If you're wondering what to do in Boston with kids, the Make Way for Duckling statues appeal to everyone familiar with Robert McCloskey's classic children's book about the duck family that makes its home in Boston's Public Garden

The famous bronze ducks created by Nancy Schön located in the Public Garden near the corner of Beacon Street and Charles Street.

Visiting Mrs. Mallard and her 8 ducklings is one of the top Boston kids activities for the under-8 set, but visitors of all ages love the statues.

In addition to the ducks, you'll find lots more to see in the Public Garden:  gorgeous flowers and trees, the famous Boston Swan Boats, impromptu concerts, and occasional weddings. 

And don't miss  the annual Duckling Day Parade in May - the favorite Mother's Day event of many Boston moms.

Top Photo:  Make Way for Ducklings statues in Boston's Public Garden, (c) Boston Discovery Guide

Boston Discovery Guide is a reader-supported publication.  When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission at no additional cost for you.  Learn more

What Happens in the Make Way for Ducklings Story?

In Robert McCloskey's 1941 beloved children's classic, Make Way for Ducklings, Mr. and Mrs. Mallard come to Boston when searching for the perfect home for their soon-to-be family.  They find the Public Garden, and decide to spend the night on the little island in the Lagoon. 

Even though this beloved children's class was written almost 70 years ago, you'll totally recognize the Public Garden of today.

Mr. and Mrs. Mallard spot what they describe as "a strange enormous bird" pushing a boat full of people who throw peanuts toward them.  Delighted by the plentiful food supply, they're about to make their home in the Public Garden when a child rushes by on a bicycle.  Mrs. Mallard declares that the park is much too dangerous for ducklings!

So they fly over Beacon Hill and the Massachusetts State House, and finally find a nice spot along the edge of the Charles River.  The book's charming drawings show the Esplanade next to the river, looking just like it does today. 

After the ducklings hatch, Mrs. Mallard teaches them to swim and dive.  And finally, she brings them back to the Public Garden to live on the little island (now called "Duck Island") in the Lagoon.

Looking toward Duck Island in the Lagoon in the Public Garden
Looking toward Duck Island in the Lagoon in the Public Garden

Robert McCloskey, author of the 1941 book, tells us:

     "All day long they follow the swan boats and eat peanuts."

And their descendants still do today.  If you go for a swan boat ride, you'll see them following your swan, playing in the water, and napping on their island.

Nancy Schön's Make Way for Ducklings Statues

Children posing by Make Way for Ducklings statues in Boston's Public Garden

Ever since being installed in the Public Garden in 1987, Nancy Schön's magical sculpture of Mrs. Mallard and Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack has been one of the most popular Boston attractions for kids. 

Mrs. Mallard is 38 inches high, making her the perfect height for children (and the occasional adult) who want to sit on her and pose for the camera. 

The entire sculpture depiciting Mrs Mallard and her 8 baby ducklings stretches 35 feet long and is installed on a path made from old Boston cobblestones.

A similar sculpture was given, in the name of American children, to the children of Moscow, Russia in 1991. 

But you can see other examples of Nancy Schön's wonderful sculptures much closer to Boston. 

Special favorites are her "Tortoise and Hare" statues in Copley Square.  She created these whimsical statues as a tribute to all of the runners who come to Boston from around the world to participate in the Boston Marathon each spring.

Tortoise and Hare sculptures in Copley Square
Nancy Schön's Tortoise and Hare sculptures in Copley Square

Other Boston neighborhoods and Massachusetts towns where you can enjoy sculptures by Nancy Schön include Fenway, Dorchester, Newton, Wayland, and Martha's Vineyard.

However, her "Make Way for Ducklings" statue remains the "must-see while in Boston" choice among visitors from all over the world, as well as local children.

Make Way for Ducklings statues

Essentials:  Make Way for Ducklings

Make Way for Ducklings statues dressed in holiday attire

Location of Nancy Schön's sculpture:   Boston's Public Garden.  Enter through the Charles Street Gate (corner of Beacon Street and Charles Street), and follow the sidewalk that's parallel to Beacon Street.  You'll quickly see the statues on your left.
Nearest T station:  Green Line/Park Street or Arlington Street
Parking:  Boston Common Garage
Open:  24 hours, year-round
Dressed-up Ducks:  A neighborhood tradition is to dress the ducklings in seasonal attire:  Santa hats, and sometimes Halloween costumes.  When Boston's home teams are in play-offs, you may find the ducklings sporting Bruins, Celtics, Red Sox, or Patriots gear.
Cost:  Free

Where to Go for a Quick Snack or Meal near the Make Way for Ducklings Statues

Tatte pastries in Beacon Hill
Pastries at Tatte in Beacon Hill

If you're visiting the Ducklings statues with your kids, they'll probably get hungry sooner rather than later - but not to worry, there are numerous affordable, family-friendly locally-owned places to eat nearby.  You'll also see a couple of Starbucks but since you can go to them anywhere in the world, why miss to opportunity to experience some real Boston places?

Right across the street (84 Beacon Street) from the ducklings statues is the historic Beacon Hill neighborhood, home to the original Cheers.   If you've seen the 1980s television show, you'll probably recognize it.  They serve good pub food - order a burger, chicken fingers, or nachos.  There's even a children's menu.  (If you want to see a re-creation of the inside of the Cheers shown on TV, you can find it at Faneuil Markeplace, but the one on Beacon Street is the place that inspired the show.)

Stroll down Charles Street to find a lot more choices.  Tatte Bakery & Cafe (70 Charles Street ) offers fantastic pastries, sandwiches, and other savory treats.  The Paramount (44 Charles Street) serves American "comfort" food and is almost always packed with happy diners.  Further down the street, King and I (145 Charles Street) is one of the city's best Thai restaurants.

More places to eat and drink in Beacon Hill

Reenact Make Way for Ducklings:  The Duckling Day Parade

Duckling Day Parade in Boston

Want to reenact Make Way for Ducklings with your little ones? 

The famous story comes to life each Mother's Day when toddlers (and their doting parents) take part in the Duckling Day Parade - one of Boston's best-loved spring traditions.

If you have young children, there's no sweeter way to celebrate Mother's Day!

Need cute duckling outfits?   Amazon (#ad) usually offers a good selection.  Order a size that's slightly too large, and your child can wear it again for Halloween.

More about the Duckling Day Parade

More Fun Family Activities in Boston

Find a Hotel near the Ducklings Statues in the Public Garden for Your Boston Visit

Enter your dates to see available hotels and rates:


More about how to save on Boston hotels