Boston's Best Free Indoor Play Spaces: Indoor Playgrounds, Libraries, and More

The Children's Room at the BPL Copley Square is an extra-special place to play (and browse books, of course). Photo courtesy of Arrowstreet
The Children's Room at the BPL Copley Square is an extra-special place to play (and browse books, of course). Photo courtesy of Arrowstreet

We're blessed with a bevy of spectacular indoor play zones here in Boston, but sometimes what kids (and exhausted parents) really need is the indoor equivalent of your neighborhood playground—a place where they can pop in and monkey around, no hefty admission required. Like these public libraries with extra-fun children's areas, the indoor play spaces below allow kids to play or tinker; and you can take a load off—for free. 

Need more ideas for cold or wet weather? Here are 30 of our favorite, local indoor activities for wintertime. Our complete Boston Indoor Fun Guide and Free Fun Guide can come to the rescue, too. And when it's time to get your littlest ones out and about, see our guide to the Best Tot Lots and Toddler Playgrounds in Boston.

Free Places To Play in Boston

Magic Beans – Boston (Cambridge and Wellesley)

Know how you take kids to a toy store and they want to, you know, play with the toys? At Magic Beans, they can: Stores have a cordoned-off play area that's filled with favorite items straight from the shelves. The trick is getting them out of there when it's time to go home.

Children's Room at the Boston Public Library's Central Branch – Boston

Lots of libraries have a few wooden toys or blocks sprinkled about, but we recently wrote about some very special public libraries with legit play spaces where kids can really have fun. Since the second floor of the Johnson Building was renovated in 2015, the Central Library in Copley Square has become one of the greatest little kid play areas in the city. The bright, colorful space has loads of soft, squishy toys, several interesting manipulatives, an array of puzzles and games built into the wall at kids' eye level, and lots of room to move.

Free Places To Play West of Boston

Boston-themed Beantown is a fave mall play space. Photo courtesy of Moms of Massachusetts

Beantown – Natick

Located on the second floor next to Wegman's in the Natick Mall, Beantown is helpful for parents who want to take a break from shopping (and for their kids who never wanted to shop in the first place). Kids ages 10 and under enjoy the Boston-themed indoor playground, which features a "Green Monster" to climb, ducklings to ride on, and a big pirate ship. Hint: Weekends, especially around the holidays, can be a zoo, so consider doing your shopping (and playing) on a weekday. 

Lego Store – Natick (and Burlington, Braintree, and Peabody)

For kids who are less inclined to climb than tinker, the Lego stores at the Natick, Burlington, North Shore, and South Shore malls are a great outlet between errands. Along with free-build stations that are always set up around the store, there are special activities and challenges every month. Every store has its own calendar describing these events, so be sure to check before you head to the mall.

The Penguins Play Area is in the Children's Room at Waltham Public Library. Photo courtesy of the library

Children's Room at the Waltham Public Library – Waltham

With one of the friendliest staff you'll ever meet, a stop into this university town's public library is a must. The children's room is easily accessible through the back doors near the parking lot. There's a wooden play kitchen with lots of play food and materials; a brand new dollhouse for creative play; a toddler-sized castle/house that has steps and a crawl space underneath; and a train table that is surrounded by comfy window seating and beanbags. And the librarians are constantly updating and creating new activities for seasonal fun and engagement. The selection of children's books at the Waltham Public Library is top-notch, so make sure you have your library card on hand and take home some borrowed treasures after a morning or afternoon of indoor play.

Free Places To Play North of Boston

Northshore Mall Play Area – Peabody

Near Macy's—which is also where Santa parks around holiday time—the play area features imagination-building climbing structures that are especially great for the little ones. There's also a small "activity nook" with some manipulative wheels and mirrors for less rambunctious players.

Burlington Mall Children's Play Area – Burlington

There's a playhouse and a variety of climbing structures situated on a carpet made to look like a natural landscape—with rocks and logs and such—at this centrally located area in the mall, near the food court. Best of all, the entire carpeted space is surrounded by comfortable benches, so it's easy to keep track of the kids while they play.

Free Places To Play South of Boston

Photo courtesy of the South Shore Plaza Play Area, Facebook

South Shore Plaza Play Area – Braintree

Also located, helpfully, near the Food Court, where you can grab a bite to eat before or after playing, the South Shore Mall play area was constructed by the same company that designed the Burlington Mall Play Area (above), so it also features the same sturdy, colorful climbing structures, like planes and cars. Our kids have especially enjoyed climbing through the "log" tunnel (again and again and again).

Juju B's – North Attleboro 

A favorite with local families, this gem of a store has thoughtful, free programming for children as well as a sensory table and rug areas where children can explore. Juju B's regularly offers free craft activities, yoga classes, and other programs ideal for toddlers, all with a chill vibe and a wonderful assortment of consigned toys and clothing. While parents shop, happy little ones push kid-sized shopping carts, read books, or play with toy cars on the rug. A kid-friendly bathroom and easy parking are also available. 

Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular
Roger Williams Park Zoo - 6:00 PM Pick
Topsfield Fair
Topsfield Fairgrounds - various times Pick
Cambridge Science Festival
Virtual - various times Pick
Cambridge Science Festival
Kendall/MIT Open Space - various times Pick
Neighborhood Guides
Activity Guides