“Wanna go see Twenty One Pilots in Boston?” I asked my 13-year-old daughter. The answer was a resounding yes to the concert, but hesitation over the destination. “Is there anything I’d like to do in Boston?” she asked. I assured her there would be plenty of things to do that she’d enjoy, and I definitely lived up to my word.
It’s easy to create travel itineraries when you have young kids. Play places, kid-friendly museums, and hotels and restaurants clamour for your attention. It can be more challenging find places fun enough to get your teen off their ubiquitous tech for a few hours.
Luckily, Beantown has plenty of activities perfect for the tween and teen set.
What to Do
Given that Boston is one of the oldest cities in the United States, it made sense to incorporate a little education into our trip (she was missing a few days of school after all). We visited Faneuil Hall, a meeting hall and marketplace since the 1700s and the historic Quincy Market shopping complex. It was surreal to shop for the latest clothing styles in a building nearly 300 years old. It was one of the stops on the Freedom Trail, and you can take one of many historic walking tours with different themes. Check ahead – we wanted to take the Revolutionary Women themed tour, but it’s only offered in March. In the summer, the Pirates and Patriots tour is a big hit with teens.
Keeping with the educational theme, we joined a free tour at Harvard, offered by current students through the Crimson Key Society. We spent an hour walking around Harvard, seeing residence halls and libraries and learning about both the history of the institution and student life today. We had to choose between the Harvard Museum of Natural History and the Museum of Fine Arts, and the museum was a better fit with my daughter’s interests. Their Winnie the Pooh exhibit was incredibly detailed, and a nostalgic walk through her childhood for both of us.
We gave ourselves a two-hour window to tour the New England Aquarium, and it proved to be way too short. We spent nearly five hours watching the seals go through their training program, checking out the touch tank, watching penguin feeding time, and exploring the dozens of tanks. Roaming interpreters provided additional information and the opportunity to hold and touch various models and even a tub of tiny jellyfish.
On our last day in the city, we visited the Skywalk at the Prudential Center. In hindsight, we should have made time for it on our first day. The entire 55th floor offers incredible views of the city and harbour, and you walk the perimeter of the floor with a device that allows you to listen to the history of the buildings and areas you’re viewing. We stayed for hours, listening to all the recordings, and orientating ourselves to the city. There are also some interactive exhibits and plenty of displays.
We made a late night trek to Trident Booksellers & Café. Open to midnight, this hip hangout was a fun final stop for my bookworm.
Where to Stay
Wanting a spot near Harvard for our first night, we stayed at the incredibly cool Studio Allston Hotel in Allston. Each room is an art piece designed by a different artist – the custom art, funky furniture and other furnishings were the perfect backdrop for selfie-taking. It’s just a block from a 7-11 and a Trader Joe’s, and we stocked up heavily on American candy we can’t buy in Canada.
We also spent a few nights in the heart of downtown at the Park Plaza Hotel. It’s just a few steps from a central subway stop and surrounded by shopping, restaurants, historic churches and the Boston Commons urban park. Visiting off-season meant we couldn’t ride the Swan Boats in the park, but it would have topped our list of things to do had the boats been open.
Where to Eat
Boston has no shortage of cool places to eat – with my picky eater in tow though, some of the higher end restaurants were out of the running (“Too fancy!). Parish Café and Tip Tap Room combined trendy décor with fantastic food that wasn’t too avant-garde for my Subway sandwich-loving kid. We made a special stop to popular Kane’s Donuts and sampled the Boston Cream Pie doughnut and an epic Oreo doughnut. These huge, fresh-from-the-oven doughnuts with over-the-top flavours are must-try.
Looking for more fun things to do with kids in Boston? Check out 14 Awesome Things to Do With Kids in Boston.