West Suburbs

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.

Fall Festivals in Boston You Don't Want to Miss

It’s not officially autumn yet, but it will be soon and that means it’s time for fall festivals. There are so many in the Boston area that it can be hard to know which ones are good for families. We took the guesswork out of it by narrowing the field down to our favorites. You’ll find good food, fun activities, music, performances, and much more at these 10 fall festivities in Boston that are perfect for both parents and kids.

16 Places to Go Apple Picking—and More—Near Boston

Nothing says fall in New England like a family excursion to the apple orchards. With many orchards to choose from, families can head a short distance from Boston for their choice of places to pick their own apples starting in late August through mid-October.

We’ve assembled a list of some of our favorite places to pick apples in greater Boston, but with more than 50 farms in the area offering apple picking, there are many more to choose from. In addition to apple picking, many of the orchards offer petting farms, country stores, hay rides, corn mazes, and other kid-friendly activities, so leave plenty of time to take advantage of all these farms have to offer. You can even plan your child's fall farm birthday party at some of the farms. Take it from us and contact the farms and orchards before heading out to confirm hours and amenities: Many are small, family-run operations, and crop yields and staff schedules fluctuate from week to week. Also, it's a good idea to leave pets at home when heading to any orchard, or you may be asked to leave apple-free.

Finally, we realize you may be looking for some ideas for what to do with all those delicious fall apples, whether you picked them from the tree or from the farm stand. We've put together some of our favorite apple recipes for inspiration!

Action Athletics: Heaven for Active Kids (and Ninja Warrior Wannabes)

If your family is familiar with "warped walls" or worships some guy named the Cowboy Ninja—or you simply have a kid with energy to burn—we've found a place for you: Action Athletics in Wellesley. Though a lot of camps and gyms are starting to offer obstacle course activities as more and more kids become hooked on the television show American Ninja Warrior, Action Athletics is the real deal: It's the training home of several prominent TV Ninjas, including Jon "the Giant" Alexis, Jesse Labreck, and Allyssa Beird. And with 25 different obstacles that can be made into countless configurations, it also caters to challenge-seeking children—of all ages—who want to leap, swing, and test their limits, just the way their Ninja heroes do.

When I found out that Action Athletics was expanding from its Newton location to a big new space in Wellesley, where we live, I thought I'd bring my sons and their friends to give it a try. Here's what we learned and what we thought about the place. (Spoiler alert: We've been back three times since). This fall, the Newton location is reopening, too, giving families more options for channeling their inner Ninja.

8 Great Indoor Places to Have a Kid’s Birthday Party in or Near Boston

If you want to have a wonderful party for your child, but you’re overwhelmed by the choices and don't have time to mine for information, I have a gift for you: Recommendations for eight great indoor birthday party places in the Boston area, and everything you need to know about them.

The places featured are different in many ways, but they all have some things in common: They have been recommended by local parents, are indoors (so you don't have to worry about the weather), minimize the amount of work you have to do, and offer parties that kids with a wide range of interests enjoy. So read on, pick a place, and have a party your child will be talking about for a long time to come. Since prices may fluctuate and there's a range of packages at many places, we give you an idea of costs ranging from $ (inexpensive) to $$$ (more pricey).

If your child is a little older and prefers parties with more of a sporty spin, you may want to also consider our picks for indoor parties for active kids in Boston, the North suburbs, South suburbs, and MetroWest.

Six Boston-Area Playgrounds with Shade

Recently, we went on a hunt for special playgrounds that have unique elements that make them worthy of getting in the car and driving to. But in the dog days of summer, we have one more criteria that's essential for a perfect day at the park: shade. Here are six tree-lined parks and playgrounds with an hour of Boston that have natural elements to keep you cool while you're having fun.

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