5 Best Ice Cream Shops in Ipswich, MA

From old fashioned homemade chocolate and vanilla to new-fangled candy-packed environmentally conscious flavors, Ipswich MA has some great ice cream.

Ipswich MA is best known for Crane Beach, and what better way to cool off after the beach, than with ice cream. Packed with candy, made from organic fruit or served with espresso, Ipswich has some of the best ice creams around. Here is a list of the top five ice cream shops.

Environmentally Friendly, High Quality, Down River Ice Cream

The hands-down, best ice cream in Ipswich comes from the Down River Ice Cream shop. Actually, it is right over the border in Essex, MA, off of 133 after the turn for Crane Beach. Their ice cream is rich, but not heavy, made from milk from local dairy farms. They go the extra mile to make the business green, with spoons, dishes, and straws that can be composted.

Every one of their 25 flavors is made on-site with the best quality ingredients. Their coffee ice cream, Mug Up, is made with actual coffee, and they grow the strawberries for their ice cream in a patch behind the shop. Beyond the basics, they have creative flavors that are loaded with candies, such as Monkey’s Uncle, which is fresh banana ice cream with Reese’s peanut butter cups mixed in.

Down River has two geographical disadvantages, which don’t stop ice cream lovers from flocking to their shop. The parking is really lousy and right off of route 133. Even though the owners have made extensive efforts to provide seating, the shop is wedged between marshes and the highway. The ice cream is reasonably priced for the quality, but more expensive than other shops in town.

Zumi’s Downtown Coffee and Ice Cream Bar

Zumi’s is a special downtown coffee shop and ice cream bar. Mixing hot and cold, they have a little something for everyone. Their ice cream is not fantastic, but all 20 flavors are of good quality at a fair price. What is great about Zumi’s is that they are more than just a business, they are a community-oriented cultural zone.

Enjoy your ice cream on the deck out back, next to the Ipswich Riverwalk. If it is too hot, come inside where there is air conditioning. Local artist’s paintings hang on the wall, and live musicians play on weekends and some weekdays. The wifi is free, and there are bins of toys to distract the little ones. The atmosphere is laid back. Simple, good.

Good Old-Fashioned Ice Cream at White Farms

The cow on the roof is a beacon for ice cream lovers to come and feast at White Farms. They serve copious amounts of over 60 varieties of homemade ice cream and share picnic tables with Sal’s pizza. “Chip” is their specialty: Chocolate Chip, Mocha Chip, Kahlua Chip, Mocha Almond Chip, Reverse Chocolate Chip, Coconut Chip, Mint Chocolate Chip, and Chocolate Chocolate Chip.

They have plenty of parking recessed from 1A at the border of Rowley and Ipswich. Picnic tables are available under a large tent, and there is a great sandbox for kids to play in. Sometimes on hot summer days, all the ice cream drips can get a little icky. Also, some flavors taste a little artificial, like the blue vanilla and the nearly fluorescent key lime pie ice cream, but some people like that.

Richardson’s Ice Cream at Russell Orchards

Russell Orchards is the closest shop selling ice cream to Crane Beach, selling premium Richardson’s ice cream made in Middleton, MA. They claim the secret to their rich ice cream is the extra butterfat. The Death By Chocolate ice cream is truly to die for, and the peach ice cream is made with real peaches. Russell Orchards features a select fifteen flavors served at reasonable portions and prices.

On a hot day, it is better to grab a dish than a cone because there are only a couple of benches outside under the shade of trees. Otherwise, visit the farm animals or let the kids play on the recycled toy playground while enjoying the ice cream. With plenty of parking, ice cream at Russell Orchard is worth the stop.

Dairy Queen and Orange Julius in Ipswich, MA

Dairy Queen is a fail-safe ice cream shop. Best bets are Blizzards loaded with candy, ice milk cones dipped in chocolate or refreshing Orange Julius. Located on 1A/133, there is plenty of parking, friendly service and the clean sterility one expects from a franchise. The stonescaped patio provides adequate seating but views the highway. Mosquitoes lurked in the marshlands behind the shop, so plan on eating ice cream in the car after dusk.

An American Girl Doll Tour of Boston

Visit Boston and Explore the Times of the Doll Felicity

Boston is famous for its colonial history, and visitors to numerous historical sites can learn about the times when American Girl doll Felicity grew up.

Felicity Merriman, American Girl’s colonial-era doll, and her friend Elizabeth grew up in Williamsburg, Virginia in 1774. Boston, Massachusetts, is closely associated with colonial history and the start of the Revolutionary War, and it is also the home to the American Girl Boston store. Families can visit historical sites in the Boston area and shop at the store.

Lexington and Concord

On April 19, 1775 the “shot heard round the world” was fired in Lexington, marking the start of the War for Independence. Minuteman National Historic Park is the place where that shot was fired. The park offers guided tours as well as special events such as historical reenactments, musical performances, and storytelling. Hours and activities are limited during the winter season.

From May to October visitors can go to the Hartwell Tavern, on Route 2A in nearby Lincoln, which was the home of the Hartwell family and their children. Tours will inform visitors of the lives of the family, which ran a tavern just as Felicity’s father ran a general store. The Tavern is part of the park system as is The Wayside, home to various authors since colonial times, including Louisa May Alcott, Nathanial Hawthorne, and Harriet Lothrop, who wrote Five Little Peppers under the pen name Margaret Sidney.

Also in the city of Lexington is the privately run National Heritage Museum. Admission is free, and the museum has special exhibits and special events year-round. It has a long term installation called “Sowing the Seeds of Liberty: Lexington & the American Revolution,” which was designed to appeal to adults as well as children. The exhibit includes The Loring Kitchen, which introduces visitors to family life during Felicity’s time and to understand how food preparation and cooking would have happened in colonial times. Children will experience the exhibit through the eyes of a cartoon character, Billy the Patriot Mouse.

The Concord Museum is a local historical museum that features family-friendly exhibits including a fife played by a young boy during the Revolution and treasure hunts and hands-on activities as well as many special exhibits geared for children all year-long such as craft workshops and story hours. Fans of the American Girl Book, Felicity’s Surprise: A Christmas Story might like to visit in December for its annual tradition, Family Trees: A Celebration of Children’s Literature, when the museum’s galleries are decorated with many trees decorated with different ornaments inspired by a selection of picture books.

Though unrelated to the colonial era, girls and their families might enjoy a visit to Concord to Orchard House, home of Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women.

Boston and Beyond

Children have all learned about the Boston Tea Party in school, and girls know that Felicity is fond of serving tea and has her own Tea Set. A replica of the ship is a museum in Boston Harbor, and one original tea chest is on exhibit. The ship and museum are undergoing an extensive renovation and are scheduled to reopen in Summer 2011.

One of Boston’s most popular tourist attractions is The Freedom Trail. Visitors follow a red line painted along the city’s streets which takes them from one attraction to another along the historic path that led to the creation of the United States of America.

John Adams, the second President of the United States, hailed from Quincy, Massachusetts (south of Boston), where his birthplace and home is now a National Historic Site open to the public. During Felicity’s time, John Adams was a delegate to the Continental Congress and one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

About an hour north of Boston, in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, is Strawbery Banke Museum. It is an American neighborhood restored to represent a community from the late 17th to mid-20th century. Special events often include topics specific to the colonial era. The museum has a popular Christmas time Candlelight Stroll.

American Girl Boston

The American Girl Boston store is located in the suburban city of Natick, in the Natick Collection Mall along Route 9.

The American Girl Bistro is open for brunch, lunch, and dinner. Advance reservations are highly recommended, which can be done online or by telephone.

American Girl Boston offers a variety of birthday and theme party options and has a Doll Hair Salon. The store also hosts special events throughout the years, such as craft making days and workshops.

Felicity grew up in Williamsburg, Virginia, which is now the site of the family-friendly Colonial Williamsburg living museum. However, visitors to Boston can also tour numerous colonial-era sites and learn more about Felicity’s world and can also go to American Girl Boston, the American Girl store. If taking a vacation along the East Coast, families can also visit New York City, just four hours away, and visits immigration sites related to Rebecca Rubin, the Russian-Jewish American Girl doll.

Quincy MA: The City of Presidents

Birthplace of the American Dream and Kilroy in Easy Reach of Boston birthplace of John Adams, John Quincy Adams, and John Hancock, Quincy played a vital role in the American Revolution. Today, much of their legacy remains.

Five miles south of Boston, just across the Neponset River, Quincy appears at first sight just like any other suburb. Stay awhile, there is a wealth of history that is impossible to avoid.

Quincy claims to be “The birthplace of the American Dream” and the “City of Presidents”. John Adams, John Quincy Adams, and John Hancock, who played a vital role in the fight for American independence, were all born here. John Adams, the first vice president, was born in 1735, the oldest of three brothers.

Their legendary forefathers have inspired succeeding generations to live the American Dream. Howard Johnson and Dunkin Donuts both started trading as small Quincy businesses before becoming household names.

The Adams Mansion was the summer White House for both presidents and home to their descendants until the early 20th century. Today, the mansion and the birthplaces of both presidents from the Adams National Historical Park A regular Trolley Tour departs from the Visitor Center in Hancock Street, visiting all three sites in about two and a half hours. Other historic sites include United First Parish Church – the burial place of both presidents and their wives, the historic Hancock Cemetery, and the Dorothy Quincy Homestead, the childhood home of John Hancock’s wife, Dorothy Quincy.

America’s first commercial railroad was founded in Quincy in 1826; transporting granite to Charlestown for the construction of the Bunker Hill Monument. Granite played a large part in the city’s population growth; with immigrants settling to work in the city’s quarries. The industry declined after 1945 with the advent of cheaper building materials and the last quarry closed in the 1960s. Examples of Quincy Granite can still be seen at the Bunker Hill Monument and the Women’s Titanic Memorial in Washington DC.

Parts of the original granite railway still exist, while old quarries are popular with hikers and rock climbers. The new Granite Links Golf Club stands on the site of some of the former quarries.

Many of the U.S. Navy ships that fought in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam were built in Quincy’s shipyards. Shipbuilding continued until the mid-1980s. The Fore River Shipyard is now home to the U.S. Naval Shipbuilding Museum, aboard USS Salem, the former flagship of the Sixth Fleet, built in Quincy in the 1940s

Kilroy was in Quincy- in fact he worked there. At Quincy’s Bethlehem Steel Shipyard, during World War II, James Kilroy chalked his name next to rivets he inspected, and so a legend started. With no time to paint over the markings before the ships went into battle, “Kilroy Was Here” traveled the globe, and soon became a GI’s rallying cry, scrawling it wherever they went.

The sea still influences modern Quincy, with 27miles of coastline and nearly a dozen beaches there are plenty of opportunities for swimming, picnicking and water sports. Marina Bay hosts a wide variety of restaurants, lounges and clubs, with a Nantucket-style boardwalk, offering a panoramic view of Boston’s skyline.

Easily accessible from Boston by road, the Red Line T subway or commuter rail, Quincy provides an enthralling mix of past and present.

Pick Your Own Apples at Russell Orchards in Ipswich, MA

Taste the difference local makes when you pick your own fruit at Russell Orchards in Ipswich, MA or visit the barn shop for cider donuts and fruit wine.

Satisfy your sweet tooth while doing something good for the environment at Russell Orchards in Ipswich, MA. A working farm since the 1920s, the Russell family practices agricultural sustainability so that they will be around for another 100 years. Located at 143 Argilla Road, they are the last stop for ice cream before Crane Beach. They sell local fruits, veggies, and other curiosities in the barn shop from 9am to 6pm, May through November.

Visit Big Boy the Pig, and the other farm animals while waiting for the hayride to the PYO orchards in June through October. Spoil the kids’ dinner with Russell’s famous cider donuts while they play on the recycled toy playground. At harvest time, watch apples being pressed into cider or taste over twenty varieties of fruit wines and hard ciders before buying pumpkins and apple pie.

Russell Farm: Diverse and Sustainable

On their 120 acres of farm, the Russell family lives, grows and sells agricultural sustainability leaving as little impact on the environment as possible. Their tractors run on biodiesel fuel filtered from the oil used to fry their delicious cider donuts. Little to no synthetic chemicals are used on the fruits, vegetables, and herbs, which are picked when ripe. Their taste is incomparable with unripe treated fruit that is often sold in supermarkets.

Biodiversity is key to sustainability. Russell Orchards features many fruits and vegetables that have disappeared from shopping carts and dinner plates. Black raspberries, jostaberries, and sour cherries are just some of the more “exotic” local fruits. They grow and sell flowers that attract bees that are good for the environment and good for honey, which is for sale in the barn shop.

Buying local is what keeps them in business and is part of their business. What they do not grow themselves, they buy locally. They sell cheeses and ice cream from nearby dairy farms. The gift shop features regionally made candy, soap, and small gifts. Products vary from season to season and year to year, so there is always something new to try from the Massachusetts and New England bounty.

Pick Your Own Apples and Berries at Russell Orchards

Even though the orchards are open from 9am to 5pm seven days a week, try to get to the orchards before 11 am to beat the sun and the tourists. Hayrides leave from the farm every half hour. Take a hayride into the orchards, pick a pint or a peck, and walk the half-mile back, in about an hour. Watch out for poison ivy and mosquitoes, which infest the shady trails in late summer.

It costs $3 USD (2010 rates) for anyone ages two or older to enter the orchards. The entrance fee is deducted from the price of the fruit picked. June is strawberry season. Raspberries blueberries and blackberries are available for picking in July and August. Twenty varieties of apples are available for picking in September in October. Check the Russell Orchards website to see what fruits are currently available,

Summer Live Music & Fall Harvest Festivals

Grab a Richardson’s ice cream cone and a bag of cider donuts and stroll around Russell’s farm, where there is always something going on. Listen to local musicians who play outside the barn most Saturday afternoons in summer and fall. Feed the goats, chickens, sheep and ponies, just don’t get cornered by the geese who can be quite aggressive.

Bring the whole family to the Strawberry Festival in mid-June which features music, balloons, hayrides, face painting and of course, strawberries! Start holiday festivities off early, celebrating the Apples and Wine Festival, the first weekend in November. Fresh and frozen apple pies and crisps are available in the bakery but please pre-order for Thanksgiving.

Enjoy A Day at Crane Beach in Ipswich, MA

On the Crane Beach Reservation pristine sandy beaches stretch for miles. Piping plovers nest contently in the protected grassy dunes. At low tide, tidal pools reveal glimpses of sea creatures. Escape the hassles of modern life on this beautiful marine wildlife reservation, about an hour north of Boston.

Open year-round from eight am to dusk, Crane Beach has something for everyone. Kids play along the shore while teenagers soak up the sun. Nature lovers hike through the grassy dunes and athletes swim in the chilly waters. In the fall until early spring dog walkers share the beach with horses and riders.

What Beach Gear to Bring and What to Leave at Home

Crane beach facilities are well equipped. During the summer the concession stand sells sandwiches, ice cream, and cold drinks. The bathhouse has showers and toilets. Drinks are available in vending machines and portable toilets are open year-round. There are no lockers for valuables, so if it is important leave it in the car.

When the beach fills up in the summer, umbrellas and tents are useful to protect from the sun as well as staking out a spot. Some good beach gear to bring is sunblock, towels, beach chairs, Avon Skin So Soft®, water, and snacks. Alcoholic beverages are prohibited, as are barbecues. The Crane Estate is carry-in, carry out, so bring an extra bag for trash.

The space available for beach toys and games depends on how many beachgoers are around. On a calm day, there is room for a volleyball set or a skin board. No flotation devices are allowed at the beach, from boogie boards to inner tubes. A pail and a shovel are always sure bets

Family-Friendly Summer Events at Crane Beach and Castle Hill

There are tons of fun activities during the summer at the Crane Estate. Learn about ocean creatures and their habitat during guided Beach Combers walks. Weekly picnic concerts on Castle Hill feature a variety of musical styles. Creativity is tested at the end of summer sandcastle competition. The Inn, Steeple Beach, and the Great House can be rented for a generous fee, but the grandiose functions held at the Crane Estate are unforgettable.

Fun Cloudy or Cooler Day Activities at the Beach Guide

Crane Beach has more to offer than just summer tanning. Explore the marshland and dunes with miles and miles of hiking trails. Take a tour of the Great House in all its turn of the century splendor between May and October for $10 USD. Bring your dog or your horse the rest of the year for $3 USD. Just dress warm and bring a windbreaker to ward off the sea breeze.

Commuter Rail and Beach Shuttle vs. Driving to Crane Beach

It is a toss up whether it is better to come to Crane Beach by car or beach shuttle. Riding the commuter rail with flip-flops and beach umbrella does seem a bit silly, but it is by far the most convenient way to visit during the summer. Compared to the $25 USD to park (2010 rates), the $5 USD beach shuttle seems like steal.

The shuttle brings passengers from the Ipswich train station to the beach and includes the entrance fee. It also guarantees entry, since the gates close to cars when the parking lot fills up by 11 am on hot sunny weekends and holidays, and does not open again to more visitors until 4pm. Parking information is available on Twitter.

On the other hand, driving makes more sense for large parties with lots of beach gear. Traffic is not bad coming from 1A or 133. Parking is half off after 3pm and there is plenty of parking on weekdays and off-season. The best option is to tag along with an Ipswich resident who gets in for free, and parks in the resident only parking lot.

Greenheads, Seagulls and Other Pests

People are not the only ones that love the beach; greenheads, seagulls and ticks love it too. Greenheads are vicious horse flies that leave welts. They swarm Massachusetts beaches in late July to early August, with different intensities from year to year. Avon’s Skin So Soft® works well as a repellent and is for sale at the Crane Beach concession stand.

Caution is the best remedy against getting bit by a seagull or tick. Never feed the birds, and keep a flip-flop handy to ward off aerial attacks when eating sandwiches. Ticks are not found on the beach, but live in the sea grass. Stay on the boardwalks and designated paths to avoid tick bites and check children carefully if they are little explorers.

Day Trips from Boston, Mass.

Cape Cod, Salem, Plymouth, Concord, Lexington, Lowell

Massachusetts offers visitors varied attractions. Beaches, outlet malls, museums, and historical sites like Plymouth, Quincy, and Lexington are an hour’s drive from Boston.

Downtown Boston offers ample shopping and sightseeing opportunities, but for anyone fancying a day away from the city here are 10 ideas for days out within easy reach.

Cape Cod

Explore the coastline of this popular peninsula. “The Cape”, as it affectionately is known is famous for wonderful beaches and fresh seafood. An hour’s drive south of Boston down highway 3 brings you the Sagamore Bridge, the gateway to Cape Cod. The area is very popular in the summer months and traffic congestion can be a problem.

Gloucester and Rockport

Just over 30 miles northeast of Boston, at the tip of Cape Ann, lie two small fishing villages with a wealth of history. First settled as early as 1623 the area was the inspiration for The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger.

Lexington and Concord

Trace the route taken by Paul Revere to the Revolutionary battlegrounds of Lexington and Concord. Visit the Old North Bridge in Concord and the Minute Man National Park, Lexington. Lexington and Concord are roughly 20 miles northwest of Boston on Route 2.

Lowell

The Lowell National Historic Park is a series of historic buildings, in downtown Lowell, with trolleys and canal boats providing transport between them. Lowell is within easy reach of Boston via the I93 and I495. Rail passengers can take the Lowell Line, commuter rail train, from North Station.

Old Sturbridge Village

The largest living history museum in New England recreates village life in 1830. Watch master craftsmen at work, see a nineteenth-century school classroom, or visit a colonial-style garden. Old Sturbridge Village is 60 miles west of Boston down the Mass Turnpike (I90).

Plymouth

The lives of the Pilgrim Fathers still dominate Plymouth today. A replica of the Mayflower stands proudly in Plymouth Harbor and, two miles up the road, the Founding Fathers and Native Americans’ lives are recreated by role players at Plymouth Plantation. Plymouth is a 40-mile drive from Boston via highway 3. A commuter rail service to Plymouth/Kingston runs from South Station.

Quincy

“The Birthplace of the American Dream” is just 5 miles south of Boston. Visit the birthplaces of two presidents on the trolley tour to the Adams’ family residences. To get to Quincy from Boston take the I93, commuter rail from South Station, or the red line subway.

Salem

Famous for the Salem Witch Trials in 1692, various museums and exhibitions recreate these events. 25 miles northeast of Boston, Salem is reached via I93 and route 128 or by the Rockport or Newburyport commuter rail line from North Station

Whale Watching

Do you fancy something completely different? Take a Whale Watching trip from either Boston Harbor or Gloucester. A camera and warm clothing are necessities as you watch whales in their natural environment. Trips leave daily between May and September.

Wrentham

If you want a bit more retail therapy, take a trip to the Wrentham Village Premium Outlet. Over 170 outlet stores offer designer goods at discounted prices, including Barneys New York, Burberry, and Saks Fifth Avenue. If you time it right, you can also take in a football or soccer game at the nearby Gillette Stadium. Wrentham is on route 1A at the intersection with the I495.

These are just a few of many attractions that the area has to offer, The Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism can provide more details.

Six Things to Do in Provincetown: Pilgrims to Whale Watching

Provincetown offers a unique culture and history from the first Mayflower Pilgrim landing to today’s vibrant gay population, whale watching, and seafood.

Provincetown, Massachusetts has its share of flamboyant people living and visiting there. There are also people with different hairstyles, tattoos covering the body, and unique choices of clothing like a cowboy hat, tighty-whities, and rollerskates.

It’s also known as a gay-friendly place. In addition to the large resident gay population, many others come to the area for events such as Gay Pride Week and Bear Week (big, burly, hairy gay men).

The street performers include a young teenager playing at saxophone to a mime painted in gold paint to a 78-year-old transvestite singing karaoke and “living his dream.”

Watch people watching people, and see the reactions some people have towards the more unusually turned-out individuals.

The Pilgrim Monument

Climb a series of 60 inclined ramps and 116 steps to the top of the 252-foot Pilgrim Monument for a great view of Provincetown. On clear days, Plymouth and the Boston skyline can be seen.

With construction finishing in 1910, the monument became the highest point on Cape Cod. The monument commemorates the landing of the Mayflower Pilgrims in 1620 in Provincetown. They only stayed five weeks because the sandy ground was not fertile enough, but wrote the Mayflower Compact while there.

Eat Seafood

In a fishing town, seafood is always a must and there are so many places to go to. Try the Lobster Pot. The seating is a bit cozy, even crowded, but that gives an indication about what people think of the food. Try the Shellfish Algarve – shrimp, mussels, littlenecks, scallops, fish, and calamari, steamed in a delicate blend of olive oil, butter, garlic, bay leaf, and a hint of crushed red pepper; served over noodles. Also, try the broiled scallops.

There’s also a full bar, lots of drinks, and a view of the harbor. If you are not in the mood to sit down to eat, along the harbor there are pick-up windows to order some fast, delicious seafood. Don’t forget to try the clam chowder.

Commercial Street

An eclectic mix of bars and restaurants, houseware and home decor shops, art galleries, wine stores, clothing stores, and souvenir shops line Commercial Street. Governor Bradford’s is a bar/restaurant located in the center of town that has good food and at night usually has interesting entertainment from cross-dressing karaoke to drag queen shows.

Hocus Pocus specializes in all types of piercings and, in Provincetown, that means all types of piercings. There’s Himalayan Handcrafts and Chadwick’s of Provincetown who bill themselves as having a “fascinating and unusual collection of home décor, accessories, and antiques.” Then there are Cape Treasures that has nearly everything under the sun.

Go to the Beach

Basically, five beaches exist in Cape Cod. There’s Race Point Beach (Cape Cod National Seashore) on the Atlantic Ocean, a great view of the sunrise. Located on Provincetown’s West End, Breakwater (Provincetown Harbor) allows for hiking to the very tip of Cape Cod at Long Point Light House.

Herring Cove (Cape Cod National Seashore), located along the Massachusetts Bay side of Provincetown, has miles of sandy beaches and Town Beaches (Provincetown Harbor) extends along with the town. Enjoy the beaches and even rent a boat or kayak to explore. Be aware the waters around the town are sometimes strong – physically and aromatically.

Whale Watch

Try one of the whale watching tours. The Portuguese Princess gives three-hour tours that usually find whales. The boat leaves from Macmillan wharf in Provincetown. On their website, they say, “Because we work with whales in the wild, each trip is different. The special habitat we visit is the summer home to such species as the Humpback, Finback, and Minke whales. The North Atlantic Right Whale is one of the most endangered species in the world, and may be seen in and around the waters of Provincetown and Cape Cod Bay. Toothed varieties such as pilot whales, white-sided dolphins, and harbor porpoise are often seen as well.”

Additionally, if it’s hot on land, a trip to the ocean will cool everyone down. If you get seasick or car sick, Dramamine might be good to take before the voyage begins. On the trip, a knowledgeable marine biologist talks over a microphone about the whales and, when whales are in view, she acts as a spotter and directs people around the boat for the best view possible.

Then relax, put an arm around a loved one and check out the sea and the lighthouses on the way back.

Boston with Kids – A Perfect Family Day

In The Wizard of Oz Dorothy followed a magical yellow brick road. In Boston, young ones can travel along a red brick road linking historical treasures.

Mayflower Pilgrims arrived at nearby Plymouth Rock in 1620 and for nearly 400 years Boston has played an important part in the history of this country. It is easy to explore this immensely likable city with children as many of the attractions are centrally-located and easy to navigate.

Boston Common

Across the street from the public garden, this is one of the oldest parks in America. The Frog Pond is a place where kids can slush around in the summer or ice skate in the winter. There’s a cemetery with many historic tombs in one corner of the Common along with part of Boston’s historic Freedom Trail but there are also horse trails, a carousel, and other goodies.

The Mapparium

A unique structure inside the Christian Science Building. This is a colorful globe where visitors can walk inside and see the various countries and continents of the world lit in blazing reds and blues. The map was created in 1930s and remains frozen in time at 1935 when the world’s boundaries were quite different.

Quincy Market

Be careful here, it’s easy to get lost because two of the buildings are very similar and there are many entrances and exits. Primarily a long mall filled with small shops with one building devoted almost exclusively to food. There are food stands, but not the usual fast food court lineup of chain eateries. Here there are local delicatessens, lobster rolls and bowls of clam chowder, ice cream, cookies and candy.. But the fun part of Quincy Market are the stands outside on the green where you can pick up souvenirs or watch an impromptu show. For history, visit adjacent Faneuil Hall. Free.

Fenway Park

If the kids are older take in a Red Sox game at Fenway Park, although it will cost a pretty penny. Otherwise, settle for a very interesting behind the scenes tour of the place which includes a history of Boston’s oldest baseball team and such luminaries as Ted Williams. Obviously, these tours go on when the stadium is not in use although some warm-up pitchers might be on hand. Fenway Park is one of the last of the old-time baseball fields and has gained historic status so it will not be torn down.

Paramount Cafe

Before the history lesson, however, begin the day at the cozy, neighborhood Paramount Café, at 44 Charles Street in Boston’s charming and very fashionable Beacon Hill. This family-friendly eatery with exposed brick and hardwood floors serves up casual breakfast and egg dishes, omelets, French toast, pancakes, and waffles that are always a hit with kids.

Boston’s Public Garden

A nice place to spend some free time—literally, because the place is lovely and it’s free. The traditional swan boat ride does cost a little extra and older kids may find it boring, but it’s certainly one of those touristy musts that round out a vacation.

A short stroll along Charles Street will bring you to the elegant Public Garden. Through a storybook wrought-iron gate, wind your way under tall, majestic trees to one of the most popular (and free!) attractions for children. In 1941 Robert McCloskey published “Make Way for Ducklings,” an endearing tale of a pair of mallard ducks who relocate their family to an island in the lagoon of the Boston Public Garden. Children visiting from within Boston or from as far as Botswana will be captivated as they make their way along the backs of bronze statuettes of the mother duck and her eight ducklings.

While they are darting from one duck to the next you can steal a glance over the wrought-iron fence towards Beacon Street at the fictional setting of the popular television show, “Cheers.” Don’t waste time going down the stairs hoping to run into Sam, Woody, Carla, or Diane as the interior is a fabrication of some Hollywood writer.

Returning your glance to the ducks, after some minutes you will come to the realization that the only way you’ll pry them away from these ducks is with the promise of a ride on a really, really big duck. Make your way over to the Prudential Center for the extremely popular “Duck Tour.”

Boston’s Duck Tour

This is great fun and a wonderful way to add spice to history and architecture. The amphibious vehicles (once known as DUKWs) prowl the streets of Boston while a costumed driver gives details on everything from Paul Revere’s ride to the pub trivia of Cheers. The vehicle then slips into the Charles River where the tourists can get a gander of Cambridge on the other side and hear all about Harvard and MIT. Not for very young children but anyone from eight to eighty should have a ball.

You will be forced to succumb to their pleading entreaties after they’ve caught one glimpse of these World War II-style amphibious vehicles prominent throughout central Boston. Your just-right 90-minute tour will take in all of Boston’s firsts: the first subway in the United States, the first public library, the first post office, the first college, the first public park, and the first public school.

From a comfortable vantage point, you can all sit back and relax on the top deck as everything slowly glides by. You’ll pass the imposing gold-domed State House, Faneuil Hall (pronounced like “flannel,” but without the “L”), the USS Constitution, the Boston Aquarium, the Boston Tea Party Ship, Paul Revere’s House, the Old North Church (“One if by land and two if by sea…”), as well as the winding streets of Beacon Hill (so much more enjoyable when experienced from a cushioned seat), and the TD Bankworth Garden (that everyone knows as the Boston Garden—home to the Boston Celtics and Boston Bruins).

A Duck Tour satisfies your hunger to see all the historical sites and rewards the kids at the conclusion by veering off the road and diving right into the Charles River for a breathtaking cruise of the Boston and Cambridge skyline.

Faneuil Hall, Where Boston Meets since 1742

Return to Faneuil Hall Marketplace after your tour for their myriad of lunch options with more than 14 restaurants and 36 international food vendors inside Quincy Market Colonnade, the largest food hall in New England, offering everything you could imagine from Pizzeria Regina (of course) to healthy bowls of hot udon at Wagamama. You and the kids will be spoiled for choice.

Boston’s Freedom Trail

Energized for the afternoon, return to the street, and follow the red brick road known as the Freedom Trail. Boston recognizes the importance of incorporating the past with the present. While Faneuil Hall Marketplace may be viewed in its capacity as a useable mix of twenty-first century retail and restaurants, the imposing three-story brick structure facing Congress Street played center stage for revolutionary speeches by Samuel Adams and James Otis encouraging independence from Great Britain.

The red brick line in front of Faneuil Hall was the brainchild of local journalist William Schofield who, in 1951, wanted to preserve the city’s tremendous historical value and promoted the idea of creating a walking tour linking important local landmarks. By 1953, 40,000 people followed a red (mostly brick) path known as the Freedom Trail, providing correlation to16 significant historic sites along a 2.5-mile walk from Boston Common to Bunker Hill Monument across the river in Charlestown.

You can go at your own pace as you pass along monuments such as the original site of the Boston Latin School, the first public school built in 1636 and remains the oldest school existing in the United States. History is intertwined in Downtown Crossing at the Old South Meeting House where outraged colonists met in 1773 and organized events that would result in the Boston Tea Party. The reservedly-impressive Park Street Church built in 1809 was the location of a significant anti-slavery address in 1829.

Continuing along Park Street is the Old Granary Burial Grounds. This cemetery, dating from 1660, is the final resting place of many historical figures including three signers of the Declaration of Independence, eight governors and five victims of the Boston Massacre. You may be fortunate to see a costumed character in the style of Benjamin Franklin offering commentary. Though Ben isn’t buried here, his parents are.

Barking Crab, Boston

Depending upon energy levels there are many excellent museum options in downtown and the immediate vicinity, such as the Boston Children’s Museum, the Boston Fire Museum, the Science Museum, or the Aquarium.

At the conclusion, the Barking Crab located on Sleeper Street just off of Seaport Boulevard (unmissable under a massive yellow and red-striped canopy) is a family-friendly restaurant sure to be a hit of multiple generations. If you close your eyes, the sounds and smells could transport you to a roadside stand on the distant coast of Maine, but open your eyes and take in the magic of the Boston Waterfront with stunning views over the causeway of towering skyscrapers.

In the summer, eat at weather-worn picnic tables under a colorful canopy. If you visit during cooler months, you’ll still feel as if it’s August as plastic sheeting envelopes the sides allowing warm sunlight to pour in. The kids will be challenged to get as messy as the adults as they rip apart succulent Maine lobster and dive into cardboard baskets of fried clams, oysters, shrimp, and scallops. They also have veggies and even chicken burgers which is made from whatever is left behind after they’ve made chicken fingers.

Modern Pastry, Boston–1960s Time Warp

From here, a short and scenic stroll along the Waterfront will bring to the North End and Hanover Street, a slice of 1960s Napoli. Get in line at Modern Pastry and be rewarded some minutes later with the very best sfogliatelle, torrone, cannoli or tiramisu you will ever have this side Rome.

Green Oasis, The Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Conservancy

Walk along Hanover Street to the stunning Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Conservancy and take a spin on the nostalgic carousel with an impressive skyline. Get out the camera and capture the memory of a Perfect Day in Boston with Kids. You will all slumber like angels tonight.

Older children could get a gander at some great art at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the Isabel Gardner Museum, both standard stops for adults. And certainly, if there are teenagers in tow a visit to Harvard Square to check out the campus is in order. The school is surrounded by coffee shops, book shops, and that balmy university air.

Boston Duck Tours – Sightseeing on The Charles River

Freedom Trail, Beacon Hill, Sightseeing on The Charles River

Boston is famous for its role in the American Revolution. Boston Duck Tours provides an unusual way to see many popular attractions.

Boston Duck Tours offer visitors a novel way to see the city. Amphibious World War II landing craft tour the historic sites, with well-informed con”duck”tors providing an entertaining commentary throughout the eighty-minute trip. The trip is mainly on roads, but for about twenty minutes the boat takes to the water offering spectacular views of the city skyline from the Charles River. While afloat, the young, and young at heart, are offered the opportunity to take the controls.

The trip starts at the Prudential Center, which along with the adjacent Copley Square form Boston’s largest shopping center. The Prudential Tower is Boston’s second-largest building with an observation floor.

The Duck Tour passes Christian Science Center, Trinity Church, and the John Hancock Tower before entering Boston Public Gardens. The gardens, which are the oldest public botanical gardens in the country, are home to Swan Boats on the lake and the Make Way for Ducklings Statues by Nancy Schon

Continuing up Beacon Hill, the tour passes the monument to Civil War hero Robert Gould Shaw and the State House where Samuel Adams and Paul Revere laid the cornerstone in 1795.

Sports fans then see the TD Banknorth Garden, home of Boston Celtic and Boston Bruins, and pass the Museum of Science, which is an alternative starting point for this circular trip.

The bus then turns into a boat, sailing up the Charles River before returning to dry land. The Bunker Hill Monument and the USS Constitution are the next landmarks passed, followed by the Old North Church where two lanterns were hung from the steeple on the night of Paul Revere’s ride.

Six encased glass and steel towers are the Holocaust Memorial built in 1995 and nearby the Union Oyster House is the oldest continually operating restaurant in the United States.

Faneuil Hall, christened the “Cradle of Liberty” after meetings there led to the American Revolution, continues the historical theme. Across the road stands The Old State House where the Royal Governors of Massachusetts held office.

The final leg of the journey passes the King’s Chapel Burying Ground and the Parker House Hotel before crossing Boston Common to the Bull and Finch pub, made famous by the TV Series Cheers. A short trip down the exclusive Newbury Street past the Copley Plaza Hotel and Boston Public Library completes the trip.

The Con”duck”tors make the trip both enjoyable and informative. Despite novel names like Major Tom Foolery, Dr Ima Quack and Paul Reverse, they have a detailed knowledge of history on the route and are willing to answer questions.

The tours are very popular and internet booking is available from 5 days in advance (at an extra charge). If you book on the day you will be given a ticket for a set time but expect this to be at least two hours after booking.

Best Budget Hotels in Boston

Inexpensive Boston Hotels are Cheap and Chic

These surprisingly cheap Boston hotels are located in the heart of the city, near Back Bay shopping, museums, and the financial district. They’re clean and nice, too.

Looking for the best hotel deals in Boston? Skip the chain properties, where prices range upwards of $200 a night for a cookie-cutter room, and consider these unique and cheap Boston hotels. Join the ranks of visiting Europeans and savvy travelers who have discovered Boston’s best, inexpensive places to stay. Keep in mind that prices are highest during graduation weekends in May and June, and during fall foliage season.

Charlesmark Hotel

As skinny as a supermodel, the 33-room Charlesmark is a darling of those who’d rather spend money on a good meal than a hotel bill. Facing the finish line of the Boston Marathon in Copley Square (a fabulous location), the sleek Charlesmark is within walking distance of 40-some restaurants, plus shops galore, and a T (subway) stop. Guest rooms are tiny but well turned out, with lots of wood and brick adorned with local artwork. 655 Boylston St. Standard rooms are $119 and up.

Inn @ St. Botolph

There’s no doorman, concierge, or full-service restaurant at the St. Botolph, but guests who’ve discovered this value-packed Boston hotel don’t care. Set in an antique brownstone on a residential street, the inn is located a block from the Prudential Center (and Back Bay shopping and dining.) It’s very quiet, and feels like home, albeit a chic-ly decorated home in stylish cinnamon and black. Guests let themselves in, using a key code, and rooms (all suites) have fully equipped kitchenettes. 99 St. Botolph St. Rates from $169.

John Jeffries House

Looking to stay in quaint Beacon Hill, or need to be close to Massachusetts General Hospital? This gracious, comfortable, 46-room bed and breakfast inn fit the bill. Formerly a dormitory for nurses, it’s pleasantly turned out in floral-patterned upholstered furniture, with triple-glazed windows to block out the noise of busy Charles Circle (and ambulances.) Most of the rooms have kitchenettes, but it will be hard to resist the cafes on adjacent Charles Street. 14 David G. Mugar Way. Rooms from $115.

Encore B & B

Filled with boutiques and restaurants, the South End is one of Boston’s trendiest neighborhoods, the perfect home for this ultra-stylish bed-and-breakfast inn. Set in a four-story 19th-century townhouse, the Encore was created by an architect and a set designer, who glammed it up with Italian furnishings and contemporary accents. Guest rooms are located on the top two floors, and there’s no elevator, so think about packing lightly for a stay at this property. 116 W. Newton St. Rooms from $140.

Book at one of these budget-friendly Boston hotels and use the money saved to buy a fun souvenir at Quincy Market, or a great meal at one of Boston’s best restaurants. Check out the hotel’s web sites for packages and special Internet rates, to make these Boston hotel deals even sweeter.

Guide to Saving Money in Boston

Using research methods and reservation tools enables travelers to save money on hotel stays in the Boston metropolitan area.

Finding quality hotel rooms near downtown Boston does not necessarily require paying top dollar. Do some research on how room rates change throughout the year with high tourist seasons, such as the American baseball season that runs through each fall, or when families visit students during college graduations. Consult the Boston Visitors Bureau and other local guides for timely deals. Try alternative forms of accommodations, such as short-term apartment rentals or university housing. Save even more money using online reservation services and club memberships.

Boston Travel Deals & Discounts

Visit the Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau for information on local hotel packages and discounts, including reservation services for area bed and breakfast accommodations. The Visitors Bureau website, located at bostonusa.com, compiles a list of bed and breakfasts in the Boston area, in addition to lists on hotels and other lodging options.

Use a student, AARP or AAA membership card to get discounts at hotels such as the Buckminster Hotel, which also gives a dining discount for the nearby Maluken Restaurant. Chain hotels, like members of the Wyndham group of hotels, offer their own rewards cards for return visits. Wyndham Rewards apply to hotel brands like Days Hotel, HowardJohnson, and Super 8 which all have franchises near downtown Boston.

Stay at Alternate Types of Lodging

Research the Boston area for daily and weekly rates on apartments. The Copley House, located on West Newton Street in downtown Boston, offers studio or one-bedroom furnished apartments with a kitchen and private bath. Some of their kitchens are equipped with appliances like a refrigerator, oven, microwave, and coffee maker. Hostels are another option for budget travelers. Hostelling International operates a location in Boston’s Back Bay area with dorms that offer 6, 12, and 16 beds per room.

Utilize housing services on college campuses during the summer break when many students, and potential dorm tenants, are away. Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts offers housing for professional organizations, young adult group activities, and student internship participants. Colleges, like Northeastern, may also offer dining options and access to campus amenities like fitness centers and meeting rooms.

Boston Hotel Deals and Techniques

Boston contains many hotel choices for travelers on a budget. The Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau has information on hotel deals. Lodgings are available in downtown Boston for short term renting, as are hostels for travelers on a budget that don’t mind potentially sharing a room with strangers. Colleges in the area may provide summer housing programs for groups like interns. Discounts are available for members of travel organizations and hotel rewards programs.