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11 Must-Do Family Activities for Your Next Trip to Boston

Aug. 12, 2019
13 min read
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Duck boats, lobster rolls, cannoli, Fenway Park, baked beans ... the list of what to do in Boston with a family goes on and on. A short hop from Logan Airport (BOS) puts you downtown in a city rich with history, food and family fun. And ever since the Big Dig ended years ago -- putting major highways underground -- the city has added parks, green spaces and attractions that are all walkable from one another.

Boston Skyline. (Photo by lance anderson / Unsplash)

For planning a family trip to Boston, here are some of our recommended activities. Also, look into the Go Boston Pass, which could save you money, depending on the number of activities you decide to do and the number of days you have to explore.

Related: The Best Credit Cards for Entertainment Spending

1. Freedom Trail

The Freedom Trail is a 2.5-mile walking trail on city streets that takes in 16 historic sites. If 2.5 miles of walking is a bit much for your kids, you can also start and stop at any point along the trail. To experience the full trail, you'll want to start at Boston Common and end at the Bunker Hill Monument in Charlestown. Between the two points, you can see:

  • State House
  • Park Street Church
  • Granary Burying Ground
  • King's Chapel and King's Chapel Burying Ground
  • Benjamin Franklin Statue/Boston Latin School
  • Old Corner Bookstore
  • Old South Meeting House
  • Old State House
  • Boston Massacre Site
  • Faneuil Hall
  • Paul Revere House
  • Old North Church
  • Copp's Hill Burying Ground
  • USS Constitution
  • Bunker Hill Monument
(Photo courtesy of Getty Images / aphotostory)

The most economical way to take in the trail is to hike it, following the Freedom Trail map. If you'd prefer a group or private tour, there are many options, such as Airbnb Experiences, Tours By Locals and through the Freedom Trail site directly. Expedia also offers a Freedom Trail self-guided GPS audio tour for just $5.

The Bunker Hill Monument. (Photo by DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images)
The Bunker Hill Monument (Photo by DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images)

2. Faneuil Hall Marketplace and Quincy Market

The Faneuil Hall Marketplace and Quincy Market are favorite stops, with merchants selling from carts, food kiosks (the perfect opportunity to get a cup of "chowdah") and patriotic statues outside.

I love the street performers, everything from dancers to musicians to jugglers and clowns. You can typically see them in action every day between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day weekend, plus major holiday weekends.

The Faneuil Hall Marketplace. (Photo by Instants / Getty Images)
Faneuil Hall Marketplace (Photo by Instants / Getty Images)

Over the summer months, there are also many events for kids, such as storytelling, kids' art and puppet shows. On Saturdays, your family can get a free tour of Quincy Market.

3. Boston Common

The oldest park in the United States, Boston Common is a great space for families. Your kids will love Frog Pond, with activities 365 days a year. The Common has an ice skating rink in the winter (skate rentals available), a splash pad over the summer and a carousel in the spring, summer and fall. You can also find one-off activities such as movie night under the stars and a harvest festival. Don't miss the large playground.

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The Boston Common Frog Pond (Photo by Dufresne / Getty Images)

4. Boston Public Garden

Right next to the Boston Common, you'll find the Boston Public Garden. This 24-acre space is known for its Swan Boats and a line of statues taken from the children's book "Make Way for Ducklings." The Swan Boats run seasonally (mid-April through Labor Day) and are a must-do for all ages.

The Swan Boat Ride at Boston Common. (Photo by aimintang / Getty Images)

The Swan Boat ride lasts about 15 minutes with little to no wait time most days (no reservations needed). It costs $4 per adult and $2.50 per child (ages 2 to 15; under 2 is free).

5. Fenway Park

If you are a sports-fanatic family, you'll love a tour of Fenway Park. Home to the Boston Red Sox, Fenway is the oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball. Tours are available every day of the year, regardless of weather, and run between 9am and 5pm (from November through March, the tours do not start until 10am; on game days, the last tour departs three hours before the game begins).

Fenway Park. (Photo by Travis Lindquist / Getty Images)
Fenway Park (Photo by Travis Lindquist / Getty Images)

There are many different tour options available, but tickets can only be purchased up to 30 days in advance. The quickest and least expensive tour is the "Fenway in Fifteen," which, as the name describes, is a 15-minute tour for $15 (children under 3 are free). The most popular is a 60-minute guided tour that allows you to see most of the ballpark ($21 for adults; $15 for children; $17 for military; children under 3 are free).

Tickets are sold on a first-come, first-served basis starting at 8:30am (no advance ticket sales available). The tour will even take you to the top of the Green Monster, the famous left-field wall. Most tours cost $35, although on certain game days tour prices will cost slightly more. Of course, if you can catch an actual game, we fully recommend that, too!

6. New England Aquarium

The New England Aquarium is home to a wide spectrum of marine life. There are two touch tanks where kids can touch starfish, sea urchins, sting rays and epaulette sharks. There is also a four-story ocean tank where you can see a coral reef with more than 800 animals, especially Myrtle the green sea turtle, the most well-known creature in the aquarium.

The Giant Ocean Tank at the New England Aquarium. (Photo by David L. Ryan / The Boston Globe / Getty Images)

There are daily activities such as penguin feeding, harbor-seal training and live-animal presentations, so time your visit accordingly. The museum is also the home to New England's largest IMAX screen, where you can watch nautical-themed films. Tickets are $31 per adult, $22 per child and seniors are $29. The aquarium offers many discounts, such as free admission to teachers in New England and military discounts.

7. Museum of Science

The Museum of Science is one of my favorite indoor activities for kids. With more than 700 exhibits and live presentations, you can easily spend a half-day exploring. There are hands-on activities, challenges to complete and an entire live butterfly world. The life-size dinosaurs are a huge hit and the lightning show is incredible, although younger kids might be a bit scared. There are also rotating temporary exhibits.

Boston Museum of Science (Photo by Devasahayam Chandra Dhas / Getty Images)

Within the museum are the Mugar Omni Theater and Charles Hayden Planetarium. At the Omni Theater, you can watch one of many IMAX films. The planetarium shows are great for those interested in space. For kids specifically, there are 4-D films that utilize known TV shows and characters to teach children about a particular theme (these shows are only 15 minutes in length).

Unfortunately, tickets to the Science Museum can be quite expensive. Purchasing in advance will save you a little money and will bring the admission price down to $26 per adult (seniors are $22) and $21 per child (under 3 is free). There are also additional charges to see the films and enter the butterfly garden.

8. Boston Children's Museum

The Boston Children's Museum is one of the oldest children's museums in the world and is a great indoor activity. It has a massive three-story play space with a large climbing sculpture in the middle. The exhibits include a bubble room, a raceway, an art studio and a Japanese House. My kids' favorite is the "Arthur and Friends" area, where the airplane is a major hit.

The Boston Children's Museum. (Photo by Education Images / Getty Images)
Boston Children's Museum (Photo by Education Images / Getty Images)

Tickets are $18 for kids and adults; children under 1 are free. If you happen to be in Boston on a Friday evening, tickets are actually just $1 between 5–9pm. New England teachers (grades K–8) and United States Armed Forces active-duty personnel receive complimentary admission.

Next to the children's museum, you'll find Martin's Park at the Smith Family Waterfront. This park is in honor of 8-year-old Martin Richard who was a victim of the Boston Marathon bombing. The nature-based playground is a ton of fun for kids and is the perfect place to go after a visit to the museum. On a nice day, you can also pick up lunch from Flour Bakery (behind the museum) and eat lunch at the picnic benches while your kids run around on the playground.

9. Boston Duck Tour

Boston Duck Tours is one of the most popular activities for families visiting Boston. For 80 minutes (60 minutes on land and 20 minutes on the Charles River), you'll ride a World War II-style amphibious vehicle. During your tour, you'll see the State House, TD Garden (where the Celtics and Bruins play), Boston Common, Copley Square, Newbury Street, Quincy Market and more. During your time on the river, you'll get great views of both Boston and Cambridge. Many times they'll even let the kids pilot the boat in the water.

The Boston Duck Tours. (Photo by shunyufan / Getty Images)
Boston Duck Tours (Photo by shunyufan / Getty Images)

The Duck Tours leave from the Prudential Center, Museum of Science and New England Aquarium. Tickets for adults are $43, seniors (62+) and active military are $35, kids (3-11) are $29 and children under 3 are $10.50. If you take a tour before 10am or after 6pm, tickets are slightly less expensive. You can often find discounted tickets on Groupon as well.

10. Boston Tea Party

The Boston Tea Party museum is a great way for kids to learn about Boston in 1773. This one-hour tour does a great job catering to both kids and adults and giving all tourists a hands-on experience. Live actors tell the story of the insurrection and you'll have the opportunity to board a replica vessel. The most fun part (especially for kids) is throwing tea crates overboard.

The Boston Tea Party Museum. (Photo by CaptureLight / Getty Images)
The Boston Tea Party Museum. (Photo by CaptureLight / Getty Images)

At the end of the tour, you can visit Abigail's Tea Room for lunch and sample five teas that were thrown overboard.

To get the best pricing, buy online in advance. Tickets for adults are about $28 and kids are $21 (under 5 are free). If you go with a Bostonian, they can get the Hometown Pass, a complimentary ticket with one paid adult ticket.

11. Mapparium

Located inside the Mary Baker Eddy Library at the Christian Science Center, the Mapparium is a three-story, stained-glass globe that gives a three-dimensional perspective of the world unlike anything you've seen before.

The Boston Mapparium. (Photo courtesy of Mary Baker Eddy Library)
Boston Mapparium (Photo courtesy of Mary Baker Eddy Library)

Although the library is free and open to the public, the Mapparium is only viewable on group tours. The tours take place every day of the week and last between 15–20 minutes. The tours cost $6 for adults, $4 for seniors 62+, students with IDs and youth 6–17 years old (children 5 and under are free).

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Bottom Line

If you're looking for a city that has a little bit of everything -- food, history, attractions, parks and more, visit Boston. If your kids leave town thinking that lobster is actually called "lobstah" and Dunkin' Donuts are "Dunkies," you'll know you've truly immersed yourselves in the city.

Keep planning your Boston trip:

Featured image by Getty Images