Sailing, Kayaking, Duck Tours, and Other Fun Ways to Experience the Charles River With Kids

From canoeing and kayaking to riverboat cruises, there are plenty of ways to get on the Charles with kids.

The banks of the Charles River are perfect places for families to walk, run, bike or play. The Esplanade, which lines the Boston side of the Charles, is even a perfect place to picnic. But there’s a lot of fun to be had on the water, too. From kayaking and sailing to riverboat cruises and Duck Tours, there are plenty of ways to get on the Charles with kids. Here are six of the best options to explore this summer.

Charles River Canoe and Kayak
Charles River Canoe and Kayak is the go-to place for not only renting canoes and kayaks, as the name suggests, but also paddleboats, stand-up paddle boards and rowboats. While Charles River Canoe and Kayak has many options for the family to get on the river together in boats that accommodate multiple kids and adults, it also has kid-size kayaks for little paddlers who want to move under their own steam. Get on the river at one of four area locations: Kendall Square in Cambridge, Allston/Brighton in Boston, Nahanton Park in Newton and the Moody Street Dam in Waltham.

Boating in Boston
Most of the Boating in Boston locations aren’t on the Charles, but one is and it’s in a special place in Newton. Explore what’s called the Lakes District of the Charles River, six calm miles from Newton Lower Falls to the Moody Street Dam with a canoe, kayak, or stand-up paddle board from Boating in Boston. Watercraft launches from the historic Newton Boatshed.

Community Boating
Boston is home to a lot of history and Community Boating is deeply rooted in it. Incorporated in 1946, it’s the oldest, continuously running public sailing center in the U.S. And with its motto, “Sailing for All,” it strives to welcome everyone who wants to sail in Boston, regardless of age, ability or means. Community Boating, located right on the Esplanade, has numerous programs for adults and kids and often hosts special events that are open to the public. In addition to its sailing programs, Community Boating also does one-day kayak rentals for kids and adults.

Community Rowing
Just down the river from Community Boating is Community Rowing in Brighton. And while they’re separate organizations, they have similar mottos. This one is “Rowing for All.” Community Rowing offers a variety of programs for both kids and adults. Opportunities for children ages 12-18 include a Learn to Row program, a Crew League for those who have mastered the rowing basics, a Competitive Youth program and two summer programs.

Charles Riverboat Company
So far all of the options to get out on the river involve powering the boat with your own muscle. But with the Charles Riverboat Company, the boats do the heavy lifting. There are three tours to choose from: Charles River Tours, Architecture Cruises, and Sunset Cruises, all of which leave from the Lechmere Canal behind the Cambridgeside Galleria Mall. The best bets with kids are either the Charles River Tours or the Sunset Cruises. They’re both fun and educational—and a perfect way to see Boston and Cambridge from a whole new perspective.

Boston Duck Tours
Perhaps the most famous option on the list, Boston Duck Tours offers a unique combined land and water tour that’s a rite of passage for Boston kids. Pick up the tour at one of three locations: Museum of Science, Prudential Center, or New England Aquarium. The tour winds around Boston, showing off its most famous landmarks before splashing into the Charles River for the amphibious leg of the tour.

Top image courtesy of Community Boating

Charles River Canoe & Kayak Kendall Square
15 Broad Canal Way
02142 Cambridge , MA 42° 21' 47.61" N, 71° 4' 59.5596" W
Charles River Canoe & Kayak Kendall Square Allston/Brighton
1071 Soldier's Field Road
02134 Boston , MA 42° 21' 59.7564" N, 71° 7' 56.01" W
Charles River Canoe & Kayak Kendall Square Newton
455 Nahanton St.
02459 Newton , MA 42° 17' 55.4388" N, 71° 12' 25.8084" W
Charles River Canoe & Kayak Kendall Square Waltham
195 Moody St.
02453 Waltham , MA 42° 22' 23.4804" N, 71° 14' 11.6916" W
Boating in Boston
2401 Commonwealth Ave.
02466 Newton , MA 42° 20' 40.7508" N, 71° 15' 35.4168" W
Community Boating
21 David G Mugar Way
02114 Boston , MA 42° 21' 35.478" N, 71° 4' 23.1384" W
Community Rowing
20 Nonantum Road
02135 Brighton , MA 42° 21' 31.3488" N, 71° 9' 56.5596" W
Cambridge Riverboat Company
100 CambridgeSide Place
02141 Cambridge , MA 42° 22' 5.2536" N, 71° 4' 34.4604" W
Boston Duck Tours Museum of Science
1 Science Park
02114 Boston , MA 42° 22' 4.0764" N, 71° 4' 14.9088" W
Boston Duck Tours Prudential Center
53 Huntington Ave.
02116 Boston , MA 42° 20' 52.2204" N, 71° 4' 47.262" W
Boston Duck Tours New England Aquarium
1 Central Wharf
02110 Boston , MA 42° 21' 33.2604" N, 71° 2' 57.0804" W