Up until the room service cart was trundled into our room at Boston’s Fairmont Copley Plaza a few years ago, my then six-year-old’s only exposure to Boston Cream had been the filling of a chain-store donut. And despite my having gone to school in the area, I too only knew of Boston Cream in this way until the waiter whisked away the silver dome to reveal an impossibly tall and flamboyant slice of Boston Cream Pie, which my daughter and I shared to the last bite (my younger daughter, alas, had fallen asleep five minutes before the food arrived).
So not only were we paying through the nose for room service, but we were ordering a food that had the name of our destination in its title. There are few things more insufferably touristy than that. But it also happened to be my daughter’s first real Eloise moment. She had never had room service, and she also noticed that the back-to-back “P logo on the headboard was the same one from Eloise, in which the fictional character resides in the Fairmont’s better known sister hotel, The Plaza in New York City.
Much like Eloise, my daughters traipsed through their Plaza in Boston, enjoying its grandeur while at the same time managing to loosen up the tight smiles on some of the more uptight guests. And that describes Boston, too. It’s a city that at times feels and acts important and proper, but like many popular towns has the capacity for casual and meaningful moments if you know where to find them.
Faneuil Hall. Photo credit Harshlight on Flickr
Fun Things to Do in Boston with Kids
Nothing says touristy like Quincy Market, the middle strip of food stalls and vendors that runs down the middle of Faneuil Hall Marketplace. But the spot also has special meaning for our family: If not for this bustling bazaar, I tell my kids, they probably wouldn’t be here – I met their mother in the nearby suburb of Waltham, and we’d visit the marketplace as many college kids did and still do. Nostalgia and steep prices aside, it’s still worth strolling through the food stalls as well as lingering between Faneuil Hall and the marketplace to watch street performers.
My friends Mike and Sharon recently relocated to the Boston area with their daughter and speak well of the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway. Mike says he and his family “love walking around this new — and still growing — 15-acre, mile-long linear park that occupies the footprint of expressways that were buried during the Big Dig. Our favorite area is near State Street and Atlantic Avenue — close to Boston Harbor, the North End, and Faneuil Hall — where there’s a carousel, a huge lawn perfect for picnicking, and an AWESOME fountain-filled plaza that kids can run around in.”
North End. Photo credit TJ Ryan on Flickr
Mike also notes that they “love walking around the North End — it’s something that is on most tourist itineraries, but when you leave the main drags you really start to see the authentic, still very Italian face of the neighborhood.”
Fewer activities reap greater benefits in Boston than simply walking around. During one visit, while my wife was stuck in a business meeting elsewehere in town, my daughters and I chanced upon the Vendome Memorial on Commonwealth Ave. and Dartmouth Street in the Back Bay. The black marble semi-circle looks pretty nondescript until you notice the fireman’s hat and coat sculpted to appear as though it’s casually resting on top of the circle. The memorial recalls nine firefighters who died putting out a 1972 fire at the nearby Vendome Hotel (since rebuilt). Death is always a tricky thing to explain to kids this young, but that’s one of the benefits of graceful memorials like this one – it makes your job easier.
Not for nothing, there are many major, must-see things to do in Boston. But as you’re walking around with your family, also make time for the smaller moments, especially if it involves a slice of pie.
Boston Travel Guide at ShermansTravel.com
Ciao Bambino recommended Boston family hotels