We are visiting Boston this summer (from Ireland) with 3 kids (12, 10 and 5) and are looking for recommended kid-friendly restaurants, some free activities, best ice-cream, best toy shops, etc. We will have 10 days in Cape Cod then 10 days in Concord. We will have a car, and the house we are staying at in Concord is close to the train station so the plan would be to take the train into Boston.
Thanks for writing in! I'm thrilled that you and your family have chosen Boston for your summer vacation. You will enjoy amazing slices of Massachusetts by virtue of experiencing the beaches of Cape Cod as well as the bucolic and urban natures of Concord and Boston.
There's so much to do here! Here are some general recommendations to get you started:
And now on to your specific requests:
Kid-friendly restaurants. I have highlighted several family-friendly restaurants in my Local Food & Drink archives, but as became clear through some of my correspondence (here and on Facebook and Twitter) about Easter dining with kids, I think restaurants all across the city have taken note of the fact that local parents love good food and want to bring their kids into the experience as well (i.e., so far we have yet to visit a restaurant that hasn't accommodated our family well!). If you have a specific cuisine in mind, let me know and I can drum up some specifics, but otherwise, I'd simply identify restaurants that meet your price, location, and appetite, and charge forward.
Best ice-cream. Depending on when you are coming to town, the Jimmy Fund Scooper Bowl will be running June 8 - 10, during which you'll get a sense for why ice cream is a big deal around here. Otherwise, you can't go wrong with a visit to J.P. Licks, Christina's, or I'm of course partial to Rancatore's, having scooped countless gallons of ice cream there during my youth.
Best toy shops. One lovely thing about the Boston area is that many of the surrounding communities have town centers featuring independent toy shops (such as the Toy Shop of Concord -- worth a visit since you'll be staying in Concord!). Then there are indie shops that have grown so much that they have multiple locations. Magic Beans is one of my favorites -- owners Sheri and Eli Gurock are remarkable people and business owners who are incredibly passionate about their work, and I find it impossible to leave one of their shops empty handed. Henry Bear's Park and Stellabella Toys also have multiple locations and great selections for all ages.
Baseball. You didn't ask about this, but if you aren't already aware, baseball is HUGE in Boston. However, getting to a Red Sox game with a large family can be challenging -- both financially and logistically. So, if you want to soak up some baseball in a family friendly environment, consider heading south to the Brockton Rox or north to the Lowell Spinners. Both minor league options are inexpensive and super family friendly.
On the go reference. Finally, if you want to have a family travel guide handy with you while you're out and about, I recommend Kim Foley MacKinnon's new book, Boston Baby: A Field Guide for Urban Parents. Again, don't be put off by the word "baby" in the title. This is a nice slim volume that's easy to tote and is filled with lots of recommendations for family-friendly food and adventures.
I hope this is helpful. Have a fantastic time visiting Massachusetts!
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Have a question for Christine? Drop her a line! And of course feel free to comment in if you have recommendations beyond those made above.