Date published: May 3, 2010

A Fun Day in the Fenway The Tot Ten
Panorama’s picks for Boston’s best family fun
by Josh B. Wardrop

1 The Boston Children’s Museum is the Hub’s premiere spot for young children, an institution devoted to stimulating young people’s minds and inspiring creativity through hands-on exhibits of all kinds. Highlights include the three-story New Balance Climb; the Kid Power exhibit, boasting activity-based stations like the Power Launch and the Lightspace Dance Floor; the special PlaySpace for children three years old and younger; and the Art Studio, in which children can explore their creative side.

2 The smell of the greasepaint, the roar of the crowd—there’s no better place for big fun than under the big top, and that’s what’s kept The Big Apple Circus coming back to Boston year-in, year-out. This year, world-renowned daredevil clown Bello Nock rejoins Big Apple for one intimate ring of death-defying acrobatic stunts, amazing trained animals and hilarious clowning around. Catch it with your family on City Hall Plaza through May 16.

3 There’s nothing fishy about a trip to the New England Aquarium, where aspiring marine biologists can see 675 species of marine life up close in the giant center ocean tank, view the enormous penguin exhibit, watch trained Northern fur seals in the New Balance Foundation Marine Mammal Center, touch sea stars, hermit crabs and sea urchins in the Tide Pool, or even head out to sea to see nature’s largest mammals up close on a whale watch.

4 Birds of a feather flock together, or so the old saying goes. This month is an excellent time to steer your flock to the beautiful Public Garden for some fine, feathered fun for all ages. On May 9, the city hosts the annual Duckling Day Parade, which is inspired by the award-winning, Hub-set children’s book Make Way for Ducklings. Children join in a parade led by the Harvard Marching Band, with many tots even dressing up as ducks for the occasion. Afterwards, journey over to the lagoon and pile the whole family aboard one of the famous Swan Boats for a lovely and serene paddleboat tour of the garden in all its flowering springtime glory.

5 Though it’s true that not every kid is a budding Einstein, Boston’s Museum of Science is a place that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that science can be a whole lot of fun. Highlights include interactive exhibits about everything from dinosaurs to electricity to outer space, as well as unbelievable 3-D, IMAX and planetarium shows.

6 5W!ts — Boston’s first interactive action-adventure attraction—engrosses its young visitors with Tomb, the story of a trip to a buried pharaoh’s spooky final resting place. Your children (preferably ages 7 and up) are right in the middle of the action, thanks to state-of-the-art movie-like sets, cool special effects, puzzles to solve and a clever script.

7 Animal lovers of all ages go wild for the Franklin Park Zoo, where families can have a roaring good time checking out tigers Luther and Anala, and Christopher, the African lion; explore the Savannah, home to a family of Masai giraffes and a herd of Grevy’s zebras; go Down Under on the Outback Trail with kangaroos and emus; and enter the Tropical Forest, home to a state-of-the-art gorilla enclosure, as well as tapirs, lemurs, a pygmy hippopotamus and other astounding animals.

8 Historical walking tours can be interesting for grown-ups—but for children, little legs get tired easily. That’s why tour operator Boston By Foot’s special Boston by Little Feet is a compact hour-long trek designed specifically for kids. The tour looks at Boston’s architecture and history from a child’s perspective, keeping your kids’ interest without leaving them exhausted.

9 You’re never too young to enjoy a good show, and Boston abounds with opportunities to turn little ones onto the magic of live theater. Through May 16, Wheelock Family Theatre thrills youngsters with a production of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, while the Puppet Showplace Theatre presents weekly shows using marionettes, hand and shadow puppets to bring classic fairy-tales to life.

10 When the sun goes down, Kings is one of the Back Bay’s prime playgrounds for grown-ups, who enjoy the state-of-the-art bowling lanes, billiards and cocktails. But during the day, families are welcome and your kids can get a kick out of ten-pin bowling in a flashy and funky environment. Kings even offers lighter, kid-friendly bowling balls and automatic bumpers to keep balls out of the gutter, giving your youngster a fighting chance to bowl their first strike!