When out-of-towners visit Boston, they have many boxes to check off their must-see list. But children are notoriously reluctant tourists, and may not have the stamina to do every stop on the Freedom Trail or spend hours inside a museum. Here's our carefully curated list of specific, unique-to-Boston activities that even local kids love to do again and again.
1. Take a ferry to Spectacle Island. While a whale watching cruise might seem like the thing to do in New England, it can be a long (and pricey) trip. From Long Wharf, families can hop on a 30-minute, ultra-pleasant ferry to Spectacle Island, where a short hike to the harbor's highest point yields some of the best views of the city skyline around. Bonus: Go on Thursday evenings in the summer for a sunset clambake, and take care of dinner, too.
2. Run the bases at Fenway. Children enjoy a lot of perks at Red Sox games, but the highlight is a handful of times through the year when ticket holders under 14 (with an accompanying grown-up) can run the bases at Fenway at the end of the game. Even cheap seats during these particular games will be a thrill to kids if they can hit the field afterward.
Tour the harbor, dump "tea," and enjoy a hands-on history lesson at the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum. Photo by Michael Blanchard Photography
3. Dump Tea into Boston Harbor. At the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum on Fort Point Channel in the heart of the downtown waterfront area, guests are led on a tour to learn all about the event that changed the course of American history. Kids can feel like they're back in 1773 and even try dumping tea into the harbor just like the patriots did over two centuries ago. Welcome perk: Kids under 5 get in free.
4. See (and taste) "Boston's Little Italy" at a North End Feast. These street fests attract just as many locals as they do tourists on weekends throughout the summer. While each feast varies in size and attractions, they all include food vendors of all kinds and a parade-like procession through the streets of the North End with marching bands and decorated saint statues leading the way.
5. See all of Boston's major attractions—made of Lego. While there are Legolands all over the world, one thing that makes our local Lego Discovery Museum so special is the wonderfully detailed recreation of the city of Boston, made up of 1.5 million bricks. Kids and parents alike can marvel up close at everything from Gillette Stadium to the Cheers Bar in miniaturized form, and then build, play, take a ride, and see a 4-D original Lego movie inside the colorful facility.
Test out the sleeping hammocks at the USS Constitution Museum. Photo by Greg Cooper
6. Swing in a hammock at the USS Constitution Museum. Kids can take in some history and learn what life was like as a sailor (some of them kids themselves) in 1812. Admission is donation based for it's easier on the wallet than other Boston museums as well.
7. Picnic in the Public Garden. Boston Common and the adjacent Public Garden are both iconic, but for a one-time visit on a nice day, we prefer the charm of the garden, the first of its kind in America. Take a 10-minute swan boat ride, snap a photo at the Make Way for Ducklings sculpture, buy a balloon animal, and let kids play hide in seek among the willows before or after you enjoy provisions pre-ordered from the "Picnic in the Park" menu from Beacon Hill Bistro, just steps from the garden.
8. See the seals do tricks at the Aquarium. The New England Aquarium is a kid-favorite destination all the time, but a special highlight is when the harbor seals take to the stage. Multiple times a day, trainers interact with the resident harbor seals and visitors can watch as they dive, catch fish, and play in the water. For an added fee, families with children ages 7 and older can sign up for a session to Meet and Greet the Harbor Seals, and join the trainers on deck during the session.
9. Get spooked on a Ghosts and Gravestones Tour. Big kids only! Leading brave visitors (over age 6) through underground tunnels, past unmarked graves, and more, this popular evening tour (from March through mid-November) highlights some of Boston's oldest and creepiest history.
10. Climb the Bunker Hill Monument. Kids can challenge themselves (and wear themselves out!) hiking up the 294 steps of one of Boston's most iconic monuments, and parents can enjoy the view from the top. Win-win.
Craving more? Check out our list of 100 Things to do in Boston with kids.