If you are planning a Boston visit with your young children, a few hours in the Boston Children's Museum should be near the top of your list of things to do.
For the two-to-ten year old crowd, the Boston Children's Museum is the top favorite among all Boston museums.
Parents of infants love the safe PlaySpace area designed for building early developmental skills.
Children love the hands-on interactive exhibits because they seem like a playground. Exhibits are designed to encourage children to explore and learn about the world around them.
The museum store is also terrific, especially if you're looking for reasonably priced games and crafts.
You'll be happy to know you can save on tickets in several ways, and if you have a GoBoston discount card, you'll get free admission anytime.
With 20+ permanent interactive, hands-on exhibits and activities, you (and your kids) will find a lot to love in this museum. To give you a flavor of what's on offer, here are six areas that consistently attract enthusiastic crowds of enthusiastic participants:
1. The Huge Maze ("New Balance Foundation Climb")
This series of connecting platforms, tubes, chutes, and tunnels starts on the first floor and soars 3 stories high through the museum's glass atrium lobby. Children can (and will) climb through this for hours if you let them. You'll also have fun watching your kids plot the best paths through this challenging 3D puzzle.
2. Johnny's Workbench
A real workbench with real tools and materials gives children a wonderful hands-on opportunity to actually build something . . . perhaps with just a little help from their you.
3. Boston Black
Designed to celebrate Boston's diverse African heritage, this interactive exhibit lets kids decorate a float for the Afro Caribbean Carnival celebration, discover different hairstyles at the African Queen Beauty Salon, and dance to a Cape Verdean beat at a cafe while they explore different Boston neighborhoods and the rich cultures of those who live in them.
4. Japanese House
Kids and their families can walk through this authentic 100-year old silk merchant's house presented by the City of Kyoto to the Boston Children's Museum in 1979. Japanese carpenters reconstructed it in Boston, and it is fully and authentically furnished. Since very few of these traditional houses still exist in Japan, exploring this house is a special and almost unique experience.
Designed to let even the youngest aspiring scientists learn about physics and nature, this favorite exhibit lets younger kids create and experiment with bubbles. You can join in as your children learn some basics about science and processes - and have lots of fun.
Designed for infants and toddlers from 0 to 3 years old, PlaySpace provides safe climbing and playing opportunities for those who are still learning self-navigation. Infants have their own enclosed crawling space. There's even a waterbed for rocking and balancing, as well as a tree house, music for dancing, and a huge train set to play with.
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Lots more exhibits and activities throughout the Boston Children's Museum, including special temporary exhibits, keep kids entertained and challenged.
In addition, "KidStage," a performance area, features professional actors and museum staff performing short plays - audience participation encouraged! Kids love the mixture of singing, dancing, comedy, and music. Special performances also take place here.
As an adult, you'll probably enjoy the spectacular views of the Downtown Boston skyline and surrounding waterfront from many spots in the museum. But the best sight will be of your children, playing happily and learning through play.
Everyone wonders about the giant Hood milk bottle near the front of the museum on the Fort Point Channel.
Is it a piece of modern sculpture, making an ironic statement of some sort?
No . . . it's actually a snack bar. An ice cream maker built it from wood next to his store in Taunton, Massachusetts in 1933, where it became one of the first fast-food drive-in restaurants in the United States.
In 1977, local dairy products company H.P. Hood and Sons bought the 40 foot structure and donated it to the Museum. Tradition continues, as ice cream and snacks are still sold there during the summer. Definitely worth a stop for the delicious ice cream.
In case you're an architecture buff, the iconic milk bottle is an example of what's officially called (this is not a joke) "Coney Island style."
- South Boston Waterfront - Explore this trendy neighborhood where the museum is located
- Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum - Located at 306 Congress Street (halfway across the bridge next to the museum), this hands-on multimedia museum features costumed re-enactors and gives you an immersive experience in the exciting events leading up to the Colonists dumping British tea into Boston Harbor and starting the American Revolution. More information & tickets for the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum
- Rockland Trust Bank Pavilion - Waterfront venue for some of Boston's top summer concerts - schedule and ticket info
- Fort Point Open Studios - Great chance to see art by top Boston artists in their own studios
More to Fun Things to Do in Boston
These hotels are not only close to the museum, but also offer other great perks: Boston Harbor views (the Seaport), spacious suites with 12' ceilings and brick walls in a 1900 post-and-beam building (Residence Inn), and a fabulous 4-season roof deck and bar (the Envoy).
Check reviews and make reservations
Bring your own food and eat in the museum's lunchroom - or in warm weather, get lunch or ice cream at the Hood Milk Bottle next to the museum. An Au Bon Pain offering baked goods, soups, sandwiches, and other casual fare is near the lunchroom on the first floor.
You'll also find plenty of other great choices nearby:
- Flour (12 Farnsworth Street, 1 block from the museum) - Hot and cold modern Italian dishes by famed chef Mario Batali
- Pastoral Pizza (345 Congress Street) - Freshly made pizza and pasta in a casual setting
- Babbo Pizzeria (11 Fan Pier) - Hot and cold modern Italian dishes by famed chef Mario Batali
- The Barking Crab (88 Sleeper Street) - Casual seafood in an open-air tent overlooking Fort Point Channel - More about the Barking Crab
Boston Children's Museum Essentials
Location: 308 Congress Street, South Boston Waterfront; it is also accessible if you walk along Harborwalk, Boston's public access path along the waterfront
Admission, Discounts, Free Admission to ICA Boston: $16 adults and kids (1-15 years) and free for infants under 12 months; $1 on Fridays from 5pm - 9pm; half price if you enter during the last hour the museum is open (except for Friday nights); free for Active Duty Military personnel (valid Active Military ID or Dependent ID required). Free anytime with a GoBoston discount card.
Park: Nearby parking lots and garages in this area typically offer reasonable rates (around $15-$18) on weekends and after 5 on weekdays, and much pricier rates (one hour or more can run $35-$45) when you enter before 5pm on weekdays. A few will give a small discount for museum patrons on weekends if you get your parking stub validated at the Children's Museum Information Desk. Very little street-side parking is available in this area. Take the T (Boston's subway) if possible!
Boston Insider's Tips about Best Ages - Children between about 3 and 9 will get the most out of the Children's Museum. A 10 or even 11 year old can also have fun, especially if a younger sibling is along. Without a younger companion, most kids 10 and up will prefer the New England Aquarium, Harvard's Natural History Museum and MIT Museum in Cambridge, and Boston's Museum of Science. Kids of all ages will be fascinated by the nearby Boston Fire Museum (344 Congress Street).
For more information: 617-426-6500; website
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