Boston actually reminded me a bit of our native city of Ghent. Sounds surprising, right? They obviously don’t compare in terms of size or architecture but they do share the same spirit of historic rebellion, student centricity and conviviality. That might explain why the city appealed to us from the very start. With plenty of time to explore the city we didn’t just have summer fun. We actually learned a lot about Boston’s heritage too. So here it is, our selection of educational activities and visits.
As you know, Boston played a huge role in the American Revolution. There are several ways to learn about the city’s historical identity, here’s a selection:
@ The Tea Party Museum
The Boston Tea Party Museum is by far the best museum experience we’ve ever had with kids. As soon we entered, we became a Son or Daughter of Liberty in December 1773. Each visitor is given a new identity, one of a historic patriot, and a feather for disguise.
The actors who take the stand make it very interactive, they do a great job engaging all visitors. Huzzah! Let the fun begin! From there, we headed to the beautifully restored ships where the girls got to throw the tea over board.
We were allowed to take pictures of this part of the tour but had to put the camera away when entering the museum. But here’s a video to give you an idea of what followed next.
As you can see, the story continues with holographic displays, talking paintings and a multi-sensory film. This last element was a bit too violent for our girls, who are not used to seeing that kind of action in their fairytale-bubble. It was a bit confronting and so they looked away for most part. Those scenes were soon forgotten in Abigail’s tea room, where we enjoyed a delicious treat and a good old-fashioned board game in the company of historic characters. Oh, and let’s not forget the souvenir shop with some of the cutest finds!
The tour lasts for 1 hour, which is just right to keep the kids entertained. It is such an amazing interactive experience and truly brings history to life so that kids can envision the actual events. Without any doubt, it’s the best way to discover this part of Boston’s heritage.
@ The Freedom Trail
Boston’s Freedom Trail is 2.5-mile route indicated by a red brick line. It takes you to 16 historically significant sites that all played an important part in the American Revolution.
Everyone is free to follow the trail but you can also book a guided tour, which is what we did. Costumed guide and historical figure “James Otis” took us to 12 of the 16 sites, which are not too far apart. The tour is very entertaining and offers many interesting facts about this aspect of Boston’s heritage. The remaining 4 landmarks are further apart and we visited those on our own.
Just the fact of following the red trail and the entertaining guide, makes it pretty fun for the kids. We brought their scooter so that they were able to enjoy it even more. If we hadn’t visited the Tea Party Museum before walking the trail, they might have not understood what it was all about. But thanks to the interactive museum experience, they did. That’s why we advise to respect this particular order.
Education is Boston’s beating heart, mostly thanks to the presence of Harvard University and MIT, two of the most renowned educational institutions in the world.
We took the student-lead tour on the Harvard campus. The student who guided us around was a great entertainer and had many fun facts to share. Although I must admit that the tour was a bit boring for the kids since they don’t really understand English. But they did appreciate the beautiful Harvard Yard en enjoyed a well-deserved ice-cream treat after the tour.
We didn’t take a campus tour at MIT but we did visit the MIT museum. It was, well, not what we had expected. We were ready to see the newest, most innovative ideas, techniques and inventions but that’s not what the museum is about. It features the innovations from many years ago which we found a bit disappointing.
You can’t go to Boston without visiting Fenway Park, the oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball and home to the Boston Red Sox. How’s that for watching your first ever baseball game? The entertainment before the game was fun, especially for the girls.
Since we have no clue about baseball rules, we enjoyed the atmosphere more than the actual game and had a great time. We were surprised about how long it lasted so we gave up after about 2,5 hours. The Detroit Tigers ended up winning anyway.
The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum offers a glimpse in Isabella Stewart Gardner’s private collection of paintings, tapestries and sculptures from European, Asian, and American artists. The entrance is located in a modern building so it looks like a normal museum. But when you take the glass pathway, you arrive at the most amazing courtyard of a home modeled after a Venetian palace. It’s so beautiful that even the kids went quiet – which doesn’t happen very often, trust me. 🙂
Every room of the house, and every inch of those rooms, is decorated with an eclectic collection of art in all forms: ceilings, furniture, utensils, books… It’s such an unusual sight but a bit overwhelming. Luckily the amazing courtyard views greet you every time you switch rooms, which is a welcome break for the senses.
The individual items are not labeled, which apparently was Isabella Gardner’s will. Instead, you can take a leaflet in each room to identify each and every piece. It takes some time to locate the different items, though. We tended to loose focus because there’s just too much to take in. Luckily the girls came to the rescue. They saw it as a kind of scavenger hunt.
Boston’s heritage through a kid’s eyes
We obviously don’t expect the kids to remember every aspect of our exploration of Boston’s heritage. That would be highly unrealistic. But by giving them a glimpse of the city’s soul, we hope that they will have some recollection of what Boston is all about. Now, almost a year later, they do remember the red line, the costumed guide and the museum experience. Every time they bring it up, we fill in the blanks to keep the memories alive. It would be interesting to visit Boston again in a few years and see what they actually remember. And if we do, you’ll be among the firsts to know!
Of course we didn’t just get our shot of culture in Boston, we also had some good old summer fun. Click here to find out where to find the best spots for FREE summer fun in Boston.
Have you taken your kid(s) on an exploration of Boston’s heritage? Or did you make a similar trip to another city? We want to hear all about your experience and recommendations!