When it first comes to mind, you might consider Boston as a destination primarily for adults. After all, it’s only natural to wonder if your kids would care enough about the historical background to merit a visit to this, which is one of America’s most historic cities.
However, when looking deeper at all this iconic city has to offer, you soon realize Boston is a great city to visit with kids, even with its historic emphasis. In fact, this historic and educational city features many budget-friendly and/or free and fun interactive activities to enjoy.
Boston’s Freedom Trail Guided Walking Tour (Budget-Friendly Activity)
The Freedom Trail is a 2.5-mile route, red-lined to be easy to follow. It encompasses 16 historical sites. There are many ways to explore this trail, including the guided experience, which is a super fun way to get kids engaged and excited about history.
The walking tours are led by costumed guides donned in 18th-century attire. Guides pause at various stops, sharing exciting tales of what happened years prior at that very location.
There are various tour increments to choose from, including a shorter tour that stops at Faneuil Hall. This gives you the freedom to choose a tour that best suits your family’s needs and the ability or inability of your kids to walk various distances.
If budget is paramount, you can opt to go on the self-guided tour of the Freedom Trail, which is clearly outlined and easy to follow with monument plaques explaining each stop, all free of charge, with an audio option.
The guided tour option isn’t free, as it’s a ticketed event/attraction. However, if you really want to spark a love of history within your kids, the guided tour can be just the boost they need!
Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum
Voted #1 as the Best Patriotic Attraction by USA Today, this interesting and patriotic museum is built around the Boston Tea Party, an event that famously changed the course of American history.
Visiting the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum is more than just visiting a museum where you and your family simply observe objects that once meant something.
A visit to this museum is a fully interactive, multi-sensory experience that includes live actors, and interactive exhibits, along with a full-scale replica of 18th-century sailing vessels that will delight your kids and even keep your attention.
As part of your visit, you will take part in a re-enactment of the very event that started a revolution!
After enjoying your visit to the museum, being guided through several experiences and re-enactments that will delight and mesmerize your entire family, end your visit by enjoying a “spot of tea” at Abigail’s Tea Room & Terrace.
Here, you can enjoy a sampling of the five teas that were famously thrown overboard during the Boston Tea Party.
The Boston Public Library (Free Activity)
As a free activity, a visit to the Boston Public Library is a great way to spend a few hours when visiting Boston.
Located across from Copley Square, the library itself is a historic landmark as an architectural gem with a grand open-air courtyard, barrel-vaulted ceilings, and arcaded windows.
The library offers free architectural and art tours to learn about significant pieces around the library, including the murals by Pierre Puvis de Chavanne, the French artist.
The library itself was established in 1848 and is America’s first municipal library to lend books.
Boston Children’s Museum
As yet another fun family option within the beautiful city, Boston Children’s Museum, founded in 1913 by the Science Teachers’ Bureau group, promotes a unique environment where kids are encouraged to learn, discover, and explore.
The exhibits at Boston’s Children’s Museum emphasize hands-on engagement, promote creativity, and boost imagination and curiosity. The museum spans three floors full of fun exhibits with various materials, and challenges, so kids can create, explore, and play to their heart’s delight.
Visiting the children’s museum can be a great way to spend a rainy or bad weather day. It also allows kids the time and opportunity to run around, play, and be creative.
The Boston Children’s Museum is the second oldest of its kind and is one of the most influential children’s museums in the world.
While it is admittedly not nearly as focused on history as the other activities, the children’s museum promotes the power of play, including STEAM family workshops designed for whole families to enjoy together.
Exhibits within the museum include options for every age and interest and are educational and fun.
Boston Harbor Cruises
As another opportunity to see the city, consider Boston Harbor Cruises as a fun way to appreciate the city’s most historic sites. Choose a cruise that best fits your family’s interest, as cruise options include maritime focus, like those focused on tall ships and lighthouses, as well as those that serve dinner and lunch.
Boston Harbor Cruises (BHC) is the oldest and largest cruise company in the city, and they have been exploring the harbors for centuries.
They offer a historic sightseeing tour that offers a great overview of all the historic sites and highlights Boston’s Outer and Inner Harbors. In addition to many of the famous city views, you will also see the nation’s oldest manned lighthouse still in operation, the lighthouse on Brewster Island.
This fun tour will explain everything from stories of the Revolutionary War to local sea legends, all with beautiful views of the Port of Boston.
The cruises provide a different view of the stories and real-life happenings that make up American history, which your family has been learning about already through your walking tours on land.
Paul Revere House (Budget-Friendly Activity)
In the north end of Boston is yet another fun activity for the whole family: a visit to the still-standing home of the legendary Paul Revere.
Not surprisingly, this amazing location, the oldest house in all of Boston and the oldest building in the city, is one of the most popular attractions within the city.
You can visit the house as part of a tour, the Freedom Trail mentioned above, or visit the house on its own. Paul Revere’s house was constructed in 1680 and was not notable on its own before its resident became a historic figure on the night of April 18th, 1775.
The Revere House offers self-guided tours that are used in conjunction with illustrated text panels and museum interpreters.
Visit Boston Public Gardens and Boston Common (Free Activity)
Boston Common is America’s first public park, built in 1634.
Interestingly enough, the 44 acres that encompass the Boston Common Park remain an open, free public space as designated by the original owner, William Blackstone, who sold it to Puritan Colonists with the condition that it would remain a space for the public to enjoy.
The aptly named Common Park was used to graze communal livestock until 1830, and it was also, interestingly enough, used as a location to punish witches, murderers, pirates, and more.
Today, it is a wide open space with a carousel, bandstand, playground, frog pond pool, paved walkways, and tennis courts.
The Boston Public Garden dates back to 1839 and is the first public botanical garden in the nation. It is adjacent to Boston Commons and is a garden surrounded by a cast-iron, Victorian-style fence, statues, fountains, plants, and a six-acre pond complete with the beloved Swan Boats.
The swan boats are a must-do activity when visiting the botanical garden. This company is family-owned and has been in operation since 1877. It is open daily from April to September.
The boats are pedaled by a driver with passengers seated on six benches going along for the ride. The Swan Boats are a ticketed event but it is pretty budget-friendly.
Plimoth Patuxet Living Museum
As an immersive, educational, authentic and fun experience, Plimoth Patuxet’s Living Museum is a unique, and unforgettable family activity.
When visiting this innovative museum, you and your family will step on the Mayflower II, visit a Plymouth Colony, gather kernels of history at the Plimoth Grist Mill, meet pilgrims, and learn about English colonists and indigenous peoples who all met along these same shores in the 17th century.
Like a real-life version of “Night at the Museum,” Plymouth Patuxet Museum brings history to life, immersing you in colonial living. Notable exhibitions include a homesite, a village, a mill, and a shop replica.
While all the locations within the immersive museum are worth visiting, the 17th-century Plymouth colony is noteworthy due to its complete recreation of early Plymouth life, including timber-framed houses furnished with reproductions, heritage breed livestock, and aromatic kitchen gardens.
As you and your family go through the tour, interact with the inhabitants of Plymouth Colony, played by actors wearing historical clothing.
It’s worth noting when planning your visit that this location is around 45 minutes south of Boston. This is important to remember as it will take you outside the scope of the city to enjoy, but many feel the immersive, educational nature of the museum merits the visit.
Known as a hidden gem in Boston, Castle Island is a must-visit location when in the area. The island itself was constructed as a fort in 1801 by the war department, and it eventually defended Boston from British attack in 1812.
Interestingly enough, there is no actual castle on Castle Island. Instead, the name was likely meant to be sarcastic, likely aimed at the mud walls that were the fort.
Today, historic Fort Independence overlooks the Boston Harbor Islands. Pleasure Bay Beach, named this park a jewel in his Emerald Necklace, was designed by famed landscape designer Fredrick Law Olmstead. It includes 22 acres and offers some of the best views of Boston.
Fenway Park Red Sox Baseball Game
While you might not consider a visit to a baseball stadium your idea of a historic or even educational activity, Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox, is the oldest baseball stadium in the entire nation, making it a historic site.
Even if you aren’t a Red Sox fan, you will enjoy your day at the park with your family, of course, with a rendition of the famous song “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” being played on the iconic organ!
Fenway Park, known by many as America’s Most Beloved Park, has remained standing through generations and generations of Americans, showcasing America’s most beloved pastime, baseball.
Having opened for the first time on April 20th, 1912, a visit to this location is fun and historic. One easy way to visit the park is to go to a game while in Boston.
However, if you want to explore the history of the location without going to a baseball game, you can take a ballpark tour.
You can also take a virtual tour on your smartphone or computer. This drone tour is 40 minutes long and features a great deal of Red Sox history as well.
Another fun way to see all that Boston has to offer, especially in regard to the historic sites, is to take a trolley tour with your family. Trolley tours cover just about every historical landmark and attraction in the city and include narration from friendly, knowledgeable trolley conductors.
Some of the trolley tour stops include the downtown Boston area, Back Bay, Beacon Hill, the theater district, and the waterfront.
You and your family can hop on and off at your leisure to enjoy the various popular attractions up close. Trolley tours can also give you discounts on local attractions and museums.
The Boston trolly tour is 13 miles long, and the 18-stop route takes about two hours from start to finish, but you can hop off and then back on at any stop. The trolley is a comfortable ride, with padded seats and great views.
It’s also worth noting that purchasing the Trolley Tour will get you discounted admission at various other Boston historic attractions.
Museum of Science
While a visit to the Museum of Science is not historical, it is most certainly educational, so it fits the bill, making it a must-visit location when taking kids to the city of Boston.
It is a bit more costly of an activity, but when you see the exhibits and your kids get to interact with the innovative technology, it makes sense why that is, meaning, in my opinion, you get your money’s worth.
Visiting the museum includes 29 featured exhibits, a planetarium show, an Omni film, 4-D films, live presentations, and public events.
A few examples of what you can expect include exhibits like the Arctic Adventure, which is a permanent exhibit at the museum, allowing your kids to become Arctic explorers and even fly a virtual drone.
The engaging arctic adventure includes immersive sights and sounds and touchable real ice, allowing “arctic explorers” to use technology including ice core drills and ground penetrating radar.
Also included in an Exhibit Hall’s admission is the Dinosaurs Modeling the Mesozoic Exhibit.
This favorite exhibit features fossils and full-size dinosaur models that introduce kids to the exciting world of dinosaurs. Fossil clues, bones, footprints, models, and even dinosaur dung are part of the exhibit.
There are even live animal presentations at this unique museum that features beloved animal ambassadors.
Independence Wharf Roof Deck (Free Activity)
Last but certainly not least on our list of fun, historic, and educational things to do with kids in Boston is a free visit to the best views in Boston from the roof deck of the Independence Wharf.
This location is a 14-story outlook featuring some of the best views of Boston. From this outlook, view Boston Harbor, Seaport, Fort Point, The Tea Party Museum, Atlantic Avenue, and the Rose Kennedy Greenway. (All of these are worth visiting in person, too!)
It’s worth noting that this outlook offers an amazing view of Boston, but little else. In other words, there are no refreshments offered, benches present, or anything else, though there are some binocular stands. However, that’s probably why it’s free!
Get to the observation deck by entering the Independence Wharf building and then taking the elevator to the 14th floor.
The observation deck spans the entire length of the building, so there is plenty of room to enjoy the breathtaking views that happen to be priceless!
Extra Money Saving Tip When Visiting Boston
The Boston CityPASS is worth looking into as it gives entry to four attractions and can help save money on admission prices.
This means that many of the city’s most enjoyed attractions become more affordable and easier to access. The CityPASS gives you access to Boston’s impressive public transportation system.
Looking into this as you plan your visits around Boston can end up saving you money in the long run and make getting around the city that much easier!
Fun Playgrounds and Parks to Visit to Add On
While these aren’t necessarily educational or historic, these Bostonian playgrounds are perfect add-ons to a day of fun while visiting this historic city.
The Plaza Playscape is centrally located, making it a convenient stop when wanting a break from other Boston attractions.
Located near the Children’s museum mentioned above is Martin’s Park with a pirate ship and more.
The Lawn on D is also noteworthy as it has interesting circular swings lit by LEDs and lawn games.
Thomas Menino Park, located near the Freedom Trail, is also worth a visit and features a merry-go-round, ramps, and play structure.