Boston Children's Museum
A top pick for kids of all ages (we're pretty sure parents will like it, too), the Boston Children's Museum bubbles over with energy, fun and education – from a participatory KidStage to a hands-on Construction Zone. A visit here is sure to wear out the wee ones and guarantee an afternoon nap (for all). Open Sat.–Thurs. 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; Fri. 10 a.m.–9 p.m.
Institute of Contemporary Art
Opened in late 2006 (as the city’s first new art museum in 100 years), the Institute of Contemporary Art's permanent home was a welcome addition to South Boston’s waterfront. Once inside, take the elevator to the light-soaked galleries on the top floor. You may not like everything up there, but it will certainly get you talking. Don't leave without a visit to the gift shop. Open Tues.–Wed. and Sat.–Sun. 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; Thurs.–Fri. 10 a.m.–9 p.m.
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
View the collection of Isabella Stewart Gardner, who during her lifetime amassed over 2,500 eclectic words of art, including sculptures, paintings, furniture, and rare books. When you are finished exploring the masterworks, duck outside to relax in the exquisite garden courtyard. Make the most of your visit by reading up on Gardner before exploring her home – she was quite the interesting character. Open Tues.–Sun. 11 a.m.–5 p.m. (last admission at 4:20 p.m.).
John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum
For aficionados of presidential history and parents with school-age kids in tow it’s a truly special treat to visit the Kennedy Library and Museum. Permanent exhibitions include a look at the space race during the Kennedy years, his use of television and other media to deliver his message to the American people, and his early years and family. Daily 9 a.m.–5 p.m.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
This vast museum contains traditional galleries featuring European, Asian, African, and American art, with special exhibitions – ranging from Italian masters to modernist photography – mounted on a regular basis. An expansion, completed in late 2010, tacked on a strikingly modern Art of the Americas Wing with exhibits highlighting centuries of work from North, Central and South America. Also notable is the grand, iconic-columned entrance on State Street overlooking The Fens. Open Mon.–Tues. and Sat.–Sun. 10 a.m.–4:45 p.m.; Wed. 10 a.m.–9:45 p.m.
Museums at Harvard University
Behind the sturdy facades of several Harvard buildings sit some of Boston's most unusual museum exhibits. For one, there’s the delicate glass flowers collection at the Harvard Museum of Natural History – a definite don't miss – unless, of course, you’d rather see the glass invertebrates at the Museum of Comparative Zoology.
Nichols House Museum
To see one of State House architect's Charles Bulfinch's smaller works up close, step inside the Nichols House Museum on Beacon Hill. Completed in 1804, the four-story townhouse features exquisite antiques from around the world, as well as furnishings from the 17th to 19th centuries. Apr.–Oct., Tues.–Sat. 11 a.m.–4 p.m.; Nov.–March, Thurs.–Sat. 11 a.m.–4 p.m.
Old Sturbridge Village
Are your kids grousing about their chores again? A day at Old Sturbridge Village will cure them of it (while they're having fun). The living-history village puts your family smack dab in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Kids under eight will be fascinated by the hands-on Samson's Children's Museum.
If you’ve even a mild interest in witchcraft, the site of the infamous 1692 witch trials is not to be missed. While there's quite a bit of hokey tourist stuff around Salem these days (fortune teller, anyone?), there's a lot of history to take in and plenty of great photo-ops. If crowds (and creepy decorations) don't scare you, visit during Halloween when the city really goes all out.
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