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My adopted home city of Boston, Massachusetts is home to many kid-friendly museums and attractions. Filled with history, culture, and beautiful scenery, it’s definitely a place you’ll want to add to your family travel bucket list. Are you planning a visit to Boston? There are so many things to see and do here, you could easily spend more than a week. Here are our recommendations of things to do in Boston with kids.
The Best Things to Do in Boston With Kids
Boston Children’s Museum
When my kids were young, we were members at the Boston Children’s Museum, because members can visit an hour early on the weekends (glorious, because it helps you avoid the crowds). With our kids already waking up early, this was a huge benefit.
If you aren’t a member, you’ll definitely want arrive early, or during a weekday, for smaller crowds. Highlights include the New Balance Climb (which runs through the center of the museum) and the Japanese House. We typically spent about a half day at the museum, but you could easily find yourself there all day if you visit everything.
Ever since I visited the Boston Museum of Science numerous times as a Girl Scout, it’s been one of my favorite places in Boston. With the Mugar Omni Theater and Hayden Planetarium, as well as countless fabulous exhibits and hands on activities, plan to be there for most of the day. Parking is expensive, so consider taking public transportation if possible. When purchasing tickets, you’ll be able to purchase combo tickets that include at least one of the shows.
In addition to the exhibits, the Boston Museum of Science offers a large gift shop and plenty of food options for families. If you want to spend the day there, you won’t need to leave to eat. Older children will also love this museum – I loved going even as a teen.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Although on the surface, you wouldn’t necessarily think of the Museum of Fine Arts as kid friendly, my children have loved their visits there. They offer lots of family-friendly programming, especially during school breaks, and kids always love the mummy exhibit. The MFA is located on the MBTA Green Line E Branch if you’d rather not drive.
The New England Aquarium is located right on Boston’s beautiful waterfront. It gets very busy, especially during school vacations, so arrive early for the best experience. Purchasing timed tickets online is a good way to skip the line. Combo tickets, which include both the aquarium and the IMAX theater, are also available. If you’d like to go on a whale watch during your Boston family vacation, you can also get a combination ticket that includes both the aquarium and a Boston Harbor Cruise Whale Watch.
The highlight is definitely the expansive penguin exhibit, but there’s lots of other fun things to see during your visit. If you visit in the summer, you’ll be able to enjoy some of the outdoor exhibits as well.
The Puppet Showplace Theater in Brookline, right on the Green line, is a fun place to visit with kids. My kids loved puppets when they were younger, and they really love attending the shows at the theater. It’s so kid-friendly, and the shows change weekly. Adults are asked to sit along the sides, so all of the kids can see the action. Book your tickets in advance because the theater isn’t very big.
While the theater isn’t located right in Boston, it is easily accessed by riding on the MBTA’s Green Line D branch.
No visit to Boston is complete without a stop at the nation’s first public park – Boston Common, located right in downtown Boston. In the winter, the frog pond transforms into an ice skating rink, which is a really fun place to visit with kids. Even if you don’t want to skate, it’s worth walking by to see the action.
Adjacent to the Boston Common is the Boston Public Garden, where you can see the famous Make Way for Ducklings statue (from the beloved children’s book), and ride a swan boat (in season). Visit a nearby deli and pack a picnic to eat outside if the weather is cooperating.
The Boston Harbor Islands, officially part of the City of Boston, are a great place to visit in the summer. Catch a ferry to one of the islands from the ferry terminal on Long Wharf, and spend the day, or an afternoon. There are several different islands that are accessible by passenger ferry, so research online before going so you can choose which one you’d like to visit.
America’s oldest working Major League ballpark is definitely a must-see for any baseball fans. If there are no home games scheduled during your visit, you can still go on a tour of Fenway Park.
Faneuil Hall/Quincy Market
Although it’s filled with chain stores in addition to independent stores and kiosks, it’s still worth visiting Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market. Various street performers can be seen outside on a nice day, and there are lots of restaurants to choose from if you’d like to grab lunch or dinner during your vacation.
Boston is home to a vibrant arts community, so if you are interested in the arts, you’ll probably find something that you’ll want to see playing during your trip. From pre-Broadway runs of shows (recent shows include Waitress, Jagged Little Pill, and Moulin Rouge) to traveling shows, there’s usually at least one Broadway style musical.
Running continuously is the Blue Man Group, which is kid-friendly.
The Freedom Trail
If you want to learn more about the American Revolution and US history, you’ll want to watch the famous Freedom Trail. You can walk it on your own, but I’d recommend taking one of the many walking tours offered. A full walk of the Freedom Trail will take you to the USS Constitution in Charlestown as well as the Bunker Hill monument.
These famous boats are extremely popular in the summer. First, you’ll get a tour of the city by land, and then you’ll head into the Charles River for a boat ride. These do book up in advance in the summer, so get your tickets early.
My kids love eating at the Boston location of this small chain. There are lots of different food options you can choose from, although my kids always like getting the pizza and gelato.
Franklin Park Zoo
If you’d like to visit a zoo during your vacation, Boston is home to the Franklin Park Zoo. This 72 acre zoo offers a number of animal exhibits. You can probably visit over a few hours.
Road trips from Boston
During your Boston family vacation, you may also want to get into your car and take a brief road trip to these nearby destinations.
Legoland Discovery Center
Lego-loving kids will enjoy building and exploring at the Legoland Discovery Center, which is located in nearby Somerville, MA.
This charming seaside town celebrates Halloween for the entire month of October. Even if you aren’t visiting during Halloween, it’s still worth visiting the area. There are lots of fun shops and great restaurants as well as activities and museums.
If you have train loving kids, you’ll definitely want to drive south to Carver, MA, home of the Edaville Family Theme Park. There, you’ll find Thomas Land, a whole land dedicated specifically to Thomas the Tank Engine and friends. Edaville is most appropriate for those with younger kids.
Head about an hour down Route 3 in MA for a trip to America’s Birthplace – Plymouth, MA. Plymouth Plantation is a must-visit for families, and you can also include a trip to the reproduction of the Mayflower. If you are planning to visit Cape Cod during your vacation, Plymouth is likely to be on the way from Boston to the Cape.
If you are traveling in the warmer months, don’t miss a visit the Cape Cod. We love Old Silver Beach in Falmouth, MA. You may consider staying on the Cape for a few days, as it can be a difficult day trip, especially with traffic.
Looking for a hotel in Boston? Here’s where to stay in Boston with kids.
Disclosure: I am a member of the Red Sox Parents Club. All opinions are my own.