Welcome to Boston! Whether you are moving to the area or are simply here visiting for a few days, we’ve got you covered. This handy guide highlights ways to get around town, activities for all types of weather, kid-friendly restaurants, and places to stay.
Boston is a relatively small city comprised of several neighborhoods, including downtown Boston, Allston/Brighton, Charlestown (where the movie “The Town” takes place), South End, North End (our version of Little Italy), South Boston (also known as Southie), Back Bay, Beacon Hill, Chinatown, Hyde Park, Fenway/Kenmore (where Fenway Park is located), East Boston (where Logan airport is located), Mattapan, Dorchester, Roslindale, Roxbury, West Roxbury, West End, and Jamaica Plain. While not technically part of Boston, some surrounding cities, including Cambridge, Somerville, Brookline, and Newton, are also part of the Boston metro area and are accessible by “T” (our public transit system).
Being so far north, many people think of winter and snow when they think of Boston. And while we have been known for massive blizzards (hello, winter of 2015!), we are definitely a four-season city. It gets quite hot and humid in the summertime, reaching the 90s (and occasionally into the triple digits) during the peak of summer in July and August. Of course, the most beautiful time to come is in the fall!
Getting Around Boston
Because of its small size, Boston is extremely walkable. With its many winding one-way roads, it is recommended to get around by foot or public transportation and to avoid driving, especially if you are just coming for a visit.
It is really easy to get around Boston by the MBTA (or the “T”), our local public transportation system. Nearly all the stops on the train are accessible by elevator, as are the majority of the bus stops.
There are four main railway lines: the Red Line (which goes to Somerville and Cambridge), the Green Line (goes to Newton and Brookline and splits to the B, C, D, and E lines), the Orange Line (which also connects to parts of Somerville), and the Blue Line (which goes out to beach towns just north of Boston). There are also many buses to connect the areas that are not near T stops. Google Maps is a safe bet for helping you to navigate Boston by public transportation.
If you will be in town for just a few days and intend to ride the T only a handful of times, try to get a reusable Charlie Card. You load money on it and can use it on all railway and bus lines, and it will save you some money versus paying as you go. It’s only available at certain stops, so be sure to check if you can get one at the stop nearest you. You can also purchase day and week passes if you intend to ride the T a lot. Children under 11 years old ride for free on public transportation when accompanied by an adult.
The MBTA also includes several ferries, connecting Charlestown, the parts of Boston near the New England Aquarium and Logan Airport, as well as Hull and Hingham (two towns south of Boston).
Driving around Boston can be confusing if you are unfamiliar with the area, and parking can be limited, especially in the wintertime when there may be parking bans due to snow. Many neighborhoods have much of their parking reserved for local residents. Unless you intend to stay outside the city or do a fair amount of traveling to the outlying suburbs, public transportation is recommended.
If you are arriving in Boston by train, bus, or plane, it is extremely easy to reach other parts of Boston by T. Logan Airport is just a short ride to downtown Boston on either the Silver Line (a bus that connects to the Red Line at South Station) or the Blue Line. The Silver Line stops at all the terminals at Logan Airport and has the additional benefit of being free when you get on at the airport.
Where to Stay in Boston
Lodging in Boston can be on the pricier end, though there are ample hotels from which to choose. If you are staying downtown, expect to pay more than if you are staying in one of the towns immediately surrounding Boston, such as Brookline, Cambridge, or Somerville. We have many of the big-name chain hotels, as well as some smaller boutique-style hotels.
Airbnb is also a popular choice, and you can often find more affordable options to accommodate your entire family.
If you come in May, expect prices to jump, as there are a large number of universities in the Boston area, and May is prime time for graduations. The same is true in April during Patriot’s Day weekend, when the Boston Marathon takes place.
Dining in Boston
You can find all types of kid-friendly restaurants and cuisine in and around Boston, from brunch in the Cambridge/Somerville area to outdoor dining options in the summer months. There are a ton of options every day of the week where kids can eat cheap — or free!
If you are looking for a sweet treat, check out one of the fine doughnut or ice cream establishments in the area. Want to grab a pint? We have a great selection of kid-friendly pubs. And if you’re looking for a night out with your partner, we have a list of lounges we highly recommend.
Boston Public Market near the Haymarket T stop, a relatively new indoor market, is like a cross between a farmers market and a very nice food court. It features prepared food, produce, and other local products from around the Boston area. There are tables to eat at and a little play area for kids, and it’s open before any of the local attractions are if you are looking for breakfast and a way to keep the kids entertained in the morning.
Here are a few more of our favorite places to dine…
With the kids
- Brassica Kitchen (Jamaica Plain) :: A cozy little restaurant located near the Forest Hills T station featuring American fare.
- Ashmont Grill (Dorchester) :: Open for lunch on Fridays, brunch on the weekends, and dinner every night, Ashmont Grill serves homey American food.
- UBurger (various locations) :: This local fast-food-style chain located in Boston features fresh, quality ingredients.
- Tatte (various locations) :: A cafe and bakery with the most delicious baked goods. Check out the one on Charles Street for breakfast or lunch and then walk around for the perfect tourist experience.
- Sweet Cheeks (Fenway) :: Southern-style fare made with local and responsibly sourced meats and produce.
- Flatbread (Somerville) :: Delicious pizza sourced with local ingredients located right in Davis Square. The Somerville location also has candlepin bowling.
- Zaftigs Delicatessen (Brookline) :: Kosher-style deli with delicious homestyle meals, sandwiches, bagels, and brunch. Located in Coolidge Corner on the Green Line (C line).
For a date night
- Painted Burro (Somerville) :: An upscale Mexican restaurant and tequila bar located in the heart of Davis Square.
- Stephanie’s on Newbury (Back Bay) :: Located on the upscale Newbury Street, Stephanie’s serves “sophisticated comfort food.”
- Barcelona (Brookline) :: This wine bar and restaurant serves Spanish tapas. It’s located near the Washington Square stop of the Green Line (C Line).
- Petit Robert Bistro (South End) :: Delicious French food.
Things to Do in Boston
There are a plethora of kid-friendly museums and attractions in the immediate Boston vicinity that are all accessible by public transportation. And of course, if you are here during baseball season, be sure to see the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park!
Museums and Zoos
- Boston Children’s Museum :: A wonderful museum by the Boston waterfront, geared especially to children.
- Museum of Science :: Located in Cambridge, this fantastic science museum will keep everyone in your family entertained for hours!
- New England Aquarium :: Our aquarium, located right in downtown Boston, features a lovely penguin exhibit and a large tank with a winding path around it.
- Harvard Museum of Natural History :: Located in Harvard Square in Cambridge, this fun museum features a glass flower exhibit, wildlife from New England and around the world, and so much more.
- Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) :: This museum overlooking the water features a wonderful selection of art.
- USS Constitution Museum :: Learn about life on “Old Ironsides” in the early 1800s with hands-on exhibits. Then you can also explore the ship itself!
- Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) :: This museum features nearly 500,000 works of art, spanning all parts of the globe from different periods of time, from ancient Egypt to modern photography. Be sure to check out tips for touring the MFA with your little ones.
- JFK Museum and Library :: Located in South Boston, this museum honors our nation’s 35th president, with recordings and exhibits about the hallmarks of his presidency.
- Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum :: Located in the Fenway neighborhood, the museum features a gorgeous courtyard garden and beautiful art exhibits.
- Mary Baker Eddy Library :: One of the highlights of this museum, located near Copley Square, is the Maparium, a gorgeous three-story stained glass globe.
Parks and Public Spaces
- Franklin Park Zoo :: Great zoo open year-round. It is located in Boston but can be a little tricky to get to by public transportation. There is ample parking if you decide to drive.
- Arnold Arboretum :: A national historic landmark occupying 281 acres. Use the Forest Hills T station on the Orange Line.
- Boston Common and Boston Public Garden :: Right in the heart of downtown Boston near the Park Street T station (Red and Green Lines), Boston Common has a splash pad/wading pool in the summer that turns into an ice skating rink in the winter. The “Make Way for Ducklings” statue is located in the Public Garden.
- Quincy Market/Faneuil Hall :: With restaurants, large shopping chains, shops selling little trinkets, a massive food hall, and entertainers, you will find something for everyone here. Located near the Government Center (Green Line) T station.
- Bunker Hill Monument :: Climb up this famous monument where the Battle of Bunker Hill took place in 1775 during the Revolutionary War. Enjoy a picnic lunch on the lush green lawn surrounding it or stroll around Charlestown. Located near the Bunker Hill T stop on the Orange Line.
- Boston Harbor Islands :: Hop on a ferry and enjoy a day spent in nature, either going for a hike or relaxing on the beach on one of eight islands just outside Boston. Ferries are located next to the Boston Aquarium.
If you want to get a feel for the city and see more sites, there is a great selection of tours in Boston.
- Duck Tour :: Learn about the history of Boston on this vehicle made for both land and sea. The tours leave from various locations.
- Freedom Trail :: If you walk through Boston, you may notice a red line painted along some of the streets. This 2.5-mile line takes you through 16 historic sites. You can either walk the line yourself (try an audio tour) or get a guided tour, which you can catch right outside the Park Street T station.
Be sure to check out our latest weekend activity roundups for even more current inspiration!
- Newbury Street :: This street is full of upscale boutiques, art galleries, and cafes. Start at either the Hynes Convention or Copley stations on the B, C, or D branches of the Green Line.
- Prudential Center :: A high-end mall located right by Prudential Station on the E branch of the Green Line or a short walk from Copley station on the other lines. There is also the Skywalk Observatory, where you can get panoramic views of Boston.
- Assembly Row :: This newly revitalized neighborhood in Somerville features outlet shopping for kids and adults, as well as a great selection of restaurants — plus Legoland! Be sure to check out the Slumbrew beer garden, which has a delicious selection of local beers from this Somerville brewery, and games and toys for kids.
- Beacon Hill :: Get off at Charles Street on the Red Line and stroll this historic neighborhood, which is full of cute little shops and cafes.
- SoWa :: Outdoor market on Sundays in the South End during the spring and summer featuring food trucks, local artisans, and a farmers market.
- New England Open Markets :: Another outdoor market featuring artisans from May to October. On Saturdays, it takes place along the Rose Kennedy Greenway, near the North End and the New England Aquarium. On Sundays, it is in the South End.
Some other fun neighborhoods to shop in include Coolidge Corner (Brookline), Harvard Square (Cambridge), Davis Square (Somerville), and Centre Street in Jamaica Plain (Boston). All these neighborhoods are full of interesting local shops mixed with some major chains, cafes, and family-friendly restaurants. If you are looking for some thrift shops specializing in kids clothing and accoutrements, we’ve got you covered!
For even more great resources, be sure to check out our family directory, which includes indoor play areas, parks, playgrounds, and so much more!