Top 30 Things To Do in Boston

From revolutionary history to cutting-edge innovation, Boston blends old-world charm with modern vibrancy in a walkable urban paradise.

West Parker
By
West Parker
July 18, 2024

Boston isn't a city that's content to rest on its historical laurels. While its cobblestone streets and Georgian architecture speak to its revolutionary past, Boston pulses with a youthful energy driven by its world-renowned universities, thriving innovation economy, and diverse neighborhoods. This is a city where you can trace the footsteps of the Founding Fathers in the morning, lunch on authentic Italian cuisine in the North End, catch a Red Sox game at iconic Fenway Park in the afternoon, and end your day with a cutting-edge molecular gastronomy experience in the Seaport District.

What sets Boston apart is its human scale. Unlike many major U.S. cities, Boston feels intimate and walkable. Its compact size belies the wealth of experiences packed within its borders. You can stroll from the gold-domed State House to the harbor in under an hour, passing through distinct neighborhoods each with its own character and charm. This accessibility makes Boston a perfect destination for visitors who want to immerse themselves in a city's culture without spending half their vacation navigating public transit or sitting in traffic.

But don't let the quaint brownstones and historic landmarks fool you – Boston is a city with its eyes firmly on the future. Home to some of the world's top universities and a booming tech sector, it's a place where groundbreaking research and innovation happen daily. This forward-thinking spirit infuses everything from its culinary scene to its art galleries, creating a dynamic urban experience that honors the past while embracing the future.

So lace up your walking shoes, grab a Charlie Card, and get ready to explore the very best that Boston has to offer. Whether you're a history buff, a foodie, a sports fanatic, or a culture vulture, the Hub has something special in store for you.

Walk the Freedom Trail

Tourists following the red brick line of the Freedom Trail in Boston, passing historic buildings and landmarks
Following the red brick road through history! The Freedom Trail is such a cool way to explore Boston's revolutionary past.

Step back in time and follow the red-brick road through 250 years of America's most significant history. The Freedom Trail winds through downtown Boston, connecting 16 historically important sites that played a role in the American Revolution. As you walk the 2.5-mile trail, you'll pass by the site of the Boston Massacre, stand in the shadow of the USS Constitution (aka "Old Ironsides"), and even see the grave of Paul Revere. The trail offers a unique way to experience the city, blending urban exploration with a crash course in early American history. Don't miss the chance to step inside the Paul Revere House, Boston's oldest remaining 17th-century building, where you can get a glimpse of colonial life and see some of Revere's silver work.

  • Location: Starts at Boston Common, 139 Tremont St, Boston, MA 02111
  • Hours: The trail is accessible 24/7, but individual site hours vary
  • Admission: Free to walk, but some sites charge admission

Why Visit: It's the best way to understand Boston's pivotal role in American history while exploring the city on foot.

Insider Tip: Start early in the morning to avoid crowds and consider taking a guided tour for deeper insights into each site's significance.

Catch a Red Sox Game at Fenway Park

View of a baseball game at Fenway Park, showing the iconic Green Monster wall and enthusiastic Red Sox fans
Nothing beats the atmosphere at Fenway! Even if you're not a huge baseball fan, catching a Red Sox game here is a must-do Boston experience.

There's nothing quite like the electric atmosphere of Fenway Park on game day. As America's oldest Major League Baseball stadium, Fenway is a cathedral of baseball, steeped in tradition and filled with quirks like the Green Monster, Pesky's Pole, and the lone red seat marking the longest home run ever hit in the park. Even if you're not a die-hard baseball fan, the energy of the crowd, the smell of hot dogs and beer, and the seventh-inning stretch rendition of "Sweet Caroline" make for an unforgettable Boston experience. If you can't catch a game, take a tour of the park to learn about its storied history and see behind-the-scenes areas usually off-limits to the public.

  • Location: 4 Jersey St, Boston, MA 02215
  • Hours: Varies by game schedule, tours available daily
  • Admission: Game tickets vary, tours from $25

Why Visit: It's a quintessential Boston experience that captures the city's passionate sports culture.

Insider Tip: For a unique view, try to snag tickets for seats atop the Green Monster, but book well in advance as they sell out quickly.

Explore the Museum of Fine Arts

Interior view of an art gallery in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, showcasing paintings and sculptures
Spent hours getting lost in the Museum of Fine Arts today. The American wing is incredible, but don't miss the Monet collection!

Lose yourself in one of the most comprehensive art collections in the world at the Museum of Fine Arts. With over 450,000 works of art spanning from ancient Egyptian artifacts to contemporary masterpieces, the MFA offers a globe-trotting journey through human creativity. The museum's American wing is particularly noteworthy, featuring an impressive collection of works by John Singer Sargent and John Singleton Copley. Don't miss the chance to see the museum's collection of Monet paintings, one of the largest outside of France. The MFA also hosts rotating exhibitions that often push the boundaries of traditional art, making each visit a new experience.

  • Location: 465 Huntington Ave, Boston, MA 02115
  • Hours: Wed-Sun 10am-5pm
  • Admission: Adults $27, free for children 17 and under

Why Visit: It's a world-class museum that offers a comprehensive look at art history in a beautiful, accessible setting.

Insider Tip: Visit on Wednesday evenings after 5pm when admission is by voluntary contribution, allowing you to pay what you wish.

Stroll Through the Boston Public Garden

Swan Boats gliding on the pond in Boston Public Garden, surrounded by lush greenery and flowers
Took a ride on the Swan Boats in the Public Garden - such a charming Boston tradition! The garden is beautiful in any season.

Take a leisurely walk through America's first public botanical garden, a verdant oasis in the heart of the city. The Boston Public Garden is a Victorian-era jewel, with manicured flower beds, elegant statues, and a picturesque lagoon. In spring, the garden explodes with color as tulips and other flowers bloom. Summer brings the return of the famous Swan Boats, a Boston tradition since 1877. Pedal-powered by a driver hidden inside a swan sculpture, these boats offer a charming 15-minute cruise around the lagoon. Don't forget to stop by the "Make Way for Ducklings" statue, a beloved bronze sculpture inspired by Robert McCloskey's classic children's book.

  • Location: 4 Charles St, Boston, MA 02116
  • Hours: Open daily, 24 hours
  • Admission: Free, Swan Boat rides $4.50 for adults

Why Visit: It's a beautiful, tranquil space that offers a respite from urban hustle and a glimpse into Boston's Victorian past.

Insider Tip: Visit in early May to see the garden's famous tulip display in full bloom.

Sample Culinary Delights at Faneuil Hall Marketplace

Bustling scene of people dining at outdoor tables near Faneuil Hall Marketplace, surrounded by historic buildings
Lunch break at Faneuil Hall Marketplace! The clam chowder is a must-try, and the street performers add such a fun vibe to the place.

Indulge your taste buds at this historic marketplace turned food lover's paradise. Faneuil Hall Marketplace, also known as Quincy Market, has been a center of commerce since 1743. Today, it's a bustling collection of food stalls, restaurants, and shops that attract both locals and tourists. Sample classic New England fare like clam chowder and lobster rolls, or try international cuisines from sushi to falafel. Street performers often entertain crowds outside, adding to the lively atmosphere. While you're there, don't miss the chance to climb to the top of Faneuil Hall itself for a great view of the marketplace and a bit of revolutionary history – it was here that Samuel Adams and others gave speeches encouraging independence from Britain.

  • Location: 4 S Market St, Boston, MA 02109
  • Hours: Mon-Sat 10am-9pm, Sun 11am-7pm (hours may vary by vendor)
  • Admission: Free to enter

Why Visit: It's a one-stop shop for experiencing Boston's food scene and colonial history in a vibrant, bustling atmosphere.

Insider Tip: Visit on weekdays to avoid the heaviest crowds, and don't be afraid to venture beyond the main food hall for some hidden culinary gems.

Discover Art and Architecture at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Lush courtyard garden with flowers and sculptures in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, surrounded by Venetian architecture
The courtyard at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is like stepping into another world. Don't miss the "empty frames" from the infamous art heist!

Step into the eccentric world of Isabella Stewart Gardner, an art collector and patron who built this Venetian-style palazzo to house her impressive collection. The museum is as much a work of art as the pieces it contains, with a stunning courtyard garden at its center and rooms arranged exactly as Gardner left them. The collection spans global cultures and centuries, from ancient Roman sculptures to paintings by Rembrandt, Botticelli, and John Singer Sargent. The museum also has a fascinating history – it was the site of the largest unsolved art heist in history in 1990, and the empty frames of the stolen paintings remain on display. The modern wing, designed by Renzo Piano, offers a striking contrast to the historic palace and hosts contemporary exhibitions.

  • Location: 25 Evans Way, Boston, MA 02115
  • Hours: Wed-Mon 11am-5pm
  • Admission: Adults $20, free for visitors named Isabella

Why Visit: It's a uniquely personal museum experience that feels like stepping into the home of a worldly, art-loving friend.

Insider Tip: Visit on a Thursday night when the museum stays open late and often features live music performances in the courtyard.

Take in the View from the Skywalk Observatory

Panoramic view of Boston's skyline and harbor from the Skywalk Observatory, showcasing the city's layout
The view from the Skywalk Observatory is unbeatable! Pro tip: come at sunset for a truly magical experience.

Get a bird's-eye view of Boston from the Skywalk Observatory on the 50th floor of the Prudential Center. This 360-degree observatory offers stunning panoramic views of the city skyline, Boston Harbor, and on clear days, as far as the mountains of New Hampshire. Interactive exhibits help you identify landmarks and learn about the city's history and architecture. For an extra special experience, time your visit for sunset and watch as the city transforms from day to night. The observatory also includes access to the Dreams of Freedom Museum, which tells the story of Boston's immigrant communities.

  • Location: 800 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02199
  • Hours: Daily 10am-10pm (last admission at 9:30pm)
  • Admission: Adults $21

Why Visit: It offers unparalleled views of Boston and its surroundings, helping you get your bearings and appreciate the city's layout.

Insider Tip: Buy your tickets online in advance to skip the line, and consider visiting on a weekday to avoid crowds.

Kayak on the Charles River

Kayakers paddling on the Charles River with the Boston and Cambridge skylines visible in the background
Kayaking on the Charles River is such a fun way to see the city! The views of Boston and Cambridge are incredible from the water.

See Boston from a different perspective by kayaking on the Charles River. The river, which separates Boston from Cambridge, offers a unique vantage point to admire the city skylines and watch college rowing teams practice. Paddle under the iconic Longfellow Bridge, wave to sunbathers on the Esplanade, and enjoy the tranquility of being on the water in the middle of the city. Several rental companies offer kayaks by the hour or for full days, with options for both novices and experienced paddlers. If you're feeling more adventurous, you can even try stand-up paddleboarding.

  • Location: Charles River Canoe & Kayak, 15 Broad Canal Way, Cambridge, MA 02142
  • Hours: Seasonal, typically April-October, 9am-7pm
  • Admission: Kayak rentals from $20/hour

Why Visit: It's an active way to experience the city and enjoy Boston's beautiful riverfront parks from the water.

Insider Tip: Go in the early morning for calmer waters and the chance to see a beautiful sunrise over the city.

Immerse Yourself in Science at the Museum of Science

Visitors interacting with a hands-on science exhibit at the Museum of Science in Boston
The Museum of Science is a blast for all ages! Don't miss the lightning show in the Theater of Electricity - it's electrifying!

Unleash your inner scientist at this sprawling, hands-on museum that makes learning fun for all ages. The Museum of Science boasts over 700 interactive exhibits covering everything from dinosaurs to space exploration. Watch lightning strike in the Theater of Electricity, explore a full-scale model of the Apollo capsule, or take a journey through the human body. The museum's planetarium offers spectacular shows about our universe, while the IMAX theater presents immersive documentaries on a five-story tall screen. With live presentations, daily activities, and ever-changing exhibits, you could easily spend a full day here and still not see everything.

  • Location: 1 Science Park, Boston, MA 02114
  • Hours: Daily 9am-5pm
  • Admission: Adults $29, Children (3-11) $24

Why Visit: It's an engaging, interactive way to learn about science and technology in a city known for its scientific innovations.

Insider Tip: Check the schedule for live demonstrations and plan your visit around the ones that interest you most.

Wander Through Harvard Yard

Students and visitors walking through Harvard Yard, surrounded by historic brick buildings and autumn foliage
Strolling through Harvard Yard feels like walking through history. Fun fact: rubbing the shoe of the John Harvard statue is supposed to bring good luck!

Take a stroll through the heart of America's oldest university and soak in the atmosphere of academic excellence. Harvard Yard, with its centuries-old buildings and towering elm trees, is the historic center of Harvard University. Rub the shoe of the John Harvard statue for good luck (though locals will tell you it's not really John Harvard, and you might not want to know where else students rub for luck during exams). Admire the Georgian architecture of Massachusetts Hall, Harvard's oldest surviving building, or people-watch as students rush to classes. If you're interested in learning more about the university's history, consider taking a student-led tour.

  • Location: Harvard Yard, Cambridge, MA 02138
  • Hours: Open to the public daily
  • Admission: Free to walk around, guided tours available for a fee

Why Visit: It's a chance to experience the ambiance of one of the world's most prestigious universities and a key part of Boston's intellectual heritage.

Insider Tip: Visit the Harvard Book Store just outside the Yard for an excellent selection of books and Harvard merchandise that's often cheaper than the official university store.

Cheer on the Celtics or Bruins at TD Garden

Enthusiastic crowd cheering at a Boston Celtics basketball game in TD Garden arena
The energy at a Celtics game is unreal! Even if you're not a big sports fan, the atmosphere at TD Garden is worth experiencing.

Experience the passion of Boston sports fans at TD Garden, home to both the NBA's Celtics and NHL's Bruins. The energy in the arena during a game is electric, whether you're watching the Celtics chase another championship banner or the Bruins battle it out on the ice. Even if you can't score tickets to a game, the arena offers tours that take you behind the scenes and into the Celtics and Bruins locker rooms. The Sports Museum, located on the 5th and 6th floors of TD Garden, is also worth a visit for its extensive collection of Boston sports memorabilia and interactive exhibits.

  • Location: 100 Legends Way, Boston, MA 02114
  • Hours: Vary by event, tours available on non-event days
  • Admission: Game tickets vary, tours $15 for adults

Why Visit: It's a chance to witness Boston's legendary sports culture firsthand and be part of the excitement.

Insider Tip: If you're on a budget, look for standing room only tickets, which offer a great atmosphere at a fraction of the cost of seated tickets.

Relax in the Arnold Arboretum

Visitors strolling on a tree-lined path in Arnold Arboretum, with colorful fall foliage visible
The Arnold Arboretum is a peaceful escape from the city bustle. It's especially beautiful during spring bloom and fall foliage seasons!

Escape the urban bustle in this 281-acre natural oasis, a living museum of trees managed by Harvard University. The Arnold Arboretum is a beautiful place to walk, jog, or simply relax among an impressive collection of plants from around the world. In spring, the arboretum bursts into color with blooming lilacs, azaleas, and rhododendrons. Autumn brings a spectacular display of fall foliage. The arboretum also offers guided tours, lectures, and classes for those interested in learning more about botany and horticulture. Don't miss the Bonsai and Penjing Collection, featuring miniature trees cultivated by Chinese and Japanese masters.

  • Location: 125 Arborway, Boston, MA 02130
  • Hours: Open daily, dawn to dusk
  • Admission: Free

Why Visit: It's a peaceful retreat that offers a chance to connect with nature and enjoy beautiful landscapes within the city limits.

Insider Tip: Visit on Lilac Sunday in May when the arboretum's collection of lilacs is in full bloom and picnicking is allowed (it's the only day of the year when picnics are permitted).

Shop and Dine on Newbury Street

Shoppers browsing boutiques and cafes along Newbury Street, with historic brownstone buildings in the background
Shopping (and people-watching) on Newbury Street is a Boston must-do. The mix of high-end brands and quirky local shops is perfect.

Indulge in some retail therapy on Boston's most famous shopping street. Stretching eight blocks from the Public Garden to Massachusetts Avenue, Newbury Street is lined with a mix of high-end boutiques, international retailers, and independent shops housed in beautiful 19th-century brownstones. Start at the Public Garden end for luxury brands like Chanel and Cartier, and work your way west for more affordable options. Interspersed among the shops are art galleries, cafes, and restaurants with outdoor seating perfect for people-watching. Don't miss a stop at the original location of Newbury Comics, a Boston institution known for its eclectic mix of music, pop culture merchandise, and comics.

  • Location: Newbury St, Boston, MA 02116
  • Hours: Most shops open 10am-8pm, restaurants often later
  • Admission: Free to browse

Why Visit: It's Boston's premier shopping destination and a great place to experience the city's upscale Back Bay neighborhood.

Insider Tip: Visit on the first Friday of the month when many galleries host free evening receptions for new exhibitions.

Tour the Samuel Adams Brewery

Visitors sampling beers during a tasting session at the Samuel Adams Brewery in Boston
The Sam Adams Brewery tour is a great way to spend an afternoon. You'll learn about the brewing process and get to taste some unique beers!

Raise a glass to Boston's brewing heritage with a tour of the Samuel Adams Brewery. While not the actual production facility for most Sam Adams beers, this is where all the research and development happens. The tour takes you through the brewing process, from selecting hops and malts to the final tasting. You'll learn about the history of the company and its namesake, Samuel Adams, a key figure in the American Revolution. The best part? The tour ends with a tasting session where you can sample a variety of Sam Adams beers, including some experimental brews not available elsewhere.

  • Location: 30 Germania St, Boston, MA 02130
  • Hours: Mon-Sat 11am-5pm, closed Sundays
  • Admission: Tours are free, $2 suggested donation

Why Visit: It's a fun, educational experience that connects you with Boston's long brewing tradition.

Insider Tip: Get there early to secure a spot - tours are first-come, first-served and often fill up quickly, especially on weekends.

Visit the New England Aquarium

View of the central Giant Ocean Tank at the New England Aquarium, filled with colorful fish and coral
The Giant Ocean Tank at the New England Aquarium is mesmerizing! Could watch the sea turtles swim by for hours.

Dive into the wonders of marine life at the New England Aquarium. The centerpiece of the aquarium is the Giant Ocean Tank, a four-story coral reef habitat teeming with hundreds of Caribbean reef animals including sea turtles, stingrays, and eels. Don't miss the playful penguin exhibit, where you can watch African, rockhopper, and little blue penguins waddle and swim. The aquarium also features a hands-on tidepool experience, where visitors can touch small sharks and rays. For an extra special experience, book a whale watching tour that departs from the aquarium dock and takes you out to Stellwagen Bank, a feeding ground for humpback whales, dolphins, and seabirds.

  • Location: 1 Central Wharf, Boston, MA 02110
  • Hours: Mon-Fri 9am-5pm, Sat-Sun 9am-6pm
  • Admission: Adults $32, Children (3-11) $23

Why Visit: It's a world-class aquarium that offers an up-close look at marine ecosystems and conservation efforts.

Insider Tip: Visit on weekday afternoons for smaller crowds, and don't miss the daily penguin feeding shows.

Explore the Institute of Contemporary Art

Visitors observing a contemporary art installation at the Institute of Contemporary Art, with Boston Harbor visible through windows
The ICA always has thought-provoking exhibits, but the building itself is a work of art too. Don't miss the view from the rear deck!

Immerse yourself in cutting-edge art at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA). Housed in a stunning glass and steel building on the waterfront, the ICA showcases works by emerging and established contemporary artists from around the world. The museum's dramatic cantilever design extends over the harbor, offering spectacular views of the water and Boston skyline. In addition to its rotating exhibitions, the ICA hosts film screenings, performances, and talks by artists. During summer months, don't miss the opportunity to relax on the museum's outdoor grandstand, which becomes a popular spot for watching harbor activity and enjoying the sea breeze.

  • Location: 25 Harbor Shore Drive, Boston, MA 02210
  • Hours: Tue, Wed, Sat, Sun 10am-5pm; Thu-Fri 10am-9pm
  • Admission: Adults $15, free for visitors 17 and under

Why Visit: It's a chance to engage with provocative contemporary art in a stunning architectural setting.

Insider Tip: Visit on Thursday nights when admission is free from 5-9pm, often featuring special programming and a cash bar.

Take a Food Tour of the North End

Group of people enjoying cannoli from a famous North End bakery on a food tour in Boston
Indulging in cannoli on a North End food tour. The debate between Mike's and Modern Pastry is fierce - you'll have to try both!

Satisfy your taste buds with a culinary journey through Boston's Little Italy. The North End, one of the city's oldest neighborhoods, is a maze of narrow streets lined with Italian restaurants, cafes, and specialty food shops. A food tour is the perfect way to sample the area's best offerings while learning about its rich history and culture. Taste classic dishes like wood-fired pizza, homemade pasta, and cannoli while hearing stories of the neighborhood's immigrant past and infamous figures like Paul Revere. Don't forget to stop by the bustling Haymarket, Boston's centuries-old open-air market, for fresh produce and a glimpse of old-world trading traditions.

  • Location: Tours typically start near the Haymarket T station
  • Hours: Vary by tour company, often available daily
  • Admission: Food tours typically range from $60-$80 per person

Why Visit: It's a delicious way to experience one of Boston's most vibrant neighborhoods and its culinary traditions.

Insider Tip: Come hungry and pace yourself - there's usually a lot of food involved!

Catch a Show in the Theater District

Illuminated marquee of a theater in Boston's Theater District at night, with people queuing for a show
Caught a show in the Theater District tonight. The historic theaters here are almost as impressive as the performances!

Experience the magic of live performance in Boston's vibrant Theater District. From Broadway musicals to avant-garde productions, Boston's theaters offer something for every taste. The ornate Boston Opera House, with its opulent baroque interior, hosts touring Broadway shows and performances by the Boston Ballet. For a more intimate experience, check out the Charles Playhouse, home to the long-running Blue Man Group and Shear Madness. Before the show, grab dinner at one of the area's many restaurants - the Theater District is also home to Boston's Chinatown, offering a range of delicious Asian cuisines.

  • Location: Theater District, centered around Tremont and Boylston Streets
  • Hours: Vary by performance, typically evenings with weekend matinees
  • Admission: Varies by show, typically $30-$150+

Why Visit: It's a chance to experience world-class theater and be part of Boston's thriving arts scene.

Insider Tip: Check for rush or lottery tickets for a chance at discounted seats, especially for popular shows.

Visit the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

Exterior view of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, with Boston Harbor in the background
The JFK Library is a must-visit for history buffs. The exhibits on the Space Race and Cuban Missile Crisis are particularly fascinating.

Delve into the life and legacy of one of America's most iconic presidents at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. Designed by renowned architect I.M. Pei, the striking modernist building houses an extensive collection of artifacts, documents, and multimedia exhibits that chronicle Kennedy's life, presidency, and the broader landscape of American politics in the 1960s. Highlights include a recreation of Kennedy's Oval Office, exhibits on the Space Race and Cuban Missile Crisis, and poignant displays about the Kennedy family. The museum's waterfront location offers stunning views of Boston Harbor and the city skyline.

  • Location: Columbia Point, Boston, MA 02125
  • Hours: Daily 9am-5pm
  • Admission: Adults $18, Children (13-17) $12, Children 12 and under free

Why Visit: It offers a fascinating look at a pivotal period in American history through the lens of one of its most charismatic leaders.

Insider Tip: Allow plenty of time for the exhibits and don't miss the 20-minute introductory film - it provides excellent context for the rest of your visit.

Enjoy Nature at the Boston Harbor Islands

Ferry approaching Georges Island in Boston Harbor, with Fort Warren visible on the island
Day trip to the Boston Harbor Islands was a highlight of my visit. Georges Island and Fort Warren offer a cool mix of nature and history.

Escape the city without leaving it by taking a ferry to the Boston Harbor Islands. This national and state park encompasses 34 islands and peninsulas, each offering unique landscapes and activities. Georges Island, home to Civil War-era Fort Warren, is perfect for history buffs. Spectacle Island offers hiking trails with panoramic views of the Boston skyline. For a beach day, head to Lovells Island. Many islands offer opportunities for camping, picnicking, and wildlife watching. The islands are also a great place to learn about the area's ecology and the ongoing efforts to restore and protect Boston Harbor.

  • Location: Ferry departs from Long Wharf-North, Boston, MA 02110
  • Hours: Ferries run May-October, schedules vary by island
  • Admission: Ferry tickets: Adults $24.95, Children (3-11) $17.95 round trip

Why Visit: It's a unique way to experience Boston's natural beauty and harbor history, with activities for all ages.

Insider Tip: Book ferry tickets in advance during peak summer months, and bring plenty of water and sunscreen - amenities on the islands are limited.

Bike the Emerald Necklace

People walking and cycling along a tree-lined path in one of Boston's Emerald Necklace parks
Exploring the Emerald Necklace parks is a great way to see different Boston neighborhoods. Each park has its own unique character!

Pedal your way through Boston's beautiful park system known as the Emerald Necklace. This 7-mile chain of parks, designed by renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, winds through several Boston neighborhoods. Start at Boston Common and make your way through the Public Garden, Commonwealth Avenue Mall, Back Bay Fens, and end at Franklin Park. Along the way, you'll pass beautiful gardens, tranquil ponds, and historic landmarks. The route is mostly flat and suitable for cyclists of all levels. Many sections of the park system offer bike rentals if you don't have your own.

  • Location: Starts at Boston Common, 139 Tremont St, Boston, MA 02111
  • Hours: Parks open daily, dawn to dusk
  • Admission: Free to enter parks, bike rentals typically $30-$40 per day

Why Visit: It's a scenic way to explore multiple Boston neighborhoods and enjoy the city's green spaces.

Insider Tip: Stop by the Shattuck Visitor Center in the Back Bay Fens for maps and information about the park system's history and ecology.

Attend a Concert at the Hatch Shell

Crowd enjoying an outdoor concert at the Hatch Shell on the Charles River Esplanade in Boston
Nothing says summer in Boston like a concert at the Hatch Shell! Bring a picnic and enjoy music by the river.

Enjoy live music in a beautiful outdoor setting at the Hatch Shell on the Charles River Esplanade. This iconic Art Deco-style bandstand hosts free concerts and events throughout the summer, including the famous Boston Pops performance on July 4th. From classical orchestras to contemporary bands, there's something for every musical taste. Bring a blanket and a picnic, and spend a relaxing evening listening to music as the sun sets over the Charles River.

  • Location: 47 David G Mugar Way, Boston, MA 02108
  • Hours: Events typically held in summer months, schedule varies
  • Admission: Most events are free

Why Visit: It's a quintessential Boston summer experience, combining great music with a beautiful outdoor setting.

Insider Tip: Arrive early for popular events like the July 4th concert to secure a good spot on the lawn.

Explore the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum

Visitors reenacting the Boston Tea Party by throwing tea crates into the harbor at the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum
Channeling my inner revolutionary at the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum. It's a fun, interactive way to learn about this pivotal historical event!

Relive one of America's defining moments at the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum. This immersive museum experience takes you back to December 16, 1773, when American colonists dumped British tea into Boston Harbor in protest of taxation without representation. You'll board authentically restored tea ships, participate in a reenactment of the Tea Party (yes, you get to throw tea overboard!), and explore interactive exhibits that bring this pivotal historical event to life. The museum also houses one of only two known tea chests from the original Boston Tea Party.

  • Location: 306 Congress St, Boston, MA 02210
  • Hours: Daily 10am-5pm (summer), 10am-4pm (winter)
  • Admission: Adults $29.95, Children (5-12) $21.95

Why Visit: It offers an engaging, hands-on way to learn about a key event in American history.

Insider Tip: Book tickets online in advance for a slight discount and to ensure availability, especially during peak tourist season.

Visit the USS Constitution Museum

USS Constitution ("Old Ironsides") docked at the Charlestown Navy Yard, with the Boston skyline in the background
Visited "Old Ironsides" today - amazing to think this ship is over 200 years old and still afloat! The free tours by Navy sailors are fantastic.

Step aboard "Old Ironsides" and explore the history of America's oldest commissioned warship still afloat. The USS Constitution Museum, located in the Charlestown Navy Yard, offers interactive exhibits that bring to life the ship's construction, famous battles, and life at sea in the early 19th century. After touring the museum, you can visit the actual USS Constitution docked nearby. Naval officers and sailors stationed on the ship offer free tours, sharing stories of the ship's history and explaining its features.

  • Location: Charlestown Navy Yard, Building 22, Charlestown, MA 02129
  • Hours: Daily 10am-5pm
  • Admission: Museum is by donation, USS Constitution is free

Why Visit: It's a chance to explore a unique piece of American naval history and step aboard a historic warship.

Insider Tip: Time your visit for the daily cannon firing at sunset when the ship fires a salute as the flag is lowered.

Discover the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Immerse yourself in art at this unique museum housed in a Venetian-style palace. Built by Boston socialite and art collector Isabella Stewart Gardner in the early 20th century, the museum showcases her eclectic collection of European, Asian, and American art. The highlight is the stunning courtyard garden, a tranquil oasis filled with flowers and Roman sculpture. The museum is also famous for the unsolved theft of 13 masterpieces in 1990 - empty frames still hang where the stolen paintings once were. Don't miss the contemporary wing, which hosts rotating exhibitions of modern and contemporary art.

  • Location: 25 Evans Way, Boston, MA 02115
  • Hours: Wed-Mon 11am-5pm, Thu until 9pm
  • Admission: Adults $20, free for visitors named Isabella

Why Visit: It offers a uniquely personal museum experience in a beautiful, intimate setting.

Insider Tip: Visit on Thursday evenings for a less crowded experience and occasional live music performances in the courtyard.

Take a Duck Tour

Amphibious Duck Boat filled with tourists driving down a Boston street, passing historic buildings
The Duck Tour is a bit touristy, but it's such a fun way to see the city from both land and water. Our guide's jokes were hilariously corny!

See Boston by land and sea on an amphibious "duck boat" tour. These World War II-style vehicles take you through the city's streets before splashing into the Charles River for a cruise. Along the way, your "conDUCKtor" will entertain you with stories about Boston's history and quirky facts about its landmarks. You'll see highlights like the State House, Bunker Hill, and Quincy Market, all while learning about Boston's role in American history. It's a fun, family-friendly way to get an overview of the city's main attractions.

  • Location: Tours depart from the Museum of Science or Prudential Center
  • Hours: Daily 9am-sunset, weather permitting
  • Admission: Adults $49.50, Children (3-11) $33.99

Why Visit: It's a unique and entertaining way to see Boston's highlights from both land and water.

Insider Tip: Sit on the right side of the vehicle for the best views when you enter the water.

Experience the Boston Symphony Orchestra

Interior view of Boston's Symphony Hall, showing the ornate architecture and seating before a performance
Attending a Boston Symphony Orchestra performance at Symphony Hall. The acoustics here are incredible - it's consistently ranked among the best concert halls in the world!

Indulge in world-class music at Symphony Hall, home to the renowned Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO). Considered one of the "Big Five" American orchestras, the BSO has been delivering exceptional performances since 1881. The hall itself is a masterpiece, known for its near-perfect acoustics. Whether you're a classical music aficionado or a casual listener, a BSO performance is a treat for the ears. During summer, catch the Boston Pops, a lighter, more popular music-focused orchestra, often featuring guest performers from the worlds of jazz, rock, and musical theater.

  • Location: Symphony Hall, 301 Massachusetts Ave, Boston, MA 02115
  • Hours: Performance schedules vary, typically September-May for BSO, May-June for Pops
  • Admission: Varies by performance, typically $30-$150+

Why Visit: It's a chance to hear one of the world's great orchestras in a historic, acoustically superb concert hall.

Insider Tip: For a unique experience, try the "Rush Tickets" - $9 tickets for select concerts, available to those who line up before the performance.

Explore the Museum of Science

Ignite your curiosity at the Museum of Science, where hundreds of interactive exhibits make learning fun for all ages. From the planetarium shows that transport you to distant galaxies, to the butterfly garden filled with free-flying butterflies, to the Theater of Electricity with its world's largest air-insulated Van de Graaff generator, there's something to fascinate everyone. Don't miss the chance to watch a lightning show, explore a full-size space capsule, or take a virtual tour of the human body. The museum also features an IMAX theater showing both educational films and Hollywood blockbusters on its five-story tall screen.

  • Location: 1 Science Park, Boston, MA 02114
  • Hours: Sat-Thu 9am-5pm, Fri 9am-9pm
  • Admission: Adults $29, Children (3-11) $24

Why Visit: It offers hands-on science experiences that are both educational and entertaining for visitors of all ages.

Insider Tip: Plan your visit around the live presentations and shows - the schedule is available on the museum's website.

Visit Castle Island

View of Fort Independence at Castle Island in South Boston, with people walking along the waterfront path
Spent the afternoon at Castle Island - great spot for a walk with beautiful harbor views. Don't forget to grab a hot dog from Sullivan's!

Enjoy seaside views and history at Castle Island, a 22-acre urban park connected to the mainland in South Boston. The star attraction is Fort Independence, a granite fort built in the mid-19th century and open for free tours in summer. The park offers beautiful views of Boston Harbor and Logan Airport, with planes flying low overhead as they land. It's a popular spot for walking, jogging, or picnicking, with a 2.2-mile paved trail circling the peninsula. Don't miss a stop at Sullivan's, a local favorite for hot dogs and ice cream.

  • Location: 2010 William J Day Blvd, Boston, MA 02127
  • Hours: Park open daily 6am-10pm, fort tours weekends in summer
  • Admission: Free

Why Visit: It combines Boston history with beautiful harbor views and outdoor recreation.

Insider Tip: Visit on a clear day for the best views, and bring a windbreaker - it can get breezy by the water.

Structuring Your Boston Adventure: A 7-Day Itinerary

Introduction

Boston's compact size and excellent public transportation make it easy to see a lot in a week. This itinerary covers the city's highlights while allowing time for deeper exploration of its unique neighborhoods and hidden gems. Feel free to adjust based on your interests and energy levels.

Days 1-2: Historic Boston and Downtown

  • Start with a walk along the Freedom Trail, hitting highlights like the Massachusetts State House, Paul Revere House, and USS Constitution.
  • Explore Faneuil Hall Marketplace and enjoy lunch at Quincy Market.
  • Visit the New England Aquarium and take a harbor cruise.
  • Spend the evening in the North End, enjoying Italian cuisine and a pastry from Mike's or Modern Pastry.
  • On day two, tour the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum.
  • Explore the Boston Public Garden and take a Swan Boat ride.
  • End the day with dinner in the Theatre District and a show, if interested.

Insider Tip: Save money with a Go Boston Card for attraction admissions.

Days 3-4: Back Bay, Fenway, and Museums

  • Start at Copley Square, visiting Trinity Church and the Boston Public Library.
  • Shop and stroll along Newbury Street.
  • Visit the Skywalk Observatory for panoramic city views.
  • Spend the next morning at the Museum of Fine Arts or Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
  • Catch an afternoon Red Sox game at Fenway Park (if in season) or take a stadium tour.
  • Enjoy dinner in the lively Kenmore Square area.

Insider Tip: Book Red Sox tickets in advance, or try for same-day tickets at the box office.

Day 5: Cambridge and Somerville

  • Start with a tour of Harvard University.
  • Explore Harvard Square's shops and street performers.
  • Visit the MIT Museum for some scientific fun.
  • Head to Somerville's Union Square for dinner at one of its trendy restaurants.

Insider Tip: Try a "Sailabration" sunset sail on the Charles River for unique city views.

Day 6: Seaport District and South Boston

  • Begin at the Institute of Contemporary Art.
  • Take a water taxi to the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum.
  • Spend the afternoon at Castle Island, enjoying the beach and fort.
  • Have dinner at one of the Seaport's innovative restaurants.

Insider Tip: If visiting in summer, check out the Lawn on D for outdoor games and events.

Day 7: Choose Your Own Adventure

Option 1: Day Trip

  • Take a ferry to the Boston Harbor Islands for hiking and history.
  • Or visit Salem to explore its witch trial history and maritime heritage.

Option 2: More Boston Exploration

  • Rent a bike and explore the Emerald Necklace parks.
  • Visit the Arnold Arboretum or Franklin Park Zoo.
  • End your trip with a sunset cruise in Boston Harbor.

Insider Tip: For a unique final night, book a table at one of the restaurants atop the Prudential Center for dinner with a view.

Why Visit Boston?

This itinerary covers many of Boston's highlights, but there's always more to discover. Don't be afraid to wander off the beaten path - some of Boston's best experiences are found in its diverse neighborhoods and hidden corners. And remember, Boston is a city that rewards return visits, each season offering a new perspective on this historic yet ever-evolving city.

Boston's rich history, cultural attractions, and diverse neighborhoods offer something for every type of traveler. Whether you're a history buff, art lover, foodie, or outdoor enthusiast, you'll find plenty to keep you engaged and inspired in this dynamic city. From walking the Freedom Trail to kayaking on the Charles River, from savoring Italian cuisine in the North End to cheering on the Red Sox at Fenway Park, Boston provides a unique blend of experiences that capture the essence of American history and contemporary urban life. So lace up your walking shoes, grab your map (or smartphone), and get ready to explore all that the Hub has to offer. Who knows? You might even pick up a bit of that famous Boston accent along the way. Wicked awesome!

West Parker
West Parker
Article updated:
July 18, 2024 8:58 AM

West Parker, a Cornell University School of Hotel Administration graduate, has spent two decades as the secret weapon of the jet-set elite, crafting bespoke adventures that redefine luxury travel. Now a resident writer for Town & Tourist, this 45-year-old "Architect of Extraordinary Journeys" combines razor-sharp insights with unparalleled industry connections to deliver experiences that even the most discerning globetrotters can't help but rave about. West's expertise spans from exclusive real estate to fine dining, making him the go-to strategist for those who demand nothing but the extraordinary in their travels.

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