Boston has more history than just about any other city in America, plus they have great museums and other cultural offerings, plus outdoor spaces and a pretty famous ballpark.
Here’s a few our favorites things to do in Boston:
1. Museum of Fine Arts
The Museum of Fine Arts is a world class art museum, and a chance to visit it should not be missed. The MFA’s collection contains upwards of 450,000 works of art and is considered to be one of the most comprehensive collections in the world. Highlights of the collection include the Egyptian artifacts, works by the French Impressionists, 18th and 19th century American art, and Chinese art. Additionally, the Museum of Fine Arts has the largest collection of Japanese art outside of Japan, including 5,000 pieces of pottery and an outdoor Japanese Garden. Some of the many artists represented in the collection include Gauguin, Manet, Renoir, Degas, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Sargent, and Homer. The MFA contains the finest collection of Monets outside of Paris.
2. Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum contains a fabulous and significant collection of European, Asian, and American art in a building designed to emulate a 15th-century Venetian palazzo. It is the only private art museum in which the building, collection and installations are all from the creation of one individual. The Museum is located in the Fenway-Kenmore neighborhood of Boston, and it is within walking distance of the Museum of Fine Arts.
The Gardner was established in 1903 and is named to honor of arts patron Isabella Stewart Gardner. The collection is comprised of paintings, sculptures, rare books, and tapestries. Artists represented include Titian, Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Raphael, Botticelli, Manet, Degas, Whistler and Sargent. Beautifully maintained gardens surround the building and fill the courtyard, which is the first skylight-enclosed courtyard in America. Free admission to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is available to anyone named Isabella – read more here (Photo by jess_melanson)
3. Fenway Park
Fenway Park is a historic and magical Boston landmark, and not just for baseball fans. It is one of the most famous sports venues in the world, and it the oldest Major League Baseball stadium currently in use. Fenway has been the home of the Boston Red Sox since 1912, and, in 2012, the stadium was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Iconic Features of Fenway :
- Green Monster – Its most famous feature is the Green Monster, the 37 foot high wall in left field. The short distance to the wall often benefits right-handed hitters, but it also keeps many line drives inside the park when they would be home runs in other parks. The green monster also boasts a ladder on the wall that misdirects hits.
- Hand-operated Scoreboard – this was added in 1934 and forms the lower half of the Green Monster.
- Lone Red Seat – the red seat in right center field marks the landing spot of the longest home run hit at Fenway, which was hit by Ted Williams in 1946.
- The Triangle – bullpens in right field create a jutting angle that makes it hard to judge balls in hit deep into center field.
- Citgo Sign – the large sign that looms over the stadium.
4. Freedom Trail
Freedom Trail is a 2.5-mile-long path marked by a red line that leads to 16 significant historic Boston sites pertaining to the Revolutionary War. Notable stops along the Freedom Trail are the Old South Meeting House, Old State House, Old North Church, Bunker Hill Monument, and the Paul Revere House. Ground markers explain historical events, monuments, cemeteries, churches and other buildings. Near the Trail there are other historic sites, such as the historic Green Dragon Tavern, where Paul Revere, Sam Adams, and other Sons of Liberty spent time and planned the Boston Tea Party.
The route begins at Boston Common and runs through the Financial District and the North End before crossing the Charles River to Charlestown. In Charlestown it leads to Bunker Hill and the USS Constitution. There are visitors centers at both ends. The walking is easy and the path is mostly brick. Most sites are free, but a few charge a small admission or suggests a donation – read more here (Photo by ericodeg)
5. Boston Symphony Orchestra
The Boston Symphony Orchestra was formed in 1881 and is considered to be one of the “Big Five” American orchestras – along with Chicago, Cleveland, New York, and Philadelphia. In 2014, thirty-six-year-old Latvian conductor Andris Nelsons took the helm of the BSO, replacing departing conductor James Levine, who’s tenure was cut short by health issues. The BSO performs at historic Symphony Hall, and during the summer they make their home at Tanglewood.
Symphony Hall was built in 1900 and is home to both the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Pops Orchestra. The historic building was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1999, and it is considered to have some of the best acoustics of any symphony hall in the world. Symphony Hall holds about 2,500 people, and the leather seats are the original ones installed in 1900. Check their web site for a schedule of performances – read more here (Photo by Bala Subs)
6. Faneuil Hall Marketplace
Faneuil Hall Marketplace is a hip, urban marketplace that spans three historic 19th century buildings located just across from the Boston waterfront and behind historic Faneuil Hall. The long granite buildings blend Neoclassic and Greek Revival architecture and are named Quincy Market, North Market, and South Market. In total, the Marketplace contains 49 shops, 44 pushcarts, 13 full service restaurants, and 35 food stalls, making for a plethora of shopping and dining options. Quincy Market is the largest food hall in New England.
Ethnic foods, unique gifts and street performers are just a few elements that make the cobblestone streets of Faneuil Hall Marketplace such a festive and special place. Restaurants and pubs feature a multitude of menu options and are open for lunch and dinner. During the warm weather, the outdoor cafes are a perfect spot to relax and have a meal or appetizer and drink. A large number of street performers provide entertainment. Faneuil Hall Marketplace if fun and bustling, if a bit touristy – read more here (Photo by Tony Fischer)
7. Boston Public Garden
Boston Public Garden is a beautiful 24 acre park in the heart of Boston full of open spaces, formal gardens and works of art. The Boston Public Garden became the first public botanical garden in the United States when it was established in 1837. It joins with the adjacent Boston Common to form the northern end of the Emerald Necklace, a long string of parks designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed Central Park in NYC.
The centerpiece of the garden is the lagoon full of swans and ducks, including Romeo and Juliet, who are the resident mute swans. An iron suspension bridge crosses the lagoon as part of the main footpath that bisects the park. A favorite activity is taking a leisurely ride in one of the famous Swan Boats. The most famous statue in the garden is Thomas Balls bronze statue of George Washington on horseback, which dates to 1869, and kids will love the Make Way for Ducklings statue that was inspired by the children’s book by Robert McCloskey – read more here (Photo by Andrew Nash)
8. Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway
The Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway is a ribbon of greenspace, parks, and landscaped gardens that was built on land reclaimed when Boston’s Big Dig relocated a highway underground. The linear urban greenspace runs for about a mile-and-a-half and connects some of Boston’s most renowned and diverse neighborhoods, such as Chinatown, the Financial District, and the North End. Small parks that are part of the Greenway include Chinatown Park, Dewey Square Park, and the Wharf District Park. Cultural offerings along the way include the New England Aquarium, the Harbor Islands, the Institute of Contemporary Art, and the Children’s Museum.
The Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway has paths for biking, walking or running. Scattered about along the way are promenades, plazas, fountains, art, and specialty lighting systems. There’s also great people-watching, tai chi, carousel-riding, fountain-playing, food trucks,and the SOWA Open Market – read more here (Photo by Gconservancy)
9. USS Constitution and Museum
The USS Constitution is a wooden-hulled, three-masted heavy frigate of the United States Navy perhaps better known as “Old Ironsides.” It is the world’s oldest commissioned naval vessel that is still afloat. The historic, 44-gun frigate was actually built in Boston and was launched on Oct. 21, 1797. Before fighting in the War of 1812, the ship already won all of her engagements in two wars: the Quasi War with France (1798-1801) and the Barbary Wars (1801-1805).
The ship is berthed at Pier 1 of the Charlestown Navy Yard, at the end of Boston’s Freedom Trail. After a security checkpoint, visitors are allowed to go aboard the ship and explore it. On self-guided tours, visitors can explore the deck without going below. Guided tours leave every half hour and do include going below deck. The USS Constitution Museum is next door to the ship. History buffs should plan to spend 2-3 hours at the USS Constitution and Museum – read more here (Photo by Teemu008)
10. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum
The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum is a moving memorial to one of the country’s most revered and intriguing presidents. The impressive building was designed by the architect I. M. Pei and opened in 1979 after years of setbacks and delays. It is located on the waterfront at Columbia Point in the Dorchester neighborhood and offers beautiful views of the Boston Harbor.
Among the holdings of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum are much of the original papers and correspondence of the Kennedy Administration, plus exhibits about the Space Race and a film about the Cuban Missile Crisis. One of the most unique artifacts is the original coconut on which a rescue message was inscribed by Kennedy to rescue the crew of the PT-109 during World War II – it has been made into a paperweight. Kennedy’s 26-foot Wianno Senior sailboat Victura is on display on the grounds of the Library from May to October – read more here (Photo by JasonParis)
11. Museum of Science
The Museum of Science is located in Science Park alongside the Charles River. With over 700 interactive exhibits, it is one of the world’s largest science centers. With 1.5 million visitors annually, it is the most popular cultural institution in Boston. There’s something for everyone here, and for all ages.
- Theater of Electricity – this may be the most popular exhibit. The world’s largest air-insulated Van de Graaff generator creates an indoor lightening show.
- Butterfly Garden – kids will enjoy walking through the greenhouse full of exotic butterflies.
- Cahners Computer Place – displays educational video games and an interactive robot.
- Colossal Fossil – this 65-million-year-old fossil was discovered in the Dakota Badlands in 2004 and is one of only four nearly complete Triceratops on public display anywhere in the world.
- Simulator Experience – hop into this full-motion simulator for a journey through space, a deep sea journey, or a ride on a biplane.
The Museum of Science also has the Charles Hayden Planetarium and the Mugar Omni IMAX theater, which the only domed IMAX screen in New England. The Live Animal Care Center is home to approximately 120 animals – read more here (Photo by Brian Kanowsky)
12. North End
North End is known as Boston’s Little Italy, so there’s lots of Italian restaurants and cafes, markets, and festivals. The North End is a favorite destination for tourists and locals, which makes for great people-watching. People have lived in the North End since it was settled in the 1630’s by English Puritans, which makes it Boston’s oldest residential community. Before the area became predominately Italian, there were waves of African Americans, Irish, and Jewish communities in the area. Today, the area is a mix of both Italian Americans and young professionals and college students.
Historical reasons to visit the North End include the Freedom Trail – much of which leads through the neighborhood, the Paul Revere House, the Old North Church, the Clough House, and Copp’s Hill Burying Ground. The statues of Paul Revere and Christopher Columbus, cobblestone streets, red brick sidewalks, and the historical architecture add to the allure. Food reasons to visit the North End include some of the best Italian restaurants in the country, including pizzerias, Italian bakeries, espresso and gelato shops, and more traditional family-run restaurants – read more here (Photo by John Stephen Dwyer)
13. Boston Tea Party Museum
Boston Tea Party Museum recounts the historic event that set the stage for the American Revolution. The museum opened in June of 2012 along a reconstructed Griffin’s Wharf, and a combination of cutting-edge interactive technology and live performances do a good job of telling the story of the fateful night of December 16, 1773.
Visitors to the museum get to explore two fully-rigged tall ships (the Eleanor and the whaler Beaver) and throw tea overboard into the Boston harbor just like the forefathers did. On narrated tours, guides in period costume explain the events of the night as they happened. The Minuteman Theatre screens the film “Let It Begin Here,” and visitors get to hear both sides of the story in a virtual debate between Sam Adams and King George III. A highlight of the tour is seeing the Robinson Half-Chest, which is one of only two surviving tea chests from the Boston Tea Party. In addition to the museum, Abigail’s Tea Room sells tea and baked goods and gives visitors an opportunity to learn about different types of tea and the proper way to brew it – read more here (Photo by Lee Wright)
14. Samuel Adams Brewery
Samuel Adams Brewery considers their “craft beer experience” to be one of the best there is. The tours are fun and provide a great overview of the brewing process, the history of the brewery, and, as a major plus, free beer tasting at the end.
Boston Brewing was founded in 1984, and its Samuel Adams beer was one of the first craft beers produced in America. Founder Jim Koch comes from a family of brewers, and Samuel Adams is made from a family recipe that dates back to the 1870’s. As of 2011, Boston Beer was virtually tied with Yuengling for the largest American-owned beermaker. The brewery is located in Jamaica Plain, and tours take place every day except Sundays. The Morning Mash Tour is a special tour experience on Saturday mornings that includes a specialty tasting. Located nearby, Doyle’s Cafe was established in 1882 and is the first bar that served Sam Adams beer on tap – read more here (Photo by ep_jhu)
15. Wally’s Cafe
Wally’s Cafe opened in 1947 and is the oldest continuously-operated jazz clubs in the United States. The well-worn club features live jazz, funk, and Latin jazz music nightly and is known for nightly jam sessions.
Wally’s was opened in the South End by Joseph Walcott, who envisioned a place where both national jazz acts and local artists could perform. At the time, the South End became a hot bed of jazz in Boston – many African Americans moved into the area in the early 20th century, and they brought the music with them. Wally’s did move across the street from its original location, but it has managed to maintain a tradition in a neighborhood that was flourished with jazz nightclubs. In its heyday, Billie Holiday, Art Blakey, and Charlie Parker played in the club. Today, there’s still some big acts that play at Wally’s, but the majority of the acts are students from Berklee, Harvard, and Boston University. There’s no cover charge, but the drinks are a bit pricey – read more here (Photo by John Phelan)
16. The Old North Church
The Old North Church is the place where the famous “One if by land, and two if by sea” signal was sent out on the night of April 18, 1775, that signaled the advance of the British troops and the start of America’s the War for Independence. Two lanterns were hung, meaning the British were crossing the Charles River by boat. Upon seeing the signal, Paul Revere and other riders set out by horse to warn other towns of the news. The Battles of Lexington and Concord soon followed the famous midnight ride.
The church is located in Boston’s North End neighborhood and is the oldest standing church building in Boston. Its doors were first opened to worshipers on December 29, 1723, and it is still an active Episcopal church. It features the tallest steeple in Boston at 191 feet, and the steeple has been blown down twice by hurricanes – both in 1804 and 1954. The Old North Church is part of the Freedom Trail and is a National Historic Landmark. The very interesting Behind the Scenes Tour includes a trip into the bell tower and down into the crypt that contains over 1,000 bodies. There is a gift shop at the Old North Church – read more here (Photo by F Delventhal)
17. Boston Public Library
The Boston Public Library is America’s first public library and dates back to 1852. It is also the second-largest public library in the United States after the Library of Congress. This central branch at Copley Square is actually comprised of two buildings — the Johnson Building and the McKim Building.
The McKim Building was built in 1895 and holds the library’s research collection. The beautiful Italian Renaissance building is notable for its magnificent facade with arcaded windows, bronze doorways, thin tiled vaults, and open-air courtyard. The interior art includes wonderful murals by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, Edwin Austin Abbey, and John Singer Sargent. A marble staircase leads to the Bates Hall reading room and a soaring, vaulting ceiling spanning over the wooden research tables. The Norman B. Leventhal Map Center contains a vast collection of maps and nautical charts dating back to 1482. The Abbey Room is named for the author of the 1895 murals recounting Sir Galahad’s quest for the Holy Grail. John Adams’ personal library is also a part of the holdings.
The Johnson Building was designed by noted architect Philip Johnson and opened in 1972. It was built to work with and connect to the McKim building. Unfortunately, the Johnson Building was never fully embraced by the city and has been described as cold and unwelcoming. Free brochures for a self-guided tour are available, and guided tours are also available – read more here (Photo by Brian Johnson)
18. New England Aquarium
The New England Aquarium is a Boston waterfront attraction sure to engage, entertain, and education visitors with its beautiful aquatic displays. The aquarium opened in 1969 as one of the country’s first large public aquariums, and expansions and renovations have enlarged the space and secured it place as one of the major aquariums in the country .
A unique 4-story central Giant Ocean Tank is the focal point of the aquarium. The cylindrical 200,000-gallon tank that simulates a Caribbean coral reef and, visitors walk on a spiral ramp as they view the sharks, sea turtles, stingrays, eels, barracuda, and smaller reef fish. In total, there are 2,000 species of exotic fish and other marine life at the NEA. Other exhibits showcase penguins, seals, tide pools, sea turtles, sharks and stingrays. The Simons IMAX Theatre shows 3-D and large screen films relevant to marine life – read more here (Photo by Smart Destinations)
19. Mount Auburn Cemetery
Mount Auburn Cemetery opened a couple of miles west of Harvard Square in 1831. It was revolutionary in that is was designed by landscape gardening enthusiasts to be a respite from the city and a beautiful place that people would want to visit, not just a place to bury the dead. In its heyday, Mount Auburn was a more popular destination than Niagara Falls or Mount Vernon. Mount Auburn also influenced people like Central Park designer Frederick Law Olmsted, and soon many large cities had their own garden cemeteries reminiscent of Mount Auburn.
Mount Auburn contains over 10 miles of roads and paths on its 170 acres. Nearly 700 species of trees can found, with many of them labeled. There is a good mixture of gardens, ponds, clearings and forested areas scattered throughout, and there is always somewhere to explore. There are 3 significant buildings at Mount Auburn. The granite Washington Tower looms at 62 feet and overs great views from the top. The Bigelow Chapel was built in the 1840’s from granite and features beautiful stained glass windows. The Reception House was built in 1870 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Famous residents among the 93,000 buried at Mount Auburn include Longfellow, Buckminster Fuller, and Isabella Stewart Gardner – read more here (Photo by Daderot)
20. Boston Harbor Islands National Park
Boston Harbor Islands National Park consists of 34 tiny islands in the Boston Harbor. Visitors to the islands will enjoy exploring the sandy beaches, hiking the trails, picnicking, swimming, and even camping.
Ferries depart regularly from Long Wharf near Christopher Columbus Park, and the islands are a scenic ride away. Spectacle Island is about a 20 minute ride and has a visitors center, hiking, and a beach for swimming. Georges Island is about a 40 minute ride and has ranger-guided tours of Fort Warren, which was built in the 19th century and is a National Historic Landmark. Beautiful views of the Boston skyline can be seen from both islands. Smaller connector shuttles service the four islands of Grape, Bumpkin, Peddocks, and Lovells. These islands are more rustic and a great for either a day trips or for camping – read more here (Photo by Doc Searls)
21. New England Holocaust Memorial
The New England Holocaust Memorial was erected in 1995 and is located just off the Freedom Trail and near Faneuil Hall. The powerful Memorial was designed by Stanley Saitowitz and consists of six 54-foot-tall glass towers, each built over a dark chamber named for one of the six principal Nazi death camps. The number six is not only symbolic of the number of major extermination camps, it also represents the number of years the exterminations took place and the number of millions who died.
The structure is inter-active in that visitors may walk around and under the towers. On the outside walls of each tower are engravings of groups of numbers that represent the six million Jews who were killed in the Holocaust. The inner walls are inscribed with quotes from witnesses to the Holocaust. The towers are lit from within at night, and steam rises up through the towers from the dark chambers below the grates – read more here (Photo by Ben Sutherland)
22. Urban AdvenTours
Urban AdvenTours allows visitors to Boston a way to see the historic neighborhoods and popular landmarks of the city while riding a bike, thereby avoiding traffic and getting exercise. Tours choices include the City View Tour of Boston neighborhoods, the Tour de Boston, Tour de Cambridge, and Bikes at Night. Most Urban AdvenTours tours last about 2.5 hours and cover 10-12 miles of riding. In the fall there is a special Emerald Necklace and Fall Foliage tour that covers 15 miles. The guides are friendly and knowledgeable and cater the tours to the desires of the participants – read more here (Photo by Smart Destinations)
23. Boston Duck Tours
Boston Duck Tours uses amphibious World War II DUCK vehicles to give tours of Boston from both land and water. The guides, known as conDUCKtors, tell humorous stories and do a great job of entertaining passengers while also explaining the history of Boston. Passengers will enjoy quacking at everyone in site along the tour. Boston Duck Tours first started in 1994 and has grown to include three departure locations in the city of Boston. As part of the tour, the vehicles actually drive right into the Charles River. Visitors see such sites as Trinity Church, Boston Public Garden and Boston Common, the Granary Burial Ground, Faneuil Hall, the USS Constitution, and the Bunker Hill Monument.
The six-wheel-drive amphibious vehicles were developed for World War II by General Motors and are really known as DUKW vehicles, and the water tight shell is the key to keeping them above water. Boston Duck Tours has a total of 28 of them DUCK vehicles – read more here (Photo by Mknowl6)
24. Boston Common
Boston Common is a 50-acre central public park and community gathering space in downtown Boston. The park is the oldest city in the United States. Its history dates all of the way back to 1634, when it was a “common pasture” for cattle grazing in the city. Other activities at the park back then included public hangings and military exercises The first organized football games were played at Boston Common in 1862.
Today, Boston Common is known for its open space, monuments, free outdoor performances, and people-watching. The Frog Pond beckons kids to play in the water in the summer, then becomes a public ice-skating rink in winter months. The historic Central Burying Ground contains the burial sites of the artist Gilbert Stuart, the composer William Billings, and the poet Charles Sprague – read more here (Photo by Mark Brennan)