Passionate About Boston
and the Moms Who Live Here

Impromptu Boston Day Trip — 5 Fun Ideas to Fill an Afternoon

I’m not an impromptu person. I like plans, agendas, and carefully considered ideas. Parenting has forced me (and sometimes I’m grateful) to try to let it go — like the never-ending Disney song suggests. Two weeks ago, as we sat at breakfast, I said to my almost-4-year-old and my husband, “Let’s go into Boston for the day.” So here’s what we threw together, on the spot, and it was a lovely, perfect day in the city together — a great option for summer, spring, or fall.

1. Take the train

We live in Arlington, so we parked at Alewife and took the red line into Boston. My daughter loves public transit. I hate parking in the city. The MBTA was a win-win. Parking at Alewife for the day is $8, and my husband and I have monthly subway passes (children ride free). Entertainment and transit all wrapped up with a bow!

2. Ride the Greenway Carousel

It’s a 15-minute walk from South Station, where we emerged from our red line adventure, so we wandered along the beautiful Rose Kennedy Greenway (which wears the kid out and offers some great public art along the way). The delightful Greenway Carousel features creatures from rabbits to lobsters to butterflies. The cost is $3 per ride, and it opens at 11 am daily (closing hours vary from weekday to weekend, so check the site). It’s great for all ages.

3. Lunch and ice cream at Faneuil Hall

We walked the short five minutes from the carousel over to Faneuil Hall. Note that on weekends many restaurants don’t open till noon, so we had to loiter at stores a bit, which was OK but might be a drag if you have especially hungry or cranky kids. We opted for lunch at Wagamama because my girl loves dumplings and has never met one she didn’t like. The food was yummy and fresh, and service was quick. We would definitely go back. It’s a very kid-friendly spot, with crayons and coloring mats to bide time until the food comes. After lunch we shared ice cream from one of the many places in the market. And bonus — we saw a magic show while we ate outside.

4. Walk (part of) the Freedom Trail

My girl loved following the trail (i.e., the painted red line) all the way from Faneuil Hall back to the Park Street MBTA station. Sure, we weren’t reveling in the history or stopping at sites (both fun for an older kid), but following the line kept her interested in walking — and she only bumped into one person while trying to stay literally on the line. More walking means a tired kid. Tired kid means early bedtime! Another win-win.

5. Purchase a postcard to mail to a friend 

OK, so this was totally last minute. During our outing we walked past a display of postcards, and down the block I realized my daughter had swiped one — yup, she stole it. She didn’t know better, so we walked back, paid for the card, and told her she could mail it to a friend. In hindsight, this would be a great thing to do on purpose — visit the sites and send a picture to grandparents or a friend. We got home and she put stickers on it, signed her name, and mailed it to her little friend from preschool. It cost $1 for the postcard and a few dimes for the stamp. Value? Priceless.

I did pack a snack, water bottle, and our portable potty seat — just in case. I’m not totally flying by the seat of my pants just yet! What impromptu day trips have you and your kids taken?

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