Fellow rookie mom Becky describes some of Boston’s best bets for babies especially for the Spring and Summer:
Monday — Play it Local
We live near Cleveland Circle in Brighton, Massachusetts, close to Boston College, sandwiched between the towns of Newton and Brookline. One of the delights of living in Boston is that it is so easy to walk to places of interest . We have a number of favorite neighborhood activities: playing at the Waldstein Playground, walking around the Chestnut Hill Reservoir, and visiting the Brookline Public and Newton Free Libraries. While, for the adults, these may not compete in interest value with the Art Museum or the Aquarium, they are free and when you’re a new little guy or gal, probably just as stimulating.
The Waldstein Playground is between Dean Road and Clinton Path, behind the buildings on the south side of Beacon Street. It has baby and kid swings, a sandbox, a spray fountain for playing in, and other climbing equipment. My son’s favorite feature is that from the park you can see the “T” trains going by. The Chestnut Hill Reservoir, adjacent to Cleveland Circle, is about two miles around, and affords views across the water, and of the local wildlife: swans, turtles and ducks.
Both the Brookline and Newton Libraries have large children’s rooms, and each has a nice selection of board books arranged so that babies can pull out any they find interesting.
Tuesday — Make Way for Ducklings
One of America’s classic children’s stories, Robert McCloskey’s Make Way for Ducklings is set in Boston. If you have read this story to your child, you must make a trip to the Public Garden (located in central Boston, at Arlington Street, between Beacon and Boylston streets).
In the spring and summer the Public Garden is alive with trees and flowers. When we visited last, much of the grass was roped off to allow for new growth, but we did find a section of grass near the duckling statues (memorializing Make Way) where Nick could crawl around. The bronze statues of mama duck and ducklings make a wonderful photo opportunity.
While you’re there, ride the Swan Boats. For just $2.75 (for adults, kids 2-15 are just $1.25) you get a tour around the shallow pond in the middle of the Garden, for a close up look at the park’s real ducks! For a longer outing, also visit the Boston Common’s Frog Pond, where you can wade in the water. Check the website for hours.
Wednesday — Enjoy the Museum of Fine Arts
Located in the Fenway, Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts is one of the country’s oldest art museums. It seems an unlikely destination for babies, and if you’re on a budget the admission price may be prohibitive ($15 for adults for the permanent museum collection and $22 for special exhibitions), but the Museum can be a great day’s outing. The collection is encyclopedic, including everything from Greek statues, Egyptian mummies, Asian pottery, Impressionist paintings, musical instruments, and contemporary prints and photographs. The Lane Gallery, with its colorful modern paintings, is a great place to start, as you can point out shapes and colors in the bold art works.
At one end of the hemicycle, the museum provides a small room (with changing table) for private nursing of infants, though I’ve also made myself comfortable on the second floor leather couches (adjacent to the rotunda) for this purpose. If your kid needs a break to make some noise and crawl around, the Calderwood Courtyard outside the basement level cafeteria is a wonderful spot.
This museum doesn’t allow touching, but if your child likes looking at picture books, the MFA offers lots of new subjects for examination! [If the ticket price seems exorbitant, consider a City Pass, which is just $39 and includes admission to six area attractions: Museum of Science, New England Aquarium, Skywalk Observatory at the Prudential Center, Museum of Fine Arts, Harvard Museum of Natural History and the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum.]
Thursday — Stroll Coolidge Corner and hit the Farmer’s Market
One of my favorite activities when Nick was a small baby was to take him to the Brookline Farmer’s Market. From my house it is about a two-mile walk to Coolidge Corner, where on Thursday afternoons the Brookline Farmer’s market is full of people, including lots of moms pushing strollers. You can get all the typical farmer’s market produce, along with flowers, local goat cheeses, and there’s an ice cream truck as well. For a long list of Boston-area farmers’ markets with opening dates and times, see here.
Coolidge Corner has a mix of great local shops and restaurants and chains: be sure to check out the award winning local bookstore, Brookline Booksmith, and a wonderful (if high end) toy store called Magic Beans. Magic Beans has a story time for kids 0-3 on Tuesday mornings at 11, and on Fridays they host Music Together classes. They have a playscape in the back of the store, with a train table and toys for kids to try out, as well as a rocking chair where I’ve nursed Nick on more than one occasion. From Magic Beans head north on Harvard Avenue to get to a kid’s park – just a block or two up on the right side of the street.
Friday — Cambridge Common and Barefoot Books
Harvard University is located in Cambridge across the Charles River from Boston. The beautiful old main campus is worth a visit, just to stroll through the brick buildings and soak up the “smart.” A short walk from the campus is Cambridge Common, which has a very nice fenced kid’s playground with sandbox, climbing equipment, and swings.
Further out on Massachusetts Avenue (a walk of about 15 minutes or a quick drive) gets you to Barefoot Books, one of Cambridge’s treasures. Located at 1771 Massachusetts Ave, this publisher’s retail store features their beautiful books, offers readings for babies and kids on Friday and Saturdays at 10:30 a.m., and exhibits original illustration art work for budding young gallery-goers.
Saturday — New England Aquarium
The Aquarium is another of Boston’s more pricy attractions ($17.95 for adults, $9.95 for 3-11 year-olds), but one that is cool on a hot summer day, and bound to delight all members of the party. Compared to some of its west coast counterparts, the New England Aquarium is on the small side, which is just as well for a baby. In the main hall of the aquarium you’ll find several enclosures of penguins, whose vocalizations reverberate around the building. Small tanks can be found around the perimeter of the building with different types of fish, or specific habitats. In the center of the building is a massive tank with giant sea turtles, sharks, and eels that you can walk around, up to the top. At the top of the ramp, you can look down into the tank. Additional exhibits can be found downstairs and sea lions swim in an enclosure outside (accessed through doors at the rear of the building). The Aquarium can be crowded and noisy, so plan your visit during a weekday if at all possible. [Also part of City Pass, see MFA, above]
Sunday — Get to know your resources: Isis Maternity
Isis Maternity is an organization and a group of retail stores that offer childbirth education, instructor-led infant playgroups, workshops, book signings and other events. Brigham and Women’s Hospital (where many of my friends have had their babies) contracts with Isis for their childbirth classes, as did Cambridge Birth Center, where my son was born. Isis is a wonderful place to find baby toys and goods (like slings, Boppy pillows, Robeez shoes, etc.) and is indispensable for nursing and pumping items, like replacement parts, nursing bras, milk storage bags, etc.
Isis has knowledgeable and friendly sales people, as well as lactation consultants who can be reached by phone or are available during a free drop-in “Breastfeeding Talk”. We have not yet joined one of the six-week “developmental playgroups,” but if they’re as useful and informative as the Newborn Essentials course we took before Nick was born, I can only imagine how wonderful they must be. If you join Isis ($39 for a six-month membership) you get weekly emails with information about child development and useful web resources.
Getting There and Back Again
Ride the T
My son loves trains, and for him, riding the “T” is a special treat. The “T” (short for MBTA, or Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority) is a system of subway and street level trolleys, organized into four color-coded routes. The T is a great way to get around Boston, which has notoriously challenging driving, and even worse parking. When Nick was a newborn, we just took him on the train in the Bjorn.
Now that he’s stroller bound much of the time, it’s trickier. Most green-line T trains have steep steps, although some lines feature newer trains with low decks for easier access [in which case you want to board through one of the rear doors]. When I know we’ll be taking the T, I opt for the umbrella stroller, and just heft Nick, in the stroller, up the steps. As Boston is an old city, most of the T stations do not have elevators, so be prepared to carry the stroller up and down flights of steps. In the stations, the person selling tokens will release a special gate to allow a stroller to pass through the turnstiles. A moderately useful PDF brochure about accessibility can be found on the MTBA website.
A note on Boston Logan Airport
If you’re visiting Boston from elsewhere, and are flying through Terminal C of Boston’s Logan Airport, you should know about Kidport. At one end of the terminal (opposite the food court) there is a large play area for small children. With picture windows that face the runways, ample rocking chairs, and several different play stations (a model airplane to “fly,” a Lego table, a luggage ramp to slide down, a play kitchen, and a wonderful giant kinetic sculpture where balls move through a maze triggering noises as they go) it is a great place to pass some time as you wait for a flight. If your child is still too small to crawl, they may enjoy the mirrored walls at either end of the terminal.
Becky Senf is mother of one-year-old Nick and Ph.D. student at Boston University — We thank her so much for contributing and invite all of our readers to do the same!!