Vinod Kurup

Hospitalist/programmer in search of the meaning of life

Boston With Little Kids

I’m sorry, but I just can’t believe it’s been almost 10 years since I left Boston. Mala had a meeting there and we love to take advantage of our employers’ generosity ^1, so I TrippedIt ^2 back to Boston for some nostalgia with 2 kids in tow (Ages 4 and 2). Buildings and restaurants have come and gone ^3, but it seems like so little has changed in 10+ years. I forgot how “unfriendly” the city was. The trip was a few weeks ago, so it’s not fresh in my mind anymore, but I remember thinking that vividly while I was there. You get the sense that everyone has their shields up (or their guns drawn, to mix metaphors) for whatever reason. None of the experiences were horrible, but it was little things… Bathrooms are “broken” in every fast food restaurant. Restaurants have arcane rules: “No, we only do takeout after 3PM” or “Cash Only - there’s an ATM over there”. Customer service people must be groomed to be rude. We’re members of the (AWESOME!) Durham Museum of Life and Science which gives us free entry to science museums around the country, so we walked up to the Members desk at Boston’s version (Museum of Science) and promptly got lectured about how we weren’t really members and next time we should go in the Nonmembers line. (Um, we’re visiting from North Carolina… there’s probably not going to be a next time anytime soon). I actually turned around and looked at all of the people behind me and apologized for our rudeness. Wait! There was no one else waiting! Just makes you feel small, which burns me up, because I know that was her objective. I know none of that seems all that bad, but that general attitude seemed prevalent and brought back memories of Boston that I had repressed. We all had a great time in Boston, but I am so glad that I’m living in North Carolina.

Wow, that little interlude took me from excited to depressed in no time flat. Enough of that. Let’s talk about the fun stuff we did. We always research on the web to get a sense of things Kavi and Anika might like. I had trouble finding good first-person stories about Boston trips with little kids, so here’s mine, in case someone has 2 kids exactly like ours. If this is useful, or if you have stuff to add, please leave a comment or point to your blog.

Things the kids loved:

  • Being in Boston: “We’re in BOSTON!”
  • Walking the streets and seeing all kinds of vehicles: Taxis, buses, trolleys, Ducks, police cars, and most excitingly, Minivans!.
  • Mapparium at Mary Baker Eddy Library: Kavi talked about this a lot for the rest of the trip, but at the time didn’t seem all that impressed by it. He was intrigued by the fact that I wasn’t allowed to take pictures inside it. He also liked the Hall of Ideas and the computerized art programs upstairs.
  • Boston Common Carousel: It’s a carousel. Of course they loved it!
  • Swan boats: Definitely a must-do. It’s short and sweet.
  • Ducklings in the Garden: Dressed in Bruins outfits while we were there. Those poor ducks were constantly surrounded by little ones.
  • Boston Commons and Garden: There’s plenty of stuff for the kids to see and do here, but they’re not so big that you’ll get lost (think Central Park).
  • Boston Commons Playground: Every parent on a trip knows that step one is finding all the local playgrounds. This is a nice one and was close to the hotel. That meets all the necessary requirements. By the way, while putting this post together, I found this nice listing of playgrounds in Boston.
  • Playground on Tremont: We found a much smaller playground between the Hotel and NEMC that Kavi and Anika liked a little better, mostly because they had it all to themselves.
  • Playgrounds on the Charles River: Take the bridge over to the Hatch shell, go left (west) and walk for about half a mile. Nestled between Storrow Drive and the Charles River, there’s plenty to watch and play with. Kavi and Anika really liked the little car. Oh, and if you happen to go right (east) instead of left, there’s a great playground near the tennis courts, which is on the way to the Museum of Science.
  • Hatch shell: There was an AIDS race while we were there which meant lots of people and balloons to keep the kids occupied. I heard it gets crazy on July 4th :-)
  • Museum of Science: Aside from the annoying registration employee, this was fun. The Discovery Center didn’t open for an hour, so we explored the regular museum first. Most of it was above Kavi and Anika’s age level, so they were getting bored/overwhelmed. The Discovery Center was better, though we didn’t find the best part (the upstairs level) until near the end of our stay. Kavi’s favorite thing was watching the pneumatic tube system. The volunteers up there were really engaging as well.
  • Children’s Museum: The museum with the “rabbit sitting on top” and the big milk bottle on the side. Predictably loved by Kavi and Anika.
  • New England Aquarium: The kids were underwhelmed. They liked the Vancouver and Atlanta ones more. We spent most of our time in the toddler area playing with toys that are normally found in doctors’ waiting rooms. I think they’ll love this in a couple years.
  • The T: We could have just ridden the T every day. It was loud, which freaks Kavi out a bit, but not as loud as New York. We rode on the blue line to get to the aquarium, and the Green line to come back to the Hotel. He especially liked the Green line because the “floor turns”.
  • Park Plaza: A decent hotel. Living mostly on reputation and location. I guess we’ve been spoiled by modern hotels in other cities, so the Park Plaza seemed dingy and overpriced. But the location is awesome, work was paying for it, and our kids love any hotels, so I recommend it.

Dining:

  • Vapiano (pseudo-italian restaurant where Bennigan’s used to be): The kids liked their pastas and like sitting at the little tables.
  • Jae’s Cafe: Not really a kids thing, but we went early on a weeknight and had a really nice dinner. They have “training” chopsticks that the kids loved.
  • Mike’s City Diner: (Ouch, Flashy website) Our first breakfast stop and we returned a few days later which is a huge endorsement. Avoid it on weekends though, because it’s packed. Cash only.
  • Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe: Another great breakfast place. We went on Kavi’s birthday and were just about the only ones in the restaurant, so the entire staff sang Happy Birthday and put a candle on his pancake. He was so thrilled. Cash only.
  • Legal Seafood: Quick dinner after arriving from the airport. Not the most kid friendly place, but aside from a long wait, it was fine.
  • Dunkin Donuts: Nostalgic coffee and donuts, but NO BATHROOMS!
  • Asian Garden: The best salt & pepper squid that I have ever had. Still as good as I remember it 15 years ago!
  • Dim Sum at Hei La Moon: Mala was at her meeting, Anika was asleep and Kavi was sick, so only I got to enjoy this luxury.
  • North End (Boston’s Little Italy): We went to visit Mala’s friends and had great take out. The walk from the Park Plaza was nice, since it crossed the Garden, the government center area and the North End, all of which had sights that the kids enjoyed
  • Croissant Du Jour: Great breakfast food and sandwiches.
  • Finale: We went here for Kavi’s birthday dessert. Nowhere near as good as I remember it being, but that might be because Mala is just an amazing cook, so my standards have risen.
  • Parish Cafe: Sandwiches are awesome! We went there on Monday, which is the day that we eat only veggies, so I couldn’t try the Regis that I used to love. The bread, though, was enough to satisfy my cravings. Sit outside and the kids will be entertained by the constant traffic and activity on Boylston Street.

Useful Android Apps:

  • Yelp: I downloaded a bunch of other ones including AAA Triptik, Tripadvisor, HopStop, but I ended up using Yelp and Google Maps predominantly.
  • TripIt: Not specific to Boston, but this app makes traveling easier. Keeps track of all your flight info, hotel info and any other itinerary info you want to stick into it.

End result of the trip: Success!