parent and child at the Dutch galleries at the MFA in Boston (visiting Boston art museums with kids, photo credit Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)
Visiting the child-favorite doll’s house in the Dutch galleries at the MFA, photo credit Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Boston is home to so many fantastic art museums. And they’re not just for grown-ups — why not introduce your children to art at a young age? These Boston-area art museums offer a variety of kid-friendly activities and amenities, from special events and concerts to complementary sketching materials and art workshops, and even family-approved cafe menus and changing stations! Read on to see how you can experience a lovely day with your kids at one of Boston’s art museums.

The Museum of Fine Arts (MFA)

465 Huntington Avenue, Boston

One of Boston’s most treasured and oldest art museums has beautiful classic collections and an exciting events schedule. This museum is perfect for a “date” with one child or as an experience for the whole family!

Family-friendly features

Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA)

25 Harbor Shore Drive, Boston

Spend a day at the waterfront and pay a visit to the ICA! Experience modern art for the whole family at this fantastic Boston art museum that offers lots of activities for families. 

Family-friendly features

  • Free admission for youth under 18 (and parents with youth on select weekends)
  • “Play Date” series, with free entry on the last Saturday of the month for a full day of activities like art-making, performance, and films
  • Gallery “game cards” to explore the museum as a “thinker, maker, explorer, or performer” — great for a variety of ages and for intergenerational audiences to play together
  • Hands-on Art Lab activities to try at home or in the galleries on your phone or tablet (like the “close-looking activities“)
  • Strollers permitted
  • Nursing stations available

Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum

25 Evans Way, Boston

The beauty inside this museum is unmatched — especially the courtyard gardens! There are many hidden gems to be discovered here, and it’s also a perfect place for an afternoon of sketching. Be sure to clue older kiddos in on the mystery of the stolen paintings — those empty frames sure are intriguing!

Family-friendly features

  • Free admission for ages 17 and under
  • Weekend concerts for ages 7 and up
  • Saturday art activities in the Bertucci Education Studio
  • Family guides with suggestions of fun ways to explore the museum with children (available free of charge at the information area in the Living Room)
  • Single strollers permitted (with tandem strollers available to borrow)
  • Sketching materials provided free of charge near the courtyard, just outside the Macknight Room.

Harvard Art Museums

32 Quincy Street, Cambridge

If you’re looking for a great afternoon at the museum — for free! — try the Harvard Art Museums. (Make it a full day in Harvard Square with a stop at a classic restaurant like Mr. Bartley’s afterward!)

Family-friendly features

  • Free admission for all!
  • Complementary sketchbooks and pencils
  • Family day” on select Saturdays, with family-focused activities like scavenger hunts, art-making workshops, and spotlight tours
  • Children’s menu at Jenny’s Cafe
  • Single strollers only (with compact strollers to borrow at the admissions desk)

MassArt Art Museum (MAAM)

621 Huntington Avenue, Boston

This teaching museum for Massachusetts College of Art and Design is a free contemporary art museum where visitors can experience works by visionary artists at the forefront of their field. This lesser-known Boston art museum offers unique events and activities for families!

Family-friendly features

  • Free admission for all!
  • Make with MAAM” activities in the Barkan Family Big Ideas Studio every weekend, like experimentation with recycled and found materials to experience artmaking and creative exploration
  • “Maker day” twice a year featuring interactive activities and artmaking designed and guided by MassArt students, faculty, and staff
  • Strollers welcome

Peabody Essex Museum (PEM)

161 Essex Street, Salem

Salem isn’t just for Halloween — it’s also known for its terrific art museum! The Peabody Essex Museum has a wonderful collection and plenty of family-focused experiences. We like to make a day trip of it and and swing by the ocean afterward to dip our toes!

Family-friendly features

  • Free admission for ages 16 and under
  • The Dotty Brown Art and Nature Center showcasing original exhibitions that investigate our connections with nature through contemporary art, memorable objects, and interactive experiences — look for hands-on displays and artmaking spaces here to touch, play, and explore!
  • The Pod, a new multisensory exhibition space with nature-inspired contemporary and historic artworks, stations to explore nature up close, and make-your-own art opportunities
  • The Wonder Zone (part of The Pod), with activity bins, a light table, and picture books for young children.
  • Drop-in art activities 
  • PEM is Certified Sensory Inclusive and promotes an accessible and positive experience for visitors with diverse sensory needs, including autism, dementia, PTSD, and other conditions
  • Kid-friendly cafe menu

deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum 

51 Sandy Pond Road, Lincoln

Not your typical Boston art museum, this park is a kid’s paradise! Just 30 minutes north of downtown Boston, this outdoor sculpture park is well worth the drive. Stroll along the 30-acre outdoor lawns with your children — and be sure to snap some photos among the giant sculptures and art immersion installations. (And don’t forget the beautiful museum store!)

Family-friendly features

  • Free admission for 11 and under
  • Special events, like family yoga, ARTfull play, and guided tours
  • Try a “scavenger hunt for the senses” while wandering
  • Open space for children to roam and play
  • Leashed dogs welcome
  • Bring a picnic and enjoy a family meal together outdoors
Marianna Pease
Marianna Pease is a divorced single mom by day and a writer by night. After going through a divorce while navigating the pandemic during new motherhood, she has written a book about her emotional healing in hopes to give back to others so they might have a guiding light or glimmer of hope (forthcoming). Follow her journey on instagram @heypandemicmom. Additionally, she runs the long-time vintage clothing store www.oonascollection.com. Visit her site www.marinnapease.com. She lives in Boston with her daughter.