Kids like getting pampered as much as grownups do — but nail salons aren’t exactly a fun place to hang out. That’s where this brand-new kid-focused spa in Hyde Park comes in. With Disney tunes setting the scene, skilled technicians twirl in pink tutus and charming aprons, ready to give your prince or princess the royal treatment. Donning a spa robe, kids are seated on a throne while they enjoy a mani-pedi featuring whimsical nail art, a sparkly ring, and glitter lotion on their tiny feet. And did someone say party favors? After the regal service, continue the magic at home with an add-on “Dream Box” filled with toys and spa goodies. 15 Dana Ave., Hyde Park, MA 02316, dreamkidspa.com.
It doesn’t matter where in the zoo you are — when the big cats make a sound, you’ll hear it. Of course, the facility’s two majestic lions are just one of the 100-plus amazing animal species your kiddos can check out here. Watch the gorillas scramble around their outdoor grove, see the giraffes and zebras grazing on the zoo’s savannah, or catch the kangaroos bounding along the Outback Trail. Then talk about it on repeat all the way home. One Franklin Park Rd., Boston, MA 02121, zoonewengland.org.
Sure, backyard bounce houses are fun, but has your kid ever put hair bows on a potbellied pig? At this Sherborn farm’s birthday extravaganzas, children start by feeding cows, mini horses, wallabies, and even emus. Next, potbellied pigs Charlotte and Penny appear for grooming and dressing. After that, cuddle lizards, chameleons, and Chompers, the resident desert tortoise. Finally, ride a unicorn (actually a pony with a rainbow mane and horns) before pizza. No wonder this is currently the hottest party-animal ticket in town. 111 Coolidge St., Sherborn , MA 01770, sweetmeadowfarm.com.
There’s a reason parents set their alarms to register for these urban-oasis camps in Mattapan and West Roxbury. Bolstered by a robust scholarship initiative, Mass Audubon’s science-based programming focuses on curated yet simple pleasures in the heart of the city, guided by approachable counselors who are often alumni themselves. Here, kids can be kids — building forts, making mud pies, and exploring nature from every angle (i.e., stuff they’ll never get to do online). Multiple locations, massaudubon.org.
Got a budding rock star on your hands? Sign them up for afternoon classes at this edgy music academy, with locations everywhere from Wakefield to Watertown. Here, wannabe drummers, keyboardists, guitarists, and more jam out alongside professional musicians (many of whom trained at Berklee). And forget traditional recitals: Lessons culminate in a full-throttle rock performance that’s more Boston Calling than Beethoven. Multiple locations, schoolofrock.com.
There’s something for every kid on this flat 2-mile stroll: a beach walk, some exciting maritime hiking on a narrow jetty where waves crash along the rocks, and a real pre–Civil War fort. If that’s not enough to get the little explorers motivated, how about the promise of a cool dip in the bay or an even cooler raspberry-lime rickey from Sullivan’s when the hike is done? South Boston, MA 02127,
Dashing from soccer to a birthday party? Zip into this locally owned haven stocked with a blend of classics (puppets, board games) and niche finds (dinosaur biospheres, anyone?) efficiently organized by age and interest. The ebullient staff gift wraps for free right at checkout, where you can browse an adorable assortment of birthday cards, which you probably also forgot. Multiple locations, henrybear.com.
Now that a certain big-box retailer has closed its doors (sob!), having a top-notch local option for baby gear is more important than ever. Thankfully, this tot-prep goldmine is still offering essential services such as in-person consultations and a help line staffed with equipment experts who actually answer. The best part? When you’ve finally made your choices, registering for that UppaBaby stroller or leopard-print BabyBjörn carrier can be done with the click of the mouse online. 200 Linden St., Wellesley, MA 02482, mbeans.com.
Come October 31, this lively street buzzes with friendly competition as each brownstone decks out its front stoop in spooky décor, creating a spellbinding vibe that’s absolutely infectious. Making for an even more festive Halloween experience? The well-lit thoroughfare closes to traffic during peak trick-or-treating hours — and residents are known to give out full-size candy bars. Boston, MA 02108,
Kodomo is more than just a kids’ boutique — it’s a family-led passion project. Influenced by her own growing children, owner Jasmine Punzalan recently expanded her selection to include top tween brands such as Molo and Bellerose. Wander into her enchanting shops to browse ethically sourced dresses and play clothes that are sure to become future heirlooms. Multiple locations, kodomoboston.com.