Staying in Boston area during December school vacations? There are many Boston STAYCATION choices to entertain your kids with.
AN-ALL FAMILY FUN
As a family with 10-year age difference between our two kids, we know the challenge of finding an activity to appeal to a multi-age family audience. This all-family fun list should work:
Museum of Fine Arts Boston (MFA).
While you can engage with your younger ones at the art making workshops offered by MFA’s vacation week program (Saturday December 26–Sunday January 3) you could give older children some free time to explore museum on their own ( At 14, Den was able to find his way around MFA better than I ever will).
When you are at the MFA this December and January, be sure to visit “Dutch Painting in the Age of Rembrandt and Vermeer” Exhibit (through January 18) showcasing some never before seen in the US masterpieces from European and American collection. Themed around 17 century Dutch society class distinctions, the exhibit offers an interesting angle for looking at the paintings with the kids. (When we visited, 6-year old Vi kept her interest by listening to the audio guide.) MFA is open late on Wednesday- Friday (until 9:45pm) and Wednesday nights after 4 pm, admission is free or by voluntary contribution. Consider family membership ($109) with unlimited access throughout the year and member discounts on parking and merchandise.
Family-friendly and perfectly themed for the holidays, The Nutcracker by Boston Ballet continues at the Opera House through December 31 (recommended for kids ages 2+; For tickets, go to Boston Ballet website (tickets start at $35; or check out discounted tickets at www.bostix.org)
Urban Nutcracker production by Tony Williams offers a modern multicultural twist on this holiday classic, blending classic ballet, urban tap, hip hop, swing, flamenco and jazz. In John Hancock Hall through December 27 (for discounted $17+fee tickets, go to bostix.)
Another family favorite for outdoor skating is the rink at the Larz Andersen Park in Brookline (Tel. 617.739.7518).
America’s “oldest car collection” is housed in the Larz Anderson Auto Museum next door. ($10 adults, $5 for kids 6-12, free under 6, Tues through Sun 10-5).
ZooLight holiday stroll in Stoneham Zoo (Stoneham, MA) promises a winter wonderland of trees and lights. ($8 for non-members, free for children under 2. ) Note special holiday events, on December 27: Big Joe the Storyteller, on December 30: Meet the Ice Queen and Ice Princess and on December 31: Zoo Year Celebration. On line tickets here. Through Sunday, Jan. 3; daily at 5:00 – 9:00 p.m. (Closed Dec. 25).
For train lovers among us, Edaville Railroad in Carver, Massachusetts, offers a perfect combination of Christmas-lit train rides during its Festival of Lights (through January 1). Trains run on an hourly schedule.
Stroll the Market
Boston Public Market is nation’s first permanent year round market featuring all local vendors; it presents a variety of culinary and wellness programs for all ages in its state-of-the-art demo KITCHEN (market’s gathering place) run by the Trustees (the Market’s programming partner). (Located at 100 Hanover Street above Haymarket MBTA; the market is open Wednesday-Sunday 8am-8pm). Check out Healthy Treats for the Holidays kids cooking class and other upcoming programs here).
For all seasonal events offered by The Trustees throughout the state on the many cultural and natural properties in their care, be sure to check out their website here.
More Family Museum Time
Museum of Science Boston could keep it interesting for multi-age audiences (be sure to check holiday hours before you go). I plan to take my family to the shows at their Planetarium this school vacation week.
I don’t think I need to introduce New England Aquarium but I would like to make sure it is included in the all-family list to keep handy for the vacation planning.
New Year’s Night
For families who like to venture out to celebrate the First Night/Day Boston 2016 highlights include Light and Ice dance party, Copley countdown and fireworks over Boston Harbor. Watch the website for schedule.
Here are more ideas BY AGE GROUPS (meant to “mix and match” based on your kids’ interests)
FOR YOUNGER KIDS (3-7+)
Disney on Ice
My 6-year old daughter requested Disney on Ice for this school vacation, so we are going to see Treasure Trove Disney skating spectacular (complete with favorite Disney characters and stories) at Boston University’s Aganis Arena. December 26- January 3 (several shows each day; tickets start at $10: via venue’s website or bostix discounted fares.
A Holiday Fantasy for kids ages 4 and up (by Spring Valley Puppet Theater) on Thursday, December 24. (45-minutes performance is divided into 2 segments (one wordless!). (bostix discounted tickets require a small fee but could save a couple of dollars).
A very gentle The Three Billy Goats Gruff & The Lion and the Mouse is recommended for ages 3-6 and is playing on December 26-27 (by Pumpernickel Puppets).
The Frog Prince and Other Frogs for audiences 5+ (by Perry Alley Theatre) is on December 28-30 and promises lots of humor (some slapstick, some irony).
My choice would be a classic story Peter and the Wolf (featuring Prokofiev’s music; set in turn of the century Russia) by National Marionette Theatre. December 31 – January 3. Each performance will begin with introduction of orchestral instruments. Recommended age: 5 and up.
LEGOLAND Discovery Center Boston will be open on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day (Be sure to check the website for holiday hours and advance tickets (suggested). Annual holiday Bricktacular events are offered on December 19- 20 and December 24-25: visitors can participate in a Winter Wonderland Creative Challenge and design their own LEGO® creation to add to the winter landscape among other holiday activities.
American Repertory Theater in Cambridge (ART) presents THE PIRATE PRINCESS– a family musical adventure on the high seas (for audiences 5+). Adapted from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, the show runs in Loeb Drama Center in Cambridge on December 20- January 3.
THE SNOW QUEEN in New Repertory Theater is a new musical adaption of Hans Christian Andersen’s classic tale set to a pop-rock score. (It is recommended for audiences 8+; runs through December 20 at Arsenal Center for the Arts in Watertown;). Tickets via theater’s website or look for discounted tickets via Goldstar or bostix.
Boston Tea Party Reenactment
Advanced tickets for this year’s December 16 Reenactment of the 1773 Boston Tea Party rebellion ( celebrating a 242nd anniversary) have been sold out, but the public is invited to a free portion of the program which includes (7:30 – 8:00 p.m.) procession from Old South Meeting House to the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum – Milk Street to Congress Street to Pearl Street; AND- (8:00 – 8:30 p.m.) lining the shores of Boston Harbor and watching as the Sons of Liberty storm the Brig Beaver and destroy chest after chest of East India tea, just as colonists did 242 years before. (at the Boston Harbor on the Congress Street Bridge).
Even if you don’t make it to the Reenactment events, your history-fascinated youngsters will enjoy visiting Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum (306 Congress St. on the Congress St. Bridge). Open since 2012, the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum, is dedicated to accurately reliving and representing a key period in American history (1773 to 1775). Museum is open 7 day/week; from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. in the winter. Tours run every 30 minutes in the fall/winter and every 15 minutes in the spring/summer and last 1 hr. Closed on Christmas Day. (Before you go, read a visit report from the family behind World is a Book blog).
American Repertory Theater’s Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 is an “electro-pop” opera based on a scandalous 70-page slice of War and Peace. According to the theater’s webpage, it might be appropriate for your theater-loving kids as young as 14. With the cast and musicians swirling among the audience in an immersive set, the show “brings to life the heart of literature’s most epic tale of love and fate.” For discounted tickets try bostix. (Runs now through January 3 at the Loeb Drama Center in Cambridge).
Broadway’s musical Once is showing at the City Shubert Theater in Boston through December 27. This musicians’ love story based on the Oscar-winning indie film and performed by double-talented actors-musicians will appeal to your music-loving teens. For discounted tickets try here.
There are several important Celtics basketball games happening over December school vacation week including with the New York Knicks. Try Family Packs (4+ tickets) for a more affordable way to bring kids to TD Garden.
We were guests of the Boston Ballet for the opening media weekend of the Nutcracker but received no compensation for recommending any of the activities on this list.