City Guide: 15 Kid Friendly Activities in Boston, Massachusetts

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I’ll disclose that Boston is my hometown, so this post will be “wicked” biased. But even the biggest Yankees fan will admit that the birthplace of the American Revolution, the home of winning sports teams, waterfront activities, world class arts and culture, and curator of foods like Fenway franks, bakes beans, chowdah, and Boston Cream Pie, is one of the most special places in the world. There are SO many family friendly activities you’ll need weeks years to see and do it all, but for our latest City Guide we’ll start with these 15 places the whole family is sure to love.

Planning ahead: If you’re looking for additional research, check out BostonUSA.com for recommendations on activities, lodging, dining, and special events. I also love Yankee Magazine and Boston Magazine for lots of inspiration for historical locations, outdoor adventures, special events, and plenty of good food.

Transportation and Parking: Boston is notorious for its drivers. I would recommend parking at a garage- great index here–  and walking or taking the “T” to most locations. The red and green lines pass through most of the locations on our list.  Boston Harbor Cruises also offers water taxis at convenient spots all over the city, in addition to Salem, Hingham, and Cape Cod.

Lodging and dining: Since I consider myself a “local”, I have not stayed at a hotel in town. However, our family is a big fan of Marriott hotels, and I have read very positive reviews of the Marriott Long Wharf. It has an ideal location (close proximity to many spots on our list) and numerous amenities, and Marriott perks make it a good bet. More recommendations on lodging in this post.

For dining, check out this index from Boston Magazine, this index from BostonUSA.com, and this list from Mommy Poppins Boston. One of the most popular spots is Faneuil Hall Marketplace; check here for a list of restaurants. If you have a food allergy or intolerance, you’ll find this guide helpful.

15 family Friendly Activities in Boston:

1. Reenact the night of the December 16, 1773 protest aboard the Boston Tea Party Ship and Museum. On that night, 5,000 “Sons and Daughters of Liberty” met at the South Meeting House to organize protests against the tea tax. After the costumed actors engage the audience in the meeting, visitors can tour the ship and explore the museum exhibits.
Our favorite parts: Getting a role in the protest reenactment and throwing tea overboard.
Travel Tips: Tours are offered up to 30 tours per day during the summer, with a reduced schedule in the winter; park in either the Farnsworth or Stillings Parking Garages; the museum and boats are handicap accessible but strollers are not allowed; restrooms, a large gift shop, and Abigail’s Tea Room are all on site; plan on 60-75 minutes for a tour and additional time for dining and shopping.
Read our full post here

2. Try hundreds of hands-on experiments, activities, and exercise at the Boston Children’s Museum. There are almost 20 distinct exhibition spaces with focuses on everything from STEM to art to dinosaurs and construction. Many of the activities are inquiry based and there are special rooms for babies and toddlers. There is also an outdoor Nature Walk and the Smith Family Park. 
Our favorite parts: The two story climbing structure, Peep’s World for STEAM activities, and Fantastic Forts
Travel Tips: The museum is currently open Wednesday through Sunday- check here for admission hours and fees and here for discounted tickets; there are several parking garages within a few blocks of the museum; the entire museum is handicap and stroller accessible; restrooms and a gift shop on site; guests are invited to bring their own food– dining room space available; plan on 3-4 hours to explore all the exhibits.

3. Get up close to thousands of sea creatures at the New England Aquarium. Opened in 1969, over one million visitors explore four floors of exhibits, view shows in the Simons Theater, take a whale watch tour, and attend a variety of special events and programs each year. There are over 20,000 sea creatures who live at the aquarium and daily programs include touch tanks and feedings.
Our favorite parts: Watching the African penguins being fed and seeing 90 year old Myrtle the Turtle up close
Travel Tips: The aquarium is open all year, with extended hours during summer months; more information on museum hours and admission here; this map outlines the four levels of exhibition space; most guests start at level four and walk down the ramps to the main level; there are five parking garages within a half mile of the aquarium; restrooms, a gift shop, and dining facilities on site; the aquarium is handicap accessible; plan on 2-3 hours to explore all four floors of exhibits, with additional time for shows in the Simons Theater or animal feedings.
Read our full post here

4. Learn all about how the world works at the Museum of Science. Four floors of hands-on exhibits include everything from dinosaurs, insect zoos, and a Bird’s World to planets, electricity, and Math Moves. There are several auditoriums and theaters for daily films, presentations, and live demonstrations.
Our favorite parts: The Garden Walk and Insect Zoo and Arctic Adventure hands-on exhibits.
Travel Tips: The museum is open year round; information on discounted tickets here; the museum has its own parking garage; the museum is handicap accessible; restrooms, a gift shop, and dining facilities (Riverview Cafe and four food stations) all on site; plan on 3-4 hours to explore the exhibits.  

5. Go behind the scenes at the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the most acoustically sounding hall in North America, and one of the top three halls in the world. The 105 member BSO is in season from September through early December and late January through early May and the Boston Pops is in season in December and May. Founded by Henry Lee Higginson, the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) was first located at the site of the current Orpheum Theater and then moved to its current location in 1900.  
Our favorite parts: Going behind the stage, peeking through holes in the stage door, and touring the green room
Travel Tips: Free tours are available on select weekdays and Saturdays afternoons- register for a tour here; weekday tours begin at the lobby entrance (on Massachusetts Avenue) and Saturday tours begin next to the BSO Symphony Shop (on Huntington Avenue); information on parking here; tours are handicap accessible and strollers are allowed; restrooms and a gift shop are available at the beginning of the tour; tours last 75 minutes; I would not recommend the tour for the toddler set; however, my middle school aged children loved it.
Read our full post here

6. Study various forms of art at the Museum of Fine Arts, the 5th largest art museum in America. The museum owns over 450,000 pieces of art in its collection, which includes paintings, photography, prints, drawing, musical instruments, textiles, and jewelry. There are over a dozen current exhibits and over 120 galleries of various art work throughout the museum, which is organized into four levels of American art, a newer west wing of contemporary art, and many educational and performance spaces, with a conservation center set to open in the near future.  Information on current exhibitions can be found here.
Our favorite part: The museum offers tons of family friendly activities from Playdates for toddlers to Junior Artists workshops on Saturday to Family Art Carts and Activity Totes– more info here. Download self guided activities and scavenger hunts here
Travel Tips: Children six and under receive free admission every day; children ages 7-17 receive free admission on weekends, weekdays after 3pm, and on Boston school public holidays; the museum is handicap accessible and strollers are allowed; all other items must be checked in the coat check room; check here for information on discounted parking and rates and times; plan on 3-4 hours with children to attend a program and see galleries of interest.
Read our full post here

7. Explore the former home of John and Isabella Stewart Gardner. Inspired by the art they saw throughout their extensive world travels, Gardner began collecting art and built a home, which she named Fenway Court, in Boston in the early 1900s. Today, all three floors of the Palace, as it is now referred to, are opened to the public, as part of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.  Some of Gardner’s collection of 7500 pieces of art, 1500 books, and 7000 artifacts are on display throughout the Palace and the new Renzo Piano Wing.
Our favorite parts: Completing the “Eye Spy” pamphlets; exploring the gardens in the summer; looking at the courtyard from all four sides and each floor
Travel Tips: The museum is closed on Tuesdays; check here for admission information- children are free; information about daily tours and talks here; most items must checked or stored in lockers;  gift shop and restrooms on site; Cafe G serves lunch each day and dinner on Thursday; the entire museum is handicap accessible and single strollers allowed; there is limited free and metered parking on the street; the Simmons School of Management Garage (on Avenue Louis Pasteur) offers discounted parking for museum guests; check here for more information on parking and directions; plan on 2-3 hours to explore the museum
Read our full post here

8. Learn all about the history of Massachusetts on a tour of the Massachusetts State House. Overlooking the Boston Common and Back Bay, the Massachusetts State House was constructed in 1798 and served as the state house until the mid 1880s. The land where the capitol was built was donated by John Hancock, the first elected governor of Massachusetts and the building remains the oldest on Beacon Hill. The complex covers almost seven acres- two city blocks. 
Our favorite parts: Going inside the Senate and House of Representative Chambers; checking out all 351 flags which represent every city and town of the state in order of incorporation in the Great Hall
Travel Tips: Tours are free; enter through the east wing entrance behind the statue of General Hooker on Beacon Street;  guided tours are during the week and meet in Doric Hall on the 2nd floor but call ahead to make sure of dates and times; self guided tour brochures are available; tours are handicap accessible; parking is available in nearby garages (check here) and the closest subway station stop is the Park Street Stations at either the Red or Green lines; restrooms and a cafeteria on site;  tours last one hour.
Read our full post here

9. Ride the swan boats at Boston Public Garden, the oldest public park in America. The 50 acre park includes the TADpole playground (water features and massive playground), Frog Pond Carousel, and tons of walking trails and green space.  Free, hour long tours of the garden are offered throughout the year- check here for more information.
Our favorite part: Riding the boat, of course! Be sure to find the Make Way for Ducklings statue and ride the Frog Pond Carousel.
Travel Tips: The boats typically run mid April through October; information on parking here; restroom and concessions are available inside the park; check here for special events 
Read our full post here

10. Overlook the site of the Boston Massacre at the Old State House, part of the Boston National Historical Park. The Old State House, built in 1713, is the oldest building in Boston. It has been restored several times since it was saved by demolition in 1881. In addition to being the State House, the building also served as City Hall in the mid 1800s.  It’s famous for being the site of the first reading of the Declaration of Independence in Boston.
Our favorite parts: The hands-on exhibits that include puzzles, clocks, scented (!!) timelines that date back to the 1630s, and the guided tour.
Travel Tips: Kids ages 18 and under receive free admission; tours are every hour hour and brief presentations are offered throughout the day; parking in the nearby Dock Street Garage or take the T Orange or Blue line to the State Street station- it’s located right under the museum; the museum is not handicap accessible (3 floors of exhibits) and does not allow strollers; restrooms and gift shop on site, but no dining facilities; plan on 60 minutes to fully explore the museum and 30 minutes for a guided tour; list of tour options here
Read our full post here

11. Climb aboard the USS Constitution, part of the Boston National Historical Park, and explore the Charlestown Navy Yard. Charlestown, Massachusetts, located on the north end of Boston directly on the Harbor, is considered the oldest neighborhood in the city.  The Navy Yard was established in 1800 and over 200 warships were built and maintained there until the yard’s closing in 1974. Today, the 130 acre complex includes parks, museums, visitor centers, and two ships on display.  The National Park Service has a Visitor Center that showcases the history of the area.
Our favorite parts: Exploring three decks of the USS Constitution, nicknamed “Old Ironsides”, one of the original six ships of the US Navy; touring the top deck of the USS Cassin Young, involved in several WWII battles (open during summer and fall season); and the hands on, day-in-the-life-of-a-sailor exhibits of the USS Constitution Museum.
Travel Tips: The Visitor Center and ships are free to explore; there is no set admission price to explore the museum, but donations are strongly encouraged; take the water ferry taxi, operated by Boston Harbor Cruises, and walk from the pier or park in the nearby Nautica Parking Garage; have your ticket validated at the Visitor Center for a discount; strollers are allowed in the buildings, but not onboard the ships; hold on to little children carefully, as there are steep drop off into the water with only a single rope as a barrier; wear sturdy shoes/sneakers while exploring the ships- the staircases are very steep; restrooms are located in the museum and Visitor Center; plan on spending 3-4 hours to explore the complex.
Read our full post here

12. Climb 294 steps to the top of the Bunker Hill Monument. The monument commemorates a June 1775 battle that occurred between New England soldiers and the British army.  The 221 foot tower is built of quarried granite, popular in nearby Quincy. Across from the monument is a museum (housed in an old branch of the Boston Public Library) which has several exhibits on the battle, Boston history, and the construction of the monument.  The monument is located at the end of the Freedom Trail.
Our favorite parts: The views from the top of the monument and the dioramas inside the museum exhibits.
Travel Tips: The museum and monument are free to visit; check here for info on hours, as the monument is undergoing repairs throughout late 2021 and 2022;  the monument is an easy walk from the water ferry taxis and Charlestown dock; restrooms and gift shop at the museum; park rangers and National Park passport stamps at the monument;  plan on an hour at the monument and an hour at the museum.

13. Island hop through the Boston Harbor Islands. The collection of 34 islands have been used for centuries for hunting, fishing, and recreation, and later as a maritime quarantine station in the 1700s, a horse rendering factory in the 1800s, , and a garbage processing facility in the early 1900s. Some of the most popular islands include Spectacle Island, Bumpkin Island, and George’s Island.
Our favorite part:  George’s Island and Fort Warren
Travel Tips: Several of the islands are free to visit seasonally and offer hiking trails, camping sites, picnic sites, and restrooms- check here for more information and here for a map; there are fees for ferry service, the only way to access the islands- check here for a ferry schedule; the ferry departs from the Long Wharf in downtown Boston or from Hingham (15 minutes south of the city); make sure kids pick up a Junior Ranger booklet to complete and earn a badge and scroll down on the link for other engaging hands-on activities; plan on a full day for explore several islands.

14. Catch a game of the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, or the Boston Celtics or Boston Bruins at TD Garden and take a tour of the facilities. Hour long tours of Fenway Park are offered year round, with varying hours depending on the season- check here for more information. Tours include stops in the announcers booth, locker rooms, the famous Green Monster, dugouts, and various concourses. The TD Garden is home to the Sports Museum which features guided tours of the Garden and exhibits showcasing memorabilia of all Boston based sports teams and the Boston Marathon.
Our favorite parts: All the trivia and nostalgia and backstage peeks into locker rooms and suites. 
Travel Tips: Book tickets ahead of time, as tours often sell out, especially on weekends; check online for information regarding parking and dining options, based on season.
Bonus: You’ll have to travel about an hour southwest to see the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. Read more about the area in this post

15. Build to your heart’s content at Legoland Discovery Center. One of 12 locations in North America, the Somerville center is a less than 10 minute drive north of Boston. The center includes two rides (Kingdom Quest and Merlin’s Apprentice), a Play Zone indoor jungle gym complex, an indoor playscape for toddlers, a 4D movie theater, dozens of miniature replicas of famous landmarks, and station after station for lego building.
Our favorite parts: Taking a workshop with a Master Builder, visiting during a holiday season for special events (like Brick or Treat for Halloween) and themed Lego displays.
Travel Tips: Purchase tickets online ahead of time to save time and money; park in the Artisan West Garage for a nominal fee (the first three hours are free); there are also some metered street parking spaces ($1/hour); bring quarters for the lockers, a safe spot to store coats and bags; restroom, a large gift shop, and cafe style dining facilities on site; plan on 2-3 hours to explore the center.
Read our full posts here and here.

Bonuses:

  • Take a ride on the Boston DUCK tours

  • Follow the 2.5 mile Freedom Trail throughout the city to see history come alive.  The trail includes many of the sites we’ve already included on this list, but see the full list and travel tips here.

Looking for other nearby trips? Check out our City Guides to Salem and Gloucester, Massachusetts and see our index of 30+ other City Guides here. You might also like this post featuring 20 places throughout Massachusetts we love. And follow along on our adventures on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest

Disclosure: My family has received media passes to some of the attractions featured in this post. All opinions expressed are my own.

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19 Comments

  1. Boston has a lot to offer to families. As a historian and my husband also being one and our son being interested in history, I love all the historical things to do.

  2. Boston has a lot to offer to families. As a historian and my husband also being one and our son being interested in history, I love all the historical things to do.

  3. Boston has a lot to offer to families. As a historian and my husband also being one and our son being interested in history, I love all the historical things to do.

  4. Your children looked like they had a blast! What a fun and educational destination. I would especially love to go through the Boston tea party museum. We learned so much about that in school history class, I’d love to be able to go there and learn more in-depth about it myself.

  5. Your children looked like they had a blast! What a fun and educational destination. I would especially love to go through the Boston tea party museum. We learned so much about that in school history class, I’d love to be able to go there and learn more in-depth about it myself.

  6. Your children looked like they had a blast! What a fun and educational destination. I would especially love to go through the Boston tea party museum. We learned so much about that in school history class, I’d love to be able to go there and learn more in-depth about it myself.

  7. This is a perfect thing to do with my son. I like how museums are not only fun and interesting but can teach you about history from all of the different eras! My favorite kind of museum involves art because it seems so unique – So, the Boston Children’s Museum will definitely be on my list now, it will be an educational experience we can all enjoy together!

  8. This is a perfect thing to do with my son. I like how museums are not only fun and interesting but can teach you about history from all of the different eras! My favorite kind of museum involves art because it seems so unique – So, the Boston Children’s Museum will definitely be on my list now, it will be an educational experience we can all enjoy together!

  9. This is a perfect thing to do with my son. I like how museums are not only fun and interesting but can teach you about history from all of the different eras! My favorite kind of museum involves art because it seems so unique – So, the Boston Children’s Museum will definitely be on my list now, it will be an educational experience we can all enjoy together!

  10. Our family visited Boston years ago when my girls were your kids’ ages. They didn’t think it was going to be cool at all and were a little disappointed in our choice to go there. Ended up with them LOVING it. As a local, you have a handle on a lot of the fun things to do for kids. The behind the scenes tour a the BSO would be awesome.

  11. Our family visited Boston years ago when my girls were your kids’ ages. They didn’t think it was going to be cool at all and were a little disappointed in our choice to go there. Ended up with them LOVING it. As a local, you have a handle on a lot of the fun things to do for kids. The behind the scenes tour a the BSO would be awesome.

  12. Our family visited Boston years ago when my girls were your kids’ ages. They didn’t think it was going to be cool at all and were a little disappointed in our choice to go there. Ended up with them LOVING it. As a local, you have a handle on a lot of the fun things to do for kids. The behind the scenes tour a the BSO would be awesome.

  13. Love how detailed each location is – it’s so helpful to have a guide like this when you are traveling with kids! you even talk about the parking, which is important for most families. Great post.

  14. Love how detailed each location is – it’s so helpful to have a guide like this when you are traveling with kids! you even talk about the parking, which is important for most families. Great post.

  15. Love how detailed each location is – it’s so helpful to have a guide like this when you are traveling with kids! you even talk about the parking, which is important for most families. Great post.

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