Hands-down, Boston is one the best cities in which to teach kids about US history. Whether you have youngins hoping to see the famous ‘Make Way for Ducklings’ statues and the Charles River or older teens eager to learn about the American Revolution, Boston is a cultural and educational playground. Best of all, you can explore most of Boston’s historical offerings on foot!
Here’s a sample of our favorite Boston activities, with lodging and dining picks to make your stay even more memorable.
Get Splashed on a Boston Duck Tour
Start your Boston trip by orienting yourself with the city in the best way possible – on a Boston Duck Tour. Not just for kids, adults will enjoy the goofy humor and historical trivia of this high-energy excursion just as much as the younger set. Buses depart from several downtown locations and wind their way through neighborhoods like Bunker Hill to sites like the State House before plunging into the Charles River. Yes, it’s as fun as it sounds (especially when the kids start ‘quacking’).
Go Underwater at the New England Aquarium
You can walk to the New England Aquarium from all areas near the harbor or State House. Perfect for a rainy or snowy East Coast day, the aquarium is located directly across from the duck tours at 1 Central Wharf. Start with the hands-on touch tanks by the entrance, which will ‘wow’ right off the bat and set the stage for a full sensory learning experience. Be on the lookout for scientists and docents manning various feeding stations because if you time it right, you can feed the stingrays and other marine creatures.
Enjoy Play Time at Boston Children’s Museum
Located across the river from Boston Harbor, the Boston Children’s Museum on Congress Street will immediately draw you in with a multi-story rope climb. True to their motto, “the power of play,” on the same level, you will find a variety of fitness tests and obstacles in which the kids will easily ‘lap’ you. There’s a great baby room upstairs, plus a pretend store and village for multicultural learning appropriate for pre-school and grade-schoolers.
Study History at the Boston Common and Freedom Trail
No trip to Boston is complete without a walk down the Freedom Trail, a historic path that served as an integral part of American Colonial Times and the Revolution. Only 2.5 miles long, plan to spend the entire morning meandering it’s route on a self-guided tour, starting from the Boston Common. Here, you’ll see the lovely statues of Boston’s most famous ducklings, plus find great spots to picnic if the weather cooperates. Be sure to stop at Paul Revere’s home and the Granary Burying Ground, where many American revolutionaries are laid to rest. Even if you’ve done the trail once, you’re sure to find stops you missed the first time.
Become a First Mate on the U.S.S. Constitution
Located at the end of the Freedom Trail, the U.S.S. Constitution Museum and Old Ironsides are an easy walk across the harbor pedestrian bridge or a quick cab ride away. If you have enough time, we recommend saving it for a later day when kids are fresh because there’s a lot to see. If you do decide to tack it onto your Freedom Trail tour, families with kids will want to start on the ship and explore the hands-on experience, while adults may prefer the museum. Either way, check out the War of 1812 Discovery Center.
Taste Your Way Through Faneuil Hall
Whether you go for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, everyone will be happy perusing the offerings at Quincy Marketplace in Faneuil Hall. Sit-down restaurants are in abundance, but the real fun is breaking off to choose your own dinner fare from one of the many booths in the long hall of vendors. Plan to stay after your meal to check out the many artisan vendors, clothing stalls, and even toy shops in the immediate vicinity. This is a great place to be entertained by street performers, as well.
Families can’t go wrong starting their day with a quick bite and a steaming cup of coffee at Red Barn, located near Quincy Market on S. Market, just a short walk from the State House area. They use all fair trade organic beans, specializing in a medium blend of Central and South American roasts. If you’re more in the mood for a big plate, walk down the harbor to Mangia Mangia in the North End. This greasy spoon serves up some of the best breakfast in town, with prices that will make you smile, too.
For a quick lunch, grab sandwiches, noodle bowls, and the like from a food truck on the Greenway by the harbor. A great pick is the aptly named Taco Truck, which usually sits in the financial center and serves—you guessed it—tacos and other Mexican delights, which you can enjoy outside on a nice park bench. When looking for lunch options along the Freedom Trail, try Regina Pizzeria. This local favorite serves up what many consider to be the best pizza in Boston. Pies come straight out of an authentic brick oven, refueling everyone just when it’s most needed. (Regina’s also has another location in Faneuil Hall.)
Additional dinner ideas include the low-key, kid-friendly (at least until late night) Kitty O’Shea’s, which offers classic pub fare, including crowd-pleasing burgers and brews. For a more entertaining option, King’s Bowling, located on the Green Line has 16 retro-style bowling lanes that are kid-friendly until dinner, when families should retire upstairs to Jasper White’s Summer Shack.
Where to Lay Your Head
You’ll never have trouble finding your hotel after a long day of sightseeing when you stay at the Custom House. This iconic Bostonian building was once a counting house for ships coming into harbor, and is now a Marriott Vacation Club property. Families can sleep comfortably all while staying in part of history. A stay is made even more special with a private tour of the historic tower available to guests with unparalleled views.
While trying to hit all the must-do attractions of Boston, be sure to take the opportunity to be spontaneous. The city is full of charming streets, historical markers, and local hangouts all worth a second look.