As part of a series on budget travel, our happy family shows us the best of the city without breaking the bank.
hen exploring with children there are myriad unknowns, but you can be certain of one thing: You will see old things from a fresh and different perspective, and in this there is untold joy. ¶ Boston is old, and we are currently rising in quiet elevator hush to the top of the Prudential Tower, where the four of us -Graham (age 9), Cullen (age 11), and parents Kathy and Ken (ages indeterminate) - will gaze down upon Boston's historied face. The top of the Prudential is the perfect place to begin exploring Boston - the city sprawls before you, a real time map in all its brick, stone, and steepled loveliness. ¶ Almost every ounce of this masonry has some fascinating story, as we will discover over the next two days. But Kathy and I learn something even as the elevator doors shush open on the 50th floor, something I doubt even the most ardent scholar of Boston knows.

Cullen consults his watch, his eyebrows rising in approval.

"We went up in 41 seconds," he says.

After we make the glass-walled 360-­degree stroll, Graham is equally impressed by Boston's panorama.

"Dad, this looks so much like old time," he says. "It's like you are looking out on the city 60 years ago."

With location and an adult budget in mind, we choose to stay at The Colonnade Hotel. The hotel is first class and centrally located in the heart of Boston's Back Bay, across the street from the Prudential Center. More important, the employees are friendly (our favorite, Norman the doorman) and, from our budget perspective, The Colonnade offers a clever summer pricing program. On their first night, vacationers pay whatever the day's temperature is at 5 p.m., followed, on the second night, by the traditional room rate of $225. Boston can steam, but not for us. The temperature reading the day we arrive is 79 degrees (and, yes, The Colonnade plans this special for summer '05).