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Fall: Foliage and apple picking

Bostonians know you can get some beautiful views by driving out of the city for an hour or so. Foliage in the Boston area tends to peak around the middle of October, although it can vary depending on the amount of rain in the summer and the temperatures in early fall.

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Faneuil Hall Marketplace

Also known as Quincy Market by the locals, this historic, "festival" market features tons of shopping (including a way-cool toy store called Zoinks). The food court is WAY better than the one in your local mall - features real food in zillions of cuisines. Tends to be short of seats, but if it's nice out, you can sit on a bench outside and throw food at (um, to) the pigeons. Or, if you want a classic Boston experience, go to either Durgin-Park in the marketplace for some classic Boston food (you can even get baked beans) served communal style, or walk a block to the Union Oyster House, which is not only historic (oldest restaurant in America) but kid-friendly (free coloring books).

If you're visiting the marketplace on a Friday or Saturday, walk a block to Haymarket for some classic Boston street theater. On those days, Haymarket is a large fruit and vegetable market, where the prices are cheap and the vendors are rowdy. Hint: If you go, get pizza at Haymarket Pizza right in the middle of it all - it's good and fresh and a lot less expensive than the pizza at Quincy Market.

Older kids might appreciate the Holocaust Memorial (basically across from the Union Oyster House).

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Many of the key Revolutionary sites downtown are connected by the Freedom Trail - a red line painted on the sidewalk in a roughly 3-mile loop. A good place to pick up the trail is the National Park Service visitor center across from the Old State House (Blue or Orange Line subways to State Street) - where you can pick up tons of pamphlets, as well a Junior Park Ranger Certificate.

Among the sites on the trail are Paul Revere's House in the North End. Hint: plan to get there just before or after lunch; wander the nearby Hanover Street for an Italian restaurant whose menu catches your eye, then get desert at Mike's Pastries. Or, if you're not in the mood for Italian, another stop on the trail is Faneuil Hall Marketplace, where you'll find tons of street performers and a food court that will make you forget the stuff that passes for food at your local mall.

Kids might also like racing up the stairs to the top of the Bunker Hill Monument in Charlestown.

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Lots to do

Boston is a great place for kids, in so many different ways! Here are some kid-specific suggestions for things to do.

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The Museum of Science
Lots of exhibits, many interactive, plus a planetarium and an IMAX theater. Take the Green Line to Science Park.

New England Aquarium
Features a giant walk-around salt-water tank and numerous other exhibits and smaller tanks (along with some really cute penguins and its own IMAX theater). In the summer, offers whale-watch tours. Take the Blue Line to Aquarium.

The Children's Museum
Exhibits include a replica of a Japanese house, a mercado (kids love "shopping" and running the checkout counter), giant bubbles to blow, three-story human hamster tubes and more. Has a special area just for toddlers. Red Line to South Station - the museum is three blocks away.

Harvard Museum of Natural History
Features lots of stuffed animals and giant glass reproductions of bugs. Lots of bugs. Many with giant stingers (they're right next to what might be the world's largest collection of glass replicas of diseased and fungus-encrusted fruits). Note: This museum is also home to the world-famous glass flowers, which will bore your kids to tears. 26 Oxford Street, Cambridge. Take the Red Line subway to Harvard Square.

When done, stroll over to Harvard Square for people watching and a visit to the Curious George bookstore.

JFK Library and Museum
Has a Saturday morning children's hour for kids ages six to eight, featuring everything from storytellers and puppeteers to musicians. Take I-93 south to Exit 14 or the Red Line subway to JFK/UMass - then hop aboard the free shuttle bus.

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Public Garden and Boston Common

These two parks, across the street from each other, offer a number of activities for children.

The Public Garden features larger-than-life statues of Mrs. Mallard and her ducklings from "Make Way for Ducklings" (kids love sitting on each of the statues in turn). They lead to the Lagoon, where you'll find the Swan Boats, which take you for a leisurely, human-powered "cruise" around the Lagoon (including the island Mrs. Mallard was getting back to).

On the Common (the country's oldest public park), you'll find Frog Pond. In the summer, it's a giant wading pool with a spray fountain - make sure to bring some swimwear and a towel or two. In the winter, it's turned into a skating rink - bring your own skates or rent at the concession stand. Green Line or Red Line to Park Street, which get you to the Common - walk across the Common to get to the Public Garden.


More summer Frog Pond photos.

Right next to the Frog Pond is the Tadpole Playground, which is a very nice playground. The kids will enjoy playing and you'll find diversion in looking at all the frog and tadpole sculptures, paintings and tiles.

froggy goodness

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Spring: Make Way for Ducklings Parade

Quack!Make Way for Ducklings is THE Boston children's book - Robert McCloskey's classic tale of how Mr. and Mrs. Mallard find a home for their new brood in the middle of the big city.

The annual Make Way for Ducklings Parade, held every Mother's Day, is THE impossibly cute Boston kids tradition, in which scores of kids dressed as ducks (with the odd Officer Mike scattered about) waddle, walk or are pushed in carriages along Mrs. Mallard's route. Starting at the Boston Common, opposite the State House, the procession winds its way up and down Beacon Hill (where some otherwise staid residents stand curbside and quack at the passing kiddie ducks) before ending at the Public Garden - where the kids promptly line up for a chance to sit on all of the statutes of ducklings and Mrs. Mallard. A trip on a Swan Boat - which will take you around the Duck Island the Mallards settled on, is the perfect way to end the occasion.

Getting there: Take the Green Line to Park Street, then walk up to the top of the Common. When you see lots of kids dressed like ducks, you'll know you're in the right spot. The parade typically kicks off at 1 p.m.

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