At Boston-area hotels, a warm welcome for kids, even in winter

By Felicity Long
Charles Hotel roomFamilies looking to explore the Boston area will find a wealth of information on what to do in summer, but the city is increasingly welcoming to kids even when Jack Frost comes to town. The trick is to find hotels that not only cater to young guests but also offer activities and packages to warm up the winter season.

The Charles Hotel in Cambridge, for example, located just off Harvard Square, goes all out to attract small fry in winter with a 2,900-square-foot, outdoor ice rink on property. Families can rent skates and even arrange for lessons at the rink, which is also open to the public, and hungry skaters can fuel up with snacks supplied by Henrietta's Table, one of the hotel's two restaurants.

The 294-room, four-star property, which opened a Corbu Spa & Salon this summer, does not have its own pool, but guests have access to the rooftop, indoor pool at the adjacent Wellbridge Athletic Club, where children are welcome.

This season, the Charles is offering a Smarty Pants package that includes a Kid's Kit with activity books and small toys; two tickets to the Harvard Museum of Natural History, popular with local schoolchildren because of its taxidermy collection of exotic animals; free breakfast for ages 12 and younger at Henrietta's Table; and milk and cookies at bedtime. The property also offers loaner board games, in-mirror TVs in bathrooms and kid-friendly bath products.

The package is priced from $289 per room; an adjoining room is available for a 25% discount. See www.charleshotel.com.  

When the pool's closed

The four-star Colonnade Hotel across the river in Boston's Back Bay is known for its outdoor, rooftop pool in summer, but off-season, the hotel welcomes children with admission for two adults and two kids to either the New England Aquarium or the Children's Museum. The 285-room hotel, which recently transformed itself from drab to stylish courtesy of a $25 million upgrade, is situated directly across from the interconnected Prudential Center and CopleySquare shopping mall, offering miles of glassed-in shopping and dining venues that provide a respite from the cold.

In addition to the activity passes, the Kids See & Do Boston package includes accommodations for two adults and two children; full American breakfast for the family; welcome gifts; overnight parking, an important feature in Beantown; and late checkout.

The package starts at $349 per night.

The hotel also offers a Frosty Friday special that trims rates when the temperatures drop. The way it works is that if the weather dips to 20 degrees by 5 p.m. Friday, guests pay $20 for a room that night and $295 for Saturday.

InterContinental Boston poolThe special is good through March 31 and includes accommodations, two tickets to the Old Town Trolley Tour or admission and skating rentals at the Boston Common Frog Pond Skating Rink, a popular outdoor public rink nearby, as well as hot chocolate for two at the on-property Brasserie JO, and overnight parking. Rates require a two-night stay. Go to www.colonnadehotel.com.  

Take a dip anytime

Families who want an indoor pool on site can check into the InterContinental Boston on the city's waterfront. The 424-room property is relatively new -- it opened in 2006 -- but is already something of a showpiece, thanks to its dramatic glass exterior created in a shape inspired by the Tall Ships that periodically visit Boston Harbor.

The property also benefits from its location on the Rose Kennedy Greenway, a combination hardscape and green space that has revitalized this part of the city and linked some of the Hub's most popular attractions, such as Quincy Market, the North End and Chinatown.

While the overall vibe of the hotel is urban chic, families are proactively welcomed, and children can swim anytime in the 45-foot, indoor heated lap pool and enjoy a kids' menu at the Miel Brasserie Provencale with such goodies as Nutella crepes and mini Kobe beef burgers.

Situated on the site where the Boston Tea Party took place in 1773, the hotel is the closest in the city to the Boston Children's Museum across the Fort Point Channel and will sit adjacent to the new Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum, set to open in June.

Families can bundle up for the Boston Freedom Trail package, which includes a tour of one of the city's most popular attractions, the 2.5-mile Freedom Trail, led by costumed guides well versed in keeping kids interested in Boston's colorful history. The package, which also includes the option to stay for a third night for free, is priced from $299 per night and is valid most weekends all year. Go to www.intercontinentalboston.com.  

For more on travel to Boston, log on to www.bostonusa.com/visit.
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