There’s a lot to like about Boston. There are bustling city neighborhoods, quiet green spaces, and plenty of shopping and fun to be had! We have aquariums, museums, and parks galore. Our city is rich with history — a walk down the Freedom Trail will show you just how much of our country originated here. There are relics from years past, and futuristic innovations. But one of the coolest places to explore is just a ferry ride away — George’s Island!
Half the fun of George’s Island (and many of the other Boston Harbor Islands) is getting there. The ferry runs from Long Wharf in Boston, right near the aquarium, to the visitor’s center on the island. Purchase ferry tickets online — the ferry leaves Boston at 10 a.m., 12 p.m., and 2 p.m. during the summer. The ship has refreshments, including a full bar, for sale during the 45-minute trip. Comfortable indoor seating, as well as outdoor standing room on the third deck, offers views that just can’t be beat.
There are a few ways to travel on a budget. Many local libraries offer discounted ferry tickets. The library pass is valid Monday through Thursday and offers two tickets for the price of one. Reach out to your local library to learn how to reserve your ticket. Another discount can be found through the Card to Culture program. If you have an EBT card or participate in the WIC program, you are eligible for this (and so many other discounts!).
George’s Island is home to Fort Warren, which was built to protect Boston during the Civil War. When you disembark from the ferry, you will find a small playground, ice cream cart, and the visitor’s center. The visitor’s center is a must see for anyone interested in history. See cannons from the 1800s, read about soldiers’ experiences, and see what food was like at Fort Warren! Once you have gotten your fill of history, head outside to the remains of the fort itself.
Explorers of all ages can travel through the fort, following signs for QR codes that pull up an audio tour of various spots. Learn about how the soldiers spent their time while stationed at the fort. Discover how the purpose of the fort changed when it was clear that Boston was not going to be home to many battles during that time. And, our favorite, pretend to cook in the ovens built into brick walls in the bakery! Don’t forget to bring a flashlight to explore the dark hallways and rooms of the fort that are home to small windows and openings for cannons.
Things to do
In the visitor’s center, grab a Junior Ranger program booklet for each of the young explorers in your group. This activity book kept my younger two children fully entertained while my older boys climbed through passageways. The book includes simple, self-guided activities, like mazes and drawing activities. It also has a few activities that require the kids to interact with the fort, like finding points of interest on a map and interviewing a park ranger. There are 10 activities, and once your kiddos complete a certain number of activities they can head back to the visitor’s center to earn their ranger badge.
When my daughter brought her booklet with five completed activities, the park ranger was so excited for her. The ranger asked what my daughter learned and had a great, age-appropriate conversation about the fort with her. Then she got a special sticker and a George’s Island badge.
If you are traveling with an older group, there are a few walking tours that run each day. Check out the tour station by the guard house to find out more about these tours. Be sure to check the beach for sea glass, as this is a great way to pass time between activities — the best pieces can be found right by the guard house!
George’s Island also boasts beautiful grassy areas and picnic tables to enjoy a carried-on picnic lunch! The island is “carry in, carry out,” so plan to bring some supplies with you!