As you all have probably guessed by now, my family loves a good adventure and we are fond of exploring the great-unknown. We, sadly, are not a family with unlimited time or financial resources, so we tend to do most of our adventuring close to home and our trips tend to be of the day variety. In the 13+ years that we've lived in Massachusetts, our family has explored many a Boston-area museum and historical site.
You might say that we've done it all.
(except I still have a long list of places to go and things to do)
I've even got the blog posts to prove it.
Recently, I was asked which places / activities The Family Elliot enjoyed the most, and which ones I would recommend to other families of similar time/means.
It took me a while, but I've managed to assemble a list. I present to you,
My Top 10 List of Places To Go and Things To Do (with children) When Visiting The Boston-Area
(In no particular order and without further ado)
1. Magic Wings (I've included links to previous blog posts about each place/ activity)
Magic Wings in South Deerfield, MA is perhaps just a tad outside of the Boston area. Okay, it's pretty darn far, but the trip is worth the effort. Magic Wings is the grand-poo-bah of butterfly sanctuaries. If butterfly sanctuaries were a beauty pageant, Magic Wings would be crowned Grand Supreme. It's warm, its gorgeous and there are more butterflies per square foot than should be allowed by nature. There is just no way on earth that you could leave Magic Wings in a bad mood. Take my word for it.
2. The Coolidge Reservation:
Looking for a short but lovely nature walk? Looking for a chance to breathe in the sea air while admiring a stunning ocean view? Looking for a place to spread out a picnic blanket and have an outdoor meal? Looking for a physical activity that is just long enough for adults to feel like they stretched their legs, but not long enough for the children to start complaining that they are tired? Look no further than The Coolidge Reservation in Manchester, MA. This place has it all: a lovely stroll by a lovely pond, a short board-walk area which offers ample opportunities to push your sisters off into small streams, a Great Lawn for games, trees and rocks to climb, and a gorgeous ocean to admire. The Coolidge Reservation is always a pleasure.
3. Canobie Lake Park:
Canobie Lake Park is not in Massachusetts, but I'd still consider it a viable option for someone visiting the Boston area. Get there when the park opens and plan to spend the entire day. You will be amazed by the cleanliness of the park, the considerate / helpful employees, the death-defying rides, the beautiful lake and the all-around good, old-fashioned summer fun found at Canobie.
4. The Boston Public Gardens
Boston's answer to New York's Central Park, The Public Gardens is a fun and beautiful place to visit. Read the book, Make Way For Ducklings, before you go, and your children will get a kick out of meeting Mrs. Mallard and her ducklings and riding the famous swan boats. It's so quintessentially Boston that you will probably lose your ability to pronounce your "R's" when you step through the Garden Gates.
5. Skyline Playground:
We Elliots have a few favorite Massachusetts playgrounds, but Skyline, in Arlington, is perhaps the most loved of them all. The Elliot Children love that Skyline has two long, steep slides carved into it's mountain side, a tire swing and climbing structures-galore. The Elliot Adults love that Skyline has a spectacular view of Boston and ample benches to sit and relax.
6. Boston-Area Beaches:
(Cranes Beach, Ipswich)
Massachusetts has wonderful beaches. Two of our favorites are Cranes Beach, in Ipswich and...
Good Harbor, in Gloucester.
Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall... it's doesn't matter when you go. The beaches are gorgeous, the views are pretty and the sun shines brightly (Unless it is raining. Or snowing. Or the fog has come in. You know what they say about New England weather? If you don't like it, wait five minutes and it will change.)
7. The Harvard Museum of Natural History:
The Harvard Museum of Natural History is the best museum you've never heard of. It has an enormous collection of taxidermied animals and there are bones, fossils and rock specimens galore. The museum is also home to an amazing collection of blown-glass flowers and some pretty impressive gemstones. We've been to this museum at least five times and we haven't grown tired of it yet... and that's saying something, indeed.
8. Spectacle Island:
To get to this Boston Harbor Island, you have to take a short ferry ride, which is an adventure in itself. Once you're on the island, you will be amazed at the vast quantities of sea glass, old, broken pottery and historical artifacts just lying on the rocky shore waiting to be discovered. You literally can not walk a step without finding a treasure. The only catch? All items have to be left on the island - either in the island museum or on the beach itself. Leaving treasures behind might be hard for some little children, but the rest of us get enough pleasure from knowing that the things we have found will be displayed, in the main building, for everyone after us to enjoy.
Oh. And you can hike, enjoy a meal and swim in iffy-Boston-Harbor water, too, if you're interested in those kind of things.
9. A Whale Watch Trip:
Hmm. That wasn't the photo I thought I was importing there. And I'm too tired now to find a better one. It's fuzzy, but that's a whale tail, you are looking at. Or maybe a whale back. Oh dear.
Leaving almost constantly from the Harbor in Gloucester, are a number of Whale Watching Excursion trips. They are usually half-day excursions and there is almost always a scientist on board to tell you what to look for and help you spot the whales. We've only done one Whale Watch trip and we only saw two whales, but it was amazing and worth the effort.
10. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston:
Just writing the words "Museum of Fine Arts, Boston" makes me break out into a Modern Lovers Song. Sing it with me:
Well first I'd go to the room where they keep the Cezanne
But if I had by my side a girlfriend
then I could look through the paintings
I could look right through them
because I'd have found something that I understand
I understand a girl friend
that's a girl
that's 'g' 'i' 'r' 'l' 'f' 'r' 'e' 'n'
that's a girl friend baby,
that's somethin that I understand"
Ah, that Jonathan Richman. He's something else, isn't he?
Anyway, The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston is a wonderful place for children. For a grand art museum, the MFA is very kid-friendly and you can spend hours there, wandering the galleries admiring the vast collection of art. During MA school vacation weeks, children get free admission to the museum and the staff set up art and craft stations where visiting children can explore different artistic mediums up close and personal.
So that's it - my Top Ten Best Activities for Children In/Around Boston.
I definitely could have included more family-friendly, fun Boston activities, but this Top Ten List took longer than I ever imagined and I'm way too tired.
I've been inspired, though. Maybe my Top 10 List Part 2, will follow another day.
And while I'm at it, maybe the top 10 Worst Activities / Places To Avoid With Children in Boston List is a good idea, too.
I could probably do that list fairly easily.
I hope this is helpful. Enjoy!