How to Make the Best of a Visit to the Boston Children’s Museum

Boston Children’s Museum

Last Saturday, my husband and I brought the kids to the Boston Children’s Museum–they had a ball! Although it’s arguably my kids’ favorite place to go in the entire city, it hasn’t always been a favorite of mine. The crowds! The chaos! The germs! Did I mention the crowds? But this trip was the best one yet, and it’s because I’ve learned a few things over the 3 years that we’ve been going.

Tip #1: Become a member. A Children’s Museum membership almost always saves you money in the long run, even if you’re only going to visit the museum a few times a year. If you travel, your card gives you free admission to children’s museums around the country. We’ve used ours in Baltimore and Hartford, CT so far this year. But my favorite part about having a membership? Bypassing the line. The line to get in can be horrendously long, and having the company of an anxious and excited toddler can be downright torture. Members sail through the Members Only line (much, much shorter) and don’t risk starting their museum visit with a tantrum.

Tip #2: Go early. If your kids are anything like mine, they’re up at the crack of dawn, even on weekends (it’s painful, I know). The museum must realize this, because it has Members Only hours from 9-10am on weekends. The nice thing about a morning visit is you can wrap it up with an early lunch at Flour before it starts to get crowded. (See #5)

Tip #3: Get rid of all your stuff. And I mean all of it. Coat, purse, diaper bag– everything except your phone/camera. Believe me, you’ll be glad you did. I made the mistake of carrying around my purse/diaper bag the first few times I went to the Children’s Museum. What a mistake! You’ll want your hands free when you chase around your little one from exhibit to exhibit, room to room. If they need a diaper change, the bathrooms are downstairs right near the lockers where all your stuff is. You will, however want your camera to take pictures of all the cute things he’ll do, and your phone for contacting any other grown-ups you came with when you lose them (and you will likely lose them).

Tip #4: Don’t try to visit every exhibit room. Grab a map and plan according to your child’s age and interests. The Peep’s World exhibit is a must-see for any age, in my opinion. I used to dread visiting the water room, but it was recently renovated to create Peep’s World and it is nothing short of wonderful. My 3-year-old could have played at the new water and sand tables for hours. Little kids should skip the giant climbing structure in the middle of the museum, although they will be dying to go on it. Adults are not allowed. I’d also recommend skipping the climbing structure if you’re by yourself with multiple kids.

Tip #5: Bypass the museum shop in favor of the Recycle Shop. I was SO glad when I figured this out. Instead of letting the kids wander through the museum shop with a major case of the gimmes, I discovered the Recycle Shop which in my opinion they will enjoy much more. Buy each child a small paper bag for only $3 +tax (members get 20% off so it ends up being 2.40 for members). On the second floor tucked into the far corner past the Arthur exhibit you’ll find literally a treasure trove of recyclable items. I told my kids they could fill their bags with anything they wanted and they looked at me with disbelief.  “Anything we want?” The day we visited, there were plastic paperclips, metal knobs, stickers, shiny paper, plastic circles, mini photo frames, greeting cards (and strangest of all– mini plastic statues of saints). Junk to an adult– treasure to children. Under three bucks and you can make crafts with it all at home. Brilliant.

Flour Bakery, 12 Farnsworth Street

Tip #6: Skip Au Bon Pain. The museum’s in-house restaurant might seem convenient (and is a huge improvement over their former tenant–McDonald’s) but about a block away you’ll find a much more delicious option.  Flour Bakery and Cafe is known across the city for it’s phenomonal bread and scrumptious baked goods. Lunch options include amazing sandwiches for the grown-ups and a thoughtful, healthy kid’s menu for the little ones.

Cindy Meltzer
The Social Craft

About Cindy Meltzer

Cindy Meltzer is the mother of two school-aged children.

5 Responses to How to Make the Best of a Visit to the Boston Children’s Museum
  1. Laureen
    February 11, 2010 | 1:09 pm

    What is your opinion on the Friday night option? Is it crowded? It is the only night the museum is open, which is nice for working parents.

  2. Cindy Meltzer
    February 11, 2010 | 2:20 pm

    I’ve actually never been on a Friday night, so I asked Marena Burnett, who is a mom of four. She says it can be quite crowded on Friday nights, especially since admission is only $1 from 5-9pm.

  3. Jen LF
    February 11, 2010 | 2:28 pm

    Cindy – re: the climbing structure, adults are actually allowed. There’s a small sign on the side next to the back of the elevator that says anyone at all can try it out.

    Laureen – I haven’t been on a Friday night in quite some time, but the few times I did go, it was a zoo. Members-only hours on Saturday and Sunday mornings are much better.

    Other tips:
    *Do not try going during school vacation weeks or on holidays. Also a zoo.
    *Consider bringing your own lunch, especially if you have little little ones, and especially on weekdays. There’s a microwave in the kitchen in the playspace (area for kids 0-3). All the lunch options (both ABP and the external, local places like Flour) are crowded on weekdays with local businesspeople getting their lunches.
    *If you are home during the week at all, that’s the best time to go. Rarely crowded, even with school groups.
    *If your children are cared for by a nanny or other in-home caregiver, for $10 you can add a caregiver to your membership. It’s totally worth it!

    We’ve been members for two years, since our son was about one, and we love it!


  4. Stacey
    February 11, 2010 | 2:31 pm

    Great tips Cindy! I went to the $1 night one time and it was horrific. Horribly crowded and tired staff did not make it fun for myself or my little one. I would much rather grab a membership and go whenever!

  5. Cindy Meltzer
    February 11, 2010 | 2:45 pm

    Aha, Jen… thanks for the clarification on the climbing structure. Good to know if your child gets stuck. But honestly, I can’t imagine any adult being able to fit through the narrowest openings in that thing! I’d be way to scared to even try!

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