Outdoor fun, simplified for those of us who could use some simplicity.
Sign up for the Boston edition of Outdoor Fun Club and receive expert outdoor advice in your inbox every week. Be ready for the weekend.
Outdoor fun. Simplified.
Subscribe to the Boston edition of Outdoor Fun Club and receive expert outdoor advice in your inbox every week. Be ready for the weekend.
August 8, 2012 / Issue #18
Audibles: Aquarium Rescue Unit
When the line to enter the New England Aquarium exceeds the amount of time you’ll spend looking at the fish, it’s time for Plan B
The Scenario: Perhaps you drove into Boston and parked in the garage across the street. Maybe you piled the kids into the Commuter Rail and walked down from South Station. If you live close in, you might have T’d it in and disembarked from the Aquarium stop on the Blue Line. Only you know how you got there. What you don’t know is how the 7,302 other people in line outside the aquarium got there before you.
Will the kids groan if you cut bait and do something else? Yes. Yes, they will. But if you take a deep breath, read on and employ our tips and tricks, you can turn a potential nightmare scenario of waiting in line so long your kids grow beards into an outdoor day of fun that will go down in family lore as “That Time We Went Into Boston And Did All That Stuff Together”, or something. They’ll go home happy.
Adjust their sight line: Sometimes distraction is the best medicine
The audible has been made, you are canceling the original plans. You need to broach this with the clan, but if you do it while standing at the back of that ridiculous line, things are not going to go well.
Gather the kids and tell them excitedly, “I have a brilliant idea!”(Always Be Closing). Step out of line and walk them away from the aquarium and across the way and into…the Boston Marriott Long Wharf Hotel (it’s the huge brick building to your right that runs perpendicular to the ocean). Walk in, straight through, and out the other side. Walk to the lemonade stand 22 feet in front of you and buy a lemonade for the kids. Kids love lemonade.
Tip: There is a “for guests only” public bathroom on the second floor of the Marriott Long Wharf. This may be the best bathroom opportunity you’ll have for awhile. Just go up the escalator, chat idly about the view from your room, and become that family visiting from Columbus, Ohio.
Park it:Burn off some of their steam while you hatch a plan
Imagine with us: You are now standing in Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park. This park on it’s own is a great destination in Boston. There’s a playground, room to throw a frisbee, a hibiscus covered trellis, and a water fountain made specifically for cooling off hot kids.
Photo Credit: Massachusetts Dept. of Environmental Protection
The other great thing about this park is it’s location. It’s on the ocean, on the edge of the North End, across the street from the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, and moments from Faneuil Hall. All you have to do now is decide which way to go.
The Boston Harbor Islands are a unique outdoor experience, minutes from the heart of Boston. You can purchase ferry tickets from a kiosk right outside the Marriott Long Wharf. After a short ferry ride, you’ll have forts to explore, hikes to hike, burgers to eat and beaches to comb. It will give all of you a new perspective on the city.
Tip: While you are there, check out their campsites and imagine what a great time you could have camping on the beach with the city skyline as your Milky Way.
Photo Credit: Massachusetts Dept. of Environmental Protection
Look North, sort of
A leisurely walk through the North End can take up the better part of a day and will give your kids an alternate view of city life. Old Italians sitting on (possibly, but not definitely) older wooden chairs on the sidewalk (smoking like they haven’t heard it’s bad for you), cobblestone streets, specialty markets…you know what it’s like. But instead of heading right into the thick of the North End, follow the ocean instead. Take the meandering Boston Harborwalk from Christopher Columbus Park to the other side of the North End. While snaking up and back on all of the piers, you’ll pass the Boston Sailing Center, the Boston US Coast Guard base, and spot some luxury boats that will make your house feel self conscious about its square feet.
The walk can be as long as you’d like it to be. If your legs are strong, walk all the way around to the end of Prince Street, and then down Prince until you hit food nirvana. But if your kids are slowing down before that, don’t worry. At any point on the walk you can turn away from the ocean and walk right into the North End.
If you google “Where to eat in the North End” you will get exactly 83,300,000 results. NorthEndBoston.com is first, and a look through their site makes it easy to see why. Just make sure you hit the trifecta: an authentic italian meal, a strong espresso, and a decadent pastry.
If you happen to be there on the weekend of August 25-26, you’ll get the added cultural bonus of Saint Anthony’s Feast. It’s in full swing from noon-11pm on both days. Don’t forget to bring a few extra dollar bills for the statue.
Can you remember when it used to be the central artery? Say what you will about the long term efficacy of the Big Dig, sticking that mess underground bound the city together. Previously, if you wanted to get from Faneuil Hall to the North End, you would have had to walk through a you-know-what soaked tunnel under the highway. Sure, you might have seen Sidewalk Sam, and gained valuable firsthand olfactory training in the art of improper hydration, but still, it was gross. Nowadays you stay above ground and walk through the Greenway…and you still might see Sidewalk Sam, it’s quite an upgrade.
Why not make the Greenway your destination rather than your path from here to there? You’ll find great art installations and water fountains made specifically to cool you off. They even have scavenger hunts. Click on “things to do” and “things to see” on the Greenway’s website and you’ll be shocked at how much time you’ll want to spend in the location formerly known as the Central Artery.
Sure, you could step off the Greenway and into Faneuil Hall, but why not introduce your kids to the wonder that is food truck dining? There are terrific options for any whim from grilled cheese to bánh mi, but we recommend The Clover Food Lab. It’s the future of healthy and tasty fast food after all, and Rolando (head chef and cofounder) is a great guy.
Boston is not a big place to us grown ups. You can pretty much walk from one end to the other without too much effort. But to the little ones, it’s huge. You could start every Saturday of your summer from the New England Aquarium and always find another goldmine for your kids to explore.
Who knows what they’ll be most jazzed by. It could be they find a shady spot in a park along your route that they love. Maybe they will be transfixed by the boats or the food trucks. Be on the lookout for these moments and when you see them, be flexible. Allow yourself to let them change the plans a little. Maybe lunch should be a picnic in that shady spot they found, or a few apps from different food trucks so they can really soak in that experience. Maybe you’ll dedicate extra time at the Boston Sailing Center to see if sailing is something they are really interested in and if it is, your next trip to Boston should be a visit to the Community Boating boathouse on the Charles, where kids as young as 10 can begin sailing classes.
Whatever happens, just be open to changing your plans – after all, you already changed theirs!