If you’re planning family holidays in the USA with kids, you shouldn’t go past a few days in Boston with kids. This elegant and stately city has beautiful public galleries and museums, parks for the summer, ski fields for the winter and plenty of history to educate and entertain. suitcases&strollers chatted to Robin Hutson, Editor of Luxe Recess: For Parents Who Like Really Nice Hotels and mama to a 9-year-old girl and 3-year-old boy about why she loves her hometown and why your USA family holidays should be all about Boston baby.
Why should parents plan a family holiday in Boston with kids?
Boston is an ideal city for a family vacation for its beauty, ease and activities. It is inarguably one of the most distinguished cities in the United States with ocean and river views, incredible examples of America’s oldest and newest architecture and public gardens and spaces. Add its historical and cultural clout, and you have a city with more options than you will be able to experience in one visit.
Where is your favourite place to go in Boston with kids?
The Public Garden, designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, one of America’s greatest designers of public spaces (like Central Park in New York). Compared to the Boston Common, which is mostly just grassy open space, the Public Garden is designed with sophisticated floral displays and the trees and sculptures create scenery out of a classically illustrated children’s book. Boats shaped like swans offer rides around a pond where real swans and ducks swim happily. There are usually balloon artists and musicians at each intersecting path. Families pushing babies in the newest luxury strollers, children chasing the ducks and couples young and old enjoy the shady park and its weeping willow trees.
And every child must get their picture with the Make Way for Ducklings sculpture, a tribute to the classic Boston children’s book.
What is the best free activity to do in Boston with kids?
The Institute of Contemporary Art on the Boston waterfront hosts a family day on Saturday mornings. Adults are free when accompanied by children. Kids engage in activities in the lobby before exploring the galleries. When staying at a nearby hotel, we had the added fun of taking a water taxi to the museum instead of walking.
[For more travel tips on free activities for kids available in most cities, see the suitcases&strollers story here.]
Where is the best place to take kids in Boston when the weather is bad?
The Museum of Science in Boston is well designed to handle large crowds so, even on cold and wet days when it is filled, it is an enjoyable space to explore. Even the emptiest exhibits are well curated to engage children and adults. The I-Max movie theater, the Planetarium and an extra large gift shop provide a full day’s adventure. The cafeteria-style restaurant offers healthy choices beyond the predictable pizza.
What are some of the city secrets that tourists might not know about but shouldn’t miss on a family holiday in Boston?
You don’t have to go into New Hampshire or Vermont to snow ski; you can ski right in town for the day at the Blue Hills.
[For more travel tips on downhill snowboarding and skiing with kids, see the suitcases&strollers story here.]
What’s the best way for children to have an authentic Boston experience?
The Boston Duck Tours are a rite of passage, an activity locals enjoy. The land-water tours in vintage WWII amphibious landing vehicles are lead by tour guides offering jokes along the way, similar to a jungle cruise at a Disney park.
It is really fun for grownups too, provided you only have to do it once.
Where are your top 3 places for family-friendly restaurants for kids in Boston?
1. Flour Bakery has a locations near the Children’s Museum, the Back Bay and Cambridge worth a foodie adventure. Joanne Chang left management consulting to become a baker and trained at places like Payard Patisserie in New York City before opening her own bakeries. Expect exceptional sandwiches and baked goods that will please any adult and child.
2. The Langham Boston is definitely the family friendly hotel for grand scale weekend brunches and holiday meals. They are famous for their chocolate buffet brunch on Saturdays.
3. Legal Sea Foods is a Boston based chain with a new national locations noted for their sustainable fish. The quality is excellent and the children’s menus are good.
What are your tips for kids' shops in Boston?
The best selection of classic New England preppy for children is at North River Outfitter on Charles Street, the main drag of Beacon Hill. Think lots of navy, British designer Rachel Riley, and expensive children’s shoes. Their owner has boys and has done an excellent job of finding boys clothing that’s easy to get excited about.
Magic Beans is an incredible local chain with a store inside the Prudential Center. Their stroller and car seat experts are second to none and their toy selection is wonderful.
[For more travel tips on how to select the correct car seat for kids, see the suitcases&strollers interview with a car safety expert.]
Which is the best place to find family friendly accommodation in Boston with kids?
In warm weather, the Boston Waterfront is a must. The area boasts several of the best attractions for children (the Children’s Museum, the New England Aquarium and the Rose Kennedy Greenway.) The InterContinental Boston and the Boston Harbor Hotel are excellent choices.
When the weather is cooler, choose a hotel in the Back Bay near shops and restaurants and more indoor fun. The Four Seasons Boston, the Taj Boston and Mandarin Oriental Boston are well located for shopping, restaurants and museums.
What is the ideal time frame for a holiday to Boston with kids?
Boston could entertain a family for any length of time. The smallest itinerary focusing on the waterfront and Back Bay would require at least three days, adding Cambridge’s Harvard Square.
When is the best time of year to visit Boston with kids?
Boston, like many cities, is ideal from May through December. Spring comes later here, as April can still have cold, wet days. Even in the summer on the warmest days by the water, the breezes make it feel pleasant. After summer, fall just gets better. It is still common at the beginning of November to have mild, sunny days. The rest of the year in Boston showcases the December holiday season, another excellent choice for the many family events including a very strong Nutcracker performance by the Boston Ballet as well as the Urban Nutcracker performed by the Tony Williams Dance Center. The Boston Pops also has a famous Christmas concert, and local hotels host excellent children’s holiday teas and skating parties.
What is the best way to move around Boston with kids?
Staying in downtown makes it really easy to walk between the waterfront and the Back Bay. The T [subway] has convenient stops for the New England Aquarium and Museum of Science, Harvard Square, the Fenway [where Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox baseball team, is located] and the Museum of Fine Arts.
Uber is also easy to use in Boston and taxis are available outside major T stations.
What are your top 3 tips for families travelling to Boston with kids?
1. Crowds can be unpleasant at the New England Aquarium and Boston Children’s Museum. The latter hosts a free night on Fridays that is not for the crowd-averse. The only advantage is that you and your kids will wear out and go fast to sleep that night. Ideally visit both attractions midweek.
2. If you travel to Boston during the Red Sox season that runs from May until October, be mindful of home games. Both traffic and public transportation (the green line of the T) get delayed and congested before and after the game. Do not plan on moving around in the city until after the game has begun.
3. Harvard Square is still an entertaining outing for young children. Gift and book stores are fun for young children to shop, including the world’s only Curious George store which hosts story times on Friday mornings. Additionally, Harvard Square has an excellent concentration of high quality, casual restaurants for snacks and quick meals. In cold weather, have hot chocolate at L.A. Burdick Handmade Chocolates. And the Harvard Museum of Natural History is very popular with local families.
Images: Boston Duck Tours, Courtesy of the Great Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau, Leise Jones Photography