Visiting Boston w/ young family

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SwampDonkey
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Visiting Boston w/ young family

Post by SwampDonkey »

Taking the family up to Boston this summer for four nights. Four of us in all, two children under 8.

We're thinking about staying downtown and we've been able to find some nice places for ~$300/night +$60/night for parking(!!!!!). Is the convenience of staying downtown worth paying 2x what we'd pay if we were not in downtown?

Any recommendations on what to see and do?

Anything that is overhyped and should be avoided?

Thank you!
devopscoder
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Re: Visiting Boston w/ young family

Post by devopscoder »

The children’s museum is nice. Same for the aquarium and Museum of Science. The Duck boats from the Prudential are fun.

You could walk on the Esplanade. There are some playgrounds next to the paths.

I think it will be cheaper to stay in Cambridge and take the T in to avoid the parking fee.
moshe
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Re: Visiting Boston w/ young family

Post by moshe »

You might consider staying just outside the city. I'd suggest looking in Braintree, no parking fees AFAIK, and a most hotels offer a "free" shuttle to take you a short ride to the Quincy or Braintree T Red Line stops.

HTH,
~Moshe
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kurious
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Re: Visiting Boston w/ young family

Post by kurious »

Welcome to Boston! Some tips about touring Boston frugally:

- Boston is an eminently walkable city. A lot of areas near Downtown Boston can be covered by walking or taking short uber/lyft rides. I am unsure if it's worth paying 2x the price though. Consider looking for AirBnb close to the downtown area and take the T.

- If you have friends in Boston with library memberships, ask them to get you free passes for some major attractions for the dates you visit.

- Use the T and commuter train liberally. They will take you far and wide. If you have a commuter benefit card from work, you can use it to pay for these rides.

- Children will particularly enjoy the Aquarium, Franklin Park Zoo, Duck tour, Fenway Park tour, Public Garden (near Arlington T Stop), and any of the ferry rides to nearby islands. Some of the downtown tours with costumed guides could be fun as well.

- Adults will likely enjoy the MFA, ICA, and Essex Peabody Museum in Salem.

- For glorious views of the downtown, go to Piers Park in East Boston during an evening and enjoy the transition to night.

- If you can make it, take the ferry to PTown in Cape Cod and spend a day there. You can take the evening ferry back.

- Some of the nearby towns have splendidly beautiful views. My favorites are Castle Hill in Ipswich and Halibut State Park in Rockport.

- Kids will also likely enjoy the Whale Watch. Do it from Gloucester to spend more time watching whales and less time commuting. Buy tickets on GroupOn and avoid weekends as the crowd can be crazy.

Happy to offer more information over DM.

Cheers!
Last edited by kurious on Thu May 13, 2021 11:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.
HereToLearn
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Re: Visiting Boston w/ young family

Post by HereToLearn »

If they have not read Make Way for Ducklings, be sure to do that before visiting as they will enjoy seeing the statues in the Public Garden. You could then take them on a Swan Boat ride.

The Duck Boat rides could be fun, even though they may be a bit young. They departs from the Museum of Science, which was a HUGE hit with my boys. Baby chicks were hatching upstairs and we had to return to the museum a second day to watch their progress.

A car is of no use to you in Boston and driving around the city could drive you crazy. It is a compact city, and as the last poster commented, just take an Uber if you need to cover a distance within the city.

I recall taking a ferry over to Charlestown, and then walking over to Bunker Hill. That may be too much of a walk for your children.

Enjoy!
Last edited by HereToLearn on Thu May 13, 2021 11:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Tribonian
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Re: Visiting Boston w/ young family

Post by Tribonian »

I highly recommend walking the Freedom Trail and timing it for a meal or cannoli in the North End.

A hidden gem overlooking the old Granary Burial Ground (All the victims of the Boston Massacre and many signers of the Declaration) is the Boston Atheneum, the ultimate gentleman’s library. It has the first library William & Mary sent to the colonies and about a third of George Washington’s personal library. They keep banker hours and don’t advertise anywhere that you can visit the first two floors. Probably not great to linger with children but well worth poking your head in. It’s the kind of place where Lowells speak with Cabots and Cabots speak only to God. But it is spectacular.

Second recommendations for the Children’s Museum if your kids are small. The Esplanade will take you to the Science Museum if you feel like a scenic walk next to the Charles.

Also agree that staying outside downtown and taking the T in is a good idea. Lots of nice places with Georgian architecture (Cambridge, Charlestown etc.)

Have a great trip!
chw
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Re: Visiting Boston w/ young family

Post by chw »

Lots of good suggestions. I do think it’s worth staying in the downtown or Back Bay Area. Your stay is relatively short, and I would not want to spend part of that time getting to and from the locales others have mentioned. Perhaps you can find a garage nearby to drop your car for a cheaper daily rate, as $60 day is a bit steep. There are apps that can direct you to lower cost parking. You won’t need the car while in Boston- you can use Uber or the MBTA to get around easily (learn the subway lines ahead of time to learn which lines you need for the attractions you want to see). Depending on where you stay, you may be able to walk to many of the areas as well.

One tour to consider are the Boston Harbor Islands : https://www.bostonharborislands.org/ .
rennale
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Re: Visiting Boston w/ young family

Post by rennale »

HereToLearn wrote: Thu May 13, 2021 10:47 pm If they have not read Make Way for Ducklings, be sure to do that before visiting as they will enjoy seeing the statues in the Public Garden. You could then take them on a Swan Boat ride.

The Duck Boat rides could be fun, even though they may be a bit young. They departs from the Museum of Science, which was a HUGE hit with my boys. Baby chicks were hatching upstairs and we had to return to the museum a second day to watch their progress.

A car is of no use to you in Boston and driving around the city could drive you crazy. It is a compact city, and as the last poster commented, just take an Uber if you need to cover a distance within the city.

I recall taking a ferry over to Charlestown, and then walking over to Bunker Hill. That may be too much of a walk for your children.

Enjoy!
+1 to all this.

The Charlestown ferry is particularly simple, being cheap and taking just a few minutes but giving you an easy and fun view of the harbor. In Charlestown you can visit the USS Constitution, which is a very short walk. Both would be great for kids.

And if it's hot they could play in the Rings Fountains in the Rose Kennedy Greenway. I wish such things had existed when I was a kid!
Mr-et-Mrs-R
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Re: Visiting Boston w/ young family

Post by Mr-et-Mrs-R »

I keep a draft in my gmail account with a list of things to do while in Boston (yes, I am asked this a lot):
Removed the breweries & bars from the list since kids are coming along as well, but if you two want a nice refreshing brew, you really can not go wrong with any of the locals.

Greater Boston area
West
Wellesley - Center and college, Susu's Bakery, Blue Ginger.
Concord - Walden Pond
Lexington - Lexington Greens
Arlington - Minuteman Bike Trail
Jeffrey, NH - Mount Monadnock

North
Salem - Peabody Essex Museum, House of Seven Gables
Gloucester - Plum island
Portsmouth, NH - nice walking town
Portland, ME - Art walk (downtown, dont' know this year's schedule), wharf area.
Bailey Island, ME - Cook's. Thank me later. (68 Garrison Cove Road Bailey Island, Maine 04003)

South
Blue Hills reservation
Hingham - World's End
Plymouth - Plymouth Rock

East
Cape Cod - High speed ferry to P-Town, Cape Cod

Boston Area
Boston - Freedom Trail, Newbury Street, Charles Street, Beacon Hill, North End.
Pedicab, Boston Duck Tour, Community Boating
Isabella Steward Gardner Museum, MFA, Christian Science Church, Museum of Science, Larz Anderson Auto Museum, JFK's Birthplace, ICA, Boston Firefighting Museum, Children's Museum.

Arnold Arboretum, Franklin Park, Fenway Park (take in a ball game).

Harbor Islands is a must do.

At 2 p.m. sharp - except for Fridays and during stormy weather - visitors to Marriott’s Custom House in the clock tower building who make a $3 donation to charity are escorted up to the 26th-floor observation deck to take in stunning views of downtown, the harbor, and the occasional peregrine falcon.

Charlestown - USS Constitution, Charlestown Shipyards, Bunker Hill, KO Pies for dinner

Somerville
Davis Sq. - Sacco's Bowl-Haven, candle pin and duck pin bowling, decent pizza.

Cambridge
Harvard - Harvard Yard, Harvard Museum of Natural History, Harvard Art Museum, Harvard Sq., LA Burkdick Chocolate
MIT - MIT Campus, MIT Museum, Flour, MIT Media Lab.
Inman Sq - Trina's, Christina's Ice Cream, All Star Pizza
Silversides
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Re: Visiting Boston w/ young family

Post by Silversides »

I’m in Boston with 2 kids under 8. Post above has everything you need to know.

I’ll also recommend starting with Harbor Islands ferry from the Marriott. This is our go to - kids love the boat ride and running free on the island (no cars), mom loves the picnic. Bring hats and sunscreen.
jodhpur
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Re: Visiting Boston w/ young family

Post by jodhpur »

Definitely no need in renting a car. Four nights is quite a bit of time in a fairly small town. Maybe do a day trip to Newport RI or Portland ME. Bring good shoes.
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WarAdmiral
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Re: Visiting Boston w/ young family

Post by WarAdmiral »

and don't forget the awesome Italian cuisine and Mike's Pastry shop in North end.
Texanbybirth
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Re: Visiting Boston w/ young family

Post by Texanbybirth »

Outsider's (Dallas) perspective: we were just in Boston last weekend for our godson's baptism. IF you're at all religious, the Holy Cross Cathedral was recently renovated and it is beautiful. Of course, there are numerous beautiful AND historic churches to visit in the city.

The tulips in the Commons were beautiful, but I think they'll be dead by the time you get there. Our kids love Make Way for Ducklings and that's all pretty compactly located in the Commons, which I'm sure you'll visit once.

I had some of the best fish and chips I've ever had at Emmets Irish Pub on Friday night.

A few years ago we did a whale watching tour. It was long (and the water was particularly CHOPPY that day so lots of people got seasick), but it was worth the money and time to me. We were staying a similar number of nights as you for that trip.

I'm glad we have a reason (dear friends) to periodically visit Boston in the future, it's a fantastic city. :beer

(I would NEVER drive in Boston unless I had to take someone to the ER, even then I'd probably trust 9-1-1 first.)
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campy2010
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Re: Visiting Boston w/ young family

Post by campy2010 »

An entirely better vacation would be to skip Boston or spend a day walking around the Public Garden/Freedom Trail and then get a rental on the North Shore and explore the beach towns, beaches and relax.

If you're dead set on spending the majority of the time in Boston, then definitely spend at least one day (preferrably a weekday) doing something outside of Boston. My 2 favorite summer spots that I used to take visitors is

1. Through Gloucester and up to Rockport. The road along the ocean between these 2 towns is beautiful. If you want to see the ocean Wingarsheek Beach is a favorite. Get fish and chips or clams or something in Ipswhich.
2. Crane Beach and the Crane Estate. Take the morning, lounge/walk on the beach, walk around the estate. Then go get fish and chips or clams in Ipswich.
Jack FFR1846
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Re: Visiting Boston w/ young family

Post by Jack FFR1846 »

To stay: There's a hotel right near the green line, right on 128. I'm sure they've sold since I was there as a Holiday Inn. Search for hotels right near a T commuter rail or other T station and stay there for probably $150 a night pretty easily.

Places to see that I would recommend.

Public Garden, Boston Common. They're just adjacent to each other. Swan boats and such. Borders Beacon St and the State House.

Mapperium. This is at the Christian Science Center just west of the Pru (Prudential Center). You walk into a giant globe among other interesting things.

MIT museum.

Duck Boats (of course)

USS Constitution

Fenway Park tour, even if you're not a baseball fan. I'm not and I found it really interesting.
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MikeZ
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Re: Visiting Boston w/ young family

Post by MikeZ »

One fun game to play with kids: Who can spot the most Dunken' Donuts.
HereToLearn
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Re: Visiting Boston w/ young family

Post by HereToLearn »

Mr-et-Mrs-R wrote: Fri May 14, 2021 7:26 am I keep a draft in my gmail account with a list of things to do while in Boston (yes, I am asked this a lot):
Removed the breweries & bars from the list since kids are coming along as well, but if you two want a nice refreshing brew, you really can not go wrong with any of the locals.

Greater Boston area
West
Wellesley - Center and college, Susu's Bakery, Blue Ginger.
Concord - Walden Pond
Lexington - Lexington Greens
Arlington - Minuteman Bike Trail
Jeffrey, NH - Mount Monadnock

North
Salem - Peabody Essex Museum, House of Seven Gables
Gloucester - Plum island
Portsmouth, NH - nice walking town
Portland, ME - Art walk (downtown, dont' know this year's schedule), wharf area.
Bailey Island, ME - Cook's. Thank me later. (68 Garrison Cove Road Bailey Island, Maine 04003)

South
Blue Hills reservation
Hingham - World's End
Plymouth - Plymouth Rock

East
Cape Cod - High speed ferry to P-Town, Cape Cod

Boston Area
Boston - Freedom Trail, Newbury Street, Charles Street, Beacon Hill, North End.
Pedicab, Boston Duck Tour, Community Boating
Isabella Steward Gardner Museum, MFA, Christian Science Church, Museum of Science, Larz Anderson Auto Museum, JFK's Birthplace, ICA, Boston Firefighting Museum, Children's Museum.

Arnold Arboretum, Franklin Park, Fenway Park (take in a ball game).

Harbor Islands is a must do.

At 2 p.m. sharp - except for Fridays and during stormy weather - visitors to Marriott’s Custom House in the clock tower building who make a $3 donation to charity are escorted up to the 26th-floor observation deck to take in stunning views of downtown, the harbor, and the occasional peregrine falcon.

Charlestown - USS Constitution, Charlestown Shipyards, Bunker Hill, KO Pies for dinner

Somerville
Davis Sq. - Sacco's Bowl-Haven, candle pin and duck pin bowling, decent pizza.

Cambridge
Harvard - Harvard Yard, Harvard Museum of Natural History, Harvard Art Museum, Harvard Sq., LA Burkdick Chocolate
MIT - MIT Campus, MIT Museum, Flour, MIT Media Lab.
Inman Sq - Trina's, Christina's Ice Cream, All Star Pizza
I stayed at the Marriott Custom House hotel with my children and they enjoyed going upstairs to that clock tower. I didn't realize it was open to the public.

To the OP, while the space was a bit cramped with the children sleeping on a sofa bed in the living room, I don't recall the rates being crazy high. If you are not wedded to a specific location, this was an interesting place to stay.
FamilyMan
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Re: Visiting Boston w/ young family

Post by FamilyMan »

We stayed downtown and thought it was well worth the extra cost. Time is limited on vacation and I didn’t want to waste time on mass transit. Especially in a very walkable city like Boston.

We parked the car in a city garage called the Government Center Parking Garage. Instead of paying $60 per night, I paid about $17. Yes, it was a bit more work but I saved $170 over 4 nights. You’ll need that extra cash with Boston being pricy for everything.
Afty
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Re: Visiting Boston w/ young family

Post by Afty »

Mr-et-Mrs-R wrote: Fri May 14, 2021 7:26 am Somerville
Davis Sq. - Sacco's Bowl-Haven, candle pin and duck pin bowling, decent pizza.
I wanted to echo this as I used to live in Davis Square. I had never seen candlepin bowling before I moved to Boston. Sacco’s has good local beer too, or at least it did the last time I visited. It’s not a must-see, but it’s a fun place for a family dinner.
autonomy
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Re: Visiting Boston w/ young family

Post by autonomy »

Highly depends on what you and your children like/want to do. Personally, I wouldn't want to spend 4 full nights in the city.
Don't know where you'll be staying or if there are any hotels nearby, but my favorite garages are https://www.posquare.com/rates-hours/ for nights/weekends and the garage under Boston Public Market for less-than-3-hours validated daytime parking, if you buy something from the Market.

There are a lot of good suggestions in this thread, but they are literally all over the place.
- I would not stay anywhere near Braintree if you plan on driving into the city; that part of 93 ('expressway') South is a rollercoaster with, IMO, generally worse drivers who all try to go 80 in a 55mph zone - that is, when it's not jammed up with traffic like it is right now at 10:25am; both directions.
- Whale watch tours pretty much all go to the same general area, wherever whales happen to be feeding on that day. Typically, that is on the Stellwagen Bank, about an hour of a boat ride out from the Aquarium. Don't think there's a need to spend time to drive out to Gloucester, unless you also want to see Gloucester at the same time (shame that Cape Ann Brewing seems to be closed!)
- The Esplanade is a nice walk and views; though the views from the other side of the river are much better. There is a bike path on both sides of the river and it's great but can get crowded. Night Shift is again doing the beer garden on the Esplanade this year.
- Public Garden is nice to walk around but you won't spend a full day here.
- Castle Island is really cool (lots of parking here) and if the wind is right, you'll see a lot of planes (but it will be noisy). Ship watching, quiet beach (I would not go in the water though), walking.
- North End is fun for walking around/architecture/people watching, make sure you go to the Christopher Columbus Park and if your kids are up for it, do the carousel on the Greenway. Mike's pastry is popular; get in the shortest line you see, pay cash. Modern Pastry is totally fine too. Stop by Salumeria right around the corner and browse, maybe get some bread at Bricco's (not the restaurant, the bakery). Check out their Panneteria as well, it's right there in the alley - all next to Modern Pastry.
- The Seaport is an up-and-coming area, has some new playgrounds and parks, lots of places to eat, but it's been changing literally every month and I haven't been in a while so don't know what's cool now. It's way more modern and less 'historic' though but the harborwalk and views of the city are very nice.
- Museum of Science is great

Further out:
- Going up to Gloucester/Rockport/Cape Ann is pretty much a full-day activity unless you like to rush. 50 mins to Gloucester, 40 to Salem, one way. All great destinations. As mentioned, Halibut Point is a must if you're up there (does get crowded on good days) as the views are amazing. Hammond Castle Museum is a curious castle to see on the coast. Newburyport is great for walking around too (Maudslay State Park, Salisbury Beach Reservation, Plum Island/Parker River NWR nearby). If you're going to JUST Salem, Gloucester, or Newburyport, you can get there by commuter rail but check the schedule closely!
- Ferry to Ptown is another full-day activity and I bet you'll feel like barely scratched the surface. It's a totally different world out there; if you go, see if you have time to walk out on the Provincetown Causeway to Wood End - mind the wind and the tides.
- If you're out in the western suburbs, Lexington/Lincoln/Concord - Minuteman National Park is great for taking a walk; downtown Concord has food, coffee, shops, and the Minuteman North Bridge is right around the corner. Watch out for cyclists on nice days!
- Lots of places have either closed, modified their hours, or are reservation-only, and things are still changing, so check ahead of time! Not sure what's going on in Harvard Sq. now, but a ton of places closed last year. Sacco's Bowl is temporarily closed according to Google Maps.
- The commuter rail runs VERY sparingly and even more so these days! They've replaced some lines with bus shuttles due to pandemic/WAH. However, ride sharing around here is good.
- One place I would avoid is Crane Beach (and possibly other 'famous' North Shore beaches like Wingaersheek). For a non-member reservation it's $30/$45 per car to park! Besides, the water is wicked cold. I'd drive to one of the less-crowded, warmer beaches on the Cape - like in Falmouth or Barnstable. IMO the best beach close to the city is Nantasket in Hull.
econalex
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Re: Visiting Boston w/ young family

Post by econalex »

Lots of good advice already. Just a couple of additions:

1) Museums may not be open, yet.
2) Italian food is pretty great. Giacomo in North End and Back Bay is the go-to personally.
3) Asian food also pretty good. Look in Chinatown, Allston and Quincy. Oh also apparently there are lots of Vietnamese food in Dorchester (pho, bahn mi etc.) but I haven't had the chance to try yet.
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Doom&Gloom
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Re: Visiting Boston w/ young family

Post by Doom&Gloom »

Mr-et-Mrs-R wrote: Fri May 14, 2021 7:26 am I keep a draft in my gmail account with a list of things to do while in Boston (yes, I am asked this a lot):
Removed the breweries & bars from the list since kids are coming along as well, but if you two want a nice refreshing brew, you really can not go wrong with any of the locals.

Greater Boston area
West
Wellesley - Center and college, Susu's Bakery, Blue Ginger.
Concord - Walden Pond
Lexington - Lexington Greens
Arlington - Minuteman Bike Trail
Jeffrey, NH - Mount Monadnock

North
Salem - Peabody Essex Museum, House of Seven Gables
Gloucester - Plum island
Portsmouth, NH - nice walking town
Portland, ME - Art walk (downtown, dont' know this year's schedule), wharf area.
Bailey Island, ME - Cook's. Thank me later. (68 Garrison Cove Road Bailey Island, Maine 04003)

South
Blue Hills reservation
Hingham - World's End
Plymouth - Plymouth Rock

East
Cape Cod - High speed ferry to P-Town, Cape Cod

Boston Area
Boston - Freedom Trail, Newbury Street, Charles Street, Beacon Hill, North End.
Pedicab, Boston Duck Tour, Community Boating
Isabella Steward Gardner Museum, MFA, Christian Science Church, Museum of Science, Larz Anderson Auto Museum, JFK's Birthplace, ICA, Boston Firefighting Museum, Children's Museum.

Arnold Arboretum, Franklin Park, Fenway Park (take in a ball game).

Harbor Islands is a must do.

At 2 p.m. sharp - except for Fridays and during stormy weather - visitors to Marriott’s Custom House in the clock tower building who make a $3 donation to charity are escorted up to the 26th-floor observation deck to take in stunning views of downtown, the harbor, and the occasional peregrine falcon.

Charlestown - USS Constitution, Charlestown Shipyards, Bunker Hill, KO Pies for dinner

Somerville
Davis Sq. - Sacco's Bowl-Haven, candle pin and duck pin bowling, decent pizza.

Cambridge
Harvard - Harvard Yard, Harvard Museum of Natural History, Harvard Art Museum, Harvard Sq., LA Burkdick Chocolate
MIT - MIT Campus, MIT Museum, Flour, MIT Media Lab.
Inman Sq - Trina's, Christina's Ice Cream, All Star Pizza
Tons of useful information in this and other posts in the thread. I wish you hadn't gone to the trouble of the editing I highlighted above. Some of us [read: me] are cheerfully following this thread for our upcoming first* trip to Boston but without kids and trying hard not to hijack it :wink:

* DW has never been to Boston; I was there once briefly decades ago. We spent a couple of days in Rockport/Gloucester a few years ago on the way to Acadia NP and loved it. I am really enjoying this thread. Thanks to all participating, and I hope OP has a great trip!
Topic Author
SwampDonkey
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Re: Visiting Boston w/ young family

Post by SwampDonkey »

Wow... the responses on this thread are INCREDIBLE. So much good information has been shared - will be spending quite a few hours researching now 👍

Thank you to everyone who contributed 🙂
davedci1
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Re: Visiting Boston w/ young family

Post by davedci1 »

DO NOT take the ferry to Provincetown if the waters are choppy. (Esp. with kids which we did.) Brutal to say the least. Spring and summer should be fine though.
egrets
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Re: Visiting Boston w/ young family

Post by egrets »

campy2010 wrote: Fri May 14, 2021 8:34 am An entirely better vacation would be to skip Boston or spend a day walking around the Public Garden/Freedom Trail and then get a rental on the North Shore and explore the beach towns, beaches and relax.

If you're dead set on spending the majority of the time in Boston, then definitely spend at least one day (preferrably a weekday) doing something outside of Boston. My 2 favorite summer spots that I used to take visitors is

1. Through Gloucester and up to Rockport. The road along the ocean between these 2 towns is beautiful. If you want to see the ocean Wingarsheek Beach is a favorite. Get fish and chips or clams or something in Ipswhich.
2. Crane Beach and the Crane Estate. Take the morning, lounge/walk on the beach, walk around the estate. Then go get fish and chips or clams in Ipswich.
No, I recommend just the opposite. You can see the ocean, get fish and chips in lots of places. Only Boston is Boston. I would never drive a car in Boston, though.
Mr-et-Mrs-R
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Re: Visiting Boston w/ young family

Post by Mr-et-Mrs-R »

Afty wrote: Fri May 14, 2021 9:54 am
Mr-et-Mrs-R wrote: Fri May 14, 2021 7:26 am Somerville
Davis Sq. - Sacco's Bowl-Haven, candle pin and duck pin bowling, decent pizza.
I wanted to echo this as I used to live in Davis Square. I had never seen candlepin bowling before I moved to Boston. Sacco’s has good local beer too, or at least it did the last time I visited. It’s not a must-see, but it’s a fun place for a family dinner.
I figured if there's a rain day it would be a good escape from the hotel.
The pizza there is pretty good (small local chain, plus one in Maui (been there too)).
Sweet Betsy
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Re: Visiting Boston w/ young family

Post by Sweet Betsy »

I recommend staying downtown specifically so you can go back to the hotel if you need to throughout the day for naps or just rest time for the kids. I agree that you won't need a car while in the city. If you are driving, find a parking space for the duration of your trip at SpotHero and plan to just leave the car there the entire time. If you are flying, don't rent a car, there is no need. It may actually be cheaper for you to use Uber or Lyft rather than the T for 4 people. Although the T might be fun for the kids.
lhl12
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Re: Visiting Boston w/ young family

Post by lhl12 »

MikeZ wrote: Fri May 14, 2021 9:14 am One fun game to play with kids: Who can spot the most Dunken' Donuts.
This is actually a great idea!
Da5id
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Re: Visiting Boston w/ young family

Post by Da5id »

devopscoder wrote: Thu May 13, 2021 10:17 pm The children’s museum is nice. Same for the aquarium and Museum of Science. The Duck boats from the Prudential are fun.

You could walk on the Esplanade. There are some playgrounds next to the paths.

I think it will be cheaper to stay in Cambridge and take the T in to avoid the parking fee.
I really like Children's museum/aquarium/MoS. MoS has nice Imax and planetarium shows if you want to get off your feet for a bit. Aquarium is very nice bit surprisingly expensive. I'm more neutral on Duck Boats, as they are rather dependent on how entertaining your particular guide is. But kids might like the ride even if the patter isn't great for them?

If your kids are into sports, Fenway Stadium tour (or a game) is a cultural experience of sorts. I don't really like baseball but find an occasional live game at Fenway enjoyable.

Depending on how many whales are being seen, the whale watches out of the Aquarium dock can be very fun (can also be rough weather or few whales, so caveat emptor). Harbor cruises out to Castle Island are also quite pleasant.

I'm also not clear that staying in the city is a big win. Staying somewhere near the MBTA in any direction is probably fine. I'd certainly avoid having a car unless you want to do out of the city activities that need one. Driving in Boston isn't always great, and parking is quite pricey.
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ClevrChico
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Re: Visiting Boston w/ young family

Post by ClevrChico »

Young kids are going to like the simple things the best. I'd mix going to a few playgrounds and McDonald's with a few things you want to see. :-)

I thought the duck boats were a lot of fun and special.
kamikazekid
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Re: Visiting Boston w/ young family

Post by kamikazekid »

Lots of useful and kid friendly advice here. A few other thoughts below
1. Castle Island - worth a visit. Kids can bike or you can just move around in a stroller.
2. Arnold arboretum is an absolute gem as someone already recommended above.
3. Newburyport is a nice 1/2 to full day trip. Probably an hour tops out of Boston
SOmeone mentioned Wellesley college - that is CLOSED for visitors from what I am being told due to Covid restrictions.
Check out Elm bank reservation too...lovely place !

I think you will pay a premium for staying in Boston. Try brookline or Newton.

How are you on the food scene ? That's a whole different thread I suppose ! :sharebeer
Enjoy Boston - its a fun place !
protagonist
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Re: Visiting Boston w/ young family

Post by protagonist »

Boston has a good public transit system and it is very walkable.
A car downtown may be more of a liability than an asset. Lots of traffic, and navigating an unplanned city built 300+ years ago can be challenging.
There are a lot of nice neighborhoods besides downtown. Also consider Cambridge (also very walkable).

Here is a personal guide to Boston that I put together for some friends who were coming in from out of town in May. It is over 5 years old now (probably closer to 10), so many of the places I mentioned may be closed or (in cases of restaurants) may be different....so check before you go, and if they don't work for you, please don't shoot the messenger:


Boston/Cambridge guide for my friends…..

Climate:

Late May is usually beautiful but can rain. Expect anything from 50s to 90s. Today I am wearing a tank top and shorts. Yesterday I needed a jacket.

Transportation:

The “T” (subway) goes most places you would want to go cheaply and easily in Boston, Cambridge and adjacent suburbs, and Boston and Cambridge are big walking cities. I’d think twice about renting a car in the city, until you want to leave town. If you don’t know your way around, Boston is probably the most confusing city to drive in the USA (like London in that regard) and drivers can be way ("wicked") rude. Also parking can be difficult and expensive if you don’t know where to go.

Neighborhoods that may interest you:
I will list some of my favorite restaurants in each neighborhood. Some of the recommendations may be outdated. I’m not a restaurant critic so don’t shoot the messenger….

Boston:

Beacon Hill: Very close to you. Beautiful upscale neighborhood, very old, nice architecture…the main street with upscale shops/cafes, etc is Charles St…the little windy side streets are very pretty. At one base of Beacon Hill is the Charles River, separating Boston from Cambridge…Community Boating is there, where you see the sailboats on the river. I was a member when I lived there…perhaps I can still take you out sailing, I don’t know.
Restaurant:
Lala Rokh. Very good Persian and very beautiful and romantic. I heard it may have gone downhill....don't know.
There’s a Thai place I used to like here too, but I forget the name.


Esplanade: Not a neighborhood, but a beautiful walk on a nice day on the edge of the Charles River, running from the Science Museum along the north margin of Beacon Hill through the north end of Back Bay and way beyond. At night in the summer there are free concerts and movies at the hatch shell along the esplanade. I don’t know if these will have started when you are there. People jog, skate, flirt, bike, etc along this way.

Boston Common/Boston Garden: A large central park which borders the south end of Beacon Hill and the east end of Back Bay…nice place to hang…many free musical and theatre things happening here in the summer…political soapbox speeches, doggies, frisbee games, stuff like that. Cheers bar (from the TV show) is along the northern end..I’d advise to avoid it, unless you are obsessed. As a pub it sucks. It’s just a tourist trap.

Back Bay: Runs west from the Boston Common and the streets are roughly alphebetized east to west. Very trendy, upscale. Commonwealth Ave. is residential, pretty, tree-lined. Newbury St. is THE trendy shopping street in Boston with boutiques, galleries, yadayada.

There are some good restaurants here…A good sushi place and a good Thai, and I forget the names (I’m helpful, huh?) I’d need to find them.

North End: One of my favorite neighborhoods..I used to live here. Old Italian neighborhood with big mafia presence and great food. Hanover St. is the main drag with many interesting side streets. The east margin is the waterfront, which is also sort of interesting…seafood and the aquarium are there.

North End Restaurants:

The Daily Catch. On Hanover St. Great funky old place where you sit on a bench and get served really good fresh Italian seafood out of a pan. The Monkfish Marsala and Pasta Putanesca are some of my favorites…they are also known for their calamari. I heard they may have gone downhill in quality since they opened up other branches, I don’t know. If you go, only go to the one on Hanover St.

Giacomo’s, or Sage, or Pomodoro: Some of my favorite North End restaurants. Very good Northern Italian and Italian seafood.

Caffe Vittoria: Good Italian coffeehouse…espresso, cannolis, etc. There are many other such places along Hanover St. as well.

There is a really good lunch spot about a half block off the main part of Hanover St…I forget the name..would have to find it….and lots more.


South End: Used to be a ghetto…now very upscale and trendy. Good restaurants, many along Columbus Ave.

South End Restaurants:

Toro: Great tapas. Very trendy and crowded.
Icarus: Really good, creative, nouvelle. Lots of fish dishes and others.
Nightengale: Supposedly great…I never tried it.
Sister Sorel: Another place I never tried that has a really good reputation as a local pub.

Chinatown: Some really good (and also some really bad) Chinese restaurants.

Chinatown Restaurants:

Some of the ones I like are Hei La Moon, Peach Farm, and East Ocean City .

Everybody has their favorite Chinatown restaurant where they go exclusively. You pick your seafood out of a tank. They often have great fresh specials like pea pod stems….

Theatre District: Was a high-crime red light district 20 years ago and has had a revival with lots of live theatre, trendy restaurants and clubs.

Restaurant:

Pho Republique. Vietnamese noodle shop (I think this is where they moved to…)

Lansdowne St.: Eurotrash trendy discos. Kind of ugly.

Cambridge:

Harvard Sq.: Home of Harvard Univ., great bookstores and record stores, street musicians, coffeehouses…lots of students and tourists. A few good and lots of bad restaurants. Right next door is the Cambridge Common which is a little park to hang in.

Harvard Sq. Restaurants:

Cambridge 1. Good pizza.
Lulu’s Tealuxe. Great tea house right in the middle of Harvard Sq…good place to chill, drink tea and watch people. The Crème de la Earl Grey is my favorite.

Café Algiers: Not the greatest coffee or food, but decent, and a fun,classic bohemian place to hang out with outdoor seating as well, very bohemian atmosphere, was truly great in the sixties.

Central Sq: Much funkier, grittier, more ethnic than Harvard Sq, though that is changing and the yuppies are moving in. I used to live here. They say there are Harvard Sq. types and Central Sq. types. Home to a lot of good ethnic restaurants , coffeehouses and alternative clubs, especially along Mass. Ave. and in nearby Inman Sq.

Central and Inman Square Restaurants:

Oleana: 134 Hampshire, near Inman Sq. Delicious. Fantastic place- my favorite restaurant in Boston/Cambridge with nice outdoor patio. Creative Middle Eastern, more upscale. 134 Hampshire St.

Andala Café: Little Middle Eastern coffeehouse and restaurant, inexpensive, nice place to sit outside near Central Sq., good food and teas. 286 Franklin St

River Gods: Really friendly, eccentric, local pub with excellent beers, burgers, sandwiches, etc. Good place to make friends at the bar. In Cambridgeport between Central Sq and the river, on corner of River St. and Kinnard I think. This is what Cheers SHOULD be like.

Muqueca: Very good interesting funky little Brazilian restaurant near Inman Sq. 1008 Cambridge St

Punjabi Dhaba: Excellent Indian takeout in the heart of Inman Square, very inexpensive with limited counter seating.

The Miracle of Science: At the southern tip of Central Sq, near MIT (walking away from the Harvard Sq direction). This was my favorite local pub when I lived here in the 90s. I like the shrimp skewers, the veggie burgers with tomato chutney and, to drink, the dark and stormies. Hang out at the bar and find out from the MIT geeks what the world will be like in 2020. Very friendly. Another good friendly pub w/ good food is the B Side Lounge.

Toscanini’s: There is fantastic ice cream all over Boston/Cambridge, especially Cambridge, but this one is the best of all I think. The New York Times calls it the best ice cream in the world. I like the espresso chip and cappucino. Other good ice cream places in various locations around Cambridge/Boston are Herrell’s and Christina’s.

Carberry’s: A few blocks off Central Sq. Icelandic-American coffeehouse and bakery. Not the coolest atmosphere of all the many central sq. coffehouses, but the best coffee, croissants, etc.

Some other Boston/Cambridge restaurants I really like:

Elephant Walk: Near Porter Sq., Cambridge. Really good and interesting Cambodian. I love the Salade Cambodgienne, and this really fantastic stuffed avocado thingie.

Barking Crab: For basic New England old time seafood..clam chowder, lobster, steamers, etc…maybe not the best, but good, and the location is fantastic..you sit out on the water, outside in the good weather. A bit pricey, but this stuff always is in the city. I’d guess a lobster that would cost $8 where I live is probably about $20.

Emma’s: My favorite pizza place…very thin crust, wood-fired oven, wow. It’s in a nondescript neighborhood of Cambridge (Kendall Sq…home of the Kendall Sq theatre, a multiplex art cinema). 40 Hampshire

Oishii: Chestnut Hill, Brookline. Great sushi.

Helmand: Very good Afghani restaurant in a non-descript boring neighborhood in Cambridge with truly amazing bread. 143 First St.

My Favorite Music Club if you like real funky:

Wally’s on Mass. Ave. near Columbus, in the South End on the edge of Roxbury. A Boston institution. Great local jazz, no cover charge, really interesting crowd from the down and out to the very serious musician. Don’t even think of going before 10-11 PM. The neighborhood is dicey, but I’ve never heard of anything bad happening to people here. Real friendly. Europeans wind up here too, because there is a nearby youth hostel.Wally opened the place about 70 yr ago and just died, age 101, always in the bar. It may scare you if you go unescorted and scare easily. It’s happened to other European friends of mine. Maybe I’ll take you.

On Monday nights The Fringe play at the Lily Pad in Inman Square. They have various offbeat acts on other nights.

Out of town excursions:

Cape Cod. A little over 1 hr to the bridge and another hr to Provincetown (P’town to the locals)
(double that if traffic). There is also a ferry from Boston to P’town which may run by the end of May. The outer cape is the nice part, along the National Seashore (about 25 mi beach with dunes, wide sand, etc…beautiful). Prettiest places to stay are Truro and Wellfleet, esp. Truro…not expensive in May. Many nice beaches (Marconi, Head of the Meadow, lots of others…) You’ve got to check out P’town (fantastic place to stay there is the Land’s End Inn). P’town is probably the gay capital of the world, as well as an old Portuguese fishing village. Don’t miss the female impersonator shows.

The Islands:
Ferries from many places. The main ones:
Martha’s Vineyard- Gay Head is probably the most beautiful beach in MA. Lucy Vincent Beach is also very nice but private (you can sneak on easily). The main towns (Vineyard Haven, Oak Bluffs, Edgartown) are tourist traps. The rest is beautiful.
Nantucket- Farther from shore, very beautiful, all houses grey, very exclusive, beautiful beaches, can be snobby.
Block Island: The most “downhome”, limited car traffic, not crowded, a bit funkier than the other two, cool place. The beaches are not as nice as some on Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

Maine Coast:

The Mass. coast has many beautiful wide sandy beaches and warm water in the summer. The Maine coast has wilder, more rugged beauty and freezing cold water…rocky cliffs, probably more like the W. Coast of Ireland.
Some recommendations:
Biddeford Pool: (NOT Biddeford itself, but Bidderford Pool)…Beautiful, tranquil place about 2 hr north of Boston…stay at John Oddi’s guest house. You can buy lobsters, clams at the local seafood store and cook them up in Oddi’s kitchen, or there used to be a great little restaurant w/ outdoor seating on the edge of the salt pond, with the best blueberry pies I ever ate (this was years ago…may not still exist).
Bar Harbor: About 5 hr north of Boston…National Park with beautiful mountains overlooking the sea, islands, very beautiful place and probably not crowded in May. Just before you cross over the bridge onto the island there is a great lobster place on the right where you pick your lobster out of a tank and they steam it outside in these huge wooden vats that have been there for at least 100 yrs…..

Northampton: This is where I live, about 1 ½-2 hr west of Boston by car. It’s a very nice university town, very easy going and liberal, with good food, music, theatre, festivals etc, nestled in the Connecticut River Valley with beautiful rivers, mountains (small ones) and farms all around. Rated #1 small city arts town in America.

Mountains: White Mtns. Of New Hampshire (2 hr), Green Mtns of Vermont (3 hrs).

New York City: 4 hr. by car, but I would recommend the train instead. It’s New York. Need I say more? (There is a fast, expensive train that I think does it in less than 3 hr…the regular train takes 4-5.)

Montreal . 5 hr.

Quebec City. 7 hr.
Last edited by protagonist on Sat May 15, 2021 9:07 am, edited 1 time in total.
Arabesque
Posts: 187
Joined: Mon Jan 08, 2018 9:56 am

Re: Visiting Boston w/ young family

Post by Arabesque »

Four days in Boston would scratch the surface (Chinatown is fun and it's right downtown), but if you decide to go out of the city, remember that the traffic can be bad and some of the roads twisty and difficult. It's at least an hour to Gloucester and more to Newburyport. Both are more adult places, though I love Plum Island.

If I was taking kids out of the city, I would be more inclined to go to Concord or Plymouth. The American history would be memorable for the kids, and there is lots of space to move. My family has a tradition of skinny dipping in Walden Pond, but it's getting harder to do, so I don't recommend it.

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractions ... setts.html.

https://www.plimoth.org
Last edited by Arabesque on Sat May 15, 2021 9:12 am, edited 1 time in total.
protagonist
Posts: 7150
Joined: Sun Dec 26, 2010 12:47 pm

Re: Visiting Boston w/ young family

Post by protagonist »

Arabesque wrote: Sat May 15, 2021 9:04 am Four days in Boston would scratch the surface (Chinatown is fun and its right downtown), but if you decide to go out of the city, remember that the traffic is bad and some of the roads twisty and difficult. It's at least an hour to Gloucester and more to Newburyport. Both are more adult places, though I love Plum Island.

I would be more inclined to go to Concord or Plymouth. The American history would be memorable for the kids, and there is lots of space to move:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractions ... setts.html.

https://www.plimoth.org
I agree about the Lexington-Concord battleground....great US history, and also close to Walden Pond and the de Cordova museum...both have nice easy hiking trails and are lovely on a nice day.
Maverick72
Posts: 9
Joined: Thu Feb 25, 2021 1:24 am

Re: Visiting Boston w/ young family

Post by Maverick72 »

There are so many great suggestions on this thread for your visit. The tough part of all of this is your kids are 8 years of age (or younger). Boston is a very walkable city. I grew up here in So Boston and now live on the South Shore. When I think of my kids at 8, I think of how much they had to walk with me. Out of necessity and also searching for and going to fun activities. They were troopers because we walked miles. It will be a tough ask to expect them to walk most places even though it is 'walkable', as an adult would commonly do.

As for a car, if it were not for their ages, I would say definitely not. First, the rental rate are sky high. Second the garages are ridiculously expensive. I know....I pay for one monthly in the city which is less than a daily fee. Expect $30-40 minimally per day and perhaps not even without in/out privileges. Then you have to be concerned about a resting spot for your car when you get to your destination. What about ZipCar? They are based in Boston and have a fair amount of cars available throughout.I use them extensively and will next week in Los Angeles while visiting. It takes registering and planning though and to reserve ahead of time. So you have to work your plan efficiently because the late fees are expensive. But the best part is, if you can find a ZipCar close to your hotel, you can always park the car in a ZipCar spot with no charge. Usually I park in the same spot that I rent it from as I come and go throughout an 8 hour rental period with a home base.

I suggest a day trip to Martha's Vineyard. You will have a nice ride to the Cape...fun games in the car. Stop at Plymouth on the way, get an ice cream, look at Plymouth Rock (earning....it is TINY :) Then drive to Falmouth and pick up the ferry in Woods Hole. Parking at the ferry will cost you about $25. Get them a snack(s) at Pie In The Sky bakery bakery right at he ferry and take the hour ride. When landing in either Vineyard Haven or Edgartown, rent bicycles (if old enough...I think 8 works) and explore. I recommend Edgartown.

PM me if you want more help. I see no benefit in staying outside the city. Yes your hotel will be less expensive, probably not as nice and certainly a long way away from your home base. You will then have to deal with parking and traffic and the T public transit which is very good).I wouldn't do it

Have fun and good luck!
DarthSage
Posts: 400
Joined: Tue Sep 19, 2017 9:39 am

Re: Visiting Boston w/ young family

Post by DarthSage »

Much good advice here, that I won't repeat. I will say--take the Duck Boat tour! We went a couple years ago, and they let my husband drive while we were in the water. He even got a sticker--ooh! He was insufferable for the rest of the day! Usually, they let a little kid drive.

We're heading to Boston next month, I asked my kids what they wanted to do. They said Science Museum and Duck Boat tour, but mine are teens. Also, Mike's cannoli's.

Another fun little stop is the Boston Public Library. It's free, and very beautiful inside. Last time we were there, I saw a couple rehearsing their wedding in the courtyard.
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