2020 marks the 144th season for Boston’s Swan Boats, which have been gliding around in the Public Garden since Rutherford B. Hayes was in the White House.
Photo Credit : Emily Kan
For “Classic New England” (season 6, episode 1), Weekends with Yankee headed to Boston, Massachusetts, for the launch day of the legendary Swan Boats in the Boston Public Garden. Guided by the fourth generation of a family that’s run this attraction since 1877, we get behind-the-scenes access to the work and dedication that goes into preparing these beloved one-of-a-kind boats for the season. Here, the Swan Boats kick off our list of 10 fun family-friendly things to do in Boston.
This miraculously unchanged Boston childhood experience now spans every living generation. Enjoy the 15-minute paddle around the Public Garden lagoon for just a few dollars a person, and then head off on your next Boston family adventure.
There’s a lot more at the Museum of Science than the full-size Tyrannosaurus rex model that greets visitors, but it’s a good place to start. From the biggest dinosaurs to the most delicate butterflies, the museum is home to all kinds of critters, experiments, and even spaceships. And if you have the time, be sure to check out a movie at the IMAX Mugar Omni Theater.
Founded in 1913, the Boston Children’s Museum is the second-oldest children’s museum in the country and one of the largest in operation today. Check out attractions such as the Explore-a-Saurus, Art Studio, and Japanese House, and immerse yourself in the many hands-on exhibits and programs. Reserve a spot on Sunday afternoons from 1:30 to 4:30 and pay just $1 for admission.
Curious about flowers, evolution, or even passenger pigeons? The Harvard Museum of Natural History provides its visitors with a unique glimpse into the natural world as it showcases species native to Boston alongside others from around the world. From the most ancient mineral samples to its famous “glass flowers,” this museum is sure to thrill any budding naturalist — and once you’re done exploring, Harvard Square awaits.
Take a trip under the sea without getting wet (well, mostly). Home to plants and animals from all over the world, the New England Aquarium is where you can find a penguin greeting committee, Myrtle the green sea turtle, and showstopping harbor seals. Check out the four-story ocean tank for a look at the more than 200 species that live there, and don’t miss the shark and ray touch tank on your way out!
After checking out the whale skeleton hanging in the New England Aquarium, you may be inspired to see a whale in the wild. The aquarium partners with Boston Harbor Cruises to take passengers on a short trip to the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, an 842-square-mile ocean refuge that provides a summer home for marine life of all kinds, especially whales. Learn about these amazing creatures from trained naturalists onboard this favorite Boston whale watching cruise.
If the kids want a water ride that’s the opposite of the gentle Swan Boat experience, Codzilla is sure to please. A 70-foot watercraft with two turbo-charged diesel engines, Codzilla reaches speeds of up to 40 mph and is prone to hairpin turns and 360-degree spins that usually leave more than one rider drenched while a rock soundtrack blares. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!
One of two Greater Boston zoos operated by Zoo New England (the other is the Stone Zoo in Stoneham), Franklin Park Zoo features dozens of animal exhibits including zebras, gorillas, lions, kangaroos, spotted hyenas, and more. Kids love the seasonal petting zoo and butterfly hollow, and there are special behind-the-scenes tours that offer an up-close encounter with sloths, red pandas, or giraffes. The massive playground is another draw.
Let little ones stretch their legs surrounded by nature at the “museum of trees” better known as the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood. Here, you’ll find a 281-acre landscape featuring more than 15,000 plants, including more than 8,000 trees and one of North America’s oldest and largest lilac collections. Sign up for a docent-led tour or enjoy self-guided family activities like story walks and wildlife bingo. The arboretum is open daily, and free for all.
With a capacity of roughly 38,000, Fenway is one of the smallest parks in the American League, but good things come in small packages. To fully appreciate this c. 1912 shrine to America’s national pastime, take one of the behind-the-scenes tours offered year-round. Listen to tales of Red Sox greats, check out the view from the Green Monster, and peer down at the quirky asymmetrical field from the press box. Even if you’ve been to Fenway dozens of times, you’ve never experienced it quite like this.