Family Vacations to Boston, Massachusetts

Boston Skyline
Boston Skyline (Corbis)

Boston Family Travel Tips

  • Tread the path of America's historic beginnings on the Freedom Trail.
  • Ogle sea creatures at the New England Aquarium.
  • Play and get messy at the Children's Museum.
  • Explore hands-on exhibits at the Museum of Science.
  • Stroll the Boston Common and Cambridge's collegial Harvard Square.

Boston is a city that leads visitors down the path of history—quite literally—to a time when colonists sparked a revolution and the nation's fought for independence. But Boston is also a trendy urban enclave, home to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and other top-rated museums and universities (which you shouldn't forget to check out with college-bound teens in between strolling the Boston Common and trendy Newbury Street), as well as the World Series champs, the Red Sox.

For 2.5 miles, starting at the Boston Common, the Freedom Trail winds through the city, directing walkers to 16 historic sites and structures. With most kids, a little history goes a long way. For some of the most interesting stops, begin at Faneuil Hall and follow the path to Paul Revere's house and the Old North Church. The park service offers 90-minute guided tours.

Craving a bite to eat? Faneuil Hall, the 18th-century meeting site for young revolutionaries, is located adjacent to Faneuil Hall Marketplace, a great place to grab cheap snacks from the more than 35 Colonnade eateries. Find a bench outside and enjoy the jugglers, guitarists, and other street performers. The Boston Tea Party ship and museum is slated to reopen late spring 2007. Along with an expanded museum and a new version of the Brig Beaver, replicas of tall ships the Dartmouth and the Eleanor will be moored dockside.

Boston's top-rated museums also intrigue kids with more modern, animated distractions. At the New England Aquarium, barracudas, eels, sharks, and hundreds of rainbow-colored fish swim in the 200,000-gallon Caribbean coral-reef tank. Look in on the Aquarium Medical Center, an emergency room for aquatic creatures, and you might witness veterinarians examining a turtle or feeding a squid shake to an undernourished penguin. There are also 3-D IMAX movies to put you in the thick of the wild action.

The fun starts outdoors at the Museum of Science where kids jump, swing, and spin to learn Newton's laws of physics. Inside, don't miss the Theater of Electricity where a generator produces bolts of lightning to really fire up the brood. Kids might say "yuck" at first to viewing "Body Worlds 2: The Anatomical Exhibition of Real Human Bodies," created by Dr. Gunther von Hagens, but they will be fascinated. This exhibit, running from July 30, 2006, to January 7, 2007, presents 200 human specimens—hearts, lungs, torsos—plus 25 complete human bodies, minus their skin, of course. Preserved through "plastination," these organs and bodies display what we look like inside, how thigh muscles contort when kicking a soccer ball, or what a healthy lung looks like versus a diseased one.

One of the nice touches at the Boston Children's Museum is PlaySpace, a fun area for kids three and younger. Toddlers love The Messy Sensory Area, where they're allowed—no, encouraged—to squirt shaving cream and splash water. Babies have fun crawling on a waterbed nest.

The new waterfront facility of the Institute of Contemporary Art, (opening in September 2006) and its cantilevered galleries over the harbor will intrigue kids almost as much as the thought-provoking pieces inside.

Across the Charles River in Cambridge, even tech-savvy teens won't be bored at the MIT Museum, a showcase for the latest inventions by MIT grads. Gawk at eerily real holograms, become a human rat in a virtual maze, and talk over the phone to a robot skilled at voice recognition. Then stroll through Harvard Square and MIT's Kendall Square, both abloom in spring and summer with impromptu jazz, classical, and rock music ensembles.

Tip: Save money on admission to attractions with the Boston CityPass (

Recommended Side Trips: Cape Cod, Salem, and Plymouth, and Providence (Rhode Island)'s resident family expert Candyce Stapen has written the book on family travel, having authored some 1,400 travel articles and 27 books, 26 of them on family travel. She is the winner of the 2004 "Caribbean Travel Writer of the Year for North America" award and a three-time winner of the Society of American Travel Writers' Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism award. Her articles have appeared in publications including Nick Jr , FamilyFun , Parents , Better Homes & Gardens , Conde Nast Traveler , National Geographic Traveler , and the Family Travel Network , among others. Her book, the National Geographic Guide to Caribbean Family Vacations is available from

Published: 3 Oct 2007 | Last Updated: 7 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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