Traveling without kids are rare opportunities in our lives these days (ok, it has been for almost a decade now), and as much as we love to travel as a family, we’ve been enjoying splitting into different combinations of parent/child(ren) occasionally. The change in the family dynamics is sometimes a breath of fresh air, like the time my older kids realized that a weekend without their baby sister in town meant they were able to make puzzles, go to the movies, go shopping, paint pottery and have a loud dance party any time of the day.
Last week I embraced the opportunity to take off to Boston for a few days with Cecilia while Romas took the big kids to the beloved Lithuanian heritage family camp in Vermont, Camp Neringa. I was tempted to stay with them in camp for the whole week, but with a toddler, it mostly feels like 90% hassle and 10% fun, especially at night. I stuck to the plan and spent only 2 nights with the family and the rest of the week exploring Boston, a city I always wanted to visit. I kept it as simple as possible: we stayed downtown (thanks to Romas’ Priceline bidding addiction), valet parked and never touched our car again – that, was a small fortune, though, but I wasn’t going to try to figure out parking logistics with a toddler and luggage on my own. If you are braver than I am, I recommend a little research on parking if you are driving into the city. Since our days were divided in morning and afternoon outings with naps in the hotel (or rushing to get to the hotel and not miss nap – a.k.a. my work time), being centrally located was key and definitely worth it.
On our first excursion we checked out the Quincy Market for a quick dinner. Once a grocery market, now the Quincy Market offers mostly fast-food options in its interior and restaurants and shops throughout the outside of the building, alongside the North Market and South Market of the Faneuil Hall, most of which now operates as an indoor/outdoor mall and food eatery. We visited that area twice and really enjoyed listening to the amazing street performers, hanging out with local friends and people watching, but without research, recommendations or much luck, our meals were really just something quick.Our first full day was also Forth of July, and Boston, with its contrast of historical buildings surrounded by modern ones, full of proud Americans and happy tourists speaking all sorts of languages, was a great place to be.We started our morning at the Boston Common, America’s First Park and the beginning of the Freedom Trail, this red brick 2.5 mile route through 16 historical sites of Boston, which we just happened to be on-and-off randomly – it sounded too ambitious and not half as interesting with a toddler. We hang out at the Tadpole playground and moved on to enjoy our morning on a walking tour with our cousin, passing through the beautiful Public Garden and along the tree-lined grassy mall area with statues and memorials that divides the grand Commonwealth Avenue, admiring the Victorian houses of the Back Bay neighborhood. During lunch time, we stumbled upon The Thinking Cup, an excellent choice for a bite to eat with outdoor seating and great sandwiches, pastries and coffee with lots of charm.The post-nap late afternoon was spent strolling along the waterfront and splashing (or admiring the splashers) at the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, this lively series of parks and gardens that replaced the old elevated highway system, relocated underground. There are lots of events, activities, markets and fountains to splash on, a carousel and playground on the Greenway, check out more info here or just wonder around and you are sure to find something fun. For dinner in that area, check out Provisions, this contemporary restaurant with good service, cozy atmosphere and interesting food. My only mistake was ordering dishes that were not kid friendly at all – the gnocchi with confit pork shoulder, peas and roasted mushrooms, which I think had truffle oil in it, and the house-cured salt cod fritters with chorizo aioli (ok, I should have guessed). Cecilia ate peas, bread with butter and milk that night and was pleased, and I was very pleased.
The next morning was spent at the sand box and slides of the Christopher Columbus Park playground, overlooking the water with small doses of interactions with locals and tourists.
Since I am obsessed with food and food markets, we got back to the Greenway and strolled to the Boston Public Market, a great place to meet local producers and artisans and their beautiful stalls and to taste a variety of fresh produce and specialty foods, all in one place. Truly a great source of inspiration for my cooking classes and blog – I can’t wait to cook through their cookbook! I highly recommend lunch at Nella Pasta, where pasta is made fresh every day right in front of you. We ordered the conchigliette alla bolognese, the special of the day, and Cecilia ate like there was no tomorrow (probably making up for the peas & bread dinner).
My last full day was less walking and more kid-centered. But first, coffee at Sip Cafe was just what we (I) needed – an oasis of light and green space in the middle of the Financial District, with a variety of pastries, soups and sandwiches on the menu and excellent service. From there we Ubered to the Central Library, this massive 19th century building in the Back Bay neighborhood with beautiful courtyards, for story time and free play at their large children’s area, followed by a quick lunch at their café. We could have spent hours there, but were motivated to leave by the nap time mood.
Later that day we finished off our adventures at the New England Aquarium, which is guaranteed entertainment for any age. If you plan to buy gifts during your trip, save it for the Aquarium store – there you will find fun and quality gifts and will be contributing to their important marine conservation work.
I left Boston with the desire to come back for all kinds of trips – as a couple, with friends and with the whole family. The Children’s Museum and the Institute of Contemporary Art are on the top of my list for our next trip as a family (I foresee many years of Lithuanian heritage Camp / family vacations in the Boston area).
Bostonians and Boston lovers: what do you recommend that we add to our list?