25 Things to Do with Kids in Dorchester
As Boston's largest and oldest neighborhood, Dorchester boasts lots of fun activities for kids, families, and teenagers. Whether you are looking for a hike, an animal encounter at the zoo, fresh food from a farmers' market, classes, or a museum, you are bound to find it in Dorchester.
The Great Outdoors
1. Go for a hike in Franklin Park. Boston's largest park actually straddles three neighborhoods: Roxbury, Dorchester, and Jamaica Plain. Its 527 acres includes paved paths perfect pushing along a stroller; tennis courts, baseball diamonds, basketball courts, a golf course, and even a cricket pitch; ponds, wildlife, and forests; plus historical sites like the Bear Dens (pictured) and Schoolmaster Hill.
2. Technically part of Franklin Park, but worth mentioning separately, Zoo New England's Franklin Park Zoo is home to gorillas, lions, tigers, kangaroos and numerous other critters, small and large. The zoo is also a great place to have a birthday party.
3. In the summer, Dorchester is great for urban beach goers. The Malibu and Savin Hill Beaches are accessible via the MBTA Red Line (Savin Hill Station) and Tenean Beach has public parking. Both beaches have sand, playgrounds, and beach side promenades.
4. Fans of fresh, local produce can choose from eight different farmer's markets that run from June to October. All the farmer's markets take EBT, and most have children's activities in addition to produce stalls.
5. And the fun doesn't have to stop just because the weather is cold! The Winter Farmer's Market runs from January to March and includes meat, fish, produce, cheese, salsa and more.
Classes, play groups, and story times
6. Dorchester has six branches of the Boston Public Library: Adams Street, Codman Square, Grove Hall, Field's Corner, Lower Mills, and Upham's Corner. Visit the branch websites to find information about story times and other family programming offered at each branch.
7. Children from three to ten can take classes in painting, sculpture, drawing, mixed media, and collage at Dot Art. Founded in 1998 with a belief that all people should have access to visual arts learning opportunities, Dot art also has events and "art happenings" that engage the community at large.
8. If your kids like music, check out the Boston City Singers. Kodaly Singing classes are open to 4-7 year olds with no audition required. More ambitious singers can audition for the Training Chorus (for 7-11 year olds) or the Concert Chorus (for 11-18 year olds). Can't carry a tune? Check out their calendar of events for community performances.
9. Stay at home parents, nannies, and other care-givers of young children can attend one of the Parent-Child Playgroups run by the Family Nurturing Center. These free play groups are open to children from 1-4. Children under 5 are also welcome at the free weekly play groups run by DOTtots.
10. Children 6-16 can enjoy tennis and a good book at the Tenacity Summer Tennis and Reading Camp. Tenacity has sites at several Dorchester Parks. The free program keeps kids' bodies and minds active during the summer vacation.
11. Begun in 1996 by families who had lost loved ones to violence, the annual Mother's Day Walk for Peace brings together people committed to creating peace in our communities. The walk is a fundraiser for the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute, a non-profit organization that uses the principles of restorative justice to help families deal with the trauma of losing a member to homicide. The Peace Institute also engages in community peace education.
12. The annual Kite and Bike Festival takes place in Franklin Park every May. This is your basic celebration of spring: kites flying, people picnicking, and lovely bike rides on scenic paths. There are kites for sale at the festival and free bike "rentals" for people who don't bring their own. And if you don't feel like bringing a lunch, food trucks will be happy to provide!
13. For those of us who are transplants to Boston from less historic parts of the country, the Dorchester Day Parade is a kind of eye-opener. The first Dorchester Day was celebrated in 1904 to mark the 274th anniversary of the founding of Dorchester. The first Dorchester Day Parade occurred the following year and they have been happening every June since. Leading up to the parade are several events including an essay contest and Miss Dorchester contests for young girls.
14. Fans of things that go vroom can check out the annual Car Show at Dorchester Park in September. In addition to the antique and exotic cars on display, families can enjoy a picnic, performances by local musicians, and activities like sack races and face painting.
15. The Easter Bunny visits Dorchester every April at Pope John Paul II park for the annual Easter Egg Hunt. Children from 3-11 can search the park for colored eggs.
Support Local Businesses
16. The Salvation Army Kroc Center describes its pool as "a spectacular indoor waterpark," and I think that is pretty accurate. With a spray pool, lazy river, lap lanes, and a 2-story water tube slide, there is definitely something in the Aquatic Center for all family members. Oh, and the Kroc center has a child care drop off if you want to use their gym facilities too!
17. The Sugar Bowl Cafe offers affordable, kid friendly sandwiches and snacks, plus ice cream. The staff is friendly, and the back area is filled with eclectic comfy chairs. Be warned, though, that there is only one small bathroom without a changing station, so it is probably best to visit with older, potty trained children.
18. The Dot2Dot Cafe has local art on the walls and brings in live music to accompany your meal. The food is a bit fancier than the Sugar Bowl.
19. Savin Scoop serves locally made ice cream, hot and cold beverages, and baked goods. Host a birthday party or just bring your family for a treat.
20.Teens who are feeling bold can join Breath of Life Dorchester, a youth-led environmental and social justice organization for 14-18 year olds. B.O.L.D has worked on campaigns to prohibit the sale of tobacco products in Boston pharmacies, worked with the city parks department to ensure area parks are developed in a Green way, and create programs to break down barriers between youth and police.
21. Teen Empowerment mobilizes urban youth to be agents of social change. Teen staff and volunteers organize annual youth conferences, build relationships among diverse groups, and work to identify, and solve, the problems facing their communities.
Museums, Exhibits, and Performing Arts
22. While the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum is probably best suited to older children, the museum also has arts performances geared for children ages 5 and up, picture book biographies, and interactive exhibits.
23.The free Commonwealth Museum is a definite must see for history buffs. The museum houses historic documents like the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights as well as rotating special exhibits.
24. Catch a show at The Strand. Shows range from free to very affordable and include performances by the Boston Ballet and the Boston Children's Chorus, plus poetry slams and movies.
25. Take a walk through the University of Massachusetts campus for the Arts on the Point exhibit. Featuring works by a variety of sculptors, the exhibit is sure to spark conversations and may even inspire your family to its own creative endeavors.