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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.”
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.