Looking for suggestions for a inexpensive beach-front hotel within 45 minutes of Boston.
August 5, 2012 10:08 AM   Subscribe

Looking for a inexpensive hotel within easy walking distance of a beach that's also within a 30-45 minute metro trip to the Boston aquarium.

I'm trying to plan a last minute beach/Boston aquarium trip for my family (husband and two kids 7 & 5) and I'm getting overwhelmed by the options.

We're coming by car from Hartford, CT during the week of August 20-24th and we've got got a 2.5 hour appointment in Cambridge that we need to work around but dates and hotel locations are flexible other than that.

The main goal is that we'd like to spend our days in Boston doing touristy stuff (Zoo, Aquarium and other things that a 5 & 7 year old might enjoy...feel free to make suggestions) and spend the late afternoon and early evening enjoying the beach. We'd prefer to keep the nightly price around $125 but I realize that might not be possible. I'm also open to the idea of renting an apartment or something through AirBNB but I need to pin down the beach first.

Some beach suggestions I've found online include - Spectacle Island (husband isn't excited about having to take the ferry to get there), Carson Beach, Revere Beach, Crane Beach, Singing Beach and Wingaersheek Beach. Crane Beach and Wingaersheek Beach both seem too far away...what do you guys think? A friend of mine suggested Plymouth but again...is that too far away from Boston to consider doing day trips and still enjoying Plymouth itself?

I'm sorry that this question is all over the place but I'm swimming in options and I'm hoping you Boston-area Mefites can help me quickly narrow down my options.
posted by victoriab to Travel & Transportation around Boston, MA (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Have you looked at staying around Hull, Hingham, Cohasset or Scituate. Both Hingham and Hull also have a water shuttle that goes into Boston. Hull has a few hotels that are next to the beach and the shuttle is close by.
posted by burlsube at 10:12 AM on August 5, 2012

off the top of my head...when you say metro trip, are you intending to take the T? (or do you just mean travel time in general).

Plymouth is way too far.

The Aquarium is on the blue line, as is Revere Beach; I don't have any recent experience re: the quality of Revere Beach, though.
posted by maryrussell at 10:43 AM on August 5, 2012

Response by poster: Sorry for the confusion...yes, I'd like to take the T (or any public transportation really) and leave the car parked as much as possible. There doesn't seem to be much positive info about Revere Beach other than it's location so I'm hesitant to pick it.

Thanks for the water shuttle info burlesube. I'd been looking at the Hull area but hadn't seen that option.
posted by victoriab at 11:05 AM on August 5, 2012

Nantasket Beach is great for kids, and Boston is accessible both by water shuttle and commuter rail (Greenbush line).
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:23 PM on August 5, 2012

I know you're planning your trip for the middle of the week, but keep in mind that the Greenbush Line and the Plymouth/Kingston lines no longer run during the weekends.

Thirding Hull. From Pemberton you can catch the water shuttle to Boston, as well as the harbor islands ferry to Georges Island.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 3:58 PM on August 5, 2012

Crane Beach is beautiful and well worth the drive.

The kids will love the aquarium!
posted by araisingirl at 7:32 PM on August 5, 2012

Winthrop is a nice little beach neighborhood close to Boston. Not sure about hotels though.
posted by platinum at 10:08 AM on August 6, 2012

Best answer: Go for Quincy - it's close to the city, has a nice beach, is safe, and hotels. Wollaston is not the Nicest Beach Evah, but I always feel safe there (and my boss with small children used to live right near there). I would be leery at Revere Beach at twilight (although Revere is lovely during the day).

You could stay at the Adams Inn Best Western and drive over to Wollaston Beach - it's a very short drive on residential streets (you could walk it, but it would be longish for the kids). You're also right near the Wollaston/N. Quincy Red Line stop, which makes an easy trip downtown for things like the Aquarium.

I also like the Hull idea, but the ferries can be tough to coordinate - there aren't that many. The Harbor Islands are Totally worth a visit during one of your days, and there are Tons of ferries to Spectacle/Georges. Enjoy!
posted by ldthomps at 10:24 AM on August 6, 2012

Revere Beach is perfectly fine. It's clean, there's no admission fee and it's very popular with grannies and families with children.
posted by healthytext at 3:02 PM on August 6, 2012

Response by poster: We had a great visit to Boston and here is an update on where we stayed and what we did.

I ended up choosing the Adams Inn in Quincy as suggested by ldthomps above. It was about $150 and included breakfast (limited menu or you can get a $3 credit and order anything you want). Pictures showed it on the water and it was in the same town as the Harbor Express ferry terminal (suggested by burlsube) and also near the Franklin Park Zoo. Room was fine and they gave us a free upgrade to a "suite" when I asked at check-in. This just meant that there was a small 1/2 wall between the sofabed and the main bed. Breakfast was actually pretty yummy but I recommend going down early before it gets busy. We went down at 8 am the first day and had no problems. We went down at 9:30 the next morning and it was a zoo. Also, there is a lot of construction going on right out in front so getting there can be a bit confusing. I don't know that we'd stay there again but it was certainly worked for us on this trip.

Day One
Drove to Cambridge and spent the morning there. Hopped in the car after lunch to head to the Boston Children's Museum. Due to not having update our GPS in 5 years, we plug in the name BCM (versus the exact address) and the GPS merrily takes us to Braintree, MA. Oops! Okay, plan for the BCM deferred for the next day. We head to the hotel in Quincy and head to Wollaston Beach for the afternoon

Now I grew up on the east coast of Florida so when I think beach, I think lots of sand dunes, soft, dry sand and a stretch of harder sand by the water that has all kinds of crabs, seaweed, tide pools etc. I'm not familiar with beaches in New England, but this is NOT Wollaston Beach. It's right by the main street so it's easy access and there is parking all along the street. But, it's very rocky, there was trash/debris washed up on shore (or left by previous beachgoers) which made me uncomfortable letting my kids just go crazy exploring too far ahead of me. It's not quite the quiet and relaxing beach experience I was hoping for and the water is #@$*%$ cold. Jesus, it's cold. The lifeguards were giving us the hairy eyeball, probably because they didn't want to have to come into that icebox water to rescue us if we got in trouble. Do New Englanders actually go swimming at the beach because we were the only ones in the water and I think we looked like we were certainly from out of town.

We ate dinner at one of the seafood shacks across the street from the beach. Lots of fried shrimp, oysters and clams. Yummy but not cheap.


Got up early and headed to Harbor Express to catch the ferry to the aquarium. $32 covers RT (Quincy-Boston) for two adults and the kids ride free. This is a people-only ferry (no cars) and the boys loved the ride. You can sit indoors or outdoors....the weather was amazing so we were up top for most of the ride. It's about 45 minutes and drops you off right next door to the aquarium.

We went to the New England Aquarium first which was fun but crowded. Some of the exhibits were closed (Penguins) since they are doing a big renovation in a few months and are finding temporary homes for the animals. Definitely call before you go if you're planning a Fall 2012 trip. We went to the Atlanta Aquarium last year and it's tough to compete against something that was built so recently and has all the newest bells and whistles. Basically, I'm not sure we'd do the aquarium again but definitely get your tickets online beforehand so you can breeze through the separate pre-ticketed line. The main ticket lines are out in the blazing sun and they are long.

We ate lunch at Legal Seafood (yum) which is right across the street from the aquarium and my oldest actually ordered 1/2 lobster off the kids menu and ate the entire thing. It's was weird but fantastic.

Then we headed across the river (about a 10-15 minute walk) to the Boston Children's Museum. This place is FANTASTIC. We actually went ahead an bought a membership because it would have been about $70-80 for admission for 4 versus $150 for an annual family membership. The family membership also gets you a reciprocal membership in participating Children's Museums around the country and it's definitely worth it if there is one near your house. Anyway, this museum is 4 stories of fantastic things for kids to do and there is also a little cafe for when you need a break. It's a huge space so we never felt cramped or crowded...highly recommended.

And no, we still weren't done. My son had seen a speedboat painted like a shark as we walked from the ferry to the aquarium. He was fascinated and really wanted to ride on it. We had been going to do the Duck Boat tour but we decided to ride CODZILLA instead. It's not cheap but it's fast and fun. Be prepared to get a little wet...ESPECIALLY if you sit in the first five rows or in the way back behind the captain. Those people back there got drenched.

We caught the ferry back to Quincy and ate at the Inn at Bay Pointe before we headed back to the hotel. The prices were surprisingly cheap, the food was yummy and the portions were huge. Most of the other diners seemed to be senior citizens or a tourists brought by van from some nearby Marriott but we thought it was perfect. Also, it's a marina, so the dress code is pretty flexible. The marina part is locked so you can't walk down by the boats, but there is a boardwalk and you can see the water and the sunset.

We went to the Franklin Park Zoo on our way back to Connecticut. A couple of warnings...parking is a bear so get there early to snag a good parking space. There are a few small lots but it's mostly on-street parking and you might end up walking quite a ways to get from your car to the zoo entrance. Definitely pre-buy your tickets if possible. The line moves INCREDIBLY slowly although I could never figure out why. We waited about 20-30 minutes in line to buy tickets. If you have your tickets or have them at will-call...see if you can find a zoo employee and they should help wave you through.

Basically, this is a nice neighborhood zoo but it's not going to compare to some huge zoo experience. They've got the major animals but the biggest hits for us were:
huge playground located in the middle of the park
Zoorasic park exhibit that has animatronic dinosaurs placed out in the woods
Aussie Aviary - you're in the aviary with a million little parakeets and you have little seed sticks so they'll come sit on your finger and eat. The kids LOVED this.
Butterfly House - The kids loved that they had hundreds of the butterfly cocoons in a special house and you could see all stages of the butterflies...even some of them in the middle of hatching.

Also, if you must take the little train that runs around the zoo, try and do it early. There is only one train and it runs about every 30 minutes. Towards the end of the day there are always more people that want to ride than there are seats available. This means you could actually wait an entire hour to get a seat. There were some seriously cranky kids and parents, so knock the train out early if possible. If you're walking by when it's boarding (it boards near the entrance to the park) and there are seats...jump on!

Okay, thanks to everyone for their advice and for helping make this a fantastic trip!
posted by victoriab at 6:55 AM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

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