My Top 5 Things To Do In Boston With Kids

 

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!

 

The Boston Harbor Islands

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.

 

Exploring The Blue Hills

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.

 

Climbing the structure at the Children's Museum

Both the Museum of Science and the Children's Museum of Boston are easily accessible by local transport.

 

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.

 

Biking The Emerald Necklace Of Boston

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.

 

Fort Independence at Castle Island

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.


Antigua, Guatemala - Raising Miro  |  Washington D.C., USA - Susan Verbeek  |  Thailand - The Dropout Diaries

Ambergris Caye, Belize - A King's Life  |  Brisbane, Australia - Our Travel Lifestyle  |  Fethiye, Turkey - Ramblecrunch

New York City, USA - A Minor Diversion  |  London - Travels With A Nine Year Old  |  Costa Rica - Bohemian Travelers

Isreal - The Nomadic Family  |  The Netherlands - Act Of Traveling  |  Seattle, USA - WalkingOn Travels

Michigan, USA - Wandering Educators  |  Vancouver, BC - With 2 Kids In Tow  |  Kingston, Ontario - The Edventure Project

Lake Chapala, Mexico - Living Outside The Box Central Australia - Wandering Photographer  |  Southern Australia - Livin On The Road

 
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33 Comments

  1. I've always wanted to visit Boston--now if we do, we've got this great list! Thanks for the wonderful ideas.
    with2kidsintow recently posted..Our 5 Favourite Winter Activities For Families In Vancouver

    • You got it! Don't miss these, you won't find most of them on the tourist trail, but they are awesome!

  2. Great list! I haven't been to Boston in years but can't wait to get back with my toddler to check out these places. Oh and eat some great Italian food. I still dream about a hole in the wall place I found in the North End (beach? - I can never remember.) Off to read about more kid activities around the world!
    walkingon travels recently posted..Five Favorite Places for Kids in Seattle

    • North end is great! There are some many good holes in walls there!

      If we are still here next time you come we will find it with you!

  3. Cool islands!! Now you've put Boston on my to-do list (because after all, my childhood memory of visiting is just lobster and ball caps)...that is...IF I ever return to the states for a vacation!!! :-)

  4. I have wanted to visit Boston for so long and haven't made it yet. This is a great list to add to the historical spots that I want to see. Some day soon I'm going to get to your beautiful city!
    Lisa recently posted..The Gardens of Peterhof Palace

    • Come in the summer or fall Lisa! The best time to explore these areas. If we are still here, I'll be happy to show you around!

  5. Justin,
    These Harbor islands look stunning! That would be a great destination alone for sure. And yes, the biking would definitely be on our list (wherever we can get our hands on some bikes, we're on it!).
    Great list and great project, congratulations!
    Emiel
    Emiel recently posted..My 5 favorite places in the Netherlands to explore with kids

    • They are awesome. I wanted to write a whole piece on them, but I need better photos. Some day! They are the best and most underused area of Boston!

      And thanks for the notes on The Netherlands - Great!

  6. I loved seeing this post. I lived in Boston when I was little, so I was looking to remember places I had been. Those museums were great even then.

    • Thanks Amy! You remember the museums? They are great for kids. And they are free for us so we go all the time. Spoiled!

      • Yeah, I remember them. I have quite a few clear memories of Boston. The nursery school I went to (White Wings) and the museums are among my clearest memories.

        The museums in Boston were much much better then than the museums in Melbourne, Australia at the same time. The schools were better equipped in Boston, too. I was sooooo disappointed coming back to Melbourne and going to a preschool here. The facilities were terrible in comparison to Boston. Of course, I have no idea what they are like now, 25 years later. Boston definitely was a great city, and quite a similar feel to Melbourne.
        Amy recently posted..Photo Friday - Desert Botanical Gardens

        • I think Boston is only getting better. 25 years ago was the race riots. It was crazy then. But now, it is a green city on the way up. I think it's as good as it's been.

          Those museums are probably the same! They have always been good.

  7. what a fantastic list- i had no idea about the islands. thank you!
    wandering educators recently posted..Discovering Scandinavia

    • They are great! There are so many and different stuff on all of them. And little 10 passenger shuttles between each. Awesome!

  8. What an amazing post! As someone who has visited Boston often I cannot believe I didn't know of any of these spots. Next time I am in New England I think a trip to Boston is in order! Come to think of it none of my boys have ever been so I guess it has been about 15 years for me as well! Great pics, thanks!
    Mary recently posted..5 best places for kids in Costa Rica

    • Yeah Mary, there is so much more off the tourist path. It can be expensive to stay here, but if you camp on these islands for $6 a day, that makes it about as cheap as anywhere.

  9. Wooooooooooooow! Never heard of the Harbor Islands. They look beautiful! The Emerald Necklace seems awesome as well. Gotta love Boston! Beautiful city. I miss it! Gotta get back there! Don't forget the great food as well! Great article!

    • It's great man. They have little boats that take you everywhere. You can explore all the old prisons with no restrictions. The water is warm and it is very close to the city.

  10. Great post. I've only been to the East Coast of the US once, for about a week. I spent a couple days in Boston and absolutely loved it. LOVED it. These activities all sound like great things to do.

    Bookmarking this post in the hopes we get back there soon.
    Renee — ramblecrunch recently posted..5 (Well, 6) Great Activities for Kids in Fethiye, Turkey

  11. Been to Boston a few times, but not with the kids. The islands and the museums look very interesting. I was about to do a wintry 'Oslo with kids' post. Will make it a top 5 and find out more about the series :)
    Sophie recently posted..From Aberystwyth With Love

  12. I want to do all of those things. They sound wonderful. I'd only ever heard of the history/tradition attractions that Boston has to offer. Somehow I think I'll be skipping some of those in favour of those islands and parks. And ice cream ... lets not forget the appeal of ice cream

    • Ice cream? Oh yeah, I guess Boston is like the world capital for ice cream. It is like water for us so I forget. Everyone makes ice cream here now. People make it at home and package it to stores. There is an ice cream store at my back window. It's everywhere here. Make sure your body is prepared!

  13. Boston is so awesome, I used to visit it 3 times a year and no my brother lives there.

    However, it was all BK (before kids). Even though my brother lives there, we seem to be moving further and further away from Boston which makes the traveling with small kids just too hard and since we have summer break during your winter, it's too cold!

  14. Learned some new things based on your article ! Never knew about that Castle on the Island. We have family in the Boston area and they never told us about these great spots! ( then again they don't have kids ). Thanks for the good info !
    Susan Verbeeck recently posted..Five Favorite Places to Visit with Kids in Washington D.C. USA

  15. I don't typically think of Boston as a "green" place to visit, however reading your list of activities including the Harbor Island, The Blue Hills, and Emerald Necklace makes me re consider. Thanks for the great insights!
    Mary @ Green Global Travel recently posted..YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK- Day 5 Photo Gallery

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