Boston on a Boom or Bust Budget

The state may be called Taxachusetts colloquially, but traveling to one of the country’s most historic cities doesn’t have to break the bank. While it’s easy to go upscale in Boston, there are also great ways to save on an iconic family trip. Here’s everything you need for a complete adventure either way.

Boston Tea Party Museum and Boat on Harbor

© F11photo | Dreamstime

No jaunt here is complete without a patriot walk on the Freedom Trail, a spirited tour featuring guides in 18th-century costumes that will take you by iconic sites like the Old State House, Faneuil Hall market — great for souvenirs or a lobster roll at iconic Durgin Park — and the Paul Revere House, nestled in the heart of the North End (Boston’s Little Italy if you’re craving pasta or a cannoli). For just $6.50 for kids, the guided walk also includes a stop at the 1797-era U.S.S. Constitution frigate and museum for a true step back in time along the stunning waterfront in nearby Charlestown. Or, get a kick out of the interactive experience at the newer Boston Tea Party Museum in the Seaport District of the city proper, where the tour concludes with victorious cries of joy as visitors shirk their aforementioned fiduciary responsibilities by dumping “leaves” into the water. Right nearby is the Boston Children’s Museum, and on Friday nights from 5-9 p.m., admission is just $1 thanks to a Target sponsorship. Older kids may enjoy free admission at the Museum of Fine Arts on Wednesdays after 4 p.m., or Thursdays at the Institute of Contemporary Art, also in the Seaport District.

Boston Museum of Fine Arts tourists

© Christian Delbert | Dreamstime

Families also have their choice of thrilling or traditional ways to experience the best of Boston’s waterfront with either a 40-minute, high-speed ride aboard the colorful Codzilla (don’t forget to bring your raincoat for sporty splashes!) or a whale watch with certified New England Aquarium naturalists aboard each Boston Harbor Cruises trip. Or, save up to 45 percent per person when you roll several activities into one with CityPass, featuring admission to the aquarium, admission to the Skywalk Observatory in the center of the city, either a whale watch or admission to the Harvard Museum of Natural History and a visit to the Museum of Science. The latter of these are both in Cambridge, virtually a must-do to say you went to “Hahvahd Yahd” at least once — or just learned a bit about Mark Zuckerberg’s alma mater during a walking tour free when you buy a Duck Tour ticket. Yes, a pass for these quacking amphibious vehicles is a whopping $110 for a family of four, but traversing the city in a WWII-era truck that also floats saves a lot of foot leather and turns what could be an ordinary hop-on, hop-off experience into extraordinary. Another four-pack worth checking out is Fenway Park’s $75 family pass, with a quartet of tickets, drinks and hot dogs during select weekends to watch the Red Sox play at the county’s oldest baseball stadium.

Art more your thing versus sports? The night is young indeed with plenty of free activities most weeks during summer. Commonwealth Shakespeare Company stages a different Bard play annually in July and August on Boston Common public park, the Hatch Shell stage that took center stage in Ted hosts free classical concerts on Wednesdays, and Friday night Boston Harbor Hotel opens up the patio for mostly water-themed movie screenings. Chillier temps can be quelled with cocoa at Boston Winter, an eclectic holiday festival with food and gift stalls and ice skating all in front of City Hall, started just last year.

Where to Stay:

Hotel Marlowe: The Kimpton Kids program at this colorful Cambridge mainstay is right near all of the action, within walking distance of the Museum of Science and the CambridgeSide Galleria mall for shopping and meals for all budgets. The hotel offers free kayaking and bikes, a welcome gift for kids, child-sized bathrobes and babysitting services.