9 ways to have end-of-summer fun with the kids

FROM MERLIN ARCHIVE DO NOT RESEND TO LIBRARY  Boston - 4/15/2000 - Public Garden - The swan boats are back for another season.      Library Tag 02062005    Business & Money      / OPS / bg store / swan boats   18marathon              Library Tag   04182010   Travel   -  New England
Swan Boat rides in the Public Garden continue through Sept. 17. –The Boston Globe

The new school year is fast approaching. Depending on how you feel about getting the kids out of the house, you might be more than OK with this.

But summer is far from over yet. Ahead, discover nine ways to have family fun before fall hits.

Watch a movie beneath the stars

Spread out a blanket and catch a free outdoor family-friendly movie — like The Secret Life of Pets or The Angry Bird Movie — at various spots across the city in August and September. The Hatch Shell’s annual Free Friday Flicks continues through Aug. 25; the Prudential Center’s Family Film Festival takes place on Saturdays through Aug. 26; Mayor Walsh’s Movie Nights run on various nights through Aug. 31; and the Boston Common will host two movie nights in September. (Various times; various locations; free) 

Ride on a swan boat


If you haven’t taken the kids on an iconic swan boat ride in the Public Garden this season, you have until Sept. 17. Enjoy a cruise around the Boston Garden lagoon, and relax before the hustle and bustle of the new school year. (10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily until Labor Day, then noon to 4 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends; Public Garden, Boston; $3.50 for adults, $2 for kids ages 2 to 15)

Fly a kite on Spectacle Island

It’s just a 20-minute ferry ride from Boston to Spectacle Island, where your family can fly a kite from the highest point in Boston Harbor. Make it a day trip and hike, boat, and swim along the sandy beach. (Spectacle Island, Boston; ferry costs $17 for adults, $10 for children, free for kids under 3)

Mingle with butterflies at Franklin Park Zoo

After checking out the gorillas and tigers, see if the kids can coax a Monarch or Zebra Longwing butterfly onto their fingers inside the seasonal Butterfly Landing. The tent, full of natural light and soothing music, has 10 different types of fluttering butterflies inside. Crafty children can also create their own butterfly masks. (10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends; Franklin Park Zoo, Boston; $19.95 for adults, $13.95 for kids ages 2 to 12)

Go to a Mass. museum—for free


Spend the day exploring the major exhibits and hidden gems of the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, the USS Constitution Museum, and more without paying admission, thanks to the Highland Street Foundation’s annual Free Fun Fridays. As part of the program, which runs through Aug. 25, a handful or two of museums across the state waive all fees each Friday. The deal is for guests of all ages, whether they live in state or out of state. Note that parking and transportation are not included. (Through Aug. 25 at various times; various locations; free)

Breimeris Torres, 12, of Jamaica Plain holds hands with her sister Banyely, 7, her cousin Zayrangie Guerrero, 10, and her sister Isthar Torres, 10, as they play in the Boston Common Frog Pond spray pool. —Jessica Rinaldi / The Boston Globe

Splash in the Boston Common Frog Pond

With the playground and carousel and all that green space, there are plenty of reasons to wile away a late summer day at America’s oldest public park. But the Boston Common Frog Pond spray pool is only open until Labor Day, so make those plans happen sooner rather than later. (Through Sept. 4 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Boston Common Spray Pool, Boston; free)

Eat cannolis at the 98th annual Saint Anthony’s Feast

Saint Anthony’s Feast, billed as the largest Italian religious festival in New England, has taken over the North End of Boston every last weekend in August since 1919. This year, take the whole family to the four-day celebration, which includes strolling performers, parades, live music, shopping, bounce houses, and, of course, all of the Italian food you can handle. (Aug. 24 to 27 at various times; Endicott, Thacher, and North Margin streets in the North End, Boston; free admission, various prices for food)

Gaze at the stars from the Boston University Observatory

Have an astronomy-themed experience at the Boston University’s Coit Observatory Public Open Night. It’s a chance to look through binoculars and telescopes at the great expanse above. The event is free, but it’s a good idea to secure tickets in advance because space is limited. (Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m., weather permitting; Coit Observatory, Boston; free)

Hike a reservation


You don’t have to travel far from Boston for a fabulous family-friendly hike. Climb 635 feet to the summit at the Blue Hills Reservation for panoramic views of Boston, go on a historic, self-guided tour through Spot Pond Brook Archaeological District at Middlesex Fells Reservation, or kayak and bird watch at the Rumney Marsh Reservation. (Reservations open dawn until dusk; various locations; free)