Yet another day off school last week – this time to celebrate Columbus Day. American public holidays are completely different to the Brits’ – like only one day off for Christmas, but then a day half way through January for Martin Luther King Day. Taking advantage of the fact that this particular holiday fell on a Monday, we took the Friday off too and went to Boston for the long weekend.
Initially we thought we’d like to take the train, until we worked out the return fare for a family of four was double hiring a car. Poor old C ended up doing all the driving, since the whole driving-on-the-wrong-side-of-the-road thing still freaks me out. We took the more scenic I-95 route, stopping for lunch in Mystic, Connecticut – who knew that Mystic Pizza is a real place?
Including the lunch stop, the drive from Manhattan to Boston took five hours through the states of New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Two hours in, I finally figured out how to play our own music in the hire car. Adele came on. Two year old B frowned, and said “That’s not my favourite song.” Twisting round, I said “But this is a great song! Where did you get such strong opinions, funny B?” to which she replied, “And that’s not my name. You can call me…. SUPER B.” Love the way her personality is emerging as her speech improves.
We rented a lovely apartment in the Seaport District through Airbnb, having found that hotels are simply not relaxing with young children. This way you can enjoy your evening without having to hide in the hotel bathroom after putting the kids to bed. Which sucks.
Boston is a great choice for a weekend away with young children since the distances are all manageable and there’s so much to see and do. The atmosphere is much calmer and more relaxed than Manhattan, it was such a welcome break. But even better than that… Bostonians can make real tea! At every single place during our trip, tea was served in a pot, with boiling water poured straight onto the bag, and cold milk in a jug. None of this maddening tea bag on the side of a mug of tepid water so prevalent in New York.
Here’s our itinerary, if you’re thinking of taking your own kids.
Take a Duck tour round Boston. We booked on the earliest slot at 8.30am, partly to get us up and out of the house, partly to take advantage of the cheaper ticket prices. It is fairly pricey; even with the discount, our family of four cost just shy of $100. But it is an excellent way to get a sense of the city, and the children loved the way the bus converted into a boat half way through the 80 minute ride. B was deeply unsure when the bus drove straight into the Charles River, but soon relaxed when she realised we weren’t getting wet. Our driver tried to persuade the girls to come and take a turn steering the Duck, a perk only offered to the youngest kids. They weren’t budging.
Getting off at the Museum of Science, we walked over the river to Cambridge in order to see the MIT campus. From there, we walked back down the Charles River and over the bridge to Beacon Hill. This is a truly lovely neighbourhood; low, old, red brick buildings, cobbled streets and lots of independent shops. We had lunch in one of the many restaurants on Charles Street and took a look at the Cheers Bar, then back through the Boston Common for the girls to let off steam.
We took a taxi to Paul Revere’s famous Old North Church in the North End of Boston, and picked up the Freedom Trail from there. This is a red brick trail inlaid into the pavement, which proved really popular with our girls as it meant they could lead the group.
The Freedom Trail is a great way to see some of the city’s main historical highlights, and gives a good overview of the American Revolution. There’s a lot to see besides statues and buildings; the kids enjoyed finding a tiny Lego police station built into a crumbling brick wall.
We peeled off after a while in order to reach the Boston Tea Party Museum and the Boston Children’s Museum, which are both very close to each other on the Boston Harbourwalk. The floating Tea Party Museum has timed ticket entries to avoid overcrowding, so we decided admire it from the outside and move on. T was v disappointed to find out there wouldn’t actually be a tea party, she thought there’d be cake and games, bless her…
The Boston Children’s Museum was fantastic, really good and well worth visiting. There was a live performance of ‘The Three Little Pigs’ in a tiny theatre, endless hands-on interactive exhibits, water stations, raceways… we could have spent all day there. In fact, I think people must actually do that since you all get a hand stamp so you can come back to the museum any time that day. There’s a large, unsupervised cloakroom where you can leave coats and strollers.
Tickets cost $16 for kids older than 1 and adults alike. Under 1s go free.
This week’s Highs & Lows:
- Seeing some of the famous Fall foliage driving from New York to Boston. Those trees are “beyond stunning”, as they say here
- Successfully sewing Halloween cloaks for the girls’ costumes – decided to go for something versatile that could be used throughout the year. Last Halloween our costumes rather underwhelmed, so this year we’re making more of an effort
- And finally, getting some fan mail for this blog! Another British mum emailed me for tips on moving here with her own young kids. What a great feeling
- Resorting to saying “bah-tle of wah-drrrr” in a cafe when the guy couldn’t understand my request for “bottle of war-tur”. It’s funny how my language barriers keep seeming to happen around food and drink. The girls laughed at me, saying I sounded like an American. At least the guy understood me this time instead of sending me to the ladies’ loo…
- B getting sick overnight at the weekend (she’s fine now). Early on Sunday morning we called the pediatrician’s office in the hope of a useful number on a recorded message, and were surprised to find they were not only open but had plenty of appointments. We were seen by a pediatrician within 25 minutes of our call. On a Sunday morning. There are many annoying things about the American healthcare system (the excessively long drug adverts on TV listing out each possible side effect, the importance of your health insurance cover etc), but getting a doctor’s appointment is far easier here than in England