Last week, we took a family trip to Boston. My daughter flew there to spend a week with her aunt (who lives in Cambridge), then the rest of us made the 12 hour drive (14 hours with stops) to join them for a few days of exploring the city. We spent time downtown, hit a few spots along the Freedom Trail (including the Granary Burying Ground, the final resting place of Paul Revere, John Hancock, Samuel Adams and other historically significant figures), walked the campus of Harvard and spent about two hours in Newbury Comics‘ Faneuil Hall Market Place location. Among the attractions we visited were the Museum of Science and the New England Aquarium.
Museum of Science
With kids aged 9, 9 and 12, the Museum of Science was a pretty good bet. As we soon discovered, it’s big on interactive exhibits. There were some static displays such as you would expect to find in a traditional museum, but it was hard to go more than a few feet without finding something interesting for the kids to try. They were remote piloting replicas of a Mars Rover and using connecting wooden tiles — a visual programming language — to program the operation of a robotic vehicle in the Cahners Computerplace exhibit. The Lost Egypt: Ancient Secrets, Modern Science exhibit was also popular. I’d hoped to catch The Science of Pixar, but it turns out that we were a little early: there’s currently a design lab (to give visitors input into how the future Pixar exhibit will look), but the Science of Pixar will be a visit for a future day. There is also a butterfly garden, 3-D cinema and a planetarium onsite, but we ran out of time. If you have kids, the Museum of Science is definitely worth a visit. If not, you probably won’t get the same sort of depth of visit as you would with a place like the ROM or AMNH, but it’s still an interesting tour.
Admission is $22 for adults and $19 for children (to age 11), with a $5 surcharge for add-on attractions. The Museum is also a departure point for Boston Duck Tours and there was a line of these amphibious vehicles taking on guests outside. We’ve done these tours in other cities (Toronto, Charlottetown and Ottawa), but had to pass because of time constraints.
New England Aquarium
Although the line-up for this one was a good half hour in the blazing sun, it turned out to be well worth the wait. And the Aquarium provides outdoor seal tanks to entertain the kids while the designated parent (that would be me) does ticket duty. Once inside (where it was mercifully cooler), we immediately proceeded to the Shark and Ray touching tank where patient visitors have the opportunity to reach out and touch these creatures. It was pretty crowded in there and a lot of young kids were involved, leading a staff member to keep repeating over the PA system that they needed to use their “library voices” or risk frightening the creatures off. Which I found a little ironic, considering the amplification of the PA.
The aquarium consists of a huge, four-story ocean tank that occupies the center of the building. At its foot is a large penguin exhibit that houses over 80 birds. It was quite fascinating to watch their interaction with each other. A series of smaller tanks housing different habitats (like the Pacific Reef and the Amazon Rainforest) occupy the outer edges, while a ramp spirals up, giving an expansive view of the 200,000 gallon ocean tank. As you ascend, the glass gives a good view of the coral habitat at its different levels and the 600 animals that live there. Stingrays, sharks, turtles and all sorts of fish swim by and the kids were busy checking each animal off as they spotted it. At the top, aquarium staff were busy feeding Myrtle, the green sea turtle who has called the Aquarium home since 1970. After completing the tour, we ventured outside to the Marine Mammal Center, where seals and sea lions were playing, then underwent a training session. This was especially popular with children of all ages, and while I hate to see animals performing tricks, these animals seem to have a decent habitat and are part of an educational facility. There is an IMAX theater that’s adjacent to the Aquarium (and part of its facilities), but again we didn’t have time for movies on this visit. In all, we spent about three hours at the Aquarium and next time we’re in Boston, we’ll definitely be going back.
Admission is $22.95 for adults and $15.95 for kids (extra for IMAX). The Aquarium also offers whale watching tours. If they’re anything like the one we took out of Provincetown (only a few hours away by boat), this would be a great way to spend the afternoon outdoors.
And while both of these attractions were great, one of the highlights of my trip was dinner at Red Bones Barbecue, where I demolished baby back ribs, brisket and Clown Shoes Pimp brown ale — how can you see that name on a menu and not order it? This was a great way to top off a day of sightseeing and, yes, I bought a tee-shirt.