Boston is one giant history museum, the setting for many lively and informative field trips. Cobblestone streets and costume-clad tour guides can bring to life the events that kids read about in history books, while hands-on experimentation and interactive exhibits fuse education and entertainment.

History

  • USS Constitution & Museum

Aside from exploring the warship, kids can swing in hammocks and experience life as a sailor in the museum.

  • Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum

Kids can experience what it was like to take part in the protest, with role-playing and interactive exhibits.

  • Massachusetts State House

Check out the Kids’ Zone on the website (www.sec.state.ma.us/cis/ciskid/kididx.htm). It features word games, trivia quizzes and the priceless Ladybug Story, a tale of how a group of children used the legislative process to make the ladybug the official bug of Massachusetts.

  • Old South Meeting House

Scavenger hunts and activity kits direct children's exploration of this historic building.

  • Old State House

Most of the exhibits are not particularly kid friendly, but the 'Hands-on History' exhibition allows children to build with blocks and peek behind the hidden doors of the State House facade.

  • Prudential Center Skywalk Observatory

Assuming your kids are not acrophobes, they will be thrilled to see Boston from above. A special audio tour caters to little ones.

Art

All of Boston's art museums are free for kids (except the MFA during school hours). They offer kids' activity packs, which might include scavenger hunts, sketch pads and other tips for engaging kids.

  • Museum of Fine Arts

The museum offers loads of programs for kids of all ages, including the Art Cart, which teaches children over age four to use art, music and poetry to explore the gallery’s collections. Twice a month there's a program for toddlers, and different series of classes target kids and teens.

  • Institute of Contemporary Art

The ICA offers innovative programs for families, including weekend story hours and monthly ‘play dates,’ as well as a supercool program organized by teens for teens.

  • Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum

In addition to scavenger hunts and sketch materials, the Gardner Museum has drop-in art activities on Saturdays.

Science

  • Museum of Science

More opportunities to combine fun and learning than anywhere in the city. The Discovery Center is specially designed for kids aged under eight.

  • New England Aquarium

Kids can see eye to eye with thousands of sea species in the Giant Ocean Tank.

  • Boston Children’s Museum

Hours of fun climbing, constructing and creating. The museum is especially good for kids aged three to eight.

  • Franklin Park Zoo

In addition to the many animal exhibits, the zoo has a wild and wonderful 10,000-sq-ft playground.

  • Harvard Museum of Natural History

It's almost as good as the zoo. Sure, the stuffed animals don't move, but they let the kids get really close and look them in the eye.

  • MIT Museum

It's too complicated for small children, but school-age kids will get a kick out of the robots and other interesting science stuff.

Outdoor Adventures

  • Boston Harbor Islands

Spectacle Island has family-friendly facilities (and beaches), while Georges Island has Fort Warren, which is fun to explore. Check the website www.bostonharborislands.org for lots of kid-oriented activities on weekends.

  • Castle Island & Fort Independence

Lots of run-around space and a fort to explore, plus beaches and playground, make this an excellent adventurous outing for kids.

  • New England Aquarium Whale Watch

Whale sightings are practically guaranteed on this boat ride. Boat captains and onboard naturalists are trained to ensure that these rides do not interfere with the animals or harm them in any way.

  • Swan Boats

Boat rides on the Public Garden lagoon are short (15 minutes) and sweet (read: tame). Perfect for little tykes.

Tours

  • Boston by Foot

‘Boston by Little Feet’ is the only Freedom Trail walking tour designed especially for children aged six to 12.

  • Boston Duck Tours

Kids of all ages are invited to drive the duck on the raging waters of the Charles River. Bonus: quacking loudly is encouraged.

  • Freedom Trail Foundation

Guides in period costume! Download a kid-friendly podcast or reading list for your child before setting out (www.thefreedomtrail.org).

  • Urban AdvenTours

This bike tour is great for all ages. Kids' bikes and helmets are available for rent, as are bike trailers for toddlers.

Entertainment

  • Quincy Market

There are always jugglers, puppeteers, break-dancers and acrobats performing on weekends at Quincy Market.

  • Boston Symphony Orchestra

The BSO has a rich 'Youth & Family' program, with weekend concerts that are designed specifically to introduce young people to classical music. Come early for instrument demonstrations and other interactive fun. Recommended for ages five to 12.

  • Improv Boston

Improv Boston presents The Family Show on Saturdays at 4pm and All Access Improv at 6pm. Kids aged four and up can watch and engage in improvised song, dance and fun.

  • Mugar Omni Theater & Simons IMAX Theatre

Nature and science come to life at these multisensory cinematic experiences.

Parks & Playgrounds

  • Charlesbank Playground

Aka the Esplanade Playground.

  • Boston Common Playground

Bonus: summertime spray pool on the Frog Pond.

  • Stoneman Playground

Two gated areas target different age groups.

  • Cambridge Common Playground

Swings, climbing structures and sensory play.

Need to Know

  • Resources Boston Central (www.bostoncentral.com) for family-friendly activities, outings, shops and playgrounds.
  • Restaurants High chairs and kids' menus widely available.
  • Changing tables Often available in museums and public buildings.
  • Transport Kids aged 11 and under ride the T for free; older kids pay half-price. Reserve child seats in taxis in advance.
  • Babysitting Boston's Best Babysitters (www.bbbabysitters.com) or Summer Sitters (www.summersitters.com).