Try Boston for a Family Vacation
Boston is a compact city that is easy to tour. You can walk to different neighborhoods and the public transportation is reliable. But something about the city always struck me as vaguely claustrophobic.
The Big Dig, a multi-billion dollar project that diverted an elevated highway underground, opened up the waterfront and gave easy access to the North End and the Inner Harbor.
A cool way to explore this is on a bicycle. Urban AdvenTours rents bicycles in child and adult sizes as well as child seats, trailers and trail-a-bikes that convert bikes to tandem. Helmets are included.
Once you have your wheels, join one of the AdvenTours around the city. The flat terrain and short tour length ensure that kids can handle it. The Tour de Boston takes you to the New England Aquarium, U.S.S. Constitution, Boston Common, Fenway Park and the Mapparium, all of which are worth a closer look with kids. Best of all, the ride by the Charles River takes you past several playgrounds, which you can explore on your own.
What to Do in Boston
First, head to the Boston Children’s Museum where a three-story climbing structure will tucker out your kids and ensure a good night’s sleep for you. A play space for kids under 3 keeps little ones moving and safe and the authentic Japanese House lets kids explore another culture. The newly renovated museum is LEED certified and the Green Trail throughout the museum highlights the environmental initiatives in a fun way, with green roof pinball and a recycling matching game. The Construction Zone is a must for any kid who has been mesmerized by trucks.
Boston Common, the oldest public park in the US, has a wading pool, the Frog Pond, that becomes an outdoor ice skating rink in winter. The Common is part of the historic tow and a half-mile Freedom Trail, a path highlighting colonial Boston’s role in the fight for Independence. The Freedom Trail is best tackled when kids are in at least late elementary school, so they have some understanding.
Across the street from the Common, the Public Garden has a botanical garden and the gentle Swan Boats ride. The 15 minute ride may be shorter than your wait, but the iconic cruise is a must. The Public Garden was the setting for the movies “Make Way for Ducklings” and “The Trumpet of the Swan.”
The Museum of Science has the requisite planetarium, Omni theater and laser shows, as well as cutting edge science exhibit. If you are with young kids, head to the Discovery Center, with puzzles and activities for babies and toddlers. Daily live demonstrations include an electrifying one on lightning; it made my kids scream, ask to do it again (we couldn’t) and pique their interest in the weather exhibit. The Science in the Park exhibit has swings, a seesaw, and balls where you can experiment with motion – and get a workout.
New England Aquarium has a huge coral reef, recreating the Caribbean with coral, tropical fish, giant sea turtles and sharks. The aquarium also runs whale watches, April throughNovember, and two hour Boston Harbor tours. An Amazon rainforest exhibit has glass from the floor on up, making it easy for kids to see the exotic sea creatures.
The three story walk-through, Mapparium is in The Mary Baker Eddy Library. Eddy founded Christian Science, and the building also houses the headquarters of the The Christian Science Monitor, but there is no religious aspect to the incredible globe. Walk across the 30-foot glass bridge and stand in the middle of the world. Stand at one end of the bridge and have your child stand at the other; you can hear each other whispering.
Outside, the reflecting pool cools the water for the building’s air conditioning; sprays cool off visitors. On our bike ride, we stood under the mist to cool off.
Where to Stay in Boston
The Omni Parker House, across from the Boston Common, provides goodie bags for kids, a night light and outlet covers, and milk and cookies your first night. The luxury hotel has a Freedom Trail Suite with bunk beds for the kids, an activity table, and Colonial costumes for dress up.
The pet and kid-friendly Hotel Marlowe, in Cambridge, has free bikes and kayaks for guest use. My kids love Kimpton Hotels because they offer child-size animal print robes, and free snacks (and wine for adults) in the evening. For little kids, they have safety kits, cribs, high chairs and booster seats.