Beyond the Sea: Port Mini-Breaks
Families | Couples | Seniors
Why You Need to Spend Three Days There: As far as cities go, few are more kid-friendly and manageable than Boston. Parents can take comfort in knowing the many activities for kids are educational and fun for adults too. Kids will love following the red brick Freedom Trail as it winds them through the city past all sorts of historical sights, eating at the food stalls in Quincy Market or picnicking in the Public Garden with ducks waddling around. Boston is safe, clean and filled with charm -- a perfect city for families looking to see the sights, explore our nation's history and have a heck of a good time along the way.
A great way to keep costs down and save time in ticket lines is to buy the Boston CityPass, offering discount admission to five popular attractions (the Museum of Science, the New England Aquarium, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Skywalk Observatory and your choice of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Museum and Library or the Harvard Museum of Natural History). A CityPass for kids, ages 3 to 11, is $29. An adult pass is $46. The savings is about 50 percent if you were to visit all the attractions, but if not, you'll have to do the math and see what's the best deal for you.
Amazing Freebies Worth Pursuing: Fun, free activities include walking the Freedom Trail, posing on the Mrs. Mallard and her ducklings statues in the Public Garden, taking self-guided tours of Harvard's campus in hopes its beauty will inspire the kids to study hard, checking out the Fogg Art Museum (free for kids younger than 18), watching family-friendly Friday-night movies at the Hatch Shell in warmer months, eating picnic lunches on Boston Common, touring the Museum of Fine Arts (free for kids younger than 17 on weekends and after 3 p.m. on weekdays), and wandering through the Isabella Stewart Garner Museum (free for kids younger than 18).
Home Away From Home:
The kid- and pet-friendly Colonnade Hotel is located in Back Bay near the Prudential Center. The hotel offers great family packages, late checkout and breakfast. When the kids tire of sightseeing, they'll love The Colonnade's rooftop pool -- the only one in Boston.
Not only is the Omni Parker House located steps away from some of Boston's most kid-friendly attractions (the Freedom Trail, Faneuil Hall, Quincy Market and the Boston Common); it also boasts a kids' program. Parents are provided with a list of top family attractions, local emergency numbers and a safety/first aid kit which includes a night light and outlet covers. Kids get goodie bags upon check-in, and most rooms are equipped with video games. Tip: Sign up for Omni's Select Guest program, and you'll receive a discount on your first stay.
If you want to truly pamper your little angels, the Ritz-Carlton Boston Common is the best Beantown has to offer, featuring baby-sitting services, strollers and cribs on request. Another bonus: On select dates, you can enrol your kids in the Ritz's "A Day of Social Savvy" program where they'll learn ballroom dancing, table manners, social correspondence and telephone etiquette.
Start your day with an overview of the city on a Boston Duck Tour. Parents will appreciate the informative and entertaining tour, while kids will love the Duck, an amphibious landing vehicle that, once the land portion of the tour is complete, drives right into the Charles River. "ConDUCKtors" let kids "drive" the Ducks in the river and encourage them to quack at pedestrians on the street. You can pick up the tour at three locations: the Prudential Center, the New England Aquarium or the Museum of Science. If you pick up the tour at the Museum of Science, stop in and spend some time at the planetarium, or take in a film on the giant screen at the Mugar Omni Theater.
After the Duck tour, jump on the Green Line, and take it to the Government Center stop. Grab lunch at the food court at Quincy Market -- with more than 50 food stalls serving everything from pizza and bread-bowl clam chowder to hot dogs and lobster rolls, everyone is sure to find something to enjoy. Take a seat at one of the communal tables, or head outside to find a bench. The warm months often find the steps of Quincy Market packed with street performers -- magicians, jugglers and clowns -- to occupy the kids' attention.
Once you've refueled, head over to Boston Common and the Public Garden. Take pictures of the kids on the bronzed statues of Mrs. Mallard and her eight ducklings -- the subject of Robert McCloskey's "Make Way for Ducklings," about a duck family that found its home in the Public Garden. Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Quack, Pack and Ouack's real-life descendents are in the pond nearby. To get a good look, take a ride on the foot-paddled swan boats. If the kids haven't read the book, make sure to pick up a copy to read as a bedtime story. The book is available at nearly every gift shop in Boston.
While you're at Boston Common, stop at the Boston Common Visitor Information Center (147 Tremont Street on Boston Common), and pick up a Freedom Trail map and guide -- you'll need it for tomorrow.
Exit the park, and take a walk up Newbury Street. You can window-shop on your way to dinner at Joe's American Bar & Grill. The large menu includes burgers, chicken fingers and milkshakes, as well as more grownup seafood and pasta dishes. After dinner, finish your stroll up Newbury, and get ice cream for the kids at either Ben & Jerry's or J.P. Licks.
Get out that map of the Freedom Trail, and pick your starting point. The trail is not a loop, so it's best to start at one end or the other. Most people start at Boston Common and make their way along the 2.5-mile red path to visit several of Boston's most important sites. Allow a minimum of three hours to walk the trail and stop in at some of the attractions like the Paul Revere House and the U.S.S. Constitution.
When the trail winds its way through the North End, divert off the path for lunch at Regina Pizzeria, and sample Boston's most popular pizza, steaming hot and fresh from the brick oven.
Everyone will need some mindless fun after a day of history and sightseeing, so head over to Kings Bowling Alley (Green Line to Hynes station). Get there in the early evening to avoid the crowds, and enjoy 16 state-of-the-art lanes with cool graphics, name personalization at each lane and automatic scoring. When the place starts to fill up with hipsters, it's time to head upstairs for dinner at Kings Restaurant. The casual and fun seafood joint serves all your favorites, from clam chowder to boiled lobster to fried clams.
Another option is to take a break from sightseeing and head to the beach. By car, the bridges to Cape Cod are only an hour away. You can also take a 90-minute ferry ride from downtown Boston to Provincetown, a diverse and colorful fishing village on the tip of the Cape. If you decide to take the ferry to Provincetown, there is an onboard concierge who can assist you with everything from renting bikes to reserving a whale-watching tour. Be forewarned: The beaches on Provincetown are known for riptides and, at certain beaches, naturalists.
If you arrive on the Cape via car, your options for exploring the charming seaside towns are much greater. Once you get to the Cape, you can take Route 6 or 6A. Route 6 is as close to a highway as you get on the Cape and is the best option for people who have a particular destination in mind. 6A is much slower, but it's one of New England's most scenic drives, winding through the towns of the Cape and affording the opportunity to explore each one at a leisurely pace.
If the kids have sand and surf on the brain, head straight to the Cape Cod National Seashore, a 30-mile stretch of beach that runs from Chatham to Provincetown. Chatham is arguably the most charming town on the Cape -- besides the ice cream shops and fried clam shacks, it has a town center lined with white clapboard shops, quaint inns and some of the Cape's best restaurants. If you happen to be in town on a Friday, bring a blanket, and lay it down on the grass at Kate Gould Park for the Chatham Band concert every Friday evening in July and August. Stake out your territory early in the day -- by noon the grass is covered in blankets, and the park looks like a patchwork quilt threaded together by small patches of grass.
Chatham has options for every taste and budget when it comes to dining. If you're looking for a fried seafood and ice cream paradise, head to the Kream and Kone -- you order at the counter and can eat outside on picnic tables. For a diverse menu that still includes all the seafood staples, head to the Squire -- they have a children's menu and the kids will get a kick out of decoding the unusual license plates that cover the walls.
Once the kids are sufficiently tired out, get in the car, and head back to Boston -- you have one more day of action-packed sightseeing ahead.
Start today with a trip to the Children's Museum. The hands-on, interactive exhibits are so much fun that the kids won't even know they're educational, too. Kids can visit a Japanese house, act in short plays put on by museum professionals or try their hands at a kid-friendly, indoor construction site.
On your way out of the Children's Museum, stop for lunch and ice cream at the snack bar housed in the giant, 40-foot Hood's Milk Bottle (summer only), and dine in the outdoor picnic area. In colder months, there is an indoor picnic area in the museum that's perfect for bring-your-own lunches.
Spend the afternoon at the New England Aquarium, which houses more than 15,000 fish and water mammals. The aquarium's crowning jewel is the 200,000-gallon Giant Ocean Tank that contains coral reefs, sharks and other sea creatures. There is a delightful performing sea lions show and, in a separate building, an IMAX theater showing educational 3-D films (additional admission charge).
For your last night in Boston, have a classic Boston experience in a kid-friendly and casual environment at Durgin Park. Its location will give the family one last chance to peruse the kitschy souvenir shops in Faneuil Hall, and the menu is basic and big enough to accommodate everyone's taste buds. Clam chowder, Yankee pot roast and Boston cream pie are all longtime favorites.
After dinner, if you feel your children are old enough, take a tour of Boston's darker side on a Ghosts and Gravestones Trolley Tour. Visit the final resting place of many of the most famous heroes of the American Revolution, including John Hancock, Paul Revere and Samuel Adams. Hear tales of the Boston Strangler, and visit some of the city's most famous cemeteries and burial grounds. The tour is fun, but it is also scary -- don't be surprised if you find the whole family in your hotel bed tonight!
--by Genevieve Brown, Cruise Critic Contributor.
Photo appears courtesy of the Massachusetts Office of Tourism.
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