On school vacations, misery has company

Posted by David Beard, Globe Staff  February 19, 2009 06:10 AM

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By Jennifer Ehrlich, Globe staff

If you’ve visited any Boston-area museums this week that might remotely appeal to children, then you already know what I am going to tell you. They have been a nightmare.

I know, I know, on a philosophical level, the extreme crowding is a good thing … people paying to see Boston’s amazing museums, children educated, family togetherness, and a day away from video games. But if you were one of the parents stuck in the lines of hundreds of people at, say, the Museum of Science earlier this week, then you were wishing you were at home with the kids planted in front of a video. If you are honest, that is.

On Monday morning, the lines outside full of sour, exhausted couples and whining children, were the preview. Inside, hoards scrambled over every available exhibit – even some of the slightly boring ones. You would have thought they were giving something away inside the Butterfly Garden – college tuition coupons? We were looking forward to seeing the fabulous new frog exhibit - only to be elbowed aside by packs of camera- and cellphone-carrying people taking pictures and videos of the frogs behind glass, then lingering to compare their work.

Normally, I have a way around this problem. I arrive early – ideally before the museum opens. My toddler is an early riser so it’s no real hardship. But vacation week confounds even early risers. The scene I am describing above took place at 9:30 a.m. Monday, 30 minutes after the museum opened.

During the last winter vacation, my neighbor and I ventured out to the Discovery Museum in Acton that had been so highly praised by all our friends. We arrived before it opened. There was already a line of miserable people -- and a 45-minute wait. The previous holiday we had braved the crowds at the Children's Museum, trying to keep the kids away from the water, while holding our place in the line of 200 that had formed before opening. You’re thinking I should have learned my lesson, right?

But what lesson? Don't go anywhere?

Therein lies the problem of living in big cities. At the exact time you want to go somewhere logical, say a museum on school vacation, or a beach on a sunny day ... that's the exact time every other family wants to go, too.

Anyone have any clever ways around this? Or maybe you've been luckier this week, with stellar experiences at museums? Thoughts?

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37 comments so far...
  1. Our solution this week...skip the museums and have play dates with friends. Went bowling and it was empty. Also, the YMCA was remarkably empty, perhaps as a result of many people going to the museums. rented movies and had a movie night. We'll return to the museums next week! I too can't wait to see the frogs at the MOS!

    Posted by bv February 19, 09 08:53 AM
  1. As someone who has worked in museums during February school vacation week, I can tell you that Monday is always the busiest day because that's the day when most parents have off with the kids. If you're able, wait to visit museums till the later half of vacation week. With the majority of parents back to work, you'll actually be able to enjoy yourself.

    Posted by AB February 19, 09 11:20 AM
  1. Children's Museum on Monday was nuts and we arrived 15 minutes before it opened. Choose lesser-traveled places like the MIT Museum in Cambridge, Orchard House or the Concord Museum in Concord, and the National Heritage Museum in Lexington, all of which offer a good time off the beaten path.

    Posted by Jason February 19, 09 11:45 AM
  1. We went to the Mapparium at the Christian Science Center, which was anything but packed. They also had a drawing contest for kids. It was fun and not rushed at all. I normally stay away from museums and other kid attractions during school vacation week. We have visited friends, gone to movies, etc...

    Posted by Kathode February 19, 09 11:56 AM
  1. Ok so you have a toddler, which means the toddler is not in school. So to take your kid to a musuem, during a time that allows school aged children to go with thier families and then complain about it really shows your an idiot of a parent. Your a stay at hom helicopter mom that needs a life, a job and probably a lack of income to show you what the real world is like. Next time, wake your toddler up and go during school hours. The MOS is for all, not just arrogant pissied off parents that feel nobody should be at the MOS when they want to go. Lock your self in your self centered box and never come out again. There are people out here, lots of us

    Posted by quantemlp February 19, 09 12:06 PM
  1. I would guess that there isn't a 200 deep line outside of grandma's house, aunt so-and-so's house, and so on. Wait till the summer for the museums and so on. Use this time not to stand in line, but have the kids spend time with family if they don't get to do that often. Other wastes of time in this category include First Night and the Fourth of July, holidays much better experienced from the comfort of home.

    Otherwise, yeah, I'd stay home. It's vacation, who cares if the kids play extra video games? Also, it just snowed, maybe they can do something with that -- outside. Not to mention it's likely they could pull their weight around the house and help out with cleaning up, too. You could also hit up the local library, or take a day trip somewhere out of the city.

    Posted by J February 19, 09 12:10 PM
  1. We tend to go to less crowded/more out of the way museums. We went to New Bedford on Tuesday. The visitors' center was nearly empty - we had the 20 minute movie about the city's history to ourselves. The Whaling Museum was letting kids in free, and had a special 'dolphin rescue' hands on activity for the kids. We walked around the waterfront, had a great lunch, and there were no crowds whatsoever.

    I save the city museums for days when our kids school has an odd day off, or for summers. February vacation is a great time to find the out of the way places - some real hidden gems out there!

    Posted by BMS February 19, 09 12:30 PM
  1. Or, get a museum membership. We were one of the families at the Children's Museum on Monday. Arrived right at 10am and were inside 5 minutes later because we have a museum membership and can get in the members line. Once inside, simply embrace the chaos as part of the experience, don't fight it. If you can't embrace the chaos and keep your sanity, choose a different day or activity as others have suggested. No sense in making yourself crazy!

    Posted by Amy February 19, 09 12:38 PM
  1. My husband and I and our best friend took our daughter to MOS on Monday as well - specifically to see the Frogs Exhibit. We arrived at 3:30 in the afternoon, walked right in and lingered, happily, until 5:30. We took in the mythic creatures exhibit while we were there as well - and then got a snack in the food court (fed the baby as it was her dinnertime anyway).

    The MOS is ALWAYS crowded with families and kids - many of whom seem only marginally under the control of their parents/caregivers...but Monday afternoon didn't seem any worse than any other time we've ever been.

    Maybe the key is to not get there so early? Seems as though everyone had that same idea...especially when such an enticing exhibit as Frogs had just opened!

    Anyway, we got to see all of the frogs (twice - my husband and our friend couldn't get enough especially). Sorry others had such a bad experience that day!


    Posted by phe February 19, 09 12:45 PM
  1. You mention "miserable people " in your editorial on a couple of occasions yet you are not counting yourself as one of them. It sounds as though you would like it if the museum (or any child-friendly attraction) would just let you and your party in and then only after you are done, let the others in. Here's the thing, attractions such as museums, etc. get very busy during school vacation week in every community, city, village, town and religious compound in the U.S.. There's no secret here. Next year why not give Walt Disney World a try? I hear the place is virtually empty come spring vacation time..

    Posted by Shinny February 19, 09 12:47 PM
  1. Check out what New Hamshire has to offer. Only an hour away for most of us and they do not have school vacation on the same week.

    Posted by Pete February 19, 09 12:54 PM
  1. we started out at the discovery museum on monday, when I found the parking lot full, we headed to the children's museum instead. I was thinking it was a bad idea. It was very crowded and a line outside. However, we made it through in about 15 minutes. The place was very crowded and somethings we would have liked to do, we couldn't., but the place is so big, there was still plenty to do. Also, we have been there many times, so it was no big deal we couldn't do everything. I like the idea of going bowling. I'd caution against chuck-e-cheese. They cannot handle crowds.

    Posted by bbuchanan65 February 19, 09 12:58 PM
  1. The problem at the museums, especially during vacations, is that the parents expect the museum staff to act as babysitters.

    The staff are not there to babysit your kids. They're there to explain, and to a lesser extent, maintain the exhibits. Instead, the staff is forced to slow down running children, discourage the preteens from writing profanity on boards, break up fights between siblings (and yes, ALL of these have happened at a museum in front of me), etc. All the while, the parents and guardians stand off in corner, chatting, while their kids run rampant. If the kids are bored and not up for the museum, take them outside or to something they enjoy so that other kids can have a crack at the exhibits.

    For the love of God, tell your kids not to break the exhibits. I've seen a 10 year old slamming the keyboard of a computer, whining IT DOESNNN'TTT WORRRKKKK. When asked, "Did you read the directions? Did you ask for help," the answer is almost invariably no. Seriously, teach your kid some respect for property. Maybe then, it would work longer and the museum could buy newer equipment.

    Posted by daigaku February 19, 09 01:15 PM
  1. Kind of off topic, but I went to MOS with kids a few weeks back. It was very crowded then too. What really drives me nuts is when parents allow their kids to monopolize an attraction. At MOS there is some gravity display where 2 or 3 kids at a time can scoop and drop stuff and watch gravity happen. These two kids in front of my kids absolutely would not end their turns on the thing despite polite prodding from me and several other parents. The ignorant parents of these two kids just let their kids hog thing for what seemed like twenty minutes. If people were just more considerate, then museum visits could be so much more fun for all. I paid a small fortune for that museum visit including the tickets, shows, and food but neither I nor my kids have any desire to go back again.

    Posted by Frankie February 19, 09 01:15 PM
  1. These days there's nothing wrong with staying home, painting, drawing and yes, watching videos. In this economy, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that!! Kids need down time too and why be aggravated waiting in long lines; they don't like it either!

    Posted by Barbara February 19, 09 02:09 PM
  1. I take issue with your title - you knew what to expect - you went anyway - why be annoyed? Take a 1/2 day off from work some day when the kids have a "development" 1/2 day and take the kids then.

    Anyone who is annoyed that the museum's were crowded this week is just delusional. Also, how about doing something for the museum's like joining them - very reasonable for both Children's & MOS - then you skip the lines, go whenever you want and leave when it gets crowded - which is rare outside of vacation weeks.

    We avoid the museums entirely this week - what did we do instead? Went to a play at the Lyric stage for kids, went to the library, went out to breakfast or lunch, played outside at the park - it's been a pretty nice week.

    But to be annoyed because you came up with the same easy fix for how to entertain your kid this week - is just silly.

    Posted by bosstowner February 19, 09 02:12 PM
  1. Duh! Kids are all out of school at the same time and parents all want to go to the same placed at the same time. And it's crowded!!!! What a surprise.....
    Maybe you could figure out something to do at home besides parking your child in front of the TV. Get creative. Take a walk and see through yor child's eyes what he or she sees. Talk about it. Bake cookies. Plan dinner, shop for the ingredients, and cook together (as best as possible). Read a story together and then make up one of your own about these characters. Have a chat. Don't wait for someone else to entertain you.

    Posted by M.D. MCNIff February 19, 09 02:25 PM
  1. I have lots of secrets of how to avoid this too, including the beach crowd.

    Sorry but why would I share them for all to see? ;-)

    Posted by Mom-2-2 February 19, 09 02:44 PM
  1. A solution to this problem? Yeah ... don't go to the museums. Find something else to do. Monday is the worst possible day because it's a holiday for everyone. Why put yourself through the aggravation if it's so annoying to you?

    Posted by susan February 19, 09 02:47 PM
  1. If you have the means -- rent a car, or drive the one you own -- and visit NH. NH has the next week off. Bowling alleys were empty. Movie theatres were empty. I bet the ski slopes were not too crowded.....

    Posted by Bugaboo February 19, 09 03:24 PM
  1. Heading "cross the border" to NH is always a good idea too. NH schools are on vacation next week, so the museums and other child-oriented activities are not as crowded!

    Posted by Kristen February 19, 09 03:29 PM
  1. The suggestions offered above are good ones. Especially the one mentioning that Monday is the guaranteed most crowded day to visit anywhere during vacation week.

    But the bottom line is that unless you can afford to reserve places for your exclusive use, you will have to live with the fact that you are not the only ones interested in seeing them. The lesson is you realize that life isn't easy, and it's a good opportunity to teach your kids about sharing, manners, etc.

    Posted by Fran February 19, 09 04:27 PM
  1. We went to the Peabody-Essex museum on Tuesday and it was fantastic: not crowded, beautiful facility, fun stuff for kids, wonderful collection, good food and no lines. Definitely worth a visit.

    Posted by H. S. February 19, 09 05:22 PM
  1. My advice is membership, and don't go during peak times, like vacation week. Otherwise, you'll be miserable.

    If you have a membership, you can keep your visits short. You don't have to feel like you have to see everything in that one trip to get your money's worth. This matches the attention spans and endurance of little ones. A Museum of Science membership provides two hours free parking in the garage. Go in for two hours, then leave.

    A Children's Museum membership gets you into the museum an hour before the museum officially opens on Sunday morning. Also, if you arrive first thing on Sunday morning, there is plenty of free parking on the street. Spend an hour on the popular exhibits and work your way up. You'll be on the third floor by the time the museum opens and gets crowded. Then, you can leave and be home in time for lunch. Completely avoids the crowds.

    Posted by Matthew Davidson February 19, 09 05:30 PM
  1. We went to the library (an event in itself) reserved the pass for the Franklin Park Zoo and went Wednesday. I paid $2 to the library for the pass, then $2 for each of us when we got there. We had packed a cooler full of lunch, so we only purchased a quick snack inside. Granted, not all of the animals are out in the winter, but the tropical forest is indoors and everything is open there. We walked all around, got fresh air, were good and tired , had a car picnic lunch on the way home for less $22 including the snack (4 kids and 1 adult). And I wasn't stressed about my kids gettign away from me because it was NOT jam-packed!! Great vacation day!

    Posted by Momfromburbs February 19, 09 05:33 PM
  1. Never again the Science Museum on President's Day. But I would say, Jennifer, that it wasn't the crowds per se. It was the self-reference of the grownups, to wit, what you said: "only to be elbowed aside by packs of camera- and cellphone-carrying people taking pictures and videos of the frogs behind glass, then lingering to compare their work." Yes, because that couldn't wait until they got into a less-crowded hall, or even outside. As well, it's hard to get vacation employees who normally work at the Science Museum, such as cashiers at cafeteria, because they are home minding their school-age children. But - a half-hour wait to pay for lunch? The MoS was hot and uncomfortable.

    Posted by reindeergirl February 19, 09 05:40 PM
  1. Moving to western Mass and not having a 9-5 job has made the biggest impact on my sanity and our family life ever. Around Amherst there are lots of great museums and activities and we drive 90 min into Boston when we want a change. We consciously stay home on vacation weeks and attend museums on random Tuesdays for peaceful outings. Ah, breathing room ...

    Posted by rl February 19, 09 06:13 PM
  1. For those of us who have to work for a living, it's the only time we can go with our kids. Sorry if our kids disrupted your peaceful day.

    Posted by Grouchy In Line February 19, 09 06:38 PM
  1. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that all of these places are going to be overcrowded on school vacation week, hello. You have to be put a little more thought into where you are going and when.

    Posted by Colleen February 19, 09 06:44 PM
  1. The title alone says it all.....if you are annoyed by the gift and pleasure of children having fun, you are either selfish or an uptight prude.
    People go out at this time and you should embrace the fact that they are...just think of how annoyed you would be in this economic time if no-one left their homes and put zero money into the economy.
    Now you have me annoyed.!

    Posted by typical_white_person February 19, 09 06:52 PM
  1. I am a member of the MOS and I absolutely dread visiting on weekends! My solution : I go right when it opens on a random weekday (although, I make sure it's not vacation week for all the little ones.) I recommend becoming a member of the museum and taking advantage of their members-only preview days. They usually occur a day or two before the new exhibits open to the public.

    Posted by Patty February 19, 09 07:28 PM
  1. Stay home!! I usually go to these places weekly with my toddlers... but not this week. It's not just the lines, it's all the colds and stomach bugs lurking around too. I am not a germophobe... but by the end of the week those places are gross!

    Posted by Redheaded Wonder February 19, 09 08:39 PM
  1. You don't say if you have school age children so doing museums during the vacation week is the only time you can go. If your child(ren) are pre-school, what's the need to be there? A quiet week at home is more enjoyable for your toddler as well!

    Posted by chocolate chip February 19, 09 09:10 PM
  1. When my kids were toddlers and now school age, we stayed home. I don't like lines, everyone's miserable and you really can't see anything. While your child's a toddler go when everyone's in school, once in school pay attention to other school calendars and go when your system (and not everyone else's) has a professional development day.

    Hint for a happy outing this coming April vacation, go to the beach. You may still need a jacket but you'll find tons of shells and your child will have a blast.

    Posted by No lines, no whines February 19, 09 09:47 PM
  1. Just imagine how frustrating it is to deal with your kids at any time of the year...I don't particularly enjoy whining children or parents and having to endure all of them during school vacation week is even more annoying. Get creative and take them to other New England states during school vacation week....a train trip to Portland or a walk in the woods of New Hampshire.

    Posted by Cicilia February 19, 09 11:21 PM
  1. I despise crowds & lines of any sort and even more so when other people's kids are involved (and yes my kids were well behaved at all ages & I don't wear rose-colored glasses!). Museum trips were usually school field trips (we're in NH) and if not, good grades will get an excused 'sick' day and a Boston trip.

    Other parental "punishments" - Mother's or Father's day dinners out (these were the worst), and Chuck-e-cheese birthday parties.

    There's a lot of other things to do with kids during school vacation - like sleep-in and bake cookies.

    Posted by g05 February 20, 09 06:29 AM
  1. We went to the Museum of Science late in the day. We had an early (3:30 p.m.) dinner there and then enjoyed a nearly empty museum until it was time to go home and go to bed. The parking garage was also emptying out when we arrived.

    I usually do things like this during the week and use the free library pass to do so. We also have a half day in our district every week, which is both a blessing and a curse.

    Posted by lexellle February 23, 09 12:54 PM
 
37 comments so far...
  1. Our solution this week...skip the museums and have play dates with friends. Went bowling and it was empty. Also, the YMCA was remarkably empty, perhaps as a result of many people going to the museums. rented movies and had a movie night. We'll return to the museums next week! I too can't wait to see the frogs at the MOS!

    Posted by bv February 19, 09 08:53 AM
  1. As someone who has worked in museums during February school vacation week, I can tell you that Monday is always the busiest day because that's the day when most parents have off with the kids. If you're able, wait to visit museums till the later half of vacation week. With the majority of parents back to work, you'll actually be able to enjoy yourself.

    Posted by AB February 19, 09 11:20 AM
  1. Children's Museum on Monday was nuts and we arrived 15 minutes before it opened. Choose lesser-traveled places like the MIT Museum in Cambridge, Orchard House or the Concord Museum in Concord, and the National Heritage Museum in Lexington, all of which offer a good time off the beaten path.

    Posted by Jason February 19, 09 11:45 AM
  1. We went to the Mapparium at the Christian Science Center, which was anything but packed. They also had a drawing contest for kids. It was fun and not rushed at all. I normally stay away from museums and other kid attractions during school vacation week. We have visited friends, gone to movies, etc...

    Posted by Kathode February 19, 09 11:56 AM
  1. Ok so you have a toddler, which means the toddler is not in school. So to take your kid to a musuem, during a time that allows school aged children to go with thier families and then complain about it really shows your an idiot of a parent. Your a stay at hom helicopter mom that needs a life, a job and probably a lack of income to show you what the real world is like. Next time, wake your toddler up and go during school hours. The MOS is for all, not just arrogant pissied off parents that feel nobody should be at the MOS when they want to go. Lock your self in your self centered box and never come out again. There are people out here, lots of us

    Posted by quantemlp February 19, 09 12:06 PM
  1. I would guess that there isn't a 200 deep line outside of grandma's house, aunt so-and-so's house, and so on. Wait till the summer for the museums and so on. Use this time not to stand in line, but have the kids spend time with family if they don't get to do that often. Other wastes of time in this category include First Night and the Fourth of July, holidays much better experienced from the comfort of home.

    Otherwise, yeah, I'd stay home. It's vacation, who cares if the kids play extra video games? Also, it just snowed, maybe they can do something with that -- outside. Not to mention it's likely they could pull their weight around the house and help out with cleaning up, too. You could also hit up the local library, or take a day trip somewhere out of the city.

    Posted by J February 19, 09 12:10 PM
  1. We tend to go to less crowded/more out of the way museums. We went to New Bedford on Tuesday. The visitors' center was nearly empty - we had the 20 minute movie about the city's history to ourselves. The Whaling Museum was letting kids in free, and had a special 'dolphin rescue' hands on activity for the kids. We walked around the waterfront, had a great lunch, and there were no crowds whatsoever.

    I save the city museums for days when our kids school has an odd day off, or for summers. February vacation is a great time to find the out of the way places - some real hidden gems out there!

    Posted by BMS February 19, 09 12:30 PM
  1. Or, get a museum membership. We were one of the families at the Children's Museum on Monday. Arrived right at 10am and were inside 5 minutes later because we have a museum membership and can get in the members line. Once inside, simply embrace the chaos as part of the experience, don't fight it. If you can't embrace the chaos and keep your sanity, choose a different day or activity as others have suggested. No sense in making yourself crazy!

    Posted by Amy February 19, 09 12:38 PM
  1. My husband and I and our best friend took our daughter to MOS on Monday as well - specifically to see the Frogs Exhibit. We arrived at 3:30 in the afternoon, walked right in and lingered, happily, until 5:30. We took in the mythic creatures exhibit while we were there as well - and then got a snack in the food court (fed the baby as it was her dinnertime anyway).

    The MOS is ALWAYS crowded with families and kids - many of whom seem only marginally under the control of their parents/caregivers...but Monday afternoon didn't seem any worse than any other time we've ever been.

    Maybe the key is to not get there so early? Seems as though everyone had that same idea...especially when such an enticing exhibit as Frogs had just opened!

    Anyway, we got to see all of the frogs (twice - my husband and our friend couldn't get enough especially). Sorry others had such a bad experience that day!


    Posted by phe February 19, 09 12:45 PM
  1. You mention "miserable people " in your editorial on a couple of occasions yet you are not counting yourself as one of them. It sounds as though you would like it if the museum (or any child-friendly attraction) would just let you and your party in and then only after you are done, let the others in. Here's the thing, attractions such as museums, etc. get very busy during school vacation week in every community, city, village, town and religious compound in the U.S.. There's no secret here. Next year why not give Walt Disney World a try? I hear the place is virtually empty come spring vacation time..

    Posted by Shinny February 19, 09 12:47 PM
  1. Check out what New Hamshire has to offer. Only an hour away for most of us and they do not have school vacation on the same week.

    Posted by Pete February 19, 09 12:54 PM
  1. we started out at the discovery museum on monday, when I found the parking lot full, we headed to the children's museum instead. I was thinking it was a bad idea. It was very crowded and a line outside. However, we made it through in about 15 minutes. The place was very crowded and somethings we would have liked to do, we couldn't., but the place is so big, there was still plenty to do. Also, we have been there many times, so it was no big deal we couldn't do everything. I like the idea of going bowling. I'd caution against chuck-e-cheese. They cannot handle crowds.

    Posted by bbuchanan65 February 19, 09 12:58 PM
  1. The problem at the museums, especially during vacations, is that the parents expect the museum staff to act as babysitters.

    The staff are not there to babysit your kids. They're there to explain, and to a lesser extent, maintain the exhibits. Instead, the staff is forced to slow down running children, discourage the preteens from writing profanity on boards, break up fights between siblings (and yes, ALL of these have happened at a museum in front of me), etc. All the while, the parents and guardians stand off in corner, chatting, while their kids run rampant. If the kids are bored and not up for the museum, take them outside or to something they enjoy so that other kids can have a crack at the exhibits.

    For the love of God, tell your kids not to break the exhibits. I've seen a 10 year old slamming the keyboard of a computer, whining IT DOESNNN'TTT WORRRKKKK. When asked, "Did you read the directions? Did you ask for help," the answer is almost invariably no. Seriously, teach your kid some respect for property. Maybe then, it would work longer and the museum could buy newer equipment.

    Posted by daigaku February 19, 09 01:15 PM
  1. Kind of off topic, but I went to MOS with kids a few weeks back. It was very crowded then too. What really drives me nuts is when parents allow their kids to monopolize an attraction. At MOS there is some gravity display where 2 or 3 kids at a time can scoop and drop stuff and watch gravity happen. These two kids in front of my kids absolutely would not end their turns on the thing despite polite prodding from me and several other parents. The ignorant parents of these two kids just let their kids hog thing for what seemed like twenty minutes. If people were just more considerate, then museum visits could be so much more fun for all. I paid a small fortune for that museum visit including the tickets, shows, and food but neither I nor my kids have any desire to go back again.

    Posted by Frankie February 19, 09 01:15 PM
  1. These days there's nothing wrong with staying home, painting, drawing and yes, watching videos. In this economy, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that!! Kids need down time too and why be aggravated waiting in long lines; they don't like it either!

    Posted by Barbara February 19, 09 02:09 PM
  1. I take issue with your title - you knew what to expect - you went anyway - why be annoyed? Take a 1/2 day off from work some day when the kids have a "development" 1/2 day and take the kids then.

    Anyone who is annoyed that the museum's were crowded this week is just delusional. Also, how about doing something for the museum's like joining them - very reasonable for both Children's & MOS - then you skip the lines, go whenever you want and leave when it gets crowded - which is rare outside of vacation weeks.

    We avoid the museums entirely this week - what did we do instead? Went to a play at the Lyric stage for kids, went to the library, went out to breakfast or lunch, played outside at the park - it's been a pretty nice week.

    But to be annoyed because you came up with the same easy fix for how to entertain your kid this week - is just silly.

    Posted by bosstowner February 19, 09 02:12 PM
  1. Duh! Kids are all out of school at the same time and parents all want to go to the same placed at the same time. And it's crowded!!!! What a surprise.....
    Maybe you could figure out something to do at home besides parking your child in front of the TV. Get creative. Take a walk and see through yor child's eyes what he or she sees. Talk about it. Bake cookies. Plan dinner, shop for the ingredients, and cook together (as best as possible). Read a story together and then make up one of your own about these characters. Have a chat. Don't wait for someone else to entertain you.

    Posted by M.D. MCNIff February 19, 09 02:25 PM
  1. I have lots of secrets of how to avoid this too, including the beach crowd.

    Sorry but why would I share them for all to see? ;-)

    Posted by Mom-2-2 February 19, 09 02:44 PM
  1. A solution to this problem? Yeah ... don't go to the museums. Find something else to do. Monday is the worst possible day because it's a holiday for everyone. Why put yourself through the aggravation if it's so annoying to you?

    Posted by susan February 19, 09 02:47 PM
  1. If you have the means -- rent a car, or drive the one you own -- and visit NH. NH has the next week off. Bowling alleys were empty. Movie theatres were empty. I bet the ski slopes were not too crowded.....

    Posted by Bugaboo February 19, 09 03:24 PM
  1. Heading "cross the border" to NH is always a good idea too. NH schools are on vacation next week, so the museums and other child-oriented activities are not as crowded!

    Posted by Kristen February 19, 09 03:29 PM
  1. The suggestions offered above are good ones. Especially the one mentioning that Monday is the guaranteed most crowded day to visit anywhere during vacation week.

    But the bottom line is that unless you can afford to reserve places for your exclusive use, you will have to live with the fact that you are not the only ones interested in seeing them. The lesson is you realize that life isn't easy, and it's a good opportunity to teach your kids about sharing, manners, etc.

    Posted by Fran February 19, 09 04:27 PM
  1. We went to the Peabody-Essex museum on Tuesday and it was fantastic: not crowded, beautiful facility, fun stuff for kids, wonderful collection, good food and no lines. Definitely worth a visit.

    Posted by H. S. February 19, 09 05:22 PM
  1. My advice is membership, and don't go during peak times, like vacation week. Otherwise, you'll be miserable.

    If you have a membership, you can keep your visits short. You don't have to feel like you have to see everything in that one trip to get your money's worth. This matches the attention spans and endurance of little ones. A Museum of Science membership provides two hours free parking in the garage. Go in for two hours, then leave.

    A Children's Museum membership gets you into the museum an hour before the museum officially opens on Sunday morning. Also, if you arrive first thing on Sunday morning, there is plenty of free parking on the street. Spend an hour on the popular exhibits and work your way up. You'll be on the third floor by the time the museum opens and gets crowded. Then, you can leave and be home in time for lunch. Completely avoids the crowds.

    Posted by Matthew Davidson February 19, 09 05:30 PM
  1. We went to the library (an event in itself) reserved the pass for the Franklin Park Zoo and went Wednesday. I paid $2 to the library for the pass, then $2 for each of us when we got there. We had packed a cooler full of lunch, so we only purchased a quick snack inside. Granted, not all of the animals are out in the winter, but the tropical forest is indoors and everything is open there. We walked all around, got fresh air, were good and tired , had a car picnic lunch on the way home for less $22 including the snack (4 kids and 1 adult). And I wasn't stressed about my kids gettign away from me because it was NOT jam-packed!! Great vacation day!

    Posted by Momfromburbs February 19, 09 05:33 PM
  1. Never again the Science Museum on President's Day. But I would say, Jennifer, that it wasn't the crowds per se. It was the self-reference of the grownups, to wit, what you said: "only to be elbowed aside by packs of camera- and cellphone-carrying people taking pictures and videos of the frogs behind glass, then lingering to compare their work." Yes, because that couldn't wait until they got into a less-crowded hall, or even outside. As well, it's hard to get vacation employees who normally work at the Science Museum, such as cashiers at cafeteria, because they are home minding their school-age children. But - a half-hour wait to pay for lunch? The MoS was hot and uncomfortable.

    Posted by reindeergirl February 19, 09 05:40 PM
  1. Moving to western Mass and not having a 9-5 job has made the biggest impact on my sanity and our family life ever. Around Amherst there are lots of great museums and activities and we drive 90 min into Boston when we want a change. We consciously stay home on vacation weeks and attend museums on random Tuesdays for peaceful outings. Ah, breathing room ...

    Posted by rl February 19, 09 06:13 PM
  1. For those of us who have to work for a living, it's the only time we can go with our kids. Sorry if our kids disrupted your peaceful day.

    Posted by Grouchy In Line February 19, 09 06:38 PM
  1. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that all of these places are going to be overcrowded on school vacation week, hello. You have to be put a little more thought into where you are going and when.

    Posted by Colleen February 19, 09 06:44 PM
  1. The title alone says it all.....if you are annoyed by the gift and pleasure of children having fun, you are either selfish or an uptight prude.
    People go out at this time and you should embrace the fact that they are...just think of how annoyed you would be in this economic time if no-one left their homes and put zero money into the economy.
    Now you have me annoyed.!

    Posted by typical_white_person February 19, 09 06:52 PM
  1. I am a member of the MOS and I absolutely dread visiting on weekends! My solution : I go right when it opens on a random weekday (although, I make sure it's not vacation week for all the little ones.) I recommend becoming a member of the museum and taking advantage of their members-only preview days. They usually occur a day or two before the new exhibits open to the public.

    Posted by Patty February 19, 09 07:28 PM
  1. Stay home!! I usually go to these places weekly with my toddlers... but not this week. It's not just the lines, it's all the colds and stomach bugs lurking around too. I am not a germophobe... but by the end of the week those places are gross!

    Posted by Redheaded Wonder February 19, 09 08:39 PM
  1. You don't say if you have school age children so doing museums during the vacation week is the only time you can go. If your child(ren) are pre-school, what's the need to be there? A quiet week at home is more enjoyable for your toddler as well!

    Posted by chocolate chip February 19, 09 09:10 PM
  1. When my kids were toddlers and now school age, we stayed home. I don't like lines, everyone's miserable and you really can't see anything. While your child's a toddler go when everyone's in school, once in school pay attention to other school calendars and go when your system (and not everyone else's) has a professional development day.

    Hint for a happy outing this coming April vacation, go to the beach. You may still need a jacket but you'll find tons of shells and your child will have a blast.

    Posted by No lines, no whines February 19, 09 09:47 PM
  1. Just imagine how frustrating it is to deal with your kids at any time of the year...I don't particularly enjoy whining children or parents and having to endure all of them during school vacation week is even more annoying. Get creative and take them to other New England states during school vacation week....a train trip to Portland or a walk in the woods of New Hampshire.

    Posted by Cicilia February 19, 09 11:21 PM
  1. I despise crowds & lines of any sort and even more so when other people's kids are involved (and yes my kids were well behaved at all ages & I don't wear rose-colored glasses!). Museum trips were usually school field trips (we're in NH) and if not, good grades will get an excused 'sick' day and a Boston trip.

    Other parental "punishments" - Mother's or Father's day dinners out (these were the worst), and Chuck-e-cheese birthday parties.

    There's a lot of other things to do with kids during school vacation - like sleep-in and bake cookies.

    Posted by g05 February 20, 09 06:29 AM
  1. We went to the Museum of Science late in the day. We had an early (3:30 p.m.) dinner there and then enjoyed a nearly empty museum until it was time to go home and go to bed. The parking garage was also emptying out when we arrived.

    I usually do things like this during the week and use the free library pass to do so. We also have a half day in our district every week, which is both a blessing and a curse.

    Posted by lexellle February 23, 09 12:54 PM
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Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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