We considered many cities in the USA for our white Christmas experience and we finally settled on Boston for a number of reasons. I knew there was plenty of things to do in Boston with kids and it suited my itinerary considering I wanted to be in New York City for New Years Eve. This made Boston the perfect choice with a reported 60% chance of snow on Christmas day.
We had a very quick visit to Boston so I knew I would have to be organised and pack it all in like usual. We had 4 days and that included Christmas Day when most things would be closed. There were a few specific things we had on our list and my sister and her husband were meeting us there hopefully to enjoy our first white Christmas.
White Christmas in Boston
We arrived by train from Washington DC about 6pm on December 23 with my sister and hubby due to arrive at 10pm that night straight from Melbourne. We had already been on the road for 3 weeks by then and the kids were incredibly excited to see other family members. We arrived at the Eliot Suites Hotel on Commonwealth Ave in the Back Bay area, put our bags down and headed straight out to do some shopping to get prepared for Christmas.
I had seen a few spots of old snow on the train on the way up and I was hoping to see snow when we got off the train in Back Bay. It was unbelievably cold and plenty of ice on the streets and frozen frost in all the gardens but no snow. I had a brief moment of disappointment when the cab driver told me that Boston hasn’t had snow on Christmas day since 2006. I then thought well they’re well over due, this could be the year!
Long story short, it started snowing at 8am Christmas Morning and snowed until about 11. It delivered about 4 inches of the perfect fluffy white stuff. We were straight out into it outside our hotel and we had a brilliant time throwing snowballs and eating ice. We had Christmas dinner at the Ritz Carlton and then spent the rest of the day out and about in Boston. We didn’t get back to the hotel until 11.30 that night. We walked across frozen lakes, made snowmen and the kids made snow angels just like they do in all the American television shows and movies.
It couldn’t have been more perfect and I’m so thankful that I finally decided on Boston to make my dream of a white Christmas come true.
Our top things to do in Boston with kids
I had so many things I wanted to see and do, there are so many great things to do in Boston with kids and we had very little time to do it in! Here’s what we packed into our 4 days in Boston.
Boston Common, founded in 1634, is the United States’ oldest public park. Anti-Vietnam War and civil rights rallies were held on Boston Common, including one led by Martin Luther King, Jr. In 1979, Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass in the park. Friends of the Public Garden is a non-profit citizen’s advocacy group formed in 1970 to preserve and enhance the Boston Public Garden, Common, and Commonwealth Avenue Mall in collaboration with the Mayor and the Parks & Recreation Department. The Friends number over 2,500 members and many volunteers.
We walked down Commonwealth Ave Mall and into Boston Common. We stopped at a food cart and got an Italian sausage for brunch and continued our walk through the park. The lakes were frozen over and the kids thought it was amazing to be walking on water. There was also an outdoor ice skating rink at the Frog Pond with many local kids skating around enjoying Christmas eve. The following evening when we returned to Boston Common the kids had fun making snow angels, having snow ball fights and they made a snowman. The snow covered park was light up beautifully on Christmas night and there were people out and about enjoying the fresh snowfall.
Boston Common is also where the Freedom Trail begins.
Boston Freedom Trail
Craig is a bit of a history buff and the Freedom Trail for him was top of his list. We got up early on Christmas Eve and headed down Commonwealth Ave to Boston Common and commenced the Freedom Trail for there. The Freedom Trail is a 2.5 mile walk and incorporates 16 historical sites. The Freedom Trail is a unique collection of museums, churches, meeting houses, burying grounds, parks, a ship, and historic markers that tell the story of the American Revolution. Become familiar with great stories of a people rising up against a mighty nation to demand civil liberties and freedom.
You can complete the walk using Google Maps or you can book a tour with an informative local tour guide. There is even a Freedom Trail app that is available and suitable for both iPhone and android phone users. Most of the sites are free or suggest donations, the Old South Meeting House, the Old State House and the Paul Revere House charge admission. This was one of our top things to do in Boston with kids as they are at a good age to listen and understand, if your kids are young this might be a bit boring for them.
Faneuil Hall Marketplace is actually four great places in one location, Faneuil Hall, Quincy Market, North Market and South Market, all set within a cobblestone promenade. Faneuil Hall was built in 1742 by Peter Faneuil, one of Boston’s wealthiest merchants as a gift to the people of Boston. Faneuil Hall was expanded in 1826 to include Quincy Market, designed in the then-popular Greek Revival style and named after the Boston Mayor of the time, Josiah Quincy.
By the mid 1900s the marketplace had fallen into disrepair and was going to be demolished, it was preserved in the 1970’s by a group of committed Bostonians. Today Faneuil Hall Marketplace is Boston’s central meeting place, offering visitors and residents alike an unparalleled urban marketplace.
We visited on Christmas Eve and found the area to be a hive of activity. Faneuil Hall is more of a craft market selling craft products and an information centre for tourists about the history of the area. Quincy Market Hall is lined with food stalls including Boston Pretzels, Boston & Maine Fish Company, Boston Chowda, The Chip Yard, Regina Pizzeria, Gourmet India and many more delicious food to try. There’s a version of the Cheers Bar attached to outside of the Quincy Market along with Durgan Park which has been in the same location since 1826.
The Original Cheers Bar
This was all me! The Cheers Bar was one of the main reasons for going to Boston apart from a White Christmas of course! This was my favourite show when I was in my 20’s and I really wanted to go there and see it. I booked 3 months in advance for a table for lunch on Boxing Day.
There’s a Cheers at Faneuil Hall Marketplace but Cheers Beacon Hill is the original bar that the show was based on originally called the Bull & Finch. The bar opened in 1969 and had been a quiet, low profile, local watering-hole until it was discovered by a couple of producers in 1981 looking for a bar to base their show on. The TV show premiered in 1982 using the facade in the opening credits and Cheers was born. The show ran for 11 seasons and made the bar one of the most famous in Boston.
I was a bit surprised to walk down those iconic stairs to a completely unrecognisable Cheers bar. It was only after that I found out that the bar in the show was nothing like the real pub. There is a replica of the set used in the show upstairs though where you can take photos with cutouts of your favourite characters. The pub itself is really cosy and reminded me of an old English country pub, through the main bar there is a restaurant out the back. They service your usual pub grub and we all enjoyed our meal. There is a merchandise store where you can purchase t-shirts, beer glasses, coffee mugs, coaster and other souvenirs.
Built in 1912, Fenway Park is the home of the Boston Red Sox baseball team. Although it wasn’t baseball season, we still scraped in for the last stadium tour of the day on our last night in Boston. The stadium seats 37,300 people and is the fourth smallest stadium in the USA. Now not knowing much about baseball or any baseball players, I didn’t take away too much from this tour but I can tell you one thing, the lone red seat in the right field bleachers (Section 42, Row 37, Seat 21) signifies the longest home run ever hit at Fenway. A Google search reveals it was hit by Ted Williams on June 9, 1946 and was officially measured at 502 feet (153 m).
The tour includes the whole stadium, including the locker room but not onto the field. We walked through the members area, the media box, through the seating to the red seat and up to the top of the Green Monster. We saw the pitch looking pretty spectacular covered in snow and we were lucky enough to get a cracking sunset behind the Budweiser sign. So it wasn’t all wasted on me! It was one of the best things to do in Boston with kids though and even though my kids know little about baseball they still were very interested in the tour which was great.
Established in 1636, its history, influence and wealth have made it one of the world’s most prestigious universities. Harvard’s alumni include eight U.S. presidents, several foreign heads of state, 62 living billionaires, 359 Rhodes Scholars, and 242 Marshall Scholars and have won 10 Academy Awards, 48 Pulitzer Prizes and 108 Olympic medals (46 gold, 41 silver and 21 bronze). Harvard alumni include US Presidents John. F. Kennedy, George W Bush and Barack Obama, Obama’s wife Michelle and Mark Zuckerberg to name just a few.
Being Australian, we’ve grown up with Harvard University being the epitome of the best ever education where only the smartest and richest people go. You see and hear all about it in the American movies and sitcoms like Legally Blonde of course! I just had to go and have a look for myself, the grounds looked amazing from what I’d seen.
We were told by our doorman that if we just followed Massachusetts Ave north from our hotel we would walk straight into it. It was supposed to be just over the Charles River that separates Boston from Cambridge. Off we set, all 3 kids in tow in the freezing cold. We hit the Charles River and got part way across, the winds sweeping up the river were arctic, no word of a lie it was the coldest wind I have ever experienced. We got to the other side and kept walking then realised it was still a bit of a hike so we jumped on a local bus.
The bus dropped us right outside the walls of Harvard University and we walked straight inside. It was just as beautiful as I imagined and the covering off snow made it even more amazing. Unfortunately we had limited time and had to head off only after a short explore. We did get to see the bronze statue of John Harvard who the college was named after! There was a queue of people lined up to rub his shoe just like the students do in hope that it brings them good luck in their exams.
Newbury Street Shopping
Newbury St was one street over from our hotel and we walked it a couple of times during our stay. Newbury Street is a mile-long strip lined with historic 19th-century brownstone buildings that contain heaps of shops and restaurants, making it a popular destination for tourists and locals. The most “high-end boutiques” are located near Boston Common. Interestingly shops are located in the basement, street level and upper level of the brownstone buildings. Due to the concentration of up-market stores at its lower end, it’s believed to be one of the most expensive streets in the world.
It is definitely worth visiting Newbury Street, we bought Keira an new heavier winter jacket from Zara on Newbury Street as her jacket from Australia just wasn’t cutting it for the US east coast winter and she was cold. There are all sorts of stores here in Newbury from high end through to your usual North Face, Patagonia, Uniglo and even convenience store, bars and hotels. It’s an affluent end of town, the houses are just beautiful and exactly what you expect to see. Even if you aren’t shopping, it’s worth a visit just to see the famous brownstones.
What did we think of Boston?
Boston was my favourite city out of all the cities we visited in the USA. It was a hard decision between Boston and New York but there was just something about Boston. Maybe because my dream of a white Christmas came true but I definitely felt sad when leaving, feeling that I hadn’t seen enough especially as there are so many other things to do in Boston with kids that we didn’t get time to visit. If we ever return to the US, Boston will be at the top of my list.
If we had more time I would have liked to have done the Hop On Hop Off Trolley tour as I feel these are great for seeing a lot in a short amount of time. Christmas time made this difficult as I still had to do a small amount of organising as both the little ones were still expecting Santa to find us so I had to organise that.
For tourists we were probably there at the worst time, we arrived in the evening of the 23 December and left early on the 27 December. So as you can see, we packed a bit in. Christmas Day, after we spent the morning throwing snowballs at each other, we got ready and went to the Ritz Carlton Boston for Christmas lunch. We stayed there for most of the afternoon. We met another Australian family and they joined us for the afternoon at our table for some Christmas Cheer and then headed to Boston Common for the kids to play in the snow, and the big kids of course.
We said goodbye to our new friends and headed off to Faneuil Hall to see if we could get some dinner. It was closed and looking back it was a bit ambitious but we stopped and watched the Faneuil Hall Blink! Christmas Tree spectacular. The sparkling 85-foot Norwegian spruce with 600,000 LED lights were part of the Blink! light and sound extravaganza.
Around the corner from Faneuil Hall we found a cosy bar that would let us in with the kids called the Ginger Man. We parked ourselves there for some food and a couple of the 150 odd beers that they have on tap and in bottles. Not sure what it’s like normally but this night it was dimmly lit with a cosy atmosphere perfect for a nightcap on Christmas night.
On our way back to our hotel we passed through Boston Common again and stopped to make a snowman then we headed down Newbury Street to Massachusetts Ave and our hotel. We got back at 11.30pm on Christmas night! Its fair to say we made the most of it. Boston will always hold a special place in my heart now and I will always have fond memories from our experience there.
Have you been to Boston? How was your experience, please let me know in the comments below.
Sal, Craig & Our3kids.