Boston. The Hub. Beantown. No matter what you call this city, you'll soon discover that it makes an accessible and exciting vacation spot for Montreal families. Approximately a five-hour drive from our fair city, Boston has many family-friendly activities from a tour in an amphibious vehicle to a children's museum chock full of interactive exhibits.
If you want to get an overall sense of Boston and its architecture, consider starting your visit with a tour, especially one on a restored World War II-era amphibious vehicle offered by the Boston Duck Tour company. Your “con-duck-tor” will drive you through the city streets, telling tales about the most famous sites — from the Public Garden and Trinity Church to Faneuil Hall and the Boston Common. The 80-minute excursion will leave you with a treasure trove of history, trivia and quirky details. And kids especially love that passengers are encouraged to quack loudly whenever they see another Duck Tour vehicle, which is surprisingly often. Everyone on board smiles when the vehicle enters the Charles River during the water-part of the event. Even Boston natives dub the Duck Tour as one of the coolest ways to see the city.
Boston is famous for its open spaces. The Public Garden is the country’s oldest botanical garden and, when in full bloom, is truly spectacular. It's an oasis in the middle of a bustling city, where a family can spend the morning simply taking in its beauty. But make sure to take a 15-minute cruise around the lagoon on the famed Swan Boats, a fleet of pedal-powered vessels only available in the warmer months. And don't miss the charming bronze-sculpted ducks, based on Robert McCloskey’s classic children’s story Make Way for Ducklings.
Then you can exit the Public Garden and cross Charles St. to the Boston Common, the country’s oldest public park. Walk the paths that wind through its 50 acres, play a game of Frisbee, fly a kite or head to the Frog Pond, where in summer, kids splash underneath a fountain and wade in the pond’s cool waters. In winter, the pond is transformed into a manicured, public skating rink, where you can glide beneath the stars.
If all that exploring has worked up your appetite, take the subway (Green Line) to the Government Center stop, where the historic shopping and eating mecca of Faneuil Hall is just a hop, skip and jump away. When you arrive, visit one of 17 restaurants serving everything from Tex-Mex to seafood, or check out the 40 food vendors at Faneuil Hall’s Quincy Market. Once you’ve had your fill, peruse Faneuil Hall’s shops, bull carts and kiosks for all your Boston treasures. And, in the warm weather, don’t miss the street performers outside the marketplace buildings.
Boston is filled with dozens of great museums – too many to visit in one trip. But if you’ve got kids, you won’t want to pass up the Boston Children’s Museum. Start your day off here – an early start means smaller crowds – and enjoy three floors of interactive, hands-on exhibits. Kids will make a mad dash for the New Balance Climb, a three-story climbing sculpture that looks like a fleet of magic carpets floating in midair. But they’ll also love the energy-busting Kid Power exhibit, exploring an authentic 100-year-old Japanese house, an interactive disability awareness exhibit and dozens more. A special play space for toddlers makes entertaining the whole family easy. And the best thing about the Boston Children’s Museum is that kids are learning about “stuff” without even realizing it.
If aquatic worlds are of interest, go marvel at the many kinds of sea life at the New England Aquarium. The main exhibit hall is dominated by a giant ocean tank, a 23-foot deep and 40-foot wide replica of a Caribbean coral reef. The tank houses more than 600 animals, including stingrays, eels, sand tiger sharks and Myrtle the green sea turtle, who has been the star of the exhibit since the Aquarium opened in 1969. You can watch divers feed the animals or visit dozens of other amazing exhibits, including sea dragons, penguins, jellyfish and hands-on and touch-tank areas especially for kids.
Finally, science and technology fans won't want to miss the Museum of Science, which features interactive exhibits on weather, planets, dinosaurs, technology and more. There are always one or two special exhibits on offer as well. For example from now until May 6, families can discover the world of geckos (including 60 live ones) when visiting “Geckos: Tails to Toepads.”
Montrealers have felt a strong kinship with Bostonians for many years so why not make this the year you introduce your kids to this great city and continue this loving tradition.
If You Go…
Here’s some helpful information about Boston. Be sure to call ahead or check websites for hours, availability, discounts and special exhibit information.
Boston Duck Tours, departing from the Museum of Science or the Shops at the Prudential Center. Adults, $32.99; children ages 3-11; $22; children under age 3, $10. (617) 267-3825, www.bostonducktours.com.
Museum of Science, 1 Science Park. Exhibit Hall admission: Adults, $22; children ages 3-11, $19. (617) 723-2500; www.mos.org.
Faneuil Hall/Quincy Market, 617-523-1300; www.faneuilhallmarketplace.com.
New England Aquarium, 1 Central Wharf. Aquarium admission: Adults, $22.95; children ages 3-11, $15.95; children under age 3, free. (617) 973-5200; www.neaq.org.
Boston Children's Museum, 308 Congress St. Adults, $12; children ages 1-15, $12; children under age 1, free. (617) 426 6500; www.bostonchildrensmuseum.org.
Swan Boats, Public Garden Lagoon. Adults, $2.75; children ages 2-15, $1.50. (617) 522-1966; www.swanboats.com.
Frog Pond, Boston Common. (617) 635-2120; www.bostonfrogpond.com.
Other useful websites
Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau, (888) 733-2678 or www.bostonusa.com.
City Pass – Buy one discounted ticket to six famous Boston attractions, including the New England Aquarium, Harvard Museum of Natural History, Museum of Science and the Skywalk Observatory. (888) 330-5008 or www.citypass.com.
Go Boston Card – Choose from a one-day to a one-week pass that will save you up to 40 per cent on admission to attractions such as the New England Aquarium, Boston Common Frog Pond, the Boston Children’s Museum, Old Sturbridge Village, Plimoth Plantation and many more. (866) 628-9027; www.gobostoncard.com.