. Bike Beantown
For a completely different way to see the city, head over to Urban AdvenTours for the “Tour du Boston,” a two-and-a-half-hour family-friendly guided bike tour that starts in the historic North End, and winds its way to Charlestown, by the USS Constitution – the world’s oldest commissioned war ship, 1797; ‘Old Ironsides’ and the USS Constitution Museum are both free to visit – by Bunker Hill and the Charles River. The tour stays mainly on paved bike paths, and guides stop frequently to talk about landmarks. Trailers and baby seats are available, though not tandems or pull-along trailers. Participants should have some cycling skills – the tour is 16 kilometres. If you’d rather just take a bike out, rentals are $35 for 24 hours and include a lock and helmet. The tour is rated one of Boston’s best. “The fact you’re down in the streets, you’re going places no other tour can go,” says manager Barclay Bennett.
8. Grab Some Eats
Looking for a place to dine en famille? In Faneuil Hall, Durgin-Park is one of the oldest continuously running establishments in the country, offering a side order of history along with the main dining room for a meal with the family, and the Hideout, a place to visit with pals for a beer. M.J. O’Connor’s, an authentic, upscale Irish pub is great for lunch with Shirley Temples for the kids (a big hit!), and the best Shepherd’s pie my husband’s eaten. Big praise indeed.
9. Base Yourself in Back Bay
Hotel choices are aplenty, but for the best bet, base yourself in fashionable Back Bay. The Copley Square Hotel is a small Boston boutique hotel large on charm and friendly staff. It’s Boston’s second oldest hotel and offers such amenities as a complimentary wind-down evening glass of wine. The hotel is also next door to Shaw’s grocery – a great option for savings-conscious families. The historic Fairmont Copley Plaza is home to Canine Ambassador Catie Copley, the oh so civil Fairmont Gold level, and was the inspiration for the Suite Life of Zack and Cody. Both hotels are within walking distance of Fenway, Newbury Street, the Boston Commons and neighbour the Boston Public Library and the Copley T station. Copley Square itself is full of old-school architecture, the amazing Trinity Church, a farmer’s market, and the Boston Marathon’s Finish Line on Boylston Street.
10. Scream for Ice Cream at Emack and Bolio’s
If you want the true Boston ice cream experience, it doesn’t get much tastier than Emack and Bolio’s. Awards have come fast and furious for this ice cream shop regularly named to the Best of Boston lists, indeed one of the top ice cream shops in all New England. Locations are easily found around the city including on the Boston waterfront and trendy Newbury Street.