Need an impromptu family plan? Our list of things to do in Boston this weekend will save you
Boston is a worthwhile family destination any time of year, but it’s especially fun to get out and explore when the winter doldrums set in. Rich in culture and full of historic sites, this bustling city offers an endless array of family fun. From ice skating through the country’s oldest public park to visiting world famous, interactive museums that engage kids with hands-on learning, there’s always something to do. Whether you’re visiting or you live here, these are the best places in Boston to explore with kids when you have a free weekend.
1. Visit the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
Come explore the beautiful Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. The building itself is a work of art, but it is also full of wonderful art of all kinds. To get the kids excited about your visit, learn about the theft that happened in 1990 which is still an ongoing investigation. Reserve your tickets in advance as it is a popular spot to visit in the winter months.
What to Do This Weekend: Saturday Open Studio is an on-going, weekly drop-in art program offered at the museum. You'll find it in the Bertucci Education Studio. Programs change based on the season and the museum's current exhibits. But no matter when you go, you and the kids will always be able to spread your creative wings and try something new. This activity is included with admission.
25 Evans Way
2. Explore The Mapparium
Weekends are a great time to explore the world's largest walk-in globe—The Mapparium. Located inside the Mary Baker Eddy Library, this epic three-story, stain-glassed model of the world in 1935 is built to scale and its sphere is 30-feet in diameter. You can walk across this marvel via a glass bridge. Once you've wandered through this marvel, check out the "Our World: Mapping Progress" exhibit in the library.
210 Massachusetts Ave.
3. Play at Boston Children's Museum
Founded in 1913, the Boston Children's Museum is the second oldest children's museum in the world! This hub for hands-on learning through play and engaging activities is designed to spark kids' imagination and curiosity. In addition to their collection of 50,000 items from all over the world, the Museum's exhibits include a kid-sized Construction Zone play space, an authentic Japanese house, a life-size animatronic Dilophosaurus, and a seemingly endless amount to learn and explore. Burn off energy by letting kids scale the three-story, enclosed vertical maze climbing structure. Parents should note that tickets must be purchased in advance and there are morning and afternoon sessions to choose from.
What to Do This Weekend: We love that there are always different programs going on around the museum, so whenever you visit, you and the kids can find something new to do. But during the weekend, you can count on STEAM Lab programming, an art activity, and something exciting going on in the Japanese House too.
308 Congress St.
4. Spend Family Time at ICA Boston
There is always something going on at the ICA Boston. Right now, see 'To Begin Again: Artists and Childhood' about understanding the past and exploring the future. This exhibit is on view until February 26. Families with kids 12 and under get free admission on the last Saturday of the month (except in November and December).
What to Do This Weekend: Saturday Family Play Dates at the ICA are what it's all about here. What you and the kids will find here changes monthly, but the Family Play Dates always coincide with the free last Saturdays. Be sure to get your tickets in advance, and consider a $5 donation to support the program if you're able.
25 Harbor Shore Dr.
5. Visit the Museum of Science
Indulge curious minds with a visit to the stellar Museum of Science. See a space science show in the amazing Charles Hayden Planetarium, behold a full-size Tyrannosaurus Rex model, and marvel at 'Cliff,' a 65 million-year-old fossil––one of only four nearly complete Triceratops on public display anywhere in the world! Kids will love getting hands-on in the Discovery Center where they can touch real fossils and get a close view of live animals. There's something to explore and learn about at every turn.
What to Do This Weekend: Weekends at Museum of Science are pretty much a kid's dream. IMAX films, planetarium shows, live demonstrations, and Omni films abound. Although the content changes every so often, you can count on kid-approved selections alongside programming that will engage parents too.
1 Science Park
6. Dive into New England Aquarium
Dive into exploration at the Aquarium's Giant Ocean Tank, a four-story, 200,000-gallon tank that contains a coral reef and hundreds of Caribbean Reef animals, including sting rays and sea turtles (bonus: look out for Myrtle the Turtle, who has called the space home since 1970). Get your hands wet at the shark and ray touch tank, visit a colony of over 80 penguins and two families of harbor seals and watch northern fur seals put on a show. Kids will love taking the plunge into this adventure.
What to Do This Weekend: Take in a show at the Simmons Theater on the weekends. Get there early or come later in the day to avoid the crowds.
1 Central Wharf
7. Go Skating at Frog Pond at Boston Common
During the winter, families can glide across the glorious outdoor ice rink at Frog Pond at the Boston Common, the oldest public park in the country. Rent ice skates, and even take skating lessons from coaches from The Skating Club of Boston Skating Academy. An adorable 'Bobby the Skating Seal' is available to rent for young skaters who need support on the ice.
What to Do This Weekend: Grab your skates and plan to hit the ice with the kids. Get your tickets in advance.
38 Beacon St.
8. Spend Time at the USS Constitution Museum
Climb aboard "Old Ironsides," the oldest commissioned warship in the world that's still afloat. It was built under George Washington's command to protect America's ports. Kids will learn how to fire a cannon, scrub the deck, furl a sail, or haul a Billie goat onto the ship. This educational museum is sure to teach kids about what life was like at sea hundreds of years ago.
Good to Know: The Ship and Museum operate separately, so be sure to coordinate your visit to see both.
What to Do This Weekend: Check out the USS Constitution—for free.
Charlestown Navy Yard
9. Plan a Trip to the Museum of Fine Arts
You'll find over 450,000 works of art in the vast, global collections at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts. Appreciate one of the largest collections of Monet's work outside of France, and study ancient coins, gems and jewelry, musical instruments, and stunning Egyptian art. On weekends September through June, the Museum hosts activities designed for kids aged 4 and up to indulge in art and uncover new discoveries throughout the Museum.
What to Do This Weekend: Sign the kids up for a Studio Art Class. They take kids as young as 3 and as old as 11 for multi-week classes that meet quarterly. Our tip? Sign them up ASAP as these popular classes sell out quickly.
465 Huntington Ave.
10. Go to the Harvard Museum of Natural History
Located on the campus of Harvard University in Cambridge, you'll find an impressive array of mounted specimens and taxidermied animals for an up-close look at creatures big and small. David Rockefeller's collection of over 150,000 beetles is now on display as are rare rocks and gems for little rock-collecting enthusiasts. The Great Mammal Hall will be a standout, granting kids awe-inspiring looks at animals they may never see up close otherwise. Check the website for family programming which include taxidermy workshops and drawing birds.
26 Oxford St.
Our Favorite Free Things to Do in Boston Any Time
11. Hurry to the Boston Fire Museum
You'll find the Boston Fire Museum, which resides inside an old firehouse, just a block away from the Boston Children's Museum. Stop in to see firefighting artifacts and equipment and different types of fire engines and vehicles used by firefighters throughout America's history. Kids can get hands-on with fire hoses and sit in an old fire truck––and a highlight will be meeting Sparky, a real-life firehouse dog that's you guessed it, a Dalmatian.
What to Do This Weekend: Visit. The only time the museum is open to the public is on Saturdays from 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
344 Congress St.
12. Walk around Arnold Arboretum
The Arboretum will teach you all about the amazing world of plants. Kids will especially enjoy the StoryWalks and other self-guided activities like wildlife bingo. Family hikes are offered throughout the year or organize a group of your own friends to meet up (with cozy clothes for the winter weather).
What to Do This Weekend: Check out a Discovery Pack from the Hunnewell Visitor Center and then get out to explore. Choose from one of three packs (Living Museum, Science Lab, or Be an Engineer) then put your discovery skills to the test as you work to complete one of the activities (there are multiple options to choose from). With so many packs and options to explore, you've got tons of reasons to make this one a return visit.
13. Shop at Quincy Market
Families will love shopping and eating their way through the historic Quincy Market. This treasure trove of 18 restaurants and 35 colonnade eateries has everything from Boston Cream Pie and baked beans to lobster rolls and Boston clam chowder. Be sure to pop into Quincy's Place ice cream parlor/candy shop for your sweet fix. Kids will also get a kick out of comparing their shoe size to Boston Celtics basketball legend Larry Bird's shoe plaque just outside the Market.
206 S. Market St.