14 Family Outings in Massachusetts
Massachusetts has an amazing amount of choices for family fun. The hard part is deciding which one to explore first! Try LEGOLAND® Discovery Center. Or, in season, you can splash and play at area beaches and water parks. Then there’s travel by train or boat with learning happening all along the way. From youngest to oldest, everyone in the family will find something to love!
Earth to Stars
An urban oasis awaits you at EcoTarium, a thrilling indoor/outdoor museum and planetarium. Kids will enjoy meeting wildlife, strolling nature trails, riding a narrow gauge railroad and putting hands on the many family-friendly exhibits. 222 Harrington Way, Worcester; 508-929-2700; ecotarium.org.
Play at the Park
The 150-acre Look Park has it all – from bumper boats to miniature golf. Kids like to ride the tiny steamer train, which does a one-mile loop by a small zoo, and then visit the zoo animals. Other activities include going on a pedal-boat adventure, frolicking at the water spray park or playing on the tennis courts and playgrounds. 300 North Main St., Florence; 413-584-5457; lookpark.org.
A world-famous exhibit at The Mary Baker Eddy Library – the “Mapparium” – is a three-dimensional, stained-glass globe of the world of 1935. Enhancing it is “A World of Ideas,” an original presentation that features words, music and lights to illustrate how the world has changed. 200 Massachusetts Ave., Boston; 617-450-7000; marybakereddylibrary.org.
Brick by Brick
LEGOLAND® Discovery Center is the first of its kind in New England. The indoor attraction, geared to kids ages 3 to 10 and their families, features millions of LEGO bricks, rides, a LEGO Studios 4D Cinema and LEGO-made replicas of Boston landmarks. 598 Assembly Row, Somerville; 866-228-6439; legolanddiscoverycenter.com/boston.
Boston’s famous Duck Tours are as much fun as they look. Take in Boston’s historic sights – from the State House to the Bunker Hill Monument – aboard the renovated WWII amphibious landing vehicles. Multiple departures daily from the Back Bay and Museum of Science. 617- 267-3825; bostonducktours.com.
Hop on a Boat
Boston Harbor Islands are worth the trip. Just ask Laura Graham of Arlington, who has been visiting the islands since childhood and takes her kids there. “Georges Island is our favorite,” she says. “It’s wide open; the kids can run; it has bathrooms, a food stand, places to picnic and wade in the water.” This national park is comprised of 34 islands with overnight camping allowed on some of them. Each has its own offerings, from shell and slate beaches to historic forts. 781-740-1605, ext. 205; bostonislands.com.
Head to the Beach
For a beach experience off the beaten path, the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge in Newburyport is one of the best. Plum Island, the 11-mile barrier island near the mouth of the Merrimack River, features sandy shores and unspoiled grassy dunes. “We can escape with the kids to the quiet side of Plum Island Sound, or ride the surf on the endless ocean-facing beach,” says Julie Haines of Ipswich. The Wildlife Refuge is a haven for birders and nature lovers. It’s accessible by car but much of the public beach is reachable only by boardwalks so pack light, and arrive early because it often reaches its capacity. 978-462-6680; newburyportchamber.org/pages/plumisland.
Plan on Clams
Happiness is … finding an empty booth at Woodman’s, or so says a well-worn sign at this venerable Essex institution. Although the wait can be considerable, the fried Ipswich clams (the first ever made in New England), steamers and fast service make it well worth the trip. Plan your visit around a day at a nearby beach, and the whole family goes home satisfied. 121 Main St., Rte. 133, Essex; 978-768-2559; woodmans.com.
When your kids hear that the Great Wolf Lodge New England boasts an indoor water park, your search for a weekend getaway may be over. Featuring a water park with slides, a ropes course, a mini bowling alley and miniature golf, this family-friendly resort is the perfect mini-getaway for fun “splish-splash” adventures appropriate for toddlers, tweens and teens. Then enjoy a good night’s rest in one of their suites, each including a fridge and microwave. 150 Great Wolf Drive, Fitchburg; 866-678-9653; greatwolf.com/newengland.
Take to the Hills
Whether it’s hiking, camping, boating, fishing, biking or golfing you seek, one magical place offers it all: Blue Hills Reservation in Milton. The reservation stretches over 7,000 acres with Great Blue Hill reaching 635 feet. Houghton’s Pond Recreation Area includes a beach with supervised swimming, as well as picnic sites, ball fields and a playground. 695 Hillside St., Milton; 617-698-1802; mass.gov/eea/agencies/dcr/massparks/region-south/blue-hills-reservation.html.
Play in the City
The Frog Pond and Spray Pool on the Boston Common is fun for all ages. The shallow wading pool is perfect for toddlers (and the parents who chase them). Older kids can splash in the fountains and climb and swing at the adjacent playground. There are shaded benches, changing rooms and a snack bar on-site. Bordered by Beacon, Tremont, Charles and Park streets; cityofboston.gov/parks/ttd/frogpond_summer.asp.
… P.S. Don’t forget the Swan Boats in the nearby Public Garden. 617-522-1966; swanboats.com.
Make a Splash
When the city starts to sizzle, cool off at the Artesani Playground on Soldier’s Field Road, right next to the Charles River. With lifeguards on duty, a wading pool featuring cascading fountains and a spray deck for the little ones, it’s safe, convenient, fun and free. Pack a picnic to enjoy on the grass once the kids have worked up an appetite. 1255 Soldiers Field Road, Brighton; mass.gov/eea/agencies/dcr/massparks/recreational-activities/swimming-pools-wading-pools-and-spray-deck.html.
The Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy offers 15 acres of urban parkland that wind through Chinatown, the Wharf and the North End and include ample family attractions like The Greenway Carousel. Take in public art and street performers while the kids dance in the fountains before heading to the North End for gelato. 617-292-0020; rosekennedygreenway.org.
Pick a Flick
The Hatch Shell on the Esplanade, on the bank of the Charles River, is one of Boston’s best-known landmarks. Its family-oriented Friday Night Flicks in the summertime have become a tradition. Pack a picnic, grab your lawn chairs and head to the Esplanade early to nab a spot before the free films start around 8:30 p.m. during the season. Parking is limited, so public transportation is suggested. Take the Red Line to Charles Street/MGH station and walk over the footbridge to the Esplanade. hatchshell.com/events.php.