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Bean Sprout Town

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Did you know that Boston does not have a single big-name toy store within its boundaries? It’s true. Ever since the flagship FAO Schwartz on Boylston, famous for the gigantic bronze teddy bear statue, closed its doors for good – bribing your kids in Boston has become quite a challenge.

So…how can I possibly paint a picture of the perfect family day in a city so un-kid-friendly that they can’t even keep one measly toy store in business? I mean, the Toys-r-Us in New York has a Ferris wheel – A FERRIS WHEEL! How do you compete with that?

Well, it turns out that Boston is an exceptionally kid friendly town. So what if they can’t support a store that plays the exact same, mind-numbing, high-pitched, it’s-a-small-world-esque tune all day, every day?

Boston has great public transportation, but really, it’s a walking town. In fact, it is such a walking town that the pedestrians (many of whom are pushing strollers, backing up my kid-friendly claim) seem to be under the misguided impression that they can and should walk anywhere and everywhere without regard to traffic, light-indicators, or those pesky crosswalks. So, if you decide to drive in Boston, be prepared for a….well, challenge.

So, with all this walking to tire out the kids…I mean, to make sure you catch all the ground-sights, be sure to start your day with a good, nourishing breakfast. You can find a Starbucks by walking a maximum of 2 blocks in any direction from virtually anywhere in the city, but as much as the little bean sprouts love their coffee beans, let’s start with some less trendy fare. I recommend the Pour House on Boylston and Gloucester. One of the few places in the Back Bay that is open for breakfast and the food is traditional diner fare. Loud, messy, fast, and perfect for kids. Plus, the heart of the Back Bay is a perfect place to start our perfect day.

After breakfast, walk up Boylston to Fenway Park and in the off-season sign up for a tour of the park. One of the oldest baseball parks in the nation, the Fenway tour is definitely worth seeing – especially since plans to erect a new park are underway. Plus, the kids usually get some kind of free toy or something, which is important since, as I mentioned, Boston doesn’t have any toys stores.

From Fenway, if the weather is nice and your legs and munchkins are up for it, you can walk down the promenade in the center of Commonwealth Avenue (locals say Comm Ave) all the way to the Public Garden. The kiddies can run and jump and race and climb on the many statues of dead historical figures, and you are shielded on each side of the walk by a good 20-yard margin of grass and trees, so crossing traffic is greatly minimized. If you choose not to walk, you can ride the inbound green line T (subway) from Fenway to Arlington and enter the Public Garden from there. Definitely walk through the Public Garden – the flower displays are really spectacular. If your kids are little and familiar with the children’s classic, Make Way for Ducklings, you can steer toward Beacon Street to find the famous statue or Mrs. Mallard and her eight little ducklings, although the park officials seem to have a really tough time keeping folks from stealing the little guys, so at any given time, Kack or Quack could be missing.

As you exit the park onto Beacon Street, you will notice the entrance to that famous little place where everyone knows your name, the Bull and Finch Pub – the place where the television show Cheers was filmed. They do have some decent burgers and fun stuff for the kids and if you’re ready for lunch, this isn’t a bad choice. However, the wait can be pretty long and it is usually really crowded, so if you don’t have an insatiable need to do the tourist thing, I recommend you walk a block or so farther, to 44 Charles Street and the Paramount, which is a great little café serving a nice cross-section of grown-up sandwiches like the crab cake BLT, right down to a very traditional grilled cheese.

After you’re all fueled up, head into the other half of the park, the Boston Common. If you’re not too full, consider taking a twirl on the Frog Pond skating rink – you’ll have time to digest lunch while you wait, since this is a fairly popular activity in the city. You can rent skates, but I’d skip the hot chocolate at the snack bar – it’s pretty expensive water. There is also a really great playground for kids adjacent to the Frog Pond where your bean sprouts can have a pretty fun romp that will cost you – nothing!

By now, the whole family is probably ready for a nap, but don’t forget to venture into the North End for some of Regina’s famous pizza for dinner – it’s the best pizza in all of New England and a perfect way to end your day.

What and Where:
Pour House (907 Boylston St; 617-236-1767)
Fenway Park (4 Yawkey Way;617-226-6666)
Public Garden (On Boylston between Arlington and Charles Street)
Bull and Finch Pub (84 Beacon St; 617-227-9605)
Paramount (44 Charles St; 617-720-1152)
Boston Common (Between Tremont, Beacon, Charles and Boylston)
Frog Pond Skating Rink (in Boston Common; 617)-635-2120)
Regina’s (11 1/2 Thacher St; 617-227-0765)

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About the Author

Nanacy Sweeney
Nancy Sweeney is a technical writer living outside Boston. She is the mother of two and loves to find new and creative ways to be active outdoors. She writes freelance parenting articles in her spare time and can be reached at nancy.sweeney@comcast.net.

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  • Susan Bishop

    You’ve done it again. I’m ready to head for Boston. I don’t know whose idea it was to include the names and addresses of the places mentioned, but it was a good one.