After a morning of hiking, swimming and treasure hunting on Spectacle Island, hop on the ferry. It’s a sort of time machine that will take you and your kids back in time to the Civil War era on Georges Island. The island's Fort Warren once held Confederate soldiers as prisoners during the war. Now, it gives visitors a fascinating glimpse into a time long past and ignites the imaginations of kids (both big and small). There is much to do and many areas to explore on the island, from the museum-like visitor center to the top of the lookout tower. Take the kids on an adventure and challenge yourselves to do everything on this list. (Fair warning: It may take a few visits.)
1. Stop by the Visitor Station (to the left of the snack area and playground) to find out what’s happening that day and to meet a tour.
2. Slide, climb, and play pretend on the fort-themed playground.
3. See actual Civil War era ammunition, uniforms, and artifacts in the visitor center.
4. Bring your binoculars and search for red-winged black birds, swallows, owls, hawks and falcons that inhabit the island.
5. Learn how the soldiers and prisoners lived – what they ate, where they slept, how they passed the time – as you make your way through the exhibits in the visitor center.
6. Download a Junior Ranger Program Booklet before you go. When your child completes it, take the booklet to a park ranger to get a Boston Harbor Islands Junior Ranger Badge.
7. Take a guided tour (some are designed especially for kids and families) and become a Fort Warren expert.
8. Make your heart skip a beat as you climb the dark, twisting staircase that rises from the lower level of the fort to the top.
9. Race across the wide open lawn of the Parade Ground.
10. Walk into the pitch-black Powder Magazine storage area. After your eyes adjust to the darkness, you’ll be able to see the expanse of the room. Great echo in there!
11. Find a souvenir in the small gift shop at the back of the visitor center.
12. See a Play in the Park.
13. Grab a bite to eat at the snack bar.
14. Dress up in Civil War garb (just be aware that gun play is a big part of it).
15. Read about all of the Boston Harbor Islands in the snack bar area and plan your visit to one of the other islands.
16. Stand watch over the fort from the top of the Lookout Tower.
17. Stop by a Beach and Below program to meet New England Aquarium educators and new friends who live in the Harbor.
18. Pick up a self-guided tour of Fort Warren and go exploring on your own.
19. Feel your skin tingle as you make your way through the dark tunnels of Fort Warren and listen to a Park Ranger tell the story of the Lady in Black.
20. Pack a lunch and enjoy it at a table in one of the picnic areas. Bring the whole family – siblings, cousins, parents, grandparents – for a hootenanny.
21. Watch a baseball game, 1860's style.
22. Build a fort.
23. Step back in time and play the lawn games kids and adults played during the Civil War era.
24. Jam at a free family concert, performed by local favorites like Karen K and the Jitterbugs (pictured above) and Alastair Moock.
25. Catch a super cool photo of your family at the entrance to the fort.