Boston is an incredible outdoor interactive museum, perfect for people of all ages to explore.
From wandering the historic sites where patriots fought for US independence to studying Boston's art collections, both indoors and out, with elements that are quirky, creepy, funny and funky, there is plenty to appeal to children's creative little minds. There are also many active and family-friendly ways to engage with the city, whether that's trail walking, biking or boating.
Here are the best things to do with kids in Boston.
Is Boston good for kids?
Families are a big part of the audience in Boston, whether it’s local kids or visiting ones, so most venues go the extra mile to accommodate them. At Boston Logan Airport, family bathrooms are available throughout, and those traveling with kids are often (but not always) allowed into expedited lines through immigration and security.
Most places welcome families with amenities such as kids’ menus at restaurants and kids’ pricing at museums. Additionally, many museums offer special events and activity kits to engage their youngest guests. Green space is plentiful in the city, and there’s no shortage of climbing structures and water features – even right Downtown. There are also public toilets around the city, although they generally don’t have changing facilities and many of them cannot accommodate your stroller. For details, refer to the city’s interactive map of public toilets.
Where is best in Boston for kids?
Downtown is an excellent neighborhood base, with loads of hotels and easy access to public transportation. Boston Common and the Rose Kennedy Greenway are within walking distance, as are many other family-friendly attractions. The nearby Seaport District is also a hot spot: transportation is not quite as convenient, but there’s plenty of fun for kids, including the Children’s Museum, Lawn on D (an outdoor space with seasonal events and games) and the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum. If you prefer a less dense urban environment, Back Bay is a good option, with easy access to the Charles River Esplanade and the Boston Public Library.
Best things to do in Boston with babies and toddlers
Make Way for Ducklings, by Robert McCloskey is a classic story about a duck family who lives in the Public Garden. Read the book with your toddlers ahead of time, then pay a visit to the bronze statues depicting the duck family.
Afterward, take a ride on the Swan Boats, a Boston mainstay since 1877, when they first started floating on the lagoon in the Public Garden. The boats are still pedal-powered, offering your little ones a peaceful voyage and a sighting of the lagoon’s resident (live) swans.
Rose Kennedy Greenway
There’s so much fun to be had along the Rose Kennedy Greenway – not only for the tiny tots, but for kids of all ages. For little ones, the highlight is undoubtedly the Greenway Carousel, where they can ride on lobsters, whales, harbor seals and other New England fauna. (All of the carousel creatures were inspired by local children’s drawings.) They can also run wild on the expansive greens, slow down on the walkable labyrinth at Armenian Heritage Park, or cool off under the fun Ring Fountain.
Top tip: Food trucks line up along the Greenway, so parents can easily pick up affordable lunches or snacks.
Boston Children’s Museum
Take your smallest kids to the Boston Museum’s dedicated PlaySpace designed for toddlers under the age of three, where there are lots of opportunities for sensory play, make-believe and age-appropriate physical challenges. There’s even a dedicated space for crawlers. Older children are prohibited from PlaySpace so the little tykes have room to explore.
Do your toddlers like trains? (Do we need to ask?) This delightful park in Cambridge features a climbing structure designed for toddlers and a fun water feature. Best of all, there’s a pedestrian bridge that gives a direct view over the tracks where trains trundle in and out of North Station. There's potential for hours of entertainment.
Best things to do in Boston with school-age kids
The Freedom Trail is one of Boston’s star attractions – and often a highlight for the whole family. This walking trail connects 16 sites, taking in both colonial and revolutionary history. Kids might get bored at museums, but not here, at the actual sites of dramatic events like the Boston Massacre and the Battle of Bunker Hill. Costume-clad guides and interactive exhibits bring the history to life. When your kids need a break, let them run free on Boston Common.
Top tip: Don’t try to see the entire Freedom Trail in one go. Just focus on one section, so your kids can explore it thoroughly. If you want a guided tour, Boston by Little Feet is specifically designed for kids age 6 to 12.
Boston Harbor Islands
Some 34 islands are sprinkled around Boston Harbor, inviting kids of all ages for a unique urban adventure. Board the ferry at Long Wharf and set sail! The main attraction of Boston Harbor Islands is on Georges Island, where the 19th-century Fort Warren is full of turrets to climb, passages to explore and history to discover. On Spectacle Island, there’s swimming and hiking and fabulous views. Or go all the way to the outer islands for remote beaches, wild berries and untrodden trails. On summer weekends, there are often free concerts and special events for families. Again, don’t try to do too much: one island is enough, two is the max for one day.
Museum of Fine Arts
The encyclopedic Museum of Fine Arts has something for everyone, including the very youngest appreciators of art. Do your kids love animals? They will be delighted by the whimsical weather vanes and carousel figures on display in Decorative Arts. How about ships? Check out the intimate Model Ship Gallery. For kids who are fascinated by mummies, head on over to the displays in Egyptian Art, and don’t miss the bronze statues of Indian Hunter and Pronghorn Antelope that grace the Fenway entrance.
Top tip: Bring a sketchbook and encourage your kids to copy their favorite artwork or create their own. The MFA’s Art Connections activity cards are another clever way to get kids to engage with the art. Each card focuses on a particular theme (dogs, chocolate, mythical creatures, etc), suggesting artworks to find and activities to guide their examinations.
Lawn on D
If your kids like to play games, they’ll love Lawn on D, a unique park with funky swings, pickleball courts and plenty of lawn games, from corn hole to ping-pong to lawn checkers. Food and drink (including adult beverages) and live music on weekends make for a rockin’ good time. Lawn on D does get crowded, so earlier is better, and weekdays are better than weekends.
Best things to do in Boston with tweens and teenagers
ICA Boston has an incredible program for teens, demonstrating the institute’s commitment to cultivating artists of the future. The main focus is long-term programming for local teens, but there’s a lot for visitors to discover as well. The exhibits are ever-changing, and invariably test the boundaries on what we call art. (And we all know that teens specialize in testing boundaries.) Interactive and multimedia are the norm – perfect for this iGeneration. One cool feature is Art Lab (open on weekends), where teens can collaborate with artists on ongoing contemporary art pieces.
Admission to the ICA is always free to anyone under the age of 18. After visiting the main museum, take a detour to the nearby Seaport Studios to see the ICA Teen Gallery featuring artwork by Boston-area youth.
Tea Party Ships & Museum
Encourage your teens to summon up their rebellious spirit (if you dare) when they participate in a re-enactment of the Boston Tea Party at the Tea Party Ships & Museum. Visitors play the roles of historic characters and engage in a lively debate about the Tea Act of 1773, then storm the British ships and – yes! – dump crates of tea into the harbor. Afterwards, creative multimedia exhibits demonstrate how this portentous event was perceived at the time and why it had such drastic consequences. You’ll also see one of the original tea crates – but you can’t throw that one into the Boston Harbor.
One of the best ways to see Boston is from the seat of a bike, where you’ll move fast enough to keep your teen’s attention, but slow enough to take it all in. If you’re new in town, though, it can be hard to know the safest and most scenic routes to ride, so let Urban AdvenTours show you the way. Its family-friendly Tour de Boston avoids congested areas and stays mostly on bike paths along the Charles River (bike seats and trailers are also available for younger children.) For more experienced riders, the longer City View Tour shows off six different neighborhoods and many historic sights. Both options provide a great overview of the city, keeping your teen active and entertained along the way.
If you are confident cyclists, you might prefer to skip the tour and go it alone. Urban AdvenTours offers rental bikes, tips for urban riding and recommended routes; or, sign up for an Adventure Pass from Boston’s bike-share service, Bluebikes.
Charles River Canoe & Kayak
Another alternative for the active family: rent kayaks and see the city from the water. There are two locations of Charles River Canoe & Kayak, offering different paddling experiences. Rent from the Kendall Sq location to see the Charles River Esplanade, the famous Citgo sign, two university campuses (Boston University and MIT) and other iconic city views. From the Allston/Brighton location, you’ll see the Harvard University campus, plus lovely parks on both shores and rowers plying the surrounding waters. Ambitious paddlers can do a one-way trip – five miles total – and take it all in. If you prefer to have someone show you the way, Charles River Canoe & Kayak also offers guided tours.
Planning tips for traveling with kids in Boston
- You don’t need a car to get around Boston: the city is compact and public transportation is efficient and user-friendly (and fun for kids). Kids age 11 and under ride public transportation for free.
- Theoretically, all buses and trains are accessible to strollers (although it may not feel like it during heavy commuting hours). Be aware that some of the subway platforms – primarily on the green line – do not have elevator access.
- You’ll probably be doing a lot of walking. Be careful on the brick sidewalks, which look lovely but can be difficult to navigate with strollers.
- Backpack-style baby carriers are not allowed in the art museums.
- Many upscale hotels offer enticing amenities to make your kids’ visit special, from books and toys to special snacks to Nintendos for rent to complimentary cooking classes. The Fairmont Copley Plaza even has a resident canine – Cori Copley – a friendly black lab who is available for pets in the lobby and walks around town!