10 Cool Things to Do in the Boston Area with (Young) Kids this Summer

The “Make Way for Ducklings” Sculpture in the Public Garden

I freakin’ love Boston. I moved here after college 16 years ago, and have been here ever since, except for a couple of years in Iowa for grad school. (Go Hawkeyes!)

Since our girls were born, I’ve discovered that it’s a great area for families, too. It’s amazing, the sheer variety of things there are to do with kids in the city and within a stone’s throw of it. And I can throw a stone about 40 miles, for what it’s worth.

Like any family with little ones, we’ve had a lot of unplanned days to fill over the past few years, so we’ve discovered out a lot of good outings that are do-able and affordable with toddlers or preschoolers. So I present to you below ten of our favorite things to do in and around Boston when the weather’s good. All of these things are either free or pretty durn cheap. (And there are lots more, too, but I don’t want to try your patience on the slide show front. Believe me, I get it.)

I’m leaving out things like the Children’s Museum, the Science Museum, the Boston Aquarium and the Franklin Park Zoo — all of which are wonderful, and all of which we’ve visited, but which get pricey once you pay for three, four, or more tickets. (If you live in the Boston area, though, you can score free or cheap passes from your local library! Do it!)

Be sure to share your ideas in the comments, yo.

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  • Take the T 1 of 10
    Take the T
    My kids are so easily entertained, just riding the T (aka the subway) is a thrill to them. (And a cheap one at that!) If you're plumb outta ideas, buy a Charlie ticket (kids under 12 ride free), hop aboard, get off at the stop of your choice for an ice cream, and hop back on. Bam. Done.
  • Ride the Carousel 2 of 10
    Ride the Carousel
    There are two choice carousel-riding opportunities in Boston: On the Boston Common, and on the Rose Kennedy Greenway's Wharf District Park. For a few bucks, your kiddos can take a whirl while you wave frantically at them over and over and over again. And if it's a hot day (and you brought a change of clothes) both carousels are steps away from splash pools and fountains.
  • Pick a Peck of Blueberries 3 of 10
    Pick a Peck of Blueberries
    I don't actually know how much a peck is. But I do know that there are a lot of farms within 45 minutes of Boston where you can pick blueberries, strawberries and peaches during the summer. (Blueberries are great, as they're super easy for little ones to pick.) Our favorite place is Parlee Farms in Tyngsboro, Mass. They've got farm animals too, if you're into that sort of thing.
  • Visit the Farm 4 of 10
    Visit the Farm
    OK, so say you are into farm animals. Drumlin Farm, an Audubon Sanctuary in Lincoln, has pigs, sheep, goats and chickens, as well as native wildlife, including owls, hawks, foxes and more. There's usually a tractor wagon giving rides for a couple of bucks. There are walking trails, too. Admission is $7 for adults, $5 for kids 2-12. (Free if you're an Audubon member.)
  • Hunt for Treasure on Spectacle Island 5 of 10
    Hunt for Treasure on Spectacle Island
    There are a 30+ islands in Boston Harbor, several of which are accessible by ferry. Last year, we checked out Spectacle Island, which has been home to everything from a glue factory to brothels to a garbage dump. Fragments of dishes, shoe leather, and other "treasure" regularly surfaces on the small, sandy beach. Disregard my pasty skin and the ridiculous expression on my face and observe the shard of floral china I'm holding. I'm a pasty archaeologist!
  • Play Near Hahvahd 6 of 10
    Play Near Hahvahd
    The newly renovated playground on the Cambridge Common, just outside of Harvard Square, is kinda like Swiss Family Robinson meets Melissa & Doug meets Steampunk. Twisty, natural wood structures, blocks, water chutes and sprayers, and lots of other cool stuff. Only drawback is that it gets pretty crowded. Dress your kids in neon.
  • Explore a Garden in the Woods 7 of 10
    Explore a Garden in the Woods
    Yes, that is a frog ON an actual lily pad. We thought this was the stuff of cartoons until we visited Garden In The Woods, in North Framingham. It's New England's "premier wildflower garden." They give kids a scavenger hunt worksheet (appropriate for 4 and up) so they have a "job" to do as you stroll the wooded paths. The pond, full of frogs and turtles, is a highlight.
  • Watch Airplanes from Castle Island 8 of 10
    Watch Airplanes from Castle Island
    Castle Island in South Boston isn't actually an island, but a point of land jutting out into Boston Harbor. There's a beach, a playground, a snack bar, an old fort, lots of places to walk, and gorgeous views of the Boston skyline. It's also a primo spot for watching planes take off from and land at nearby Logan airport.
  • See the Sea 9 of 10
    See the Sea
    For some stunning ocean views, tide pools to explore and easy paths to walk, head for Halibut Point State Park in Gloucester. My favorite part: the place near the rocky shore that visitors have turned into an ever-changing rock-sculpture garden. Only drawback: a huge granite quarry, with nary a guard rail in sight.
  • Ride the Swan Boats 10 of 10
    Ride the Swan Boats
    And oldie but a goody! The famous Swan Boats of Boston's Public Garden. Get there before noon (rides start at 10am) and you'll beat the lines. Fare is only $3.00 for adults, $1.50 for kids 2-15. It's not exactly a thrill ride, but hey, the scenery is nice, and the kids have fun. Which is what it's all about.

 

 

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My book: DOUBLE TIME, my memoir of parenting twins, battling depression and chasing that ever-elusive work/home balance.

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