8 Boston-area museums that are great for kids

Museum of Science, Boston
A child exploring the Museum of Science in Boston. –Museum of Science, Boston / Flickr

From exploring historic ships to tackling hands-on science experiments, Boston-area museums have plenty to offer children of all ages. Ahead, discover eight that will delight your children.

The Boston Children’s Museum

Your little ones can climb a three-story, rope-enclosed structure made of curved platforms at this 104-year-old children’s museum. They can also channel their inner movie star in the museum’s KidStage, a kid-sized theater. Popular exhibits include the aptly named “Bubbles,” where kids can stretch, blow, swirl, and float bubbles around the room, and “Arthur and Friends,” where children can view themselves on screen with the main character of Marc Brown’s books. (308 Congress St., Boston; open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Fridays until 9 p.m.; admission is $17, kids under 1 are free, and pay $1 admission Fridays between 5 and 9 p.m.)

Museum of Science

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This museum, billed as one of the world’s largest science centers, has more than 700 permanent interactive exhibits, a 4D and IMAX theater, planetarium, and live animals. Inquisitive children can climb inside full-sized models of the Apollo and Mercury capsules, take selfies with life-sized dinosaur models, ride a roller coaster inside a simulator, and mingle with butterflies. Inside a behind-the-scenes exhibit, visitors can even get a sneak peek into how exhibits are made and help the museum create new ones. (1 Science Park, Boston; open Saturday to Thursday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; $25 adults, $20 kids age 3-11 for exhibit halls, movies, planetarium, and butterfly garden cost extra)

Institute of Contemporary Art

Families can take in the art, music, dance, film, and other activities at the ICA any time. But on the last Saturday of every month, the museum hosts an all day “Play Date” full of interactive activities geared toward families. Parents, as well as kids, enjoy free admission. Past program activities have included picture book readings, puppet making, family dance workshops, animated video workshops, art talks, sketch sessions, and a make-your-own-comics class. The program runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Two parents are admitted free when accompanied by children age 12 and under. (25 Harbor Shore Drive, Boston; $15 adults, kids 17 and under free)

Boston Fire Museum

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Children fascinated with firefighters can examine centuries-old firefighting equipment and historic Boston firefighting photos at this 1891 Boston firehouse. They’ll see how firefighters did their job hundreds of years ago: the buckets they used in the 1700s, a hand-drawn truck that carried ladders to fires in 1860, and a steam pumper used for putting out fires in 1880. They’ll also get up close to uniforms firefighters wear on the job today — the coats, boots, masks, helmets, and gloves. They’ll even meet a real firehouse dog, a Dalmatian named Sparky. (344 Congress St., Boston; open Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; free, donations accepted)

The USS Constitution Museum. —Flickr / Loco Steve

USS Constitution Museum

Kids can climb aboard the oldest commissioned ship in the United States Navy, the USS Constitution. In the nearby museum, children can experience what life was like for sailors aboard “Old Ironsides,” as the ship is called. Hands-on exhibits immerse kids in ship life — they learn how to scrub the deck and furl the sails. Kids can also swing in a hammock, which was a sailor’s bed, and learn how sailors ate and dressed. Do your children think they would have fared well as sailors? They can take a recruiting quiz to find out. (Charlestown Navy Yard, Charlestown; museum open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., ship open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; suggested donation of $5-$10 for adults, $3-$5 for children, and $20-$25 for families)

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Before exploring the fine art galleries, families can stop by the museum’s “Family Art Cart” for ready-to-go educational gallery activities designed for kids age 4 and up. Other ways this museum caters to its littlest visitors is through its “MFA Playdates” program on the first Monday and third Saturday of every month. Families meet at 10:15 a.m. to enjoy story times and art-making activities. During a “Junior Artist” program that runs Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., kids age 5 to 8 examine and make art. The museum also has art classes for kids. (465 Huntington Avenue, Boston; $25 adults, free for kids age 7 to 17 after 3 p.m. on weekdays, on weekends, and during Boston public school holidays and $10 otherwise, kids 6 and under are free)

MIT Museum

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The Massachusetts Institute of Technology museum features rotating exhibitions on a range of STEAM-based topics (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) all year long. A 60-minute “Science on Saturday” program, offered Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon, invites kids of all ages to help presenters with science demonstrations and explore hands-on activity booths. After that, kids age 12 and up tackle engineering and design activities in the “Idea Hub” program from noon to 4 p.m. Past participants have made mobile phone apps, 3D designs, and moving art pieces. (265 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge; open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., except on major holidays; $10 for adults, $5 for children under 18, free for kids under 5)

Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum

Your family can attend a colonial town meeting at the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum, which takes visitors back to the time of the Boston Tea Party on December 16, 1773. Visitors can explore two authentically restored tea ships named the Beaver and the Eleanor and examine the only known surviving tea chest from the Boston Tea Party. Families will also rub elbows with “Sam Adams” (thanks to a historical interpreter), experience high-tech interactive exhibits, and watch a multi-sensory film called “Let it Begin Here.” (306 Congress St., Boston; open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; $28 for adults, $18 kids age 5 to 12)

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