Dear Boston Mamas, Growing up in the suburb of Belmont, I recall entertaining myself by hopping the bus to Harvard Square, eating copious amounts of Ranc's ice cream, skinny dipping in Walden Pond, and stealing traffic cones. As I sit pondering a visit back to Massachusetts later this month with my almost 2-year old daughter, I certainly hope to let her enjoy two of those activities, but am looking for some ideas on what else we can do. Thoughts and ideas on fun activities for a youngster in and around Boston would be appreciated!
Thanks for writing in; I'm glad you're returning to offer your daughter (some of) the fun experiences of your youth in the Boston area!
First, check out a previous Dear Boston Mamas column on enjoying summer in Boston with kids. In this column I share some of my favorite activities to enjoy with kids in the city, and also cover a few specifics such as ice cream (though you already have that covered), toy stores, and baseball (off a Red Sox budget). This post is an excellent place to get started.
Aside from that, I have a few other things I wanted to mention, specifically because you will have a toddler in tow and given your former tie to the town of Belmont:
1. Not surprisingly, Boston Common and the Public Garden are among my favorite Boston spots, and this is especially the case when you have toddlers in tow. To start, you probably should snap some photos of your daughter hanging onto the Make Way For Duckling statues (they're at the corner entrance close to Charles Street). And then the other elements that make this spot great for toddlers (aside from the soft grass to land on) is the playground, spray pond, carousel, and Swan Boats. And if your daughter decides to take a nap, you can settle her in the stroller and browse Charles, Newbury, and Boylston. Extra bonus: the parking garage is right under the Common so if you really need to run back to the car to get something, it's not an onerous task.
2. I'm also really fond of the area down by the Aquarium for similar reasons. A visit to the Aquarium itself is a bit spendy, but is a worthy splurge if you don't have a good aquarium at home. Also, see if you can get admission passes via a local library (if you are staying with people who have a library card). Or simply wander by the outside tank to show your daughter the sea critters then head over to the Rose F. Kennedy Greenway and enjoy a carousel ride or head over to Christopher Columbus Park to enjoy the playground and water play. And if your daughter can tolerate a restaurant visit, I'd recommend Sel de la Terre, which is right next by. It's a lovely spot for grownups and they even have a kids menu.
3. Finally, if you decide to visit Belmont, it has changed considerably in the last 20 years. First, Ranc's, which you mentioned, recently moved to Belmont Center. And though there's been a lot of retail turnover (you'll notice empty storefronts), Belmont Center remains home to several excellent restaurants, including options for Indian, Italian, Thai, and Japanese/Korean food, as well as Stone Hearth Pizza Company, which sources organic and local and is super kid friendly. There's also a very good toy store in Belmont Center that your daughter likely would love, and some cute women's boutiques (again, if your daughter falls asleep or is patient while you browse).
I hope this information is helpful. Enjoy your visit back to Boston!
Image credit: Friends of the Public Garden
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.