Family city breaks

Historic Boston is a blast of fresh air for fun family holidays

Last updated 23rd April 2024

After an action-packed few days in beautiful Boston, Lisa McGarry was left in no doubt that this gem of a New England city has everything to offer families as a destination.


Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum

Spill the tea at Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum

History is everywhere in Boston – and nowhere is that more evident than when standing on a ship in the harbour, preparing to chuck tea into the water like it’s 1773. In reality, this means grabbing large foam cubes on ropes and hauling them over the side – less dramatic, but lots of fun. On the day of our visit the sky was blue, the chunky Seaport district skyline framed our view, and no-one could stop laughing as costumed actors playing American revolutionaries got in the zone.

The Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum engages with this notorious event in a fun, immersive way. If you arrive with sketchy knowledge of what actually went down during the Boston Tea Party, you’ll leave able to conduct panel discussions. We started in the Meeting House, where the characters wasted no time amping things up, assigning audience members Tea Party names and urging us to get involved. ‘Samuel Adams’ made his speech denigrating the tea tax, then onward to Griffin’s Wharf, to chuck crates.

After that we explored the ships, met the captain and saw the Robinson Tea Chest: last surviving from that fateful night. There are some cool interactive exhibits, like an imagined meeting between Samuel Adams and King George III based on their letters. And for the finale, the museum screens Let it Begin Here: an award-winning short film recounting the events leading to the American Revolution. If you’ve time, stop at the café: for tea, of course.


Boston Children’s Museum

The power of play at the Boston Children’s Museum

It’s a short stroll from the harbour to the Boston Children’s Museum which looks exactly like the type of museum your kids would build, given half a chance. Everywhere you look here, young visitors are playing up a storm with diggers and machines, arty stuff and scientific projects, and a giant climbing structure, New Balance Net. We visited on Sunday, when entrance is $1 – bargain – so it was busy, but not unbearable.

On the website, a bit that struck me was about play being slowly erased from kids’ lives, and how it’s vital for brain and character development. So this kind of industrial-strength activity was a joy to witness. Sometimes in museums you might catch the eye of fellow parents zoning out in the din – but at the Children’s Museum, all we caught were smiles.


The Old State House, Freedom Trail

Finding freedom on the Freedom Trail

The Freedom Trail’s 2.5-mile path winds through downtown, marking 16 historical sites connected to the American Revolution, including The Old State House, scene of the 1770 Boston Massacre: a cautionary tale of escalation. Fittingly, it begins in America’s oldest public park, Boston Common, which in its modern incarnation is a hub for all kinds of city events and summer festivals.

And it’s not just buildings on-route. There are burial grounds like Copps Hill – a picturesque site overlooking the harbour – and Granary Burying Ground, final resting place of Paul Revere; Samuel Adams; John Hancock; the victims of the Boston Massacre, and Samuel Sewell: the only judge to abstain in the Salem Witch Trials. The trail ends at Bunker Hill Monument, by Charlestown Navy Yard and ‘Old Ironsides’ AKA the USS Constitution: a naval vessel which sank several British warships.

We had a guide for our tour: the 18th-century-costumed Jeremiah, who was a veritable mine of information – but you could easily do it on your own, and there’s also a Freedom Trail Boston Guide app.


Getting high at View Boston

Get a bird’s eye Boston from 52 storeys up

A great way to get to know the city is to head to View Boston, a platform on the 52nd floor of the Prudential Tower offering 360° views of the Charles River, historic buildings and harbour. From this vantage point you can really get a sense of place, and the way Boston has grown since its historical yesteryear. It’s an amazing experience, added to by immersive exhibits such as Boston 365: a 3D model celebrating a year in the life of the city.

Take a lightning tour of the Museum of Science

The Museum of Science puts on an incredible show, and if you’ve never heard Lady Gaga played by lightning bolts, this is your chance. Be mindful of small kids’ ears: this one is loud, hence the headphone advice before all the big bangs.

There are plenty of NASA machines, big rocks, dioramas and dinosaurs for quieter moments.


Children’s Carousel, The Greenway

Go green at the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway

Boston loves a park, and the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway is very loveable.

Known locally as ‘The Greenway’, it threads through the heart of downtown, with landscaped gardens, walking paths, art installations and seasonal events. Think of it like the High Line in New York, only at ground level, and you get the idea.

Don’t miss the Children’s Carousel, a cute institution featuring different animals found in the Boston area.

Take a Harvard tour to learn ivy league lore

We loved our Harvard tour in laid-back Cambridge, where our highly entertaining student guide Dante regaled us with insider tips, like don’t hold the foot of John Harvard’s statue, because students may relieve themselves there after hours. Harvard Coop is where to pick up those iconic hoodies.


Walk through the world at the Mapparium

Where to map the past in Boston

Another only-in-Boston experience, The Mapparium, in Mary Baker Eddy Library, is a stained-glass globe with a 9-metre diameter. Enter via glass bridge for a 360° view of the world in 1935, complete with retro fonts and colonialism. Just watch your language; even a whisper carries here.

Grab a coffee and a slice of nostalgia at Central Perk Boston

Friends is enjoying a renaissance amongst Gen Z kids, so your older offspring may love the opportunity to be photographed on the famous ‘The One With’ couch at Central Perk Boston. It’s a popular spot, but luckily the coffee cups are huge – a possible nod to the cosy nostalgia its 90’s namesake evokes. The cakes are worth visiting for alone, but remember: Joey doesn’t share food!


Cori Copley at the Fairmont Copley Plaza

Grand sleeps at Fairmont Copley Plaza

Thanks to the grand Fairmont Copley Plaza we had historic sleeps in huge rooms and the cuteness of Cori: black Labrador and hotel mascot, who is also available for weekday walks if you look up to the task.

The staff here were absolutely lovely, courteous and consummately professional – they really made our stay.

The OAK Long Bar & Kitchen serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, but as Fairmont Gold guests we had breakfast in the complimentary lounge, including fresh green juices, perfectly crisp bacon, and homemade granola pots.


Time Out Food Market

Take time out for some historic eats

Even our eats had a bit of history in Boston, starting with ‘lazy girl’ lobster and crab cakes at the city’s oldest restaurant, Union Oyster House.

Not so venerable, but great for families, Time Out Market Boston is another must, as is Chinatown – I recommend the guided tour complete with dim sum and bakery stops.

And try to fit in afternoon tea at Boston Library’s stunning Courtyard Tearoom, with dainty cakes and mini lobster rolls.

Planning a Boston trip with kids

How to get there

Direct flights to Boston from 7 hours, 30 mins

Find out more and book flights

Where to stay

Fairmont Copley Plaza, Family Room (2 adults, 2 children) from £273 per night

Find out more and book Fairmont Copley Plaza

Good to know

Get a rechargeable CharlieCard to use on public transport around Boston

Find out more about CharlieCard