The Complete Guide to Tours in Boston for Families
Boston is one of our favorite cities to visit as a family, and the best place to splurge on Tours in Boston. You can read more about visiting Boston with kids here. Between the beautiful weather (April-Nov) and the rich history, you cannot go wrong on any local tour. If you enjoy exploring new cities with your family, and exposing your children to history and learning opportunities, this is the city for you! We loved Worldschooling in Boston!
Below, you will find the best tours in Boston for families, our personal reviews of them, and why we would or would not recommend each tour.
The Boston Duck Tour
Boston Duck Tours is one of the most iconic tours in the city of Boston. In 90 minutes, this tour was a good overview of the major Boston attractions. Your family will ride aboard a “duck,” or a combination land and sea vehicle, and travel through most of Boston’s 18 unique neighborhoods. Your “conDucktor” will point out historical sites, architecture, fun facts, celebrity sightings, and more over a 90 minute tour. The vehicles are equipped with handicap access, and are comfortable in both warm and cold weather.
We took the Boston Duck Tour in November. While it was cold outside, the vehicles had plastic zip down windows that kept us comfortable. The downside was that the plastic made it difficult to see out the windows! We didn’t actually see much of Boston with the plastic windows down. Our tour guide was engaging, and full of information! Unfortunately the speaker system was not great, and even though we were sitting up close, it was difficult to hear the information over the noise of the vehicle. This tour is not the tour to “learn history,” but rather to become acquainted with the Boston area.
It was neat to see the vehicle transform into a sea vessel, and the kids even got a chance to drive it on the Charles River.
Things we learned about and saw on the Boston Duck Tour:
-The land area that Boston is located on was originally called the Shawmut Peninsula. Mostly uninhabited for thousands of years, the Algonquin tribe used the area for hunting and fishing up until about the 1700’s. Once William Blackstone moved onto the peninsula, the Puritans quickly followed and purchased it for $150. Eventually the people of Boston used land-fill to increase the usable land area, which we today call ‘Boston.’
-Boston’s nickname of “beantown” comes from the Puritan days, where oftentimes beans were eaten on Sundays.
–Edgar Allen Poe was born in Boston
-The Boston Public Garden is the oldest botanical garden in the US and has trees from 48 states (excluding Hawaii and Arizona).
-Parts of the Underground Railroad came through Boston. See more about this in our Worldschooling in Boston post!
Some fun Boston-isms for your kids to learn:
“Breakfast, lunch, and suppah”
Police troopers are called “staties”
When you make a U-turn you say “bang a you-ee”
If you’re going to Cape Cod, you can let people know you’re going “down the cape”
Depart from the Museum of Science, and use the afternoon to take in an Imax and explore the Museum. Fantastic worldschooling opportunities abound at the Museum of Science in Boston.
Kids Rating: 2/5 Stars
Ghosts & Gravestone Tour
The Ghost and Gravestone tour was excellent! This 90 minute evening tour was spooky, educational, and downright fun! Guided by your Gravedigger, you’ll ride the Trolley of Terror and visit 2 of the 3 haunted burial grounds in Boston; Kings Chapel, Granary, or Copps Hill.
You’ll learn about historic executions, the Boston Strangler, unmarked graves, books made of human skin, paranormal activity, and more spooky Boston tales. We discovered things we never knew about Samuel Adams, James Otis, John Hancock, Paul Revere, witch trials that pre-dated Salem, and many female figures in Boston’s history.
Tips for Taking the Ghost & Gravestone Tour
- This tour does include some walking and is not easily handicap accessible for some of the attractions.
- My 9 and 11 year old were NOT scared on this tour.
- Take the early evening tours, before 6pm, for the most kid-friendly experience
Kids Rating: 5/5 Spooks
Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum Tour
If there is ONE tour your family decides to do in Boston, this is it! If you Worldschool, or are just hoping for a fantastic learning experience, the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum is the place to go. This is one of the most memorable experiences in Boston, and I highly recommend it for all ages! Read more details about how to make this a learning experience, and which stories and books to read together before you go, in our Worldschooling in Boston post.
When you embark on this tour, you can expect an hour of in-character, hands on, historical fun. A colonial guide will walk you through a re-enactment of the events leading up to the Boston Tea Party. Then, you will get to personally re-enact the Tea Party, walk the Eleanor ship, watch a holographic re-enactment of the case for/against revolution, see Kind George and Sam Adams duke it out with words, and then taste the 5 types of teas that were actually thrown into the Boston Harbor!
Tips for Joining the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum Tour
- Go mid-morning before it gets too busy
- Tours depart on the half hour. To avoid standing outside in the cold waiting, go about 15 minutes before a tour begins to get seated right away
- End your tour at Abigail’s Tea House where you can sample tea and buy snacks
- Do some pre-learning about the Boston Tea Party with your kids (book recommendations in our Worldschooling in Boston post)
Kids Rating: 5/5 Stars
The Freedom Trail
The Freedom Trail is one of the most famous historic attractions in all of New England. Only a 2.5 mile walk from end to end, this trail will likely take you at least half a day, and usually a whole day. How long you spend will truly depend on whether your children enjoy history immensely, and how long they can look at historic plaques, buildings, and gravestones.
There are 16 historical sites on The Freedom Trail, all with important connections to the time period of the American Revolution, the Declaration of Independence, and the colonist’s fight for freedom from Great Britain.
If your family loves history, and wants a fantastic guided tour, you can choose from the many options here. If you prefer to walk The Freedom Trail at your own pace, you can download a map and simply follow your GPS from one stop to another. On our first trip to Boston, we opted to walk the Freedom Trail on our own and spend some extra time taking in the sites of Boston along the way.
A few tips on the Freedom Trail:
- The Paul Revere House is near Little Italy. Plan to hit this spot mid-day and enjoy a delicious pasta filled lunch at any nearby restaurant!
- Most of the stops on the Freedom Trail require paid entry, such as the Paul Revere House, Old State House, and more. Do some research on those you are most interested in exploring.
- The Corner Bookstore is no longer a bookstore. It is now a Chipotle. Bummer.
- You will see some of the sites during the Ghost & Gravestone tours as well (Copp’s Hill Graveyard & Granary Burial Grounds), but it’s fun to visit Granary Burial Grounds during the day and make a challenge out of finding the famous tombs.
- Remember Worldschoolers, do a little pre-learning about the Freedom Trail stops with your kids! It will help to make the day more exciting. I have fantastic book and scavenger hunt recommendations in my Worldschooling in Boston post.
Kids Rating: 4/5 Stars
More About Visiting Boston with Kids
Before you plan your trip, read our Boston with Kids post here, for when to visit, where to stay, where to eat, and more!
If you Worldschool, Homeschool, or just like to learn while your travel as a family, check out my detailed post on Worldschooling in Boston.