Boston Parents Paper 2012 Family Favorites – Great Places for Families to Shop, Eat and Dine

While we’re fortunate to have instant access to so much information these days, nothing quite beats the recommendation of a trusted friend. That’s how we like to view our Family Favorite Awards, published each year in our special Best of the Best issue.


We’re grateful for readers from across Massachusetts who took the time to cast their votes for favorite places to shop, eat and have fun with their families. Since many people tend to frequent the places closest to home, we are honoring Family Favorites in four geographic areas this year – Boston/Cambridge/Brookline, and points north, south and west of the city.


In some instances, a business may have won in a certain geographic area, even while having additional locations in other areas as well. There are also categories in which there was no clear winner in some geographic regions and our results reflect that.

Congratulations to this year’s Family Favorites – the newcomers and perennial winners.


Here’s proof that your good work is not going unnoticed!


Feed the Masses

Ice Cream Shop


JP Licks

With an ever-changing menu of unique fresh ice cream and frozen yogurt flavors, a visit to JP Licks is an adventure every time. Order a single scoop or indulge in the Sundae of the Month, frappe, smoothie or moolatta. Check out JP Licks’ new line of soy-based flavors. 10 Greater Boston locations;



Mad Maggie’s

Grab a scoop of your favorite homemade standard, or try one of the “micro-brews”: Maple Bacon, Pumpkin Gingersnap and Candy Store Floor, just to name a few. If you voice your own flavor suggestion,  you might just see it on a future menu. 1025 Osgood St., North Andover, 978-685-2814;



The Richardson family began a dairy farm in 1695 and has been making ridiculously good ice cream since 1952. Today, a visit here is an experience. Choose from 85 flavors and energize yourself for a day of fun, which must include a visit with the cows and a round of mini golf. 156 South Main St. (Route 114), Middleton, 978-774-5450;



Peaceful Meadows

Fans of this family-owned farm hail the rich and creamy ice cream, available in 24 flavors, and the super-indulgent sundaes. Special featured flavors –

and a selection of other fresh dairy products – make a monthly trip mandatory. 60 Bedford St., Whitman, 781-447-3889; 109 West Grove St., Middleboro, 508-947-1322; 170 Water St., Plymouth, 508-746-2362.




Kimball Farm

Since 1939, Kimball Farm in Westford has been tempting the palates of ice cream lovers with more than 40 flavors of homemade ice cream, sherbet and frozen yogurt. Order your favorite cone – a small size could satisfy a king – and visit the Country Store, play a round of mini golf, ride the bumper boats, hit a homer in the batting cages and more. 400 Littleton Road (Route 110), Westford, 978-486-3891; 343 Bedford Road, Carlisle, 978-369-1910.


Family Restaurant


In Springfield, at the height of the Great Depression, two brothers opened a neighborhood ice cream shop with double-dip cones for five cents. Some 77 years later, Friendly’s is still a popular and affordable draw for families. Be sure to check out their updated menu of seasonal salads, SuperMelts and new ice cream flavors, including cotton candy. Multiple Massachusetts locations;




Modern Pastry

The line snaking out the door at this popular spot speaks for itself. If you’re in the mood for a sweet Italian treat, you can’t go wrong at Modern Pastry in Boston’s North End. This family-owned bakery uses original recipes brought over from Italy and is famous for its cannoli, biscotti and tiramisu. 257 Hanover St., Boston, 617-523-3783; 20 Salem St., Medford, 781-396-3618.



D’Amici’s Bakery

This popular North Shore bakery is the go-to place for beautiful (and tasty!) cakes. Each week, on average, D’Amici bakers make 1,000 pounds of cake and decorate with 750 pounds of frosting. But don’t miss their other scrumptious confections, such as freshly made cookies, pastry and pies. 462 Main St., Melrose, 781-665-3030;



White’s Bakery and Café

A trip to White’s Bakery and Café is a feast for the senses. Everything looks and smells so good, it’s hard to choose. This summer, try one of their new seasonal cupcakes, like Key Lime or Lemon Blueberry. Or save some cooking time and pick up one of their mouth-watering prepared dinners. 100 Derby St., Hingham, 781-740-0300; 1041 Pearl St., Brockton, 508-584-5260.



Quebrada Baking Co.

Families lucky enough to live close to Quebrada’s two bakeries get to enjoy the fruits of the bakers’ early morning labors; they start making their signature hand-rolled European-style croissants at 3 a.m. Kids also love the freshly made muffins and pastries for a breakfast treat. 272 Washington St., Wellesley, 781-237-2111; 208 Massachusetts Ave., Arlington, 781-648-0700.


Candy Shop


Sugar Heaven

There’s something to satisfy every sweet tooth at Sugar Heaven. Get your fix with your standard favorite, choose a nostalgic or hard-to-find confection, or fill a bag with a wide variety of candies sold by the pound. Then head downstairs for a scoop of some decadent ice cream. Can’t stop in? Order all your favorite candies online. 669 Boylston St., Boston, 617-266-6464; 544 Legacy Place, Dedham, 781-461-5959.



Prides Crossing Confections

Housed in an old train station, Prides Crossing Confections is known for its terrific turtles: chocolate-coated, gooey caramel wrapped around clusters of fresh nuts. But the fudge, homemade caramel sauce, chocolates and other sweets are equally popular with loyal patrons. 590 Hale St., Beverly, 978-927-2185;



Skinners Sugar House

In business for more than 85 years, Skinners offers sugar-seekers homemade chocolates, nonpareils, fruit slices, nuts and more. For special occasions, browse their assortment of holiday specialties or stop in for a pound of decadent fudge, refreshing chocolate mints or a peanut butter smoothie truffle. Leave with a smile. 24 Union St., East Bridgewater, 508-378-3693;



The Candy Castle

This shop has been satisfying the sweet teeth of Lexington since 1981. Stop in for a huge selection of candies and confections, including irresistible homemade fudge and ice cream, plus sugar- and allergen-free treats. 1853 Massachusetts Ave., Lexington, 781-862-4499.


Market Basket

Most of all, readers praise the prices offered at this family-friendly supermarket. There’s also a good deli and meat department and impressive selection of ethnic and prepared food. While the crowds can be tricky on the weekends, the final total at the cash register usually makes the carriage traffic jams worth the trip. Multiple Massachusetts locations;

Whole Foods

This is one of the best places to shop for high-quality organic foods. Shopping at Whole Foods can take awhile, with all the free samples available at every turn. Readers appreciate the vast cheese selection, the prepared foods, salad bar and even the free cooking classes. Multiple Massachusetts locations;


Rainy Day Fun



Museum of Science

Get close to dinosaurs, jam out to a rock ’n roll light show, and watch a shark feeding frenzy in 3-D. It’s just another day at the Museum of Science, one of our readers’ perennial favorite places to explore. This place is a perfect antidote for any kid who utters the words, “Science is boring.” 1 Science Park, Boston, 617-723-2500;



The Children’s Museum in Easton

Kid love the rocket ship, firemen’s pole, the stage and dress-up clothes, art studio and doctor’s clinic. The FETCH! Lab with Ruff Ruffman invites children to participate in science and math activities inspired by the popular PBS character. 9 Sullivan Ave., North Easton, 508-230-3789;




Peabody Essex Museum

This is a world-class museum where kids are welcomed with open arms – and at no charge if they’re ages 16 and under. The Art & Nature Center and adjoining Art Studios allow children to create art, play games and participate in a changing schedule of events and programs. Kids love exploring Yin Yu Tang, a 200-year-old Chinese house reassembled at the museum. 161 Essex St., Salem, 978-745-9500;



The Discovery Museums

This museum is made up of two: the Children’s Discovery Museum, located in an old Victorian house, and the Science Discovery Museum, geared toward older children. Younger kids can set a lobster trap, serve customers in the diner, engineer a train track and explore a ship wreck. Budding scientists can send Morse code, float ping-pong balls and bend light rays. 177 Main St., Acton, 978-264-4200;


Indoor Play Space


Boston Children’s Museum

A favorite for almost 100 years, the Boston Children’s Museum never disappoints. Older kids love to climb up the play structure in the lobby, and little ones spend hours tooling around the play space upstairs. After making bubbles in the Science Playground, checking out Arthur’s kitchen and exploring the authentic Japanese House, kids will leave tired but happy. 308 Congress St., Boston, 617-426-6500;



Imajine That

There’s something for everyone at this 12,000-square-foot playspace. Kids can play pretend in a child-sized grocery store, scale the dinosaur climbing structure, check out the books in the Between the Lions reading area and explore the Peep and the Big Wide World Science Station. 354 Merrimack St., Building 1, Entrance A, 2nd Floor, Lawrence, 978-682-5338;



Stardust Gym

Are the kids bouncing off the walls? Head to Stardust Gym where bouncing is not only tolerated but encouraged! During open gym hours, kids can jump into a foam pit, bounce on a tumble track, climb the rock wall and even swing on a trapeze. 612 Plymouth St., East Bridgewater, 508-378-2223;



PlayTown Express

Kids will love letting off some steam in PlayTown Express’s train-themed bouncy house and netted climbing structure. Babies can play too, in the separate matted area away from the big kids. And kids can test their mettle in the new obstacle course! 25 South St., Hopkinton, 508-497-0022;





With 24,000 square feet of entertainment and 16 bowling lanes, Kings is a great spot for a rainy afternoon. Before 6 p.m., families enjoy discounted rates on bowling, billiards, shuffleboard and skee ball. After 6 p.m., it’s for ages 21 and up. 50 Dalton St., Boston, 617-266-2695; 600 Legacy Place, Dedham, 781-329-6000.



Brunswick Zone

Bowl your perfect game on one of 44 lanes, beat your high score in the arcade or grab some refreshments at the snack bar. There are leagues for all ages. Sign up for money-saving email coupons. This summer, students bowl free. 647 Pawtucket Blvd., Lowell, 978-454-0476;



Viking Recreation Center

Bowl a strike on one of the 16 candlepin lanes, then celebrate your victory in the large video-game and ticket-redemption room. Join a league and check out the frequent specials and discounts, like free daily games for students this summer. 607 Bedford St. (Route 18), East Bridgewater, 508-378-9830;




Plan for a solid afternoon of family fun with glow-in-the-dark bowling lanes, a huge arcade, laser tag and Balladium, a ball-blasting target-shooting game. Register your kids online and they’ll receive two free games of bowling every day all summer. 110 South Main St., Milford, 508-473-6611;


Movie Theater


Coolidge Corner Theatre

This is the place to catch the latest independent movies, documentaries and screenings of classics, like Jurassic Park. Box Office Babies allows mothers the chance to see movies without worrying that their wailing newborns will bother anyone. The Coolidge also hosts live kids’ entertainment, from singers to jugglers to puppet shows. 290 Harvard St., Brookline, 617-734-2501;



Chunky’s Cinema Pub

Where else can you eat pub-style fare like nachos, watch a first-run movie in comfy seats, and even order an adult beverage? Chunky’s Cinema is worth a trip for the novelty alone of catching a dinner and a movie all at the same place. 371 Lowell Ave., Haverhill, 978-374-2200;



Dedham Community Theatre

This independent cinema, founded in 1927 and located in the heart of Dedham Square, is open 365 days a year. It prides itself on offering up popcorn with real butter and old-fashioned candy. The theater can also be rented out for parties. 580 High St., Dedham, 781-326-0409;



Capitol Theatre Arlington

Renovated in 2010, this six-screen movie theater now offers more comfortable seats and Real-D 3-D movies. Check out the baby-friendly matinees or consider this spot for kids’ birthday parties, with a package that combines movies and the ice cream buffet at nearby Capitol Creamery. 204 Massachusetts Ave., Arlington, 781-648-4340;


Out & About

Day Trip

Newport, R.I.

Just an hour and 20 minutes from Boston, Newport has a little something for everyone. Take a tour and gaze at the grandeur of the summer “cottages” along the Cliff Walk. Don’t miss The Breakers, a 70-room Italian Renaissance-style palazzo designed by the Vanderbilts in the late 19th century. Or head to one of Newport’s pristine beaches. Kids will love Easton’s Beach, with its carousel and snack bar (featuring a famous twin lobster sandwich on buttered rolls). The beach is also home to a summer family concert series on Tuesday nights. Once everyone has had their fill of sun and sand, make your way to Thames Street where there’s plenty of family-friendly restaurants, ice cream and souvenir shops and an arcade.


Animal Encounters


Franklin Park Zoo

For 100 years, the Franklin Park Zoo has been captivating Boston-area families with its live animal exhibits and displays. These days, children flock to the gorilla exhibit inside the Tropical Forest and the Aussie Aviary, a free-flight interactive exhibit that’s home to hundreds of brightly-colored budgies. One Franklin Park Road, Dorchester, 617-541-5466;



Stone Zoo

The small scale of this little zoo north of Boston makes it easy for families to get around with little ones, and kids love to visit the bears, Smoky and Bubba, the playground and interactive bird show. On the first Saturday of every month from 10 a.m. to noon, everyone pays kids’ price for admission! 149 Pond St., Stoneham, 781-438-5100;



Roger Williams Park Zoo

Take a drive to Providence, R.I., to visit one of the oldest zoos in the country. Stroll through the 40-acre park and visit giraffes, kangaroos, bison and more. Kids will love Our Big Backyard, the zoo’s new play area with a treehouse! 1000 Elmwood Ave., Providence, R.I., 401-941-4998;



Southwick Zoo

Get a unique view of some amazing animals on the SkyFari Sky Ride at the Southwick Zoo. Families soar above deer, chimps, mandrills and an alligator on this 15-minute chair-lift ride. At Parakeet Landing, kids can feed birds as they walk through this interactive exhibit. 2 Southwick St., Mendon, 1-800-258-9182;


Live Theater


Wheelock Family Theatre

This theater on the campus of Wheelock College has a rich history of producing award-winning, affordable shows with family appeal. With only 21 rows, you’re guaranteed a great seat with full view of the wide, engaging stage. Upcoming shows include Anne of Green Gables, Oliver and Pippi Longstocking. 200 The Riverway, Boston, 617-879-2300;



North Shore Music


Kids and adults enjoy the theater-in-the-round experience and tendency for actors to use the aisles as another performance area. It’s live theater – up close and personal. See top-notch musicals year-round, celebrity performers such as Bill Cosby, and a great selection of children’s shows in the summer. 62 Dunham Road, Beverly, 978-232-7200;



Company Theatre

This community gem performs popular favorites such as The Wedding Singer and original works such as Paragon Park: The Musical (about the Hull landmark). Family-friendly events such as a Sound of Music sing-along and Irish musical tributes are crowd favorites. 30 Accord Park Drive, Norwell, 781-871-2787;



The Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts

Rescued by a nonprofit a decade ago, Hanover Theatre has been lovingly restored and is “small enough to not be intimidating,” according to one fan. The theater hosts everything from Broadway shows such as Mary Poppins to Miss Massachusetts pageants and mega zumba classes for the community. 2 Southbridge St., Worcester, 877-571-SHOW;


Place to Swim


Wingaersheek Beach

White sands, clear waters and no big waves make this beach perfect for families with young kids. At low tide, the beach goes on forever, and there are plenty of tide pools for exploring with buckets and nets. Atlantic Street, Gloucester, 978-281-9785;



Houghton’s Pond

Twenty-four acres in size, Houghton’s Pond is a spring-fed kettle-hole pond formed by glaciers about 10,000 years ago. The swimming area is shallow, the water is warm and watched over by lifeguards. 840 Hillside St., Milton, 617-698-1802;



Spring Brook Park

Families flock to this manmade pond with a slide, a dock and spray area for kids, run by the Town of Bedford Recreation Department. There’s also an adjoining picnic area and playground to occupy kids during swimming breaks. One bonus over most beaches: Smoking is not allowed anywhere on the grounds. 181 Springs Road, Bedford, 781-275-1392;


Kids’ Classes


Music Schools International

Children channel their inner Beethoven with group lessons that teach music fundamentals in a structured but fun, pressure-free environment. Young musicians ages 2-18 learn to appreciate, read and make beautiful music in a variety of classes, from Music and Movement to piano instruction. Note: The business will soon change its name to Washtone Performing Arts. 1 Westinghouse Plaza, Building D, Unit 7, Boston, 617-364-5600;



Explore and grow at the YMCA, an affordable option for families and kids to get fit, have fun and make a difference. From tumble time, dance and music instruction to weight training and karate, there’s something to interest every kid, from toddlers to teens. Various locations throughout Boston;



Sprouting Melodies

Sing, move, play and socialize – all while making and listening to tunes for tots. With classes for newborns to preschoolers, Sprouting Melodies uses the power of music to help little ones explore and learn about the world around them. 423 Main St., Melrose, 781-420-4669;



Edify Fitness and Nutrition Center

Fortify your family’s fitness with the Family Fitness Class, which partners parents and children for an hour of activities to increase overall fitness, strength, flexibility and focus on family time. 612 Plymouth St., Unit 5, East Bridgewater, 508-456-4169;



Peter Pan Center

Using an “in-the-moment” coaching model, the staff here help children ages 4-15 overcome barriers – from behavioral issues to social anxiety – and give them the tools and skills needed to help build and sustain lasting friendships. 280 Ayer Road, Harvard, 978-772-1255;





Brookline Booksmith

This independent bookstore has been “dedicated to the fine art of browsing” since its 1961 opening. Lingering over books is still encouraged here. The store hosts regular book signings, author talks and poetry readings. Patrons hail the knowledgeable, helpful staff. 219 Harvard St., Brookline, 617-566-6660;



Andover Bookstore, Spirit of ’76 Bookstore and The Book Rack

The North Shore is fortunate to have these three top-notch bookstores, all owned by Hugo Bookstores, in its midst. You’ll find a large selection of quality books for kids and adults, an engaged staff, classes, lectures, storytelling and even unique gifts. Andover Bookstore, 89R Main St., Andover, 978-475-0143; The Book Rack, 52 State St., Newburyport, 978-462-8615; Spirit of ’76 Bookstore & Cardshop, 107 Pleasant St., Marblehead, 781-631-7199.



The Book Shack

An independent bookstore in a mall setting? Clearly, the owners pride themselves on taking a different twist. Check out lectures, CD release parties, children’s storytellers and even TV show tapings here. Staff picks include the “Most Unusual Books to Share.” 101 Independence Way, Kingston, 781-585-2665; 1775 Washington St., Hanover, 781-829-4900.



Barefoot Books

This vibrant children’s bookstore gets kids excited about reading at every turn. Along with the great selection of books, Barefoot Books hosts a full schedule of storytellers, musical entertainers, and art and crafts projects. 89 Thoreau St., Concord, 978-369-1770;


Toy Store


Magic Beans

From rattles that stimulate an infant to Legos and crafts that spur a 10-year-old’s imagination, Magic Beans has it all. The store’s expert staff will help you match the right toy to the right child when you’re shopping for that perfect gift. 361 Huron Ave., Cambridge, 617-300-0171; 312 Harvard St., Brookline, 617-264-2326; 94 Derby St., Hingham, 781-749-2321; and 200 Linden St., Wellesley, 781-235-2120.




Mud Puddle Toys

When you feel like your house has been taken over by an army of plastic, battery-operated noise machines, head to Mud Puddle Toys on the North Shore. This family-owned toy store in Salem and Marblehead specializes in eco-friendly toys that encourage creative play. 1 Pleasant St., Marblehead, 781-631-0814; 221 Essex St., Salem, 978-740-5400.



The Toy Box

This independent toy store is owned by parents of an active second-grader, so they know what parents and kids are looking for. Focusing on well-made, engaging toys that promote imagination and free play, the store is full of toys sure to become your children’s favorites. 1376C Washington St., Hanover, 781-826-3750;



Stella Bella Toys

Beautiful toys that excite both parents and kids are Stella Bella’s specialty. The toys are reasonably priced, well-made, fun and imaginative. Kids love the play space and parents rave about the self-serve gift wrapping station. Wayside Commons, Burlington, 781-229-6290; 1360 Cambridge St., Cambridge, 617-491-6290; 1967 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617-864-6290; A-244 Legacy Place, Dedham, 781-329-6290.


Shoe Store


Hyman’s Pennyworth’s Family Shoe Store

There’s a reason Hyman’s Pennyworth’s has been in business for more than a century. A quality selection of shoes for kids and adults – everything from sneakers to boots and slippers – is always available. The friendly staff takes this store’s pledge to “measure every customer” to heart. 45 Storey Ave., Newburyport, 978-462-2711;



The Barn Family Shoe Store

Loyal, longtime customers rave about staff service and shoe quality here, for kids and adults alike. The Barn carries all the popular brands of shoes – Birkenstock, Danko, Merrell, Sperry, ECCO and Bogs, to name a few. Bargains can be had on the sale rack in the back room. 25 Kempton Place, West Newton, 617-332-6300;


Sporting Goods Store

Play It Again Sports

Kids grow fast, and hockey skates aren’t cheap. Here, parents can trade in old sports equipment – whether it’s skates, cleats or lacrosse sticks – for discounts on new gear. This chain also carries new sports equipment, including a good selection of bikes and helmets. 7 Massachusetts locations;


Kids’ Casual Wear


Tiny Hanger

This cute Coolidge Corner store offers school clothes, play clothes and everything else in between – from quality swimsuits to rain boots, all from top kids’ designers. It’s also a great spot to find original gifts by local designers, such as the popular “You Had Me at Shalom!” T-shirts featuring Sesame Street’s lovable Grover character. 14 Pleasant St., Brookline, 617-487-5501;




The Apple of My Eye

Opened by a hip mom devoted to reusing and recycling, this new consignment shop carries quality children’s clothing from newborn to size 14/16, with a wide selection of designer labels. 377 Franklin St., Melrose, 781-662-2149;



The Nutshell

A repeat Family Favorite this year, The Nutshell carries quality clothing that will survive the most active of kids, from newborns to tweens. These are pieces you can pass down from one child to the next. Lines include Baby Lulu, KC Parker, Plum Pudding and Mullberibush. 10 Bassett St., 2nd floor, Milton, 617-698-7273;



Fritz & Gigi’s

Housed in a historic house painted a bright yellow, the shop is as welcoming on the inside as it is on the outside. You’ll find a great selection of children’s clothes here by the top American and European designers. 79 Main St. Concord, 978-369-3253;


Kids’ Special Occasion Wear


Tiny Hanger

This new children’s boutique offers unique baby and children’s clothes for the 6 and under set, including original handmade creations by local moms. Go-to place for one-of-a-kind shower gifts. 14 Pleasant St., Brookline, 617-487-5501;




Be the first to review this item!

Bookmark this

20 Jul 2012

By Susan Flynn, Rebecca Delaney and Michelle Xiarhos Curran