Top Attractions in Boston: Best Things To See and Do with Kids
Whether you consider it the "Hub of the Universe" or just good old Beantown, Boston has some of the best things to see and do with kids in New England. Boston's attractions run the gamut from world-class museums with hands-on activities for kids to magnificent outdoor spaces that showcase nature right in the heart of the city. America's Cradle of Liberty offers families a unique combination of history and walkability, and Boston's attractions provide kids with both education and fun.
We’ve compiled a list of 30 things to see and do with kids in Boston. These family attractions make for an afternoon adventure, a full-day's worth of exploration, or even a staycation packed with warm memories. For some excursion ideas outside of Boston, check out or guides to 12 Family-Friendly Hikes in New England and the Best Indoor Waterparks in New England for Easy Family Getaways. And explore our guide to 10+ Boston Area Restaurants Where Kids Eat Free for dining destination ideas.
Seeing exotic marine life is one of Boston's best things to do with kids. Photo courtesy of the New England Aquarium
1. The New England Aquarium – Waterfront
Home to a 200,000-gallon tank (complete with coral reef, sea turtles, barracuda, and moray eels) the New England Aquarium is one of Boston’s must-see attractions for kids. Thousands of animals call the aquarium home, but the penguins and California sea lions always please the young crowd. Touch tanks let the kids meet marine animals like rays and (friendly) sharks up close. An IMAX theater specializes in ocean-themed short films.
2. Whale Watching – Waterfront
Multiple outfits offer whale watching excursions from seaports like Gloucester and Newburyport. Boston City Cruises launches its whale watch right from the New England Aquarium. Their boat is specifically designed for whale watches, and the 4-hour adventure brings kids up close to minke, humpback, finback, and right whales.
Visit the red panda at the Franklin Park Zoo. Photo courtesy of the zoo.
3. The Franklin Park Zoo – Roxbury/Dorchester
Open year-round, Boston’s Franklin Park Zoo offers lions and tigers and red panda bears. Boston’s zoo sits in the city’s largest open space, Franklin Park. Besides the exotic wildlife like zebra, giraffes, and gorillas, the zoo has a petting zoo, a butterfly pavilion, and one impressive playground!
4. The Museum of Science – West End
Boston’s Museum of Science features three floors of permanent and temporary exhibits that cover astronomy, zoology, physics, and more. Live presentations show kids the fundamentals of engineering and the spectacular qualities of electricity. The Mugar Omni Theater and Planetarium round out some hands-on educational fun. But for the dino-lovers in your crew, it’s really all about the life-size Tyrannosaurus Rex.
The Museum of Science is just one of the family-friendly attractions that can be bundled through CityPASS, which gives families a year to enjoy 4 different activities to do with kids.
Explore art and culture at Boston's family attractions. Photo courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston
5. Museum of Fine Arts – Fenway/Kenmore
Your little artists can see the work of masters next to artifacts from throughout history. The exhibits at the Museum of Fine Arts showcase the work of ancient civilizations from China, Nubia, Greece, and Rome. Egyptian relics are some of the most popular things for kids to see. The museum provides some great ways for children to appreciate the priceless pieces. An Art Connections activity provides kids with themed cards to find common elements in works from different eras and cultures.
6. Fenway Park – Fenway/Kenmore
Baseball games at Fenway Park, America’s oldest and most beloved ballpark, run from April through September–and into October if it’s a good year! Tours of the “Sistine Chapel of baseball” run year round and take families into parts of the park that are off-limits on game day.
Adventuresome kids will love seeing the historic burial grounds along the Freedom Trail. Photo courtesy of thefreedomtrail.org
7. Freedom Trail – Boston
Families stroll through history with both guided and self-guided tours on Boston's Freedom Trail. An iconic red stripe along the sidewalk leads urban explorers past colonial and Revolutionary era sites, led by guides in period costume on some guided tours. The Freedom Trail provides newcomers to Boston with a convenient way to see the city's oldest neighborhoods and landmarks. Stops include Paul Revere’s House in the North End and the pubs around Faneuil Hall where the rebellion was hatched.
8. USS Constitution – Charlestown
One of the original six naval frigates commissioned by the administration of George Washington, “Old Ironsides” never lost a battle. The USS Constitution became a national treasure after her victories in the War of 1812 were immortalized by Oliver Wendell Holmes. The ship still sails on special occasions, though it spends most of its time docked in the Charlestown Navy Yard. Activities on the ship and the adjacent museum teach kids about sailing and the ongoing role of the navy.
9. Bunker Hill Monument – Charlestown
This 221-foot obelisk in Charlestown is one of Boston’s most recognizable landmarks. It also provides some of Boston’s most spectacular views. The Bunker Hill Monument's observation deck can only be reached by climbing 294 steps, so strollers are definitely out! The museum and grounds have plenty to offer by way of Revolutionary War history.
Castle Island is one of Boston's best outdoor attractions for kids. Photo courtesy of mass.gov
10. Castle Island – South Boston
Actually a peninsula, Castle Island has hosted a military installation since the first days of colonial Massachusetts. Paul Revere began the reconstruction of what is now called Fort Independence. Free tours of the fort come courtesy of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the Castle Island Association. The site also has beaches, a playground, and lots of trails for walking and biking.
11. Harvard Museum of Natural History – Cambridge
Set on the campus of the nation's oldest college, Harvard's Museum of Natural History displays mounted animals, meteorites and minerals, and even some live bugs and spiders. The museum’s Kronosaurus skeleton is the star of the fossil exhibit; this marine reptile (the size of a scholbus!) ruled the seas in the time of the dinosaurs.
Take the kids to see their favorite Lego characters. Photo courtesy of Legoland in Somerville
12. Legoland Discovery Center – Somerville
Located in Somerville’s Assembly Square, LEGOLAND Discovery Center appeals to brick-heads of all ages. One of the best attractions for kids in the Boston area, this indoor play space has rides, a “4-D” movie experience, and Legos. Lots of Legos. A miniature version of Boston is rendered in over one million of them, but there are even more for the kids to play with. Larger-than-life Lego characters from the brand's movies, shows, and play sets pose for pictures with the kids who aren't busy with the indoor playground.
Get out into nature at one of Boston's island oases. Photo courtesy of the Boston Harbor Islands Facebook page
13. Boston Harbor Islands – Waterfront
An archipelago of 34 islands (and a few reclaimed peninsulas) makes up this collection of natural beauty. The Civil War-era Fort Warren on George’s Island and the many lighthouses are just a few of the attractions for families. Boston's harbor islands provide a serene getaway from the city, whether it's for a picnic lunch or an overnight camping excursion. The ferries alone (departing from Long Wharf) are worth the trip.
Cue the Duck Boats for family fun. Photo courtesy of bostonducktours.com
14. Boston Duck Tours – Waterfront, West End, and Back Bay
Departing from 3 different locations (The Museum of Science, the New England Aquarium, and the Back Bay’s Prudential Center), Boston Duck Tours provide a unique look at Boston by land and water. These amphibious World War II vehicles (replicas now, though the first fleet was original) roll and float past historic landmarks; the kids might be too busy blasting their duck-calling kazoos to notice.
15. Public Gardens and Boston Common – Downtown, Beacon Hill, and Back Bay
These urban oases sit side by side between Beacon Hill, the Back Bay, and downtown. These parks offer playgrounds, athletic fields, statues, and fountains. Boston Common has witnessed centuries of history, from George Washington to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Families today can enjoy ice skating in the winter. Warmer weather brings Swan Boat rides in the pond in the Public Garden; the Make Way for Ducklings sculpture is sure to delight the little ones!
Take a spin on one of Boston's best attractions for kids. Photo courtesy of the Rose Kennedy Greenway Carousel Facebook page
16. Rose Kennedy Greenway – Downtown, North End, and Waterfront
The Rose Kennedy Greenway's stretch of parks running through the heart of Boston was once an elevated freeway. Now kids can enjoy attractions like a classic carousel, a splash pad, interactive sculptures, and plenty of food trucks filled with goodies. The Greenway's mile and a half of open space makes a great attraction for kids on its own or a side-trip from the aquarium or the Freedom Trail.
17. Codzilla – Waterfront
Some families need thrills, and Codzilla fits the bill. This monster boat roars through Boston Harbor at 40 miles per hour, turning on a dime and (occasionally) soaking the passengers in the open cabin. Excursions (run by Boston City Cruises) depart from Long Wharf by the New England Aquarium.
18. Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum – Fenway/Kenmore
This tranquil museum recreates a Tuscan villa in the heart of Boston, complete with stunning architecture and manicured gardens. The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum houses paintings, sculpture, artifacts, and even hosts musical performances. Families can wander the rooms of the museum or follow a tour of masterpieces by Botticelli, Rembrandt, and Degas. The thrilling story of the 1990 heist will certainly capture the kids' attention.
History awaits in museums like Boston's JFK Library. Photo courtesy of jfklibrary.org
19. JFK Presidential Library – Dorchester
Families can explore the legacy of John F. Kennedy’s presidency at this museum on Dorchester’s Columbia Point. Highlights of the JFK Presidential Library and Museum include interactive displays, a replica of the Oval office, and gifts presented to President Kennedy by leaders of other nations.
See the unique view of the world at the Mapparium. Image courtesy of the Mary Baker Eddy Library
20. Christian Science Center – Back Bay
Home to the Mary Baker Eddy Library, the Christian Science Plaza on Massachusetts Avenue boasts some of Boston’s most striking architecture. The library hosts the “How Do You See the World?” exhibit; its centerpiece is the Mapparium, a 3-story walk-through globe that lets kids see the world from the inside out. The plaza has a massive reflecting pool and the Children's Fountain–a splash pad for cooling off on a hot day.
21. Esplanade West End/Beacon Hill/Back Bay
The Esplanade stretches along the Boston shore of the Charles River with striking views of Boston and Cambridge. The public space offers trails, playgrounds, and the Hatch Shell–an outdoor stage home to concerts like the 4th of July performances of the Boston Pops. Looking for something to do on the water? Community Boating Boston rents canoes, paddleboats, and sailboats from a location near the Hatch Shell.
Letting kids be kids is one of the best things to do while in Boston. Photo courtesy of the Boston Children's Museum
22. Boston Children’s Museum – Fort Point
Families looking for hands-on fun will feel right at home in this Boston attraction. The Children’s Museum is the second-oldest institution of its kind in the country, and it has delighted generations of Boston kids. Exhibits encourage children to build, perform, play, and learn. If the 3-story climbing structure doesn't win over the little ones, the animatronic dinosaur will. This spot is unquestionably one of the best things to do with kids in Boston.
23. Martin’s Park and Playground – Fort Point
Martin’s Park and Playground, next to the Children’s Museum, is a public space where kids can jump, slide, and explore. A play ship overlooks the water of Fort Point Channel. There are plenty of benches for parents.
Take the kids to see amazing art at the ICA. Photo courtesy of the Institute of Contemporary Art
24. ICA – Waterfront
Boston’s modern art museum, the Institute of Contemporary Art displays vibrant and dynamic works. The last Saturday of every month (besides December) brings family discounts. The ICA's bold colors and mixed media appeal to art connoisseurs of all ages. And the stunning gallery space has some striking views of the city and the harbor. Its Seaport location is also nestled among some of the best restaurants in the city.
25. Boston Bouldering Project – Somerville
This Somerville indoor climbing facility offers a great way to spend an hour–or a day! Part of the Brooklyn Boulders chain, the Boston Bouldering Project delivers safe thrills for family fun. Kids can learn the basics of climbing, with gear rental included in the rate and private coaching available.
Cozying up with a good book is the thing to do at the BPL's Childrens Room. Photo by Olga Khvan
26. Boston Public Library – Back Bay
This Copley Square institution has more than books to offer, though they do have the third-largest collection in the nation. The Boston Public Library main branch has 3 cafes, tours of the stunning art and architecture, and live events. Some of the classes, talks, and concerts are geared to kids as young as preschoolers. Check out their website for upcoming readings and performances in the Children's Room.
27. Arnold Arboretum – Jamaica Plain/Roslindale
Located a stone’s throw away from Franklin Park, this landscape offers 281 acres of plants, some indigenous to the area and some introduced from as far away as China. Operated by Harvard University, the Arnold Arboretum has an extensive collection of bonsai, some of which are centuries old.
Party like it's 1773 at one of Boston's best attractions. Photo courtesy of the bostonteapartyship.com
28. Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum – Fort Point
This museum brings history to life with tour guides in period costume, replicas of colonial-era ships, and reenactments of the city’s famous tea toss into the harbor. The Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum has historic artifacts from early Boston and an onsite cafe to enjoy tea in a more standard manner. Some kids have the chance to throw bales of tea into Fort Point Channel; thankfully, they don't have to go in after it.
29. Lawn on D – South Boston
This park next to the Convention Center in South Boston offers outdoor fun like live music and a bank of swings lit by LEDs. Lawn games include bocce, cornhole, checkers, and chess. The Lawn on D has concessions in the warmer months, providing food and beverages.
There is so much to see and do in Boston with kids. Boston Harbor photo courtesy of Massachusetts Bay Lines
30. HarborWalk – Waterfront
With 43 miles of almost continual shoreline, Boston’s Harborwalk provides an urban trail that connects some of the city’s best attractions for kids; the route skirts the city from the Charlestown Navy Yard to Castle island and beyond.