Thursday, August 25, 2016

Three Days in Boston with Kids

Life is Good: we're exploring!

We just got back from a wonderfully fun trip to Boston and Cape Ann in Massachusetts and Portland, Maine. We spent a couple of days in each place and it was one of the most diverse trips we've ever taken. Boston was urban (duh) and full of both history, facts/information, & sea life. Cape Ann was relaxed with gorgeous surroundings, beautiful sunsets, and diverse beaches. Portland, Maine had great lighthouses and super diverse beaches. And yes, we had lobster every place we went! : )

Prior to our trip, I pinned lots of articles to my Pinterest account about traveling with kids in New England. I wish I had been able to read everything. Instead, I skimmed. And honestly, most of the Boston articles said the same thing:

1. Walk the Freedom Trail

It's about 3 miles long, so you may or may not walk the whole way. We enjoyed doing this one morning. We started out early so that we could see as much as we wanted but not feel rushed. We saw lots of buildings and statues and people dressed in costumes to look like Paul Revere. Our kids (21 mths, 5, and 8) are not quite old enough to grasp the depth of the Freedom Trail, but they still enjoyed the hustle & bustle of the city. We saw where the first school took place. It was in a church and there were booths like what you would see in a restaurant where children must have studied. We talked about what it might have been like to be a child at that time as well as what it must have felt like to have a King tell you where you had to go to church or that you had to give him most of your money but that you couldn't weigh in on any decisions about where you lived (taxation without representation, don't you know!).

When we got home, we watched the Schoolhouse Rock video about what was going on in Boston way back when. 

2. Go to the New England Aquarium

This attraction was skipped on a lot of the articles that I skimmed. Or maybe I skipped it? ; ) My friend, Mekea, mentioned this to me, noting the four-floor fish tank in the middle of the building and I'm so glad that she did. It was something that a toddler, preschooler, AND an elementary-aged child could enjoy (plus their mama!). We saw a red octopus exhibit, sea lions playing, sea turtles swimming, hammerhead sharks, cuttlefish, and tons of other fish. We even found Dory! Or a fish that looked like her, at least. We pet stingrays for what, quite possibly, was an hour. We have a membership to the aquarium at the MOA, so I almost skipped this. I'm so glad I didn't.

3. Go on a Tour of Boston

Lots of articles suggested historical tours. And if our children were all in elementary school or older, we would have. We love that kind of stuff! And as it is, our 5- and 8-year olds enjoy learning about presidents and important people in history, but I just didn't think any of the tours I read about in pamphlets at our hotel could keep their interest. We chose to go on a DUCK tour and it was a great way to see the city as well as what surrounds the Charles River.

Our driver, excuse me, "Captain" was fun and informative. He even let our kids "drive" the DUCK while we were in the river!

The DUCK tour put our Littlest One to sleep, but don't take that as a bad review. It was nap time, after all. ; )

4. Check out Faneuil Hall

Part of the Freedom Trail, this is also a marketplace with cute shops, touristy shops, restaurants (our kids LOVED the quesadillas and chicken soft tacos at Zuma!) (Thanks for keeping them safe from good allergies!), and activities like ping pong as well as performance artists. One afternoon, we hung out and watched some ping pong action as a teenage boy and his dad set up the son's amp & guitar. Then, we listed to the boy sing "How to Save a Life". After he was done, both the Big Kid and the Little Kid walked over to him, spontaneously. The Big Kid told him, "Wow, you really play the guitar well." and the Little Kid said, "That was some really good singing you did!" The boy hung his head sheepishly as he thanked them. What I noticed more than the performance was his dad. His dad fretted around, almost sweating, setting up the amp and the mic and making sure everything was just right for his son. Then, when the son started to sing, the dad moved around to three different places, as if to make sure the sound was just so from all angles. Then, finally, he listened. And he grinned. And when the small crowd clapped for his son, he smiled the sweetest smile of pride & contentment. I wonder if people without children of their own would understand all of the emotions that dad was feeling? I got it. I understood. I wanted so much to go up to the dad and congratulate him. But I saw how he delighted in hearing my kids praise his son. And that was enough.

5. Enjoy the Boston Common

We could have spent a few days at this place! So gorgeous! We had a picnic here one evening (yes, there were lobster rolls involved) because it was just too pretty to leave. It is kind of amazing to think that all of that lush greenery and flowers with a sweet little pond is smack dab in the midst of such a cultured, booming, zooming city. We loved the little bridge and the Make Way for Duckings statues (have you read the book?)

The Big Kid & Little Kid had a lot of fun posing with the statues. As always, getting a great pic of all three of our kids together, since one is a wiggly toddler, was...challenging.

Sure, I could have shown you the cute pic, but this one was much funnier! Gotta keep it real! : )

We tried to ride in a swan boat a couple of times but they only run 10AM-5PM. Ugh. The marketing consultant in me thinks that they could sell a whole lot more tickets if they were open until 8 PM!

6. Go to the Children's Museum

We didn't do this, though almost every Boston with Kids article encourages it. We have a wonderful Children's Museum here in MN and we've been members in the past. We didn't want to spend our short vacation hours doing something that we could do (similarly) at home.

7. Go see Harvard, The Museum of Contemporary Art, The Science Museum, John Hancock Tower, John F. Kennedy Museum, Listen to music in the Boston Common on Friday afternoons

Harvard: another time, maybe when our kids are older, just not worth giving up part of our 72 hours this trip. 
Art Museum: would have been great if it were rainy outside, but we opted for outside adventures, Same goes for the Science Museum, though we do have an awesome Science Museum of Minnesota. Hancock Tower: we just didn't have enough time.
JFK: was something that sounded fun to our 8-year old but we will do it when all of our kids can enjoy it.
Boston Common at lunchtime: we just ended up being in different parts of the city at that time of day.

8. See the Boston Harbor/Navy Yard

We walked around this area at some point each day. We had a great picnic dinner (on a patio) one night, too. On the morning we were supposed to get our rental car and leave for Cape Ann, we checked the weather and discovered that it was going to be raining off & on all morning there. We had planned to go whale watching on the cape, so instead, we went to the harbor and boarded a boat to leave from Boston instead. It was cloudy and misted on us a little bit while we sailed to the whale sanctuary, but the weather was definitely better from that port. And the whales! Oh, my. We saw 10 or 12 (maybe more) sets of 5-8 whales at a time. They were very close to our boat. One set of three whales came right up to our boat and then swam under it and appeared on the other side of the boat to greet those watchers! It was really exciting for all of us. We saw Minke and Humpback whales. It was cool to be close enough to see the humps (large bumps) on the whales backs. We loved our tour with Boston Harbor Cruises, which is a partner with the New England Aquarium. The naturalists on the boat had lots of great info to share. The most fascinating detail to me was that every whale has a different pattern on the back side of its fin. And that makes them identifiable to the naturalists.

I wanted so much to get a "tail" photo. This was the best I could do while holding a very wiggly toddler (is that a book title?) in one arm.

At one point, it just wasn't safe for me to hold the wiggly toddler on the boat deck, so we went inside the boat with the Little Kid. We still had some great whale watching.

What we didn't get to do that we will put on our Boston to-do list for next time:

1. Check out the USS Constitution and museum

The ship was in dry dock for repairs when we were there. You can still see it out of the water, but we chose not to because of time. Boston is so rich in history and culture that you could spend a couple of weeks traveling as a tourist. We did have a picnic dinner at Boston Harbor and talked about the Boston Tea Party. Our 5-year old found that to be especially hilarious to think of a bunch of tea being dumped into the harbor. A big thanks to Legal Seafoods for being so careful preparing our children's meals and avoiding anything that would give them an allergic reaction. Our 8-year old declared that he only wanted "lobster for the entire trip" and somehow, we managed it!

2. Go to the Puppet Showplace puppet theater.

Our vacation to New England was a result of my husband having a presentation in Boston. Initially, I thought I would have a couple of days without him in Boston, so knowing that it might be a lot of tote three kids around an unusual place by myself, I planned a couple of "easier" experiences into our trip. But as it turned out, we were only without Grant for a half day. Yay for us! But because of it, we skipped the (super cool-sounding, puppets & marionettes made out of cardboard boxes, oh, how creative!) puppet show. Next time!

3. See the Mapparium

Ohmygosh! This looks soooooo coooool! But we simply ran out of time.

4. Take the Train

I really thought our kids would enjoy this! But each time it was time to ride the train, it was also close, okay let's be real, past bedtime and my husband (ugh, the voice of reason) convinced me that we should just take an Uber or a cab home. He was right (don't tell him that I said that!) but I do regret that we didn't do it once for kicks.

5. Check out the Frogpond at Boston Common 

We were all set to check out the spray pool at the Frogpond until our DUCK tour driver made a comment slash joke about all of the kids in the city peeing in the pool and the bacteria sample located in that one spot in Boston and I was out. I tried my best to tell myself that he was joking but the germaphobe in me just could not get over it! We did something else fun instead. : /

6. Go to a Boston Red Sox game at Fenway Park

The Red Sox weren't playing at home while we were there. We were all pretty bummed. Another reason to go back another summer!

7. Linger around Newbury Street and check out some local art.

We have a toddler. It just wasn't the right timing for that. We did that before and we will do it again. But not this trip.

8. Minuteman Park

Not many articles included Minuteman Park, but we will surely check it out next time!

9. Take a Water Taxi 

Three days just wasn't enough time for this great city! ; )

Here's another post about a "Hidden Boston". It's totally random. And totally fun! If you are spending a week in Boston with kids, check out this post for the top kid attractions and a discount on them.  

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