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Kids in the City: Boston
Navigating Boston with kids on a family vacation
This kid-centric tour of Boston is brought to you by Nancy Solomon, who blogs about traveling with her four children at Ciao Bambino. The helpful tips were first published on Expedia in 2012 as part of the “Kids in the City” summer travel campaign, which highlighted family-friendly urban destinations throughout the United States.
Summer is a great time to explore Boston. Whether you visit for the rich history, the outstanding food, or the fun kids’ activities, Boston is sure to educate and entertain. With “wicked” funny accents, authentic neighborhoods, beautiful parks, many museums, and professional sporting events, Boston appeals to all ages. The compact nature of the city makes walking a breeze, with the majority of the attractions grouped near the Waterfront and Back Bay.
Here are some of my family’s favorite places to go, stay, and eat in Beantown.
What to do with kids in Boston
Boston Duck Tours. There are many sightseeing excursions in Boston, but nothing beats the Duck Tours for a family-friendly overview of the city. Your kids will be involved from the beginning, hearing funny stories laced with historical details, “quacking” at people on the street, and playing captain while cruising on the Charles River. To avoid a long wait, make a reservation.
Museum of Science. Appealing to toddlers and teens alike, this museum hosts informative and interactive exhibits such as huge dinosaur replicas, a butterfly garden, a planetarium, an IMAX theatre, and more. We love the electricity show and the tamarin monkeys. For younger children, explore in the Discovery Center, a separate section designed specifically for kids up to age 8.
Boston’s Children’s Museum. With bubble stations, climbing structures, water tables, a car racing station, and climbing structures, the Children’s Museum is popular with all ages. Babies and toddlers have their own section in which they can crawl around safely. A glass façade allows for sweeping views of Boston Harbor.
New England Aquarium. Centered around a 200,000-gallon tank, the aquarium allows you to get inches from sharks, turtles, eels, and giant fish. There are adorable penguins and seals, plus a shark and ray touch-tank. This stop is easy and a perfect launching point for either the North End or Faneuil Hall. There are also some more off-the-beaten-path options at the wharf, such as whale watching, ferries to the Harbor Islands, or a ride on Codzilla. To cool off, cross the street to the pop-up water fountain; just plan to get wet!
Faneuil Hall. An open-air market with shops, cafes, and entertainment, this is a perfect place to grab an easy meal. My kids always have loved the street entertainers and live music performances. With more than 35 food stalls and a dozen restaurants, Faneuil Hall has something for even the pickiest eaters. Look for special events the week before July 4, when all of Boston celebrates Harborfest!
The Freedom Trail. With 16 stops in all, the 2.5-mile walking Freedom Trail covers many of the city’s historical sites, including Charlestown Navy Yard and the Old North Church. For younger children, consider Boston By Foot’s “Little Feet” tour. Older kids may enjoy the Urban Adventure Bike Tours.
Boston Common. The country’s oldest botanical garden is a perfect location to picnic, play, cool off (in Frog Pond’s splash fountain), and take part in some precious pieces of Bostonian culture. Climb on Mrs. Mallard, a statue of the duck from the story, Make Way for Ducklings. Then, take a peaceful ride on the Swan Boats. Younger kids will enjoy the Tadpole playground and the carousel. For some shopping or lunch, head over to nearby Newbury or Boylston Streets to the many restaurants and boutiques. Older kids may want to check out the nearby Skywalk or the Mapparium topped off by high tea at The Four Seasons Boston or The Taj.
Fenway Park. Fenway Park is a highlight for any sports fanatic. Go to a game to watch the Red Sox, or sign up for the behind-the-scenes tour, which offers historical insight about the park and a chance to stand on the Green “Monsta” itself. Check the official Red Sox website for details.
Arts. Have a budding art aficionado in the family? The Museum of Fine Arts, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and The Institute of Contemporary Art offer vast selections of art. Boston also has many excellent theatre companies, including some specific to families, such as Boston Children’s Theatre and the Wheelock Family Theatre.
Where to stay with kids in Boston
Boston Harbor Hotel. Located right on the harbor, this iconic Boston hotel is a perfect family spot. The water taxi comes up to its dock, and during the summer the property offers live music on its terrace overlooking the harbor. Rooms can be pricey, but they also are spacious and the service is superb.
Seaport Boston Hotel. By being just a few blocks off the main street, in the hip Fort Point Channel area, you are able to save a bit on room charges while getting a very family-friendly hotel. My kids loved the indoor pool with music piped in underwater. Another bonus: This hotel is just footsteps from the Children’s Museum.
Intercontinental Boston. This sleek hotel offers a more modern option with a luxurious feel, right on the waterfront and Harborwalk. The indoor pool and gym are beautiful. There’s an outdoor terrace and small grassy area overlooking the harbor to enjoy with the kids.
Four Seasons Boston. A historic establishment in Boston, this upscale property is situated right on Boston Common, with beautiful views and outstanding service. Fun pint-sized amenities such as backpacks and an ice-cream sundae cart keep kiddos smiling.
Hotel Marlowe. Just across the Charles River in Cambridge (and next to the Museum of Science) is the welcoming Hotel Marlowe. Complimentary telescopes to look over at the Boston skyline, in-room goldfish, and kayaks to cruise the Charles are just some of the amenities that make this a family-favorite hotel.
Viewfinder Tip: Save room for dessert after eating a meal in the North End. Pastry shops line the narrow streets of this historic neighborhood.
Where to eat with kids in Boston
Flour Bakery. Pastry chef and owner Joanne Chang-Myers is one of Boston’s best new chefs. This family-friendly bakery and restaurant with multiple locations has developed a cult following, serving fresh, organic salads, artisan sandwiches, and fabulous baked goods. Homemade Oreos, sticky buns, meringues, and croissants are artistic and insanely delicious here.
North End. This ethnic Italian neighborhood is top on my list every time I am downtown. Lined with restaurants, it’s an authentic atmosphere through and through. Regina Pizzeria is an all-time highlight. For pasta, head to Monica’s Restaurant; for dessert, top off the day with a cannoli (or a sfogliatelle) from Mike’s Pastry shop. Also, Salumeria and Depasquale’s, fabulous Italian markets, are perfect for stocking up on picnic supplies. If you are lucky, you also can catch a summer festival in the North End.
Durgin-Park. Established in 1826, this historic eatery in Faneuil Hall offers New England food, shared tables, and brash servers. Around the corner is Union Oyster House, another Boston institution.
Legal Seafood. With many locations throughout the city, this seafood restaurant consistently delivers outstanding meals with high-quality, fresh ingredients. It’s casual enough to bring the kids.
Stephanie’s on Newbury. This little restaurant has been my daughter’s favorite spot since she was three. Chefs have coined their fare “sophisticated comfort food,” and items such as artichoke dip and lobster roll are worth ordering. The outdoor area is the perfect spot to sit and people watch.
What are your favorite things to do in Boston with kids?
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