20 Fun Things to Do with Kids in Boston

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Things to Do with Kids in Boston: People playing in water of Boston Common Frog pond during summer day
Marc Dufresne/Getty Images

Beantown is a great destination for families, offering plenty of kid-approved cultural and outdoor activities, plus a great selection of budget-friendly (or even free!) things to do, too. Whether you want your kids to learn about the history of the town, burn off some energy at a playground or sample the local cuisine, there’s something for everyone in our roundup of the best things to do with kids in Boston.

23 Cheap Family Vacations You Haven’t Thought of Before

1. Take a Boston Duck Tour

  • Neighborhood: various departure locations throughout the city
  • Price: $11 to $37 per person
  • Where to Stay: North End Luxury Condo (from $285/night, sleeps 4, near New England Aquarium pickup); Gorgeous One Bedroom (from $325/night, sleeps 3, near Prudential Center pickup); Inviting One Bedroom (from $234/night, sleeps 2, near New England Aquarium pickup)

Your kids will be in awe of this magical ride that travels on both land and water—yes, really! Expect animated guides (aka ConDUCKtors) who are chock full of knowledge about Boston’s storied past. You’ll pass by several interesting sites, like the Boston Commons and the State House as well as enjoy a leisurely cruise along the Charles River.

2. Wave Hi to Penguins at the New England Aquarium

Most kids (and let’s be honest, adults too) love to explore an aquarium. And Boston has one of the best in the whole country. The penguin exhibit is where you should start your day and kids will also get a kick out of the Shark & Ray Touch Tank. For a more involved experience, the aquarium offers animal encounters with the Atlantic harbor seals; kids can go inside the exhibit and even receive a custom painting made by one of those very seals. (Note: the animal encounters are an additional fee).

3. See a 3D Movie at Simons IMAX Theatre

Located at the New England Aquarium, this newly renovated theatre is sure to impress kids big and small. It’s over six stories high and the fully wrapped around screen provides a real immersive experience as you venture under the sea or into the African bush. The theatre offers four nature films daily and they run for an average of 45 minutes (perfect for those little ones who can’t yet focus on a feature-length film).

4. Check Out Fossils at the Museum of Science

This is the museum that keeps on giving; every season brings new traveling exhibits so there’s always something new and exciting to see. Currently, their Mazes & Brains exhibit is full of illusions, puzzles and kinetic play, sure to have your kids’ brains firing on all cylinders. From dinosaur bones to exploring AI, the museum spans the gamut of science-based exhibits. Within the museum is the Charles Hayden Planetarium which is definitely worth checking out (their 4-D shows are an additional $6 per person).

5. Relive History at Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum

If your kids are of a certain age, they’ve probably learned all about the Boston Tea Party in history class. Take their education out of the textbooks and into this multisensory museum which includes live actors, interactive exhibits and full-scale replicas of the ships that the American colonists dumped tea from. Then, taste some of those exact teas at their restaurant, Abigail’s Tea Room & Terrace. Who said learning was boring?

6. Get Spooked On Ghosts & Gravestones of Boston

In a city with over 400 years of history, there are bound to be a few ghosts, and this evening tour will show several haunted sites. From walking amongst gravestones to seeing the most haunted hotel, your animated guides will make the tour feel like you’re attending a theatrical performance… based on truth! Kids must be at least 6 years of age but given the nature of some of the gory stories, we’d recommend it for kids who are at least 13 years old.

7. Travel The Freedom Trail By Foot

There’s no better historic walk than the Freedom Trail—the 2.5 mile stroll through the city features multiple locations relevant to our country’s birth during the time of the Revolutionary War. For families, we recommend the Walk Into History Tour: A 90-minute, one-mile long tour that highlights the revolutionary history that took place at 11 of the 16 locations along the Freedom Trail.

8. Play at Boston Children’s Museum

Unlike museums for adults, this one for kids is all about touching, playing and engaging with exhibits. The three-story high museum provides playful exhibits at each level—there’s a bubble exhibit, the Art Lab and their newest exhibit, You, Me, We!, which gives parents the tools to engage with children about larger societal issues like stereotypes, discrimination and more.

9. Take a Ride on the Iconic Swan Boats

The Boston Public Gardens are a great stroll but when their little legs get tired, sitting on one of Boston’s iconic Swan Boats will do the trick. These boats seat 10 to 12 people and the ride is an inexpensive way to relax for a quick 15 minutes. Ducks, geese, fish and even turtles can all be spotted while out on the water. The boats operate from mid-April to early September.

10. Cool Off in The Boston Common Frog Pond Spray Pool & Ride the Carousel

Also located in the Boston Common Gardens, the Frog Pond’s Carousel is a family-friendly classic. Take your kids for a (slow) spin. Fun fact: It was named one of “America’s Best Carousels” by Travel and Leisure in May of 2012.

You should also pack your swimsuits and visit the Spray Pool which opens for the summer in June (in the winter, the pond is a great place for ice skating). Cool off after walking the city in the pool which has ankle-deep water great for kids of any age.

11. Snack at The Vaults, Open the Mystery Closet, and Swim in the Indoor Pool at the Four Seasons Hotel Boston

  • Neighborhood: Back Bay
  • Price: from $797/night

Just a stone’s throw from Boston Commons lies this upscale hotel that just went through a big refresh. Part of this included making it a great place for kids. Each floor now features “The Vault,” a room filled with free snacks like Swedish Fish and popcorn as well as complimentary beverages. In the newly renovated lobby hangs a giant mural wherein a hidden key lies. Once kids find that key, they are given access to the Mystery Closet filled with toys, in which they can select one for their taking! Kids and adults alike will enjoy their eighth floor indoor pool with views overlooking the Boston Public Gardens.

12. Shop and Eat at Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market

Head to this lively town square and visit Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market—two historic buildings filled with tons of restaurants that showcase “The Best of Boston,” and stores where your kids can get all those souvenirs you promised them. There are also street carts in the promenade as well as tons of street performers who always request audience participation (if that’s your thing).

13. Do a Dino Safari

Boston is full of history, but this exhibit goes back way before the Revolutionary War. Located inside Quincy Market, this walkthrough experience includes 20+ giant moving dinosaurs! Kids will learn about their evolution, where dinosaurs lived, and will also be able to participate in interactive activities like collecting stamps along the way to fill their own dino passport.

14. Enjoy Exotic Animals at Franklin Park Zoo

Lions and tigers and blue-tongued skinks, oh my! (That last one is a snake, btw). See them all plus so much more at this zoo located only 4 miles outside of Downtown Boston. Kids will especially love how close they can get to the gorillas through their glass displays at the Gorilla House, and don’t miss the petting zoo where kids can mingle with friendly goats.

15. Stay at Hotel Commonwealth and Have an Iconic Rowing Experience

  • Neighborhood: Kenmore Square
  • Price: From $799/night

Located at the foot of Fenway Park, this luxury hotel has teamed up with Community Rowing Inc. to offer guests an exclusive rowing experience on the Charles River. Great for an active family, they’ll receive private indoor instruction followed by an on-water experience with one of Community Rowing’s certified coaches.

16. See the Red Sox Play Baseball at Fenway Park

Bostonians love their Red Sox, so do like the locals and attend a baseball game at the famous Fenway Park—the oldest MLB stadium in the country. Kids will get a kick out of the famed “Green Monster,” the massive left field wall where fly balls in that direction make the crowd go wild.

17. Snacks on Cider Donuts and Join Jeff Jams Sing-a-Longs at Boston Public Market

Wander this food hall and sample treats all from New England local producers. We’re fans of Red Apple Farm’s Cider Bar—whether you opt for the cider, donuts or fudge, your kids will be pleased. There’s a small kid’s zone with games like a giant Connect 4 and there’s always happenings that your kids will enjoy, like Jeff Jams Sing-a-Longs and pasta making classes.

18. Hang Out at Harvard

Hey, it’s never too early to instill goals. Walk around “Hahvid” Yard, pop into one of their many museums, and of course, get some swag at the campus bookstore. The school also offers student-guided tours if you’re interested in learning more about Harvard’s history, hidden gems and fun facts.

19. Take a Pizza Tour in Boston’s North End

It’s a pizza party… with a little bit of learning snuck on in there. On this tour, take a stroll through Boston’s Little Italy, an area that also includes five different sites on the Freedom Trail. The tour includes three slices of pizza (of varying types like Sicilian, NY thin, etc.) and a cannoli for dessert. Yum.

20. Bike Boston

Explore the city by bike on Urban Adventure’s family-friendly tour. Travel mostly on bike paths along the Charles River, this 2.5 to 3 hour tour is a great way to get in some exercise and enjoy the breeze off of the river. Families have the option to rent a child seat and conversely, if your kids are older (16+) you can rent an electric bike for an additional $50.

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Freelance PureWow Editor