11 things to do with your kids for parents who have done everything

From a fairy garden to a wolf sanctuary to a “pirate ghost cave.”

5/11/2014 - Boston, MA - Lily Roth, cq, 15 months, of Harrisburg, PA, practiced walking in her duckling outfit. The Annual Make Way for Ducklings Parade, which was led by the Harvard University Marching Band, began at the Parkman Bandstand in the Boston Common and ended in the Public Garden near the famous Make Way for Ducklings sculptures. Thousands turned out for the festive, kid-friendly event on Sunday, May 11, 2014 . Dina Rudick/Globe Staff.
–Dina Rudick/Globe Staff

Now that spring has sprung, most kids (and parents) are anxious to head outside and bask in the fresh air and sunshine. But outdoor fun doesn’t have to be limited to the neighborhood playground or ball field (although those are great, too!). There are plenty of hidden gems and activities just off the beaten path in the Boston area and beyond that can make for fun springtime outings for the entire family.

1. Engage with art at the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum

This outdoor sculpture park boasts 30 acres of beautiful lawns, woods, and gardens perfect for running, skipping, and letting your children’s imaginations run wild. More than 60 modern and contemporary sculptures are typically on display at a time, including some that children can touch, climb on, or even walk around in. The sculptures range in materials and are constantly changing, so you’ll never know what you’ll see. And be sure to pack a picnic lunch; picnickers are welcome in the Sculpture Park. (51 Sandy Pond Rd., Lincoln; spring hours are Wednesday-Friday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and Saturday-Sunday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; adults $14, children 12 and under free)

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2. Catch a dramatic sunset in Eastie at Piers Park

Across Boston Harbor in East Boston is Piers Park, home to some of the most stunning and unobstructed views of downtown Boston, especially when the sun is setting. Plus, the park has a large playground (including structures for both big and little kids), a splash pad, exercise trails, picnic tables, pavilions, and shady benches—not to mention free parking and onsite restrooms. (Bonus: The adjacent community sailing center also offers everything from beginner’s sailing lessons to chartered cruises.) (95 Marginal St., East Boston; free)

3. Embrace your inner farmer at Drumlin Farm

The 206-acre Drumlin Farm has everything from hayrides to hiking trails to a barnyard of sheep, goats, chickens, and pigs. A Learning Garden introduces kids to vegetables and gardening, and outdoor classrooms offer opportunities to investigate natural habitats and native wildlife. (208 S. Great Rd., Lincoln; open Tuesday-Sunday and Monday holidays from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; admission is free for Mass Audubon members, $8 for nonmember adults, and $6 for children age 2-12)

4. Study the stars at BU’s 0pen observatory night

A crisp spring evening is the perfect time to observe the constellations, planets, moon, and more at Boston University’s Public Open Night at the Observatory. Every Wednesday (weather permitting), staff members from the university’s Department of Astronomy are on hand to answer questions from even the littlest of astronomers and point out the wonders of the night sky. Bonus? A sweeping panoramic view of downtown Boston from the observatory’s rooftop location. Space is limited, and reservations are strongly recommended. (725 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, fifth floor; Wednesdays, starts at 8:30 p.m. during the spring and summer months; free)

5. Investigate pirate lore at Dungeon Rock

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Kids will love the legend of Dungeon Rock, full of pirates, ghosts, and buried treasure and set at the Lynn Woods Reservation. Your family can explore the 174-foot tunnel and cave allegedly dug by 19th-century treasure seekers searching for pirate’s booty. The cave is protected by a heavy iron door that’s only open for a few hours each day during the warmer months (or upon request from the local park rangers) and is damp, dark, and a bit spooky, so don’t forget a flashlight! To find Dungeon Rock, start at the main park entrance at Pennybrook Lane and take Jackson Path for about a mile. (Pennybrook Lane, Lynn; Dungeon Rock Tunnel open Tuesday-Saturday from 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m. but subject to change; free)

6. Visit a fairy house at Weezie’s Garden for Children

Encourage a love of plants, flowers, and nature at the magical Weezie’s Garden for Children, located within the Gardens at Elm Bank in Wellesley. After strolling through acres of breathtaking—and stroller-friendly—gardens, visit the Enchanted Woodland and fairy mound and fairy house, or check out the tea party garden, sandbox, veggie patch, rustic tower, and wide variety of children’s programming. The Garden opens for the season on May 1. (900 Washington St., Wellesley; between May 1 and October 12, open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; admission free for Massachusetts Horticultural Society members, $8 for non-member adults, children under 12 free with adult)

7. Channel your inner duck at the Make Way for Ducklings Parade

Each Mother’s Day, families are invited to dress up like their favorite “Make Way for Ducklings” character and parade through the Boston Common and Public Garden as they trace the steps of the infamous mallards, ending at the beloved sculpture. Decorate your wagons and strollers, bring a picnic, and enjoy the pre- and post-parade family-friendly festivities, including crafts, face painting, a magician, and a puppet show. All children who register will also receive a special Ducklings goodie bag. (Parkman Bandstand on the Boston Common; Sunday, May 8; registration begins at 10 a.m. and the parade starts at noon; registration is $35 per family before May 6 and $40 per family the day of the event)

8. Get up close to wolves at Wolf Hollow

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This wolf sanctuary and nonprofit educational center offers the rare opportunity for visitors to get to know gray wolves. An interactive weekend performance, aimed at adults and kids alike (5 and older is recommended), focuses on everything from wolf myths to the important role wolves play in the ecosystem to similarities between wolves and humans. The highlight of the presentation is the fascinating interaction between the wolves, their pack mates, and the staff. (114 Essex Rd., Ipswich; presentations take place Saturdays and Sundays from April 1 to Nov. 30, weather permitting, at 1:30 p.m.; adult admission is $8.50, children ages 3 to 17 are $6)

9. Spend a day on the water with Charles River Canoe & Kayak

Beginning in May, embark on a guided tour or rent your own family kayak, canoe, or rowboat from one of Charles River Canoe & Kayak’s four locations and spend the day on the Charles River or Boston Harbor. Kids will get a kick out of seeing many iconic Boston landmarks—from the Museum of Science to the Esplanade to the Zakim Bridge—from a whole new perspective. One-way trips between locations and round-trip excursions are available. (Four locations in the Boston area: Kendall Square, Allston/Brighton, Nahanton Park in Newton, and Moody Street Dam in Waltham; rates vary depending on the type of boat)

10. Roam around the cleverly-named World’s End

You can’t beat the beauty and serenity of this 251-acre peninsula. With several miles of shady, stroller-friendly carriage paths (fun fact: they were designed by famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted), views of the Boston skyline, hillsides to climb, open meadows to run through, and rocky shorelines to explore, there’s something for everyone. You also can’t beat the name. Pack a picnic, or drive 10 minutes to Hingham Shipyard and grab a post-hike bite at Wahlburger’s. (250 Martins Ln., Hingham; open daily year-round from 8 a.m. to sunset; admission free for children and members of the Trustees of Reservations, nonmember adults are $6)

11. Hone your biking skills on Recreation Sundays in Cambridge

On Sundays from mid-spring to mid-fall, a mile stretch of Cambridge’s Memorial Drive is closed to motorized traffic, providing the perfect opportunity for an urban family bike ride or roller blade adventure, minus the bustling city traffic. Its wide, flat lanes are perfect for those new to two wheels, and there are plenty of park benches, playgrounds, and grassy knolls along the Charles River to pull over, take a break, and enjoy the view. (Memorial Drive from Western Avenue to Mt. Auburn Street; 11 a.m.-7 p.m. from the last Sunday of April to the second Sunday of November; free)

 

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