family travel

48 Hours In Boston With Pre-Schoolers

Widely renowned as a kid-friendly city, Boston doesn't disappoint when you need plenty of options to entertain energetic children. Push the idea of leisurely shopping along pretty Newbury Street to the back of your mind and save those buzzing bars and restaurants for another visit - Boston is an a activity-stuffed destination to share as a family. 

Boston's Children's Museum

Undoubtedly one of the best children's museums in the world, Boston Children's Museum is a place to set aside a whole day of your trip for. With three expansive floors of immersive, interactive and just plain fun "exhibits", hours will be spent getting hands-on with science completely through playing. Their idea of museums will never be the same again - here, everything can be touched and played with, and isn't there simply to look at. 

The ground floor of this playtime paradise has a climbing structure that is bound to get kids enthused  from the off. Crawling in and out and exploring higher and higher safely to the ceiling of the three-storey museum, there will come a point where parents are keen to get on and explore more but the kids are more than happy in this vertical maze. But once you manage to coax them out, they don't have to stumble far to find the ever-popular bubble exhibit, where vats of bubble mixture to create enormous bubbles will have them totally captivated (just try and prise them into a waterproof overall first). Everything is at kid height, cleverly thought-through with helpful guidance for parents too to make sure their children really get the most out of the play experiences. 

Bubbles at the Boston Children's Museum. Picture from bostonchildrensmuseum.org

Bubbles at the Boston Children's Museum. Picture from bostonchildrensmuseum.org

Next to the bubbles is a discovery zone where the focus and topic changes throughout the day. Expect anything from a demo about wind, to the chance to handle a real snake. Kids love the turtles in this section, especially as they can lie on a mat beneath and look up into the glass bottom tank. 

There's a whole section dedicated to under-4s, with a dedicated soft-play space within the zone that especially for crawlers - an often neglected age group at children's attractions. In this special pre-school area, little ones can enjoy their own water play, messy play section, a train track and toys without the risk of any bigger kids taking over. An extension of the under-4s section is the Countdown to Kindergarten room, a model classroom to introduce little ones to what life will be like at school. 

Much of our time was spent in the Construction Zone, pushing diggers and rocks around tracks, building towers (and destroying them!) and climbing over bridges. All with obligatory hard hats and hi-vis vests to bring the whole thing to life for them.  

Older children will enjoy the Kid Power exhibit, learning about how the power we put in affects the power we put out, with hands-on experiences to learn physics through having fun. Pedal power, dance mats and power pump seats bring the science to life for them. 

Boston Children's Museum is open Monday to Saturday. Children under one are free, everyone else is $16 each. 

Visiting Fenway Park With Little Ones

The famous Fenway Park Ballpark. Picture from Fenway Park. 

The famous Fenway Park Ballpark. Picture from Fenway Park. 

Getting in on the local sports action is a good way to absorb the atmosphere and excitement of a city whether you're travelling with children or not. A trip to Fenway Park, the charmingly painted wooden stadium that's home to the Boston Red Sox, is a family-friendly activity to join in the joviality of Bostonians as they proudly cheer on their famous baseball team. Tickets in the CVS Family Stand mean a no-alcohol policy and the assurance that you're surrounded by other families just wanting a fun evening out and to take it all in. Popcorn, candy floss and ice cream are sugary snacks available to keep little ones in their seats for as long as possible, and an obligatory foam finger could help too. But although the whole game might still be too big an ask depending on the age of your children, it's still a worthwhile adventure to experience the vintage charm of this historic Ballpark. 

Visit Fenway Park online to see if there's a ball game on during your visit. If not, there are daily tours of the stadium.

Legoland Discovery Center, Boston

One of the indoor rides at Legoland Discovery Center. Picture from Legoland Boston.

One of the indoor rides at Legoland Discovery Center. Picture from Legoland Boston.

In the Somerville area of the city, adjacent to the Assembly Row outlet shopping centre, is Boston's Legoland Discovery Center. Unlike our Legoland in the UK, this is an indoor play centre that's a good two or three hour activity, depending on the age of your children. It's most suitable for kids aged two to ten. There's a couple of indoor rides, a 4D cinema, opportunities to build lego structures throughout, and an impressive Lego Boston construction that's completely interactive. Especially for pre-schoolers, there's a small Duplo farm section with soft play and a slide. Certainly worth a visit if you're unlucky enough to get rain on your visit, or if you've got some time between other activities. 

Legoland Discovery Center is open seven days a week and under twos are free. Older children are is $18.50 and adults are $23, although savings can be made by booking online in advance.   

Boston Common

In the summertime, Boston enjoys warm and sunny days and locals and tourists gather in Boston's biggest open space to sunbathe and play, giving the park a lively and friendly atmosphere. The tadpole playground within Boston Common has a magnetic effect on children with its water jets and sprays to cool off in. Parents can enjoy the 360 degree Boston skyline from this spot. There are plenty of kiosks serving cold drinks and ice cream - much like New York's Central Park on a smaller scale. Boston Common is also the starting place of the city's famous Freedom Trail, a 2.5mile red line that you follow through the city with 16 major historic landmarks on the way.  

Best Family Hotels in Boston

The Freedom Trail Family Suite at the Omni Parker House hotel, Boston. Picture from Omni Parker House.

The Freedom Trail Family Suite at the Omni Parker House hotel, Boston. Picture from Omni Parker House.

Choosing a city hotel that's suitable for a young family isn't always the easiest task. The room has to be spacious enough for the brood, suit mum and dad's personal taste and be welcoming to little ones. And crucially, the location has to be the perfect spot for exploring. Fortunately, Boston is a compact city that's easy to get around so choosing a neighbourhood to be the base isn't quite as important as in other cities. Staying around the Seaport area, close to the Boston's Children's Museum, is a sensible choice. There's the excellent InterContinental Boston and the luxuriously elegant Boston Harbour Hotel, that both welcome children and overlook the water and are conveniently opposite the museum. The Omni Parker House hotel has a children's Freedom Trail Suite that has bunk beds for kids, toys, and a separate sleeping area for mum and dad.

The Loews Boston is an excellent choice for families, house in the old Police Headquarters. Picture from Loews Boston.

The Loews Boston is an excellent choice for families, house in the old Police Headquarters. Picture from Loews Boston.

The Loews Hotel is Boston is housed in the old Police Headquarters. Kids are most welcome, despite the trendy Precinct Kitchen and Bar that attracts a big after-work crowd to its outdoor basement terrace. It still has a great menu for children and families are always accommodated and prioritised with a warm smile from staff, even during very busy times. Plus the food is fantastic. Although The Loews is decidedly business-like hotel, true of a lot of city hotels, the rooms are highly-appointed, spacious and relaxing with particularly luxurious bathrooms. Its location in the Back Bay area is lovely, as well as very handy. Although consider their Park and Stay package and let the valet take care of your hire car - you won't need it to explore this city. Most attractions are easily accessible by food, or by the simple metro system for tired little legs.  

And if you've got more time....

The slick, business-style rooms of the Loews Boston are elegant and roomy enough for young families. Picture from Loews Boston.

The slick, business-style rooms of the Loews Boston are elegant and roomy enough for young families. Picture from Loews Boston.

If you've got more than two days to explore the city, there's plenty more to keep you all occupied. Duck Tours are a hugely popular attraction to explore the city by land and water - a great way to get your bearings around the city too. Then of course, the famous Boston Freedom Trail that starts in Boston Common - this self-guided tour is something many can't miss when they visit Boston. Of course, Boston has a richer history than a lot of US cities so time could spent around the Seaport area finding out more at the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum, although it may be better if your children are a little older. Faneuil Hall is an expansive, atmospheric market hall stuffed with shops and restaurants and worth a visit if you have the time.

Getting To Boston from the UK

Travelling to Boston from the UK is straightforwards, with a choice of flights from London Heathrow everyday with Virgin Atlantic and British Airways among other airlines. Norwegian has also started flying this route from London Gatwick with very competitive prices. On arrival at Boston Logan Airport, the heart of the city is only a ten minute drive away - Boston is a very compact city with its airport right on its doorstep. Generally, flights home are overnights, which are often the best option for pre-schoolers who can (usually...) sleep the whole six-hour flight home.

For More Information

For more information, visit www.massholiday.co.uk or www.visitboston.org

MummyTravels

Lobsters and Lighthouses: A Family Guide to Cape Cod

Cape Cod, a peninsula kicking out of the east coast of the US, epitomises a glossy American beach break. It’s a sliver of the country with a proud maritime history and a buzzing sailing scene that’s high on typical Americana charm (think general stores and ice cream parlours) and low on big-business multinationals (not a Starbucks in sight). In summer, the Cape is flooded with wealthy Americans and their families escaping manic city life, retreating to their blue-grey mansions by the sea before venturing out to meander the high-end boutiques and indulge in lobster before jumping aboard a super yacht. And occasionally, British families get in on the action too, schlepping across the Atlantic to discover the appeal of this elegant corner of mainland USA and join in its outdoorsy lifestyle, experiencing whale-watching, exploring the pretty towns that pepper the Cape, and partaking in some boating and biking.  There are lighthouses to discover, rocks to clamber over, crabs to catch, and sandy beaches for master castle builders and paddling tots. And New England homes behind white picket fences along leafy streets for mummy and daddy to admire that are so impossibly perfect and so gloriously uniform that it sometimes feels you’re on holiday on a film set.

The Best Family Hotel On Cape Cod

Dusk at The Wequassett, overlooking the idyllic Pleasant Bay. Photo courtesy of The Wequassett.

Dusk at The Wequassett, overlooking the idyllic Pleasant Bay. Photo courtesy of The Wequassett.

The Wequassett Hotel & Resort is the kind of place parents would have enjoyed pre-kids. So the fact that it’s geared up for children too means it’s a winner off the bat. Set on the quiet and aptly named Pleasant Bay with a private beach, accommodation is typically pretty New England and the luxuriously appointed rooms and suites are dotted in clusters around painstakingly coiffed gardens. In fact, it’s so beautiful with views so Instagrammable that there is a steady stream of elegant, high society weddings taking place here all the time. In 2016, the hotel was deservedly awarded its fifth star by Forbes, officially making it one of the top resorts in the US. But despite fantastic facilities and variety of restaurants, room choices, children's programmes and sport and recreation, The Wequassett lacks a spa, a surprisingly hard amenity to find on Cape Cod. Perhaps the salty Atlantic air is enough to soothe away stresses in this part of the world.

The Wequassett Children's Centre. Photo courtesy of The Wequassett. 

The Wequassett Children's Centre. Photo courtesy of The Wequassett. 

The charming Wequassett Children’s Centre is home to organised activities for tots to teens, but its unparalleled facilities are open to all guests when a club is not in session, and that depends on what time of year you visit. The pirate themed playground is sure bet for hours of fun  playing in the water jets and shooting water cannons, whizzing down slides and a burning off energy in the treasure chest ball pit. When the playground is exhausted for the day (it’ll take a while, so grab a takeaway coffee from the hotel restaurant first), the beach and pool offer deep cushioned sun loungers, indulgent cabanas for parents and a chest of toys for kids. Happily, the beach is a few steps away from the pool so both can be enjoyed together. The beach, with the gently lapping water is perfect for paddling (no crashing waves here, surfers look elsewhere) and the sand couldn’t be more ideal for building sand castles.  Hop aboard the Wequassett’s sleek navy speedboat for a quick trip to Outer Beach, a strip of sand out at sea – your very own desert island, in fact – to enjoy a picnic and some exclusivity away from the crowds. The boats shuttles backwards and forwards from the hotel whenever you’re ready.

This is the type of the resort where staff glide around in Ralph Lauren uniforms, on hand to smooth your towel over your chosen sunbed and ask what factor suncream you’d like to select from their complimentary selection. Exemplary service is found throughout the resort, which is exactly what you need when holidaying with toddlers in tow. Even housekeeping is a treat not to be underestimated when travelling with little ones, but it’s the over-and-above thoughtfulness that makes the team at the Wequassett stand out: takeaway coffees and toddler snacks in a mini cool bag appear as if by magic at your breakfast table if they know you’re off on day trip; a movie night with freshly made popcorn and a great film selection arranged tout suite and selections of lovely toys and books in the room on demand. Concierge is as it should be: informative, knowledgeable and genuinely useful in activity planning. Nothing is too much trouble, and if it is, the smiling faces at the Wequassett sure don’t let on. And it would appear that staff are briefed to learn every guest’s name that they call out with a cheery “hello!” as they zoom past on golf buggies.

What To Do On A Cape Cod Holiday

Cape Cod has a lot that appeals to pre-schoolers that are too young to enjoy one of the region’s main draws – whale watching. But for older children, whale watching is a must-do activity to see these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat and learn how whales have shaped this region of the world so pertinently.

The Cape is dotted with idyllic towns, seemingly unchanged since the 1950s and with a notable and welcome absence of prolific high street brands, drawing you into the local way of life with their family run shops, cafes and restaurants housed in picturesque clapperboard and wooden shuttered buildings that are still perfect despite being weather-beaten from the crueller winter weather and bleached from summer sunshine. Ice cream parlours are abundant in these towns, offering scores of flavours, toppings and sauces in portions so enormous that a family could share one serving. All to be enjoyed on the painted benches outside, to watch ambling tourists pass-by indulging in a gentler pace of life away from the city. A hire car is a necessity to get out to explore these little towns - Chatham is particularly lovely, along with its lighthouse and pristine beach.

The Cape Cod Children’s Museum is a good option for little ones, especially for the odd overcast day that is not uncommon in amongst pleasantly warm (and sometimes hot) days. It’s more of a play centre than a museum, but has a deliberately educational tone, and a good couple of hours can be spent exploring the submarine, the train and the boat. Then there's shopping to be done in the play market, ball games to play, books to read and more. It’s small, but well thought-through, with varied activities for children, most suitable for one-year-olds and over.

Cape Cod is crisscrossed with long, smooth and easy bike trails and however old your children, there’s an option to take them along for the ride. Whether that’s an extra seat on the back, a pull-along trailer, a tandem or their own bike, bike rental shops are easy to find in towns near a bike trail. We hired bikes from the helpful staff at Orleans Cycle and cycled ten miles to the Cape Cod National Seashore for a picnic. It’s an ideal half or full day activity, but days on end could be spent exploring the Cape on these old railroad routes for more energetic families.

Day Trips to Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket from Cape Cod

Brant Point Lighthouse, Nantucket

Brant Point Lighthouse, Nantucket

There are two islands south of Cape Cod – Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard – that are easy day trips by one-hour ferry from the Cape. The former is an uber-cool haven, known to locals as Ack, and draws celebrities and a well-heeled crowd that cruise around the cobbled street in Range Rovers. The latter, famed as a destination for vacationing US Presidents, attracts coach-trippers and retirees, although trendier spots are still abundant on this pretty island once you move away from the tourist traps. For day-tripping families, both islands boast child-friendly beaches and any-fool local buses to get around the islands to seek out pretty towns for shopping (try Vineyard Vines and Black Dog for some typical Islander gear), obligatory ice cream parlours (try Scoops in Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard, or the Juice Bar in 'downtown' Nantucket), and harbours to admire sailing boats and super yachts and a glimpse into the wonderfully nautical way of life of these Islands.

The two main ferry operators, Hy-Line and Steamship Authority, offer frequent shuttles from Cape Cod to the Islands, especially during the busy summer season. 

Eating Out On Cape Cod

Despite its micro-culture, Cape Cod, much like the rest of the US outside the major cities, appears to exist on a diet of burgers, fries and macaroni cheese and ice cream. Except in the case of the Cape, lobster is part of a standard menu too. For more varied cuisine, seek out higher end restaurants, although we instinctively avoided these with our two noisy boys in tow. Fortunately, we benefitted from the fabulous food at the Wequassett’s Twenty-Eight Atlantic restaurant and its sister eatery, Thoreaus. So not to disturb unsuspecting diners, we decamped to the hotel lawn overlooking the bay for dinner, with the ever-obliging hotel and restaurant staff happy to accommodate our venue choice. This way, we could enjoy exceptional sea view in relative peace.  

When To Go To Cape Cod

There’s a definite 'season' on Cape Cod. Reportedly quiet and shuttered-up in the winter, this is a place that comes alive in late spring as the restaurants reopen and the season in full swing by July when the weather is almost guaranteed until early autumn. Some resorts are open year-round.

Getting To Cape Cod From The UK

Getting to Cape Cod from the UK is surprisingly straight forward. A reasonable six-and-a-half hour hop across the Atlantic to Boston is a do-able flight time with toddlers, especially when you consider pre-schooler holiday stalwarts of Tenerife or Cyprus are a four-and-a-half hour flight. And throwing in the bonus of complimentary meals and drinks (and ice cream with Virgin Atlantic) plus decent in-flight entertainment it’s an option worth weighing up. Hire an SUV for all the family and their luggage at Boston and then it’s only a 90-minute drive to get right to the heart of the Cape.

Useful Information 

To stay at the Wequassett, book directly with hotel by visiting www.wequassett.com. Or for a package holiday including flights and transfers, try www.scottdunn.co.uk. Virgin Atlantic and British Airways both fly direct to Boston. For car hire, www.hertz.co.uk were especially helpful sorting out the necessary car seats we required. And for more information about the region visit www.massholiday.co.uk. To really maximise your time in the region, consider spending a few nights on one of the Islands - Martha's Vineyard or Nantucket - with a pit stop in Boston to make the most of the fantastic children's facilities before returning to the UK.