As befitting one of America’s most populous cities, Boston has a huge amount to offer families with children of all ages and tastes. Whether your kids are old enough to appreciate historical attractions such as the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum, or simply need plenty of space to run around, you’ll never be short of fun things to do with you family.
In short, Boston is the perfect place for a family vacation, offering a mix of kid friendly activities and attractions that will keep your little ones entertained while offering parents a chance to enjoy the city too. If you’re still in any doubt, check out our list below of 20 of the best things to do with toddlers, babies and older kids across Boston.
Get inspired at Boston Children’s Museum
Established over 100 years ago by a group of local science teachers, the Children’s Museum has grown to become a shining beacon of education and inspiration for kids, offering a huge variety of interactive and hands-on experiences. The centerpiece of the museum is the New Balance Foundation Climb, a twisty, turning three-story climbing structure made of serpentine wires and curved plywood sails. Other highlights include the Kid Power exhibit, complete with climbing wall, bikes and an interactive light-up dance floor to stomp on.
LOCATION 308 Congress Street HOURS Mon-Sun 10am-5pm
Build bricks at Legoland Discovery Center
Another hugely popular indoor attraction for families is this temple of interlocking plastic bricks known universally as lego. Curated to appeal to kids from ages 3 to 10, Legoland Discovery Center is located a few miles northwest of Boston in the town of Somerville and includes fun-packed rides, a 4D cinema, Master Model Builder workshops and plenty more. You can also marvel at iconic attractions from Boston and surrounding areas made entirely from lego.
LOCATION 598 Assembly Row, Somerville HOURS Sun-Thurs 10am-7pm; Fri-Sat 10am-8pm
Discover the story of the Boston Tea Party
In 1773 Boston was the scene of an event that changed the course of American history and visitors to the city are invited to step back in time and explore a museum dedicated to this notorious episode. On the interactive Boston Tea Party Museum tour you’ll meet live characters, see authentically restored tea ships, and learn about the people and events leading up to the American Revolution. Tickets can be purchased in advance at GetYourGuide.com.
Take to the seas for a whale watching tour
New England’s marine life is some of the most abundant anywhere in America and among the creatures that can be spotted in the waters are magnificent whales. A number of (weather dependent) whale watching trips take place daily, such as this one with Viator.com which takes you onto the high seas via a high-speed catamaran. As well as humpback whales, also look out for Atlantic white-sided dolphins and harbour porpoises. An expert guide will be on hand during the trip to answer your questions and help you look out for the tell-tale signs of nearby sea life.
Traverse Boston by land and water on a Duck Tour
There’s no more fun and quirky way of travelling around Boston than by “DUCK”, a World War II-style amphibious vehicle that explores the city streets before taking to the water. Accompanied all the while by an amusingly named ConDUCKtor (a friendly and knowledgeable guide), you’ll cruise by all the places that have helped make Boston famous down the years while hearing fascinating tales and facts about the city. But the pièce de résistance of your Duck Tour comes when you splash down into the Charles River, where you’ll get to enjoy breaktaking views of the Boston skyline from the water. The tour runs for approximately 80 minutes and is offered daily, departing from The Museum of Science, New England Aquarium, or Huntington Avenue. Tickets can be purchased at Viator.com.
Enjoy some animal magic at Franklin Park Zoo
With all types of animals and amazing exhibits to explore, Franklin Park Zoo is designed to spark imaginative play and a love for creatures large and small. Located a few miles outside of central Boston, the zoo is a true oasis with beautifully landscaped grounds, majestic creatures and cuddly critters. There’s also a new Children’s Zoo that’s full of interactive play areas and a thought-provoking exhibition that lets visitors discover different ecosystems or “neighborhoods,” including Grasslands, Woodlands, Wetlands and Thicket.
LOCATION 1 Franklin Park Road HOURS Mon-Fri 10am-5pm; Sat-Sun 10am-6pm
Marvel at aquatic nature at New England Aquarium
Another great Boston venue for animal enthusiasts is the New England Aquarium, which has a global reputation for its contribution to ocean exploration and marine conservation. Indeed, more than 1.3 million visitors descend here each year to enjoy its spell-binding assortment of marine life. The focal point of the venue is the Giant Ocean Tank, a 200,000 gallon tank simulating a Caribbean coral reef that houses bonnethead sharks, sea turtles, stingrays, barracuda, and many smaller reef-living fish. Visits to the aquarium are included in the Boston CityPASS, a ticket booklet that gives you admission to a hand-picked collection of city attractions at great savings.
LOCATION 1 Central Wharf HOURS Sat-Tues 9am-6pm; Weds-Fri 9am-5pm
Cast your eye across the city at Skywalk Observatory
Boston’s skyline is something to behold and if you’re seeking a vantage point from which to enjoy it then you won’t find anywhere better than the Skywalk Observatory. The glassed-in walkway high atop the Prudential building offers a 360-degree perspective from a height of 750 feet, and on a clear day you can see as far as 80 miles in any direction. Audio guides that help you pick out the sites far below are also available.
LOCATION 800 Boylston Street HOURS Mon-Sun 10am-10pm
Get in the festival spirit
Boston and its surroundings play host to an impressive number of festivals each year. One of the most popular is Harborfest, featuring hundreds of activities over Independence Day weekend. The event is in fact the country’s largest Fourth of July Festival, with activities taking place across the city, including an opening ceremony at Faneuil Hall, historical reenactments, Freedom Trail walks, boat tours, live entertainment and more. Levitate Music & Arts Festival, meanwhile, is a family-friendly grassroots music and arts festival taking place about an hour outside Boston in the town of Mashfield. The event features roots, reggae, folk rock and funk music and there’s also a number of food trucks and vendor tents serving up delectable treats as well as momentos and souvenirs to take away with you. There are tons of fun activities for kids too.
LOCATION Venues across Boston DATES 28 June-4 July
Levitate Music and Arts Festival
LOCATION Marshfield Fairgrounds, 140 Main Street DATES 7-8 July
Tickle your tastebuds
If you’re a seafood loving family there’s only one place in Boston to head and that’s Jasper White’s Summer Shack. Owned by the eponymous chef Jasper White, recognised as one of the world’s leading authorities on New England food, Summer Shack cooks up mouth-watering food fresh from the Atlantic, including a rotating selection of oysters. Or if, like most kids, your little ones have a sweet tooth, then treat them to a trip to Max Brenner, where they can sample a huge range of chocolate & related novelties including decadent pastries, creamy fondue and thick milkshakes. Even the décor and ambience here are chocolate-themed.
Jasper White’s Summer Shack
LOCATION 149 Alewife Brook Parkway, Cambridge HOURS Mon-Sat 11.30am-11pm; Sun 11am-11pm
LOCATION 745 Boylston Street HOURS Mon-Thurs 10am-11pm; Fri 10am-1am; Sat 9am-1am; Sun 9am-11pm
Run riot in Christopher Columbus Park
If you follow the Freedom Trail to the North End, you’ll reach this superb waterfront park where there’s a playground and water spray for your kids’ entertainment. Before and after school the park is awash with school group tours, so early morning or late afternoon are certainly the best times to come. There’s also plenty of eye-candy for the grown ups too, with a pristine landscaped garden and spectacular views across to the harbour.
Feel the wind in your hair on a Boston bike tour
Families travelling with slightly older kids may fancy the idea of exploring Boston and beyond on four wheels. If so, the perfect child-friendly tour for you is Tour de Boston, which invites you to take a leisurely ride across the city and its outer boundaries, taking in the area’s most scenic attractions along the way. A fitted helmet, bicycle, water and the services of a friendly experienced guide are included in the price. Tours are run by Urban AdvenTours.
Board a Swan Boat on Boston’s Public Garden pond
One of the most eagerly awaited moments of the year in Boston is when the weather warms up and the famous human-peddled swan boats reappear on the Boston Public Garden lagoon. A regular fixture in Boston since way back in 1970, taking a ride on a swan boat is the perfect relaxing activity to enjoy with your kids, with rides lasting about 12-15 minutes while the driver pedals you around the tranquil waters of the pond. Each boat can accommodate up to 20 guests at a time.
LOCATION 4 Charles Street HOURS Mon-Sun 10am-4pm
Get back to nature at Boston Harbor Islands
Whether it’s camping, hiking, fishing, beaches, boating or lighthouse tours that take your fancy, Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area is a veritable treasure trove of outdoor fun. With beautiful vistas every which way you turn, this magical area about 8 miles outside of the city centre offers the perfect chance for you and the family to escape the hustle and bustle of the metropolis and get in touch with New England at its natural best.
LOCATION 191w Atlantic Avenue
Let loose on Boston’s Esplanade
Boston’s Esplanade is a perpetual hum of activity, with a regular programme of events including concerts, fireworks and regattas taking place in the leafy park that stretches along the Charles River.It’s also a popular spot with families thanks to its three child-friendly playgrounds and numerous bike paths. There’s even sailing lessons for teens available on the water nearby.
Join the family fun at Fenway Park
Best known for being home to the Boston Red Sox baseball team, Fenway Park is also one of the city’s most family friendly venues. During games at the ball park parents can put their kids in Wally’s Clubhouse, a designated children’s area featuring coordinated games and activities, face Painting, magician acts, a toddler play area and plenty more, while they enjoy the action. There are also tons of other kid-themed events and activities, including the chance for under-14s to live out their dream by running the bases after games.
LOCATION 4 Jersey Street HOURS Mon-Sun 7.15am-7pm
Gaze at the stars at the Museum of Science
Boston’s Museum of Science aims to make science accessible for kids of all ages through a wealth of hands-on activities and engaging exhibits. Perhaps the stand-out attraction is the Charles Hayden Planetarium – named after an American philanthropist who helped finance the venue – where the Zeiss Star Projector reproduces a realistic night sky dotted with dazzling stars. There’s also an IMAX cinema, a café helmed by celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck and a spectacular view of the river from the back of the museum.
Shop while the kids play at CouCou
A children’s clothing boutique may not be an obvious choice for a family-friendly attraction, but CouCou isn’t just an ordinary retail store. Nestled in Boston’s charming South End district, the beautifully decorated boutique not only sells a wide selection of uniquely curated children’s products from around the world, but also hosts a kid’s playroom and classes to keep your little ones entertained while you peruse the goods.
LOCATION 24 Union Park Street HOURS Tues-Sat 10.30am-6pm; Sun 11am-5pm; Closed Mon