For most, Boston is a tourist destination deeply rooted in history and tradition. People come to stroll the old alleyways, learn of America's revolution, and take part in the amenities of a modern city. But I've lived here for 10 years now and for me the city's draw extends way beyond Fanueil Hall and the Freedom Trail. Boston offers some great outdoor opportunities for families as well as some excellent museums and parks, and many of them are FREE! A family trip to Boston doesn't have to be all about Red Sox hats and lobster pins. There is so much more to see here.
Did you know you can ski in Boston? Or that you can camp for only $6 dollars on islands with spectacular city views?
Of course I love the museums and shops as well, but it is Boston's outdoor secrets that really make the city special for me.
Visit The Harbor Islands
I am always amazed at how few people know about the Harbor Islands. I would come to Boston just for the islands alone!
34 Islands make up the National Park that is the Boston Harbor Islands, and all offer something different. These islands offer opportunities to swim, kayak, fish, sail, and participate in a variety of ranger guided tours and activities. You can visit and explore Civil War forts, prisons, and hospitals on Georges Island. Here your kids can wander as far as you'll let them.
A few years back I camped at these islands on the 4th of July watched the Boston fireworks from the beach - and for only $6 a night! The islands are hardly ever crowded and ferry transport is provided directly from downtown, a 10-20 minute trip, depending on the island.
If you're in Boston during the summer, then you need to make a visit to the Harbor Islands. The new headquarters has just been completed and is located right outside the Aquarium downtown. If you do plan on camping, note that it is rustic (carry in and carry out) and reservations are required.
Trek The Blue Hills
Just outside the city limits of Boston lies a 7,000 acre oasis for those who love hiking, biking, swimming and skiing. The Blue Hills Reservation offers everything for those looking for a quick getaway from the noise and pace of the city. Not many cities have such an extensive park that offers access to an animal refuge, skiing, swimming, ice skating, playgrounds, endless hiking and biking, magnificent skyline views and plenty of FREE space to explore.
You'll need a car to get to the Blue Hills, which are about a 10-15 minute drive from downtown Boston. But if the outdoors is your thing and your kids like exploring, this is a fantastic, quiet place to spend a day and see a different side of the city.
Visit Two Great Museums
Boston is full of museums and attractions, but if you're going to spend your money and visit some of Boston's big time attractions, then the Science and Children's museums are your best bets. Both offer massive collections of fun, interactive activities for kids and parents. If I had to pick one, I'd choose the Museum of Science just because it offers more and works a bit better for kids of all ages, but both are excellent. They can be pricey at $15-$25 per person, but keep a look out for deals and free days in the summer. And if you're visiting friends or family in Boston, ask them to get you some free passes from the local library branch as all Boston residents are able to get free or highly discounted passes to most local museums and attractions.
Bike The Emerald Necklace
The Emerald Necklace is Boston's greatest city treasure. A 1,000 acre string of of parks and playlands that include the Boston Common, The Franklin Park Zoo, the nation's first (and spectacular) Arboreteum, the Public Gardens, as well as streams, ponds, golf courses, wading pools, historical landmarks, and tons of trails. If you're looking to explore the city of Boston, this is the best way to do it. Follow the necklace and you will visit numerous historical neighborhoods including Fenway, Jamaica Plain, and the Back Bay.
Boston has an excellent new bike-share program that allows you to rent a bike at kiosks throughout the city, or you might want to try a tour with Urban Adventours. Of course you can walk as well, but my kids and I love the bikes.
Eat and Lounge At Castle Island Park
Castle Island is a local place. Tourists don't usually go there, but who says you're a tourist?
It's old school, and if you want to experience some local Boston culture with your kids, then this is where you go.
Hot dogs, fries, and ice cream are must-haves at the legendary Sullivans. The park, which sits on the Boston Harbor and offers striking views of the city, provides access to Fort Independence, fishing piers, playgrounds and swimming. Watch the old timers stroll and the babies play in the sand. Listen for the accents. Fly a kite. Watch the planes soar in for landing just feet above your head. It's all fun, and it's all free - except the hot dogs!
I don't know what it is about Castle Island. It reminds me and a lot of others how things used to be; it takes you to another place. This is where you will see every type of person on a short stroll around the fort and they will all be smiling as they lick their ice cream.
You should take a car to Castle Island. Bus service is available, but it will take a while. If you don't have a car, a cab ride should be around $10 from downtown.
This article is part of a series of posts from bloggers all over the world who are sharing their top 5 favorite places to visit in their hometowns with their kids. Make sure you check the links below to see some other kid-friendly favorites from around the world.
And please feel free to SIGN UP HERE and get all our posts and articles delivered via email.