If you've read my blog before you know I am a total history dork. Which probably explains my love affair with the city of Boston. One of my earliest childhood memories is my family walking the "Freedom Trail" and stopping for fresh cannoli along the way. My mother used to read poetry to me at night and I used to beg her to read the "Midnight Ride of Paul Revere," and was in heaven when I got to visit Old North Church. I was a weird little kid. But really my love for Boston is much deeper. It's one of the few cities I could ever see myself actually living in. The city is full of wonderful neighborhoods, great shopping, incredible museums and fantastic food and of course, there are the Red Sox. My family has been going to Boston for weekend trips since I was a little girl. in 1986, an infamous year for Red Sox fans, my parents took me to a Red Sox game for my birthday and due to a rainout it was the game where they clinched the pennant. Probably a once in a lifetime event. When I was in high school it was the site of numerous adventures for Head of the Charles, girls weekends and sports trip. I ended up going to college there and I think that if we ever moved again we'd probably head closer to Boston.
Although it's not the same city I remember from my childhood but I love it even more. There are so many wonderful reasons to visit the city of Boston I had a hard time organizing them into a long weekend trip but I tried. I know if you'll visit you'll find a million reasons to love the city too.
Ease of Access:
Boston is a one tank trip from the Lehigh Valley. It's a five hour trip, 300 miles from our house to the city. It seems like a long trip but really it's not bad. Plus, once you get to Boston you can park your car and use mass transit or the "T." We usually get our passes as part of our hotel package but you can buy a 7 day pass for $15.00 for 7 days. If you are interested in saving money there are a number of very nice communities that surround Boston where you can stay and hop on the "T" from there. The hotel rates are lower and you won't pay for parking like you would in the city. Since the Massachusetts or MBTA is an excellent public transit system you should feel confident that taking the kids on is safe.
Excellent Child Friendly Museums:
Boston is home to world-class museums. And some of favorites aren't even going to make it into this post. Maybe we'll have to create another entry about all of the musesums of Boston. But anyway, if you are taking children to Boston there are a number of excellent museums geared toward them.
- New England Aquarum: The New England Aquarium is located at Central Wharf in Boston. It is an excellent aquarium.Your children will love the new Shark and Ray Touch Tank that is opening in April 2011. It will be the largest touch tank on the east coast. In addition the aquarium has exhibits on the Gulf of Maine, Penguins, Harbor Seals and the Pacific Reef Community to name a few. Throughout the day the aquarium presents live shows and presentations included with your admission price. One of the things that has been added since I was a child is an IMAX theater. The aquarium offers a whale watching trip during the spring and summer months. You can purchase combo tickets for the aquarium, imax and whale watch.
- Boston Children's Museum: This is a museum to visit if you've got children under the age of twelve. It's a completely kid-friendly environment. They are encouraged to touch, explore and be kids. Such a nice place to take an active two year old. One of my favorite exhibits was the "Countdown to Kindergarten" exhibit. The museum has set up a mock classroom for kids where they can practice everything they would need to do to go to kindergarten. My daughter's favorite exhibit was "Playspace." There was a treehouse, toy train and is specifically designed for kids three and under. My husband loved playing with Addie in the "Johnny's Workbench" area. We spent the day here. Which, if you have a two year old you know, can be hard. There wasn't anything we didn't like. When I was a child they had the Japanese House and when I took Addie I was so pleasantly surprised to find it there. Another favorite. The museum is located at Children's Wharf and is easily accessible from bus or subway. If you choose to drive there are garages which you will have to pay to park at nearby.
- Boston Museum of Science: An incredible museum for children and adults. The museum encourages children to explore and touch all things scientific. For younger visitors there is the "Discovery Center" which is designed for children under eight. It is dedicated to fostering learning through play. My daughter thought this area was great. She could have spent hours here. A personal favorite was the "Innovative Engineers" exhibit. This exhibit highlights the unorthodox path some brilliant engineers took to reach their goals. My husband loved this place. He is a techie and it had plenty for him to do with Addie. He didn't have to dress up or play tea party he got to show how to use a computer or create a model. It was a wonderful way for us to spend part of our trip to Boston.
Free Things to Do:
In Boston, there are so many chances to explore the city without spending anything. I'm just going to list a few here but there are many, many more.
- Walking the Freedom Trail: If you've never walked the Freedom Trail, it's truly should be on every American's must-do list. You literally walk through the heart of American history. The only city that I think might hold a candle in American historic sites might be Philadelphia. But the Freedom Trail gets top billing because of the actual marked trail through so many historic sites.
If you've never heard or walked the Freedom Trail it is a 2.5 mile marked trail that winds it way through Boston stopping at 16 sites. The sites along the trail include the Boston Common, Old North Church, Paul Revere's House, the USS Constitution, Faneuil Hall and the Old State House. You can spend as much as or little time at each stop as you wish. Some of the stops require an entry fee. (Paul Revere's House is $3.50/adult). (There is also a Patriot's Pass which gets you entrance into Paul Revere's House and Old North Church for $8.00.) Another highlight for your children will be the Bunker Hill Monument, which you can climb to the top and get a great view of the city. Of course, you can spend the entire day, part of the day or just walk the parts you want. It's a great way to see the city, visit some of America's most historical sites and bring history to life for your children.
- Wandering Newberry Street: If you've never been to Newberry Street it's a shoppers mecca. There are high-end stores, boutiques and some giants (Nike). Newberry Street is a great place to spend several hours wandering through the shops. If you visit Nike you can sit in some of the old "Boston Garden" seats they have overlooking Newberry Street. There's an Armani Cafe and an Urban Outfitters. In addition there are a number of places to stop and eat.
- Faneuil Hall Marketplace: Faneuil Hall Marketplace is the site of the Boston Massacre. It used to be the open air marketplace for the city. Closeby was Haymarket, which even when I was a child still had a daily open air market full of produce and fish. Now Faneuil Hall Marketplace is a great place to wander through shops, enjoy the street performers and snack among the cobblestones. Within walking distance from Faneuil Hall are the Boston Common, State House and Old North Church so you can spend quite a bit of time wandering through the area. (Plus, you can head straight in the North End.) One of the great things abour Faneuil Hall is that there is a giant food court. One of the buildings has food vendors on each side of the main aisle. You can feed a hungry family here, cheap. On our last trip we had gyros and ice cream. If you want to sit down there are also a number of options including the famous Durgin Park. Durgin Park is famous for it's New England Fare. When I was a child the waitresses were famous for being rude but this has been toned down. The restaurant has been around almost as long as Boston, founded around 1742. Make reservations if you have to dine here. Faneuil Hall is another place you can spend hours or a day.
- The North End: Okay, I'm biased. This is one of my favorite places in Boston. When I was a child we used to walk through Haymarket, through a seedy tunnel and into the North End. But the Big Dig changed all of that and you can walk there with no problem now. There are not major sites in the North End, the old Italian section of Boston but it's worth a visit. (We HIGHLY recommend Michele Topor's tour, but not with kids) If you want a cannoli or really good Italian food, head to the North End. We love Polcari's Market, Maria's Pastry Shop (torrone, which we order from there every year at Christmas and sfogliatelle) and Salumeria Italiana (we order from there website). Seriously a foodie paradise. Especially if you happened to grow up in an Italian family in the northeast, old school treats that are hard to find.
- The Boston Common: Okay, this is not a neighborhood. But it's a giant park with swan boats in the summer. And if you've read your children "Make Way for Ducklings" you should visit here. It's surrounded by historic buildings so you can fit a few in if you like but you can also picnic and play at this beautiful urban park. If you're visiting in the summer you should check the calendar of events for free concerts.
- Fenway Park: Even if you're not a Red Sox fan you should visit this park. It's a classic American ballpark. Watching a game here is like nothing else. (And we've lived like Gypsies and watched a lot of baseball) You can tour the park if you don't want to buy tickets. It's another piece of the American story. I gave my dad tickets to the tour for his birthday last year and he loved it. If you go on a gameday you can wander through Yawkey Way and have hot peanuts or sausage and pepper sandwich. That is a smell that I identify with Fenway.
- Harvard Square: Everyone knows Harvard. Harvard Square is the epicenter. It's surrounded by funky college shops and eateries. You can bring your children and show them their future university. Seriously, talking to your children about college as a normal thing makes them infinitely more likely to complete college.
- Boston Public Library: (It's free) It was the countries first public library. It has rotating exhibits and a wonderful children's area. The Margret and H.A. Rey Room (the authors of Curious George) is a fabulous place for children.
- Old Sturbridge Village: A living history museum in Sturbridge, Massachusetts. The village has over 59 buildings, a farm and several working mills. The exhibits are child friendly and costumed intepreters will patiently take time to explain and show your children how things used to be done. A very special place for families.
- Plymouth Plantation: A living history museum, extreme. It's the place where the Pilgrims landed and every day costumed interpreters show guests how our countries first immigrants lived. Here the interpreters speak and act like Pilgrims, don't ask for a bathroom they won't know what you're talking about. As all children study Pilgrims and the First Thanksgiving this is a wonderful place for children to visit. It will bring something almost all children know something about to life.