Taking the Family to Boston’s JFK Presidential Library

Taking the Family to Boston's JFK Presidential Library pin

Boston is a city full of interesting historical places for traveling families to see. However, a fascinating place every family in Boston needs to experience is the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. This library is the perfect place for families to know more about the life of this noteworthy president. Traveling families can also enjoy the nearby Edward M. Kennedy Institute.
Taking the Family to Boston's JFK Presidential Library view

 

What You Will See 

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum honors the life and legacy of the President through exhibits about his public and personal life, as well as events that occurred during his presidency.
Taking the Family to Boston's JFK Presidential Library office

The museum is focused on both John F. Kennedy’s public and private life. Permanent exhibits include coverage of his campaign, how he effectively used the television to get his message to Americans, the “Space Race” to the moon, furnishings from the Oval Office and exhibits about his wife, Jackie, and their family. The museum also features special exhibits about a variety of Kennedy-related topics (Presidential getaway to Cape Cod, the Cuban Missile Crisis, his Inauguration, and more).

Taking the Family to Boston's JFK Presidential Library appliance

Our son loved the slabs from the Berlin Wall that he had also seen in the Reagan Library. He commented on how both a Republican and Democrat president had a slab in their respective libraries. He was also fascinated with how the Kennedy family, JFK in particular, led the advocacy for people with intellectual disabilities. One of JFK’s sisters was mentally disabled, so the topic was close to his heart. Furthermore, our son liked seeing JFK’s office with a replica of the ship he was on while he was in the Navy. We also saw all the gifts sent to him and his family while they were in the White House, including a small Japanese doll for his daughter.

One of the best things to see in this museum is the artifacts and memorabilia from the JFK election period. Visitors can see an extensive collection of newspapers, TV clips, costumes, dresses, hats, and pins. All these items get guests to relieve the tense environment of the election.

Taking the Family to Boston's JFK Presidential Library hat

Edward M. Kennedy Institute

Located near the JFK Library and Museum, the Edward M. Kennedy Institute is a tribute to the influential senator’s 47-year career. It also educates the public about the Senate and encourages visitors to participate in the democracy of the United States.

Taking the Family to Boston's JFK Presidential Library posts

 

At the entrance to the Institute, visitors first see impressive granite pillars carved with the names of the fifty US states and the year each was accepted into the Union.
Taking the Family to Boston's JFK Presidential Library hall

The Institute boasts interactive exhibits to help both children and adults gain a better understanding of this governmental body. Visitors can get a real experience of being in the United States Senate in the full-scale replica of the U.S. Senate Chamber. They can also learn all about what the Senate is, who works there, how a bill becomes law and how we can all make a difference. In fact, kids can create their own bill and try to convince fellow congress people the importance of what they’re presenting in the Senate Chamber. The Institute also features an issue of the day, rotating between Immigration, Health Care, and Civil Rights.

Taking the Family to Boston's JFK Presidential Library ship

Visitors can also learn about Edward M. Kennedy’s legislative battles, where he stood on a variety of issues and can hear some of his speeches. Also not to be missed is his office, which includes a bust of his brothers RFK and JFK. Here, visitors can see his paintings, since Edward Kennedy had a talent for landscapes.

 

Location, Hours, Cost 

The JFK Library is located at Columbia Point, 220 Morrissey Boulevard. The Edward M. Kennedy Institute is next door at Columbia Point 210. Both are roughly a 20-30 minute drive out of Boston. The JFK Library is open daily from 9 AM to 5 PM, and the Institute is open Tuesday – Saturday from 9 AM to 5 PM and Sunday from 10 AM to 5 PM.

Taking the Family to Boston's JFK Presidential Library display

Admission to the JFK Library is $14 for adults and $10 for children 13-17. Children under 12 get in for free, and there are various discounts for seniors, college students, and veterans/active military.

Admission to the Institute is $16 for adults 25-61, $14 for adults 18-24, and $8 for children 6-17. One can get discounts for seniors, veterans, and MA residents, and children under 6 get in for free. Visitors can enjoy a $2 discount if they show a same-day ticket for the JFK Library.

Taking the Family to Boston's JFK Presidential Library tv

Autism Travel Tips:

  • The JFK museum features a free educational iPad app for children called the JFK Challenges. This app focuses on astronauts and the moon landing, as well as the Peace Corps created during JFK’s presidency.
  • There are some great resources on the website to help prepare children or adults who might not know what to expect at the museum. These sites include photos and recordings of speeches from John F. Kennedy, a family tree that starts all the way back with Joseph P. Kennedy (born in 1888) and the many legacies that JFK has left behind (the Peace Corps, Green Berets, different funds and charities).
  • Families should attend a family friendly docent-led tour to learn more about the highlights of the museum.
  • Both institutions are ideal for older, school-aged children. However, younger ones might have a tough time staying interested.
  • The website recommends 1.5-2 hours to visit the Edward M. Kennedy Institute.
  • Visitors can enjoy a café, gift shop, and coat check at the Institute.
  • The Institute is wheelchair friendly.

Taking the Family to Boston's JFK Presidential Library variety

 

 

 

Should Your Family Try the Boston CityPASS?

Should Your Family Try the Boston CityPASS? pin

 

With more and more cities offering a “city pass,” many families might be wondering if it is worth it. On a recent trip to Boston, we decided to grab city passes and ended up saving some money!

Should Your Family Try the Boston CityPASS? building

What is it?        

The Boston CityPASS is a ticket that can work for admission to the city’s four major attractions – the New England Aquarium, the Museum of Science, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston and either the Skywalk Observatory or the Harvard Museum of Natural History. Currently, a CityPASS is $49 for adults (ages 12+) and $36 for children (ages 3-11). Buyers also get nine consecutive days to visit the attractions, beginning on the first day of use.

Should Your Family Try the Boston CityPASS? turtle

We got it for the day and focused on the four main sites within the city. Since Boston is a compact city, it is easy to get from place to place. We wanted a mixture of art, history, and animal interactions. Here’s what we got to see in one day.

Pros

Buying the CityPASS in advance saves visitors 46% off what they would pay if they paid for each attraction individually. Also, the CityPASS will also save time because it allows buyers to skip the ticket line.

Should Your Family Try the Boston CityPASS? flag

Cons

This card isn’t the best option for families who don’t want to visit a large number of attractions in a short amount of time since it is pricey.

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

While the Museum of Fine Arts is not as interactive or kid friendly as the other local museums, they have family programs throughout the week, most of which are included in the admission cost. The exhibits change throughout the year and include paintings, photographs and sculptures from artists around the world, with a variety of themes.

Should Your Family Try the Boston CityPASS? art

The museum is located at 465 Huntington Avenue. Their hours are 10 am – 4:45 pm Sat-Tue and 10 am – 9:45 pm Wed-Fri. Our son found the furniture exhibit interesting.

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Weekday afternoons are the best time to visit to avoid crowds.
  • The museum has a café on-site, but limited parking.
  • The museum is wheelchair friendly. They also provide large type maps, ASL interpreters, and Assistive Listening Devices.

The Museum of Science

This museum is ideal for families who want to interact with the over 700 exhibits. There is something for everyone! Permanent exhibits include birds, butterflies, dinosaurs, the moon, math, engineering, and micro-robotics. The museum also has a 3D theater, a Planetarium, a Butterfly Garden, and a Theater of Electricity, some of which come with an additional fee.

The day we visited we got to see a traveling Pixar exhibit which delighted our son with autism.

The museum is located at 1 Science Park. It is open from 9 am – 5 pm most days.

Should Your Family Try the Boston CityPASS? sign

Autism Travel Tips:

  • There is on-site parking, a café and gift shop.
  • Weekday afternoons are the best time to go to avoid crowds.
  • The museum is wheelchair and stroller friendly. They also offer assistive listening systems.
  • Families who require sighted guides or interpreters for a foreign language or ASL need to request the service two weeks in advance.

The New England Aquarium

Kids will enjoy looking for harbor seals on the Front Plaza and seeing Myrtle, a 550-pound sea turtle. The aquarium is kid friendly, with an interactive sea turtle exhibit and the largest “touch tank” on the east coast, with over 100 animals available for children to feel. There is also a whale-watching cruise from April-October for an additional fee.The aquarium is located at 1 Central Warf.

By the time we reached the Aquarium our son was somewhat burnt out, so we focused mainly on visiting the penguins before heading to the Wharf’s Legal Seafood for a late lunch. It is open Mon-Fri from 9 am – 5 pm, and on weekends and holidays until 6 pm.

Should Your Family Try the Boston CityPASS? penguin

 

Autism Travel Tips:

  • The aquarium has on-site parking and is stroller and wheelchair accessible.
  • There is a café on-site.
  • Personal photography is allowed.
  • The best time to visit to avoid crowds is as soon as the aquarium opens.

Skywalk Observatory

The Skywalk Observatory may be a bit frightening for those with a fear of heights, but well worth the trip to see a 360-degree view of the city. It is the only observatory in New England and is found on the fiftieth floor of the Prudential Center. Also at the Observatory is the Dreams of Freedom Museum, an educational experience to give children (and adults) a sense of not just Boston’s, but America’s cultural history through interactive exhibits.

We arrived late in the day to the Observatory which worked out well since visibility was better in the afternoon. Also, this stop was short since there wasn’t much to see except a short intro movie and the spectacular city views. However, we were thrilled to discover the Observatory was next to a great shopping mall that offered multiple dinner options.

This observatory is located at 800 Boylston Street. It is open daily from 10 am – 10 pm in the summer and from 10 am – 8 pm in the winter.

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Autism Travel Tips:

  • The observatory is wheelchair accessible.Hard Rock Hotel Universal Orlando:Tmom Travel Disclosure
  • Families can get a self-guided audio tour.
  • Guests can enjoy the gift shop and restaurant on the fifty-second floor of the Prudential Center.
  • Due to weather and special events, the 360-degree view may not always be open. Parents should check the website or call before going.

Overall as a family with autism we found the pass helpful as it a fast way to visit several landmarks on the same day without standing in lines.

Have you tried the Boston passes? What was your experience?

 

A Family Day in Salem Massachusetts

PRISON

Witchcraft and Halloween are often closely associated. But back in 1600s Salem, witchcraft was a wild accusation that could easily lead to the death of the accused with little real evidence. This dark period in history is still remembered and preserved in the original Salem Massachusetts location. Here, you can practically walk through history.

A Family Day in Salem Massachusetts

Salem, Massachusetts is infamous for the Salem Witch Trials of the 1600s. From 1692-1693, 20 people, mostly women, were executed after being accused, tried, and found guilty of witchcraft. Just 16 miles from the big city of Boston, Salem is a great place to go for a day trip (or more if you have time) to learn more about the history of the town and this sordid part of American history. It feels like a place out of time. The townspeople pride themselves in trying to preserve the history as much as possible.

Getting there

If you are driving from Boston, you can take U.S. 1 N or 95 N. You can take bus 450 or 455 from Haymarket Square to downtown Salem. If you come by train, from North Station take the Rockport/Ipswich Line to the Salem Depot (about 30 minutes). For complete directions from any place, visit the Salem website. Be aware that most of the museums close by four, so an overnight stay is recommended.

A Family Day in Salem Massachusetts

What to Do

There are several museums so you can tailor the visit depending on the ages of the kids. Be sure to start at the Salem Visitor’s Center for maps and info. There is a course you can follow to make sure you see all the museums and landmarks. The course is marked on the concrete throughout the town, yellow brick road style. Kids might get a kick out of following the pavement to see the different landmarks.

A Family Day in Salem Massachusetts

We started off at the Witch History Museum at 197 Essex Street, which seemed to be a better place for older kids and adults. This museum had recorded and narrated segments of what lead to the trials, the trials themselves, and outcome. There are live sized presentations depicting aspects of life and the trials, and stories of people that were accused of being witches (or in one minister’s case, charged with being the devil). The museum is open daily from April-November and features some special Halloween tours. Admission is $9/person, but you can save money if you purchase a combo ticket for the Witch History Museum, the Witch Dungeon Museum, and the New England Pirate Museum (all within walking distance of each other). Check out this video of our experience at the Witch History Museum.

A Family Day in Salem Massachusetts

Be sure to take some time when you are walking on Essex to see all the unique lampposts that portray witches along with the stores filled with tarot cards, incense, and other magical artifacts.

Next, visit the Witch Dungeon Museum, at 16 Lynde Street. At this unique experience, there was a simulated mini-trial. Then we got to experience first hand the conditions the prisoners endured, including a standing only space cell for those who were poor. This one might be a little scary for younger children. This museum is open daily from April-November. Fact sheets are available in a variety of languages.

At this point, we had worked up quite an appetite, so we stopped for a delicious lunch at the Boston Hot Dog Company at 60 Washington Street. We got three different hot dogs: the Boston Club Dog (tomato, bacon bits, lettuce), Texas Dog (chili, sauteed onions, jalapeno peppers), and Chicago Dog (onion, tomato, peppers, shredded lettuce, green relish, grey poupon mustard, poppy seeds, celery salt and deli pickle).

A Family Day in Salem Massachusetts

Then we went to the Salem Witch Museum 19 1/2 N Washington Square, which is geared more towards middle school and high school kids. The museum is more educational, with a detailed historical background of the trials and then a mini exhibit that carries the theme to modern days explaining Wicca and how people today still face persecution in the U.S. because of beliefs, race, or sexual orientation. The Salem Witch Museum is open daily from 10 am – 5 pm, and tickets are $10.50 for adults, $7.50 for children (6-14 years).

A Family Day in Salem Massachusetts

We ended our day in Salem with the New England Pirate Museum that showed artifacts and explained how piracy was prevalent in the area. The tour is around 20-30 minutes, and the guides encourage participation and questions.

A Family Day in Salem Massachusetts

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Be sure to prepare your kid with stories of what happened beforehand, so they know what to expect. Topics like death, witches or pirates can be scary or overwhelming.
  • Keep in mind that most of Salem is a walking tour, and everything is nearby. It could be helpful to have a car for those who have a difficult time walking long distances.
  • Most museums have a place to sit and listen or watch a presentation
  • Wear comfortable shoes. Although walkable, it is spread out.

A Family Day in Salem Massachusetts

  • Get a good map from the visitor’s center, because you can easily get lost.
  • Be aware of the tour times in each museum, because there’s nothing more frustrating than getting there five or ten minutes after the start of the tour.
  • Again, staying overnight is recommended, especially if you or your kid is an avid history fan. Our son was frustrated with the fact he could only see a few museums out of the many that are there.

Overall, if you are ever in Boston, do take time to see Salem. It’s a step back in time full of exciting information. Old and young visitors will enjoy seeing and learning about this preserved section of history.

The Family Friendly Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel

 

 

Situated at 138 St James Ave in Boston Massachusetts, the upscale  Copley Square Fairmont Plaza Hotel, first opened to the public 1912, is a historic landmark property in Copley Square that is part of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Facing a well-manicured park with plenty of fine dining nearby as well as shopping this luxury property is a perfect fit for families visiting the historic city.

 

The Family Friendly Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel public areas

This establishment that has welcomed numerous dignitaries and celebrities hosts many conferences, proms, and gala events throughout the year so one can expect business people and families as fellow guests.

Décor

Majestic French Beaux-Arts architecture typifies this imposing building. The vast Peacock Alley with its vaulted ceiling, pillars, mosaics, tiled floors, and arches is impressive, to say the least.
Chandeliers, exotic fresh floral arrangements, crystal lamps, and old-fashioned elevators with wooden trellis finishes give this establishment a luxurious air. The corridor walls are decorated with framed menus and photographs of events held at the hotel through the years. There are cozy, secluded conversation areas, an old fashioned letterbox in the lobby; even computer desks available for guests to use. The conference rooms are equally elegant so is no surprise that this is an attractive venue to host balls and upscale events.

The Family Friendly Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel standard room

Rooms

On our visit, we had the opportunity to stay in both the Deluxe Standard room and the Junior Suite. Per our request at booking, we were assigned quiet rooms not facing the street in the W-shaped building.
Carpeted in plush hues of blue, both rooms were spacious; the Junior Suite larger of course.Decorated with wallpaper in shades of cream and browns it matched with the older feel of the hotel.

We had a comfortable king-sized bed in both rooms, but it was different for our son who slept on a  rollaway in the standard room and was happy to upgrade to an opening sofa in the suite.
Both rooms boasted an adequately sized closet along with a  chest of deep drawers with a granite top with a large-screen TV on top. The safe provided could easily fit a small laptop and our tablets.
Also, the standard room and suite had a  writing desk with two outlets although there were two additional outlets built into the nightstands which we found helpful.
The rooms came with the sound machine, Keurig coffee machine, reading lights and big lamps on the side tables but no overhead light.What added to our comfort was the fact both rooms: came with sitting areas: the standard room had a double sitting bench and small lounge while the Junior suite had a sofa, loungers and sitting the bench.

The Family Friendly Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel suite

 

The bathrooms were decorated in a gray-tone marble and both the rooms, they came with a quality amenity kit.Both sported large mirrors, an integrated wall night light ( a great feature we’d love to see other hotels copy) and a bright overhead light.

The bathroom in the standard room with a sink, commode, and tub/shower combination was very compact making it hard for more than one person to use at any given time.

In comparison, the bathroom in the Junior suite was larger divided into two separate areas making it more suitable for a family with kids to use. The first entry area had the tub and sink while the other one had a shower with a glass enclosure, commode, and bidet.
Both rooms we stayed at on the fifth and sixth floor had good water pressure, but no hand held shower heads which would have been a helpful addition to parents with younger kids.We found hotel robes and slippers in both; which we appreciated.The Family Friendly Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel restaurants

 

Restaurant

The hotel has its restaurant called the Oak Long Restaurant that is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

With its stuffed leather seats, the décor is reminiscent of yesteryear and the drapes resemble Revolution era army uniforms. Its limited but quality menu is run on the ‘Farm to Table’ principle and features a few signature dishes like their lobster roll with pickles, their Eggs Royale, which is Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon, and their delicious sweet focaccia with rosemary and honey butter, definitely one of our favorites.

Our son with autism loved the honey and was disappointed to discover that it came from the hotel’s hives located on the roof of the property and wasn’t sold anywhere else.

Spa, Pool, and Gym

There is no pool or spa at this facility, but there is a small gym with great views overlooking the city’s skyline which is available to the guests.

The Family Friendly Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel carly

Unique to this hotel

As you approach this magnificent building, you will see that there are two colossal stone lion statues and one very real and welcoming black Labrador; her name is Catie Copley, and she is the 13-year-old canine ambassador of this hotel!

Catie has a dog house at the entrance as well as her plush dog bed in front of the reception area along with a small crystal bowl for water.

Hotel guests of all ages are encouraged to take her on a walk in the nearby park if they wish.
The hotel store sells plenty of Catie memorabilia such as stuffed animals in her image, magnets and even her biography signed with her very own paw print. As Catie is getting close to retirement age, four-year-old look alike Carly has been brought in to learn the ‘tricks of the trade’ and eventually take her spot.

Autism Travel Tips

The hotel is located in a high traffic square so make sure you ask for a quiet room facing the inside courtyard on a top floor to minimize noise.

Since our son with autism is very noise sensitive (even the smallest of sounds bothers his sleep), we requested the housekeeping person to unplug the mini bar fridge in the room and empty its contents which were done in a prompt manner.

As it is an old building, we discovered some of the windows opened up completely creating a safety hazard for our son with autism.
If you share similar worries, make sure to ask housekeeping to place a lock that blocks the window from opening, like they did in our case.

The building is shaped like a giant letter W which makes it a bit confusing to navigate and find inside rooms.
If you kid walks around on his/her own, have them photograph the corridor pictures on their cell phone so they can recognize the corridor the room is on in the event they get lost.

Bring your non-slip mat to use in the shower or tub.

 

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