Look at the window displays at the souvenir shops in Boston and there’s one thing you’ll notice. The children’s book Make Way for Ducklings.
Ask anyone who knows Massachusetts what one book should be used to represent the state, and most people answer the same. Make Way for Ducklings.
Pretty impressive for a state filled with history, and thus filled with children’s books set there.
Since this is such a treasured book, it deserves special attention on this site. What follows is a brief overview of the book (simply for those who may be unfamiliar with it), a look at the statue in Boston, and a family-friendly weekend itinerary suggestion for those who may want to follow in the footsteps of the Mallard family, and see the sites they saw.
Make Way for Ducklings, the Book
Mr. and Mrs. Mallard are ducks looking for a home. While resting in Boston, they visit and fly over popular sights. They eventually make a home on the Charles River and lay eggs. When the eggs hatch, Mr. Mallard sets off to explore more of Boston. Mrs. Mallard teaches the ducks things necessary to survive the city. On their way to the Boston Garden, a kind police officer helps the ducks get to the lake safely. They decide to stay in the Boston Garden, which is where the sculpture commemorating them is today.
As I mentioned early. This book is loved. It was the second book by Robert McCloskey and published in 1941. It won the Caldecott Medal that year.
However, it’s appeal is more than just the story and illustrations. This book does what any great travel book for kids should do – check out the sculpture story below to see what that is.
Make Way for Ducklings, the Sculpture
Yes. In 1987, the Make Way for Ducklings sculpture was installed in Boston Garden. This was 46 years after the book was first published. The reason the book is so cherished is explained above, it “has made the Boston Public Garden familiar to children throughout the world.”
What an accomplishment!
The sculpture, created by Nancy Schön shows Mrs. Mallard and her ducklings, Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack. It’s very popular with kids. So popular, I couldn’t take a photo of all 9 ducks without also taking a picture of a kid climbing one. And my own kids were joining along right with them.
In my research on the sculpture, I found this thorough article from Boston Discovery Guide. It provides more background on Nancy Schön, the country American kids gifted a replica of the sculpture to, other sculptures by the Schön, and a special Make Way for Duckling activity every Mother’s Day.
One of the things you immediately notice is how much personality this sculpture has. The ducks waddle along just like their illustrated counterparts. What do you think?
Hot Tip: Find out where you’re going! I thought the statue would be at the pond, so that’s where we headed first. I was wrong. It’s at the north part of the garden. The map above will help you find it.
Make Way for Ducklings, the Tour
In addition to the Boston Public Garden, the Mallard family sees other areas of Boston. If you want to point out some of those areas to your own little ducklings, here they are:
A family-friendly Make Way for Ducklings Boston itinerary and self-guided walking tour suggestion
- Well, obviously the Boston Public Garden. The northern part of the pond within the garden is where the ducklings (spoiler alert) finally settle. However, they go there at the beginning of the story and see the swan cruise pictured above. So, my suggestion? Take a swan cruise and get a closer view of “Duck Island”.
- The Mallards then fly over the Beacon Hill neighborhood and the State House. This makes sense since it is right next to the Boston Public Garden and Boston Common. It’s hard to miss and any tour of Boston will likely include it. I recommend the Duck Tour I talk about below. If you’re venturing on your own, here’s the address for the Massachusetts State House: 24 Beacon St, Boston, MA 02133.
- You can learn more about the Massachusetts State House here.
- Guided tours are available as well. Get all the details here.
- If you’re looking for a fun way to teach your kids more about Massachusetts’ government and what they’ll learn while at the state house, you’re in luck. They have a kid’s website too!
- Mr. and Mrs. Mallard point out Louisburg Square from above next. This is a private residential square within Beacon Hill. Access is reserved for residents, but you can still peek in. Don’t forget to tell your kids about the many famous people who’ve lived there in the past. The architect who built the State House they just visited? Yes, Charles Bulfinch lived there. The author of one of the best children’s books of all time? Yep, Louisa May Alcott live there, too. Address: Between Mt. Vernon and Pickney Streets
- While the Charles River winds through many areas of Boston, based off of the path the ducks take and the images included, my guess is that they stop next to the Longfellow Bridge. Due to construction changes between now and 1941, direct access to the area the ducks were drawn in may not be possible. However, up the river a little bit you’ll find Boston’s Esplanade. There’s plenty of sight’s and activities along the river to keep any family busy.
- On the way back to Boston Public Garden, the book mentions Mount Vernon Street and the corner book shop when the Mrs. Mallard and her ducklings turned on Charles Street. This is not far away from their home near Longfellow Bridge, but there doesn’t appear to be bookstores anymore. My alternative suggestion? Get a coffee at one of the corner coffee shops instead! (Hot chocolate for the kids).
- Continue on Charles Street to Beacon Street and attempt to cross the still-busy intersection. But, have no fear, there’s not much more to your walk as you’ll cross right to the Boston Public Garden and will soon be at the famous sculpture.
- Although not technically having anything to do with the books, you can’t spend all weekend thinking, reading, and visiting ducks in a beautiful city without trying their famous Duck Tour. This land/sea tour lasts less than an hour and includes stops at many of the sites included in the book. And more.
- The Go Boston Travel Card includes Swan boat tour at Boston Public Garden and Duck land/sea tour.
Hotel Recommendations for families visiting Boston
There are many hotels along the south and east sides of Boston Public Garden and Boston Common. I stayed at the Loews Boston Hotel when it was under a different name. Based off of the location and family reviews on tripadvisor, I recommend it. It’s close to both the Boston Public Garden and the Boston Public Libary (which, while not mentioned in this article, it’s still a great pick because books). Other hotels in that area that are worth considering for those with families:
- Taj Boston: Built in 1927 it was already an established hotel when Make Way for Ducklings was first published.
- The Boston Park Plaza: This popular hotel near Boston Public Garden has been recently updated. More affordable prices and its great location means smaller rooms. But there’s too much to do in Boston to spend your time in the rooms.
- Four Seasons Hotel Boston: This luxury chain is always a family favorite. Four Seasons Boston consistently delivers. My favorite perk? The location next to Boston Public Garden means a great chance of getting a room with a view.
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If you’re traveling to the Boston area and up for another book-based adventure within a few hours drive, check out these posts: