West Suburbs

All Aboard The Polar Express: Christmas Train Rides Near Boston

What is it about trains and Christmas? The two have become inextricably linked—especially since The Polar Express, Chris Van Allsburg's picture book about believing in the magic of Christmas, captured the hearts and imaginations of kids and adults alike. During the holiday season train rides complete with hot chocolate and visits from Santa bring Christmas stories like The Polar Express to life for all who believe.

Although we could make the trek to New Hampshire's White Mountains for a magical Christmas train experience, we have plenty of delightful options much closer to Boston. The seats fill up very quickly, though, so we recommend getting your golden tickets now.

7 Festive Brunches with Santa or Mrs. Claus for Boston Kids

One of the quintessential holiday activities for kids is meeting Santa and telling him their Christmas wishes. Make this tradition even better this year when you and your family attend a breakfast or brunch with Santa—or the lady who we suspect might really run the show, Mrs. Claus. At these events, you’ll get to enjoy a delicious holiday meal, spend some extra time with Mr. or Mrs. Claus, and participate in other seasonal activities. Bring your camera to capture all of the festive fun and make your reservation early—spots at some of these events go quick!

Just-Spooky-Enough Haunted Houses and Halloween Attractions for Boston Kids

Halloween is a holiday that everyone from toddlers to grandparents can enjoy, but the fear factor can be a little intense for some kids. While there are many gory and gruesome options for 'tweens and teens, it can be hard to find Halloween activities that can feel suitably exciting (but not terrifying) for the elementary-school set. Here are six local activities with varying levels of scariness that will entertain kids ages 6 to 12 without scaring the pants off of them. And for even littler folk, check out our Halloween picks for toddlers and preschoolers.

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The deCordova: An Art Museum That's Just Right for Families

Art museums and kids aren't always a natural pairing. But here in Boston, cultural institutions like the Museum of Fine Arts and the Institute of Contemporary Art go out of their way to be welcoming to children, providing them with special guides at the door and recurring educational programs. But our family's favorite is one that remains relatively under the radar, tucked away as it is in the farmland of Lincoln: The deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, which reopened on October 6 after a month-long closure as new exhibits were installed. Here are some tips for making a perfect day of it–and helping children appreciate the art and nature that surrounds them.

20 Free (or Almost Free) Halloween Activities for Families in and Around Boston

The days finally have a real fall crispness to them, the leaves are turning, and front steps are flickering with the glow of carved pumpkins at night. There’s lots of spooky fun and not-so-spooky fun to be had, from costume parades to pumpkin festivals, and there's plenty to do for free. Take the kids to a few of these free Halloween activities for families—and save your money for goodies to give to trick-or-treaters.

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Halloween Events at Zoos Around Boston

How do you possibly make Halloween even more fun for children? By adding some real live animals in the mix! Zoos in New England are getting into the Halloween spirit and inviting guests to visit in costume to trick or treat with the critters who live there. Halloween events at all zoos are even included with the price of admission...and costumes are highly encouraged, of course.

Cooking with Kids in and Around Boston: Classes, Camps, and Parties

Whether our kids are adventurous eaters or too timid to try anything beyond boxed mac ’n’ cheese, teaching them about food prep, healthy eating, and nutrition is one of the more important things we as parents can do for their well being. Cooking together at home is one way to do this, but there are also plenty of opportunities for “instructive” fun through kids’ cooking classes and workshops.

One of the appealing aspects of kids’ cooking instruction is that it quite often takes the form of a single-class workshop or two- to three-session program. So, even if your children have regular sports team commitments or semester-long dance or music classes, they can still satisfy their inner foodies without missing a goal or a beat. Plus, many kids’ cooking classes are offered during those long school vacations or summer breaks—just the thing to keep kids engaged and entertained. Cooking workshops also make fun birthday parties - kids learn something, have fun, and are well fed. And (maybe best of all!), no mess for the parents. (More cooking party ideas here.)

We’ve rounded up five places that offer kids’ cooking classes and workshops in and around Boston. Get ready for your kids to cook up something great!

Weekday Picks for Boston Kids: Peace Day, Family Science, and Shopkins; Sept 18- 22

Looking for a treat to make busy September a little sweeter? Look toward the end of next week, when there's fun to be had from downtown stages to the country fields. As if the little plastic confections don't seem to pop up in every nook and cranny of your world already, Shopkins will be taking the spotlight on Thursday only; if you have a collector on your hands, grab your tickets now. And on Friday, the all-new Mega Farm Festival, a souped-up offshoot of all the family fun and great eats that Davis Farmland has long hosted, kicks off harvest season.

And yes, there's enrichment to be had this week, too. Homework helpers, those wonderful fairies who volunteer their time at the Boston Public Library, start their (free!) services in J.P. this week. There's a very special storytime focusing on world peace at the Mary Baker Eddy, and an opportunity to get the whole family thinking about science—and working together—at a fun event in Roslindale.

For more interesting activities this week in Boston and beyond, check out our Events Calendar.

10 Real-Deal Pumpkin Patches Near Boston, Plus Our Favorite Pumpkin Bread Recipe

Signs of Halloween are cropping up everywhere, and it’s time to start thinking about finding your perfect pumpkin. While local farm stands and even grocery stores typically have some handsome specimens, it can be a lot more fun to pick your own straight from the fields they were grown on. A couple of the spots here even allow you to pull your picks straight from the vine, which can be a special experience akin to cutting down your own Christmas tree. Plus, many of these pumpkin patches offer additional activities for families, like hay rides, bouncy houses and corn mazes, so you can turn your hunt into a fall pumpkin patch day trip.

Read to the end, where you'll find my family's favorite pumpkin bread recipe. Yum!

6 Corn Mazes Near Boston With Fun Extras Like Zip Lines, Rides, and Playgrounds

Larger-than-life corn mazes offer families the challenge of finding their way through winding paths to solve a mystery, claim a prize, or just make it to the other side – a perfect fall activity that gets kids and parents working together. Choose a farm with a corn maze to take your apple picking and pumpkin patch excursions up a level, plan an unforgettable birthday bash for your child, or just have a blast as a family. Here are some of the Boston area's best corn mazes for an outdoor autumn adventure—some are opening this weekend. Note: Most mazes are not stroller friendly, so if you’re bringing young children, consider using a backpack carrier.

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