Got curious kids? Or quiet ones who love to draw? Perhaps you have teens who love drama? Head to Boston, one of the northeast’s Big Three Revolutionary cities. You’ll definitely find a family-friendly museum to match your interests. Here are our favorite Boston museums for kids.
Disclosure: I was hosted on this trip by Royal Sonesta Boston on this trip. My opinions, however, are my own.
Boston is a one-size fits all city, with appealing attractions for every age. Families with little children visit the charming attractions in the Boston Public Garden like Frog Pond and the Tadpole Playground, the Make Way for Ducklings statues and the historic Swan Boats. Others try to hit Boston, Philadelphia and New York when their kids are studying the Revolutionary War to tour sites like the Freedom Trail. And teens love heading to Boston on college searches. Over 150,000 young adults attend the city’s 25 colleges and universities!
The city’s museums are some of Boston’s most popular attractions. They’re sprinkled throughout different neighborhoods, so choose a convenient home base for your trip. I stayed at the Royal Sonesta in Cambridge, which is steps away from the Museum of Science. To help you choose the Boston museums right for your family, we’ve rounded up some of our favorites and the reasons why we love them.
TravelingMom Tip: Parking in Boston is wildly expensive. Leave your car at your hotel and walk, use a car service or try the Boston subway system, known as the “T”, to get around town.
Boston Museums for Kids by Neighborhood
- Museum of Science – Cambridge
- Fenway Park – Fenway-Kenmore
- Boston Children’s Museum – Fort Point
- Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum – Fort Point
- Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum – Fenway-Kenmore
- Museum of Fine Arts – Fenway-Kenmore
- Freedom Trail – Begins in the Boston Common (Downtown) and ends in Charlestown
- Boston Fire Museum – Fort Point
- New England Aquarium – North End
Featuring over 700 interactive exhibits, the Museum of Science is a must-see for families visiting Boston. The Hall of Human Life features interactive exhibits designed to measure different responses including your ability to concentrate. Hidden near the gallery’s windows is a very cool see-through beehive with a pipe that serves as the bees’ front door. The bees exit to find food sources. When they return to the hive, they do a jittery dance and the other bees know, based on their movements, where to go to find their next meal. Totally cool.
Another don’t miss is the Butterfly Garden. Over 300 winged beauties fly around you. Ask one of the attendants for a guide to the resident species so you can find the name of your favorite. If you’ve got patience, sit VERY still and one might land on you. Teens and tweens will love the photo opps and little ones are dazzled by the “flutterbys.”
The Museum of Science also hosts temporary exhibits that are worth a visit. For example, opening in June 2019 and running until January 2020 is the wildly popular BODY WORLDS exhibit.
Entry to the Museum of Science is expensive ($29 for 12+) and there are additional charges for the Butterfly Garden, IMAX and Thrill Ride 360 (a roller coaster simulator!). Consider purchasing a lodging package like the one offered by the Royal Sonesta hotel to help manage costs.
TravelingMom Tip: Check the museum calendar for special events scheduled on the day of your visit like the Live Animal Story Time for preschoolers.
Museum of Science
1 Science Park
Boston, MA 02114
Even this diehard Yankee fan was charmed by a tour of America’s oldest ballpark. Constructed in 1912, Fenway Park opened to little fanfare because the headlines all belonged to the sinking of the Titanic which happened 5 days earlier. Grandstand seating dates back to 1934 and is as uncomfortable as you can imagine. But generations of BoSox fans enjoy visits to the stadium that time forgot. Quirky features include a scoreboard changed manually by 3 employees hiding in inside the Green Monster!
The hourlong tour concludes in the Royal Rooters Club, a restaurant and memorabilia exhibit for season ticket holders. I really enjoyed the display dedicated to the military career of legendary Red Sox slugger Ted Williams. Williams was as a pilot in both World War II and the Korean War, where he served alongside future astronaut and U.S. Senator John Glenn.
Tours are available daily, throughout the year, and current information is available on the Fenway Park Tour website. The tour is handicapped accessible; guests who find steps difficult can use an elevator.
TravelingMom Tip: Families traveling with small children are better off leaving the stroller in the car.
4 Yawkey Way
Boston, MA 02215
Tour Info: Gate D
Jenn Mitchell from ComebackMomma.com says the Children’s Museum in Boston is a must see for families with kids between the ages of about 2-10. Activities like a bubble room, construction zone and a 3-story climbing structure keep kids entertained for hours.
Boston Children’s Museum
308 Congress Street
Boston, MA 02210
Want to get into your history? Then don’t miss the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum. Visitors are treated to a re-enactment of the famous Tea Party that led to the American Revolution.
Everyone gathers in a replica of the Old South Meeting House. To begin the experience you’re assigned a revolutionary new identity; I played Ebenezer MacIntosh, a shoemaker/South End gang member. Then, enthusiastic tour guides including “Sam Adams” encourage civil disobedience. Next, you board a replica of one of the three tea party ships and toss the contents overboard. The tour concludes with 3-D re-enactments of important events, including the famous ride of Paul Revere. The big “Whoa!” moment is the reveal of one of the actual tea chests!
TravelingMom Tip: This is a super experience for families with tweens and teens, if you can get them to put away their phones and play along.
Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum
306 Congress Street
Boston, MA 02210
The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is a beloved Boston institution. When I asked my New England friends for suggested museums to visit, this one was on the top of all of their lists.
With good reason.
Like the Barnes in Philadelphia, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is a quirky collection of all types of art purchased and displayed by one individual. Mrs. Gardner’s will prohibits any changes to the exhibit so it will always look just as she meant it to be seen.
The art is housed in themed rooms in a gorgeous Venetian palazzo where Mrs. Gardner lived. Take one of the free tours offered throughout the day. Docents provide you with a bit of history and a method for viewing the art. And you’ll learn about the biggest art heist ever. In 1990, art valued at over $500 million was stolen from the museum and never recovered. Paintings were cut out with razors; the empty frames still hang on the gallery walls!
TravelingMom Tip: The utterly Instagrammable courtyard is a huge draw for teens and tweens. And sketching materials are available for little artists free of charge outside the Macknight Room.
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
25 Evans Way
Boston, MA 02115
The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston is a sprawling complex filled with dozens of galleries and exhibits featuring artwork from around the globe and through the centuries. This is the kind of art museum that you can spend hours at and still not see everything there. The art and antiquities are also a great conversation starter for families.
Museum of Fine Arts
465 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA . 02115
Your best introduction to Boston’s Revolutionary history is a walk along the Freedom Trail. The Trail, marked on the ground in red, passes 16 of the city’s historic sites including churches, burial grounds and museums. There are different options for exploring the 2.5 mile Trail. You can casually pop in and out of the different sites or take a free, self-guided walking tour.
Another popular option and one I recommend is taking one of the guided tours offered by the Freedom Trail Foundation. I opted for the 90-minute Walk into History tour. We met our guide, dressed in period attire, at the information kiosk in the Boston Common, the oldest public park in America. We wound our way through the Granary Burying Ground, the final resting spot of Paul Revere, John Hancock and Sam Adams and past many other sites, concluding our tour at Faneuil Hall and the Quincy Market.
You don’t get to enter any of the museums during the tour but it does provide a taste of what each of the sites has to offer. So, depending on your interests, you can go back and explore!
Boston Common Visitor Information Center
139 Tremont St
Boston, MA 02111
A dedicated group of volunteers run the Boston Fire Museum, devoted to the history of firefighting in the city. Don’t miss the antique fire engines, including a pumper from 1793, constructed by Paul Revere.
Another favorite attraction at the museum is Sparky, the firehouse Dalmation! The museum is open on Saturdays from 9:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. and admission is free (but donations are appreciated!).
Boston Fire Museum
344 Congress Street
Boston, MA 02120
Boston’s North End is known for many things, including the city’s oldest and arguably best pizzeria. The Freedom Trail winds through the neighborhood and the Boston harbor is home to “Old Ironsides”, the USS Constitution which is the oldest naval vessel still afloat. It’s also where families will find the New England Aquarium, a popular museum for locals and visitors.
The centerpiece of the Aquarium is the Giant Ocean Tank. It was built first and then the Aquarium was constructed around it! The oldest resident of the tank is Myrtle, a giant sea turtle, who has lived there since the 1970’s. She shares the tank with 800 other animals.
The Aquarium offers extensive educational programs for kids, starting with the Sea Squirts program for toddlers and ending with internships for teens.
New England Aquarium
1 Central Wharf
Boston, MA 02110
Where to Stay When Exploring Boston’s Museums
Located in Cambridge, the Royal Sonesta is a good option when visiting Boston, Massachusetts with children. Kid-friendly amenities include:
- Spacious rooms, some with adjoining options for large groups.
- Great location in Cambridge. Request a high floor room in the West Tower for a sweeping panoramic view of downtown and the Charles River.
- Two fun options when the kids need to let off steam – there’s a large indoor pool and the riverfront esplanade is perfect for bike or scooter riding.
- Short walk to the Museum of Science. Book the Little Scientists package which includes a room, 4 tickets to the museum and a massive milk and cookies treat.
- The hotel’s ArtBar restaurant offers charming options for kids including a 3-course dinner for $9 and a clever “mocktail” menu.
The Royal Sonesta is large (400 rooms) and attracts business travelers, so I recommend corralling your little ones in public spaces unless you don’t mind withering glances.
Other Boston Area Museums Worth Exploring
The nine museums mentioned profiled are personal favorites. My Boston friends and family highly recommend these other Boston area museums:
- John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum
- Franklin Park Zoo
- Prudential Center Skywalk Observatory and Dreams of Freedom Museum
- USS Constitution Museum
- Harvard Museum of Natural History