3 free Boston Waterfront activities the kids will positively love

Seal tank at the New England Aquarium, Boston Harbor

Keeping kids happy on a city-centric vacation isn’t easy, especially on a tight budget. But the Boston Waterfront offers a ton of inexpensive and endlessly entertaining attractions. Here are a few perennial favorites, all especially convenient for guests of the Boston Harbor, Marriott Long Wharf, Harborside Inn and Boston Custom House hotels.

Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park (Atlantic Avenue): Its playground features tunnels, swings, challenging climbing activities, and even a crow’s nest – all of which are padded by a sandy floor. Sure, it can get a little crowded, but that just adds to the excitement. For kicks, you can check out the names of all the boats in the marina just across from the playground. The park is located between Downtown and the North End on the northeast corner of the park, near Joe’s American Bar and Grill.

Seal tank at the New England Aquarium (Central Wharf): A 42,000-gallon open air tank set up to the left of the Aquarium’s main entrance, this free exhibit allows you to stand for hours watching the seals swim, dive and sometimes even talk, without paying a dime. You can even watch them learning tricks – a sign posted outside the tank let’s you know when the trainers will be appearing that day. There’s no admission needed and it’s open 24/7 – even when the Aquarium itself is closed. The tank is located behind the ticket booth on the left.

Harbor Ferry to Charlestown (Long Wharf):A 10 minute harbor cruise from Long Wharf to the Charlestown Navy Yard where “Old Ironsides” is berthed, and kids under 12 ride free. Adults have to ante up $1.70, but considering that’s 1/3 the cost of a coffee these days, we think that’s still pretty reasonable. Boats usually run about every half hour and you can snap pictures of the spectacular Boston skyline along the way. Long Wharf is located between the Marriott Long Wharf hotel and the New England Aquarium, across from the harbor branch of Legal Seafoods.

– Alan Maltzman of BostonCityWalks.com