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What's Fun for Kids in Boston

whatsfun_art

1. LIBERTY WALK Follow the red brick road on The Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile distinctive red line in the sidewalk that winds along 16 historic sites (617-357-8300), including the Old North Church and Paul Revere's home. Try a leg of it on your own with a Freedom Trail kids' guidebook ($6.95 at the Boston Common Visitor Center at the start of the trail), or check out Boston by Little Feet, which tailors its tours to children ages 6 to 12 (617-367-2345). Visitors with little legs might also like a ride on a Boston Duck Tour. Quack at passers-by -- and don't be surprised if even the most proper Bostonians quack back -- as you navigate the city by land and water in a refurbished WWII amphibious vehicle (617-267-DUCK).

2. BEST MUSEUMS Create a virtual fish and see the 3-D film Bugs! at the Museum of Science, Boston (617-723-2500), or whip up a roomful of bubbles at the Children's Museum on Congress Street (617-426-8855), which features a climbing wall and a new interactive exhibit that teaches kids about the city's multicultural neighborhoods. The Museum of Fine Arts in the lively Fenway cultural district offers a Children's Room for ages 6 to 12 with weekly workshops and Family Activity Books to help plan self-guided tours (617-267-9300).

3. OUT TO SEA Play sea captain aboard the Voyager III catamaran, departing from the New England Aquarium at Central Wharf. Families are guaranteed to see whales or else they're given a free ticket for another trip. Landlubbers can get an up-close-and-personal view of penguins, sharks, and eels at the aquarium or duck into the Simons IMAX theater for rainy-day virtual entertainment (617-973-5200). Later, take advantage of the water shuttle linking the aquarium to the Charlestown Navy Yard to visit the famous "Old Ironsides" (the USS Constitution) at the National Park (617-426-1812).

4. ON THE POND Cool off at the Boston Common Frog Pond, which offers daily activities in the summertime and a wading pool just right for even the smallest visitors. In winter, the pond converts to a skating rink complete with rentals, a warming area, and snacks, all within view of Beacon Hill and the gold-domed State House. For more skating fun in the winter months, head over to The Charles Hotel in Harvard Square (800-882-1818), which features a new rink just outside and snacks from the hotel's highly rated Henrietta's Table restaurant.

5. DELICIOUS! Tempt young taste buds at the Four Seasons Teddy Bear Tea (617-351-2037), or tuck into the Harry Potter-themed Little Jo menu at The Colonnade Hotel's Brasserie Jo restaurant (800-962-3030); it features such unusual offerings as Breakfast of Quidditch Champions and Hogwarts Hot Dogs with Broomstick Fries. Enjoy the 3-D menu at Skipjack's seafood restaurant, with kid-friendly options like the Moby Dick Crispy Fish and Chips Basket (617-536-3500). Scout out dessert in the North End, Boston's Italian neighborhood; your children can enjoy the Italian pastries while you sip a cappuccino at Caffé Graffiti (617-367-3016), or you can indulge in an authentic cannoli at Mike's Pastry nearby (617-742-3050). Love Chinese food? Go all out for dim sum at the China Pearl restaurant in the heart of Chinatown (617-426-4338).

6. SOUVENIR CITY Don't miss the shops and restaurants, ranging from FunUsual for kitsch to the Bull Market pushcarts in the market halls, at the lively Fanueil Hall Marketplace and Quincy Market. In fine weather, visitors sit outside and watch mimes and musicians, or you can head inside to the Quincy Market Colonnade for a riotous profusion of meals and desserts to tempt even the most finicky young palate.

7. HARVARD YARD Cross the Charles River for a jaunt to Cambridge, where children can rollerblade or bike along the Esplanade, map the stars at the Charles Hayden Planetarium, or hop on a scenic boat ride along the river. Visit Calliope in Harvard Square to revel in stuffed animals and puppets (617-876-4149), followed by a stop in Susi's a Gallery for Children, where kids paint their own souvenirs, like T-shirts and picture frames, while parents shop for one-of-a-kind items. Reserve ahead for a half-day session in summer (617-876-7874). Stimulate reading at Curious George Goes to Wordsworth, also in the square, where kids can seek out everyday favorites and hard-to-find classics (617-498-0062). Henry Bear's Park offers more books, along with an extensive selection of games and toys for babies to tweens (617-547-8424). For lunch, try Mr. Bartley's Burger Cottage (617-354-6559), a local institution where students have been enjoying oversize burgers for generations.

8. WHAT'S FOR DESSERT? Try a frappe -- Bostonian for a milk shake -- at J.P. Licks Homemade Ice Cream, a "Best of Boston" pick with several downtown locations offering everything from its trademark hand-dipped and soft-serve ice cream to figure friendly low-fat options including an amazing chocolate one. (Be sure to note the cow mascot that adorns the stores.) Or pair a microbrewed soda with super-premium ice cream at Emack & Bolio's on Newbury Street (617-536-7127) or award-winning Herrell's Ice Cream, another local favorite, known for its stir-in toppings and hot fudge sauce (617-497-2179).

9. GOOD SPORTS Catch Red Sox fever at Fenway Park or take in a Celtics basketball game at the soon-to-be-renamed FleetCenter, both accessible via Boston's subway (known as the "T" to locals). Or take a more low-key approach to sports by tossing a Frisbee in the Fens, a park in Boston's Back Bay area known for its picturesque Rose and Victory gardens, with plenty of room for birdwatching and picnicking with the kids.

10. ANIMAL FAIR Play find-the-animal-sculptures around town and let kids pose with their favorites. Don't miss the 12-foot-tall bronze bear in front of the Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts New England Medical Center, the 3,000-pound marble Foo dogs at the base of China Gate in Chinatown, the bronze dolphins at the New England Aquarium, the copper grasshopper weather vane over Fanueil Hall, and of course, the bronze ducklings in the Public Garden, inspired by Robert McCloskey's Make Way for Ducklings. In warm weather, line up for a ride in the famous Swan Boats -- sculptures unto themselves -- that have plied the Public Garden lagoon since 1877.

THE RITZ-CARLTON, BOSTON Enjoy elegant rooms at this newly restored property overlooking the Public Garden. There's even a Children's Suite ($795 a night) with colorful furnishings and a high-tech entertainment center. Rates range from $375 to $950 for a deluxe garden suite. 15 Arlington St.; 617-536-5700; www.ritzcarlton.com.

FOUR SEASONS HOTEL BOSTON A rooftop pool with fabulous views and spacious guest rooms make this worth the splurge. Supply your kids' ages before arrival for customized welcome amenities. Rooms begin at $325 a night. 200 Boylston St.; 800-819-5053; www.fourseasons.com.

THE COLONNADE HOTEL Cool off at the rooftop pool and enjoy the location in Boston's Back Bay near Copley Place and the Boston Common. Prices range from $179 to $295, but ask about the Summer Meltdown package through Labor Day. 120 Huntington Ave.; 800-962-3030; www.colonnadehotel.com.

WESTIN COPLEY PLACE HOTEL An indoor pool and skywalk to the shops in Copley Place make the Westin great for visitors. Kids (and dogs!) receive a welcome gift; at bedtime, settle into the company's trademark Heavenly Beds (infants get Heavenly Cribs). Rates start at $169 a night, or ask about the Family Affair package (from $259) with a trolley tour, breakfast, and a copy of Make Way for Ducklings. 10 Huntington Ave.; 888-625-5144; www.starwoodhotels.com.

OMNI PARKER HOUSE HOTEL At this Beacon Hill landmark (Parker House rolls sound familiar?), kids receive a welcome gift, loaner toys, and more. The hotel is within shouting distance of the Freedom Trail and Quincy Market. Rates begin at $159 a night. 60 School St., 800-THE-OMNI; www.omniparkerhouse.com.

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Copyright © 2005. Reprinted with permission from the June/July 2005 issue of Child magazine.