Boston   Travel Guide

what places to visit in boston

30 Top-Rated Things to Do in Boston

As Massachusetts' capital and the birthplace of the American Revolution, there's no shortage of historical sites for travelers to explore within Boston's city limits (and beyond). There's even a Boston Tea Party Museum on the harbor

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what places to visit in boston

Freedom Trail Freedom Trail free

Stretching 2½ miles, the Freedom Trail weaves past 16 of the city's most historic sites, including Faneuil Hall Marketplace , the Paul Revere House and Old North Church . Taking in all of the trail's attractions requires at least half a day (and some comfortable walking shoes), but you can easily plot points of interest before you begin your jaunt from Boston Common .

Though most visitors agree the trail is easy to navigate on your own, some recommend a guided tour or downloading an app to tell you about the sites. (You'll find a handful of apps available for Apple and Android devices.) If you have a Go Boston Card, standard guided tours given by the Freedom Trail Foundation are covered by your pass.

what places to visit in boston

Faneuil Hall Marketplace and Quincy Market Faneuil Hall Marketplace and Quincy Market free

U.S. News Insider Tip: Every Friday and Saturday, Haymarket (one America's oldest open-air markets) pops up adjacent to Faneuil Hall. In order to navigate this often-chaotic scene successfully make sure to bring small bills, leave bulky bags at the hotel and keep it moving on the sidewalk. - Jill LeGrow

Four buildings – Faneuil Hall, Quincy Market, North Market and South Market – constitute Faneuil Hall Marketplace, with the oldest being Faneuil Hall. Built in 1742 and now a stop on the Freedom Trail , Faneuil Hall has had a long and important history in Massachusetts politics. Samuel Adams once stood here to push for resistance against the British, and abolitionists and suffragists have stood on their soapboxes here. In fact, this is where colonists famously challenged the Stamp Act of 1764 by proclaiming, "no taxation without representation." From those illustrious days, the marketplace has expanded to include more than 100 shops and restaurants.

what places to visit in boston

Boston Public Garden Boston Public Garden free

Though the Boston Public Garden sits right next to Boston Common , the two are quite different. The public garden is newer (established in 1837) and holds the distinction of being America's first public botanical garden. Flowers and trees are beautifully organized and kept in quality condition throughout. You can see the colorful arrangements and exotic trees from the 6-acre pond as you glide along the water in a Swan Boat. Additionally, the park houses two of Boston's most iconic statues: Make Way for Ducklings (a bronze sculpture of a duck and her eight ducklings) and a sculpture of George Washington (which shows America's first president riding on a horse).

Visitors looking to relax after sightseeing will enjoy the Boston Public Garden. Parkgoers say you'll find plenty of shade beneath the park's trees, which comes in handy on hot summer days. Plus, you'll likely spot some ducks and geese swimming around the lagoon. And if you have a few dollars, visitors recommend taking a 15-minute ride on a Swan Boat. The large paddle boats cost $4.50 to ride (or $3 for kids ages 2 to 15 and $4 for seniors); travelers with Go Boston Cards ride for free. Swan Boats are usually available between mid-April and Labor Day.

what places to visit in boston

Popular Tours

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what places to visit in boston

North End North End free

Chances are you'll end up in the North End at least once during your visit to Boston. It's steeped in the city's rich history as it holds the title of Boston's oldest neighborhood and houses three attractions on the Freedom Trail . What makes this neighborhood a top point of interest, however, is its Italian culture: The North End is considered Boston's Little Italy.

While Italians weren't the first to settle in this area (English settlers arrived first then European Jews, African Americans and Irish immigrants), their cultural influence on the North End withstood the test of time. Today, you'll find all kinds of Italian food from classic pizza pies served at the popular Regina Pizzeria to Sicilian-style seafood, such as black linguine (made with squid ink) and calamari meatballs at The Daily Catch . For dinner, try Mamma Maria for fine dining, Giacomo's for its affordable, made-in-house pasta or Bricco , which sources its meats and bread from its own meat and bread shop, located right next door. If you’re only interested in pizza, hit up Galleria Umberto for delectable solo slices or Antico Forno for its full-size, wood-fired pies. Prezza is known for its extensive wine list, boasting hundreds of wine labels to choose from. For dessert, make sure to pick up a cannoli at Mike's Pastry or Modern Pastry , or tiramisu at the 24-hour Bova's Bakery .

what places to visit in boston

Museum of Fine Arts Museum of Fine Arts

If you want to make the most out of the Museum of Fine Arts, one of the most comprehensive art institutions in the country, then you'll need to spend a good chunk of your day here. The museum is home to one of the best art collections in the world, including the celebrated Art of the Americas wing. Inside this sprawling collection, you'll encounter galleries showcasing iconic pieces from indigenous cultures in North, South and Central America to works by contemporary artists like Edward Hopper.

You'll also find an impressive collection of Asian art here, plus works from Monet, Renoir, Manet and Rembrandt on display. And in special temporary exhibits, you can admire masterpieces from Black artists like Diedrick Brackens and Picasso, among others.

what places to visit in boston

Boston Common Boston Common free

The grounds of Boston Common started as a cow pasture in the mid-1600s. It was also used for Puritan punishments, like whipping, and even for hangings. In 1768, the area was transformed into a British camp. After the Revolutionary War, the park became a popular locale for public speeches and rallies. Now, the Common is best known because of its status as the oldest public park in the country. You'll also find a variety of activities and events – including theater and musical performances and free fitness classes – hosted here throughout the year. If you plan to traverse the Freedom Trail , you'll start the walk here at Boston Common.

Though some visitors say you won't find much to do in this park, Boston Common is great for picnics or a leisurely stroll. Travelers also mention that this site is a wonderful spot to take young children. In addition to ample running room on the park's green space, kids can play at the Tadpole Playground or Frog Pond. Frog Pond offers a spray pool during the warmer months and an ice skating rink in the winter. Some visitors do note that the park tends to draw Boston's homeless population, particularly at night.

what places to visit in boston

Best Boston Tours

what places to visit in boston

Boston Tours

The 15 Best Boston Tours

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what places to visit in boston

Photo Tour: Four Seasons Hotel One Dalton Street, Boston

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what places to visit in boston

Fenway Park Fenway Park

U.S. News Insider Tip: If you want to watch a Sox game without a ticket, head to the Bleacher Bar on Lansdowne Street. Located beneath the bleachers of Fenway, the best tables are positioned directly in front of the huge garage window that overlook centerfield. – Jill LeGrow

Fans of America's favorite pastime won't want to miss a game at Fenway Park. Home to the Boston Red Sox, this stadium has been the site of home runs, stolen bases and grounders since 1912. Regardless of whether or not you're a diehard Red Sox fan, you should try to catch a game and admire the ballpark's original architecture. Must-see features of the park include Pesky's Pole – the right field foul pole named after former Red Sox player Johnny Pesky – and the 37-foot-tall "Green Monster" wall in left field.

what places to visit in boston

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

After Isabella Stewart Gardner's husband died in 1898, the art enthusiast carried out their plan to buy land in Boston's Fenway area and open a museum to display her impressive collection of Italian art. The museum, which was fashioned after the Palazzo Barbaro in Venice , was completed in 1901, at which point Gardner moved in to the fourth floor and began installing her collection. Today, you can visit this Boston museum to get your fill of the Italian masters, such as Raphael and Titian. The building also showcases a cache of beautiful furniture, photographs, sculpture and rare books straight from Europe. The museum's New Wing, designed by Renzo Piano, includes a glass atrium, greenhouses and landscaped gardens.

The art isn't the only interesting thing here: the museum is also the site of the single largest property theft on Earth. In the wee hours of March 18, 1990, two thieves made their way into the museum disguised as police. The duo stole 13 works, including pieces by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Degas and Manet. Today, the museum has empty frames on the walls as placeholders until the art returns to the museum. As you may have guessed, the crime has not been solved and the works haven't been recovered. The museum is even offering a sizable reward ($10 million) for information leading to the art. 

what places to visit in boston

Boston Hop-On Hop-Off Trolley Tour with 14 Stops

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Freedom Trail: Small Group Walking Tour of Revolutionary Boston

Freedom Trail: Small Group Walking Tour of Revolutionary Boston

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Boston Historic Sightseeing Harbor Cruise with Up-Close View of USS Constitution

Boston Historic Sightseeing Harbor Cruise with Up-Close View of USS Constitution

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what places to visit in boston

Boston Public Library Boston Public Library free

A library isn't always all about books. The main branch of the Boston Public Library in Copley Square, which opened in 1895, is so much more, according to recent visitors who call the architecture "beautiful" and a “must-see.” Walking into the Renaissance Revival building is akin to visiting a museum. On Dartmouth Street, two immense stone lions sculpted by Louis Saint-Gaudens stand guard by the main entrance. Inside, Bates Hall, the library's main reference reading room, is a 218-foot-long room with a barrel-arch ceiling soaring 50 feet high.

Visitors can take a free tour and learn all about the murals found throughout the library, including John Singer Sargent's series on the "Triumph of Religion." Other murals include works by French artist Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, who depicted eight library-centric disciplines in "The Muses of Inspiration," and Edwin Austin Abbey's "The Quest and Achievement of the Holy Grail."

what places to visit in boston

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

A must for any history buffs or fans of our nation's 35th president, this excellent library and museum details the life of President John F. Kennedy. Exhibits include his presidential papers; masses of Kennedy memorabilia, including re-creations of his desk in the Oval Office and of the television studio in which he debated Richard M. Nixon in the 1960 election; and artifacts from the U.S. space program. There's permanent display on the late Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis plus plenty of other artifacts and information about Kennedy's life and presidency. The building itself is quite striking and was designed by architect I. M. Pei.

Museumgoers say that while the museum is off the beaten path (it sits about 5 miles south of downtown on Columbia Point), it is well worth the trek thanks to the exhibits and staff. However, some wish the exhibits had a more detailed explanation of Kennedy and events during his life. The views from the museum are amazing, add some visitors.

what places to visit in boston

Boston Harbor Islands National and State Park Boston Harbor Islands National and State Park

If you want to get outdoors in the greater Boston area, consider hopping a ferry (which operates from mid-May through mid-October) to the Boston Harbor Islands. This collection of 34 islands located in the Massachusetts Bay boasts plenty of things to do and see including historic sites, hiking trails, beaches, wildlife and much more. Popular islands include Spectacle, Georges and Peddocks, though ferries also go to Lovells, Grape, Bumpkin and Thompson.

The 114-acre Spectacle Island is a great option for those looking to hike. Here, you'll find 5 miles of trails, including one which leads to the harbor's highest hill, offering incredible views of Boston's skyline. If you’re looking for a place where you can sink your toes into the sand, head to Lovells Island. Here, you’ll find secluded shorelines as well as tide pools (when it's low tide, a whopping 71 acres are added to the island's land mass). Meanwhile, history lovers will enjoy a trip to Georges Island. Georges Island is home to Fort Warren, which the U.S. government used for patrolling and training Union troops as well as housing Confederate prisoners during Civil War times. Peddocks Island, one of the largest of the Boston Harbor Islands, offers a little bit of everything. This island is considered a prime camping spot and features scenic hiking trails that pass through coastal forests, headlands connected by tombolos and the biggest beach of any island. You'll also find a little bit of history thanks to Fort Andrews and a restored chapel from World War II.

what places to visit in boston

Newbury Street Newbury Street free

Located in the Back Bay along eight blocks between Massachusetts Avenue and Arlington Street, Newbury Street is home to gorgeous 19th century brownstones. It's also Boston's premiere destination for dining and shopping. Newbury Street has been called one of the most expensive streets in the world, thanks in large part to the significant cluster of expensive shops on the lower end (by numbered address) nearest Arlington Street.

Starting at the higher end, by Massachusetts Avenue, you'll find more budget-friendly retailers like TJ Maxx and Forever 21, as well longtime local favorites Newbury Comics and Trident Booksellers. In fact, Newbury Comics' opening in 1978 was the catalyst that began the transformation of Newbury Street from a heavily upper-class retail destination to a hipper, trendier spot for everyone.

what places to visit in boston

Samuel Adams Brewery Samuel Adams Brewery

Despite its location outside of city center, visiting the Samuel Adams Brewery is a popular stop for beer lovers. This brewery location acts as Samuel Adams' testing facility for new and specialty brews, which patrons can try. You can also take a guided tour of the facility to learn more about the brewing process.

Whether you're a local or a tourist, odds are you'll enjoy a visit to this brewery. Visitors say the staff is knowledgeable, but note there can be long entry lines.

what places to visit in boston

Boston Ghosts and Gravestones Trolley Tour

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Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum Admission

Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum Admission

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Tour of Historic Fenway Park, America's Most Beloved Ballpark

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what places to visit in boston

Cambridge Cambridge free

Cambridge, which sits about 3 miles northwest of Boston's city center, is home to both Harvard University and MIT , but there's more to see in Cambridge than just the schools themselves. The city features an impressive array of cultural institutions that feature collections and exhibitions ranging from fine art to technological innovations.

The Harvard Art Museums , which include the Fogg Museum, Busch-Reisinger Museum and Arthur M. Sackler Museum, house a wide range of periods, styles and mediums within its walls. Here, you’ll find a mix of modern photography, 13th century sculpture, paintings from legends like Georgia O’Keeffe, Picasso and Jackson Pollock, and much more. If you prefer history, head to the Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology , which boasts exhibits exploring everything from ancient Latin American cultures to the evolution of American eating habits and tableware to the lives of Native Americans. If science is more your speed, head to the Harvard Museum of Natural History to view dinosaur fossils, rare minerals and animal specimens from New England to Asia.

what places to visit in boston

Beacon Hill Beacon Hill free

Beacon Hill is arguably Boston's most beautiful neighborhood. Located north of Boston Common , Beacon Hill is awash with quaint, cobblestone-lined alleyways, corners dotted with gas street lamps, stately townhouses affixed with bay view windows and vibrant, flower-filled window boxes. It's Beacon Hill's incredible style, a stunning mix of Federal and Greek revival architecture, that make this neighborhood an attraction in and of itself. And recent visitors couldn't agree more.

Travelers who venture to Beacon Hill are charmed by its beauty and say that it's the perfect place to take a long stroll and wander around. While here, make sure to make your way to noteworthy spots including the picturesque Louisburg Square and Acorn Street, the latter of which is one of the most photographed places in Boston. After, head down Charles Street, where you'll find restaurants, shops and bars. Fans of the TV show "Cheers" will want to walk down Beacon Street to find the bar that inspired the program.

what places to visit in boston

Old North Church Old North Church

Most people who know anything about American history have heard of Paul Revere's famous midnight ride, when he rode through town to warn people about the arrival of British troops. Before heading off to Lexington, Revere gave orders at Old North Church. Robert Newman – the church's sexton – and Captain John Pulling Jr. – the church's vestryman – then climbed the steeple and held two lanterns as a signal that the British were indeed coming, but by sea.

The church itself, which is officially named Christ Church, is filled with beautiful relics from the past, including North America's oldest set of change ringing bells and chandeliers brought in from England in the early 1700s. The pews have a long history as well; Pew No. 54 was reserved for Paul Revere's son.

what places to visit in boston

Boston Children's Museum Boston Children's Museum

With a giant milk bottle structure at the front of the building, it's hard to miss the Boston Children's Museum. Here, hands-on exhibits present a fun and engaging way for kids to learn about various sciences, culture, art and health and wellness, among other subjects. Among the museum's standout exhibits are "Construction Zone," where little ones can learn about and play with kid-sized construction equipment, "The Common," where kids play with color, games and music, and "Japanese House" – a 100-year-old authentic Japanese house reconstructed in Boston by Japanese carpenters.

Museumgoers praise the variety of engaging exhibits tailored to kids within different age groups and can't recommend it enough. Others warn the museum gets crowded, especially in the summer.

what places to visit in boston

Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway free

Boston is packed with cool outdoor spaces, but this nearly 1½-mile-long series of parks and gardens offers more than most. The Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway was established to link Boston's diverse neighborhoods through a series of lawns, parks and walkways that occupy a former highway tunnel. Since opening in 2008, visitors have flocked to this sprawling green space to enjoy temporary public art displays, bubbling fountains, numerous food vendors and a carousel. Plus, the park offers free weekly events, including food and art festivals, summer concert performances and seasonal fitness classes.

Many previous visitors said the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway not only offers a much-needed respite from the city, but also an easy way to explore Boston with kids during the warmer months. And, in many sections of the Greenway, you're never more than a few steps away from the Freedom Trail .

what places to visit in boston

Boston's Best Freedom Trail Tour

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The Revolutionary Story Epic Small Group Walking Tour of Boston

The Revolutionary Story Epic Small Group Walking Tour of Boston

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Sightseeing Day Sail around Boston Harbor

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what places to visit in boston

Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum

This hands-on museum offers an entertaining look at one of Boston's pivotal moments. You can toss (fake) tea overboard, climb around replica ships and converse with period actors about Colonial issues. Exhibits at the museum, which is located on Griffin's Wharf (close to where the actual Tea Party occurred on Dec. 16, 1773) include 3D holograms, talking portraits and the Robinson Tea Chest, an authentic tea chest from the Boston Tea Party. Two of the three ships have been recreated, the Beaver and the Eleanor, which are fun to explore. The film "Let It Begin Here" depicts the events that immediately preceded the American Revolution. You can also grab a cup of tea or a snack in Abigail's Tea Room, which has one of the best views of the harbor around.

Visitors love the interactive nature of the museum and tossing tea overboard, saying their time there was entertaining for all ages. They also add that the guides are informative and stay in character.

what places to visit in boston

Museum of Science Museum of Science

If you're traveling with young ones in tow, be sure to swing by the Museum of Science. Here, kids can learn about astronomy, earth sciences and anatomy, not to mention participate in some fun interactive exhibits. Budding scientists can examine the Arctic in "Arctic Adventure: Exploring with Technology" exhibit or play on swings to learn about physics in "Science in the Park." The museum also features the Charles Hayden Planetarium, where you can indulge your inner astronaut during shows. Meanwhile, at the Mugar Omni Theater, you'll feel like you're actually in the IMAX film thanks to its cutting-edge sound technology and five-story-high projection screen.

Although the museum is very kid-focused, past visitors said that young-at-heart adults and even teens will get a kick out of the museum's engaging displays and shows. Though most travelers spend about half a day exploring the museum, you could easily allocate an entire day to this attraction. Also, remember that separate tickets (which cost extra) are needed for some museum features, such as IMAX films, planetarium shows and the Garden Walk and Insect Zoo.

what places to visit in boston

Boston Duck Tours Boston Duck Tours

Wander Boston for a couple of hours and you're sure to see a Duck Tour quacking its way through the streets (and waterways). These "Truck Duck" vehicles recreate the look of a DUKW truck used by the U.S. military during World War II and transport tourists all over the city by land and water. The tours drive past a number of landmark sites including the Old State House, Newbury Street , Prudential Tower, Public Garden and the Swan Boats, and Copley Square (home to the Boston Public Library ). Once launched into the water, you'll cruise down the Charles River checking out MIT, the Longfellow Bridge, as well as the Esplanade and the Hatch Shell. 

Besides giving tours around the city, Boston Duck Tour boats have been used in all of the victory parades since 2002 for the Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics and Bruins (the city's major teams for football, baseball, basketball and hockey, respectively). What started off simply as a way to roll the Patriots through downtown Boston for a Superbowl celebration has turned into a much-loved tradition that continues today.

what places to visit in boston

Boston Symphony Orchestra Boston Symphony Orchestra

Even if you're not a classical music aficionado, you can't miss attending one of the Boston Symphony Orchestra's world-renowned performances at Symphony Hall. The BSO began performing in 1881. Today, the symphony performs everything from family shows to traditional concerts and Boston Pops – a lively performance filled with singing and a variety of music. The BSO performs at Symphony Hall from September through April, then heads to Tanglewood (which is about 130 miles west of Boston) in the summer.

Past spectators not only praised the world-class talent, but also noted the impressive acoustics of Symphony Hall as a main selling point for attending future concerts. If you can't score tickets to an orchestra performance, consider taking a free tour of Symphony Hall. Tours, which are offered in the fall, winter and spring, provide information about the property, as well as insight into the orchestra's musicians and conductors.

what places to visit in boston

New England Holocaust Memorial New England Holocaust Memorial free

Gaze up at the six 54-foot glass towers that comprise the New England Holocaust Memorial, and you're bound to be awestruck. Dedicated in 1995, each haunting tower is etched with numbers. The 6 million numbers represent the Holocaust's victims, while the towers represent the six major death camps. There is also a granite path covered in quotes from survivors that leads visitors inside the towers.

Recent visitors described walking through the columns as an emotionally charged and unforgettable experience. The monument's location next to Faneuil Hall Marketplace makes it very accessible while walking the Freedom Trail .

what places to visit in boston

Boston Signature Dinner Cruise

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Harvard University Campus Guided Walking Tour

Harvard University Campus Guided Walking Tour

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Boston Small-Group Walking Food Tour With Tastings

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what places to visit in boston

Paul Revere House Paul Revere House

For a glimpse of what life was like in the late 1700s, head to Paul Revere's former residence in the North End . The house, which is situated on the Freedom Trail , offers insight into how homes looked in Revere's time (it's even filled with period pieces, including fine silver). Inside, history fans can admire the building's sweeping beams, spacious fireplaces and some original furnishings owned by the Revere family.

If you like American history, travelers say you'll enjoy seeing the Paul Revere House. This house is small, though, so don't allot more than an hour to tour the property. Docents are friendly and knowledgeable.

what places to visit in boston

Massachusetts State House Massachusetts State House free

The golden-domed Massachusetts State House is an important building for many reasons and is one of the stops on the Freedom Trail . The land it sits on was originally used as John Hancock’s cow pasture. It was designed by Charles Bulfinch and completed in 1798 and the cornerstone was laid by Samuel Adams in 1795. A copper dome was installed by Paul Revere in 1802 (later covered in gold). Nowadays, senators, state representatives and the governor conduct the Commonwealth's business here.

Free tours are offered by docents who explain the building's history and discuss the important art and architecture within. Make sure to look for the Sacred Cod in the House of Representatives Chamber. The almost 5-foot wooden cod symbolizes the importance of the salt cod industry to the area.

what places to visit in boston

New England Aquarium New England Aquarium

Your kids will find plenty to love at the New England Aquarium, starting with the Atlantic harbor seals that hang out just beyond the ticket booth. Inside, you'll find thousands of marine critters to study, and at the center: the Giant Ocean Tank. This four-story tank includes a coral reef habitat that houses more than 1,000 underwater creatures including green sea turtles, eels and barracuda. In other parts of the aquarium, you'll find exhibits dedicated to penguins, sea jellies and seadragons, plus a six-story high projection movie screen with digital surround sound, where you can watch films about sea creatures and more. And don't forget to check out the Shark and Ray Touch Tank, which allows visitors to graze sharks and rays as they swim by.

While some visitors bemoan the aquarium's compact size (which, in turn, made for thick crowds), many appreciate the attraction's variety of animals. Several travelers also recommend watching a penguin or seal feeding.

what places to visit in boston

USS Constitution USS Constitution free

U.S. News Insider Tip: Every July 4th, the USS Constitution takes her annual "turnaround" sail in Boston Harbor. The particular sail is the only one open to the public and the US Navy holds a lottery with the lucky winners getting to board "Old Ironsides." – Jill LeGrow

History lovers, boat enthusiasts and military aficionados alike can't miss the chance to board the USS Constitution. Docked at the Boston National Historical Park in Charlestown, this historic vessel is the world's oldest commissioned warship still operational today. It is helmed by United States Navy sailors, who also serve as the ship's guides. The ship's accompanying museums displays nearly 2,000 artifacts related to the ship's history.

what places to visit in boston

Bunker Hill Monument Bunker Hill Monument free

Bunker Hill Monument is part of the Boston National Historical Park and a stop on the Freedom Trail . The first major battle of the American Revolution took place on Breed's Hill in June 1775, though originally it was supposed to take place on nearby Bunker Hill. Names aside, the British won the battle but fared worse than their American foes. The British sacrificed about nearly half of their 2,400 men; American casualties were between 300 and 500 out of an army of 1,400 to 1,800 soldiers. Construction of the monument started in 1827 and was completed in 1842. The 221-foot granite obelisk offers fabulous views from its observatory, though you have to work for it by climbing 294 steps to the top.

Start your visit at the Bunker Hill Museum, located across the street. Exhibits explain the Battle of Bunker Hill, the construction of the monument, and the history of Charlestown. Free tickets are required to climb the monument and you can also pick them up at the museum. Visitors enjoy the museum and say the monument is awe-inspiring and the grounds beautiful.

what places to visit in boston

Boston Harbor Sunset Cruise

(349 reviews)

from $ 48.00

Salem High Speed Ferry to/from Boston

Salem High Speed Ferry to / from Boston

(428 reviews)

from $ 27.50

Boston Codzilla High-Speed Thrill Boat Ride

Boston Codzilla High-Speed Thrill Boat Ride

(327 reviews)

from $ 54.00

what places to visit in boston

View Boston View Boston

U.S. News Insider Tip: To save some cash on your sightseeing, pick up a Boston CityPass which allows you to visit up to four attractions (such as the Museum of Science , New England Aquarium , Boston Harbor City Cruise and View Boston) for one discounted price. – Jill LeGrow

Replacing the iconic Top of the Hub restaurant and Skywalk Observatory that closed in 2020, View Boston opened in June 2023 to offer 360 panoramic views of Boston from atop the 52nd floor of the Prudential Center. Taking over the top three floors of the Prudential Center, View Boston includes an observatory, a wraparound roof deck and indoor/outdoor cocktail bar called Stratus, and a floor with interactive exhibits such as a projection-mapped 3D model of Boston. There's also Beacon, a bistro offering seasonal beverages and food.

what places to visit in boston

The Mapparium The Mapparium

Located at the Mary Baker Eddy Library, this three-story, stained glass globe never fails to elicit wonder. Designed by the architect of the Christian Science Publishing Society building, Chester Lindsay Churchill, the globe depicts the world as it was in 1935.

The "How Do You See the World" experience includes the globe; the "Our World: Mapping Progress," which highlights humanity's achievements since 1935; and "Points of Progress," where you can learn about significant events in human rights, scientific advances, exploration, and other fields. A 10-minute audio narration features clips from President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jane Goodall, Wangari Maathai (a Kenyan Nobel laureate) and others. One of the coolest features of the globe is that it is a "whispering gallery." Stand at one end of the gallery while a friend stands at the other. Whisper something to them and they will be the only one to hear it.

what places to visit in boston

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From cheering on the Celtics at TD Garden to determining where to find the best seafood and cannoli, these are some of the most exciting things you have to do in Boston at least once!

Boston Uncovered

Whether you’re spending 24 hours or 24 years in Boston, there are some foundational Bostonian experiences. We’ve covered the main bases when it comes to things to do in Boston. From camouflaging into a lively crowd of Boston sports fans at a league game, to tasting your way through Boston history-you must do try the things below at least once in Boston.

Without further ado, these are the best things to do in Boston!

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An estimated 25 million people visit Boston each year. That is crazy considering our population is under 1 million! Boston is synonymous with American history and boasts many exiciting tourism activities no matter your interests.

Boston Duck Tour

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Operating since 1994, Boston Duck Tours are a city staple. They are perhaps one of the most “touristy” things you can ever do in the city. But that’s because you get the most in depth debriefing on the major hubs of Boston. The amphibian vehicles tour the streets before descending into the Charles River for a boat tour of the city!

Pahk yah cah in the Harvard Yahd (but don’t actually)

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Boston is an effervescent city! Marked by an astounding education system and some of the best colleges in the world. Most famously, Harvard , is a must visit! Technically it is in Boston’s sister city, Cambridge, which is also a must visit while in Boston!

Tour the campus grounds, law school if you’re a  Legally Blonde  fan, and make sure to enjoy some food in Harvard Square !

See the city from above at View Boston

what places to visit in boston

A popular attraction with locals and tourists alike, View Boston allows for a city vantage point 750-feet above! It’s especially stunning at sunset . Plus, check out the skyline dining for the perfect views of the city while you enjoy an enchanting meal.

Grab high tea at the Boston Public Library

tea tower at courtyard tea room

America’s third largest public library, the Boston Public Library or BPL for short, is an enchanting showcase of 24 million media. And hidden inside is a refined tea experience adjacent to the courtyard. It’s a hidden gem and a must for tourists and locals alike!

Pro tip: Open a free Boston Public Library card if spending a prolonged time in Boston and enjoy these 20 perks !

As one of America’s oldest municipalities, founded in 1630, the history in Boston is rich and extensive! Here are a few of the Boston classics to travel into the past.

Freedom Trail

what places to visit in boston

A Boston classic. 40,000 people travel this 2.5-mile-long trail each year.

It was first conceived in 1951 and takes you through 16 historical sites of Boston, including the Boston Common and Bunker Hill monument. While just 2.5 miles, if you plan to stop and observe all 16 sites, you can allot about 2 hours to complete the entire Freedom Trail.

Have a picnic in the Boston Public Garden

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The Boston Public Garden is America’s first public garden, and a great one at that! It’s stunning during all four seasons, from the foliage ablaze in the fall to the first blooms of spring to the flake dusted trees of winter and the vibrancy of the summer! We love the nearby cheese board purveyor, Kured and refreshments from DeLuca’s on Charles Street for the ideal picnic in the garden.

Reenact the Boston Tea Party

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This year marks the 250th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party . The Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum has everything you need to blast into the past. Explore their tea tasting room and throw some tea overboard* where the actual event took place centuries ago.

*Don’t worry the tea crates are affixed to the boat.

Learn about all of Boston’s great pioneers on the Innovation Trail

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A new addition to Boston is the 21-stop Innovation Trail . Many revolutionary items were invented in Boston, from the telephone to medical anesthesia. The Innovation Trail is a self-guided tour that takes you on the journey to explore them all and energize your inner inventor!

Audience members watching a concert

Attend an enchanting Candlelight concert

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If you’re big on concerts, the magical Candlelight series is the perfect way to enjoy your favorite tunes in a whole new light. Illuminated by the glimmer of thousands of candles , these live-music performances are enough to take your breath away. Talented musicians take to the stage in some of Boston’s most incredible locations to work their magic on music by Coldplay, ABBA, Taylor Swift, Adele, The Beatles and many more.

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What is Boston if not the greatest sports city in the world? Our teams are legendary, and we’ve got over 40 titles to prove it!

Cheer on the Red Sox at Fenway Park

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Whether you’re a baseball fan or not, a day at Fenway is a necessity. The baseball season runs from late March through October.

Between the competition, weather, color-coordinated crowd in red, white, and blue, and stadium food, Fenway is a quintessential Boston experience! If you really can’t get behind baseball or visit in the offseason, the concerts at Fenway are just as spectacular.

Go green at a TD Garden Celtics home game

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Basketball in Boston is elite. Celtics fans are loyal, and a bit spicy! The energy in-person at a Celtics game is contagious! If you can’t get tickets to a game, these nearby restaurants are another great place to watch or grab a post-game bite!

Watch the Bruins battle it out at TD Garden

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Basketball and hockey season run at about the same time, so you can catch a Celtics game one day and the next day catch an ice hockey game featuring Boston’s Bruins! We know…it’s magic!

Voyage to Gillette Stadium for a Patriots game

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Then there’s of course, football. If you’re a Bostonian and you still haven’t made it out for a Pats game in Foxboro, this is your sign! You can get there via Commuter Rail or hitch a ride. According to a recent study, Patriots fans are 11% “more passionate” than any other NFL fans.

Awe at rowers during the Head of the Charles Regatta

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Head of the Charles happens every year in October. It is the largest regatta in the entire world, and it takes place right on Boston’s Charles River. The best rowers in the world compete on Boston’s waters for 3 days of sports, style, and delicious food!

Cheer on Boston Marathoners (or complete it yourself)

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One of the world’s most prestigious marathons, the Boston Marathon has been around since 1897. It takes place every Patriot’s Day and over 30,000 participants compete. Cheering is so fun, but if you’re feeling bold, try the 26-mile race for yourself!

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You’ve gotta make room for some Boston bites! They’re scrumptious and a source of comfort for the most seasoned Bostonians.

Get a lobstah roll

lobster roll in maine

Lobster roll, pronounced “lobstah roll,” is a heavenly toasted bun surrounding a cascade of hot or cold lobster. We prefer them hot with butter, fyi! These are the best lobster rolls in New England, according to Bostonians.

With a side of clam chowda

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And claw chowder is an essential New England dish. Pretty much any place that serves New England seafood will also have a trustworthy clam chowder.

And don’t forget the Boston Cream Pie!

omni-parker-house-individual-boston-cream-pie

Boston Cream Pie originated at the Parker House Hotel in 1856 Boston. The hotel still serves the same recipe to this day!

Determine who has the better cannoli on Hanover Street

mikes cannolis

Mike’s? or Modern?

It’s an open-ended question that simply doesn’t have an answer, until you give them both a try! Grab a cannoli in the North End at these Italian pastry shops and determine for yourself who makes the better cannoli! If you like Italian food and want to take some more bites of Boston, this North End food tour is a foodie dream!

Nature & Wellness

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Despite our insufferable and ever-changing weather, Boston is actually a great city for the outdoorsperson! Every season offers a new activity weather it be skiing in winter or exploring New England beaches in summer !

Go ice skating at Frog Pond

frog-pond-skating

Repeatedly recognized as one of America’s premiere outdoor ice-skating rinks , Frog Pond is the perfect wintertime activity in Boston. Show off your moves on the ice or do your very best not to fall down, and enjoy the ice.

Pro tip: holiday weekend lines are insane! Try to go at night to catch the holiday lights, but during a weekday when it is less busy!

Take the Charles River Esplanade

sailing boats on charles river

Walk, bike, kayak, or just relax on one of the docks. The esplanade is a Boston treasure. And it never gets old.

No wonder it was selected as one of “America’s best riverwalks.”

what places to visit in boston

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These Are the 30 Best Things to See and Do in Boston

With historic sights, beloved hometown sports teams, a thriving arts scene, and local brews and bites, you'll never be bored in Boston.

what places to visit in boston

Boston is consistently ranked as one of the top 10 most-visited cities in the United States — and for good reason. Home to a thriving food and drink scene, historic landmarks, and activities for all types of travelers, the city offers plenty to keep visitors occupied. So, whether you're on a solo adventure or traveling with the whole family, here are 30 of the best things to do in Boston.

Walk the Freedom Trail.

The two-and-a-half-mile, self-guided Freedom Trail tour takes visitors through the city, telling the story of the American Revolution with stops at museums, churches, meeting houses, and other historical markers along the way. Do it alone, or find tour options here .

Step back in time at the Paul Revere House.

Want even more Boston history? Head to the Paul Revere House . The home, which was once owned by Revere and sold in 1800, served as everything from a boarding house to a local shop to tenement apartments. Now, it's a museum offering guided tours of the restored home that will transport you back in time.

Stroll through the Boston Common.

The Boston Common is the very heart and soul of the city. First built in 1634, it is the oldest public park in the United States. On the park's 50 acres of land, guests will find the Frog Pond, a softball field, and monuments galore. Take your time strolling through the landscaped gardens and enjoying the sights.

See the animals at the New England Aquarium.

For more than 50 years, the New England Aquarium has invited guests to come and meet a few of the coolest sea creatures on Earth. From penguins to sharks, stingrays to seals, and everything in between, the aquarium has all kinds of animals for curious visitors. It's also a working research aquarium, meaning visits and donation dollars partially go toward ocean conservation and preserving these species for generations to come.

Take the kids to the Franklin Park Zoo.

For even more animal adventures, pay a visit to the Franklin Park Zoo . The 72-acre zoo is the place to be for a red panda, tiger, or zebra sighting right in the middle of the city. There are also plenty of expert-led chats to attend, as well as children's events, making it a place the entire family will love.

Or, see animals in their natural habitat with a whale-watching tour.

Take to the waters outside of Boston for a high-seas adventure like a whale-watching excursion . Hop aboard a tour with the New England Aquarium and Boston Harbor City Cruises to see whales, dolphins, and sea birds on their migration routes — all from a safe distance, of course.

Go for a walk around the Esplanade.

Another worthy place for a stroll is the Esplanade, a three-mile path that hugs the Charles River. It's an excellent spot for a walk or bike ride along the lovely green spaces on the banks of the river, where you can watch boaters. And if you're so inclined, you can donate to the Esplanade Association , a nonprofit working to preserve the space for more than two decades.

Violet Smirnova/Travel + Leisure

Take to the Charles River.

You may feel inclined to get on the water yourself — and you can do just that by joining Community Boating Boston on a sail. The organization offers sailboat, kayak, and stand-up paddleboard rentals for those feeling adventurous.

Watch a midnight movie at Coolidge.

The Coolidge Corner Theater, which first opened its doors during the golden age of cinema in 1933, is already one of the most incredible places to see a movie in the city. But to up the ante, try and visit for one of its After Midnite showings. The late-night programming includes horror films and off-beat flicks, making it great for an after-dark fright.

Visit the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

Isabella Stewart Gardner was a woman who knew what she liked. She was a millionaire, a bohemian, and an intellectual, and the museum bearing her name is a gem of Boston's thriving art scene, with luxurious landscaped grounds. Perhaps some of the museum's most famous works aren't hanging on the walls, though, as eagle-eyed visitors can spot empty frames that once held priceless pieces, stolen from the space in a famed art heist in 1990.

Spend a day at the Institute of Contemporary Art.

The iconic Institute of Contemporary Art is housed in 65,000-square-feet of space, making it a spot where you can easily spend an entire day. The institute includes gallery exhibits, a theater, and a cafe, along with a gorgeous outdoor deck so you can get a breath of fresh air and reflect on all the works you've just seen. Plus, admission to the institute is free on Thursdays after 5 p.m., but make sure to snag your timed ticket in advance.

See the Arnold Arboretum.

The Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University is a living museum of trees and plant life, with a particular focus on flora and fauna from eastern North America and Asia. This National Historic Landmark is open every day and always free for visitors.

Scope out the treasures at The Museum of Fine Arts.

The Museum of Fine Arts is a crown jewel in Boston's museum scene. It includes American works of art and artifacts from around the globe, including pieces from across Europe, Asia, and Africa. The museum also holds collections in photography, musical instruments, textiles, and more.

Swing by Encore Boston Harbor.

Encore Boston Harbor is the place to go if you're looking for some good old-fashioned fun. The entertainment venue, which opened in 2019, includes a hotel, five-star dining options, shopping, and even a casino for those wanting to roll the dice and test their luck. Head out for a meal, stay for a game, and perhaps book an overnight stay so you can do it all again tomorrow.

Shop on Newbury Street.

Visitors to Boston could make an entire vacation out of just strolling down Newbury Street. The famed street is chock-full of boutique shops, restaurants, galleries, and more, so you may have to visit more than once to ensure you've seen and done it all. Keep track of pop-up events on the street's website here .

"Travel" the world at the Mapparium.

The Mapparium may just be the best way to "see" the world without ever leaving Boston. The three-story site is actually the world's largest walk-in globe. Guests can walk through the globe via a bridge dissecting its equator before leaving to check out "Our World: Mapping Progress," an exhibit highlighting "humanity's advancement since 1935."

Root for the Red Sox at Fenway.

There is arguably nothing more iconic in Boston than Fenway Park . If you visit during the regular baseball season, try to get tickets to a game. While inside, cheer for home runs over the Green Monster and get ready to sing "Sweet Caroline" at least once.

And cheer on the Celtics and the Bruins at TD Garden.

Visitors to Boston can continue to root for the hometown team by getting tickets to a Celtics or Bruins game, depending on the season. Luckily, both teams play under one roof at TD Garden , which also hosts plenty of concerts, so check the calendar to see what shows or games you can take part in next.

Grab a good book at the Boston Public Library.

When constructed in 1848, the Boston Public Library became the first large free public library in the nation. It remains a place where visitors can check out a good book or read in the public spaces. The library hosts both tours and regular events, so check its calendar and see what piques your interest.

Grab a bite at Boston Public Market.

The Boston Public Market , a year-round indoor marketplace, hosts nearly 30 New England-based food purveyors and artisans. It's also a place you can feel good about visiting, as it's a registered nonprofit with public impact goals to support "economic development, New England food system resilience, public health and education, affordability, and access."

Drink a local brew at Samuel Adams Boston Brewery.

Boston is home to a thriving craft beer scene, though the best-known spot for brews is popular brand Sam Adams. The company now sells its brews just about everywhere and even allows guests to come and taste its latest creations on a brewery tour. See all tour options here .

Devour dessert with a cannoli from Mike's Pastry.

There are plenty of excellent places to grab a cannoli in Boston's Italian mecca, the North End. Walk into any bakery in the neighborhood and you'll surely be delighted. But if you need a little guidance, we suggest heading to Mike's Pastry . It's the largest bakery in the neighborhood and wildly popular, but for good reason. Just be prepared to wait in line for your sweet treat.

Explore more city history on a walking tour of Chinatown.

In the 1880s, Chinese immigrants to Boston founded their own community, now known as Chinatown. The neighborhood has always played a significant role in the city's history and is a place where visitors can come to both learn and dine to their heart's delight. Hop on a Boston by Foot tour to ensure you see and dig in at all the right spots.

Watch a show at the Boston Ballet.

The Boston Ballet has delighted audiences since the 1960s, with performances ranging from classics like George Balanchine's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and Mikko Nissinen's "Swan Lake," as well as modern pieces by William Forsythe, Jiří Kylián, Wayne McGregor, and more.

Waddle around on a Boston Duck Tour.

The Duck Tour may not have started in Boston, but the city has certainly perfected it. We'd be remiss not to mention this as a perfect Boston attraction for out-of-town visitors, as it goes to all the best city locations and even right onto the Charles River thanks to the amphibious vehicles. See all tour options here .

Shop and dine at Faneuil Hall Marketplace.

Want to pack as much Boston as you can into a single place? Simply head to Faneuil Hall . The famed marketplace is home to more than 70 retailers across its 200,000-square-foot space, including food, apparel, and specialty gift shops. It's a place to see and do it all, and it's especially magical if you can visit during the holiday season.

Learn something new at the Museum of Science.

Boston's Museum of Science may be one of the most fun spots in the city. It's filled with interactive exhibits that will surprise, delight, and leave you in awe. Head there to learn about the evolution of dinosaurs, see its exhibit on how vaccines work, and much more.

Stop by Trinity Church.

If you love architecture, design, and history, Trinity Church should be high on your list of things to see in Boston. A National Historic Landmark, the church is also considered by the American Institute of Architects to be one the country's top 10 buildings thanks to its Richardsonian Romanesque design and stained-glass windows. The church is open for both worship and tours throughout the week.

Get medieval at Castle Island.

Castle Island is a hidden gem that even locals tend to overlook. We're not quite sure how considering there is an entire castle-like fort hiding in plain sight. The 22-acre "island" isn't actually an island anymore after a small strip of land was added to connect it to shore, but that doesn't make it any less special. Visitors can come to tour the fort, walk the grounds, or head to its trails for a bit of rollerblading or biking.

Pick up new art at the SoWa studios.

Stroll through the SoWa studios and get a glimpse of the fantastic work from the city's artistic community. Visitors can swing by the first Friday of every month for open gallery tours or make an appointment with an artist to get up close to the works before buying.

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Ultimate Boston Bucket List: 50 Best Things to Do in Boston (2024)

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Boston, Massachusetts is an essential New England destination. In fact, it’s the first stop on my epic New England road trip itinerary . You won’t be at all surprised to hear that there are tons of fun things to do in Boston.

As New England’s biggest and most famous city, Boston is where old meets new. The convergence of historical sites and modern attractions can be seen within every cobblestone street and modern shopping center. You can start your day at Paul Revere’s House and end your night on a downtown rooftop bar. The possibilities are endless.

If you’re planning to spend some time in Boston, there’s no shortage of amazing activities, experiences, and food to be had here. From the world-class museums and trolley rides to seaside restaurants and quirky ghost tours , Beantown checks all the boxes. To make sure you do and see all the best this city has to offer, here is my ultimate things to do in Boston bucket list: 50 fabulous things to do in the city!  

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Table of Contents

Wander the Museum of Fine Arts.

This behemoth of an art museum, located on Huntington Ave, has over 100 galleries that display only a fraction of its massive 450,000-piece collection. Over 1 million visitors wander the MFA each year to view artifacts from the Americas, Folk and Contemporary, Egyptian mummies, famous impressionist painters, and special traveling exhibitions. Tickets sell out fast, so purchase them in advance to ensure you get in.

Read Next:  Go Boston Card vs Boston CityPASS: Which is Better?

Make friends with penguins at the New England Aquarium.

Penguins swimming in the water

For the aquatically inclined, the New England Aquarium is not to be missed. This massive public aquarium, found right in Boston’s lively seaport neighborhood, is home to an incredible collection of over 600 aquatic species. Visit any day of the week to see its giant squid, turtles, or penguins during feeding (one of our favorites!). Challenge yourself – can you catch a glimpse of every single one of the 20,000 types of animals living here?

Admire the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. 

Lush courtyard garden inside the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, MA, showcasing a Venetian-style palazzo architecture with a glass roof, balconies, and vibrant red poinsettias.

I think that the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is one of Boston’s hidden gems. Although, it’s becoming more well known as people learn about the art heist that took place there. In 1990, a legendary art heist unfolded (history’s biggest art heist, in fact) during which 13 famous works of art were stolen without a trace. Over 20 years later, there are still no real leads on the theft or missing art, although there are some fascinating podcasts and documentaries out there.

But the heist aside, this fine art museum is well worth the visit, and the building is a work of art itself. You could spend hours perusing the glorious collection that Mrs. Isabella Stewart Gardner amassed and loved. 

Interior view of a historical room in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, featuring ornate European Renaissance art, elaborate furniture, and intricate wall tapestries under soft lighting. one frame is empty

I adored my visit to this museum. It is stunning throughout, from the iconic courtyard to the gorgeous works of art. And what is especially fascinating is that the frames of the stolen pieces still hang, an eerie reminder of what was lost.

Shop and dine at Faneuil Hall Marketplace.

Smiling woman in a plaid headband and winter jacket posing in front of Faneuil Hall, a must-visit location on any Boston bucket list, with festive Christmas decorations in the background

Dubbed by America’s Founding Fathers in 1742 as “The Cradle of Liberty,” Faneuil Hall Marketplace has cobblestone promenades, impressive sweeping architecture, and over 70 retailers of specialty carts, locally owned shops, and restaurants. As Boston’s most popular shopping and dining spot, you can stay entertained here for hours on end.

Catch a Red Sox game at Fenway Park.

Sunny day view of the iconic Fenway Park in Boston, with its green diamond and rows of red seats, a key highlight for any sports fan's Boston bucket list

Home to the MLB’s Boston Red Sox since 1912, Fenway Park is beloved by locals and visiting fans alike. See the Green Monster for yourself (both the green right field wall, and Wally the mascot!), cheer on Boston’s team, and indulge in overpriced snacks. What a wholesome all-American pastime!

Stroll the grounds of Boston Common. 

Autumnal view from the Boston Common with vibrant fall foliage against a clear blue sky, overlooking the cityscape, an idyllic spot for any Boston travel itinerary

Boston Common , a 50-acre park at the center of the city, is often considered the heart and soul of Boston. It’s also the oldest public park in America, established in 1634 (before our nation’s founding!). Today, people love to jog, lounge, converse, and attend fun events here. In the winter, ice skating on Boston Common Frog Pond is a must-do activity.

Explore the first botanical garden in America.

Visitors strolling through the Boston Public Garden under a clear blue sky, with the park's signature blue and gold sign in the foreground, a peaceful activity among the many things to do in Boston

Right next to Boston Common is the Boston Public Garden , the first botanical garden in America. With a gorgeous Victorian design, vibrant floral patterns, fountains, monuments and the Lagoon, the Public Garden is simply delightful. It’s a romantic spot, so don’t be shocked if you accidentally stumble upon a wedding!

Travel tip: Find the ‘Make Way for Ducklings’ sculpture near the corner of Charles and Beacon Street, it’s totally adorable. 

Have fun with your kids at the Boston Children’s Museum.

Bringing the whole family to Boston? Your kids will have an amazing time playing at the Boston Children’s Museum . Created for educating and bringing joy to children, this museum has various exhibits that teaches kids to be curious, investigate using their senses, build, and use their creativity. Plus, you don’t have to be young to enjoy bubbles!

Read Next:  19 Awesome Things to Do in Boston with Kids

Learn about our 35th president at the JFK Library & Museum.

Interested in the life of John F. Kennedy? Well, Boston has the JFK Library & Museum , a building entirely dedicated to his life and legacy. You can explore permanent exhibits about his childhood, inauguration, the space program, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, and much more.

Tour the Mount Auburn Cemetery.

Autumn at the Mary Baker Eddy Monument in Mount Auburn Cemetery in Boston, with its classic white gazebo reflected in the tranquil pond amidst a tapestry of fall foliage, a peaceful scene for reflection and nature enjoyment

Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge is not your average burial ground. This expansive cemetery, where 100,000 people are buried, is also a National Historical Landmark, a botanical garden , and the resting place of many renowned individuals. From artists and poets like Winslow Homer and Henry Longfellow, to activists, inventors, and Supreme Court Justices, there are so many memorable lives to commemorate here. 

Jam out at Wally’s Cafe Jazz Club.

Curious about delving into the world of jazz, or just a lover of live music? Wally’s Cafe Jazz Club is the place to beat. This classy, old-school jazz club hosts local student performers 365 days a year. Get cozy in this historical building and unwind to some top-notch jazz and blues, performed by musicians mastering their craft.

Watch an art-house film at Brattle Theatre.

Brattle Theatre in Cambridge is a rare establishment. This repertory movie theater located in the charming Brattle Hall has only one screen, featuring just one movie at a time. It was established with the purpose of highlighting indie, art-house films, as well as foreign films and first-run films. You’ll find some cutting-edge cinema here, so stop by Brattle Theatre and watch something you can’t find in normal theaters.

Ride glow-in-the-dark swings at the Lawn on D.

Ever swung on a glow-in-the-dark swing? Well, a nighttime visit to the Lawn on D is your chance. This innovative outdoor event space has a big lawn and concessions, and it frequently hosts live concerts and other lawn game events. But most people know it for its O-shaped hanging swings that glow at night. They make for awesome photo ops (and just a generally fun time!). 

Learn about dinosaurs at the Museum of Science.

A child gazes in wonder at a large hanging model of Mars in the Museum of Science, Boston, an educational and interactive experience to add to the 'things to do in Boston' list.

Located in Science Park, the Museum of Science is nothing short of a house of wonders. This part-science museum, part-indoor zoo has imagination-sparking educational exhibits, interactive installations, and life-sized dinosaur models! You’ll leave knowing significantly more about human anatomy, technology, and natural history, and have a great time in the process. 

My toddler son loved our recent visit to the Museum of Science Boston, and he especially enjoyed the massive planet of Mars suspended in the atrium area.

Exhibit of 'Spot', the advanced mobility robot by Boston Dynamics, on display at the Museum of Science in Boston, a cutting-edge attraction for technology enthusiasts exploring Boston

As for my husband and I, we couldn’t get enough of the robot dog from Boston Dynamics. Amazing stuff. The photo above shows one of the robotic dog models up close, but you could watch one in action behind the window to the right. Of course, after it does one pass around the space, you have to wait for it to lay down again and charge up a bit!

Witness American history at the Boston Tea Party Museum.

"Historic tall ship docked at the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum, a waterfront highlight and one of the premier Boston attractions for history buffs

History buffs will get totally swept away in the legendary Boston Tea Party story at the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum. This amazing floating history museum is the definition of living history. Climb abroad replicas of the very ships docked at harbor in the 1700s, watch live reenactments, and stop by the tearoom for a taste. The thrilling 250th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party was just celebrated in December 2023 and hundreds of people turned out to join the occasion.

Visit Bunker Hill Monument.

Bunker Hill Monument in Boston, a 221-foot granite obelisk reminiscent of the Washington Monument in Washington D.C., commemorates the Battle of Bunker Hill. This famous battle was one of the first significant engagements between Patriots and British soldiers in the Revolutionary War. There is a spiral staircase that will take you to the top of the monument as well, making for spectacular 360-degree aerial views. 

Find unique architecture at Trinity Church.

If you enjoy spotting unique church architecture when visiting a new city, Trinity Church is a beautiful one. This historical church was founded in the 1700s and was an important site during the American Revolution. Its original building actually burned down in 1776 but was subsequently rebuilt and now serves as an important pillar of the Boston community. 

Get your car fix at the Larz Anderson Auto Museum.

Do you love cars? Located in Brookline at the Anderson Carriage House is the oldest collection of motorcars in the United States. Larz Anderson Auto Museum houses a fantastic array of historical motorcars from the 1800s through the 20th century. And even the manicured museum grounds themselves are worth seeing!

Walk in Paul Revere’s footsteps at Old North Church.

Ground-level view of fallen yellow leaves paving the way to the historic Old North Church in Boston, a quintessential sight in the array of things to see in Boston

Ever hear of Paul Revere’s famous ‘Midnight Ride’ through Boston? In 1775, Old North Church was his first stop on the ride, where he instructed two Patriots to climb to the steeple and hang lanterns to warn of British troops approaching. Aside from this fascinating piece of history, Old North is also the oldest church in the city and a National Historic Landmark. 

Visit the oldest commissioned ship in the United States Navy.

The USS Constitution is in the Charlestown Naval Yard, located next door to the USS Constitution Museum . This ship has a fascinating story – it was commissioned as a warship in the early years of America’s independence to defend it from invaders and pirates. Learn all about it at this commemorative and interactive museum. 

Take a sunset cruise around Boston Harbor.

There’s nothing quite like seeing Boston from the water. Boston Harbor Cruises offers a 90-minute sunset cruise around the harbor. Embarking from the Wharf at 7pm, you’ll learn interesting facts about the Boston cityscape. And there’s nothing better than taking in the views at golden hour, it’s very romantic !

You can check out the best Boston boat tours here!

Visit the site of the Boston Massacre. 

The Old State House, a historic Boston site, stands prominently among modern skyscrapers under an overcast sky, offering a stark contrast between colonial and contemporary architecture

In 1770, five people were shot and killed by British soldiers who opened fire in front of the Old State House . Today, you can visit this stop on the Freedom Trail . Take a guided tour of the Old State House to learn about Revolutionary history, and this building’s role in the Declaration of Independence.

 Explore the Museum of African American History.

A significant historical and cultural institute showcasing the lives and contributions of African Americans is found right in Boston: the Museum of African American History . With two preserved historic sites, two Black Heritage Trails, and permanent exhibits, you will learn all about black individuals and communities from the Colonial era through the 19th century.  

Go shopping on Newbury Street.

A joyful woman standing on a sidewalk in Boston's historic Back Bay neighborhood, with its charming brownstone buildings and bare trees, a delightful stroll included in the best things to do in Boston

Boston has a lot of charming, quaint history, but it also has very fashionable and modern districts. If you love to shop, not many strips are better than Newbury Street in the upscale Back Bay neighborhood. From Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters to Ralph Lauren and Nordstrom, you will be surrounded by the latest apparel and beauty trends .

Twinkling lights wrap around a tree on Newbury Street in Boston, with the iconic brownstone buildings lining the street, creating a picturesque scene that embodies the best of Boston's urban charm

And Newbury Street is extra charming with shops set inside these historic brownstones. It’s especially cute decorated for the holidays!

Hang out with gorillas at the Franklin Park Zoo.

This 72-acre zoo in Boston is home to hundreds of exotic animals from around the planet. Franklin Park Zoo is the place to go if you want to encounter majestic creatures, such as a family of gorillas, ancient tortoises, and crocodiles. You will be supporting an institution that conserves, protects, and promotes better care of the natural world.

Visit the home of Paul Revere.

The historic Paul Revere House, nestled in Boston's North End, framed by autumn leaves, is a captivating landmark and one of the essential places to go in Boston for a walk through history.

Interested in the history of the American Revolution? You can visit the home of one of America’s most significant Revolutionary figures, Paul Revere. This 1680 house still stands today, preserved and open for tours in Boston’s North End. Go learn about the cultural heritage of Paul Revere and his importance to the early days of Boston and America as a nation.

Read Next:  Top 20 Historic Sites in Massachusetts

Enjoy recreation and Revolutionary history at Castle Island.

Castle Island is one of Boston’s most valuable outdoor gems. This peninsula off the Harbor of Boston is connected to the Harborwalk, and has beautiful parks and paths for walking, biking, and picnicking along the beautiful beach.

This is also the site of Fort Independence, a granite bastion that defended Boston’s harbor as early as the American Revolution.

Discover booktopia at the Boston Public Library.

There’s something so satisfying about a good city library, and Boston definitely has a killer one. Boston Public Library in Copley Square is the oldest public library in America and has gorgeous Beaux-Arts and Renaissance style architecture. It feels like a Hogwarts-esque dream come true (plus free books!).

Stroll along the Charles River Esplanade.

Located right in downtown Boston is the beloved Charles River Esplanade . This beautiful 3-mile stretch of green space along the Charles River is rich in recreational opportunities. Along this pedestrian pathway made for strolling and biking, you’ll see fascinating monuments, great city views, boat launches, and grassy picnic areas.

Crack open a cold one at Samuel Adams Brewery. 

Bostonians love their beer, period. Samuel Adams reigns king in the city (Harpoon is a close second), so it’s only natural you stop by the Samuel Adams Statue and then try a brew at Samuel Adams Taproom . These light and refreshing beers are served on tap, with offerings of light fare to go with your drink. You will also be right near Faneuil Hall, the Old State House, and other fascinating sites. 

Take a stroll along the Harborwalk.

A thoughtful moment captured on a serene Boston waterfront, with a man and woman sitting on the edge contemplating the view, a peaceful scene to enjoy on a Boston trip

Boston Harborwalk is a public pathway that extends for 43 miles along the shore of Boston. Not only is the Harborwalk amazing for recreational activities, social gatherings, and picnic lunches, but it’ll give you amazing views of the city and ocean. Access it from multiple locations in the North End or Downtown to enjoy the wharves, beaches, piers, and benches as you stroll along. 

Read Next:  13 Best Walking Tours in Boston to Take

Take a Harvard University campus tour.

Want to explore America’s oldest college (established before America was even America)? Harvard University in Cambridge has an incredible campus for you to enjoy. With free public tours offered at the university, you can learn about Harvard’s history and wander the sprawling quads, historical buildings, multiple libraries, and museums. 

Visit the picturesque Beacon Hill neighborhood.

A quaint cobblestone alley in Boston, flanked by historic red brick buildings with greenery, capturing the essence of the charming places to visit in Boston

Dreaming of walking through a quaint, cobblestoned European town? Well, Boston has its very own neighborhood to make your dreams come true. Beacon Hill, one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city, is famous for its narrow cobblestone streets lined with federal style houses and lanterns. It feels like a magical fairytale, especially in autumn.

Don’t miss out on Acorn street, one of the best and most iconic photo spots in Boston. And be sure to step with care; those cobblestones are no joke!

Take a Boston beer tour.

Have people told you your eyes are bigger than your stomach? Well, you won’t be judged like that on a Boston Brew Tour . Embark on this 5-hour adventure to taste up to 16 different local brews at four different breweries. Enjoy entertainment, Boston beer history, transportation, and a deliciously paired meal at the end. Make sure to book your tickets in advance!

Hit the nightlife scene at Central Square.

Central Square in East Boston is an unsuspectingly happening neighborhood for nightlife. With everything from basement bars to clubs to fine dining and great music venues, this spot draws a youthful and lively crowd. Grab a pint at The Plough and Stars , then a gelato dessert at Toscanini’s , and when you’re finished catch a live show at The Middle East . 

Go ice skating at Canal District Kendall.

Formerly known as Kendall Square, Canal District Kendall in Cambridge is an innovative community with so much to do. There are green spaces, frequent outdoor live music events, and quality restaurants. But a local favorite is the large public ice rink that’s open for skating mid-December through mid-March. Bring your own skates or rent a pair. 

Read Next:  25 Ideas for a Wonderful Winter in Boston

Get spooked on a haunted ghost tour.

Because it is one of America’s first cities, Boston has some of the oldest cemeteries, buildings, and monuments in the nation. This makes for some captivating ghost stories; legends, haunts, mysteries, and myths are imbued in the very fabric of Beantown. If you love all things ghostly, why not take the Ghosts and Gravestones Trolley Tour ? Your costumed guides will share spooky stories as you roll through the creepiest locations. 

Chow down on Asian cuisine in Chinatown. 

Chinatown is a great neighborhood for foodies. This area of Boston is densely packed with a delectable variety of Asian cuisines. You can’t really go wrong no matter where you stop for dinner, but a few great selections include The Q for Chinese, Gourmet Dumpling House for dumplings, Pho Pasteur for Vietnamese, and RUKA for sushi.

Discover a secret store within a store. 

I bet you’ve never been to a store like Bodega ! This shoe and streetwear boutique is hidden behind a secret entrance that looks like a convenience store from the front. Upon closer inspection, you’ll find a backdoor that leads to the real Bodega, where the latest trends in sneakers, sportswear, and caps are waiting for you. 

Browse three floors of used books at Brattle Book Shop.

stacks of used books in a brick lined alleyway in boston: the iconic outdoor Brattle Book Shop

Boston is full of old things, and bookstores are no exception. Brattle Book Shop on West Street is one of the oldest and largest used book shops in the nation. This store has three whole floors of literary wonders. You’ll also find an excellent selection of magazines and some rare first editions.

Read Next:  10 Literary Sites in Boston All Book-Lovers Should Visit

Step inside a three-story globe.

Want something totally off the beaten path, and totally cool enough to land a spot in the Atlas Obscura? Located within the Mary Baker Eddy Library, the Mapparium is a three-story globe you can walk through! This map is a beautiful glowing orb that provides a unique experience for visitors, and the library that houses it is also worth a look.

Indulge in Cannoli at Mike’s Pastry or Modern Pastry.

Hand holding a decadent chocolate chip cannoli, a treat not to be missed when listing the top things to do in Boston, with a blurred park backdrop suggesting a leisurely snack outdoors

Boston’s #1 Cannoli war rages on in the North End, the city’s “Little Italy.” Is it Mike’s Pastry , or Modern Pastry? Well, we don’t see why we have to choose one or the other, so let’s just eat both! Mike’s typically has longer lines but heftier portion sizes and a greater flavor variety. Modern Pastry is less mobbed and has a richer cream filling, but a smaller cannoli.

Read Next:  Where to Find the Best Cannoli in Boston

Drink a cappuccino at Caffe Vittoria, the first Italian cafe in Boston.

Interior of the charming Caffè Vittoria in Boston's North End, displaying an array of espresso machines and bottles, a unique stop for coffee enthusiasts and a must-do in Boston

Andiamo! Caffe Vittoria in the North End was established in 1929, making it Boston’s first Italian cafe. This beloved local coffee shop has four floors filled with vintage Italian decor, a coffee bar, and all the best drinks that you could find in Italy.  I adore this place!

Read Next:  13 Best North End Restaurants in Boston

Shop local at Boston Public Market.

Found at Haymarket Station is Boston Public Market , an expansive year-round indoor marketplace. This community space consists of over 30 New England artisans, farmers, and shop owners selling fresh foods, crafts, and locally sourced meals. Shopping here not only allows you to experience the tastes and creations of New Englanders, but it helps uplift small businesses. 

Kayak on the Charles River.

Back of girl with pony tail sitting in rowboat in the water, holding an oard, and facing a city skyline in the distance.

Love that dirty water! Charles River is a local favorite for recreational adventures. This river extends for 80 miles and cuts right through the city. You can rent kayaks, canoes, or paddleboards from Charles River Canoe and Kayak and either take a guided tour along the Charles River or embark on your own solo adventure. 

Witness oddities at the Warren Anatomical Museum.

If you like museums but also want to see something out-of-the-box, visit the Warren Anatomical Museum at Harvard. This anatomy and pathology museum was started in the 1800s by a Harvard anatomist to preserve specimens for student education. You will find oddities like an old plastic surgery kit, eagle skeletons, and the actual skull of Phineas Gage. 

Read Next:  50 Wicked Awesome Quotes About Boston

Visit a skinny house built out of spite .

Skinny House, or “Spite House,” is a 10-foot-wide, four-story home at 44 Hull Street. Squeezed between two brick facades, this is known as the narrowest in Boston. Legend has it that during the Civil War, it was built out of spite by a soldier to get revenge on his brother. Being left with only a small piece of their land inheritance after his brother built a massive home on it, the skinny house was built to block his brother’s views and sunlight.

Read Next:  15 Unique Boutique Hotels in Boston to Book in 2023

Go island hopping at Boston Harbor Islands State Park.

Boston Harbor Islands State Park is a New England coastal gem. Just one mile from the city center, this oceanic park is a collection of 34 islands and peninsulas that can be accessed by a park ferry. But the ocean isn’t the only thing you’ll see amongst these islands; you can also visit one of the historical forts, mainland parks, or the Boston Lighthouse.

Have breakfast at Trident Booksellers & Cafe.

Close-up of a scrumptious breakfast sandwich with a side of coffee, a staple for a foodie's morning in Boston, inviting a taste of the local cuisine

Books are even more wonderful when paired with good coffee and a meal. Trident Booksellers & Cafe offers this match made in heaven. Part-bookstore, part-coffee shop, a visit to Trident will come complete with the latest bestsellers and classics. Not only is it a fantastic independent book store, but the breakfast is fantastic. My monte cristo sandwich and French toast latte were one of the best meals I’ve had in Boston.

Join the community fun at Harvard Square.

Want to see what locals are doing for fun in Cambridge? Harvard Square is where it all comes to life. There are events taking place in and around this large triangular plaza almost every day of the week. Listen to live music, attend author readings at Harvard Bookstore, go on a chocolate tour, or even join in on a beginner’s Tai Chi class. This is one hopping corner of Boston. 

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PlanetWare.com

23 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Boston

Written by Barbara Radcliffe Rogers Updated Mar 19, 2024 We may earn a commission from affiliate links ( )

Perhaps no other city in America holds as much history of the colonial and Revolutionary War era as Boston. It's not surprising then that its main sites have become a pilgrimage trail for Americans and for others who hope to get a sense of that history.

But more than that, the Freedom Trail is a good introduction to today's city, connecting or passing close to some of its best loved tourist attractions. Boston is easy to navigate on foot, as its major sights are relatively close, and America's first subway system, the T, connects its important neighborhoods.

Across the Charles River, a watery summer recreation area whose Boston shore is reserved as the Esplanade park, is Cambridge. Although a separate and independent city, for tourist purposes, Cambridge is part of Boston and connected by the same transit system.

Here, you'll find two of America's most prestigious and important universities, Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) . These and the many other universities and colleges in the area help keep Boston a youthful and vibrant place to be, with a lively cultural scene. With all the music, theater, and entertainment options, plus its abundance of restaurants, you'll never be at a loss for things to do in Boston at night.

Maybe because I've lived there and know its sometimes puzzling web of downtown streets, I find Boston a thoroughly comfortable city to visit; despite its tall buildings, its compact neighborhoods make it seem more like a cluster of small towns. Join me in a tour of my favorite city, and discover the best things to do, with this handy guide to the top attractions in Boston.

1. Walk the Freedom Trail

2. see a game or take a tour of fenway park, 3. faneuil hall, 4. boston common and public garden: ride the swan boats, 5. museum of fine arts boston, 6. isabella stewart gardner museum, 7. uss constitution and bunker hill (boston national historic park), 8. museum of science, 9. harvard square and harvard art museums, 10. old north church and boston's north end, 11. boston tea party ships & museum, 12. new england aquarium, 13. harvard museums and the glass flowers, 14. newbury street & back bay, 15. boston public library and copley square, 16. boston harbor and whale watching cruises, 17. john f. kennedy presidential library and museum, 18. beacon hill and the black heritage trail, 19. boston harborwalk and christopher columbus waterfront park, 20. rose fitzgerald kennedy greenway, 21. boston pops and boston symphony orchestra, 22. arnold arboretum, 23. massachusetts institute of technology, where to stay in boston for sightseeing, tips and tours: how to make the most of your visit to boston, best time to visit boston, ma.

Freedom Trail

The three-mile Freedom Trail leads you past – and into – 16 of the city's principal historic monuments and sites. It's easy to follow, by the line of red bricks in the sidewalk and by footprints at street crossings. Begin by picking up brochures on the attractions at the Visitor Center in the Boston Common before heading to the State House .

The trail will take you to Old Granary Burying Ground (where Paul Revere, Samuel Adams, and John Hancock are buried), King's Chapel Burying Ground (Boston's oldest cemetery with the graves of Governor John Winthrop and two Mayflower passengers), Old South Meeting House (where the ringing speeches of patriots spawned the Boston Tea Party), and the Old State House . This is Boston's oldest public building and the site of the Boston Massacre .

The Freedom Trail continues through Boston's North End, past the Paul Revere House and Old North Church , and ends across the bridge in Charlestown with the 54-gun frigate USS Constitution and the 220-foot granite Bunker Hill Monument. With all these attractions and places to see, it's no wonder the Freedom Trail is one of the best walking trails around Boston .

Fenway Park

Known as "America's Most Beloved Ballpark," Fenway Park is one of the most fabled sports complexes in the country, and even if, like me, you're not a sports fan, a tour of it is both fun and interesting. And sitting inside, surrounded by cheering fans and singing "Sweet Caroline" is a quintessential Boston experience.

The home of the Boston Red Sox looks much the same as it did when it opened on April 20, 1912. One of its most recognizable features is the Green Monster , the 37-foot green wall in left field, and the park still maintains some of the remnants of "old time" baseball such as the hand-operated scoreboard.

Fenway Park also has the lowest seating capacity in the Major Leagues holding only 33,871 spectators (a fact that makes tickets exceedingly scarce).

Author's Tip: If you manage to get tickets, don't even think about driving to a game. Park outside the center and take any MBTA Green Line train (except one labeled Heath St.) to Kenmore Square and follow the crowd on the short walk to the stadium.

Address: 4 Yawkey Way, Boston, Massachusetts

Faneuil Hall

Known as the "cradle of liberty," Faneuil Hall was built in 1740-42 by Huguenot merchant Peter Faneuil as a market hall and presented to the city on condition that it should always be open to the public.

The ground floor is still occupied by market stalls; on the upper floor is a council chamber, which in the 18th and 19th centuries was the meeting place of revolutionaries and later, of abolitionists. On its fourth floor is the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Museum , with weaponry, uniforms, and paintings of significant battles.

The adjoining Faneuil Hall Marketplace includes three long halls (Quincy Market, North Market, and South Market), dating from the early 19th century, now occupied by a lively assortment of shops, restaurants, and exhibitions.

In good weather, I love the block-party atmosphere here, with street performers and buskers putting on shows in the square around the market, and in any weather I never tire of browsing through the shops selling jewelry, clothing, gifts, and souvenirs. You can never have too many Red Sox caps, or you can get a coffee mug inscribed with a Boston/English dictionary. It might come in wicked handy talking with locals.

The food stalls in Quincy Market are some of the most popular places to eat lunch in Boston. My favorites are Fisherman's Net and the family-run Boston Chowdah for seafood, and West End Srollers for panini sandwiches I can walk around with as I browse. Ethnicities from Hispanic to Asian Fusion are represented, and Boston Halal is opening in 2023.

Address: Faneuil Hall Square, Boston, Massachusetts

Boston Common and Public Garden Swan Boats

In the heart of the city is Boston Common, America's oldest park and the start of the Freedom Trail . In this large green space, which is much used by locals year-round, are various monuments and the Central Burying Ground of 1756.

You can rent skates to use on the Frog Pond from November through mid-March, enjoy the spring blossoms and fall foliage colors reflecting in its surface, and in summer, watch youngsters splash about in the wading pool.

Adjoining it on the west side of Charles Street, is the 24-acre Public Garden, America's oldest botanical garden. Along with the Victorian-style monuments and statues, including an equestrian statue of George Washington, are the popular modern bronzes of a family of ducks immortalized in Robert McCloskey's children's book Make Way for the Ducklings .

Joining the ducklings to give the Public Garden its whimsical air is one of Boston's most iconic experiences for all ages: riding around the lake in the garden's center on the famous Swan Boats , first launched in the 1870s.

Generations of children have ridden these and returned with their own children and grandchildren (I know this because I'm in one of those families). If you're in Boston with kids, take them for a ride here, and start your own multi-generational tradition.

Address: Public Garden, Boston, Massachusetts

Museum of Fine Arts Boston

One of the leading art museums in the country, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts excels in its collections of Impressionist paintings, ancient Egyptian treasures, Asian and Persian fine arts, and works from ancient Greece and the Middle East.

Its crowning achievement is the construction of an entire American Wing to house, integrated in chronological order, outstanding collections of American paintings, furniture, decorative arts, folk art, silver, glassware, and design dating from pre-Columbian arts to the Art Deco and Modernist eras. To see all these works of art shown in context with other creative accomplishments of their time is an exciting journey through the world of American creativity, one I never tire of taking.

Highlights elsewhere include a 12th-century lacquered-wood sculpture of a Buddhist Bodhisattva and Korean painted screens, the ivory and gold statue of the Minoan Snake Goddess from 1500 BC, and a statue of the Egyptian pharaoh Mycerinus and his queen from 2548-2530 BC.

For me, in addition to the American Wing, the museum's highlight is the group of 35 paintings by Claude Monet , one of the largest collections outside of France. These are exhibited in good company, alongside works of Gaugin, Renoir, and Degas.

To see and appreciate all the museum's galleries and collections could take a full day, but the mind can only absorb as much as the feet can endure. So unless you are a devoted art enthusiast, plan from two hours to half a day here and concentrate on those sections that interest you most.

The museum is about a 1½-mile walk from Copley Square and other neighborhoods for sightseeing; an easier way to get there is on the MBTA Green Line. Take a car marked Heath St. from Copley or Park St. stations.

Address: 465 Huntington Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Set in a building its eccentric creator modeled after a 15th-century Venetian palace, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum displays its collections in rooms surrounding a four-story central courtyard filled with flowering plants and fountains.

The priceless 2,500-piece collection of paintings, sculptures, furniture, tapestries, decorative arts, books, and manuscripts reflect the personal tastes and considerable expertise of Mrs. Gardner herself, whose own flamboyance further adds to the charm of the museum.

Behind the palazzo, a 70,000-square-foot glass-clad building designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano creates new viewpoints for the original palazzo and stunning spaces for music and visual arts, allowing the museum to showcase exceptional contemporary works and artists. Rather than clash or compete with the original building, Piano's wing simply provides a new glass through which to view Mrs. Gardner's palazzo.

From almost anywhere in the new building are uninterrupted prospects of the palace and gardens through transparent walls. After you tour the museum, stroll through the Fens , a long green space, where you'll find a beautiful rose garden in bloom from June through October.

Author's Tip: The Gardner is only a few steps from the Museum of Fine Arts, making it tempting to combine them in one day. But unless art is your passion, it's best to see them on different days, so you can appreciate each. Visiting the Gardner is to immerse yourself not just in art, but in the 15th- and 16th-century artistic world of Renaissance Italy.

Address: 280 The Fenway, Boston, Massachusetts

USS Constitution and Bunker Hill (Boston National Historic Park)

Nicknamed Old Ironsides , USS Constitution is the oldest commissioned ship in the United States Navy, and is still commanded and crewed by Navy personnel. The ship is open to visitors, who can go below desks and hear about the ship's construction and action at sea.

Across the pier, the USS Constitution Museum provides historical context through interactive exhibits that illustrate life aboard a naval vessel two centuries ago. Another ship you can tour here is the Cassin Young , a World War II destroyer.

Charlestown Navy Yard is part of the Boston National Historical Park, and it's a short walk to the Bunker Hill Monument and Museum, also in the park. The 221-foot-tall granite monument marks the hilltop site of the earthen fort built by New England soldiers prior to the Battle of Bunker Hill, the first pitched battle of the American Revolution.

Address: Building 22, Charlestown Navy Yard, Charlestown, Massachusetts

Museum of Science

Exhibits in the extensive Museum of Science encourage learning through hands-on exploration of science and technology, but the museum is not just for children. Physics, biology, chemistry, ecology, zoology, astronomy, computers, and more are explored in more than 700 permanent, hands-on exhibits that are enhanced by stage presentations and interpreters. I find it every bit as engaging as my children do, and can easily spend a whole day here.

Highlights are a 65-million-year-old fossil discovered in the Dakota Badlands, an electricity dome with continuing programs, the Butterfly Garden where you can walk among free-flying butterflies in a conservatory filled with exotic plants, a live animal center, a chance to join local meteorologists to learn weather forecasting, and ComputerPlace , where you can operate a robot and explore how your computer stores information. The planetarium presents daily laser and star shows, and the Mugar Omni Theater has a five-story domed screen.

Author's Tip: Save money on a family day at the museum by bringing your own lunch. You are welcome to enjoy it in the Atrium, on the front plaza, or at picnic tables behind the museum. No snacking in the exhibit areas, though.

Address: Science Park, Boston, Massachusetts

Harvard in the spring

Harvard University , founded in 1636, is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and is widely considered one of the world's leading academic centers. Go to the Harvard Information Center to take a spirited and entertaining free walking tour of the campus guided by a student who will share history, Harvard lore, and personal perspective. Or you can download a tour from their website.

Harvard Yard sits right in Harvard Square , a lively hub for students, "townies," and visitors, filled with shops, bookstores, and allegedly more places to buy ice cream than any other U.S. city.

Adjoining Harvard Yard is the Renzo Piano-designed home of the Harvard Art Museums , including three formerly separate collections, each of which ranked high as major U.S. art museums. Few universities have such enviable collections. Fogg Art Museum concentrates on Italian early-Renaissance art, the Busch-Reisinger on Expressionist art of central and northern Europe, with Bauhaus objects and paintings by Kandinsky and Klee.

Another important feature of the museums is one of the world's best collections of Chinese jade, as well as Chinese bronzes, Japanese prints, Indian art, and Greco-Roman antiquities, especially vases and sculptures.

If you're as bookish as I am, don't miss browsing in The Harvard Bookstore , just across Massachusetts Ave. from The Yard. Not associated with the University, this indy store has been a fixture in this same spot since 1932.

If you're looking for Harvard insignia souvenirs, the place to go is the Harvard Coop , across the square.

Address: 32 Quincy Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Old North Church

Boston's lively Italian neighborhood, known as the North End, is one of Boston's oldest, where the silversmith and activist leader Paul Revere lived at the time of the American Revolution. The Paul Revere House, which he bought in 1770 and lived in when he made his famous ride, is the only patriot's home on the Freedom Trail, and is open to tour.

You can climb to the tower of Old North Church , where lanterns were hung in April 1775 to alert Paul Revere that British troops were headed to Lexington to arrest the patriot leaders and confiscate the munitions supplies. The beautiful white interior of the church still retains its historic box pews.

The North End is a favorite spot for tourists for reasons that go well beyond its important historic sights. Although it has changed a bit over the years since it was filled with newly arrived immigrants from Italy, it retains its Italian character and lively flair.

You'll find Italian restaurants; cafes; bakeries; and shops fragrant with aromas of cured olives, fresh-roasted coffee, and Italian cheeses. For my family, Modern Pastry on Hanover St. is a required stop, for cannoli and pignoli cookies.

You'll also find the North Bennet Street School , where skills such as bookbinding, cabinet and furniture making, carpentry, silver and gold work, and violin making are taught. Their gallery shop is like a museum of fine craftsmanship and a good place to shop for one-of-a-kind gifts.

Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum

On the night of December 16, 1773, more than a year before the first battle of the American Revolution, angry Bostonians protesting a tax on goods shipped to the colonies, stormed ships from England and threw the tea into the harbor at this site. With full-scale replicas of the original ships from which the Sons of Liberty dumped tea overboard, the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum offers tours with a participatory reenactment of that event.

Costumed historical interpreters lead visitors through that historic night, through interactive exhibits, films, and multi-sensory experiences. Of course, everyone gets to dump tea into the harbor. In the museum, you'll see the only known tea chest from that ill-fated cargo.

This is more a history-as-entertainment attraction than a living history museum. But kids are drawn into the fun as they learn about shipboard life and American history, so it's no wonder this is one of the favorite things to do for families in Boston.

Address: 306 Congress Street, Boston, Massachusetts

New England Aquarium

Overlooking the waterfront, the New England Aquarium features more than 20,000 fish and aquatic animals representing over 550 species. A man-made Caribbean coral reef houses a large variety of tropical fish and underwater life including sharks, turtles, and moray eels. The Edge of the Sea touch tank allows visitors to handle small invertebrates like crabs, starfish, and urchins.

Outside the aquarium, visitors can watch harbor seals play, perform, and live in their enclosed habitat. The New England Aquarium also sponsors educational programs and whale-watching tours outside of Boston Harbor, and the adjacent IMAX Theater shows 40-minute films on nature subjects.

To be sure of admission at this popular family attraction, reserve timed entry tickets in advance. Nearby parking is expensive, but it's easy to get here by public transit; the aquarium has its own stop on the MBTA's Blue Line.

Address: Central Wharf, Boston, Massachusetts

Glass Flowers at the Harvard Museums

Although the four Harvard Museums that make up this complex contain treasures such as the artifacts brought back by Lewis and Clark, for most people, the highlight is the more than 3,000 models of 830 species of flowers and plants, some with insects, and all so realistic that you will have trouble believing they are made of glass. I marvel at these anew, each time I see them.

Created between 1887 and 1936 by German artisans Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka, the flowers are unique in the world, and their secret process has never been replicated. These are part of Harvard's massive research collections, shown under one roof in the Peabody Museum of Archeology and Ethnology , the Mineralogical Museum , the Museum of Comparative Zoology, and the Botanical Museum .

Particularly strong in Native American exhibits , the Peabody shows artifacts and art interpreted as part of a living culture, even when that culture has vanished. You can admire some of the finest examples of Native American arts from many periods and tribes, and also see how these changed as Europeans provided a new market for their goods.

Those who like the Victorian "Cabinet of Curiosities" feel of old traditional museums will love the Pacific Islands balcony - it's like stepping back a century. The Museum of Comparative Zoology , founded by Louis Agassiz in 1859, contains an extensive collection of fossils, including a 25,000-year-old mastodon . The mineralogy collections include a dazzling display of rough and cut gemstones , a world-renowned meteorite collection, rocks, ores, and minerals from around the world.

Address: 26 Oxford Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Café on Newbury Street

Both atmospheric and fashionable, Boston's Back Bay (it was once under water, before a hill was leveled to fill it in) is the heart of the 19 th -century city, home of the "Proper Bostonian" of legend. Streets of sedate Brownstone and brick townhouses line the grid of streets between the Public Garden and the Fenway, bounded on the north by Storrow Drive and the Charles River Esplanade.

Stroll its tree-lined streets, especially Newbury Street, to find an almost European atmosphere of small (mostly trendy) shops and boutiques, art galleries, and cafés and restaurants that spill out into sidewalk terraces. Architecture throughout the neighborhood is eclectic, with some fine examples of ornamental terra-cotta and brickwork.

I love walking through Back Bay residential streets at any time of year – in the spring when Magnolias bloom in the tiny front yards, in the winter when the wrought-iron fences sketch patterns against the snow, and in the fall when fallen leaves crunch underfoot.

 Copley Square

The main square of the Back Bay area is surrounded by both old and ultra-modern buildings. One side is formed by the Boston Public Library , founded in 1848 as the first publicly funded lending library in the country. Architect Charles Follen McKim designed the present building in 1895.

Go inside to see the library's Renaissance Revival architecture and murals by John Singer Sargent and Edwin Abbey. Granite medallions over the entrance arches are the work of the pre-eminent American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens. The three sets of bronze doors in the vestibule were created by Daniel Chester French. Regular Art and Architecture Tours are among the several free things to do in Boston.

Author's Tip: Boston's best-kept secret may be the elegant afternoon teas served in the tearoom overlooking the beautiful Italianate Courtyard of the Boston Public Library. Crisp white linens and silver-edged crystal set the stage for proper tea sandwiches, scones, and trays of dainty sweets.

Facing the library, across a grassy lawn, where you can enjoy a picnic lunch with neighborhood office workers, is Trinity Church , a red sandstone building designed by architect Henry Hobson Richardson in his distinctive style, known as Richardson Romanesque. Trinity is widely considered to be his finest work. The murals, frescoes, and painted decorations inside are by John La Farge and much of the fine stained glass is by Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris.

On a third side of the square is the venerable Boston institution, the Fairmont Copley Plaza ; these three buildings, backed by the sheer glass wall of a skyscraper, create a stunning cityscape. A block down Boylston Street, look for the finish line of the Boston Marathon , run each April on Patriot's Day.

Just beyond is the Prudential Center , a 32-acre complex of apartments, shops, restaurants, and a 52-story tower. On its 50th floor, you can visit the Skywalk observation deck for 360-degree views of Boston and its surroundings.

Address: 700 Boylston Street, At Copley Square, Boston, Massachusetts

Boston Harbor cruise

At Rowes Wharf, you can board the Odyssey to cruise through Boston Harbor, from Castle Island to George's Island, then east to the Boston Light on Little Brewster Island, and back north to Charlestown Naval Yard before returning to the wharf.

You can enjoy lunch, dinner, or Sunday brunch as you savor the views of the Boston skyline from the water. The skyline is especially beautiful at night when you can take a starlight or full moon cruise.

You can travel outside the confines of Boston Harbor on Boston Whale Watching Cruises , for a chance to see humpback and fin whales, as well as dolphins and porpoises, in the wild. This three-hour, naturalist-led tours are very popular and claim to have whale sightings on every trip.

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

Dedicated to the memory of the 35th U.S. President, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum is the official national memorial to JFK, designed by noted architect I.M. Pei and opened in 1979. The museum, which stands on the shore south of the city, features three theaters, personal memorabilia, photographs, and historical exhibits that document the life of JFK and his presidency.

Exhibits cover the presidential campaign trail, the Oval Office, First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, and the Kennedy family. Interactive experiences here include the free and family-friendly Highlights tours and the Hands-on Cart programs, which include the PT-109 story and a closer look at the Race for Space.

Address: Columbia Point, Boston

Beacon Hill

One of Boston's most beautiful neighborhoods and right in the center of the city, the south side of Beacon Hill has traditionally been the home of Boston's "old money" families, known locally as "Brahmins." Well-kept brick homes in Federal and Greek Revival styles line its tree-shaded streets, and at its heart is Louisburg Square, where homes face onto a leafy private park. Author Louisa May Alcott lived here from 1880 to 1888.

The Nichols House Museum , a Federal-style home by Boston architect Charles Bulfinch, shows how Beacon Hill's upper-class residents lived and is filled with collections of 16th- to 19th-century furnishings and decorative arts. At the western foot of Beacon Hill, Charles Street is lined with boutiques and shops that have traditionally catered to the neighborhood and are popular with visitors as well. Beyond Charles Street, facing the Public Garden, The Bull and Finch , established in 1969, inspired the popular television program, Cheers .

Restaurants and cafes come and go quickly along classy Charles St, but one that has maintained its elegant ambiance and traditional Tuscan country menu is Toscano , where you can dine on melt-in-the-mouth veal scaloppini or a simple four-cheese pizza.

The north side of Beacon Hill is far more modest and has been home to immigrants, including a sizable African American community, since the early 19th century. National Park Service Rangers offer free guided tours of the Black Heritage Trail from April through November and you can follow the trail on a self-guided tour year-round.

The Boston African American National Historic Site includes 15 pre-Civil War homes, businesses, schools, and churches that give a picture of Boston's 19th-century African American community. The Museum of Afro-American History operates the African Meeting House , the country's oldest (1806) church built by and for Black Americans and now restored to its 1854 appearance.

The 1834 Abiel Smith School was the first public grammar school for African American children. Displays at both include artifacts, films, art, and sculpture related to the black experience in Boston and New England.

Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park

The Boston waterfront has seen many changes since its early beginnings as a colonial shipping port. After a period of decline for much of the 20th century, new life was breathed into the area in the mid-1970s with an ambitious redevelopment plan.

Today, this interesting mix of residential and commercial space is connected by HarborWalk , an attractive walkway along the waterfront, with parks, public art, benches, cafés, interpretive signs, and access to several means of exploring the harbor by cruise boat, ferry, or water taxi. A shuttle boat also runs to the Charlestown Navy Yard .

Although it extends from Charlestown to South Boston – and will expand considerably farther – the part you won't want to miss goes from the North End through the wisteria-draped pergola of Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park , past Commercial Wharf, India Wharf, and Long Wharf , and by Rowes Wharf before curving along the harbor into the vibrant Seaport District to the Institute of Contemporary Art , an art museum dramatically cantilevered above the water.

Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway

One of the newest of Boston's many public parks and green spaces, the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway fills the swath of downtown Boston left bare by the removal of the elevated Central Artery.

Nearly 1.5 miles of parks and gardens connect several diverse neighborhoods, including the financial district, the North End, Chinatown and Faneuil Hall Market, all just a few steps from the linear park.

Public art, gardens, benches, a farmers' market, food trucks, and playgrounds enliven the park, along with a fanciful carousel of whimsical animals, where children can ride on rabbits, a butterfly, turtle, lobster, or a grasshopper. All 36 creatures on the Greenway Carousel were inspired by drawings made by Boston school children. The carousel is specially designed to be accessible to adults and youth with disabilities.

Boston Pops and Boston Symphony Orchestra

The Boston Symphony Orchestra gave its inaugural concert in 1881, and its first at Symphony Hall , one of the world's most acoustically perfect concert halls, when it opened in 1900. Over more than a century of history, its conductors have included greats such as Pierre Monteux, Serge Koussevitzky, Charles Munch, Seiji Ozawa, and James Levine.

In addition to its regular symphony season, the hall is home to the Boston Pops Orchestra , which sets an international standard for performances of lighter music. For many visitors, the highlight of a trip is a Pops concert, either in Symphony Hall or at the Hatch Memorial Shell , an Art Deco outdoor music shell on the riverside Esplanade that has become a Boston landmark.

The shell hosts a regular program of concerts and other special events, and is especially famous for the Boston Pop's yearly performance of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture on July 4th. Audiences sit on the lawn in front of the shell with views of Cambridge, Back Bay, and Beacon Hill, and the Pops orchestra is accompanied by real cannon fire and ringing Boston church bells.

Following the concert is a spectacular fireworks display over the river; both are televised all over New England. When I lived on River St, a block from the Esplanade, I took my lawn chair and a book to a grassy spot near the Shell at 10 am to get the best spot; now you'll have to wait until noon to stake your claim.

You can go behind the scenes on a tour of Symphony Hall where you'll hear the history and traditions of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, its musicians and conductors.

Address: 301 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts

Spring at the Arnold Arboretum

A "museum of trees," the Arnold Arboretum is especially colorful in the fall, when the maples are ablaze in reds and yellows, and in the spring, when cherry trees, lilacs, or magnolias are in full bloom. But the Arnold Arboretum is beautiful all 12 months of the year. When the trails through its 281 acres are covered in snow, they are popular places to snowshoe and cross-country ski.

A National Historic Landmark , designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead, the Arboretum is maintained by Harvard University , which uses it as a teaching laboratory. Along with a wide variety of trees, shrubs, vines, and perennial flowering plants, are exceptional collections of lilacs, azaleas, and rhododendrons; the Bonsai & Penjing Collection is also a highlight.

The Explorers Garden , occupying a small microclimate within the grounds, is home to two of the world's largest Franklin trees, a species now extinct in the wild. Docent-led tours range from quarter-mile introductions suitable for all abilities to a 90-minute Keeper's Tour.

Address: 125 Arborway, Boston, Massachusetts

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The 150-acre MIT campus is of special interest to fans of modern and postmodern architecture , a living museum of works by noted architects including Alvar Aalto, Eduardo Catalano, I. M. Pei, Frank Gehry, and Eero Saarinen.

In addition, the campus displays hundreds of sculptures and art installations that you can see with the help of a self-guided walking tour map, by artists such as Pablo Picasso, Henry Moore, Alexander Calder, Jacques Lipchitz, and Auguste Rodin. In the Hart Nautical Gallery are ship models, and the Compton Gallery shows contemporary art.

Address: 77 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Official site: www.mit.edu

Most of Boston's major tourist attractions are relatively close to the downtown area and Boston Common, where the Freedom Trail begins. Beacon Hill, Copley Square, and the Waterfront/North End are all within easy reach of these highly-rated hotels in Boston.

Luxury Hotels :

  • These hotels are in Boston's most prestigious - and convenient - locations: Copley Square and Beacon Hill. Fairmont Copley Plaza is the Grand Dame of Boston hotels, an elegant and gracious landmark property overlooking Copley Square and minutes from the Public Garden's Swan Boats.
  • The intimate Lenox Hotel is known for personal attention in the heart of Back Bay, adjacent to Prudential Center and Copley Square, close to museums and Newbury Street shopping.
  • XV Beacon crowns historic and fashionable Beacon Hill, next to the State House and overlooking Boston Common.

Mid-Range Hotels:

  • Boston's waterfront extends from the North End Italian neighborhood to the newly blossoming Seaport area, handy to harbor cruises, seafood dining, museums, and historic sites. Boston Marriott Long Wharf overlooks Boston Harbor, close to the New England Aquarium and North End attractions.
  • Seaport Boston Hotel guests enjoy sweeping views across Boston Harbor and the downtown skyline, excellent service, and a no-tipping policy in the hotel and its restaurants.
  • In a skillfully repurposed brick factory building, Residence Inn Boston Downtown Seaport is steps from the Boston Children's Museum and downtown attractions.

Budget Hotels:

  • Even Boston's budget-friendly options are conveniently close to the center. The Revolution Hotel , in the chic South End restaurant and arts neighborhood, has double, triple, and quad rooms, some with shared dorm-style bathrooms.
  • Especially handy to sports and entertainment events at TD Garden, Hotel Indigo Boston Garden is an easy walk to the North End and Quincy Market.
  • Across the street from the TD Boston Garden, and within walking distance of the North End, citizenM Boston North Station has tech-savvy, soundproof rooms.

Sightseeing:

  • For first-time visitors to Boston, the best way to see the attractions and get acquainted with the city layout is to take a Hop-on Hop-off Trolley Tour . This tour stops at all the major tourist attractions and gives you the freedom to stop where you want and see the city at your own pace.

Day Trip to Martha's Vineyard:

  • Explore more of the Bay State with a 12-hour Day Trip to Martha's Vineyard , traveling by bus through Cape Cod to Falmouth, before boarding the scenic cruise to the beautiful island of Martha's Vineyard. Here, you'll have six hours to explore the island on your own, or you can add a guided bus tour to see Gay Head Light and the historic village of Edgartown.

Day Trip to Newport:

  • See the famous summer palaces of Belle Epoch society on the Boston to Newport Small-Group Day Trip with Breakers & Marble House Admission . On an 11-hour small group tour of "America's First Resort" you'll visit the two most famous mansions, as well as Cliff Walk, Ocean Drive, and St. Mary's Church, where Jack and Jacky Kennedy were married.

If you're looking for a seamless vacation packed with fun adventures and ideal weather conditions, the best time of year to go to Boston is during the late spring and early fall . This is technically Boston's high season.

From May through the end of June , things are starting to warm up nicely. You're looking at highs in the upper 60s to high 70s and more comfortable lows in the 50s. Not too hot nor too cold, these temps are perfect for wandering the streets all day. Still, you'll want to pack layers to be sure you're prepared for the fluctuating temperatures.

The months of September and October also present visitors with optimal highs in the mid-60s (October) to high 70s (September). Lows range between high 40s to high 50s. Again, you'll likely need layers. At this time, you'll witness an impressive sight: vibrant red, orange, and yellow hues envelop the city in the form of fall foliage, especially towards the end of October, rewarding photographers with picture-perfect backdrops.

Boston hotels will be more expensive during this time, and you can expect to see larger crowds of tourists, but overall, late spring and early fall are the best times to visit Boston . Since many of the city's best attractions are outside (i.e. the Freedom Trail and Fenway Park ), you're guaranteed an enjoyable visit that allows you to visit the city's most popular points of interest with ease. Plus, you'll be able to ride a Swan Boat in Boston Common . This "ride" is closed during the cold winter months.

Boston Map - Tourist Attractions

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Massachusetts Travel Guide

36 Hours in Boston

By Jenna Russell July 4, 2024

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By Jenna Russell Photographs by Simon Simard

Jenna Russell is the New England bureau chief for The New York Times and previously reported for The Boston Globe.

In Boston — oft-beset by slush and cynicism — summer brings a deep sigh of relief, as hunched shoulders finally relax and beer gardens pop open like tulips. First-term mayor Michelle Wu, 39, the first woman and person of color elected to lead the city, has brought an ambitious environmental agenda and new ways of looking at the urban landscape . The result is a destination steeped in history, as ever, with reinvented outdoor spaces for drinking, dining and recreating, and more change in the air. Waterfront redevelopment has spread farther and wider, spawning new harbor-adjacent art spaces and breweries, while a forward-looking focus on water transportation means more ferries and water taxis to get you where you’re going, while enjoying sparkling views and salty breezes.

Recommendations

  • Fenway Park , the home of the Boston Red Sox and the oldest, smallest ballpark in baseball, offers daily tours full of colorful history.
  • Yvonne’s serves elegant food and unusual cocktails, with ingredients that include marshmallow, carrot and salted sage, in a dazzling reinvented space.
  • The Boston Harborwalk , a “linear park” stretching more than 40 miles, traces the zigs and zags of Boston’s waterfront.
  • The ICA Watershed , a seasonal satellite of Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art, brings free exhibitions to harborside East Boston every summer.
  • UnCommon Stage , an outdoor performance space run by Emerson College in partnership with the city, hosts free performances in a beer garden on Boston Common , the country’s oldest public park.
  • “ The Embrace ,” a new public sculpture on the Common, celebrates the love between Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, who first met as students in Boston.
  • The Granary Burying Ground , established in 1660, is the final resting place of the founding fathers Samuel Adams, John Hancock and Paul Revere (plus Benjamin Franklin’s parents).
  • The African Meeting House on Beacon Hill, part of the Museum of African American History , is considered the oldest surviving Black church building in the country.
  • The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum explores political history and the mystique of the Kennedy family in an architectural gem on Dorchester Bay.
  • Bakey is a bakery with Danish-Israeli roots, across the street from Boston Common.
  • Temple Records pays tribute to Japanese listening bars and serves sushi downstairs.
  • Time Out Market Boston , a massive food hall near Fenway Park, showcases a range of Boston favorites like lobster rolls and three-way roast beef sandwiches.
  • Carmella’s Market is an old-school Italian market in East Boston for giant takeout subs.
  • Downeast Cider House offers four-flavor flights of cider in its tap room near the waterfront.
  • Tea by the Sea is a spacious harborside cafe offering bubble tea and smoothies.
  • The Tall Ship is a floating oyster bar with sunset views in East Boston.
  • Rincon Limeno , a neighborhood favorite, has a friendly vibe and authentic Peruvian food.
  • Sullivan’s is a summer institution for hot dogs, lobster rolls and ice cream in South Boston.
  • Dorchester Brewing has a rooftop deck and tasty smoked meats from M&M BBQ .
  • Comfort Kitchen in the Dorchester neighborhood has won accolades for its global comfort food, including okra, plantains, jerk-roasted duck and curried monkfish.
  • Music Research Library is a light-filled record store on a quiet street, with a peaceful, library-like ambience and two listening stations.
  • Beacon Hill Books & Cafe opened in 2022 but feels like a neighborhood institution, with five floors of books in a charming 19th-century townhouse.
  • December Thieves is a Beacon Hill boutique known for unusual jewelry, like rings of polished resin and dangling silver earrings shaped like bare winter branches.
  • Yacht Haven Inn & Marina , on Commercial Wharf in the historic North End, has an unrivaled harborside location. The boutique hotel has 10 spacious rooms, some with private decks overlooking the water; you can also rent a slip to berth your boat. Rooms start at around $500.
  • The Verb Hotel , next door to Fenway Park, has won a faithful following for its funky take on hospitality, with turntables in every room and a lending library of 1,700 records in the lobby. Breakfast (included) is way above average, with live music and fruit smoothies made to order; the former Howard Johnson’s even has a heated outdoor pool. Rooms start at around $300.
  • citizenM , a no-frills budget option, offers a prime Boston location close to historic attractions and the Italian restaurants of the North End, and next door to the TD Garden, home of the Boston Celtics and the Boston Bruins. Rooms start at around $200.
  • Boston is compact and largely walkable , though you’ll need other transport to reach some of its most dynamic neighborhoods. Its beleaguered subway system, known as the T , has struggled with delays and breakdowns of late, but remains the cheapest, fastest way to get around in many cases. A CharlieCard can be purchased at any station, and widespread testing of one-tap credit card entry is under way. The Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority, known as the M.B.T.A., also offers a beefed-up summer ferry schedule (Charlestown and East Boston routes $2 to $4 one way).

People dance in an outdoor area in front of a small wooden stage with performing musicians.

UnCommon Stage

Kick off the weekend in the oldest city park in the United States, the Boston Common , where a new summer performance space run by Emerson College, UnCommon Stage , features free live music in a beer garden pouring classic drafts from the Boston mainstay Harpoon Brewery . When you’re ready for a stretch, amble over to “The Embrace” and debate the merits of the Common’s newest and most hotly debated public monument , a massive, semi-abstract bronze work paying tribute to the love between Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, in the city where they met. Then drop in across the street at Bakey, a fragrant pastry showcase with Danish-Israeli roots, to stock up on chocolate, almond or raspberry babka ($6) for the morning (or a late-night snack).

People sit on a public staircase in an urban, city area, surrounded by glassy buildings.

Downtown Crossing

In the city’s Downtown Crossing shopping district, Temple Place has become a lively restaurant row of late, dense with clever concepts like the Wig Shop , a cocktail lounge tucked behind a storefront that remains a dead ringer for the wig shop it once was. Steps away, the new Temple Records is a tribute to the “listening bars” of 1950s Japan, with a custom sound system and an eclectic collection of vintage vinyl. Sip a pale green Off Minor cocktail (gin, Midori, basil, yuzu, absinthe, $16) and snack on addictive karaage fried chicken ($16) while trying to identify the album in rotation. Hidden one floor below, Sushi@Temple Records feels like a secret hideaway, a 22-seat wooden sushi bar serving tiny cups of sake and delicate cuts of sea urchin, eel, sea trout and caviar (plates from $7 to $25).

The interior of a high-end restaurant, which is mostly empty. It has plush banquettes, tablecloths, chandeliers and ornate detailing on the ceilings.

For a glimpse of sumptuous old-world Boston, reinvented for a modern audience, there is nothing quite like Yvonne’s , the dimly lit bar and restaurant that occupies the former Locke-Ober, an iconic Boston restaurant that opened in 1875 and endured for 137 years. Once the exclusive hideaway of bluebloods, the grandly appointed space retains its mysterious glamour, with whimsical touches like the portrait of Bill Murray, dressed in epaulets, that hangs above the fireplace in the library bar, and the smoky drama of the Rubicon, a gin, chartreuse and rosemary cocktail ($16) that is briefly set aflame. This is a room to dress up for, to see and be seen in; just don’t forget to try the lobster ricotta dumplings in black truffle butter ($32) and the seared haloumi with orange-blossom honey and crispy chickpeas ($16).

People stand around a large, bronze-colored outdoor statue that depicts two pairs of arms embracing each other.

“The Embrace,” the Common’s newest and most hotly debated public monument, pays tribute to the love between Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, in the city where they met.

People — many of them wearing denim shorts — stand in line on a street outside a stadium. A large sign reads "Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox."

Whatever your level of baseball fandom, a pilgrimage to Fenway Park feels necessary in Boston, whether it’s to watch a Red Sox game or soak up the history of the sport’s oldest, smallest ballpark on a Fenway tour ($25). You’ll get plenty of Yankees trash talk in this hourlong expedition, plus colorful backstories on the Curse of the Bambino and the Green Monster, the towering outfield wall that boasts the oldest manual scoreboard in baseball. If sports aren’t your thing, opt for another neighborhood gem, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum , in a Venetian-style palace. Afterward, stroll a half-mile down Brookline Avenue to the Time Out Market , a cavernous food hall stuffed with local favorites, including Cusser’s three-way roast beef sandwich (with BBQ sauce, mayo and cheese, $13) and butter pecan crullers ($5) from Union Square Donuts .

Disneyland for history buffs lies on Beacon Hill, a short ride from Fenway on the MBTA Green Line. Wander through the Granary Burying Ground , established in 1660, a shady oasis beside busy Tremont Street, to pay respects to the founding fathers Samuel Adams, John Hancock and Paul Revere, all of whom are buried here, along the city’s 2.5-mile-long Freedom Trail . Hike uphill past the Massachusetts State House to find the African Meeting House , the country’s oldest surviving Black church building, and the Museum of African American History ($15). Downhill on Charles Street, browse the unusual and beautiful jewelry at December Thieves , and explore Beacon Hill Books & Cafe , a Tasha Tudor illustration come to life with its steep staircases, reading nooks and fireplaces. Afternoon tea is served on Sundays ($65).

People stand on a pier and step onto a small boat during the daytime. City buildings are visible in the background.

No Boston neighborhood has seen more recent transformation than East Boston, or Eastie, long a home to new immigrants and Logan Airport, and now morphing into a trendy waterfront playground. Change has brought parking woes and identity angst , but also a complex vibrancy. A seasonal ferry ($5 round trip) runs every 30 minutes from Long Wharf, near the New England Aquarium, across Boston Harbor to East Boston, or take the M.B.T.A. Blue Line to Maverick station. Stop by Carmella’s Market, an authentic Italian corner store, for oversize meatball or chicken cutlet subs ($10 to $13) and picnic in Piers Park for the stunning skyline views across the harbor.

Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art , in the Seaport neighborhood, runs a summer outpost in East Boston called the Watershed (free admission), in a former pipe factory. (A water taxi links the two sites .) An exhibition by the British artist Hew Locke, “ The Procession ,” through Sept. 2, explores memory and identity in an installation of 140 life-size sculptures of masked figures. For post-show contemplation, Downeast Cider House Taproom is steps away, offering four-flavor flights ($15). Or, if the wait there is too long, walk 15 minutes to Tea by the Sea , a spacious waterfront cafe with loungy leather couches, jewel-toned velvet footrests and an extensive menu of bubble teas, smoothies and revelatory delights, including mango coconut milk slush (drinks $5 to $10).

People stand and drink on a boat with masts during the daytime.

For sunset views and lawn party energy, there is Tall Ship , a floating oyster bar moored at East Boston’s Pier One. A lively seasonal venue favored by a youthful crowd, with cornhole, live music and a water shuttle ($4) to other harborfront hot spots, this is not the East Boston of old. But that neighborhood is still here, too. For dinner, try one of its gems: Rincon Limeno , in Day Square, serves Peruvian food in a friendly, unpretentious atmosphere. The ceviche is beloved by locals, but seafood-averse diners will find their own favorites, like the hearty Tacu Tacu ($25), a heaping plate of fried rice-and-bean cake, topped with steak or chicken, perfectly spiced and smothered in sauce. Sip a silky pisco sour on the back patio before catching the train back to your hotel.

People ride a boat that has a swan figure on the back down a river in a lush park during the daytime.

People ride a Swan Boat in the Public Garden, adjacent to Boston Common.

A modern building that looks like a large black box looms over a waterfront.

The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

Begin at Columbia Point in the Dorchester neighborhood, where the soaring white profile of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum rises above the blue backdrop of Dorchester Bay. Rent bicycles from the BLUEBikes station in front of the Campus Center at the University of Massachusetts Boston ($10 per day; check bikes before you go to make sure they’re working). Slip behind the J.F.K. library to pick up the Boston Harborwalk , a near-continuous, 43-mile “linear park” that traces the city’s waterfront. Pedal along, listening to the waves, the gulls and the planes descending toward Logan Airport; stop to hunt for shells or shards of sea glass at beaches along the trail.

A ride of about four miles takes you to Castle Island, in South Boston , another oceanfront peninsula with walking trails, beaches and a rich military history; free tours of Fort Independence , which dates back to the 1600s, are offered on weekends. No Castle Island idyll is complete without a stop for sweet and salty sustenance at Sullivan’s , a beloved Southie landmark serving burgers, hot dogs, lobster rolls and ice cream since 1951. A public front porch for the city’s summer nights, the scene is equal parts chaotic and laid-back: children shrieking; dogs chasing balls; planes preparing for landing just above your head. Keep one eye on the sly Southie seagulls, who will dive-bomb your French fries ($3.75) when you least expect it.

A burger and a beer sit on a wooden table inside a room with high ceilings and tall windows that let daylight inside. Rainbow flags line a counter in the background.

Beer arrived on the Mayflower, and helped to fuel the American Revolution, so it’s no surprise to find a bevy of neighborhood breweries in Boston. Drop your bikes at the BLUEBikes station on Day Boulevard and catch an Uber to Dorchester Brewing , with its sunny outdoor deck, Skee-Ball and in-house Museum of Bad Art . Don’t resist the juicy brisket sandwich ($15) from the M&M BBQ counter inside the taproom. (Ask for a fork.) More exotic fare, including jerk jackfruit sliders ($13), is a short walk away at Comfort Kitchen , a Black-owned cafe acclaimed for its globally inspired menu.

Have a weekend to explore a destination? We’ve got the perfect travel itinerary.

Colorado Springs: ​​Colorado’s second-largest city, which brims with outdoor activities , is enticing visitors with a new museum and revamped hotels.

Minneapolis: Springtime is best for exploring this Midwestern city’s lakeside trails, robust arts scene and top-notch restaurants .

Maui: The beauty and hospitality of this Hawaiian island, still recovering from last year’s wildfires, remain as vibrant as ever .

Toronto: Savor the diversity of this lakefront city through its hidden bars, small-but-fascinating museums and vibrant restaurants .

Cape Town: Take a food and storytelling tour, cruise one of the world’s most beautiful coastal drives and see contemporary African art in this city with stunning views in every direction .

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Boston, USA

The 50 best things to do in Boston

Experience the absolute best of the city this summer with our epic guide to essential eats, drinks, culture, parks and more.

Photograph: Shutterstock

Jacqueline Cain

July 2024: Looking for the best things to do as summer heats up in Boston? The iconic coastal city shines this time of year with outdoor concerts, must-see museum exhibits and bountiful seafood (best enjoyed on an outdoor patio ). After the best Independence Day celebration in the country, soak up the warm weather at SoWa , cruise around the harbor and catch Shakespeare on the Common.

Classic attractions like Fenway Park , strolling (or splashing ) on Boston Common and kayaking in the Charles River continue to draw crowds each summer, but there’s so much more to see and do in Boston. Our on-the-ground editor and writers traverse the metro area looking for the best of the best to curate this ultimate guide to things to do in Boston each month. So plan your dining itinerary—from morning fuel to memorable meals and the best desserts —and enjoy Boston at its best this summer.

Been there, done that? Think again, my friend.

Time Out Market Boston

Time Out Market Boston

  • Fenway/Kenmore

Time Out Market Boston

Time Out is a global authority on where to eat right now, and we hand-pick restaurants to represent our cities at Time Out Market . The Fenway food hall and cultural market has more than a dozen dining options, from luscious lobster rolls to sushi tacos. With two bars showcasing local craft beer and seasonal cocktails, it’s a one-stop shop to try all the flavors of Boston.

Best things to do in Boston

1.  see the city from the water.

  • Things to do

See the city from the water

What is it? There are many ways to cruise around Boston Harbor, from expert-led boat tours to yachting experiences with dinner and drinks.

Why go? Many Bostonians agree, the city’s skyline is best viewed from Boston Harbor. Plus, have you sat in traffic lately? Some day trips are much better by boat. From Boston, you can take a ferry to Salem, Hingham or Provincetown.

Don’t miss: The classic harbor vessel Spirit of Boston recently got a top-to-bottom makeover with more modern fixtures and finishes. Check out Boston Harbor City Cruises for a variety of brunch, dinner and evening events on board this and other vessels.

2.  Go on an ice cream crawl

Go on an ice cream crawl

What is it?  Summer’s essential sweet is taken seriously in Boston, with iconic and craveworthy creameries found in every neighborhood. Find your favorite by going cone-by-cone this summer.

Why go? We have so many local institutions for frozen fare, like  J.P. Licks  with branches across the city,  Christina’s  in Inman Square,  Toscanini's  with two locations in and  Picco in the South End, where you can enjoy gourmet pizza followed by homemade ice cream.

Don’t miss: Far Out Ice Cream  at Time Out Market, which swirls fresh fruit into cool twists of soft serve.

3.  Catch an outdoor movie

  • Movie theaters
  • Independent

Catch an outdoor movie

What is it? The Coolidge Corner Theatre is taking its film curation talents on the road this summer with free 35mm screenings at the Rose Kennedy Greenway , the Charles River Speedway and other locations.

Why go? Though the Coolidge is one of the most beautiful cinemas in the world (according to Time Out’s global editors), it’s pretty cool of them to bring what they do directly to the people.

Don’t miss: Unstoppable action flick The Rock at the Speedway on July 10, and Godzilla 2000 on the Greenway July 31. 

4.  See the world premiere of Gatsby at A.R.T.

  • Performing arts space

See the world premiere of Gatsby at A.R.T.

What is it? A new take on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s legendary novel The Great Gatsby with a star-studded team of creatives behind it (including a score by international rock star Florence Welch), Gatsby has its world premiere at the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge this summer.

Why go? The A.R.T. has a great track record for premiering must-see shows.

Don’t miss: The  world premiere! The show is only in Boston through August 3 and tickets are selling fast.

5.  Check out a new beer garden in the neighborhood

Check out a new beer garden in the neighborhood

What is it? The Alianza Park Series from Roundhead Brewing and Fresh Food Generation brings diverse beer and food offerings to public parks around Boston. Two-week stints span locations in Fenway and East Boston Wednesdays-Sundays this month.

Why go? One of the best new breweries in Boston, Roundhead is serving up four draft beers as well as non-alcoholic options like Peruvian chicha morada. Fresh Food Generation serves a signature combination of Caribbean and modern American cuisine, plus neighborhood-specific menu items to celebrate the Alianza Park Series.

Don’t miss: Hyde Park’s Ron’s Ice Cream is also popping up at the beer garden on the weekends.

6.  Hit the beach

Hit the beach

What is it?  A number of beautiful, breezy beaches in the city and beyond are worth checking out this summer.

Why go? Some of the best stretches of sand can be accessed by public transit. Crane Beach  offers a shuttle bus from the Ipswich commuter rail station throughout the summer, while  Singing Beach and Good Harbor Beach  are also accessible by the commuter rail. Wollaston Beach, meanwhile, is the largest public beach along Boston Harbor and is on the Red Line.

Don’t miss: If you head to one of Southie's beaches, grab lunch from the  beloved local institution  Sullivan’s Castle Island , a snack shack selling  fried seafood, lobster rolls and hot dogs.

7.  Root for the home team at Fenway Park

  • Sport events

Root for the home team at Fenway Park

What is it?  Seeing a Red Sox game at Fenway Park has been a rite of passage for Bostonians since it opened in 1912.

Why go?  The oldest ballpark in the majors, Fenway is also one of the smallest. Tickets aren't too hard to come by this season though, and the home team has been on a tear since June. Let's go!

Don’t miss:   If you get the chance, take a seat atop the stadium ’ s most distinctive feature, the 37-foot-high left-field wall known as the Green Monster. Before or after the game, check out the great restaurants, bars and other activities in the Fenway neighborhood .

8.  Tour Fenway Park

Tour Fenway Park

What is it? The best part about Fenway Park is that it is a blast to visit, even if the Red Sox aren't playing. 

Why go? Public tours are offered year-round, wowing even non-baseball types by detailing the park's colorful history and intricate details.

Don't miss: Take a 60-minute guided tour of Fenway Park using Go City Boston to see where Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore filmed scenes for their 2005 romance,  Fever Pitch .

9.  Stroll the Greenway

Stroll the Greenway

What is it? This verdant, mile-long ribbon of botanical parks and outdoor resting places connecting Chinatown to the North End.

Why go? The park is dotted with water fountains and splash pads and serviced by food trucks and beer gardens. It also hosts frequent events, including the Greenway Artisan Market every weekend, a summer jazz concert series on Thursdays, and a free Planty of Flavor vegan food festival on July 14.

Don’t miss: Along with the ever-popular Trillium on the Greenway, Night Shift Brewing has a Greenway beer garden this summer, too. Find it at Dewey Square near South Station.

10.  Eat the freshest local oysters

Eat the freshest local oysters

What is it?  Boston is famous for its fresh seafood, so enjoying a dozen local oysters at one of the city’s top raw bars is a must.

Why go?  Ever since the Union Oyster House opened in 1826, raw oysters have been integral to Boston’s culinary scene. Today, these briny bivalves appear on restaurant menus throughout the city. You'll find locally-sourced varieties including Wellfleet, Cotuit and Glidden Point as well as popular imports like Kumamotos. Oyster happy hours are a great way to sample these goodies at a lower price.

Don’t miss:  Island Creek Oysters' farm is a destination-worthy day trip in Duxbury, about an hour south of Boston. The outdoor raw bar boasts views of the harbor where these delicious delicacies grow and thrive. 

11.  Actually look forward to "Stick Season"

  • Folk, country and blues
  • Fenway/Kenmore Jul 18 Jul 19, 2024

Actually look forward to "Stick Season"

What is it?  Catch New England's own Noah Kahan headlining two nights at Fenway Park.

Why go? The  27-year-old singer-songwriter from Vermont has been taking the world by storm since his song “Stick Season” went viral in 2022.

Don't miss:  The show of the summer.

12.  Go rollerskating in Cambridge

Go rollerskating in Cambridge

What is it? A developing area of Kendall Square is a pop-up roller rink all summer long. Rollerama is located at “Kendall Common,” on the corner of Third and Broadway near Kendall/MIT on the Red Line. 

Why go? Skating includes free skate rentals, and there will be food and drinks for purchase open later in July. 

Don’t miss: The large mural of the roller rink painted by Massiel Grullón .

13.  Visit a new restaurant patio

Visit a new restaurant patio

What is it? New outdoor dining options, new menus and new views abound in Boston this season.

Why go? While the tried and true best patios in Boston , rooftop spots and outdoor bars are always a good bet on sunny days and pleasant nights, there are several new-ish spots with outdoor dining that should be on your radar. 

Don’t miss: Black Cat @ Vee Vee , a collab between chef Valentine Howell, a 2023 James Beard award-nominee and Jamaica Plain neighborhood favorite, Vee Vee. While still maintaining its cozy vibe, the restaurant and patio has a totally new menu with Afro/Latin Caribbean flair—think: rotating tacos, shrimp tostada, elotes, pineapple buñuelo and more. 

14.  Sunbathe (or catch the sunset) on the Esplanade

  • The Esplanade

Sunbathe (or catch the sunset) on the Esplanade

What is it? A public park running parallel to the Charles River, this beautiful greenspace and trail network is a perfect place to catch some rays.

Why go? With a refreshing breeze continuously coming off the water, the Esplanade attracts runners, cyclists or anyone looking to take a stroll. If you’re lucky, you can snag one of the highly coveted benches that are peppered throughout this pedestrian paradise. Otherwise, you can seek shade under one of its many trees and haul out some packed picnic supplies.

Don’t miss: The Boston Public Dock, where people stretch out on towels and try to get a tan.

15.  See a show at the Hatch Shell

  • Event spaces
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended

See a show at the Hatch Shell

What is it? An Art Deco gem, Boston’s famous Hatch Shell hosts free outdoor events  annually from early spring to late fall. 

Why go? This summer’s programming includes the Landmarks Orchestra performing summer music by George Gershwin, John Williams and more . Bring a picnic and a blanket, and enjoy the fresh air on the waterfront. 

Don’t miss: Your chance! Performances can get crowded, so it’s best to arrive early.

16.  Stock up on fresh ingredients in the Seaport

Stock up on fresh ingredients in the Seaport

What is it? The Boston Fish Pier hosts a weekly farmers market this summer for the first time in its 110-year history.

Why go? The Saturday market features local businesses like Rocky Neck Fish, Stillman’s Farm produce, McGuire’s Mushrooms, Copicut Farms meats and more local vendors.

Don’t miss: The most  bountiful season in Boston.

17.  Regard K-pop costumes and world class art

  • Art and design
  • price 2 of 4

Regard K-pop costumes and world class art

What is it? The iconic Museum of Fine Arts, Boston has a globe-spanning collection encompassing more than 500,000 objects (plus, a robust air conditioning system!).

Why go? Visiting the museum is an indoor activity where you can see such noteworthy works as paintings by John Singleton Cople, Egyptian artifacts, one of the finest collections of Japanese art in the country, one of the largest collections of Monet's work outside Paris and more.

Don’t miss: Hallyu! The Korean Wave runs through July 28, a unique exhibit showcasing costumes, props, pop culture ephemera and more from the global trendsetter. 

18.  Wander around Boston Common and the Public Garden

Wander around Boston Common and the Public Garden

What is it? America’s oldest public park and first botanical garden (established 1634 and 1837, respectively). The dual jewels of the Emerald Necklace perfectly reflect the vision of the venerated landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. 

Why go? Splash around the Frog Pond , play softball or tennis, or simply lounge with a book on the 50-acre Boston Common. Across Charles Street, the Public Garden boasts pathways for promenading, formal flower beds and a petite lagoon fringed with weeping willows. 

Don’t miss: The seasonally operated Swan Boats (introduced in 1877), which kids adore.

19.  See some Shakespeare for free

See some Shakespeare for free

What is it? A free, seasonal, outdoor tradition at the Parkman Bandstand on Boston Common, this year Commonwealth Shakespeare Co. performs The Winter’s Tale from July16-August 4.

Why go? What’s more civilized than a trip to see Shakespeare performed? Bring a blanket, a basket of cheese and maybe some well-concealed wine, and grab a spot on the Common for an evening with the Bard. 

Don’t miss: A celebratory soiree on July 24 at Boston Chops in Downtown Crossing. The ticketed event features cocktail hour, a full plated dinner, reserved seats for the performance and an after party with the cast and crew.

20.  Watch out for whales

Watch out for whales

What is it?  Whale watching isn’t just for school field trips. Hop on one of the boats departing Boston Harbor daily and rediscover how awesome it actually is to get that close to one of the largest mammals on Earth.

Why go?  The waters surrounding Boston offer some of the best whale watching opportunities in the U.S. Bring a sweater, park yourself at the hull of the boat for the day and keep your eyes on the water. 

Don’t miss:  D on ’t make the rookie mistake of shunning sun protection while on the water, else you ’ ll resemble one of our famous New England lobsters.

21.  Immerse yourself at WNDR

Immerse yourself at WNDR

What is it?  A new art exhibition hall in Downtown Crossing invites you to interact with its art.

Why go?  Instead of idly observing, this museum actually encourages  visitors  to engage with multi-sensory installations by cutting edge artists.

Don't miss: One of the best 10 immersive experiences in the U.S.

22.  Kayak on the Charles River

Kayak on the Charles River

What is it?  The Charles River, which runs from Boston Harbor out towards Hopkinton.

Why go?  Our city loves that dirty water, especially now that isn't quite as dirty anymore. On warm days, the Charles is flowing with activity, with everyone from the Harvard Crew Team to casual kayakers putting their watercrafts into the river. 

Don’t miss:  If you want a piece of the aquatic action and don’t own a boat, rentals are available from organizations like  Charles River Canoe & Kayak  and  Community Boating Boston . 

23.  Take a hike

Take a hike

What is it? Serious hikers may travel to the White Mountains or the Appalachian Trail, but when you just need a little bit of nature, there are plenty of quality hikes near Boston.

Why go?  W hether it’s rambling through scenic wooded preserves or exploring waterfront trails, these Boston hikes are perfect for walking off the chaos of downtown.

Don't miss:   Just a few minutes outside of Boston proper is the 7,000-acre Blue Hills Reservation with 125 miles of pristine hiking trails. Climb to the top of Great Blue Hill and enjoy an unmatched view of the Hub's skyline.

24.  Float on over to the ICA Watershed

  • East Boston

Float on over to the ICA Watershed

What is it? Open May-October, the seasonal annex of the Institute of Contemporary Art has transformed an abandoned space on the Boston Harbor Shipyard and Marina in East Boston into a venue for large-scale, immersive art. 

Why go? Along with a gallery covering the history of the East Boston shipyard, each summer sees new installations and public programming. This summer sees 140 life-size sculptures by Hew Locke, straight from Tate Britain. Plus: Admission is free!

Don’t miss: Combine your visit with a trip to the main ICA in the Seaport. A cool cruise across the harbor between the two museums is included ICA admission.

25.  Sample the city’s freshest lobster rolls

Sample the city’s freshest lobster rolls

What is it? Hot or cold on a humble toasted bun or more modern and upscale like Eventide Fenway ’s brown-butter lobster roll on a soft Chinese-style bun, decadent lobster can be found on menus across town any time of the year.

Why go?  Nothing’s better than a buttery lobster roll in the summertime. 

Don’t miss: For a low-key, no-frills lobster roll experience, head to Belle Isle Seafood just outside the city in quiet Winthrop. 

26.  Visit the penguins at the New England Aquarium

  • Attractions
  • Zoo and aquariums

Visit the penguins at the New England Aquarium

What is it?  New England’s largest aquarium and one of Boston’s most popular attractions.

Why go?  More than 80 African, rockhopper and little blue penguins live in the New England Aquarium’s first-floor display. Watch them go wild during feeding time in front of the Giant Ocean Tank, a massive coral reef exhibit that's home to a myriad of other marine creatures, including sharks and loggerhead sea turtles. The building is designed in such a way that the penguins can be seen from multiple vantage points. 

Don’t miss:   Be sure to say hi to the harbor seals in their enclosure outside, which is free and open to the public.

27.  Go candlepin bowling

Go candlepin bowling

What is it?  Candlepin bowling is uniquely New England—the pins are tall and much thinner than those of standard 10-pin, and balls are closer to softball-sized. A local favorite for playing this regional game is the lovingly maintained Sacco’s Bowl Haven, which dates back to 1939 and now sits inside a pizza restaurant in Somerville.

Why go?  This nowling alley has the added perk amazing thin-crust pizza and a great selection of local craft beer.

Don’t miss:  Reservations are accepted Monday-Thursday, or on weekends for groups of eight or more only. Call ahead or expect to wait.

28.  Try a Thai-inspired pub

Try a Thai-inspired pub

What is it?  Merai  just opened in Brookline from the team behind Boston Thai food favorites, Mahaniyom.

Why go? The cozy pub showcases a fusion of Thai flavors and global techniques, set in an unpretentious neighborhood cocktail bar.

Don't miss: The housemade "hot dog," a pork sausage in a butty bun with the flavors of the spicy-basil stir-fry known as krapow.

29.  Picnic in a park

Picnic in a park

What is it?  What better way to take advantage of the warmer weather than to head outdoors for a city picnic?

Why go? You don't need a reservation—just grab a blanket, pack up your meal (and maybe a sneaky bottle of wine) and find your way to one of the most peaceful picnic spots in Boston.

Don't miss:  A hidden gem in Dorchester, Pope John Paul II Park Reservation (aka Pope Park) is a 66-acre Massachusetts state park bordering the Neponset River with easy walking trails, picnic tables and water views.

30.  Retrace historic steps along the Freedom Trail

Retrace historic steps along the Freedom Trail

What is it?  A stroll along the Freedom Trail is a great way to take in local history and culture.

Why go?  The Freedom Trail isn’t the only historical walking tour in town, it's the most famous for a reason. The self-guided, 2.5-mile tour provides a sightseeing starting point for newcomers, and locals always spot something new to appreciate along the way.

Don’t miss:  After seeing Paul Revere's House, take a break and refuel with a slice of pizza from Galleria Umberto.

31.  Laugh it up at the best Boston comedy clubs

Laugh it up at the best Boston comedy clubs

What is it? There are many opportunities to laugh your socks off this summer at one of Boston's veteran comedy clubs and other venues. The Improv Asylum in the North End has a loyal following, especially when it comes to the more risque late-night shows.

Why go? Some of America’s most popular contemporary comedians like Conan O’Brien and Bill Burr honed their craft in Greater Boston.

Don't miss: I Mostly Blame Myself , a NYC-based improv comedy troupe, has its first-ever show in Boston on July 13 at the Lyric Stage.

32.  Go big at Encore Boston Harbor

Go big at Encore Boston Harbor

What is it?  A little slice of Las Vegas in New England, Encore Boston Harbor is a mega-casino resort just outside the city in Everett.

Why go? The 210,000-square-foot complex—which cost nearly $3 billion to build—includes 15 high-end dining and lounge venues, an ultra-premium spa and more than 600 guests rooms for the ultimate staycation. 

Don't miss: The four-season, six-acre Harborwalk features pedestrian and bike paths, a picnic park, a gazebo, viewing decks, waterfront dining and lush green space with magnificent floral displays.

33.  Smell the flowers at the Arnold Arboretum

Smell the flowers at the Arnold Arboretum

What is it?  A National Historic Landmark and one of the best preserved landscapes designed by the famous Frederick Law Olmsted. 

Why go?  With thousands of trees, shrubs and woody vines, this Jamaica Plain gem is recognized as one of the most comprehensive and well-documented botanical gardens worldwide. 

Don’t miss:  Taking a stroll on a nice day to see bursts of green, blooming flowers and plenty of chirping birds.

34.  Get wild at the Franklin Park Zoo

Get wild at the Franklin Park Zoo

What is it?  The city ’ s quaint zoo is a kid-friendly local favorite.

Why go?  As fascinating as animals seem on the TV screen, they’re far more impressive in real life. The zoo—whose mission is to inspire people to protect and sustain endangered species—is home to zebras, gorillas, giraffes and a host of other exotic animals that you definitely wouldn’t normally see in the wilds of New England. 

Don’t miss:  Franklin Park Zoo recently welcomed a baby Hartmann’s mountain zebra, the first of this zebra species  to be born in Boston ; as well as a new yellow-billed stork chick and a wattled crane chick.

35.  Discover the deCordova Museum & Sculpture Park

Discover the deCordova Museum & Sculpture Park

What is it?  The former estate of Massachusetts merchant Julian de Cordova  hosts the region ’ s premier outdoor sculpture park.

Why go?  West of the city in the leafy suburb of Lincoln, the 35-acre deCordova Museum & Sculpture Park attracts art lovers year-round. Even during the dog days of summer, it's the perfect place to get some fresh air while checking out world-class art. The ever-changing indoor exhibits provide shelter from the sometimes-fickle elements.

Don’t miss:  Yoga sessions, moonlight sculpture tours, live music and more special outdoor events  this summer.

36.  Learn something new at the Boston Public Library

  • Libraries, archives and foundations

Learn something new at the Boston Public Library

What is it?  The BPL contains approximately 19 million volumes and electronic resources, making it the second-largest public library in the U.S. —coming right  behind the Library of Congress.

Why go?  At nearly 1 million square feet, the main branch in Copley Square impresses in a way that few libraries can. The original structure, designed by Charles McKim and completed in 1895, now serves as the research library, while an extension (opened in 1972) functions as the general library. Talks, performances and tours delight culture vultures from near and far.

Don’t miss:   At the center of the library is a cloistered courtyard, one of the city ’ s most beautiful, tranquil places to read a book.

Want to see more in the area? Book a tour . 

37.  Set sail on Jamaica Pond

Set sail on Jamaica Pond

What is it?  Jamaica Pond, part of the Emerald Necklace of parks, is a picturesque, glacial kettle hole and the perfect place for an afternoon sail or stroll.

Why go? Courageous Sailing  offers sailing instruction and a new fleet of kayaks and standup paddleboards out of the  Jamaica Pond Boathouse. 

Don't miss:  The Summer Sundays in the Park series features free, family-friendly evening concerts and movies.

38.  Splurge on Newbury Street

Splurge on Newbury Street

What is it? One of the coolest streets in the world , Boston’s premier retail strip is perfect for both shopping and people-watching.

Why go?  Between Arlington Street and Massachusetts Avenue, there are eight blocks of beautiful brick townhouses housing ultra-luxe designers, chic boutiques and international chains. With a never-ending assortment of galleries, salons, cafés, bars and eateries to explore, you can easily spend an entire afternoon browsing, relaxing and indulging here.

Don’t miss: Le Mari , a new, chef-owned restaurant with a patio opening this summer on Newbury Street.

Need some guidance? Book a tour . 

39.  Go back in time at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

  • Mission Hill

Go back in time at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

What is it?  Modeled on a Venetian palace and mostly untouched from the eccentric collector's time in Boston, the former home of American art collector Isabella Stewart Gardner is a sightseeing gem.

Why go?  The museum's most famous treasures remain exactly where Gardner had arranged them, including the empty frames that once held priceless works of art stolen during the infamous 1990 theft. The museum also boasts a flower-filled courtyard that blooms all year long.

Don’t miss:   Enjoy free admission on your birthday; a nyone with the first name Isabella gets in for free as well.

40.  Have a meal with a side of waterfront views

Have a meal with a side of waterfront views

What is it?  Boston is blessed with plenty of waterfront restaurants to get your fix of sun, sea, salty air and snacks.

Why go? Take advantage of the warm weather while it lasts and savor the sunshine at a fabulous restaurant with a view.

Don't miss: Boston Sail Loft is a low-key favorite that also serves one of  the  best clam chowders  in town.

41.  Discover a lost world at the Mapparium

Discover a lost world at the Mapparium

What is it?  Located inside the Mary Baker Eddy Library, the Mapparium is essentially a three-story model of the globe built to scale. 

Why go?  This colorful sphere runs 30 feet in diameter and can be crossed by means of a glass bridge bisecting its interior. Inside, sound bounces off the room ’ s rounded walls, amplifying it ten-fold, so keep in mind that there are no secrets in the sphere —no matter how softly you may whisper.

Don’t miss:  The 608 stained-glass panels recreate the world as it was in the mid-1930s, when the project was completed. So keep keen eyes on those outdated borders.

Save money on tickets with a Go Boston Pass

42.  Have a drink outside

Have a drink outside

What is it? Head to an outdoor bar in Boston where you can enjoy sun and fun.

Why go? From cheery terraces to waterfront views, these outdoor bars in Boston offer al fresco drinks and a good dose of fresh air. 

Don't miss: Some spots like SRV  offer cozy outdoor space to enjoy both excellent drinks and delicious food.

43.  Tour a historic building

Tour a historic building

What is it?  Boston is blessed with so many historic buidlings open to the public, such as the Old State House and Faneuil Hall. 

Why go?  Learn more about the city's — and the country's — rich history, in some cases for free.

Don’t miss:   Walking the entire  Freedom Trail , so you can enjoy the outdoors while seeing national landmarks.

44.  Check out a food truck

Check out a food truck

What is it?  Meals on wheels park themselves near the city's busiest picnic spots, like Copley Square, Government Center or the Rose Kennedy Greenway. 

Why go?  From gourmet grilled cheeses to ice cream cookie sandwiches, Boston's fleet of wheeled restaurants have a range of fast, fun bites for on-the-go eating.

Don't miss:  If you have your heart set on food from a specific vehicle, check social media to see if the company has shared its daily route.

45.  Please everybody at Boston's best food halls

Please everybody at Boston's best food halls

What is it? The food hall trend is exploding in Boston, with a wealth of food halls popping up around the city.

Why go? Spanning numerous cuisines all in one spot, food halls are a great  choice when you’re dining with a group—there’s something for everyone. They make for a great anytime meeting spot; just show up and see what kind of mood you’re in.

Don't Miss: Eataly is a haven for Italian food enthusiasts. The Boston Public Market has fresh produce in addition to prepared foods. And Time Out Market Boston showcases the best of the city under one roof.

46.  Get an inside view of artist studios at SoWa

Get an inside view of artist studios at SoWa

What is it?  The city ’ s premier artistic hub, SoWa Artists Guild at 450 Harrison Ave. is a veritable hive of creative activity. 

Why go?  Many artists open their doors a few times a month for open studio events, where they greet South End residents and visitors. First Fridays (5-9pm) is the flagship event, where more than 200 artists, galleries, shops and showrooms welcome the public for an evening of art, wine, cheese and mingling each month.

Don’t miss:  On Sundays, get your fill of art as well as locally grown produce and artisan-made goods at the SoWa Open Market .

47.  Explore the JFK Library

Explore the JFK Library

What is it?   Located behind UMass Boston ’s Dorchester campus, the JFK Presidential Library and Museum occupies a dramatic concrete-and-glass monolith by architect I.M. Pei.

Why go?  The  multimedia journey through the former president’s life continues to fascinate, as do temporary exhibits and special events that focus on politics, culture and current events.  On the ground floor, the stunning atrium commands panoramic views of the sea and the city. Downstairs, the museum contains an extensive display of memorabilia, as well as a series of temporary shows. 

Don’t miss:  Wednesday evenings from 5-8pm through August 14, the museum is open free of charge with special themes and make-and-take opportunities.

48.  Take a foodie crawl through Chinatown

Take a foodie crawl through Chinatown

What is it?  As one of Boston ’ s most densely-packed and unique neighborhoods, Chinatown thrills gourmands with its array of authentic eateries. 

Why go?  Many of  the city ’ s best Chinese restaurants  can be found in Chinatown. Rather than sticking to one spot and eating a single big meal, walk around the area and slowly snack along the way. Some ideas: Stamp your culinary passport at Taiwan Cafe , where you can sample a selection of dumplings and more. At Peach Farm , you can select seafood straight from the tanks.

Don’t miss:  Exotic hand-pulled noodles at Gene’s Chinese Flatbread Cafe .

Want to see more of the area? Book a walking tour .  

49.  Dance the night away at a hot club

Dance the night away at a hot club

What is it?  Boston’s best clubs might not compare to the nightlife in Miami or Vegas, but there are plenty of popular options for late-night fun.

Why go?  With hot spots such as Royale , Venu  and Icon , the Theatre District hosts ’ s biggest concentration of nightclubs. Newcomers like The Grand , Big Night Live  and Mystique offer more elevated late-night options similar to those you'd find in other cities. A far cry from the Top 40 club-banging hotspots on the other side of the river, Central Square has an eclectic assortment of places to shake it like there's no tomorrow. Popular options include house DJ nights at  Middlesex Lounge  and eclectic throwback parties at Phoenix Landing .

Don’t miss:  If toe-tapping along to live jazz is more your speed, check out Grace by Nia  for soul food and some smooth music. 

50.  Study at the Harvard Art Museums

Study at the Harvard Art Museums

What is it?  Harvard’s history and status has allowed it to cultivate one of the most impressive university art collections. 

Why go?  Visitors are able to peruse highlights from the Ivy League institution's collection of roughly 250,000 pieces — from Neolithic sculptures to 21st-century conceptual installations—under one Renzo Piano-designed glass roof. 

Don’t miss:  Harvard ’ s   Museum of Natural History , which houses the famous Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants.

Want to see more of Harvard? Book a tour . 

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38 Things To Do in Boston

Consider this the ultimate guide to the de-facto capital of New England.

boston skyline

Every item on this page was chosen by a Town & Country editor. We may earn commission on some of the items you choose to buy.

Boston’s history runs deep, but the city hardly lives in the past, especially these days. Yes, there are still the Revolutionary War sites, the classical art and neoclassical buildings, the generations-deep Boston brahmin hauteur, and all that New England clam chowder. Today, though, this gateway to New England—the frequent launching pad for jaunts to Cape Cod, Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard, and beyond—impresses with contemporary art, haute shopping, cutting-edge cuisine, newly updated top hotels, and a surprising playful side, too.

Here, the top things to do in Boston.

Get Lost at the Encyclopedia Museum of Fine Arts

monet exhibit at museum of fine arts boston

Tour the Personal, Particular Old Masters Collection of Isabella Stewart Gardner

isabella stewart gardner museum

Just around the corner from the MFA, this wide-ranging collection of Old Master European paintings and sculpture and ancient Greek, Roman, and Asian artifacts (plus much, much more) remains as idiosyncratic as the iconoclassic Gilded Age heiress who amassed it—and then imagined this museum as a Venetian-style palazzo to house it all. As captivating as the art itself? The still-unsolved whodunit surrounding the 1990 theft of 13 practically priceless works. Be sure to linger over the glass-enclosed courtyard garden, a truly transportive place to warm up on one of Boston’s many cold winter days.

Grab a Haul at the Food Halls

time out market food hall boston

Stave off museum fatigue with a stop at the Time Out Market , a contemporary food hall that brings to the Fenway neighborhood loads of enticing bites from a variety of top local chefs, restaurants, and food trucks. Enjoy your haul in the soaring industrial indoor space or take it outside to the patio and grassy lawn. Across town, near North Station and TD Garden, Hub Hall sports nearly 20 outlets including Roman- and New Haven-style pizza from Mida chef Douglass Williams, fried seafood from old-school South Boston favorite Sullivan’s , and pastry from North End cannoli king Mike’s . The nonprofit Boston Public Market —at the edge of the North End—has more of an indoor farmer’s market/gourmet shop feel. Coming soon is High Street Place , slated to open in March 2022.

Take Yourself Out to a Ball (or Puck) Game

minnesota twins v boston red sox

Speaking of the Fenway, you’ve got to go to the ballpark named for the neighborhood. Sure, you can grab a ticket to see the Red Sox, but even when no one’s playing, the small, century-old park is worth a tour . Also: In case you haven’t heard, Boston is kind of a sports town. For basketball’s Celtics and hockey’s Bruins, head to TD Garden , near North Station. For football’s Patriots, you’re looking at a trip south to Gillette Stadium, in Foxborough, near the Rhode Island border. If that’s too far, don’t worry. We’re a city of sports bars—and bars (and even restaurants) with TVs in them—so, if a game is happening, you’d be hard-pressed not to be able to find a place to watch it.

See the Best of the Back Bay Along the Commonwealth Avenue Mall

general john glover monument along the commonwealth avenue mall in boston

The divided boulevard of Commonwealth Avenue extends from the edge of the Fenway neighborhood all the way to the Public Garden, which borders Beacon Hill. Wandering its central greenway, lined by towering shade trees, you can’t help but wonder at the grandeur of the Victorian and Gilded Age townhouses and mansions on either side—and wonder about all that has transpired behind their heavy doors and tall windows since the Back Bay neighborhood was built in the late 1800s. Decorated with white lights during the winter, the boulevard shines year round, from spring’s colorful flowers, to summer’s spectacular greens, to fall’s foliage.

Meander Through the Public Garden

boston public garden

On its easternmost end, the Commonwealth Avenue Mall finishes at this grandest jewel at the heart of in the Emerald Necklace—a series of interconnected public green spaces laid out by Frederick Law Olmsted more than 150 years ago. Spring brings overflowing beds of brightly hued tulips and flowering shrubs; summer sees rolling lawns and bubbling fountains; autumn abundant fall color. As for winter, it offers ice skating on the frozen-over duck pond, a spot made famous by the children’s book Make Way for Ducklings .

Pack Up a Picnic

tatte bakery and cafe in boston

Pick up fixings for a posh park picnic at one of the several outlets of the Paris-meets-Eastern-Mediterranean Tatte , a Boston mini-chain of chic bakery-cafes; or try Flour , James Beard Award-winning pastry chef Joanne Chang’s celebrated sandwich, salad, and baked-goods mecca.

Keep Cozy at The Newbury Hotel

the newbury boston fireplaces in the street bar and the library

Some of the best Public Garden views can be had from The Newbury Boston —which opened in 2021 after a two-year renovation of the 1927 neoclassical building that housed the city’s original Ritz-Carlton. Of the 280-plus rooms, all designed by Alexandra Champalimaud, you’ll want to book a corner suite, or, in winter, one with a working fireplace. Do indulge in a meal at the glass-enclosed, rooftop restaurant Contessa , where the Northern Italian–skewing menu is by NYC’s Major Food Group (of Carbone fame), and the Lake Como–channeling decor is by Ken Fulk .

Browse Newbury Street’s Luxe “A” Block

alan bilzarian

Step out of The Newbury and you’re on the first block (between Arlington and Berkeley streets) of its eponymous address. And this block just happens to be Boston’s ground zero for luxury fashion. You’ll find outposts of everything from Armani to Zegna (with Cucinelli, Burberry, Chanel, Rolex, Tiffany, and Valentino in between) plus local high jewelers Shreve Crump & Low and the expertly curated Boston-only men’s and women’s boutique Alan Bilzerian .

Check Out Tiffany’s New Concept Store

tiffany’s new concept store boston

Speaking of Tiffany— the LVMH-owned brand unveiled the very first of its reimagined concept shops at Copley Place in the fall of 2021. The most notable new features of the ultra-luxe, jewel-toned 5,000-square-foot store? Murals by contemporary artists, custom crystal and glass chandeliers, and a glittering feature wall inspired by the 57 facets of a brilliant-cut Tiffany diamond . Ready access to the high jewelry in the Blue Book Collection ain’t bad either.

Marvel at the Wonders of Copley Square

copley square, trinity church, john hancock tower and the town

On the doorstep of Copley Place is the storied plaza from which the luxury Back Bay mall takes its name. Bounded by McKim, Mead and White’s Renaissance Revival Central Branch of the Boston Public Library (1895), H.H. Richardson’s Romanesque Trinity Church (1877), and the Beaux-Arts Fairmont Copley Plaza hotel (1912), Copley Square proves why the excesses of the Gilded Age—or at least of its architecture—were so enticing. Step inside the buildings to revel in the library's John Singer Sargent murals, the church’s soaring hand-painted ceilings, and the craft cocktails at the Copley Plaza’s Oak Long Bar.

Treat Yourself to a Treatment at the Mandarin’s Spa

mandarin oriental, boston spa

One of the Back Bay’s top hotels, the Mandarin Oriental —recently renovated by Alexandra Champalimaud—houses one of the city’s best, and most locally loved, spas. If massages and facials aren’t your thing, consider coming here for the food and drink instead. A new Gordon Ramsay restaurant made its debut in January 2022. The concept? Several of the British chef’s signature dishes, such as beef Wellington, plus a nod to New England and its abundant seafood.

Go on a Lobster Roll and Oyster Crawl

row 34

In Boston, it’s always time for seafood. Some of the best can be found not far from Copley Square at the Back Bay’s Mediterranean-inflected Select Oyster Bar, whose chef, Michael Serpa, garnered international fame during his time at Neptune Oyster . Row 34, in the Seaport, rolls out one of the most coveted lobster rolls in town, pulling bi-valves from a nearby oyster farm that belongs to one of the restaurant’s owners. Set where the Fort Point Channel opens to Boston Harbor, the no-frills, indoor-outdoor, kitchtastic Barking Crab , meanwhile, feels like a Cape Cod fish shack in the middle of town, and the sunken back patio at star chef Barbara Lynch’s B&G Oysters is the place to be for seafood in the South End.

Savor the City’s Best Sushi

cafe sushi in cambridge, ma

The lobstah rolls, raw oystahs, and clam chowdah are great, but if you’re talking about seafood in Boston—with or without the accent—and you skip the sushi, you’re missing out. Hands-down favorites here are the 20-course omakase at O Ya , in the Leather District, and the pure-and-simple styling at Cafe Sushi , a relative hole-in-the-wall with a cult following in a quasi-strip mall in Cambridge. In the Back Bay, at the grandly scaled, raucous Uni , meanwhile—from James Beard Award winner Ken Oringer—sushi and sashimi pair with small plates from around Asia.

Shop Small in the South End

olives and grace in boston

The South End offers one of the best collections of small, local boutiques—many women- or minority-owned, or both—in town. Try Viola Lovely and Michele Mercaldo for contemporary women’s wear and handmade jewelry, respectively; Olives & Grace for handcrafted giftable items, artisanal gourmet treats, and cute cards; Sault for urban updates to classic lumberjack/fisherman New England men’s style; Urban Grape and Brix for wine (the latter also has a small trove of vintage barware); and Hudson , Modern Relik , and Lekker Home for furnishings. Finally, the Open Market in the gallery-lined SOWA (South of Washington) district pops up under tents on Sundays from spring through much of fall, tempting shoppers with an array of maker-made goods, from baby clothes to candles.

Browse the City's Best Bookstores

more than words bookstore in boston

The South End’s More Than Words is not only a teen-employment nonprofit, but also one of the best bookstores in the city. It expanded not long ago into a high-ceilinged brick-and-beam warehouse-style space that displays an ever-changing mix of used books in pristine condition, plus some brand-new ones. Black-owned Frugal Bookstore hosts readings and other author events at its space in the Roxbury neighborhood, and the 200-year-old Brattle Book Shop , near Boston Common, houses three stories of used books, including rare first editions on the top level.

Catch a Top-Shelf Performance

boston pops fourth of july fireworks spectacular

Bookish though it may be, Boston is no slouch when it comes to the performing arts. Right on Boston Common, the recently restored Emerson Colonial Theater hosts major spectacles (not least the out-of-town pre-Broadway run of Moulin Rouge ) and smaller speaker tours, concerts and comedy shows, too. At the nexus of the South End, Roxbury, Fenway, and Back Bay neighborhoods, there’s Symphony Hall—HQ of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Boston Pops —as well as the nearby base of the Tony Award–winning Huntington Theatre Company . Further east is the Boston Ballet , and over in Cambridge, you’ve got the American Repertory Theater . Led by artistic director Diane Paulus, it originated Tony Award–winning revivals of Pippin , Porgy & Bess, and, more recently, the lauded new musical Jagged Little Pill .

Pick a Favorite Four Seasons

four seasons hotel one dalton street, boston pool

In 2019, Boston became the rare city to play host to two Four Seasons hotels. The newer, Four Seasons One Dalton , occupies the first 21 floors of New England’s tallest residential tower. Designed by I.M. Pei partner Henry Cobb, the blue-glass structure occupies a triangular plot on the edge of Pei’s Christian Science Center —a Brutalist masterpiece if ever there was one. Here, the major draws are the window-lined, 64-foot-long indoor pool and an outpost of the sceney London Japanese restaurant Zuma. Still, Boston’s old guard may prefer the original Four Seasons —with its hard-to-beat views of the Public Garden and the Common—even if its beloved restaurant, the Bristol, has closed.

Follow the Run-Up to the Revolution Along the Freedom Trail

statue of paul revere on horse in center of paul revere mall leading to old north church along freedom trail, spring afternoon, boston massachusetts

Boston Common serves as an excellent spot to start making your way along the Freedom Trail . This curated path—marked by a red-brick line on sidewalks—connects major Revolutionary War locations from Downtown’s Old State House (site of the Boston Massacre) to Charlestown’s Bunker Hill (famed for the eponymous Battle) to the Old North Church (where the lanterns were hung for Paul Revere).

Take the Cannoli (and the Pizza) in the North End

at galleria umberto, last call can come by afternoon

Not since the Capulets and the Montagues has there been an Italian rivalry like the one you’ll find here, in the city’s oldest residential neighborhood and its de facto Little Italy. Bostonians love to pit the North End's top pastry spots here against each other: Mike’s vs. Modern . As for pizza, here you can sample plenty, but we especially love the contrasting styles of Galleria Umberto (thick-crusted rectangles of saucy stuff) and the original location of Regina’s (more like a New York slice). If chicken parm is your thing, locals report the best is at La Summa .

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The Perfect 2, 3 or 4 Days in Boston Itinerary

Last Updated on January 29, 2024

by Audrey Webster

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what places to visit in boston

As one of the oldest cities in the country, Boston is filled with history. It’s a mash-up of cobblestoned streets and historic buildings with modern skyscrapers. There are a few places you cannot miss while spending a few days in Boston, as well as some lesser-known parts of the city we’ll cover here.

As one of the most dynamic and historic cities in the country, there is a lot to do in Boston and so much that you can’t miss. From American history to esteemed universities to excellent museums and fantastic food (there’s more than clam chowder!), Boston has something to offer everyone.

Table of Contents

How Many Days in Boston?

When in the initial stages of planning a trip, many do wonder how many days to spend in Boston in order to do this New England city justice.

With 2 days in Boston, you’re just scratching the surface. Most of the city’s main attractions are clustered together, so you could see a lot in 2 days, but you’re also missing out on some cool parts that make the city unique.

If you have 3 days, you’re in good shape to see all the highlights as well as some lesser-known sites. You’ll be able to strike a balance between visiting historic landmarks and more trendy neighborhoods.

If you’re lucky enough to have 4 days, you can see more of the city at your leisure or use the fourth day to take a day trip to somewhere nearby. There is no shortage of historic sites and beautiful nature just outside Boston. 

Boston Skyline

Getting To & Around Boston 

You’re most likely arriving in Boston through the Logan International Airport. You can easily hail a cab, take the GO Boston Shuttle, pre-book a transfer or use public transportation to reach downtown.

If you’re visiting from another city or town in New England or even some city further south such as Washington DC or New York , you might arrive on a train or bus. Make sure to find out which train or bus transfers you need to make depending on where you’re coming from. You can view schedules here.

The Massachusetts capital is a very walkable city and it’s not actually that big. In fact, one of the best things to do in Boston is walk the Freedom Trail. Many of the most historic landmarks are located near each other.

Boston is also well-connected via a subway system, known locally as the T. You can easily get around the city using this if you want to reach somewhere a bit further afield.

Alternatively, there is the Hop On/Hop Off Trolley Tour that provides a convenient way to see the city. Taxis and rideshare are both readily available as well. It is also included in the Boston Go City Pass , which will also save you on entrance fees to many of the paid attractions listed here.

Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum

2, 3 or 4-Day Boston Itinerary

If you’re spending a few days in the Massachusetts capital, then there are a number of guided tours that you can take to get an overview of the city such as this historical walking tour , this bike tour or this food tour.

Day 1 – Freedom Trail, Museums, Quincy Market & More

Walk the freedom trail.

This 2.5-mile trail covers many of the historical highlights in Boston. You’ll want to dedicate a few solid hours to walking the trail. You can opt to walk the entire thing or a portion of it.

There are also guided tours available such as this 2-hour walking tour , which could be helpful for providing context to the landmarks as you pass them. Here are the landmarks you can expect to see:

  • Boston Common & Boston Public Garden
  • Massachusetts State House
  • Park Street Church
  • Granary Burying Grounds
  • Boston Latin School/Benjamin Franklin Statue
  • Old South Meeting House
  • Old State House
  • Faneuil Hall
  • Site of the Boston Massacre

Paul Revere House

  • Old North Church
  • USS Constitution
  • Bunker Hill Monument

You could spend however long you’d like walking the Freedom Trail and note that it doesn’t cost anything to walk the trail, but there are generally entrance fees for the various sites.

Depending on how long you want to spend, take the time to walk by these places and pick one or two that interest you to plan to visit those places. With that in mind, plan to spend 2-3 hours on the Freedom Trail.

Old State House on the Freedom Trail

Boston Tea Party & Ships Museum

Veer off Freedom Trail just slightly to pay a visit to the Boston Tea Party and Ships Museum.

The museum is chock-full with historical experts, interactive exhibits, full-scale replica sailing vessels, and historic artefacts to make this monumental event in America’s history come to life. You can pre-book tickets here.

If you have some time to spare, you can watch an award-winning documentary in Minutemen Theatre that depicts the events that led up to the American Revolution. 

Next to the museum, don’t miss the Observation Deck at Independence Wharf, either, where you can get excellent views of the harbor.

Quincy Market

Quincy Market is where old and new seamlessly merge. Here you can find hundreds of shops, both inside and outside the building. The market was established in 1825 and spans three buildings: Quincy Market, South Market, and North Market.

It’s another great place to stop as you’re walking the Freedom Trail to grab a bite to eat or do some souvenir shopping. The market is especially charming during the winter months when it’s decorated for the holidays. Quincy Market was named a National Historic Landmark in 1966. 

Quincy Market

Go to a Red Sox game

Go see the “Green Monster” for yourself during your visit to Boston. Even those who wouldn’t consider themselves baseball fans will enjoy seeing a game at Fenway Park.

It’s been the home of the Boston Red Sox since 1912, making it the oldest stadium in Major League Baseball. If you don’t have time to see a game, you can still take a guided tour of Fenway. It’s a great way to wrap up your first day of sightseeing in Boston. 

If it’s not the season for baseball or you don’t care to go to a game, then use this time to stroll along the Charles River Esplanade or, perhaps, visit the nearby Boston Museum of Fine Arts. You could also simply relax in the tranquil surroundings of Back Bay Fens Park.

Day 2 – Boston’s Museums

John f. kennedy presidential museum & library .

This exceptional museum is dedicated to the life and accomplishments of U.S. President John F. Kennedy.

Here, you’ll wander the permanent exhibit that uses large-screen projections, interactive displays, original artefacts, and re-mastered films to learn more about the former president’s life. Consider reserving tickets online in advance to save you time at the door. You can also opt for a guided tour.

A visit to the JFK Presidential Museum & Library is a great way to kick off your second day. 

Inside the JFK Presidential Library

Institute of Contemporary Art

If you have 2 days, you should consider visiting one of the many local museums. A city that’s so full of history has some great historical museums, but it also has notable art museums like the Institute of Contemporary Art.

Here you’ll find both permanent and rotating exhibits featuring contemporary artists and their work. The museum is located in a beautiful building on the waterfront overlooking Boston Harbor, so you can also take in the view. It’s recommended that you book tickets in advance. 

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

This museum is known for its beautiful architecture and courtyard garden. It’s a great museum to visit if you want one that is a little less crowded than other larger museums in the city. Beginning in the late 1800s, Isabella started collecting rare books, manuscripts, and pieces of art to fill her home.

Over the course of her worldwide travels, she acquired art like Rembrandt’s Self Portrait and Titian’s Europa. The museum as it stands today was built in 1901. She lived on the fourth floor and spent the remainder of her life arranging the art throughout its halls.

It’s a unique museum that’s a quiet way to spend the afternoon. If this or any of the other museums don’t interest you, there are plenty of other museums in Boston to take in. For instance, the Museum of Science – located in a building overlooking the Charles River, is an excellent place to visit if you happen to be traveling with children.

Day 3 – Boston Common, Trinity Church, Paul Revere House & More

Boston common.

You might’ve already passed through Boston Common if you walked the entirety of the Freedom Trail. If you didn’t stop for long then, it’s worth your time to dedicate a couple hours to really enjoying the park. Boston Common is America’s oldest public park having been established in 1634 and is located in the Beacon Hill neighbourhood of Boston.

Today, the park is filled with fountains, picnic tables, and green spaces for visitors to lounge and enjoy the day. Make sure to stroll through the adjacent Public Garden, as well, to truly enjoy this urban green space. If you’re seeing Boston in 3 days, then a visit to Boston Common is a great idea.

Boston Common

Trinity Church

When you start exploring Boston, you’ll immediately notice Trinity Church in Copley Square. This historic stone church sits squarely in the middle of downtown’s towering skyscrapers. It’s considered by the American Association of Architects as one of the top 10 buildings in the country.

The parish located there today was founded in 1733, which is more than 150 years before the church was built in 1877. You can enter Trinity Church on your own or schedule a tour with a knowledgeable tour guide to learn more about the church’s history. 

It looks striking as it’s sandwiched between modern skyscrapers like the John Hancock Tower and the Prudential Tower and really symbolises Boston’s mingling of old and new.

Located in the North End neighborhood, the Paul Revere House was the former home of the famous Founding Father Paul Revere. He played a pivotal role in the American Revolution, noted in history books for his famous “midnight ride” to warn colonists that the British were approaching Boston.

The home was built in 1680 and is downtown Boston’s oldest building. Inside, the home is set up to mimic what it would have looked like while Revere lived there. In fact, 90% of the structure today is original material, including doors, windows, flooring, and internal wall material.

You can pop into this Boston museum for a self-guided tour or try to time your visit to see colonial reenactors demonstrate key moments of America’s history. 

If this doesn’t interest you as much or if you’re traveling with children, consider, as well, heading to the nearby New England Aquarium where you can learn all about local marine life or you can take a food tour of North End.

Paul Revere House

The Museum of Bad Art

You’ve probably never been to a museum that focuses on bad art. The Museum of Bad Art houses “art too bad to be ignored” and is a highlight worth adding to your time in Boston. It’s the world’s only museum dedicated to bad art that began in the basement of a private home.

The museum has since grown into a local favorite that shines the spotlight on quality bad art. It’s a quirky and fun addition to your Boston trip, especially if you happen to be planning a 3-day itinerary. 

Day 4 – Lexington & Concord, Salem or Cape Cod Day Trip

Lexington and concord.

Lexington and Concord is arguably the most famous site of the Revolutionary War. For history buffs, this is a great way to round out your 4 days in Boston. It’s where the first shots of the war were fired.

To reach Lexington, you’ll take the subway and bus for a total travel time of about 45 minutes before getting off at Lexington Battle Green. You can reach Concord by taking the MBTA directly from Boston.

Lexington Green is a good starting point for your visit. This small town is home to the Belfry that sounded the alarm in 1775 to call the militia to fight. Here, you’ll also find John Hancock’s childhood home or Buckman’s Tavern. In Concord, make sure you visit the Old North Bridge.

You can also find Walden Pond, made famous by writer Henry Thoreau, and Louisa May Alcott’s “Orchard House”. There’s a lot to see during a day trip to Lexington and Concord, so make sure you leave early in the day to give yourself ample time. 

Old North Bridge in Concord

You’ve most likely heard of Salem, Massachusetts due to its famous 1692 witch trials. Salem is only about 30 minutes from Boston, so it’s an easy day trip. You can easily reach it by taking the commuter train that connects the cities, a high-speed ferry or an organised day tour.

During your day in Salem, make sure to visit the Salem Witch Trials Memorial, Peabody Essex Museum, the Old Town Hall, and the Witch House. You can end your day with a visit to Winter Island Park and Lighthouse.

As you might’ve guessed, one of the best times of year to visit Salem is Halloween. The little town comes to life with spooky decorations.

Without a doubt, Cape Cod is beautiful, especially in summer. This stretch of coastline is full of charming towns, great seafood, and relaxing beaches.

Cape Cod is about 3 hours from Boston by car, which tends to be a little long for a day trip. Instead, you can take the Cape Cod Fast Ferry from Boston to Provincetown, which is the largest town on the Cape.

In Provincetown, you can enjoy the local art galleries, lounge on the beach, and walk around and enjoy the quaint homes and shops.

If you have more than 4 days in your Boston itinerary, spending more than one day on the Cape is a relaxing way to bring your time in the area to a close.

Cape Cod

Where to Stay in Boston

Harborside Inn – This 3-star hotel in downtown Boston is a great choice for mid-range travelers to the Massachusetts capital. There are a number of great rooms to choose from, a wonderful location for exploring the city and plenty of other amenities to enjoy.

Omni Boston Hotel – If you’re looking for luxury while in Boston, then this sophisticated hotel is a great option. They have a range of lovely rooms on offer and an unbeatable location for exploring all this historic city has to offer.

HI Boston – Those visiting Boston on a budget will love this backpacker’s hostel in the center of the city. They have a range of both dorms and private rooms on offer along with other perks and great common areas for guests to enjoy.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Boston hotels!

The perfect itinerary for Boston is the one that’s packed with what excites you most. If you’re a history buff, you’re going to love it here. Foodies, explorers, and everyone in between will find something to love in Boston.

Are you planning a trip to Boston? Have any questions about this itinerary? Let us know in the comments!

what places to visit in boston

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About Audrey Webster

Audrey Webster is a writer for The World Was Here First. She is an Oregon native who has visited countries across the globe and currently spends her weekends exploring the Pacific Northwest and surrounding states. Her approach to traveling combines exploring famous tourist sites and wandering off the beaten path to discover new destinations.

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11 top experiences in Boston in 2024

Jillian Dara

Mar 2, 2024 • 8 min read

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, January 2024

Make the most of beautiful Boston with these 11 top experiences Anthony Tulliani/Lonely Planet

As one of the oldest cities founded in the USA and considered by many to be the cradle of the American Revolution, Boston is a gift to history buffs.

But there's more to this northeastern metropolis than American history. Renowned sports teams that contend for national titles, museums and galleries around every corner, diverse and welcoming communities, breathtaking natural beauty and a thriving dining scene – Boston has a lot to offer, and it can be difficult to know where to begin.

The key is not trying to pack everything into one trip – that's the fun of returning! Savor Boston and let these 11 incredible experiences create lifelong memories.

The bow of the USS Constitution rising against the cityscape

1. Walk the Freedom Trail 

The Freedom Trail is a 2.5-mile walk through the city that leads past 16 colonial and revolutionary historical sites, and it's one of the city's most popular visitor attractions. Stops include the Boston Common (the city's main green space), the golden-domed Massachusetts State House , Faneuil Hall , Paul Revere House , the warship USS Constitution and Bunker Hill Monument . 

There are group tours that lead you along the Freedom Trail, with guides in 18th-century costumes. You can also do it yourself – just download a map from the Freedom Trail website and follow the bricks on the sidewalk.

A self-guided tour allows you to go at your own pace, giving you the flexibility to stop at Faneuil Hall to munch through a few of the local food stalls, or to book a supplementary tour aboard the USS Constitution .

Planning tip:  Spread the trail out over several days to make the most out of each of the Boston neighborhoods it winds through. 

2. Surround yourself with culture at Boston's museums

There's a museum for just about every taste in Boston. If fine arts is your jam, there are paintings, sculptures and tapestries at the Isabella Stewart Gardener , while the sprawling MFA  features more than 450,000 works of art. For more targeted collections, there's the Institute of Contemporary Art , the Museum of Science , the Boston Children's Museum and the ever-popular fish-filled  New England Aquarium .

 Tourists wandering along Acorn Street in Beacon Hill on a warm autumn day

3. Explore Boston's distinct neighborhoods 

Each of Boston's various neighborhoods has its own personality and unique allure. There are technically 23 designated neighborhoods, but a few of the most noteworthy include the South End, known for its brownstones and multitude of restaurants; Back Bay, where the long Commonwealth Avenue Mall is a year-round highlight of trees, park benches and statues; the newly developed Seaport where highrises are juxtaposed against the harborfront walk; and the North End, otherwise known as "Little Italy."

There's also South Boston, which used to be known for its Irish-American culture but is now a young professional's playground with lots of bars and restaurants; not to mention Fenway-Kenmore, Chinatown, the downtown financial and theater district, and charming Beacon Hill.

Planning tip: Dedicate a few mealtimes to the North End – there's simply too much to eat and drink here for one visit. Hanover Street can be touristy, but being part of the crowd is part of the experience to fully enjoy the authentic pizzerias, salumerias , coffeehouses and pastry shops (try the cannoli at both Mike's Pastry and Modern's to weigh in on the longstanding local debate of who makes them better).

4. Drink a craft beer (or two)

In 1984, Samuel Adams revived the craft beer scene when it released its Boston Lager – "the full-flavored beer they deserved," says the brand. Today, the local brewery still pours its iconic beer at two taprooms in the city, while also offering rotating seasonal brews and tasting flights. Use Samuel Adams as a starting point in a craft beer tour, then try some of the other local craft brands that have followed, like Night Shift, Trillium, Harpoon, Jack's Abby and Cisco. 

Local tip: If you're visiting in the late spring, summer or early fall, look for popup beer gardens from the aforementioned brands that take advantage of Boston's riverside, public gardens and harborfront. The scenery complements the signature and seasonal beers – sipping a fruity roast under the summer sun or enjoying an Oktoberfest among crunchy autumn leaves.

Thousands of baseball fans dressed in red and white fill the stands at a stadium

5. Catch a game at Boston's famed stadiums and parks

Boston is a sports city, and whether or not you're a sports fan, the city's commitment to its home teams is contagious. Fenway is a great place to start; opened in 1912, it's the oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball. There's also TD Garden , home to the Celtics, Bruins and mainstream concerts. Gillette Stadium is about 27 miles away, but worth the trip for a Sunday tailgate before watching the Patriots play. 

Local tip: If you missed out on tickets, don't sweat it! Pull up a bar seat at one of the many sports bars throughout the city – Bleacher Bar , Cask'  n Flagon , Stats Bar & Grille , The Greatest Bar , Banners Kitchen and Tap or The Sporting Club will all provide a taste of the dedication to local sports on game day.

6. Indulge in New England's culinary traditions

Positioned at the heart of New England , Boston has premier access to some of the best seafood in the nation. Whether you're at a casual waterside venue like James Hook & Co. or The Barking Crab , or settling into a settee at a more formal restaurant like Row 34 or B&G Oysters , pescatarians will be in heaven. The most popular orders include oysters on the half shell, New England clam chowder, lobster rolls (both buttered and with mayonnaise) and steamed clams. 

7. But also seek out regional rising stars of global cuisine

Though seafood is traditional in Boston, we'd be remiss not to mention some exciting spots for global eats. Xenia Greek Hospitality has Krasi and Bar Vlaha , while Yunnan Kitchen serves delicious Dian cuisine from southwest China. Borrachito Taqueria brings tacos to Boston via the original NYC outpost for Mexican eats.

Shoppers walk along a street lined with artworks for sale

8. Shop and gallery hop along Newbury Street

Multi-level brownstones line Newbury Street, Boston's charming one-mile stretch of boutique shops, art galleries, established restaurants and cozy cafes. Of Newbury's eight blocks, the first (between Arlington and Berkeley) is unofficially dedicated to high-end fashion, hosting designers such as Tiffany's, Chanel, Loro Piana and Cartier.

The sidewalks get crowded on the weekends, especially in summer – on summer Sundays, the street is closed to vehicular traffic for a pedestrianized-only experience. In winter, storefronts sparkle with holiday displays and in spring, restaurants open their patios, which overflow with patrons sipping spritzers through summer and well into autumn, of which the season is extended by standing heaters and warm drinks.

Local tip: Some of the best shops and bars are not at street level, so look up to find places like Bar á vin 1855 , a wine bar above popular French restaurant  La Voile , and also down to restaurants like Puro Ceviche Bar .

9. Walk or cycle along the Esplanade 

This three-mile path of green along the Charles River stretches from the Museum of Science to the Boston University Bridge. It's a popular exercise route for locals but also a leisurely way for visitors to enjoy Boston's natural beauty. Rent a bike and cycle your way along, or opt for a stroll.

An amphibious boat sails along a river backed by some high-rise city buildings

10. Get out on the water 

Whether you're interested in a sailing lesson on the Charles River or entrusting a local captain to do the work on a boat trip in the Harbor, there are plenty of opportunities to experience Boston by water. In addition to sailing lessons, there are outfitters along the Charles for kayaking, canoeing, rowing and stand-up paddleboarding. On the harbor, operators offer everything from hour-long tours, boats for day charter and leisurely sunset cruises. There are also Duck Boat Tours that traverse both land and water.

Planning tip: If you're booking a harbor cruise at sunset, reserve a table at one of the Seaport's popular restaurants to beat the crowds coming off your boat. Favorites include  Woods Hill Pier 4 , Nautilus , LoLa 42 and Strega . 

11. Tack on a day trip to one of Boston's coastal escapes

If you're visiting during the summer and can add on some extra time to your vacation, consider a day trip to one of Boston's coastal towns. Take a half-day trip to the North Shore to explore the quaint port towns of Gloucester and Newburyport, or venture down to the South Shore to beach towns like Duxbury and Cohasset.

For a longer excursion, drive to Cape Cod ("the Cape," as locals refer to it). Chatham, Dennis and Orleans are all within a two-hour drive and have one-street towns with bakeries and boutiques to spend the morning at before an afternoon lazing on the sands of the many nearby beaches.

Further afield is Provincetown, which can be a long drive, but there's also a fast ferry that runs throughout the summer. It can pick you up from Long Wharf in the morning and whisk you to Ptown in 45 minutes for a day of eating and perusing its artsy streets. 

Planning tip: If you opt for the mid-Cape on a summer weekend, leave extra time for traffic as back-up times on Friday evenings, Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoons can teeter on doubling your drive time. Opt for a weekday if possible.

This article was first published May 27, 2021 and updated Mar 2, 2024.

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55 Best Things to Do in Boston (+ Travel Tips!)

When we moved to Boston for the summer, we never expected to fall in love with it–but between the beauty of the city, the amazing food scene, and all fun things to do in Boston, we ended up leaving at the end of the summer swearing to come back soon.

As soon as we touched down in Boston, we both loved it. It just felt good. The city was homey and exciting and relaxing and new and familiar all at the same time, in the very best ways.

Immediately, we were head over heels for Boston.

We quickly set to work making an aspirational list of all the best things to do in Boston that we hoped to accomplish over our nearly 3 months in the city.

By the end of the summer, we had complied a huge list of all the best things to do in Boston MA.

Looking to plan a trip to one of the USA’s most historic and fascinating cities? Start here.

Table of Contents

Iconic Things to Do in Boston

Cool museums to visit in boston, neighborhoods to explore in boston, where to get outside in boston, best foodie things to do in boston, more fun things to do in boston, getting around boston.

Things to Do in Boston: Boston Common

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Walk the Freedom Trail.

First things first: Boston’s 2.5 mile long Freedom Trail covers 16 incredible historical sites, primarily centering around the American Revolution.

Check out Paul Revere’s House, stand at the site of the Boston Massacre, climb aboard the USS Constitution, and visit the Old North Church–just to start.

There’s a reason this is at the top of everyone’s lists of things to do in Boston!

Some of the sites require a small entrance fee, but outside of that, the Freedom Trail is completely free, though you can book an affordable tour of the trail if you’d like more historical context behind the sights.

Sure, the idea of being led around by a tour guide in 18th-century garb is a bit cheesy, but it’s also lots of fun (and an easy way to learn tons of American history).

You can easily walk the Freedom Trail independently, but a guided tour is relatively inexpensive and can add lots of context to the sights–especially if you’re not from the USA or haven’t cracked open a US History book since high school.

Steeple of Park Street Church in Boston MA, one of the best things to see in Boston MA

Wander through the Boston Public Garden.

The Boston Public Garden is one of our favorite spots in the city: it’s gorgeous, it’s peaceful, and it’s the perfect place for either a walk or a picnic.

what places to visit in boston

If you’d like to check out the view from the water, the swan paddle boats are an amazing deal in the heart of Boston: $3.00/ride.

Pond in the Boston Public Garden with skyscrapers in the distance, one of the fun things to do in Boston MA

Spend an afternoon in the Boston Common.

Boston Common is impossible to miss on a list of things to do in Boston, if only because of what surrounds it: Beacon Hill, the Massachusetts State House, Park Street Church, and the Boston Public Garden are all visible from it, and Downtown Crossing, the Theater District, Back Bay, and more are all just a short walk away.

Even better, Boston Common is a destination in its own right: the green lawns are perfect for flopping, the food stalls sell (admittedly overpriced) snacks, and you can almost always find a performance going on during the weekends, whether it’s as elaborate as Shakespeare in the Park or as simple as one person with an instrument.

Be sure to check out the Frog Pond!

This shallow (less than a foot deep) pool is a splash pool for children in the summer, but in the winter, it turns into an ice skating rink–that will be our first stop if we ever return to Boston in the winter!

Things to Do in Boston: Boston Common

Visit the crypt under the Old North Church.

Underneath the famous Old North Church lie 37 tombs that were built between 1732 and 1860, and the crypt that houses them is open for visitors.

Climb down the cramped staircases to learn about how and why this crypt was used–definitely a different atmosphere than walking into the Old North Church sanctuary above it!

Tour the Massachusetts State House.

Massachusetts’ beautiful gold-domed State House is free to tour on weekdays from 10:00 AM to 3:30 PM, though you will need to make reservations in advance!

If you’re interested in the history of the building, be sure to put this on your list of things to do in Boston.

Things to Do in Boston: Massachusetts State House

Get great skyline views.

There is no shortage of opportunities to get great views of Boston’s skyline!

Most popular is the top of the Prudential Center (or “the Pru”).

Also making the list are the 14th floor of the Atlantic Wharf Building (it’s free, but be sure to bring ID!), the view from the Longfellow Bridge, and the view from the top of the Bunker Hill Monument, which is where the below photo was taken from.

Whatever view you pick, make sure you add a skyline view to your list of the best things to do in Boston!

Things to Do in Boston: Bunker Hill Monument View

Take a tour of Harvard.

Whether you choose a student-led tour or you download Harvard’s free walking tour from their website to add to your list of things to do in Boston, don’t miss a chance to walk around one of the most famous educational institutions in the world!

While you’re over there, make the time to spend the day in Cambridge –even off-campus, Cambridge has plenty to offer!

Tours of Harvard are surprisingly inexpensive –if you want a guide, this is a great place to have one!

Wander through the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is a beautiful place that is home to remarkable art… and an interesting story.

In 1990, 13 works of art were stolen from this museum in a heist that sounds like something out of a movie: two thieves posed as Boston Police Officers, outwitted the guards, locked them in the basement, and made off with their bounty.

To this day, empty frames hang symbolizing where the stolen art should be displayed, and the museum is offering a $10 million dollar reward for the return of the art.

Street in Beacon HIll with red brick mansions, one of the best things to see in Boston MA

Dump tea in the river at the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum.

We love quirky museum ideas, and this one definitely fits that bill: in the Boston Harbor sits a ship designed to look like one from the 18th century.

Take a tour of the ship and adjoining museum to learn all about the history and implications of the Boston Tea Party, and end the occasion by channeling your inner colonist and participating in one of the most famous things to do in Boston (at least historically speaking): dumping tea into the harbor!

There is also a cafe on site serving, what else, the types of tea tossed into the harbor all those years ago, so stop in if you feel like tasting some!

Kate Storm with a friend standing next to the Paul Revere statue in the North End in Boston MA

Visit the Boston Science Museum.

In a city home to legendary educational institutions such as MIT and Harvard, it makes perfect sense that the Boston Science Museum would be top-notch, and it definitely is.

From robotics to space to fossils to the Hall of Human Life and beyond, the Boston Science Museum covers a vast array of topics and is sure to have something to interest anyone with an even slightly curious mind.

Things to Do in Boston: Boston Public Garden

Visit the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

The MFA is one of the biggest art collections in the USA: home to nearly 500,000 works of art, it’s a must-see for any art lover passing through Boston.

Go see the Mapparium at the Mary Baker Eddy Library.

If you’re a travel nerd, a map nerd, a history nerd, a geography nerd, or all of the above, definitely make time to visit the Mapparium when you’re sightseeing in Boston.

The Mapparium is an odd exhibit: it’s a gorgeous (and giant) stained glass globe, designed to show all of the continents in their true proportions, unlike typical maps… and you view this globe by standing on a bridge inside of it.

The geographical map is frozen in time to when the Mapparium was created in 1935: the number of countries that have changed names and/or borders in that time is incredible, and Jeremy and I had a blast picking out places we had been that had changed in that last 80+ years.

Truthfully, we weren’t sure whether or not this visit would be worth the time, but it far exceeded expectations.

Sadly, they don’t allow photos inside–all the more reason to visit and see it for yourself!

Things to Do in Boston: Christian Science Monitor Publishing House

Pay a visit to MIT and the MIT Museum.

If you’re inspired by scientific discovery, it’s hard to imagine a better place to explore in Boston than MIT and the MIT Museum.

Start with walking through the famous campus, either on a guided or self-led tour (information for self-led tours is available for free on MIT’s website), and then follow it up with a visit to the MIT Museum for incredible exhibitions on cutting-edge scientific research, as well as the history of science!

Visit the Bunker Hill Monument & Museum.

Located a bit further away from the center of Boston than most of the sights along the Freedom Trail, the Bunker Hill Monument was built in honor of the Battle of Bunker Hill, one of the first battles of the Revolutionary War.

Kate Storm and Jeremy Storm in Boston MA

If you’re willing to handle a bit of a climb, there are some amazing views of Boston from the top, as well!

Explore Back Bay.

Beautiful mansions, plenty of trees, and trendy restaurants: what more could you want?

Back Bay is one of Boston’s trendiest neighborhoods and absolutely worth adding to your list of what to do in Boston. 

For brunch, we ate at Buttermilk & Bourbon and absolutely loved it–if you go, you must order the biscuits.

Here are a few of the best things to see in Back Bay!

Boston Public Library

The reading room of the Boston Public Library is both incredibly beautiful and free to visit–be sure to stop by when looking for all the best things to do in Boston!

Reading Room at Boston Public Library--don't miss this when deciding what to do in Boston MA

Trinity Church

Founded in 1733, Trinity Church is one of Boston’s most historic churches and important churches–though the original building has long since burned down.

The current stunning structure dates to the 19th century.

Commonwealth Ave.

This gorgeous tree-lined avenue is home to some of the most beautiful homes in Boston, and is definitely worth a peek.

Commonwealth Avenue in Back, one of the prettiest places to see in Boston

Newbury Street

Newbury Street is one of Boston’s most premier shopping streets, chock full of boutiques, restaurants, and small shops (including a Harry Potter-themed one!). 

Bibliophiles, be sure to duck into Trident Booksellers & Cafe while you’re there.

Copley Square

2 Days in Boston Itinerary: Selfie in the Park

As one of the most important public squares in Boston and home to a tasty farmer’s market, Copley Square is located right next door to the Boston Public Library.

Explore the North End.

The North End is Boston’s most famous neighborhood, known for its Italian charm.

Though the tourist trap restaurants outnumber those serving genuine Italian food these days, the neighborhood itself is still incredibly beautiful and charming to walk through.

Be sure to stop into one of the Italian grocery stores, grab some sweets (we can attest to how tasty Modern Pastry is), and visit Paul Revere’s house and the Old North Church while here!

Things to Do in Boston: Boston North End

Wander through Beacon Hill.

Beacon Hill is one of the USA’s oldest and prettiest neighborhoods.

Be sure to check out Louisburg Square for some idyllic homes, and Acorn Street for oodles of photo opportunities

Popular Acorn Street is located in Beacon Hill, and it just may be the prettiest of all the places to visit in Boston for photos. It’s also one of the most iconic streets in the country .

Charles Street in Beacon Hill is also home to plenty of boutiques and restaurants, making this a great place to stop for a meal.

Visit the USA’s first public beach at Revere Beach.

Growing up in suburbs in the USA, we still occasionally get excited by all the different things that can be accessed by public transportation around the world–and we get even more excited when that variety happens at home in the United States.

In Boston, you can take the T directly to the United State’s first public beach–you can’t ask for an easier way to access Revere Beach!

Stroll along the Harborwalk.

No visit to Boston could be complete without seeing a piece of its gorgeous Harborwalk. Enjoy both views of the city and views of the harbor itself while walking along the coastline.

Though the Harborwalk is a whopping 47 miles long, you certainly don’t need to visit more than a small section of it to appreciate its beauty.

Things to Do in Boston: Harborwalk

Check out the Arnold Arboretum.

Want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city for a bit?

Head to the Arnold Arboretum: belonging to Harvard University and acting as the second largest “link” in the Emerald Necklace that surrounds downtown Boston, this is a beautiful place to unwind.

Take sailing lessons on the Charles River.

Sadly, we didn’t get a chance to cross sailing lessons off of our things to do in Boston list this summer–with how much traveling we wanted to do on the weekends, we knew it would be too ambitious to try to fit it in.

Whenever we pass by the small student boats bobbing on the water, though, we feel a pull toward them!

If the weather is right, be sure to try your hand at sailing while in Boston. Sailing packages of all sizes are available right on the Charles River.

Duck Pond in Boston Public Garden, one of the best places to visit in Boston

Walk along the Charles River Esplanade.

The Charles River Esplanade stretches along the southern bank of the Charles River, near Back Bay.

It’s the perfect place for a jog, a picnic, a long walk, or–on the Fourth of July–to watch the fireworks from.

We opted to watch the fireworks in Cambridge rather than fight the crowds on the Esplanade, but there’s no doubt that if you’re willing to secure a place early, you’ll have a great time watching the Boston fireworks from the Charles River Esplanade.

Boston 4th of July fireworks with a cell phone camera being held in front of them, one of the best things to do in Boston MA

Take a day trip to the Boston Harbor Islands.

Boston’s Harbor Islands are a great place to go to feel away from the city (but not so far away, as you can see the skyline from some islands!).

Enjoy a trail, hang out on a beach, or climb to the top of the lighthouse–whatever island and activity you choose to add to your list of things to do in Boston, the Boston Harbor Islands are sure to make a great, quick escape from the bustle of the city.

Take a day trip to Salem.

From the history of the Salem Witch Trials to the slightly-less-macabre history of Salem as a port city to plenty of fun restaurants and shopping, Salem is an easy and fun day trip from Boston.

Located less than an hour away by train, Salem is an incredibly simple day trip and well worth adding to your list of things to do in Boston!

Salem, Massachusetts house--one of the best places to visit in New England.

Check out the Boston Public Market.

Don’t make the mistake of going to the Boston Public Market with anything but a completely empty stomach: this is a place that you eat your way through.

Whether you’re craving a bagel, a pastrami sandwich, a Union Square Donut, ice cream, gourmet popcorn, or something else entirely, there will be plenty to eat here.

If you’re headed home afterward, feel free to pick up some meat, cheese, fresh produce, or any number of other products to take home as well.

Disply of berries and tomatoes at Boston Public Market, one of the best things to do in Boston MA

Visit Haymarket.

On Fridays and Saturdays, the outdoor Haymarket opens for business next to the Boston Public Market.

Piles and piles of fresh fruits and vegetables are sold at competitive prices–just as they have been since 1830.

If your trip to Boston coincides with Haymarket, be sure to add this to your list of what to see in Boston!

Grab a drink at the Bell in Hand Tavern.

The Bell in Hand Tavern holds the distinction of being America’s Oldest Tavern, having poured its first drink in 1795.

The Tavern is famous for its ale, and the burgers and Boston Creme Pie aren’t bad, either!

Things to Do in Boston: Bell in Hand Tavern

Grab afternoon tea at the Boston Public Library.

The Boston Public Library (including its awe-inspiring reading room, intricate architecture, and delightful courtyard) is indisputably gorgeous and worth a visit. Less well known is the fact that The Courtyard Restaurant, located on-site, serves a beautiful afternoon tea!

Make reservations for Monday-Saturday, 11:30-3:30, for an unusual library experience.

Try the original Boston Creme Pie & original Parker House rolls at the Omni Parker House.

In the heart of downtown Boston lies the oldest continuously operating hotel in the United States, which is dripping with opulence and worth stepping inside just to see it.

The Omni Parker House has played host to guests such as Charles Dickens and Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Its carbs, however, are the real highlight: Parker’s Restaurant is the birthplace of both Parker House Rolls and the Boston Creme Pie, both of which were delicious when we tried them in their original home.

Boston Creme Pie shot from above, one of the best things to eat in Boston

Go see Faneuil Hall & Quincy Market.

… But you’re probably not going to want to buy anything.

These historic markets and their surrounding area are about as touristy as you can get: high prices, gimmicky items for sale, questionable quality of food.

However, the buildings are beautiful and the history neat–since they are located right on the Freedom Trail, be sure to stop in and have a look!

Things to Do in Boston: Quincy Market

Tour the Samuel Adam’s Brewery.

Want to try free beer?

Add the Samuel Adam’s brewery tour to your list of fun things to do in Boston!

True, there is a suggested $2.00 donation (which you should definitely give, as it benefits Boston charities), but that’s still not bad for a tour of what the company calls its “research and development hub” and the chance to try a few beers!

For obvious reasons, make sure you bring your ID with you to this tour.

Ride the oldest subway in the USA.

The Green Line on “the T” (Boston’s subway and tram system) is the oldest in the country: specifically, the area between the Boylston and Park Street stops.

Luckily, this is right in the middle of Boston’s tourism center, so you’ll almost certainly end up here without trying while exploring the many things to do in Boston.

Kate Storm in a blue dress walking down a cobblestone street in Boston MA with skyscrapers ahead

Drive past the best things to see in Boston on a Duck Tour.

Cheesy and touristy beyond belief, if you’re looking for a fast and easy way to get around the city and see some of Boston’s historical attractions quickly, a Duck Tour is worth considering.

Why is it called a Duck Tour? Because the truck you ride in… is also a boat. Part of the tour takes place throughout Boston’s roads, and the rest of it takes place from the harbor itself.

Shop tickets for Boston’s Duck Tour now!

Pause to reflect at the Holocaust Memorial.

The New England Holocaust Memorial is not only incredibly beautiful, somber, and well put together, it is right in the heart of the city–the memorial is across the street from the famous Bell in Hand Tavern, and if you’re hitting major tourism hot spots along the Freedom Trail, you’ll undoubtedly be very close by.

Things to Do in Boston: New England Holocaust Memorial

Take a Harbor Cruise.

Boston’s skyline is beautiful from the water, and taking a cruise on the harbor is a perfect way to appreciate it! Go on a basic group cruise to experience the sites, opt for a luxurious private, catered cruise at sunset, or anything in between!

For a less expensive harbor cruise, this sunset cruise is a great option!

Things to Do in Boston: Boston Harbor

Visit the New England Aquarium.

The New England Aquarium is now arguably our favorite aquarium in the world, and visiting it is one of our favorite things to do in Boston. It’s also an unmissable experience if you’re visiting Boston with kids !

Not only does it use water from the harbor in some of its exhibits and have an enormous focus on conservation, it’s also home to our favorite marine animal of all time: penguins.

The New England Aquarium is home to 3 different species of penguins, and they are all absolutely adorable. Be sure to stop by at penguin feeding time (11:00 AM and 2:30 PM) to see these guys get really excited!

After, be sure to head up to the top of the 4 story Ocean Life tank–see if you can spot Myrtle the sea turtle while you do!

Want to avoid waiting? Purchase a skip the line aquarium ticket before you get there!

Things to Do in Boston: New England Aquarium

See a show.

From elaborate theater productions to the ballet, to the symphony, Boston has no shortage of shows to see. Check what’s in season when you’re coming to Boston and set aside one night to enjoy a show!

During our summer in Boston, we saw Wicked at the Boston Opera House. The Boston Opera House is incredibly gorgeous, more than I would have even imagined–it would not look out of place in any European capital city.

We also hit the park one night for Shakespeare in the Park and saw (for free!) a wonderful production of Romeo & Juliet in the Boston Common . If Shakespeare in the Park is going on during your visit, don’t miss this awesome free show in Boston!

Things to Do in Boston: Theater

Stargaze at the Coit Observatory.

Most Wednesday nights (weather permitting), the Coit Observatory at Boston University opens to the public to let people learn about astronomy and observe the night sky using telescopes and binoculars available on location.

Even better? This is a free event–providing you can get tickets. The events do “sell” out, so be sure to book in advance through the observatory’s website when you’re planning what to do in Boston!

Things to Do in Boston: Faneuil Hall

Visit the Brattle Book Shop.

Brattle Book Shop is a fantastic stop for anyone who loves independent bookstores: on nice days, their bargain books are all set up outside in an empty lot next to their building, with a simple pricing structure: $1, $3, or $5 per book, depending on the color of the sticker.

If you head inside, you’ll not only find even more books, you can check out the posters for the rare books that are for sale as part of their collection.

Ever considered spending $150,000 on a book? Me either, but apparently someone did: that book’s poster had a “sold” sticker on it.

Exterior section of Brattle Bookshop in Boston MA with bookshelves and a mural nearby--one of the best things ot do in Boston MA

Check out the Spite House.

Also known as the “Skinny House”, the Spite House is not only a fun site to see, it has a great story to go with it.

As the story goes, during the American Civil War, two brothers inherited some property. One brother was away serving in the military, and the other brother took the opportunity to take over the inheritance, building a house big enough that he was certain his brother wouldn’t have room for a home of his own.

When the second brother returned from the war, he built the narrow “Spite House” on what was left of the property, blocking light and views from reaching his brother’s house.

The Spite House is located directly across the street from the Copp’s Hill Burying Ground, so if you’re walking the Freedom Trail, you won’t miss it!

Want to learn some of Boston’s darker secrets? Check out this ghosts & graveyards tour –Boston is easily one of the best cities in the USA to take a ghost tour in!

Things to Do in Boston: Spite House, Skinny House

Eat all the Boston Creme Pie.

Boston’s most famous dessert lives up to the hype: even if you don’t make it to Omni Parker House for the original one, be sure to order at least a couple of these around town during your trip to Boston!

Catch a ball game at Fenway Park.

Boston’s Red Sox are famous: loved by some, hated by others, they remain one of the most famous baseball teams in the United States.

Head to Fenway Park for one of the most classic things to do in Boston: catch a game and eat a Fenway Frank. Be sure to check the game schedule and buy tickets before the day you plan to visit!

Things to Do in Boston: South Market

Boston is a walking city at heart–expect to be on your feet a lot when you are exploring things to do in Boston. Its walkability is one of our favorite aspects of the city!

When you’re not walking, you’ll likely be on a train (or perhaps a bus): pick up single tickets, a one-day link pass, or a seven-day link pass at any T station. Charliecards (which are what the locals use) are available only at some stations–you need to get them directly from an MBTA employee.

For a short trip, however, I wouldn’t worry about it: just pick up a pass. Single rides are $2.25 one way, so if you’re going to be hopping around sightseeing, a one day pass ($12.50) or seven-day pass ($21.25) will almost certainly be a better deal.

Uber and Lyft both have a presence in the city, though Uber is much more prevalent and has many more drivers. Cabs, of course, are available as well.

One thing we would not recommend in Boston? Driving. The streets are not laid out in a typical grid pattern, making it confusing to get around. Traffic is congested. Parking is incredibly expensive. Just… don’t drive, unless you’re heading out of Boston to some of the small towns in Massachusetts . It’s not necessary!

Things to Do in Boston: Beacon Hill

We have grown incredibly passionate about Boston over the summer: it is a beautiful city, it’s packed with more US history than arguably anywhere else in the world, it is home to delicious food, and is overall an inviting and fascinating place.

True, we’re not in a hurry to move here and contend with the prices and the winter on a full-time basis, but Boston is now ranked among our favorite cities in the world, and we will definitely be back.

After all, there’s no chance of us running out of incredible things to do in Boston!

Even this very long rundown of things to do in Boston doesn’t cover it all–no one post possibly could–but there’s more than enough here to fill up a first trip, second trip, and beyond.

Acorn Street in Boston MA, black text on a white background reads "50+ best things to do in Boston MA"

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About Kate Storm

Image of the author, Kate Storm

In May 2016, I left my suburban life in the USA and became a full-time traveler. Since then, I have visited 50+ countries on 5 continents and lived in Portugal, developing a special love of traveling in Europe (especially Italy) along the way. Today, along with my husband Jeremy and dog Ranger, I’m working toward my eventual goal of splitting my life between Europe and the USA.

27 thoughts on “55 Best Things to Do in Boston (+ Travel Tips!)”

Such a detailed description!! USA is on my list to visit soon. I’ve heard nice things about Boston from my friends, would love to cross all the things you mentioned in the post!!

I think Boston is a great city for a first-time visit to the USA! So much of our Revolutionary War history is here, and Boston is a great jumping off point for the rest of New England, NYC, Niagara Falls, and more.

I’ve wanted to go to Boston for a while. That skyline is pretty spectacular and I would love to tour Harvard. I’m a huge baseball fan and grew up going to games, so I’d be down for a trip to Fenway to see the Green Monster in person, and hopefully catch a game while I’m there, even though I’m no Red Sox fan. Plus, I’m a huge history buff, so taking a historical tour would be super awesome as well!

Sounds like Boston would definitely be right up your alley! Hope you get the chance to visit soon. :-)

Wow. 39 things to do in Boston. I’m sure you were fulfilled exploring these sites

We definitely had an even bigger list than we could handle! :-)

Huge list of things to do in Boston. For me it was only for Harvard and MIT, but your post throws light on many other places which I did not went in my last month’s tour to Boston. Walking around the Beacon Hill might be my first choice to get a glimpse of oldest neighbourhood of US.

You would definitely enjoy a visit to Beacon Hill! It’s a gorgeous place.

My friend lives here and although I was never really partial to the New England States, I can say Boston is pretty amazing. I will say one thing you missed that you would totally love is the Mapparium in the Mary Baker Eddy Library! It’s a huge stained glass globe! Pretty neat actually. I want to go back and explore more of Boston though because I’m usually on there for a long layover. Great ideas!

It never would have occurred to me to plan a trip here, either, but I’m sure happy to sing its praises now! The Mapparium is one of my favorite under-the-radar exhibits I’ve seen in a long time.

We missed Boston on our last trip to America and reading this I am so gutted we did! I will definitely head back and visit this gorgeous city next time we are there ! Thanks for sharing!

All the more reason to plan another visit to the USA, right?!

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The top of my list for Boston would be to try a Wahlburger, I’ve seen Wahlburgers on TV and would love to try one. I visited Boston about 20 years ago and it didn’t exist then. The image you took of the Boston fireworks is spot on! I’m sure I’ve seen Arnold Arboretum is movies, maybe Legally Blonde?

There’s never a bad time for a burger!

Wow there is soo much to do! I think personally for me though I would want to do the freedom walk trail! Not only are you seeing amazing sites but learning about soo much history! Awesome write up!

Thanks, David! You definitely can’t go wrong with walking the Freedom Trail.

Oh my word, I had no idea there was so much to do in Boston! I’d only really heard of the big players such as MIT & Harvard and wanted to visit for those alone. It’s great to know there is so many other things to do there when I finally visit!

You definitely won’t run out of things to do, Vicki! :-)

I live in the Boston area and I loved this list. Sometimes I forget all the fun things there are to do here. Thanks! Glad you enjoyed our city!

It’s definitely easy to overlook our hometowns, right? You live in an amazing place!

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Hi Kate. We are driving into Boston for the day. Want to see as much as we can in one day. Where should be park our car for the day and do you recommend the hop on and off tour?? Thank you

For convenience, you can’t beat the Boston Common Garage–it’s located right under the park, and you’ll be in the heart of the city right after exiting the garage if you park there (the Common, Public Gardens, Downtown Crossing, several stops on the Freedom Trail, Beacon Hill, etc, are all right there).

I’d say the Hop On/Hop Off tour depends on your needs–we love to walk the city and don’t mind using the T (Boston’s subway system) to get around, so wouldn’t choose to use it with one day in Boston. However, if your goal is to see the most stops in the shortest amount of time it can be helpful. I’d recommend mapping out your top 5-10 things that you want to see in Boston and seeing how much walking that would be. If it looks untenable, consider the tour. :-)

I moved to Boston 5 years ago and have done everything on your list except two things. I just added those to my to-do list. Your list is spot on. Next time you visit, add walking the Rose Kennedy Greenway. It has a self guided tour . See the Seaport area too. Great views of the water, and lots of great restaurants. Lastly, for those who enjoy beer, there’s 4 breweries within walking distance. Night Shift, Harpoon, Trillium, and Commonwealth Brewery.

Great list, even for those of us who live in the Boston area. One of the best things about Boston is how well situated it is in the compact area of New England. Within an hour or two you can be in the mountains of NH, ME, or VT, the beaches of Cape Cod and the Islands, the splendor of Newport, RI, and its mansions and cliff walk, the rolling hills of the Berkshires in western Mass. with Tanglewood and other cultural attractions. There is so much to see and do – and easy to do a lot of it in a relatively short amount of time. And nobody beats our region of the country for breathtaking fall foliage!

Mt. Auburn Cemetery is a spectacularly pretty peaceful spot all year round. Great mix of history, great landscaping and even a fave with birders.

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Eco-Travel in Retirement – Nature and Sustainable Luxury Travel

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101 Unique Things to Do in Boston: an insider guide to hidden gems

Boston Garden - featured 101 things to do in Boston

Are you heading to New England this year? Boston offers a treasure trove of unique experiences just waiting to be discovered. Born and raised just outside the city limits, I grew up taking the streetcar (the T – AKA the subway) to school and into the city. Some of my earliest memories are of riding the swan boats in Boston Garden. And now years later I love taking my grandchildren on that same ride through one of America’s most beautiful city parks. Boston is full of these unexpected delights. Join me, your guide to uncovering 100+ unique things to do in Boston. Let’s walk the historic cobblestone streets, discover iconic landmarks, and discover fun and unusual outdoor activities for the whole family. We’ll explore the city’s rich history and vibrant energy, ensuring there’s something for everyone in your travel crew. I’m pretty good at navigating those twisty streets so don’t worry, I won’t get us lost! Get ready –we’re in for an unforgettable adventure!

Walking the Freedom Trail is free as are many of the other destinations on this list. But some may require a entry fee as noted in this post. Check your local (Massachusetts) library for museum passes. Or consider purchasing a CityPASS or Go Boston card for a bit of a discount.

History Buffs | Culture | Foodies | Museum Lovers | Memorials | Outdoors | Quirky | Recommended Walks | Sports | Family | Seasonal Events

Tulips in Boston's Christopher Columbus park

Table of Contents

Tracing the Footsteps of History: Boston’s Unique View

Boston isn’t just a city – it’s a living museum where history lines the cobblestone streets. Forget crowded museums; the Freedom Trail lets you experience the American Revolution firsthand. This 2.5-mile red brick path winds through the heart of Boston, connecting you with 16 historical sites that shaped America’s beginnings. Imagine yourself walking the same streets as revolutionaries, their passionate voices echoing through the crisp autumn air. Follow the red line starting at the Boston Common, America’s oldest public park. Picture the soldiers drilling here before the Revolution, or envision fiery speeches advocating for independence.

The Freedom Trail

Follow the red brick line on the sidewalk to find some the sites that shaped early America. Walk the same streets as revolutionaries, stand where history unfolded, and feel the spirit of independence come alive! Discover Boston’s pivotal role in the American Revolution.

You can pick up the trail anywhere but it ‘begins’ at the Boston Common and ‘ends’ at the Bunker Hill Monument in Charlestown. Most people will end their Boston walk in the North End and perhaps take the ferry to Charlestown.

Freedom Trail Boston - trail sign

Information: Walking the Freedom Trail is a free, immersive adventure but some sites require a ticket for entry (noted below). You can certainly enjoy the walk without entering any of the buildings.

Accessibility: As the Freedom Trail is in the oldest part of Boston, accessibility can be challenging at points. The NPS is working to improve this.

Must-Sees on the Freedom Trail

(Sites ordered from Boston Common to Charlestown. For more walking info (and subway shortcuts!) read Boston in a Day .)

Boston Common

The Boston Common, established in 1634, is the oldest public park in the nation. From its early days as grazing land and a training ground for colonial militia, the Common has witnessed pivotal moments. It served as a British encampment before the Revolution, and public hangings took place there. Today, monuments commemorate heroes and historic events, while the park remains a vibrant space for public gatherings and peaceful recreation.

Massachusetts State House.

Massachusetts State House

Located by the Common in Beacon Hill, this iconic building isn’t just a functioning state capital; it’s a witness to history. Take a tour and explore its historic chambers, adorned with portraits of revolutionary figures.

Information: 24 Beacon St.

As you’re now on Beacon Hill, take a break for the official Freedom Trail to visit the Boston African American Historic site.

Museum of African American History

Located on Beacon Hill, this museum focuses on the history and contributions of African Americans in Boston and throughout the United States. It includes exhibits, walking tours, and educational programs highlighting important historical events.

Information: 46 Joy St | Entry fee

Back to the Freedom Trail. Follow those red bricks!

Old South Meeting House

Step back in time and feel the electricity in the air as you enter this historic church. It served as a gathering place for colonists debating liberty against British rule, a pivotal act that led to the Boston Tea Party. It now is a museum and offers guided tours.

Information: 310 Washington St | Tickets required

Old State House in Boston with red bricks of Freedom Trail in foreground

Faneuil Hall and the Old State House

Standing shoulder-to-shoulder, these two landmarks embody Boston’s revolutionary spirit. Faneuil Hall, a bustling marketplace since 1742, transformed into a platform for the fiery speeches of Samuel Adams and James Otis, which ignited the flames of independence. Meanwhile, the Old State House, erected in 1713, served as the seat of Massachusetts’ government until nearly the 1800s. Between these two building is the site of the Boston Massacre. Today, these meticulously preserved buildings stand as testaments to Boston’s rich history, offering visitors a chance to step back in time and experience the revolutionary fervor that ignited a nation.

Paul Revere House

In the historic North End stands the small wooden house of Paul Revere, one of the nation’s foremost patriots. Duck beneath the weathered eaves to enter 18th-century Boston. Walk the same floorboards Paul Revere hurried across on that fateful night of his midnight ride. Imagine the murmur of hushed conversations as you explore the modest home, furnished to reflect the life of this iconic patriot. A visit here isn’t just a history lesson; it’s a chance to connect to the life of a revolutionary hero.

Information: 19 N Square | Entry Fee

Old North Church

Only a few streets away from the Revere home is the Old North Church. This church was significant for its role in Paul Revere’s midnight ride and its importance during the American Revolution. It’s the oldest standing church building in Boston and offers guided tours to explore its history.

Information: 193 Salem St | Entry fee

Walking Tour of Boston including a visit to the USS Constitution, old Ironsides

USS Constitution Museum

Within the Charlestown Navy Yard, the USS Constitution Museum stands as tribute to America’s oldest commissioned warship, the USS Constitution, known affectionately as ‘Old Ironsides’. Visitors can board the wooden warship where US Naval sailors will share information about the history of the storied vessel. The museum has immersive exhibits and fascinating artifacts from America’s maritime history

My mother loved to share how her grandparents and all the schoolchildren of Boston donated pennies to save the historic ship from the scrap heap in the 1860s.

Information: 93 Chelsea St. Charlestown | Entry Fee

Bunker Hill Monument

Also in the Charlestown neighborhood, the Bunker Hill Monument commemorates the Battle of Bunker Hill, a significant early battle in the American Revolutionary War. Visit the museum to learn about the battle or, if feeling motivated, climb the 294 steps to the top of the monument for a panoramic view.

Information: Monument Sq, Charlestown

Site of the Boston Massacre sidewalk plaque

Additional sites of historical significance along the Freedom Trail:

  • Site of the Boston Massacre . A site with immense historical significance, it marks the location where the Boston Massacre unfolded in 1770. This critical event fueled anti-British sentiments which led up to the American Revolution.
  • Granary Burying Ground . This historic cemetery in downtown Boston is the final resting place of many notable figures from the Revolutionary era, including Paul Revere, John Hancock, Samuel Adams, and the victims of the Boston Massacre. (If you’ve only time to visit one burying ground, make it this one.)
  • Old Burial Ground . This historic cemetery, situated in Boston, dates back to the 17th century. It holds the final resting places of several notable figures from colonial times.
  • King’s Chapel and Burying Ground . Dating back to the 17th century, King’s Chapel is one of the oldest churches in Boston. The chapel offers guided tours which explain its historical significance.

Boston National Historical Park

The Boston National Historical Park isn’t a single site, but a collection of eight landmarks scattered across Boston that tell the story of the American Revolution and beyond. Established in 1974, the park encompasses iconic sites like Faneuil Hall, the Old South Meeting House, and the USS Constitution, all within walking distance along the Freedom Trail.

Boston Tea Party Boat and museum. Image of yellow sailing vessel with children pretending to throw tea into the harbor

Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum

Situated near the Congress Street Bridge, this museum commemorates the historic Boston Tea Party of 1773. Board a replica ship, toss boxes of ‘tea’ overboard as you pretend to protest taxation without representation. Kids especially will enjoy taking part in the interactive experience. But all will gain appreciation for the reasons behind the Boston Tea Party, a pivotal event in American history.

This is a fun activity for the kids and is located conveniently near the Boston Children’s Museum.

Information: 306 Congress St. | Entry Fee

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

Out on Columbia Point, this museum honors the legacy of President John F. Kennedy. Delve into the legacy of President John F. Kennedy through exhibits showcasing his life, achievements, and the era of the 1960s.

Information: Columbia Point, Boston | Entry Fee

Fort Independence

Sitting proudly on Castle Island in the South Boston neighborhood, Fort Independence is one of the oldest continuously fortified sites in the United States. Construction for the original fort began in the 1630s. The fort has stood guard over Boston throughout various conflicts, from the American Revolution to World War I. The granite fort visitors see today was built between 1833 and 1851, and serves as a popular attraction within the state park.

Visit Fort Independence in the summer and bring a picnic! The South Boston waterfront is an ideal place for a day near the water.

Information: 2010 William J Day Blvd

Brook Farm In the Boston outskirts of West Roxbury, began a unique experiment in the 1840s: Brook Farm. This wasn’t your ordinary homestead; it was a vibrant community built on transcendentalist ideals. The community embraced transcendentalist philosophy, creating a haven for those seeking a simpler, more nature-connected life. Brook Farm was one of Massachusetts’s first sites to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places and be designated a National Historic Landmark.

Information: 670 Baker St., West Roxbury

Experience Boston’s Vibrant Culture: A Fusion of Art, Entertainment, and Culinary Excellence

Boston’s historic sites draw visitors from throughout the world. But there’s much more to this New England city. Visit Boston to discover a vibrant, modern scene brimming with creativity.

Boston’s Artistic Soul

Boston’s art scene is a dazzling kaleidoscope, with world-renowned museums and contemporary galleries. Whether you’re drawn to classical masterpieces or seeking edgy new works, Boston has something to ignite your curiosity. The Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) in Fenway is a must-see, housing an incredible collection of art from all eras. If you’re more into modern art, the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) in the Seaport District is your spot. And that’s not all. Here’s a few of our favorites:

Massachusetts residents – check with your library for museum passes.

MFA Boston - image of the "Appeal to the Great Spirit"

Museum of Fine Arts (MFA)

Immerse yourself in an extensive collection spanning centuries and continents at the MFA, a beacon of artistic heritage. Wander the captivating galleries showcasing everything from ancient Egyptian artifacts to the classic masterpieces of Rembrandt and Van Gogh. Check the museum’s calendar for special exhibits before your visit to Boston.

Information: 465 Huntington Ave. | Entry Fee

Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA)

Explore contemporary artistic expressions that challenge perceptions and inspire thought at the ICA’s dynamic space. The ICA is all about fresh ideas and pushing the boundaries of what art can be. Their exhibits and installations are thought-provoking and eye-catching, showcasing some seriously cool and innovative creations.

Information: 25 Harbor Shore Dr. | Entry Fee

Courtyard of the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum in Boston

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Step into a world of artistic wonder at the Gardner Museum. This unique museum isn’t just a collection of paintings – it’s a meticulously designed Italianate palace filled with treasures. Explore stunning works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, and other European masters alongside Asian art and sculptures. It’s unlike any art experience you’ve ever had!

Though the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is only minutes away from the MFA, plan a full day for each museum. They are both so worth your time!

Information: 25 Evans Way | Entry fee

Boston University Art Galleries

Unlike the grand, permanent collections of the MFA or Gardner Museum, the Boston University Art Galleries (BU Art Galleries) offer a dynamic experience focused on the fresh and innovative. Spread across four galleries on campus, the BU Art Galleries host a constantly changing lineup of exhibitions. Catch thought-provoking displays by emerging international, national, and regional artists, exploring the cutting-edge of contemporary art movements. It’s a fantastic way to discover new voices and see art that’s shaping the future!

Information: 855 Commonwealth Ave

A Symphony of Performances

Boston’s culture scene extends beyond the visual arts into the realm of music and theater. Take in a concert at the world-renowned Symphony Hall, home to the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Get tickets to a show at the Boston Opera House and the Wang Theatre. From awe-inspiring ballets to dazzling Broadway shows, these iconic venues transport you to unforgettable worlds of artistic wonder.

Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO)

For me, Symphony Hall evokes cherished memories of attending the Boston Pops with my family every year. My dad got us a table on the floor where we’d enjoy Pops Punch as we listened to the music. The energy in Symphony Hall was then and still is electric – a hushed anticipation before the performance, the first soaring notes, and the shared experience of being swept away by magnificent music.

The BSO is more than just an orchestra; it’s a Boston institution with a rich history dating back to 1881. Experience the magic of classical music with an afternoon or evening performance by the prestigious orchestra. Led by world-class conductors, the musicians create magic with their instruments, filling the historic hall with unforgettable sounds.

Symphony Hall itself is a must-see for anyone interested in architecture. Built in 1900 it was designed according to precise acoustic principles and is still considered one of the best classical music venues in the world. Check the BSO schedule to see if a performance coincides with your visit.

Information: 301 Massachusetts Ave. | Ticketed

Boston Ballet

Witness the Boston Ballet’s talented dancers defy gravity and tell stories through movement at the Citizens Bank Opera House (Boston Opera House). Whether you’re a longtime ballet fan or a curious newcomer, a night at the Boston Ballet promises to be an unforgettable performance.

Information: 539 Washington St. | Ticketed

Boston Opera House

The artistic spirit soars at the Citizens Bank Opera House, a venue steeped in history and buzzing with contemporary energy. Originally a silver screen showplace, this architectural gem was designed in 1928 by the renowned theater architect Thomas W. Lamb. Imagine the glamour of the golden age of cinema as you enter the lavish lobby with its ornate details.

Today, the Opera House is not only the stage for the prestigious Boston Ballet but also the venue for operas and Broadway shows.

Cutler Majestic Theatre

A Beaux Arts style theatre, built in 1903, and revived by Emerson College as part of the college’s downtown renewal project. The theatre is once again a venue for great performances. Read more about the award winning work Emerson has done in the neighborhood.

Information: 219 Tremont St. | Ticketed

Blue Man Group

Blue Man Group: This performance art group will be a hit for the whole family. The blue-painted cast don’t speak yet will have you laughing and cheering by the end of the show! Definitely a unique thing to do in Boston!

Information: 74 Warrenton St. | Ticketed

Additional Venues for Theater in Boston:

  • Berklee Performance Center
  • Wang Theatre

A Culinary Adventure: Boston’s Foodies Fun

Boston’s culinary scene is a melting pot of flavors, offering gastronomic delights to satisfy every palate. From the Union Oyster House in Downtown Boston to the international flavors found in Boston’s neighborhoods, you’ll want to bring your appetites on your visit to Boston.

North End Restaurants

Along the cobblestone streets of the North End the intoxicating scent of fresh bread and simmering tomato sauce will transport you to Italy. This historic Italian neighborhood brims with family-run trattorias and bustling cafes that have been serving up generations-old recipes for decades.

For those with a sweet tooth, the North End offers an irresistible array of delectable pastries. You can join the queue at the legendary Mike’s Pastry but honestly, you’ll find wonderful goodies no matter which bakery you visit.

If you’d like to sit for a bit try Caffe Vittoria, a legendary Italian cafe that has been a neighborhood staple since 1926. Enjoy freshly brewed espresso and cannolis and sfogliatelle – the perfect way to cap off your evening in Boston’s North End.

Union Oyster House in Boston

Union Oyster House

Taste history at the Union Oyster House, a true Bostonian gem. Established in 1826, it holds the prestigious title of not only Boston’s oldest restaurant but also the oldest continuously operating restaurant in the entire United States (as recognized by the National Park Service!). Savor fresh, local seafood alongside cornbread and other classic New England foods in a historic setting.

The Union Oyster House is tucked into the heart of Boston- across from the somber Holocaust Memorial and just a block away from the touristy Quincy Market. But it’s centuries away from the bustle of the city!

Information: 41 Union St.

Samuel Adams Brewery

Visit the Samuel Adams Brewery for a tour and tasting. Learn about their seasonal varieties and plans the brewery has for the future.

Information: 30 Germania St. (Parking limited, public transportation recommended)

Boston Public Library Afternoon Tea

Treat yourself to afternoon tea at the Courtyard Tea Room, nestled within the architectural marvel of the Boston Public Library. Imagine yourself surrounded by historic grandeur, sunlight streaming through the Italianate courtyard, as you’re presented with a charming tea menu – bound in a book, of course! Afternoon tea is one of my favorite indulgences and the tea at the BPL is one of the best!

Information: 700 Boylston St.

Boston Public Library reading room

Experience: Take a Chocolate Tour in Boston’s Back Bay

The Back Bay was built on reclaimed land in a marshy area of Boston. As such it is one of the only areas of downtown with straight, well-organized streets! This is a lovely area to walk in and all the more lovely with chocolate!

  • Back Bay Chocolate Tour
  • Secret Chocolate Tour: Chocolate and pastry!

Experience: Boston Neighborhood Food Tour

Today Boston is a melting pot of many cultures. Immigrant families from across the globe have settled in distinct neighborhoods, each bringing their unique culinary traditions. Wander through bustling streets lined with international restaurants, and tantalizing aromas will guide you on a delicious adventure. From Chinatown’s dim sum parlors to the Ethiopian stews simmering in cafes of the South End, Boston offers a flavor explosion for every palate.

Skip the chain restaurants and take a food tour. It’s the perfect way to experience the vibrant energy and diverse cultures that define Boston.

Experience: Boston Cooking Class

From traditional New England dishes to Asian dumpling classes, there’s no lack of options for cooking classes in Boston. For a unique Boston experience, look for classes that make clam chowder or Indian pudding.

Boston’s Libraries and Museums

Museums: For greater detail on Boston’s museums (including tips for saving money!) read Top Boston Museums .

Boston Public Library

Gracing Copley Square with its grandeur, the Boston Public Library’s main branch, the McKim Building, is not just a repository of knowledge, but a landmark itself. Opened in 1895 and hailed as a “palace for the people,” the library boasts a majestic Beaux-Arts design. Inside, find richly decorated halls, a central courtyard with an arcaded gallery reminiscent of a Renaissance cloister, and a lovely spot for tea!

The BPL was the first large free municipal library in the United States, the first public library to lend books, the first to have a branch library, and the first to have a children’s room.

Boston Athenaeum doorway in Boston, a unique place to visit in Boston

Boston Athenaeum

The Boston Athenaeum : Established in 1807, the Boston Athenaeum is one of the oldest independent libraries in the United States. It houses a vast collection of rare books, art, and historic documents, showcasing Boston’s intellectual and cultural heritage. Explore the 5th floor reading room at the Boston Athenaeum, which offers stunning views of the Granary Burying Ground.

Information: 10-1/2 Beacon St. | Entry fee

Lucy Parsons Center

The Lucy Parsons Center remains a haven for radical literature and progressive ideas. This collectively run bookstore and community space hosts an array of books, but also discussions on social justice, activism, and critical thinking. It’s a thought-provoking destination for those seeking alternative narratives.

Information: 358 Centre St. A, Jamaica Plain

Mary Baker Eddy Library

Within the Christian Science Center, the library offers a multifaceted exploration of Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science. Stepping through the doors, you’ll encounter a treasure trove of original materials – documents, photographs, artwork, and artifacts – that paint a vivid picture of Eddy’s life and the history of the Church. But the library isn’t just about the past. It also features rotating exhibits and educational programs, fostering a space for exploration of Christian Science’s place in American religion.

Information: 210 Massachusetts Ave

Face to face with a sea turtle at the New England Aquarium

New England Aquarium

No visit to Boston with the family is complete without a stop at the renowned New England Aquarium. Located on Boston’s Central Wharf, the aquarium is home to thousands of marine animals and showcases diverse ecosystems from around the globe. Stroll along the spiral walkway encircling the Giant Ocean Tank, marveling at sharks, sea turtles, and vibrant fish flitting through a recreated Caribbean coral reef. Get up close with gentle rays in the touch tank, or watch playful seals and penguins in their dedicated habitats.

The New England Aquarium is a leader in ocean exploration and conservation, fostering awareness and responsibility for the beauty of our planet.

Information: 1 Central Wharf | Entry fee

Museum of Science in Boston. Free museum days in Boston

Museum of Science

Museum of Science: Boston’s Museum of Science is a must-visit for science enthusiasts young and old. Founded in 1830, it’s one of the country’s largest science museums, boasting over 700 interactive exhibits. Explore the human body in detail, witness a simulated lightning storm, or come face-to-face with a towering dinosaur replica. Beyond the permanent exhibits, catch captivating shows at the planetarium or the domed IMAX theater. Delve deeper into specific scientific fields through special programs and presentations. Check the museum’s calendar.

The Museum of Science was always on our itinerary when we came back to Boston for holidays while living out of state. Not only was there something of interest for everyone, but it’s a great space for kids to explore and work off some energy.

Information: Museum Of Science Driveway (Charles River Dam Rd.) | Entry fee

Boston Children’s Museum

A wonderland of discovery awaits young minds at Boston Children’s Museum, the second oldest in the nation. Founded in 1913, it occupies a waterfront location on Fort Point Channel. Here, children from toddlers to pre-teens can ignite their curiosity through engaging, hands-on exhibits. They can climb a three-story maze, ‘work’ at a replica grocery store, or create their own masterpieces in the art studio. This dynamic museum fosters a love of learning through play, sparking a lifelong journey of exploration and imagination.

Information: 308 Congress St. | Entry fee

Gibson House Museum

Step back in time at the Gibson House Museum in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood. This Victorian mansion, built in the 1860s, offers a glimpse into the lives of a prominent Boston family. Explore the luxurious public rooms, then check out the working areas of the kitchen and scullery. This unique museum tells the story not just of the Gilded Age elite, but also of the domestic staff who kept the grand house running.

Information: 137 Beacon St. | Entry fee (open for tours only)

Great museums close to Boston:

  • Explore the Larz Anderson Auto Museum in Brookline.
  • Visit the Harvard Art Museums in Cambridge.
  • Visit the Harvard Museum of Natural History

Remembering History: Exploring Boston’s Diverse Memorials

Old South Meeting House in Boston with the Irish Famine Memorial in foreground

Irish Famine Memorial

Along the Freedom Trail (across from the South Meeting House) the Irish Famine Memorial stands as a reminder of the resilience of the Irish people during the Great Famine of the 19th century. The sculpture Robert Shure created two evocative groupings – on one side starving families and on the other flourishing immigrants. This sculpture illustrates the struggle and perseverance of the Irish immigrants who sought refuge in Boston and left an indelible mark on the city.

Information: Plaza between Washington St. and School St.

Martin Luther King Jr.: the Embrace

The MLK Embrace sculpture on the Boston Common memorializes the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.. This striking sculpture captures a tender embrace between Dr. King and his wife, Coretta Scott King, symbolizing their enduring commitment to equality and social justice. The bronze sculpture by Hank Willis Thomas was unveiled only recently on the common.

Information: 139 Tremont St (Boston Common)

New England Holocaust Memorial

A solemn and powerful tribute, the New England Holocaust Memorial in downtown Boston consists of six glass towers etched with millions of numbers, representing the tattooed arms of Holocaust victims. Walk among the towers honoring the memories of those who perished in one of history’s darkest chapters.

Information: 98 Union St.

The Jimmy Statue

The Jimmy Statue : The bronze sculpture depicts Dr. Sidney Farber, a pioneering oncologist, alongside a young patient named Einar Gustafson. Nicknamed “Jimmy” to protect his privacy, Gustafson’s battle with leukemia in 1948 featured on a national radio appearance that led to a fundraising organization that continues to this day – the Jimmy Fund.

Information: Jimmy Fund Way

Deer Island Great Hunger Memorial

Standing on Deer Island (a Boston Harbor Island) is a poignant memorial dedicated to the victims of the Great Hunger. Fleeing starvation in Ireland, the immigrants arrived in Boston seeking refuge, only to be quarantined on this island due to typhus outbreaks. This 16-foot tall Celtic Cross commemorates the estimated 850 Irish immigrants who died here between 1847 and 1850. The Deer Island Great Hunger Memorial serves as a powerful testament to the tragic human cost of famine and disease, and a reminder of the struggles faced by many immigrants throughout history.

Information: C Deer St

Ether Monument

The Ether Monument in the Boston Public Garden, dedicated to the discovery of ether anesthesia.

Additional Memorials in Boston:

  • Boston Police Officers Memorial
  • Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Embracing Nature: Exploring Boston’s Outdoor Paradises and Garden Sanctuaries

Amidst the vibrant cityscape of Boston, many outdoor havens and lush green spaces offer nature enthusiasts and tranquility seekers refuge. From scenic gardens to expansive parks, these outdoor sanctuaries offer a break from the urban bustle. A few of our favorites:

Boston Public Garden in Summer

Boston Public Garden

The cherished jewel in Boston’s crown, the Boston Public Garden epitomizes serenity and charm. With lush foliage, vivid flower gardens, and the iconic Swan Boats gliding across its tranquil waters, this historic garden offers a serene oasis in the heart of the city.

The Public Garden was the first public botanical garden in America. (Its neighbor, the Boston Common, was established earlier as the first public park but was used for more practical purposes)

Charles River Esplanade

Stretching along the banks of the Charles River, the Esplanade beckons residents and visitors with its views and recreational opportunities. Everyone can enjoy jogging, cycling, or picnicking while relishing breathtaking vistas of the river and the city skyline. (If you’re lucky you might catch a performance at the Hatch Shell on the Esplanade!)

Rose Kennedy Rose Garden

Nestled within the renowned Boston’s Emerald Necklace, the Rose Kennedy Rose Garden, located in the Back Bay Fens, is a city paradise. This exquisite garden boasts a vibrant collection of roses, offering a picturesque retreat for visitors seeking quiet among beauty.

Merry-go-round on the Greenway in Boston. Image of peregrine falcon seat

Mother’s Walk on the Greenway

The Greenway, a linear park in downtown Boston, features gardens, a carousel, water features, and Boston’s Mothers Walk. This city oasis was created on ground previously covered by raised roadways during the Big Dig. It’s a lovely addition to the Boston’s green spaces but also makes walking to the North End easier and safer!

The Mothers Walk is a quiet spot for strolls and contemplation. My mom, a lifelong Bostonian, has a remembrance stone here.

Castle Island and Fort Independence

Steeped in history, Castle Island in South Boston offers a captivating blend of natural beauty and historical significance. The state park features Fort Independence, a historic fort dating back to the Revolutionary War era, surrounded by picturesque landscapes and walking trails overlooking the harbor.

Emerald Necklace

TThe Emerald Necklace, a series of interconnected parks designed by renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, weaves green spaces throughout Boston. These interconnected parks offer a mosaic of trails, ponds, and woodlands, perfect for hiking, biking, or simply enjoying nature.

Arnold Arboretum

A haven for plant enthusiasts and casual strollers alike, the Arnold Arboretum is a free public park and a botanical research institution rolled into one. Founded in 1872, it’s the oldest public arboretum in North America, with over 15,000 trees, shrubs, and vines. This is another of Boston’s parks designed by famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. Wander its walking trails through 281 acres of gorgeous flowers and trees.

Information: 125 Arborway

Boston Harbor Islands

Escape the urban buzz and explore history and nature at the Boston Harbor Islands National and State Park . This archipelago of 34 islands and peninsulas offers a variety of activities, from hiking scenic trails and relaxing on beaches to picnicking with stunning harbor views and delving into historic forts. Ferries are the ideal way to access most islands, with seasonal service departing from Boston. You can find ferry schedules and plan your island adventure directly through the Boston Harbor Islands website.

Take a cruise on the Charles River.

Additional Nature Escapes in Boston:

Franklin park zoo.

  • Forest Hills Cemetery

Nature escapes close to Boston:

The Boston suburbs offer lots of beautiful spaces to enjoy and are just a subway ride away from downtown Boston.

  • Explore the Larz Anderson Park in Brookline – a lovely spot for a walk or a picnic with a perfect view of Boston (and an antique auto museum to explore!)
  • While in Brookline visit the Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site.
  • Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, the first garden cemetery in the U.S., is spectacular in the spring and lovely for a walk anytime.
  • Alewife Reservation in Cambridge – a 200-acre park ideal for a walk or a bike ride.

Discover Boston’s Quirky Charms: Some Truly Unique Things to Do in Boston!

Beyond the well-trodden paths of historic landmarks and popular museums, Boston has an assortment of unconventional and offbeat attractions that might pique your interest. Whether exploring medical curiosities or encountering literary landmarks, these offbeat attractions offer unique narratives that add depth and diversity to your visit to Boston. Check out these hidden gems to get a glimpse into unique facets of the city’s history, culture, and peculiarities.

Mapparium at Mary Baker Eddy Library

Venture to the Back Bay neighborhood to discover the Mapparium, a three-story stained-glass globe offering a fascinating perspective on the world. Visitors step inside this spherical map and experience a unique visual and auditory presentation, exploring geopolitical boundaries frozen in time from 1935.

History enthusiasts can delve into medical history at the Ether Dome, located within Massachusetts General Hospital. This site commemorates the first successful public surgery using ether anesthesia in 1846. The dome, a witness to this groundbreaking event, invites visitors to reflect on medical advancements and the evolution of surgery.

Information: located within Massachusetts General Hospital – 55 Fruit St.

Warren Anatomical Museum

Tucked within Harvard Medical School, the Warren Anatomical Museum houses an extraordinary collection of medical artifacts, specimens, and anatomical oddities. From surgical tools and anatomical models to pathological specimens, this free museum provides a captivating journey through the evolution of medical science.

Information: located with Harvard Medical School’s Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine, 10 Shattuck St.

Waterworks museum, a unique museum in the Boston area.

Metropolitan Waterworks

The Metropolitan Waterworks, nestled within Chestnut Hill, is a grand testament to Boston’s architectural legacy. Enjoy the unusual museum before taking a walk around the adjacent reservoir. It’s a lovely spot for a leisurely stroll.

Information: 2450 Beacon St., Chestnut Hill

The Skinny House

Skinny House: Located in the historic North End, Boston’s Skinny House stands as a testament to ingenuity and space utilization. Often called the Spite House due to a hard-to-quash urban legend of brothers squabbling about inherited land, in fact this house was part of a multi dwelling building built in the 1840s or 1850s. This slender dwelling, measuring a mere 10.4 feet wide, is a fascinating, yet quirky, glimpse into Boston’s architectural oddities and urban legends.

Information: 44 Hull St

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum - designed as an Italian palace.Image of a room within the palace

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum – the Palace

I mentioned the Gardner Museum before but it’s worth noting again because it is such an architectural treasure in Boston. The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum transports visitors to a Venetian-inspired palace adorned with art and opulence. Isabella Stewart Gardner designed the building as her home and museum. She recreated the look of a Venetian palazzo and decorated the home with pieces collected on her European travels.

The museum has sadly gained infamy due to the unsolved art heist in 1990. Read more about the heist in the fascinating book The Gardner Heist by Ulrich Boser.

Boston Fire Museum

Explore the Boston Fire Museum Nestled within a historic firehouse on Congress Street, the Boston Fire Museum offers a glimpse into the evolution of firefighting in the city. Step back in time and explore the tools early firefighters wielded, from hand-drawn pumpers dating back to the 18th century to horse-drawn steamers. Exhibits showcase firefighting equipment through the ages, alongside poignant tributes to fallen firefighters. This unique museum, run by the Boston Sparks Association, not only honors the city’s firefighting heritage but also educates the public about fire safety.

Information: 344 Congress St.

Boston bricks - one of the unique things to do in Boston

The Boston Bricks

Discover a bit of Boston history and art underfoot. The Boston Bricks project consists of nearly 100 bronze reliefs, each about the size of a brick, installed along Winthrop Lane in downtown Boston. Each relief depicts a scene or figure significant to Boston’s past and present, creating a kind of walkable timeline of the city.

Boston’s Abandoned Subway Tunnel

Visit the abandoned subway tunnel under City Hall Plaza, part of the old Scollay Square station.

Great Molasses Flood

Explore the Site of the Great Molasses Flood in the North End, where a large molasses tank burst in 1919, killing 21 people. The massive tank, filled with over two million gallons of molasses, ruptured due to a faulty build and unseasonably warm weather. The resulting wave of molasses, reaching 25 feet high and traveling at 35 miles per hour, inundated streets, destroyed buildings, and took the lives of 21 people and 12 horses. The flood remains an unforgettable event in the city’s history, leaving behind a legacy of sticky anecdotes and a reminder of the unexpected forces that can shape a city.

Molasses Flood Plaque : Marking the site of this most peculiar disaster, the Molasses Flood Plaque commemorates the Great Molasses Flood of 1919. (For a fascinating account of this unusual disaster read Dark Tide by Stephen Puleo.)

Information: 529 Commercial St.

Boston Public Library Rare Book Collection

Nestled in Copley Square, the Boston Public Library houses a rare book collection that’s a bibliophile’s dream. Visitors can peruse ancient manuscripts, first editions, and literary treasures, including Shakespeare folios and early American imprints, fostering a profound appreciation for literary history.

Additional Offbeat Attractions in Boston:

  • Edgar Allan Poe Square – Back Bay: Free

Walking history in Boston's North End. Image of young child pretending to shake hands with Paul Revere

Discovering Boston’s Cultural Tapestry: Historic Walking Tours Unveiling Heritage and Literature

Boston, steeped in history, culture, and fun, invites visitors to explore its storied streets through walking tours. These immersive experiences unveil the city’s diverse heritage, celebrating the contributions of women, African Americans, and literary luminaries, offering a window into Boston’s rich tapestry of culture and history.

Take our self-guided walking tour of Boston .

Women’s Heritage Trail

Embark on the Women’s Heritage Trail, a walking tour that commemorates the remarkable contributions of women to Boston’s history and society. This trail winds through various neighborhoods, revealing stories of pioneering women who shaped the city’s social, cultural, and political landscapes, honoring their legacies and achievements.

Black Heritage Trail

Delve into Boston’s African American history with the Black Heritage Trail, part of the Boston African American National Historic Site . The walking tour navigates through Beacon Hill, illuminating the stories of African American abolitionists, educators, and leaders who played pivotal roles in the abolitionist movement and the fight for civil rights.

Boston’s Literary District Walk

Step into the Boston Literary District, where the city’s literary history comes to life. With options for either a guided or self-guided walking tour you’re able to satisfy your love of literature in Boston. Choose a guided tour and your guide, a passionate bibliophile, will weave tales of literary giants like Louisa May Alcott, Edgar Allan Poe and Henry David Thoreau, bringing Boston’s literary heritage to life.

These tours often include visits to historic bookstores and hidden gems, allowing you to retrace the steps of your favorite authors and discover the city that continues to inspire writers today.

Experience: Take a Walking Photography Tour

Photographers (and wannabe photographers) will enjoy discovering the city alongside a professional photographer. These tours weave through iconic landmarks and hidden gems, guiding you on how to best capture the city’s architectural details, bustling energy, and charming atmosphere.

Boston’s Melting Pot: Exploring Neighborhoods and Embracing Vibrant Communities

Boston, a city known for its historical significance and cultural diversity, boasts a mosaic of neighborhoods that encapsulate a vibrant blend of cultures, traditions, and communities. From bustling districts to serene enclaves, each neighborhood in Boston offers a distinct personality and charm, inviting visitors to embark on a captivating journey through its vibrant streets.

Neighborhood Explorations: Back Bay

Back Bay, renowned for its picturesque Victorian brownstones and fashionable boutiques along Newbury Street, exudes an air of sophistication. The iconic Copley Square, home to the Boston Public Library and Trinity Church, stands as a testament to architectural grandeur amidst the neighborhood’s contemporary allure.

Neighborhood Explorations: Beacon Hill

Adorned with gas-lit cobblestone streets and Federal-style row houses, Beacon Hill exudes old-world charm. Acorn Street, often referred to as the “most picturesque street in America,” offers a glimpse into Boston’s colonial past, while the Massachusetts State House stands tall as a symbol of historic elegance.

Neighborhood Explorations: Boston’s Chinatown

Boston’s Chinatown vibrates with cultural diversity, featuring bustling streets adorned with vibrant red lanterns and a rich tapestry of Asian culture. Visitors can savor authentic Chinese cuisine, explore cultural landmarks, and experience traditional celebrations throughout the year.

Neighborhood Explorations: Charlestown

Venture to Charlestown to climb the Bunker Hill Monument, commemorating the first major battle in the Revolution, or explore the Charlestown Navy Yard, home to the world’s oldest commissioned warship still afloat. Each piece of the park sheds light on the pivotal role Boston played in shaping the nation’s history.

Neighborhood Explorations: Dorchester

Dorchester, one of Boston’s largest neighborhoods, embodies a rich mix of cultures, boasting a diverse population and a strong sense of community. Visitors can explore cultural landmarks, enjoy international cuisine, and attend community events that celebrate diversity and heritage.

Neighborhood Explorations: Jamaica Plain

Known for its bohemian ambiance and green spaces, Jamaica Plain offers a relaxed atmosphere coupled with a vibrant arts and music scene. The Arnold Arboretum and Jamaica Pond provide serene escapes for nature lovers, while local breweries and independent shops add to the neighborhood’s eclectic charm.

Neighborhood Explorations: North End

Steeped in history and brimming with culinary delights, the North End beckons with its cobblestone streets and a vibrant Italian-American culture. Visitors can savor delectable Italian cuisine, visit historical sites like the Paul Revere House, and indulge in delightful pastries from local bakeries.

Neighborhood Explorations: South End

A hub of creativity and diversity, the South End boasts a thriving arts scene and a plethora of dining options. Stroll along Tremont Street to discover art galleries, boutiques, and enjoy the neighborhood’s renowned restaurant scene, showcasing diverse cuisines from around the world.

Neighborhood Explorations: South Boston

South Boston, known locally as “Southie,” offers a unique blend of history, culture, and waterfront charm. Start your day with a walk along the scenic Harborwalk, which offers stunning views of Boston Harbor and the city skyline. Visit Castle Island and explore Fort Independence, a historic fort dating back to the Revolutionary War era. Afterward, grab a bite to eat at one of Southie’s many popular restaurants, known for their delicious seafood and Irish cuisine.

Boston, the Ultimate Sports Town

Beyond its historic landmarks and cultural sites, Boston offers a thrilling array of outdoor adventures, unconventional explorations, and sporting events.

Fenway Park

Baseball enthusiasts can’t miss the hallowed grounds of Fenway Park, an iconic stadium steeped in sporting history. Home to the beloved Boston Red Sox, the park exudes an electric atmosphere during games, offering visitors an unparalleled experience, whether they’re avid sports fans or simply captivated by the allure of America’s pastime.

Baseball history lovers might enjoy taking a one-hour tour of Fenway Park, available year-round!

Die-hard sports fans! Catch a game at TD Garden where the legendary Celtics and Bruins play. TD Garden isn’t just about the game; it’s about experiencing the unwavering passion of Boston’s dedicated fanbase, a feeling that will leave you with memories that last a lifetime.

Gillette Stadium

Technically not in Boston but in the suburb of Foxborough. But football fans should try to attend a game at Gillette Stadium to see the New England Patriots in action.

Humpback whale's tail seen on a whale watching trip in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.

Whale Watching Tours

Embark on a marine adventure with a thrilling whale-watching tour from Boston Harbor. Setting sail from the harbor, these tours take visitors on a quest to witness majestic whales breaching the ocean’s surface. Guided by experienced naturalists, participants get up close to these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat, creating memories to cherish for a lifetime.

Kayaking on the Charles River

Paddle along the tranquil waters of the iconic Charles River for a unique perspective of Boston’s skyline. Kayaking adventures allow enthusiasts to explore the city’s scenic beauty while indulging in a recreational activity. With various rental sites available, kayaking along the river presents an opportunity to enjoy Boston’s sights from a different angle. Paddle along the tranquil waters of the Charles River for a unique perspective of Boston’s skyline.

Cycling along the Esplanade

Boston’s Esplanade beckons cyclists with a scenic and car-free path named after Dr. Paul Dudley White. This paved route offers a relaxing ride along the Charles River, perfect for cyclists of all experience levels. The Esplanade is a shared pathway with pedestrians, so courtesy and awareness are key. Clocking in at roughly 3 miles on the Boston side, it connects to a larger 24-mile loop around the Charles River if you’re looking for a longer adventure. You can bring your own bike or snag a Bluebike from a docking station and enjoy a ride along the river.

Explore the Boston Harbor Islands

Escape the city buzz and embark on a ferry trip to the Boston Harbor Islands, an archipelago comprising 34 islands and peninsulas. Each island boasts its unique charm, offering opportunities for hiking, picnicking, and exploring historical landmarks. Escape the city buzz and explore the Boston Harbor Islands, an archipelago offering hiking, picnicking, and historical landmarks.

Boston Street Art Bike Tours

Discover Boston’s vibrant street art scene on specialized bike tours that wind through the city’s neighborhoods. Led by knowledgeable guides, these tours unveil hidden murals, graffiti, and street art masterpieces, offering insights into the local art culture and the stories behind these urban canvases.

Harbor Cruises

Embark on a harbor cruise departing from various points along the waterfront. These cruises offer panoramic views of Boston’s skyline and historical landmarks from the water, providing a relaxing yet captivating experience. Whether enjoying a sunset cruise or a narrated tour, the harbor cruises offer a unique perspective of the city’s coastal beauty. Take a relaxing cruise from various points along the waterfront, offering panoramic views of Boston’s skyline.

If you haven’t the time or inclination for a full tour, take the harbor ferry to Charlestown where you’ll dock near the USS Constitution. You’ll still get some time on the water!

Additional Unusual Explorations in Boston:

  • Duck Boat Tours: Location – Various; Ticketed
  • Boston Segway Tours
  • Treetop Adventures at Zoo New England’s Franklin Park Zoo

Swan Boats in Boston Garden

Unique Boston Experiences for the Whole Family

Boston, a city steeped in history and cultural richness, extends its charm beyond its well-known landmarks, offering a plethora of unique experiences that cater to diverse interests, from literary enthusiasts to families with children. Here are some extraordinary activities that add a touch of uniqueness to a visit to Beantown.

Make Way for Ducklings Statues

Inspired by the classic children’s book by Robert McCloskey, “ Make Way for Ducklings, ” the Public Garden features bronze statues of Mrs. Mallard and her ducklings. Children and adults alike revel in this delightful tribute and nod to Boston’s literary heritage. decorated for every holiday and Boston event.

A cherished tradition for over a century, the Swan Boats offer a serene voyage across the tranquil waters of the Public Garden’s lagoon. Adorned with beautiful swan-shaped pedal-powered boats, this leisurely ride has captivated visitors since the 1870s.

Hop aboard a Duck Boat for an unconventional tour that transitions seamlessly between land and water. These amphibious vehicles offer a whimsical and informative exploration of Boston’s landmarks, providing a one-of-a-kind perspective while cruising along the city streets and splashing into the Charles River.

Boston Harborwalk

Unwind and explore Boston’s rich history and waterfront beauty with a stroll along the Boston Harborwalk. This nearly continuous, 43-mile public path winds along the shoreline, connecting Boston’s vibrant neighborhoods from Dorchester to East Boston. As you walk, you’ll encounter beaches, parks, historic sites like the USS Constitution, and bustling harbor activity. Public art, unique shops, and delicious restaurants line the walk, offering opportunities to relax, explore, and soak in the city’s maritime atmosphere.

Hood Milk Bottle

A quirky landmark with a surprisingly long history, Boston’s Hood Milk Bottle isn’t actually a functioning dairy dispenser. Built in 1933 as a roadside ice cream stand, this 40-foot-tall wooden structure started life in Taunton, Massachusetts. In 1976, Hood, the dairy company whose logo it bore, donated the bottle to the Boston Children’s Museum. Transported by barge in a celebrated “Great Bottle Sail,” it now resides next to the museum, serving once more as an ice cream stand, a delightful homage to its past and a fun photo opportunity for visitors.

Spend a day at the Franklin Park Zoo. Franklin Park Zoo offers a fun and educational escape for visitors. Founded in 1912, it’s the city’s largest zoo and a cornerstone of Zoo New England, which also manages the Stone Zoo. Spanning 72 acres, the zoo boasts a diverse collection of animals, from gorillas and penguins to lions and giraffes. Interactive exhibits like the Tropical Forest allow visitors to get up close to fascinating creatures, while educational programs foster a deeper appreciation for wildlife and conservation efforts.

Boston's Quincy Market is a lively area with shops, restaurants and history

A Shopping Delight

Boston offers a delightful shopping experience, catering to a range of styles and budgets. Explore three distinct areas to find the perfect souvenirs, trendy outfits, or fresh local produce:

Immerse yourself in the lively atmosphere of Haymarket, an open-air market operating since the mid-1800s. This historic district near Faneuil Hall bursts with vibrant colors and enticing aromas. Local vendors offer an abundance of fresh fruits, vegetables, and flowers, alongside specialty items like local honey and baked goods. Haymarket is a treasure trove for foodies and those seeking a taste of authentic Boston.

Quincy Market

Located within the iconic Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Quincy Market is a shopper’s paradise. This 19th-century landmark houses over 100 shops and eateries. Browse national brands and local boutiques for apparel, souvenirs, and specialty items. Take a break from shopping and savor delicious food from international eateries or grab a quick bite from a street vendor. Quincy Market offers a vibrant mix of shopping, dining, and entertainment, all under one historic roof.

Newbury Street

Window shop on Newbury Street. Upscale and sophisticated, Newbury Street is a haven for luxury brands and designer boutiques. Located in the chic Back Bay neighborhood, this renowned shopping destination boasts flagship stores of renowned fashion houses alongside trendy local shops. Art galleries and antique stores add to the area’s charm. Take a stroll down Newbury Street, window shop the latest styles, or indulge in a splurge purchase.

Immerse Yourself in Boston’s Seasonal Splendor: Unveiling the City’s Signature Events

Boston, a city rich in history and culture, hosts a myriad of seasonal and special events that captivate residents and visitors alike. From cherished holiday traditions to unique festivals celebrating art, music, and athleticism, these events create lasting memories and define the essence of Boston’s community spirit.

Outdoor Concerts, Holiday Pops, and Festivals – Celebrating Culture Throughout the year, Boston’s city parks come alive with the sounds of music, hosting a myriad of outdoor concerts and festivals. From jazz and classical performances to vibrant cultural celebrations, these events offer free or ticketed access, allowing audiences to revel in diverse musical genres and artistic expressions.

Boston Marathon

One of the world’s most iconic marathons, the Boston Marathon, takes center stage in April. Spanning throughout the city, this prestigious event attracts elite runners and enthusiastic spectators from around the globe. The spirited cheers echoing all along the 26.2 mile course support the runners as they conquer the historic route.

Boston’s Fourth of July

Come July 4th, the Charles River Esplanade becomes the epicenter of patriotic fervor during Boston’s Independence Day celebrations. Spectacular fireworks illuminate the night sky, synchronized to a stirring musical accompaniment, drawing thousands of revelers who gather along the riverbanks to commemorate America’s freedom.

North End Festivals

St. Anthony’s Feast in the North End : The feast honors St. Anthony of Padua, the patron saint of many Italian immigrants. It’s a way for the Italian American community in Boston to celebrate their heritage and faith. The feast originated in 1919 by Italian immigrants and served as a way for them to find comfort and support in a new land, keeping their traditions alive. St. Anthony’s Feast has grown into a major cultural event, showcasing Italian food, music, and traditions to a wider audience.

Autumn in Boston

Fall Foliage in Parks – Nature’s Artistry Unveiled As autumn blankets the city, Boston’s parks transform into a canvas of vibrant hues. Various parks, including the Emerald Necklace and Boston Common, showcase the mesmerizing spectacle of fall foliage. Locals and tourists alike immerse themselves in the breathtaking beauty of nature’s seasonal artwork.

Haunted History Tours – Unveiling Boston’s Ghostly Past For those seeking a spine-chilling adventure, haunted history tours navigate through Boston’s eerie alleys and historic sites. Led by knowledgeable guides, these tours unveil the city’s darker tales, exploring legends, mysteries, and ghostly encounters tied to its rich past. (Or take the train to enjoy an afternoon in the Witch City – Salem !)

Faneuil Hall Holiday Festivities

Faneuil Hall Marketplace Holiday Festivities – Festive Merriment Downtown Boston’s Faneuil Hall Marketplace becomes a hub of festive cheer during the holiday season. The marketplace’s enchanting décor and joyful ambiance set the stage for cheerful celebrations, including festive light displays, live performances, and visits from Santa Claus, spreading joy and holiday spirit.

Boston Tuba Christmas

tacle Each December, the resonating melodies of brass instruments fill the air as Boston Tuba Christmas gathers over a hundred tuba and euphonium players in a heartwarming performance. This musical extravaganza, featuring beloved holiday tunes, transforms the city into a symphonic wonderland, delighting audiences of all ages.

These seasonal and special events in Boston epitomize the city’s dynamic spirit, fostering a sense of community and celebration among its residents and visitors. Whether reveling in musical harmonies, cheering on marathon runners, or embracing seasonal splendor, these events weave the fabric of Boston’s cultural tapestry, inviting everyone to join in the festivities.

Boston, the hub of New England

  • Take a winter weekend in the mountains of New Hampshire or Vermont
  • Explore the fascinating history of Salem or Plymouth
  • Enjoy some cycling among New England’s stunning autumn foliage

Boston offers a remarkable blend of historic charm, vibrant culture, and unexpected delights. Whether you’re a history buff, a museum enthusiast, or an outdoor adventurer, Boston has something to offer everyone. This list of unique things to do in Boston has just scratched the surface – so lace up your walking shoes, pack your curiosity, and get ready to experience my hometown’s unique magic for yourself!

Best of Boston: unique things to do in Boston. Explore hidden gems, quirky museums, and historic sites. Uncover the city's soul with this ultimate bucket list.  Save for later and plan your unique Boston adventure! Best Parks, History, Museums, Events, Eats, and much more!

Amy, a writer on responsible bucket list travel, is your reliable source for insightful travel advice. With a career background in libraries, and a degree in biology and mathematics, Amy's approach to travel is rooted in meticulous research and planning, and her commitment to eco-conscious adventures.

Amy’s dedication to sustainable travel practices, including efficient packing techniques, ensures that every adventure leaves a positive impact on both the environment and the traveler's well-being. Trust Amy to guide you towards meaningful and eco-friendly travel, making the most of your retirement years.

A lifelong New England resident, Amy is also the source for insider tips on travel in the Northeastern U.S.

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Top 21 Things to Do in Boston, Massachusetts

what places to visit in boston

TripSavvy / Violet Smirnova 

Boston is a one-of-a-kind American city that offers visitors opportunities to relive history, immerse themselves in the arts, cheer for hometown sports teams, explore museums, discover "hidden" harbor islands, and imbibe at local breweries. If you're visiting Boston for the first time or if you've never spent an extended period in Massachusetts' capital city, here are our picks for Boston's 21 must-see places and attractions.

Feel Scholarly at Harvard

Most college campus tours are designed for incoming students, but Harvard University in Cambridge is a tourist attraction in and of itself. It's not only the oldest university in the U.S., but one of the most prestigious schools in the world, counting among its alumni eight U.S. presidents, over 150 Nobel Prize laureates, and hundreds of Rhodes Scholars and Marshall Scholars. Harvard Yard is the center of campus and the oldest part of the school, surrounded by the iconic red-brick buildings that the university is known for. Campus tours are free to attend and led by current students, with options of a historical tour or an arts walk.

Indulge in Oyster Happy Hour

Oysters are a New England staple, and no trip to Boston is complete without slurping down at least a few of these bivalve delicacies. Although they may seem like a lavish snack, many local bars and seafood restaurants include a daily "oyster happy hour" where you can get a few oysters and a drink for a reasonable price. Fresh oysters are practically ubiquitous throughout the city—and New England—but some of the best places to try them include the Union Oyster House , which is America's oldest continuously operated restaurant, or Lincoln . However, feel free to ask a local for their favorite spot and you won't be steered wrong.

Take a Trip to a Venetian Palace

Corbis / Getty Images

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum isn't just an art museum, but an art museum housed inside a replica of a real-life Venetian Palace. Isabella collected works from celebrated painters like Vermeer and Rembrandt and promised to keep them on display to the public. Apart from the expansive art collection, one of the most impressive parts of the museum is the inner courtyard, styled after the Palazzo Barbaro in Venice with its distinctive Renaissance architecture and year-round garden. Isabella was known as an eccentric socialite in her day and that legacy lives on in her museum. For example, anyone with the name "Isabella" has lifetime membership and can enter for free.

Step Inside the World's Largest Walk-in Globe

The Mary Baker Eddy Library

If you're a geography nerd, you can't miss taking a stroll through the Mapparium, the world's largest walk-in... world. Located inside the Mary Baker Eddy Library, this three-story globe offers a perspective of the Earth in a way you've never seen it before. Built in 1935, the Mapparium still shows the world as it was then and includes former countries and bygone borders. The exhibit also includes a special presentation called "A World Of Ideas" of orchestrated music, lights, and narration to enhance your experience.

Walk Along the Freedom Trail

Violet Smirnova / TripSavvy

A walk along the two-and-a-half-mile Freedom Trail is one of the best ways to get acquainted with Boston and to efficiently visit the city's bounty of historic landmarks . If you're in a hurry and in pretty good shape, you can cover the length of the trail in as little as an hour, but that won't really allow you time to stop and visit any of the sites along the way. Your best bet is to allow three hours or more to walk the trail at a leisurely pace and see all of its Revolutionary landmarks. Boston also has an Irish Heritage Trail you may want to explore.

Visit the Boston Public Garden and the Swan Boats

Boston Public Garden, located along Charles Street adjacent to Boston Common, is the nation's oldest botanical garden. The famous Swan Boats return to Boston Public Garden each spring and have done so since they were first invented in 1877 by Robert Paget. The rental business, which operates from mid-April through Labor Day, is still run by descendants of the boats' inventor.

Shop (and Eat) at Quincy Market

 TripSavvy / Taylor Nealand 

Quincy Market is actually just one part of Faneuil Hall Marketplace, but many locals refer to the whole complex as "Quincy Market." The famous indoor-outdoor market is a great place for both shopping and dining, and a perfect place to try local specialties (like the lobster rolls). Quincy Market colonnade houses more than thirty food merchants, so definitely arrive hungry in order to fully take advantage of this culinary attraction.

See a Reenactment of the Boston Tea Party

TripSavvy / Violet Smirnova

The Boston Tea Party is reenacted daily, and you can participate. Really! Steep yourself in history at the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum . Rebuilt and reimagined following a devastating 2001 fire and another in 2007, the attraction reopened in 2012, and it's now one of the city's most engaging experiences.

Watch the Red Sox Play at Fenway Park

On a sunshine-filled summer afternoon, there is perhaps no better place to be in all of New England than Fenway Park, the historic home of Major League Baseball's Boston Red Sox. Baseball fans have been energized and agonized by the exploits of some of baseball's greatest players at Fenway since 1912. If you can't score tickets to a Red Sox game , look into behind-the-scenes tours of Fenway Park .

Visit the Museum of Science

Boston's museums are as good as any you'll find in the world, and one of the most visited is the Museum of Science at Science Park. It has more than 700 interactive exhibits including A Bird's World, a 4-D theater, Thrill Ride 360°, a butterfly garden, and a planetarium. Take the kids for a full day of easy entertainment.

Taste Beer at Sam Adams Brewery

Violet Smirnov / TripSavvy

These days, Samuel Adams is known as much for being a brewer as a patriot. Tour the Sam Adams Brewery in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston—which is also home to the Boston Beer Museum—for a glimpse of the beer-making process and a sample of the finished product. The brewery itself is on the outer edges of the city, but you can always visit the Sam Adams Tap Room right in the city center for a more conveniently located taste of this all American beer.

Visit the New England Aquarium

Want to see sea lions smile and penguins play? Head to the New England Aquarium , one of Boston's perpetually popular family attractions . Once inside, you'll find yourself immersed in a watery world, where you can wave your flippers at cavorting sea lions and press your nose right up against the glass of the poisonous fish tank—if you dare!

Take a Day-Trip to a Boston Harbor Island

Kim Knox Beckius

Want to swim, hike , explore the ruins of an old fort, and camp out under the stars at a National Park? Believe it or not, you can do all of these things without leaving the city of Boston. The Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area consists of 34 narrow isles scattered in New England's most historic harbor, and you can visit these "hidden" outdoor spaces by boarding seasonal ferries from Quincy and Boston's Long Wharf .

Take a Walking Tour of Back Bay

Back Bay is one of Boston's oldest and most picturesque neighborhoods—especially if you time your trip with the fall foliage . Start with a walk along the Charles River to take in the beauty of this historic neighborhood near downtown Boston. Enjoy a quiet stroll down Commonwealth Avenue, admiring the brownstones that dot this tree-lined street modeled after Paris’ Haussmann renovation. Continue south to shop along trendy Newbury and Boylston streets. If you prefer a bit of guidance, ​ free walking tours are available almost year-round.

Relax at Boston Common

 TripSavvy / Violet Smirnova

The oldest city park in the United States—established 1634—the Boston Common consists of 50 acres between Charles Street and Downtown Boston. Originally used to graze cattle, the Common is now the place for Bostonians to come to graze during a lunch break or a weekend picnic. The Common is also the beginning of the Freedom Trail, making it the perfect place to sit for a while after walking it. When winter arrives, ice skating is available at the Boston Common Frog Pond.

Take in the History of the Boston Public Library

 TripSavvy / Taylor Nealand

While a trip to a public library may not rank highly on everyone’s vacation to-do list, the Boston Public Library is a must-see for visitors thanks to its many prominent murals, huge reading rooms, and Italian Renaissance-inspired interior courtyard complete with fountains and arched pathways. The library also hosts unique, free events throughout the year, ranging from readings to theater performances. 

Relive the 1960s at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

President John F. Kennedy's library and museum offers a glimpse into the 1960s and a chance to experience the life of the president firsthand. While Kennedy only spent a thousand days in office, the museum is home to more than 20 multimedia exhibits and period settings from the White House. I.M. Pei designed the memorial, which sits on a 10-acre waterfront site on Columbia Point. From there, you can see Boston's skyline and nearby Harbor Islands. 

See Ballet at the Boston Opera House

 Getty Images

Initially built in 1928 as a movie palace, the Citizens Bank Opera House lay empty from 1991 to 2004. Following a massive restoration and refurbishment, the Boston Opera House became home to the Boston Ballet. The ornate theatre is also the place to catch touring Broadway shows as well as their annual production of The Nutcracker each holiday season. 

Hover Over Boston Harbor at the Institute for Contemporary Art

One of the best pieces at the Institute of Contemporary Art? The building itself. This South Boston museum is housed in a modern piece of glass architecture that contrasts the rest of Boston’s historic buildings. A highlight is the rear of the museum, a cantilevered glass expanse that hovers over Boston Harbor.

Support Local Productions at Huntington Theatre

Boston’s leading professional theatre since 1982, the Huntington theatre has won the Tony award for "Best Regional Theater" and more than 150 Elliot Norton and Independent Reviewers of New England Awards. Since its opening, the Huntington has played to over 3.5 million people, and presented more than 200 plays—18 of which went on to Broadway or off-Broadway.

Have a Toast at "Cheers"

Famous as the inspiration for the television show Cheers , the former Bull & Finch Pub, now officially known as Cheers Boston, is located in Boston's Beacon Hill District. It's definitely a tourist trap with souvenirs galore for sale and overpriced pub food, but it's still one of those places that fans of the show make a beeline for when they're in Boston. There's a second replica of TV's most famous bar now, too, at Faneuil Hall Marketplace.

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what places to visit in boston

22 things to do in Boston for visitors (and residents looking to rediscover a classic)

I f you’re at a loss for what to do in a city as rich with history, culture, and sports as Boston, you’re probably looking in the wrong places. We’ve compiled a bucket list of activities for visitors and residents alike. Some are beloved local institutions to discover and rediscover, others show us new sides of the city, and ourselves. And when the day’s exploration is done, relax with a drink and view at a rooftop bar, or grab an ice cream cone for a sweet finish.

Actors’ Shakespeare Project

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Boston Globe Best of the Best winners for 2024 were selected by Globe newsroom staff and correspondents, and limited to Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, and Brookline. We want to hear from you: Did your favorites make the list ?

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To Do Today: Visit Blue Hills Reservation

Hiking, camping, swimming, and more within minutes of downtown Boston

Blue Hill Observatory

The Blue Hill Observatory and Science Center, a National Historic Landmark, sits atop Great Blue Hill and is open to visitors. Photo by Flickr contributor Bill Ilott

Hike, camp, swim, and more just a T ride south of Boston

Bu today staff, what .

Massachusetts Department of Conservation & Recreation’s Blue Hills Reservation , a 7,000-acre oasis perfect for kayaking, canoeing, swimming, hiking, mountain biking, and more.

The reservation is open for hiking, biking, and picnicking from dawn to dusk. The designated swimming area is open daily from 10 am to 6 pm until Labor Day. Parking lots close at 8 pm unless otherwise noted.

725 Hillside St., Milton. 

Visitor parking is available at the Houghton’s Pond Recreation Area, 840 Hillside St., Milton. Reachable from the parking area is a 24-acre pond and accessible beach, as well as trails for hiking and biking.  Find a trail map and guide here .

Why should I go?

Hiking enthusiasts owe a debt of gratitude to the Metropolitan Park Commission of 1893, which had the foresight to set aside the 7,000 acres known as the Blue Hills Reservation for public use, making it possible for Bostonians to easily flee the city for a slice of wilderness as close as a suburban shopping mall. 

About a 30-minute drive from downtown Boston, with 125 miles of trails, the reservation stretches over sections of Quincy, Dedham, Braintree, Canton, Milton, and Randolph. In summer, the 22 hills are carpeted in green, with rocky outcrops affording sweeping views of the Boston skyline. Great Blue Hill, the highest at 635 feet, looms over a diverse expanse of bottomland forest, marsh, swamp, and Houghton’s Pond , where swimming is permitted. Rich in archaeological legacies from Colonial and early American farmers and quarry workers, the Blue Hills were home to the Native American Massachusett (which means “people of the great hills”) tribe for many centuries.

The reservation also offers free programs, like guided strolls and hikes and bird and animal talks. Find the full list and times here .

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There are 5 comments on To Do Today: Visit Blue Hills Reservation

Nice article, it is a great place to visit and just a short drive from Boston. For those that want to give something back, you can join the Friends of the Blue Hills on their monthly trail maintenance event. We will provide all the tools and training and lunch is served at the end of the event. Visit the Friends website and select Programs to learn more information. Next event is Apr 21, 2012.

One of my best friend’s dads works here. Growing up we would go there during the day in the summertime because we weren’t enrolled in camp and couldn’t be home alone all day. It is so pretty :) And he is very passionate about his job.

My dad was a MDC Police Officer then a State Police Officer and actually lived here for about a year. It was super cool when we were growing up in the 70’s.

I would have been far more likely to visit it, if the place wasn’t a home for “the endangered timber rattlesnake”. Perhaps I the only one who feels that way…

How do you get there by T? If you are going to say “just a T ride south of Boston”, it would be nice to mention how to get there by T, instead of just where to park if you drive.

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Where to Watch the Boston 4th of July Fireworks in 2024

Skyline of Boston with fireworks.

There are two things that matter most in Boston : summer and celebrating freedom. Naturally, Independence Day and the enjoyment of fireworks are tentpoles of any Bostonian’s summer plans.

Each July 4th, the city swells with activity: residents take to their roof decks, suburbanites ride the commuter rail into town to gather on the banks of the Charles River, and travelers from around the world come to catch a glimpse of this waterfront celebration of music and pyrotechnics that has enchanted our fair city for the last five decades. Whether you’re a seasoned local or a first-time visitor, here are the best places to watch Boston’s 4th of July fireworks in 2024, as well as the events where you're bound to find the crowds, the drinks, and the air of patriotism simply intoxicating.

The Charles River Esplanade

Watching the fireworks from the Esplanade —roughly between the Museum of Science down to the Boston University Bridge—is a quintessential Boston experience, although not suggested for the agoraphobic. Everybody else needs to go straight into the belly of the beast at least once: gates open at the Hatch Shell’s lawn at 9 a.m. (and lawn space fills up notoriously quickly) and the fireworks kick off at 10:30 p.m. If reserved seating is more your vibe, get a ticket to Community Boating’s annual SAILabration fundraiser, the only event that offers reserved seating on the Esplanade on July 4. It will cost you $100 per adult and $75 per child, but that price includes plenty of space to stretch your legs, as well as unlimited water and seltzer from Massachusetts’ popular Polar Seltzer, and Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream to beat the heat, so the cost of admission basically pays for itself.

Rolling with a 21+ crew? The Esplanade's Night Shift Beer Garden is a prime spot from which to view the fireworks and throw back a few craft brews. If you’re spending the day out with your pets, this could also be a good spot for your four-legged friends: it's one of the few outdoor bars in the city that allows dogs. Night Shift will offer extended hours from noon until 10 p.m. on July 4th, and will be debuting two new tipples: Firecracker American Lager and Daiquiri Sour, a strawberry daiquiri sour ale brewed with real strawberries. The sprawling space accommodates 400 people at a time and doesn’t require tickets for admission.

Nearby, the Liberty, a Luxury Collection Hotel is just across the street from the Esplanade and where the fireworks will be visible from the second and third floor catwalks that line the hotel’s cavernous lobby, which will be newly open to the public this year. Reservations aren’t required, but are highly recommended—especially if you want to score one of chef Lydia Shire’s signature lobster pizzas at Scampo afterwards.

From the water

Don’t forget that this is a coastal city with watercraft abound. Each Independence Day, the Charles River chokes with anchored boats awaiting the evening’s fireworks. But if you can’t simply score an invite on a friend’s boat, a rented kayak will do just fine: Beloved outfitter Paddle Boston’s launch location in Cambridge’s Kendall Square, just across the river from the Hatch Shell, is an easy five-minute row to the heart of the action. If they don’t have availability when you go to book, look into renting from the Boston location on Soldier’s Field Road—just be ready for a work out, as opting for this location involves about a one-hour paddle each way for the best vantage point. If being chauffeured around is more your speed than doing the paddling yourself, the Charles Riverboat Company is doing a rain-or-shine sunset sailing aboard the Lexington, from 6:45 p.m. to 11 p.m. Kick back and relax while enjoying an open bar, a dessert buffet, and an unbeatable view of the fireworks over the city’s skyline. Tickets are $250 and can be purchased via phone .

And if they’re sold out (which they usually are) there are tons–and we mean tons–of other opportunities to get on a boat for the 4th this year. Boston Harbor City Cruises will offer a dinner cruise on the Harbor side of the city (not the Charles River side)–and while you may not be right under the fireworks, it will still be possible to catch glimpses of them as you take in the city lights. For a more historic outing earlier in the day, City Cruises also offers an excellent daytime lunch cruise that brings you by several of the city’s most popular landmarks, and offers a waterfront view of the USS Constitution’s annual turnaround (once a year, she leaves her port in Charlestown to sail to South Boston, turn around, and come back).

Another pro tip for seeing fireworks from the water in Boston on the 4th–several operators offer tours to nearby Winthrop, located just across Boston Harbor from downtown, which offers a slightly smaller-scale yet infinitely less chaotic display. The Liberty Fleet of Tall Ships will set sail one of its gorgeous schooners from Fan Pier in the Seaport District to make the short trek across the water in time for the fireworks in Winthrop. The cheeky Tiki Boat Boston (a decidedly boozier, more adult-centric offering) also has some sailings available still.

For an even more turnkey experience, Martignetti Hospitality Group (of popular Woburn restaurant Sogno, twelve miles north of Boston) just launched Sogno-at-Sea, a 60-foot Azimut Yacht available for private charters complete with caviar, champagne, serving staff and all the lite bites you can handle. It’ll set you back $7,500 for twenty-five guests, but for some you can't really put a price on having your own sunset charter under Boston’s most iconic fireworks display.

From the sky

Forr something a little more… elevated, View Boston, an observation deck that occupies the top three floors of the Prudential Tower, is offering a special adults-only July 4th viewing party. The $75 tickets grant access to both indoor and outdoor views—making this a great option in case of inclement weather—and includes two drink tickets. Regular everyday admission starts at $29.99 per adult, so the inclusion of two drinks on Boston’s biggest night (not to mention golden hour admission to the city’s most coveted Instagram spot of the moment, without any errant toddlers ruining your shot) makes this a pretty sweet deal.

From Cambridge, Charlestown, and remotely

The classic spot from which to watch the fireworks in Cambridge is the grassy quadrangle at MIT, where a giant screen live-streams the Boston Pops concert. The view from this side of the river—with the city skyline in the background and more sweeping vantage points over the Charles River—might just beat being on the Esplanade itself.

For something with more local flavor, head across the Charles over to Charlestown, the oldest neighborhood in Boston—also known as “The Town”—where The Anchor , a sprawling waterfront beer garden, offers plenty of space to move around and a clear line of sight to the fireworks barge. And if you’d rather catch the fireworks from the comfort of your own home, tune in on Bloomberg TV, or WHDH Channel 7.

Before the 4th

You didn’t think just one night of festivities would be enough for Boston, did you? Locals know that the real party begins in the days leading up to the 4th–specifically with Boston Harborfest , one of the largest Independence Day festivals of its kind in the country. The good times begin on the 1st, with several days of Revolutionary War reenactments, free clam chowder tastings (while supplies last), face painting and balloon art for kids, live music, and more. Don’t miss the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum’s annual “Revelry on Griffin’s Wharf” event, where guests will have access to replicas of the 18-century vessels present at the original Boston Tea Party, and also be able to throw tea crates themselves into Boston Harbor.

And if you aren’t able to make the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular held over the Charles River on the actual 4th, locals know that the Boston Harborfest Fireworks on July 2nd are just as grandiose. And since they’re held over the Inner Harbor, Harborfest’s fireworks can be enjoyed from a wider spread of vantage points, which means (marginally) less hectic crowds. For the best lookouts, check out Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park in the North End, Rowes Wharf by the Boston Harbour Hotel, or head across the water to East Boston, where the best spots include LoPresti Park or Griffin’s Wharf–or better yet, the covered patio at MIDA’s East Boston location, where you can snack on spritzes and charcuterie from the comfort of their covered outdoor patio. City Cruises will also offer a front-row experience to the Harborfest fireworks on July 2nd–where it will be possible to get much closer to the action on the water than on the 4th itself.

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