Boston With Kids: A Real Family-Friendly Destination

Boston With Kids: A Real Family-Friendly Destination

By Jacqueline Church

Kids play on the statues in the Boston Public Gardens inpired by Robert McCloskey's children's book, 'Make Way for Ducklings'
Kids play on the statues in the Boston Public Gardens inpired by Robert McCloskey’s children’s book, ‘Make Way for Ducklings.’

Sure, there’s lots of history here. The Freedom Trail, the historic battles, the Old North Church, Paul Revere’s ride… but what else can you find in Boston? Blue men, enormous swans, and a green monster. How about whales, seals, and robots? It’s all here.

Here are a few tips for the whole family, for those with kids under 12 and for the difficult tweeners and teens.


1. Boston is a kid-friendly town. There’s a lot to do and a GoBoston Card can help. It’s a credit card sized card that you carry which includes admission to the Boston area’s most popular attractions.

2. History of all sorts is alive here, whatever your interest. Salem witch trials? Christian Science Mother Church? Graves of our founding mothers and fathers?

3. Explore our African American history with the Black Heritage Trail tour, a walking tour that explores the history of Boston’s 19th century African American community.

2. Characters Galore: How about a woman who walked her pet tiger in downtown Boston while her Italianate home was being built to house her growing art collection? (Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum)

3. Kids under 12 get discounted admission in many places and ride the T (our subway system) for free when accompanied by adults.

4. Start at the Top – Prudential Tower’s Skywalk. Get a bird’s eye view of the city before you explore the rest.

Boston Duck Tours are taken on amphibious vehicles from World War II
Boston Duck Tours are taken on amphibious vehicles from World War II

5. Check out the Boston Public Library for events, activities and discounted passes to many of the city’s museums.

Things the Whole Family Can Enjoy

Boston Duck Tours – amphibious vehicles, entertaining driver/guides, and a chance to see Boston from the streets and the Charles River in the same bus! This is fun for kids of all ages (though some tweeners and teens might be mortified. Try letting them bring same-aged friends.)

Blue Man Group – Some of the jokes will go over the heads of the young ones, and some of the gags are directed at them. All ages enjoy this show. It’s a really fun, multi-sensory experience. (Charles Playhouse.)

Mapparium – Walk through a three-story tall glass globe at the Mary Baker Eddy Mapparium. A glass footbridge takes you right through the center of the globe as it was in 1935. Learn about Mary Baker Eddy the founder of the The Christian Science Monitor and an early leader of the new church called “Christian Science”.

The Jack Snyder Frog Pond on Boston Common
The Jack Snyder Frog Pond on Boston Common

Whale Watches – Boston lies near the Stellwagen bank, feeding ground for several species of whales. Summer is a great time to view them. The New England Aquarium has a high speed boat with full concessions and on-board naturalists and educators. The older ones might gripe a bit, but as soon as the first whale swims up to the boat, that will stop.

Activities for Tweeners and Teens

Peabody Essex Museum – A short train ride from the city, the museum has interesting exhibits such as the Art of Maori Tattoo exhibit there now. Nearby are relics of the witch trials and that darker historical period that might appeal to the teens, especially.

No visit to Boston in summer would be complete without a ride on the Swan Boats on the pond in the Boston Public Gardens.
No visit to Boston in summer would be complete without a ride on the Swan Boats on the pond in the Boston Public Gardens.

Peer into the future at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Its museum is one not enough people get to see featuring exhibits on robots, holograms, artificial intelligence.

The IMAX Theater has shows for all ages. Sea Monsters in 3D. How about a U2 Concert? U23D!

A Fenway Park Tour is great for all ages. – Even if you can’t score tickets to a game, a tour of the park is a great idea. It’s right in the heart of the city, full of history and interesting enough even for less than die-hard fans.

Berklee School of Music has a student run coffee house that showcases a broad range of music. It anchors one end of the trendy Newbury Street with loads of hip stores for the 13-going-on-30 crew.

For Families with Kids Under 12 Boston is Fantastic

The Children’s Museum, The Museum of Science and the New England Aquarium all provide first rate entertaining and educational fun for families with young children. You can even go out on a whale watch from the Aquarium.

See the ducks from Make Way for Ducklings, play in the fountains along the new Rose Kennedy Greenway or at the Christian Science Mother Church.

Kids admire Myrtle the Sea Turtle at the New England Aquarium.
Kids admire Myrtle the Sea Turtle at the New England Aquarium

Other ideas:

Arnold Arboretum – If you have a gardener in the family. Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum has a Bonsai collection, lilacs, hikes and tours. Trees to climb, birds to watch.

Judson B. Coit Observatory – Public open nights. Summers are Wednesdays at 8:30, weather permitting. See things you’d rarely get to see from this Boston University Observatory’s telescopes.

Afternoon Tea – Many of the local hotels offer “high tea.” Take a civilized afternoon tea with savory and sweet treats, and champagne and sherry for grown-ups.

Swan Boats – A walk in the park in the Boston Public Gardens is like no other. Constantly changing gardens in bloom surround the ponds that are home to swan boats and live ducks.

The Museum of Fine Arts is a place where adults can browse for days at a time, but there’s lot for kids to enjoy, too. The MFA provides interactive activities, books, and drawing materials to take into the galleries, and they have self-paced activities designed for children and adults to enjoy together..

Take an ice cream break – Boston once had the reputation for having more bookstores per capita than any other city. We still rank high in that regard, but now we’re # 1 in ice cream consumption. Plenty of good, local ice cream to be had.

Trips outside the city:

If you want to get out of the city there’s lots to do within a ferry ride or a short drive. The islands dotting the harbor have different things to offer and Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard are full of their own charm. Getting there takes a little more effort but might be well worth it if you have the time and money to add them to your itinerary.

Experience a roller coaster ride or a day in the life of a pilgrim. Plimouth Plantation or Old Sturbridge Village – step back in time, watch history come alive.


GoBoston Card

The Freedom Trail

Kids can learn about colonial life at Old Sturbridge Village (pictured) and Plimouth Plantation.
Kids can learn about colonial life at Old Sturbridge Village (pictured) and Plimouth Plantation.

Children’s Museum

Museum of Science

New England Aquarium

Black Heritage Trail

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Prudential Tower’s Skywalk

Boston Public Library

Boston Duck Tours

Blue Man Group

Mary Baker Eddy Mapparium

Whale Watches

Peabody Essex Museum

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Museum

IMAX Theater

Fenway Park Tour

Berklee School of Music

Jacqueline Church

Jacqueline Church is a freelance writer, cook and traveler who has eaten her way across several countries including China, Japan, Italy, Germany, Chile, Ecuador, Peru, Argentina, and more. She climbed Machu Picchu, walked icebergs in Antarctica, and explored a shipwreck 100 feet below the waters of Curacao. She has yet to fulfill her dream of filling a passport before it expires, but she vows to keep trying. Read her blog and her gourmet food column.

Read more GoNOMAD stories by Jacqueline Church:

New Orleans is Back and Better Than Ever

Boston’s Chinatown: An Uncommon Treasure

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