Even when fall brings a chill in the air, families get a warm welcome in Boston, a city that knows how to mix education and fun. One of the country’s oldest and most historic capitals, Beantown — so-called because of locals’ long-held fondness for beans slow baked in molasses — is steeped in history, scenic charm and plenty of kid-friendly attractions.
Even children who are allergic to books about the olden days, for example, will likely enjoy a guided walk along the Freedom Trail, led by costumed guides who know how to make the past come alive with a mix of information, anecdotes and jokes. The entire 2.5-mile, red brick trail wends from Boston Common to the Bunker Hill monument in Charlestown and encompasses 16 historic sites. Most people content themselves with just doing the section that passes by such well-known spots as the Old State House and the Paul Revere House.
Stop for lunch at Quincy Market, a quaint marketplace that is one of the most touristed destinations in the country. Bustling and charming, the market is a series of pop-up versions of some of the city’s most famous restaurants, along with shops, street vendors and plenty of places to sit and people watch. Whether you want an authentic lobster roll, award-winning clam “chowdah” or a slice of Boston Cream Pie, you’ll find it here, along with more international fare and vegetarian options. Best of all, everyone can grab take-out from whichever vendor most appeals, then meet in the rotunda to eat together.
The crowning jewel of the market and a favorite stop along the Freedom Trail is Faneuil Hall, a historic site where many of our founding fathers gave impassioned speeches during our fight for independence. Be sure to point out the grasshopper weather vane at the top of the hall, which, in our family, we always thought looked a lot like Jiminy Cricket.
For other statuary younger children will love, head to the Boston Public Gardens to see the famous Make Way for Ducklings’ statues — and yes, little ones are welcome to climb on them — created in honor of Robert McCloskey’s beloved children’s book. If your visit to the gardens happens to be in summer, don’t miss a ride on the famous Swan Boats, gliding through the pond since the 19th century.
You can also relive one of our country’s most famous rebellions at the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum, where visitors can throw bales of tea into the bay and watch historical re-enactments and realistic holographic displays depicting that famous day.
The Rose Kennedy Greenway, a mix of green lawns and hardscapes that run roughly from South Station to the North End, is another popular draw for families whose children don’t mind a bit of walking. There are water works kids can play in in nice weather, temporary art installations, stages for musical events sprinkled throughout the lawns and pop-up vendors selling snacks and drinks. One of the most appealing aspects of the Greenway is it links some of the city’s most interesting neighborhoods, including Quincy Market. Peel off for lunch in Chinatown, ride the carousel on the waterfront or warm chilly fingers at an Italian café in the North End, all within easy walking distance of each other.
Speaking of the waterfront, here you can hop on a ferry to visit one or several of the Boston Harbor Islands, each boasting its own rich history and featuring visitors centers, attractions like old forts and walking paths that offer stunning views of the Boston skyline.
Fans of the children’s TV show Arthur will especially love the Boston Children’s Museum, which offers interactive exhibits for very young children that encompass everything from music and movement to playing with bubbles, learning about dinosaurs and even hanging out with Arthur and his friends.
For hands-on fun designed to appeal to visitors of all ages, spend a few hours at the Museum of Science, which also boasts an indoor zoo. There are permanent and temporary exhibits that focus on everything from the universe to the human body, as well as an IMAX theater.
Finally, if a rooftop pool is a priority, consider staying at the Colonnade Hotel, which offers one of the most popular in the city. Or, you can do what the locals do and let the kids splash around — or skate, depending on the season — at the Boston Common Frog Pond, which also offers a carousel and snack bar.