This museum is a true cornucopia of New England history. Housing some of the most influential documents of colonial Massachusetts and revolutionary America, the Commonwealth Museum is home to a rich collection of archives and artifacts that will illuminate the treasures of the past in vivid imagery for your family to explore. The current featured exhibition “Tracing Our Roots” explores the multicultural intersections of America between the 1620s and today in an exciting portrait of four Massachusetts families of Native American, English, African-American, and Irish descent navigating the shifting landscape of colonial times. Be sure to explore the other exhibitions by checking the website for updates.
Phone: (617) 727-9268
Hours: Mond – Fri: 9:00 am to 4:45 pm, Sat and Sun: 9:00 am to 3:00 pm (May through October). The Museum and Gallery will be closed on all major holidays. Please call ahead to make group reservations, guided or unguided.
This museum is truly a one-of-a-kind find. The Museum of Bad Art features some of the greatest works to be glued, stapled, strewn together from leftover canvases, or salvaged from a dumpster (and sometimes all at once). Artists from traditionally respectable arts enclaves — New York, Boston, Sydney, and more — but beyond their origin, very little about these pieces are predictable. Some artwork is not suitable for children, and it is suggested that you explore the exhibits online before visiting to determine which pieces to visit. If you have no limits to your adventure, it makes a memorable date night spot (you’ll quickly bond over your favorite paintings to hate). Everyone’s an art critic here (at each of the three locations).
Phone: (781) 444-6757
Hours: Mon – Thurs: 8 am to 8 pm, Fri: 10 am to 4 pm, Sat, Sun: closed
The world-class collections at the MFA are more than just impressive attractions for art connoisseurs; they’re also a great place to get your family quality culture for free! In addition to more than 450,000 works of art (including one of North America’s definitive Asian art collections), your family will love exploring the extra surprises in store at museum events, like personalized mobile tours designed for kids. Plus, there are mummies! Kids’ activities are held every first and third Monday (free with paid adult admission), so there’s plenty to check out. Spend a date night out at the Museum and get free second adult entry within 10 days, so your whole family can go for free. (It’s a free repeat visit that applies to full-price Adult, Senior, and Student tickets only, and it’s worth the investment!) Check online for more details about free days (like Wednesdays after 4 pm, which are by optional donation). Also, if you are a Bank of America cardholder, you get free admission the first weekend of every month!
Phone: (617) 267-9300
Contact Form: http://www.mfa.org/about/contact-us
Hours: Mon / Tues: 10 am — 5 pm, Wed — Fri: 10 am — 10 pm, Sat / Sun: 10 am — 5 pm
Admission: Ages 0-17 free (For youths ages 7 – 17, admission is free during weekdays after 3 pm, weekends, and Boston public school holidays; otherwise admission for youths is $10.) Also: Wednesday nights after 4 pm, admission is by voluntary contribution (suggested donation $25).
A hometown favorite for visitors and residents alike is the Boston University Art Gallery. It comprises three galleries and features an array of rotating exhibitions from artists around the world. Recent exhibitors include Martine Gutierrez, J.R. Uretsky, and Ebony G. Patterson, whose work all explores multicultural expression with exceptional attention to the intersection of color, texture, and contrast. It’s a great stop for families looking for up-and-coming artists as well as other established favorites. Whatever your pick is, the BU Art Gallery is a great destination that’s always free.
Phone: (617) 353-3329
Hours: Tuesday – Sunday: 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm, Thursdays: until 8 pm. Closed major holidays.
The Fuller Craft Museum is a truly striking collection of amazing crafts that will awe and inspire your family with the innovation and vibrancy. See how tradition meets modernity in the “Pioneering Massachusetts” exhibit where local artisans display their internationally-renowned ceramics, woodwork, glass, and baskets. Be sure to explore the other current exhibitions, and check online for details about upcoming programs like lectures, workshops (making your own gingerbread house is a definite must), parties, and more! It’s a great place to spice up your fall family fun, so be sure to plan your visit.
Phone: (508) 588-6000
Hours: Monday Closed; Tue, Wed, Fri, Sat, & Sun: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm; Thurs: 10:00 am – 9:00 pm
A longstanding testament to the voluminous historical treasures of the Boston area, the Waterworks Museum is a unique stop that your family will cherish. The museum sits on the very site of the original Chestnut Hill reservoir that supplied 1880s Boston’s growing population with potable water. Over the years, the tech has grown along with the water demand, and now it is all on display at the museum. Explore the fascinating feats of engineering, architecture, public health, and urbanism that helped create Boston into what it is today. Wednesdays are a great time to stop by for events like concerts, lectures, and films, so be sure to visit the website to plan your visit. The museum also hosts private affairs (weddings are popular at this unique location), so be sure to inquire for details.
Phone: (617) 277-0065
Hours: Winter (Dec 1 – March 31) Wed – Sun: 11 am – 4 pm; Summer (April 1 – Nov 30) Wed: 11 am – 9 pm, Th – Sun: 11 am – 4 pm
Get ready to test your sea legs at the USS Constitution Museum! Your kids will love diving into this boatload of fun at the War of 1812 Discovery Center, the All Hands On Deck exploration of sailors’ lives, and other great stops where you can play games, hoist sails, and even swing in a hammock! Your family will love the chance to get up close and personal with history on a free guided boat tour, or even become a part of it at a craft station where visitors can carve their names onto copper sheathings used for the Constitution herself! There’s plenty of fun to be had here. Be sure to check online for details.
Phone: (617) 426-1812
Hours: November 1st – March 31st Open Daily, 10:00 am – 5:00 pm; The Museum is closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. Check online for USS Constitution hours.
Take a look inside the history of firefighting in Boston and find out the real-life stories behind these brave hometown heroes. The museum displays authentic historical equipment like the Ephraim Thayer pumper from 1793, a hand-operated American LaFrance Ladder Truck, and an 1882 steam pumper modified from its original horse-drawn design. Modern equipment — including “salt sleds”, rakes for opening walls, and firefighting gear — are also available on display. There is so much to discover here with your family that you’ll be hard-pressed to explore it all in one day. The museum is open for events like birthday parties and more, so be sure to contact for details.
Phone: (617) 338-9700
Hours: Saturday from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm
Looking for a cool outdoor escape before winter kicks in? Spend an afternoon meandering the paths at the deCordova Sculpture Park & Museum. This museum features inside and outside components, so you can get your daily dose of art in all seasons. Explore the photography, paintings, and sculptures that make this a cultural gem of the Boston area. Families of rambunctious explorers will really enjoy The Square, where exciting kid-focused events take place. (Be sure to check the schedule for upcoming events.) There’s even an Artists’ Market running through the end of December that features shopping artisanal gifts (and free wrapping), live music, and all manner of sumptuous sweets. Be sure to explore the website, which offers more information on programs, events, activities, and ways to connect.
Phone: (781) 259-8355
Hours: Sculpture Park & Museum Wed – Fri: 10 am – 4 pm; Sat & Sun: 10 am – 5 pm
Free Days: Free First Wednesday, Free Second Saturday Morning (from 10 am – 1 pm); children 12 and under are always free. Also, adult cyclists who pedal to the park are free.
Dynamically themed exhibitions, award-winning teen arts programs, and dramatic performances are just a few of the daily activities at the Institute of Contemporary Art. Whether you’re a photography fanatic, drama queen, or something in between, there’s something to your taste. Upcoming events include a winter Snow Ball celebration the first weekend of December, kids’ play days including interactive performances, and family film nights. Be sure to check online for updates to the calendar and a complete list of exhibits, events, and programs. Family members of any age will find something to enjoy here!
Phone: (617) 478-3100
Hours: Free daily for ages 17 and under; free for all Thursdays (ICA Free Thursday Nights) 5 pm – 9 pm and the last Saturday of the month (up to 2 adults with children under 12).