Boston has a lot to offer visiting families. It’s an extremely walking friendly city and the train line – the T – has an extensive web throughout the city. If you’re only in town for a short time, here are some of the high points your kids will enjoy.
Boston is a little bit short on good breakfast places downtown, unless you want to eat at a hotel. Fortunately, The Paramount is situated in the Beacon Hill neighborhood and is open 7 days a week. It’s a tiny place with an open grill so you can eat and watch the cooks at work and they cleverly control the crowds by requiring everyone to stand in line to order food cafeteria-style before sitting down at a table. The food is fresh and delicious and even crowded I still enjoyed the experience and the breakfast sandwich. Parents can get a mimosa and the banana caramel french toast is pretty incredible.
The surrounding Beacon Hill neighborhood is charming with lots of shopping if you’re up for that; and if you’re staying at a downtown hotel, you probably walked through the Boston Common or the Public Garden on your way to The Paramount.
Take some time before or after breakfast to enjoy this park because it’s small enough to be thoroughly enjoyed in a short time and provides a shady respite from the sun during the Boston summers. The landscaping is lovely, the children’s carousel and the swan boat rides each cost $3 and last about 15 minutes and if your kids were into the book Make Way for Ducklings, they’ll enjoy seeing the duck statues commemorating the story.
After breakfast and the park, I’d recommend visiting one of Boston’s great museums. Perhaps the Museum of Science?
That’s a huge kinetic sculpture designed like a mousetrap with balls that roll down sliding boards, dislodge clock gears and start chain reactions. It’s also one of the few non interactive exhibits at this Museum of Science, which was designed with elementary and middle school kids in mind. The interactive exhibits include an exploration of nanotechnology, a wind lab, fossils and skeletons to touch and put together, scientific studies on perspective and light projections, a butterfly garden, live animals, map creation and so much more. There’s a lightning show several times a day where high voltage lightning is simulated to demonstrate the principles of electricity. With the IMAX theatre and the planetarium as potential add ons to your admission ticket, it would be easy to spend the whole day here. However, you can also spend a couple of hours, see some highlights and catch a lightning show and be on your way. Tickets will run you between $20-55 per person, depending on how much you want to see, but you get a lot for your money.
Alternatively, you could spend the morning at the Museum of Fine Arts
The MFA is vast with gorgeous curation, I especially loved these red walls, and a collection of world renowned works by Jackson Pollack, Renoir and Van Gogh. It’s not an easy museum to navigate in a short period of time, however, with stairs and elevators only in a few designated spots; so, if you go, be prepared to spend a couple of hours wandering the floors. Kids under 17 get in free and adult admission costs $25 unless you go on Wednesdays after 4pm when all admission costs are voluntary.
How about lunch?
I like this restaurant called the Back Deck. It’s right by the Boston Opera House, their salmon cobb salad – above – is fantastic as are their grilled chicken wings and their macaroni and cheese. They have an extensive kid’s menu with small salad options and a whole alternative gluten-free menu as well as gigantic windows that they open in good weather so it feels like eating in the open air.
Alternatively, if you want to eat somewhere that’s classic Boston and on a lot of tourist “must see” lists, you could check out this place:
The Union Oyster House is one of Boston’s oldest restaurants, it’s right on the Freedom Trail and in a beautiful old building . To be honest, I think the main appeal of this place is historical. The building is on the National Historic Register and and they claim to be America’s oldest restaurant, established in 1826. However, their raw oysters come on a plate with no frills and not a lot of care in the preparation (chips of shell in the oysters…) and I haven’t heard many good things about the rest of their food either. I would recommend this place as a novelty visit only or perhaps for a beer in the late afternoon so you can try the Samuel Adams Colonial Ale brewed only for them.
In the afternoon, try one of Boston’s biggest attractions, the Duck Tour:
You’ll see these rolling boat/trolleys all over Boston, run by two companies, the Duck Tours and the Super Duck Tour. Each company does a driving tour of some historical sites including Faneuil Hall, Boston Common, Copley Square and Qunicy Market and then the trolleys splash into the Boston harbor and become boats so you can continue the tour from the water and see sites like the USS Constitution. We had a great guide on our Super Duck Tour and it was novel to see Boston from land and sea. The tour takes about 90 minutes and tickets range from $22-23 for kids and $33-35 for adults. Check each company’s website to see their itineraries so you can decide what you’d like to see.
Either before or after your Duck Tour, go to the Marriott’s Custom House Tower for the best aerial views of Boston
There’s a “donation” of $3 to go up into the tower unless you’re a guest of the hotel (the money goes to the Children’s Miracle Network), but the views are worth the price, especially on a sunny day. If you go at 4PM there’s a tour of the clock tower and some historical information included, but you can go up into the tower at any point in the day just to see the city.
I recommend one of my favorite Boston restaurants for diner, the Barking Crab.
Set in a red and gold striped tent right on the edge of the water, the Barking Crab serves gloriously fresh seafood at long communal picnic tables with rolls of paper towels and paper plates. I had a warm lobster tossed in drawn butter and served on a roll and it was incredible. Families can order whole lobsters, buckets of crab legs or clam bakes that come with chowder, potatoes and corn. This is a super casual restaurant with views of the harbor and it’s one of the best places in town to eat fresh seafood.
Boston has a lot of attractions and this blog features just a small portion of what’s available in town. It’s the perfect city for a families who like historical monuments, buildings and activities and in the summer the weather is beautiful and the water activities are great fun.