Top 7 Underrated Boston Museums to Visit with Kids

kid friendly museums in Boston

By Renana Greenberg Kehoe

Museums are awesome.

Like yoga for kids, a long hike, or mindful breathing exercises, museums offer a place to take a break from everyday life, explore different perspectives, learn something new, and be inspired.

We are very fortunate to have so many incredible museums in the Boston area, especially ones we can share with our babies and kids.

As someone who visits museums with kids often (I run Parent Tours), I wanted to highlight some museums in Boston that you may not know about.

Take a look at the top 7 museums to visit with kids in the Boston area:

1. The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston

OK, the ICA shows up on a lot of kid-friendly museum lists, but for good reason!

The galleries are all on one floor and easily accessible by a large elevator (for those with strollers). The museum also has an art lab that offers imaginative crafts tied to the exhibitions on view. I am biased—as I was a tour guide here for several years—but I have to say that the staff is warm and friendly, there is always something curious or interesting on display, and the waterfront views are just breathtaking – whether you are viewing them from the top floor of the museum or from the boardwalk below!

2. Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is probably the last place parents with kids would think to visit.

As a former museum staffer, I can admit that small kids were sometimes a challenge in a museum where everything (including the walls and floor) is part of the artistic installation of Mrs. Gardner. Still, visiting this palace with its awe-inspiring treasures is a must for all ages. I love bringing babies here and watching them marvel at the sparkles of light in dark rooms; and I love bringing toddlers and small kids here. It’s fascinating to hear kids tell stories inspired by the paintings on the wall, objects encountered in a hidden corner, or the leather walls in one of the galleries.

3. The Mapparium at the Mary Baker Eddy Library, Boston

Ever wonder what it’s like to walk inside a giant stained glass globe? Take your kids to the Mapparium and you will find out. This place is often mentioned for its colorful visual experience, but the acoustics inside the giant globe are just fantastic.

For science-loving kids (or music-loving future drummers, like my toddler) the Mapparium is a great opportunity to introduce some basic concepts around acoustics and architecture. Kids will marvel at how a whisper at the other end of the globe sounds like a person talking right next to you!

4. Waterworks Museum, Brighton

When you walk in and stare up at the three-story tall water pump, you too will feel like a kid. I love bringing kids to the Waterworks Museum to talk about basic engineering concepts that have to do with water!

It’s important for kids to learn how things work and this museum is a great place to start. The staff here is incredibly knowledgeable and friendly. In addition, the layout is accessible for strollers, there is lots of room for kids to move around, and the museum has objects on display for kids to touch and explore for themselves.

5. The Museum of Modern Renaissance, Somerville

If you’ve ever wanted to jump into a storybook drawing and be transported to a magical world, this is your chance!

Colorful floor-to-ceilings murals fill the interior of the Museum of Modern Renaissance – a beautiful place that encourages you to slow down and be mindful.

Babies love gazing at the patterns of contrasting colors, while kids of all ages love spotting various animals (from real life and mythological stories). This place sparks the imagination and also provides a rare opportunity to meet the artists and ask them questions about their work. 

This museum also offers a unique experience for kids to think about art making, storytelling, and explore thematic paintings in a very relaxed setting. And, if you’re lucky, the artists’ dog will come out to say hello.

6. Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe Institute/Harvard University, Cambridge

The exhibition space at the Schlesinger Library is not as large as many museums, but the collection is remarkable – and the exhibitions are inspiring.

The library’s collection is focused on women’s history and includes some amazing archival material such as letters from Julia Child, books inscribed by Susan B. Anthony, and archival photos of Amelia Earhart. When we visited a couple of years ago, we saw an exhibition on women and counterculture since the 1960s, which inspired some awesome conversations.

Important to note: This museum offers a great way to start conversations with kids around history and gender. And an added bonus—it’s free to visit!

7. deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Lincoln

The deCordova Museum is not only wonderful for its innovative programming and thought-provoking exhibitions, but it’s also convenient to visit with kids. 

Parking is easy and free, there is an onsite café, there are plenty of restrooms, and it is stroller friendly (inside and out). One of the best features of this museum is, of course, the outdoor sculpture park, which allows kids to run around and touch the art. A favorite of ours is a musical fence that encourages kids to find sticks and play it as loud as they would like. 

This museum offers something for everyone, including snow-shoe tours of the sculpture park in the winter and outdoor yoga for kids in the summer.   

The Wrap-Up

We hope this list of 7 top museums to visit with kids in Boston has given you some great ideas for kids activities!

Between kids yoga, mindfulness activities for kids and loads of wonderful museums, you should have plenty of fun things to do with kids in Boston! 

About the author: Renana Kehoe is the founder and Executive Director of Parent Tours, which offers museum/art tours for parents to attend with their babies. Renana has held positions at Harvard University and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. She has been a tour guide at the Institute of Contemporary Art and chaired the Brookline Commission for the Arts. In the past, she has taught Art History courses at Lesley University and Suffolk University in Boston. Renana holds an M.A. in Art History from Boston University and a B.A. in Art History and Education from UMass Amherst.

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