The American city of Boston, Massachusetts, has many nicknames due to its history. Some of these include “The Hub“, “The Olde Towne”, and “Beantown” (often used by both sailors and locals, referring to the regional dish of baked beans).
Boston is the one of the oldest and the second largest city in the American northeast, after New York City. It’s is a liberal place and a center for education and research. The city offers high-tech facilities, exemplary health care, and quality education.
The Greater Boston region has some of the oldest and most visited historic sites in the country. Being a mid-sized city, it offers a relatively relaxed pace of life and yet plenty of opportunities to stay busy. This New England city, full of fantastic exploration opportunities, is a must-see for everyone.
Things To Do In Boston
Boston area has a lot of things to do and most of them can be accessed by public transportation (subway) or ride-sharing services (Uber, etc.). That said, a lot of the attractions are in the surrounding area and would a rental car. So, please plan ahead using our guide and give it at least 4 days. The more days you have the better. (But then don’t we all love to travel forever.)
Also, since it is a decent sized city, we are going to break your itinerary into smaller chunks based on geographic region. You can make your own to-do list as time allows and create your own travel plan.
Greater Boston Area
Many popular sights visitors expect to see are not actually in Boston but in the surrounding towns. This travel guide covers the “entire” Greater Boston Area.
Boston is best explored by dividing it into 8 major touristy areas:
- Downtown Boston
- North End
- Back Bay-Beacon Hill
- South Boston
- Boston Harbor Islands
Downtown is most popular among tourists. As the center of the city, in so many ways, Downtown Boston is where it all begins. The Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market are located here which is great for shopping and grabbing lunch while enjoying street performances during the summer months.
There are small parks all around and the Boston harbor bay is just a walking distance. Plenty of great bars and restaurants with all kinds of cuisines to choose from.
First built in 1742 as a market building adjacent to a busy waterfront dock. Town meetings held here between 1764 and 1774 heard Samuel Adams and others lead cries of protest against the imposition of taxes on the American colonies.
Social justice leaders like Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, and Lucy Stone brought their struggles for freedom here in the 19th century. A museum and gift shop dominates the first floor. Entree is FREE. Timing: 9 AM-5 PM daily.
Quincy Market is another name for Faneuil Hall Marketplace. Though it tends to be pricey, the Market’s charms are undeniable. Dating from 1825, Quincy Market was built during a growing economy as a way to increase the number of shops and markets available to Bostonians.
The original brick and granite building contains two enormous hallways packed with food stalls, with a central atrium tying the wings together and providing two levels of seating.
For shopping, you’ll move to the North and South Market buildings. Check out 1630 for gifts made by artisans using techniques known to the first European colonists. You’ll also find antiques and collectibles, sourced from around New England so you can own a piece of the history.
Entree is FREE. Timing: M-Sa 10AM-9PM, Su noon-6PM.
Boston City Hall
This area used to be known as Scollay Square and was demolished in the 1960s to build a new city hall. It’s a hulking architecture and an expansive brick plaza, contrasting sharply with the Faneuil Hall facade directly behind it. Plans to make the area more pedestrian friendly are ongoing.
Entree is FREE. Timing: M-F 8:30 AM-5 PM.
New England Aquarium
Home of what was until recently the world’s largest fish tank, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, the New England Aquarium offers a riveting museum experience which showcases an incredible variety of fish and other types of animals.
After recent expansions, it now also has a humongous IMAX theatre, whale-watching tours operating from its pier, and a marine mammal arena out back.
It also is known for its penguins, which are a fascinating experience even on their own. It’s well worth a visit. But if you already been to a large aquarium in the past, you can skip it too.
Old City Hall
Old City Hall, unlike the current city hall, is undeniably beautiful. This Second Empire style building was built in 1865 and served as Boston’s City Hall until 1969. It has since been converted to office space and also houses an expensive steakhouse.
The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970 and is a much-touted example of adaptive re-use in architecture.
The Freedom Trail
The Freedom Trail is a clearly marked 2.5 miles long paved city streets. It’s a major tourist attraction of significant historical sites in Boston. The 17 historical sites places spread over two and a half miles are crucial to understanding revolutionary era America.
The trail winds through the districts of Back Bay, Beacon Hill, Downtown Boston, and Charlestown. Whenever you decide to step off the freedom trail, you are usually never far from a great restaurant or transit station.
Go to the Freedom Trail page to read more about its location, tours, and important historic sites on the trail.
Boston is home to the fourth-largest Chinatown in the US and serves mouth-watering Asian cuisine. Snap a photo at Chinatown Gate, also called the Paifang Gate. It is found at the corner of Beach Street and Surface Road, this is the most visible symbol of Chinatown for tourists
Fun fact: Chinatown was built on a landfill, though this is no longer apparent.
Cambridge is most famous for the prestigious Harvard University and MIT. Many stunning museums, architecture, and events belonging to these schools are well worth a visit. Cambridge also has The Longfellow House among other colonial sites.
African American Heritage Trail
Twenty historic plaques across the city honor notable African Americans who were abolitionists, authors, educators, and office holders in Cambridge from 1840 to 1940. Free. Timing: 24 hours daily.
Longfellow House was Washington’s Headquarters. It is now a National Historic Site. George Washington made his headquarters here during the siege of Boston from July 1775 through April 1776.
From 1837 until 1882, it was the home of poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow while he taught at Harvard. The site’s collections deal mainly with Longfellow, but there are some old Washington letters as well. Address: 105 Brattle St, Cambridge.
Mount Auburn Cemetery
It happens to be the first landscaped cemetery and in fact, the first large-scale designed landscape in the U.S. The tower provides visitors with a breathtaking panoramic view of the cities of Boston and Cambridge, as well as the surrounding countryside to the north. The fact that it’s the final resting place of some of the area’s most influential figures (Sumner, Gardner, Eddy, and Longfellow) cements its status as a National Historic Landmark. Address: 580 Mount Auburn St, Cambridge.
On July 3, 1775, George Washington officially took command of the Continental Army at ceremonies taking place beneath this Elm tree, which stood at the edge of the training grounds used by the troops. While this tale may be a myth, clearly the tree has remained a symbol of patriotism in Cambridge for generations.
The tree finally succumbed to old age and disease in 1923, and today a small bronze plaque marks this historical spot. Free. Address: Cambridge Common at Mason St. Timing: 24 hours daily.
Harvard Art Museums
This collection of museums includes three once separate entities. The Fogg Museum, known for western art from the Middle Ages to the present, with particular strengths in Italian early Renaissance, British pre-Raphaelite, and nineteenth-century French art.
The Busch-Reisinger Museum, which is devoted to promoting the informed enjoyment and critical understanding of the arts of Central and Northern Europe, with a special emphasis on the German-speaking countries. Finally, the Arthur M. Sackler Museum holds a superb collection of ancient, Islamic, Asian, and later Indian art. $15, seniors $13, students $10, under 18 free. Address: 32 Quincy St (T stop: Harvard). Timing: 10AM-5PM daily.
Harvard Museum of Natural History
Drawing from the University’s vast natural history collections, the HMNH displays the famous Blaschka ‘Glass Flowers’ collection, dinosaurs (the world’s only mounted 42-ft. long Kronosaurus), minerals, meteorites, gemstones (a 1,642 lb. amethyst geode), and hundreds of ‘stuffed’ animals and birds.
Fun for the whole family. It’s an 8-minute walk across the historic Harvard Yard from Harvard Square (Red Line MBTA). Lectures & educational programs for all ages. $12, student/senior $10, under 18 $8. Address: 26 Oxford St (T stop: Harvard). Timing: 9AM-5PM daily.
Has a huge collection of holography, rotating exhibits, and showcases some of the best “hacks” performed by students. Hacks at MIT are practical physical jokes taking place around the institute. For example: installing a somewhat functioning police car (complete with instructions on how to remove it) atop the great dome.
This museum is great for kids and many exhibits are hands-on, including moving sculptures and a shadow room. Adults $10, youth/students/seniors $5, children under 5 free. Free admission last Su of the month Sep-Jun. Address: 265 Massachusetts Ave (T stop: Central). Timing: Sep-Jun: 10AM-5PM daily; Jul-Aug: 10AM-6PM daily.
Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology is one of the oldest museums in the world devoted to anthropology, it houses one of the most comprehensive records of human cultural history in the Western Hemisphere. $12, students/seniors $10, under 18 $8. Address: 11 Divinity Ave (T stop: Harvard). Address: 9 AM-5 PM daily.
Putnam Gallery is also known as the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments. Representing a broad range of scientific studies, this museum holds over 20,000 unique instruments dating from 1400 AD to present day. FREE. Address: 1 Oxford St (T stop: Harvard). Timing: Su-F 11 AM-4 PM.
See a collection of over 40,000 artifacts from the Near East across multiple ancient civilizations. Free. Address: 6 Divinity Ave (T stop: Harvard). Timing: M-F 10 AM-4 PM, Su 1 PM-4 PM.
Also known as American Repertory Theater, it was named one of the top 5 regional theatres in the U.S. by Time magazine in 2003. It also shows student productions. $25 and up. Address: 2 Arrow St (T stop: Harvard).
The Brattle shows the best in classic, cutting-edge, foreign, and art-house films. The Brattle Theatre has been operated by the non-profit Brattle Film Foundation since 2001. Address: 40 Brattle St, Cambridge.
Charles River Kayak
The best way to do this is to rent a boat and paddle upstream to Allston from Kendall Square. Vice-versa is great too, the river has no current to fight against. It’ll take less than 2 hours and is amazing. $15-20 per hour, $40-60 per day. Address: 15 Broad Canal Way (T stop: Kendall). Timing: 8AM-10PM.
Charles Riverboat Company
Sightseeing, sunset, and architectural tours on the Charles River and Boston Harbor. $10-28. Address: On the Cambridge side at 100 Cambridgeside Pl (T stop: Lechmere). Timing: May-Oct 10AM-7PM daily.
The Cantab Lounge
A Cambridge staple since the early days of the American folk music revival. Small, old-school feel with live music 7 nights a week, focusing heavily on American roots music.
The Cantab hosts a folk music open mic on Monday nights and jams other nights, as well as small- to medium-sized acts every night. A must for those interested in the Boston folk music scene.
Address: 738 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge. (T stop: Central). Timing: M-W 8 AM-1 AM, Th-Sa 8 AM-2 AM, Su noon-1 AM.
The Middle East
This legendary Cambridge institution consists of an art gallery, four live music venues, four full bars, and three dining areas.
The “Corner” dining area (enter at 480) features live music every night, often free, with belly dancing on Su and Wed. Address: 472/480 Massachusetts Av. (T stop: Central). Timing: Su-W 11 AM-12 AM, Th-Sa 11 AM-1 AM.
Cambridge Brewing Company
This place brews some of the best beer around Cambridge. They have a wide variety of choice and it changes depending on the season. This place is very popular among MIT community members and tech companies close by. Address: 1 Kendall Square (T stop: Kendall). Timing: Tu-Th 11:30-midnight, F Sa M 11:30 AM-11 PM, Su 11 AM-9 PM.
Get ready to wait in line! Once you cross the threshold, sample some of these sought-after craft beers that are the talk of the town. Brewers will often use Brettanomyces in their brews which produces a “funkier” flavor. Address: 284 Broadway (T: Central). Timing: Tu-Sa 11AM-midnight, Su 11AM-10PM.
- Cambridge Carnival: Early September. (T stop: Kendall). Noon-7 PM. FREE.
- Oktoberfest: First week of October. Harvard Square (T stop: Harvard). FREE.
- Head of the Charles Regatta: Late October. At the Charles River (T stop: Harvard). 8 AM-5 PM. FREE.
Known as “Little Italy” for over a hundred years, the North End proudly carries the torch of Boston’s Italian heritage. Its narrow, dense streets consistently draw hordes of visitors looking to experience old world culture and first-class dining.
Old North Church
Old North Church was Boston’s second Anglican church. It is most famous for sending the message from Paul Revere that the British were coming by lighting the steeple with lanterns. “One if by land, two if by sea.” Paul Revere had convinced congregant Robert Newman to alert the American militia in Concord, Massachusetts to British troop movements. Newman placed two lanterns in the church steeple and alerted the militia to the approaching British army as Paul Revere began his ride to warn John Handcock and Samuel Adams.
Address: 193 Salem St (T: North Station). Timing: Jan-Feb: 10AM-4PM daily, Mar-May: 9AM-5PM daily, Jun-Oct: 9AM-6PM daily, Nov-Dec: 9AM-5PM daily.
Paul Revere House
Paul Revere is known for his midnight ride from Boston to Lexington, warning all the people along the way that the British were coming. He owned this home for over three decades and it’s downtown Boston’s oldest building, dating from somewhere around the 1680s. The average visit is 30 minutes depending on the time of year. $5, $4.50 seniors/students, $1 children 5-17. Address: 19 North Sq (T: Haymarket). Timing: Apr 15-Oct 31 9:30 AM-5: 15 PM daily, Nov 1-Apr 14 9:30 AM-4: 15 PM daily. Closed Mondays Jan-Mar.
Copp’s Hill Burying Ground
The city’s second cemetery founded in 1659, Copp’s Hill Burying Ground contains more than 1200 marked graves. The remains of notable early Bostonians are interred here, including much of the Mather family; Samuel, Increase, and Cotton. During the Revolutionary war occupying British forces would use the headstones of particularly hated patriots for target practice. Visitors can still see the impressions made by musket fire in the gravestones today. Free. Address: Hull St & Snow Hill St (T: North Station). 9 AM-5 PM daily.
Museum of Science
The Museum of Science is colossal – easily one of the biggest in North America. It has IMAX theaters, 3D theaters, and a separate planetarium. The museum not only has an enormous permanent collection spanning several stories, but it has the largest Van de Graff generator in the world, which produces frequent electricity shows, a weather generator, many multimedia presentation areas, and at least 2 temporary exhibitions at any given time.
A few exhibits remain that were designed by Charles and Ray Eames, but they are showing their age. The roster of events changes daily and is distributed upon entry. It’s worth a visit as long as you are all right with the possibility of getting a migraine. Adults $25, seniors $21, children $20. Plus another $8-10 for the Omni Theater and Planetarium. Address: 1 Science Park (T: Science Park). Timing: 9AM-5PM daily (Summer until 7 PM).
There is a Sports Museum inside TD Garden open from 11 AM-4 PM daily. If you love sports, check it out. A variety of memorabilia from Boston teams is on display. There is a fee to enter the museum. But, you can see the TD Garden from outside as well. Address: 100 Legends Way (T stop: North Station). Box office open M-F 10AM-6PM. $20-400.
Pastries in North End
The North End is well known among both the locals and tourists alike for the best pastries (cannolis, cakes, etc.) and Italian food that it offers. Head over to the Hanover street and try some dessert. There are plenty of restaurants, bars, and pastries shop. A fun and happy vibe overall.
North End Events
Festival of Santa Lucia
Back Bay and Beacon Hill are some of Boston’s most beautiful neighborhoods. With narrow gas lit streets and scores of architecturally significant buildings, these distinctly different neighborhoods will make up the core of almost any visitors itinerary.
Back Bay is an upper-class area. Classic Federalist architecture, The State House, America’s oldest city park, and one of its most photographed streets are all waiting for you here. Later, eat at some of the city’s finest restaurants to recharge your tired legs.
Boston Public Library
Boston Public Library is the very first library in the United States to be opened to the public for borrowing books and other materials. The library is home to over 8 million books and is considered one of the largest libraries in the nation.
Anyone who is an avid reader or loves some good history would appreciate this wonderful place. The library still holds true to most of its original structure and has beautiful marble staircases.
Don’t miss the beautifully quiet interior courtyard, a place to spend a solitary moment reflecting in the heart of the city. FREE. Address: 700 Boylston St, Boston. (T stop: Copley). Timing: M-Th 9AM-9PM, F Sa 9AM-5PM, Su 1PM-5PM.
Massachusetts State House
The Massachusetts State House was built in 1781 on Beacon Hill, land once owned by John Hancock. The dome of the State House was re-gilded with a glittering 23k gold leaf in 1997 and makes for a spectacular view at sunset from the Massachusetts Avenue bridge.
Free tours are available weekdays all year long from 10 AM to 3:30 PM, they last about 45 minutes. The grand staircase and hall of flags are a few of the highlights. Make sure to ask about “The Sacred Cod” to get the whole story. Free. Address: 24 Beacon St (T: Park Street). Timing: M-F 8AM-6PM.
This place has it all, shopping, food, and the view. Located in the heart of the City, within walking distance from the Prudential T station, you can enjoy both the beauty and luxury of this building. At the very top of ‘the Pru’, there is an awesome 360 view of the Boston from the Observatory and a restaurant that is worth even if you have to take the flight of stairs. 😉
Even if you plan to just do window shop, this place is a must-see for anyone traveling to Boston. It’s one of the defining landmarks of Boston Skyline. There are nice places to eat and plenty of shops. There is also a new Tesla showroom on the ground floor of the Boylston Street side if you want to window shop. Address: 800 Boylston Street Boston, MA.
Prudential Skywalk Observatory
Enjoy a 360-degree view of Boston from the Prudential tower’s observatory on the 50th floor. Also on offer is a small museum detailing the role of immigration has played over the course of city history. There is a fee to enter the Skywalk Observatory.
The small movie theatre shows a brief “flyover” view of the Boston, and a second short film showing how the city itself evolved over the years. Timing: 10 AM-10 PM daily.
First Baptist Church
Since 1665 when being Baptist was a punishable offense. The notable element here are the friezes seen ringing the top of the tower. These were carved on site by Frédéric Bartholdi, who would later go on to create the Statue of Liberty in New York. Free.
Old South Church
One of the finest High Victorian Gothic churches in New England. The interior is filled with sumptuous materials, musical instruments, and stained glass. Free.
The American Institute of Architects once called Trinity Church one of the “Ten Most Significant Buildings in the United States”. Designated a National Historic Landmark, it is the only building remaining on their top ten list. Its interior murals were completed entirely by American artists. Free. Address: 206 Clarendon St (T: Copley). 24 hours daily.
Park Street Church
Founded in 1809, this Park Street Church is on the Freedom Trail and known for a number of historical firsts.
- Barbara Krakow Gallery, 10 Newbury St (T: Arlington)
- Copley Society of Art, 158 Newbury St (T: Copley)
- Eugene Galleries, 76 Charles St (T: Charles/MGH)
- Gallery NAGA, 67 Newbury St (T: Arlington)
- Vose Galleries of Boston, 238 Newbury St (T: Copley)
Gibson House Museum
The Gibson house was one of the first to be built in Back Bay and has an unparalleled state of preservation that includes wallpaper, textiles, furnishings, and family artifacts and collections. A nice reminder that no matter how rich you were in 1860, you couldn’t buy air conditioning! $9, students and seniors $6, kids $3. Cash only. Address: 137 Beacon St (T: Arlington). Timing: We-Su 1PM-3PM.
Museum of African American History
Dedicated to preserving the historically accurate contributions of African-Americans during America’s colonial period. The perfect point to begin walking Boston’s Black Heritage Trail. $5, children under 12 free. Address: 46 Joy Street (T: Park Street). Timing: M-Sa 10AM-4PM.
The Boston Public Garden
The Boston Public Garden is the largest and oldest botanical garden in the United States. The Garden features a plethora of diverse plant life, including a wide variety of native and foreign trees, and a rotating arrangement of flowers that change with the seasons. It also features numerous statues and fountains dedicated to Boston’s heroes throughout the ages.
The park is centered on a four-acre pond, which is crossed by the world’s smallest suspension bridge and teems with wildlife during the warmer months. During this time the Swan Boats are also in operation, a famous Boston Tourist attraction since 1877.
In the northeast corner of the park, tourists can view the wildly popular duckling statues, based on Robert McCloskey’s famous children’s book “Make Way For Ducklings.” FREE. Address: 4 Charles St (T stop: Arlington). Timing: 7AM-9PM daily.
This state-owned park sits along the banks of the Charles River. Perfect for jogging, cycling, or just strolling and enjoying the view. Home of the Hatch Shell, where live events take place during the warmer months, and where the Boston Pops play their spectacular 4th of July concert.
Laze out in the sun on the public dock, or take a gondola ride along the Charles. You’ll meet many Bostonians out and about year round, picnicking, reading, or just doing nothing at all.
It’s easy to get here by walking down the ramp on the east side of the Mass Ave bridge, or the ramp adjacent to the Charles/MGH Red Line station. A third option is a footbridge overpass near the northeastern corner of the Public Garden. Free. (T: Charles/MGH or Hynes Convention Center). 24 hours daily.
Berklee Performance Center
Owned by the prestigious Berklee College of Music, this performance space has something going on about 200 days out of the year. Musical offerings such as the Singers Showcase, International Folk Festival, and the Beantown Jazz Festival all take place here. Free to $100 depending on the date and performer. Address: 136 Massachusetts Ave (T: Hynes Convention Center). Box office: M-Sa 10AM-6PM.
Frog Pond in Boston Common
A great place for the kids, and open year round. In the winter time, an ice skating rink is set up, and children and adults skate around in circles all day. During the warmer months, the Frog Pond expands beyond the rink, providing ankle deep water perfect for toddlers to wade around in.
Right next door is the “Tadpole Playground” with all manner of slides and other activities for the little ones. Stroller city. (T stop: Park Street). M 10AM-3:45PM, Tu-Th 10AM-9PM, F-Sa 10AM-10PM, Su 10AM-9PM.
Gondola Di Venezia
Have a gondolier tour you and a loved one around the Charles River to a recorded classical Italian soundscape. Tours accommodate up to 6 people and last 45 minutes to an hour, depending what you pay for. They all include little cheese and cracker snacks and can include chocolates, flowers, even wine, and champagne.
It’s exactly what you’re imagining. $99-239 per couple, +$15 per additional person. By the Hatch Shell on the Esplanade (T: Charles/MGH). F-Su 2PM-10PM May-Oct.
Located in the Lagoon, a 4-acre pond in the center of the Public Garden, the Swan Boats are one of the most famous and traditional icons of the city of Boston. Founded in 1877 by British immigrant and engineer Robert Paget, the boats have been preserved for over the years by the Paget family for tourist pleasure and enjoyment.
Each of the six human-powered boats is shaped like a white swan and carries around 20 adults. Enjoy a relaxing 15-minute trip around the pond and take in a beautiful tour of the Boston Public Garden. $3.50, seniors $3, children $2, toddlers free. (T: Arlington). Spring 10AM-4PM daily, Summer 10AM-5PM daily, Fall M-F noon-4PM, Sa Su 10AM-4PM.
Shakespeare on the Common
Shakespeare on the Common at Boston Common Park. Every year in late July-early August, the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company puts on free performances on Boston Common of various Shakespeare works. Performances are well attended, but there are few space constraints so you should be able to find a decent vantage point. Food Trucks show up and picnicking is a popular activity.
If shopping is the question, beautiful and historic Newbury Street has the answer. As you walk from the Public Garden westward to Mass Ave; Newbury transitions from “high end” to “low end” boutiques. The street is narrow but not confining and filled mainly with appealing 19th-century brownstones, the cafes, and restaurants peppered throughout act as calls to linger.
Even if shopping isn’t on your to-do list, a walk down Charles street probably should be. Scenic gas lamps and centuries-old bricks warm views up and down the road. One of the strictest historical preservation codes in the country ensures even a basic convenience store located here needs to hang a shingle of hand carved wood embossed with gold leaf.
Copley Place Mall
A very upscale and luxurious mall. It seems even odd to call it a mall, but hey, that’s the format they’ve chosen. Most things here are not affordable to mortal humans, check out Tiffany & Co. as a prime example. Hawking some of the finest jewelry in the city, this is a great spot to window shop. Entering the store is basically walking into a bank vault.
Address: 100 Huntington Ave (T: Back Bay). M-Sa 10AM-8PM, Su noon-6PM.
Perhaps most recognized as the home of Fenway Park and the Boston Red Sox. Fenway also boasts many top cultural institutions, including the Museum of Fine Arts.
Watch the Boston Red Sox play at Fenway Park, the oldest Major League Baseball stadium still in use. Built-in 1912 and one of only two classic ballparks remaining, the other being Wrigley Field in Chicago. This red brick and green steel structure is one of the best places in the world to take in a baseball game.
Given Boston’s loyal fan base, seeing a game here is intimate, exciting, and a part of living history. A must for any Red Sox fan even if you do manage to get game tickets! Tickets to a game can be as cheap as $25 but expect to pay into the hundreds for a popular game during the summer.
If you’d like to see Fenway without attending a game, try a behind the scenes tour (there is a tour fee) on non-game days or show up early on game days. Address: 4 Yawkey Way (T: Kenmore or Fenway).
The Museum of Fine Arts
As the fourth largest museum in the US, the Museum of Fine Art (MFA) is known for its impressive assortment of French Impressionist paintings as well as its extraordinary collection of ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman art. The MFA also has one of the largest collections of Japanese art outside of Japan.
A visitor could simply rush through the highlights in a few hours, or linger all day and take it all in properly. The museum also has a great collection of early American art, including the portrait of George Washington used on the dollar bills you might find in your wallet right now. Address: 465 Huntington Ave (T: Museum of Fine Arts). Timing: W-F 10 AM-10 PM, Sa-Tu 10 AM-5 PM.
Boston Symphony Orchestra
Known as the Symphony Hall and constructed in 1900, it is considered to have the finest acoustics of any concert hall in the United States. An evening at the Boston Symphony Orchestra will be a treasured memory for any visitor. Attending one of these highly acclaimed, if somewhat formal performances, is a must for any lover of the finer things in life.
If you think you might prefer something lighter, however, try the Boston Pops. The Pops plays more familiar classical and popular music. Address: 301 Massachusetts Ave (T: Symphony).
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
Not your typical museum experience. Modeled after a 15th century Venetian palazzo, the museum displays Mrs. Gardner’s evocative home as it was when she lived here. She collected many masterworks, unappreciated at the time, and displayed them in a most unconventional manner.
The juxtaposition of artworks from different cultures and time periods still delights visitors today. Her will stipulates the works of art must remain in her original arrangement. This is the reason one wall remains blank, after an unbelievable art heist in early 1990. Thirteen pieces were stolen, valued at over $500 million dollars, the works of art remain missing to this day. $15 adult, $12 senior, $5 student. Address: 25 Evans Way (T: Museum of Fine Arts). Timing: Tu-Su 11AM-5PM.
Massachusetts Historical Society
Founded in 1791, the Massachusetts Historical Society is the nation’s oldest historical society. The collections of the MHS bring alive the stories of America’s past through a series of changing exhibitions and public programs that are free and open to the public.
Thomas Jefferson’s handwritten copy of the Declaration of Independence is a particularly significant piece in their collection. Free. Address: 1154 Boylston Street (T: Hynes Convention Center). Timing: M-Sa 10 AM-4 PM.
Emerald Necklace Conservancy
Offering walking and cycling tours throughout The Fens, the Muddy River, and other points of interest along this section of the Emerald Necklace. See the calendar of events for specifics. Free. Address: Shattuck Visitor Center, 125 Fenway (T: Northeastern). Timing: M-F 9 AM-5 PM, Sa Su noon-4 PM.
House of Blues
See all types of live concerts and special events at this popular entertainment chain. The first HoB opened in Harvard Square in the early 90s but moved to this much larger location in 2009. They play host to bigger name national performers like The Flaming Lips and Run the Jewels. They also serve several southern inspired dishes, if you feel compelled to eat here. $20-50. Address: 15 Landsdowne St (T: Kenmore). Timing: 4 PM-2 AM.
BU Astronomy Observatory
Spend a few hours learning a little astronomy, and looking through Boston University’s not very powerful telescopes. You won’t be seeing much of anything if the lights are on at Fenway Park. Tickets are free, but you still have to “buy” them online in advance, because space is limited.
The stairwell to the Observatory is on the fifth floor just to the left of room 520. Free. Address: 725 Commonwealth Ave (T: BU Central). Timing: W 7:30 PM winter, W 8:30 PM summer, weather permitting.
Warren Anatomical Museum
This small exhibition is tucked away on the 5th floor of Harvard Medical School’s Countway Library of Medicine. It was designed by Mr. Warren in the mid-1800’s to teach his medical students about anatomy. The real highlight here—among the charts, specimens and 19th-century medical instruments—is the skull of Phineas Gage. Phineas improbably survived 12 years after a large iron bar was driven through his brain. Free. Address: Countway Library of Medicine, 10 Shattuck Street (T: Brigham Circle). Timing: M-F 9AM-5PM.
Founded in 1971, Panopticon Gallery is one of the oldest galleries in the United States dedicated solely to fine art photography. The gallery specializes in 20th Century American Photography and emerging contemporary works. Check their calendar for up to date information on their current exhibition. They also carry many interesting, hard to find, fine art books in their store. Address: Hotel Commonwealth, 502c Commonwealth Ave (T: Kenmore). Timing: Tu-Sa 9 AM-3 PM.
New England Conservatory of Music
Catch a performance at the oldest independent school of music in the United States. The New England Conservatory of Music is renowned for its instruction in the string, woodwind, and brass instruments. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1994, Jordan Hall—along with Symphony Hall—are considered two of America’s most acoustically perfect performance spaces. Free, first come first serve. Address: Jordan Hall, 30 Gainsborough St (T: Symphony).
Lucky Strike Lanes (Jillian’s)
Not into classical music, no problem. Head to Jillian’s for a fun evening of bowling, billiards, and ping-pong. An attached dance club bills itself as “52 weeks of spring break”, if you’re up for that. The entertainment is spread out over several floors so you may find something to your liking. All areas serve alcohol and are 21+. Address: 145 Ipswich St (T: Kenmore). Timing: 11AM-2AM daily.
Though the changing times of generalization is clearest in the Seaport district (home to the Institute of Contemporary Art), South Boston still holds on to its Irish-Catholic working-class roots.
An Irish population inhabits the Southie residential area. You’ll find a beautiful waterfront view here. West of Southie is the South End. The Bohemian aura is hard to miss in this part of the district.
A high-end shopping, dining, and art scene have coalesced around the South End and SoWa Market. Its renowned Victorian brownstone buildings and gas-lit cobblestone streets can charm at any time of year.
It’s best to visit the gallies on the weekends:
- L’Attitude Gallery, 460 Harrison Ave #8A (SoWa). Tu-Sa 10:30 AM-5 PM, Su noon-5 PM.
- Adelson Galleries, 520 Harrison Ave (SoWa). W-Su noon-6 PM.
- Mills Gallery, 539 Tremont St (Cyclorama). Su W noon-5 PM, Th-Sa noon-9 PM.
- Piano Craft Gallery, 793 Tremont St (T: Mass Ave). F 6 PM-8 PM, Sa Su noon-5 PM.
- Kijidome, 59 Wareham St #1A (SoWa). Sa Su noon-5 PM.
- Boston Sculptors Gallery, 486 Harrison Ave (SoWa). W-Su noon-6 PM.
- M Fine Arts Galerie, 61 Thayer St (SoWa). 10 AM-6 PM daily.
Currently owned by Northeastern University, it was the original home of the Boston Bruins. Matthews Arena first opened in 1910 and is the oldest multi-purpose athletic building still in use in the world. That said, expect state of the art facility if you’re catching a game here. (T stop: Massachusetts Ave).
SoWa Art Walk
The SoWa Art Walk, an annual art festival held each spring, enables many artists to present their works and host open studios. Free. Address: 450 Harrison Ave (T stop: Broadway). 11 AM- 6 PM.
SoWa First Fridays
First Friday of every month. During SoWa First Fridays, over 90 artists & galleries throughout SoWa stage their new 30-day shows, featuring the works of emerging and established painters, photographers, and sculptors. Free. Address: 450 Harrison Ave (T stop: Broadway). 5 PM-9 PM.
Boston Children’s Museum
Look for the iconic milk bottle out front. The Children’s Museum is the best place in the city to go with kids ranging from newborn to about 9. Featuring many interactive exhibits designed for kids, as well as the Kyoto House—a real traditional Japanese home moved from Japan to Boston.
Children love the three-story climbing structure, it allows them to move around without using the boring elevator or stairs. The museum also has a green roof! Definitely worthwhile if you’re bringing the kids with you to Boston. $16. Address: 308 Congress St (T stop: South Station). Sa-Th 10 AM-5 PM, F 10 AM- 9 PM.
Boston Fire Museum
The history of firefighting in Boston on display. Mostly artifacts from the 20th century, but a few items are much older. Only open on Saturdays, this museum is often overlooked, so you’re likely to receive more of a personal tour from the staff. They’re not burned out from saying the same thing over and over. FREE. Address: 344 Congress St (T stop: South Station). Sa 11 AM-5 PM.
This is the spot from where George Washington and Henry Knox aimed their guns at the British ships occupying Boston harbor, forcing them to leave and breaking the siege. Today you will find a quiet park space with some signage, a little tower, and locals walking their dogs. Free.Address: 95 G St (T stop: Andrew). Sunrise-sunset daily. Address: 95 G St (T stop: Andrew). Sunrise-sunset daily.
Castle Island aka Fort Independence was a fort built around 1850 to provide defenses for Boston harbor. Today, the guns are long gone, and it’s a great place to go exploring. Fantastic views are rewarded to those who scale its granite walls. Even if the fort is closed, the grounds are always open. It’s a great place to see families picnicking, going for a stroll around Pleasure Bay, or out flying kites in the brisk wind blowing in from the water. Kids love seeing (and hearing!) the planes up close, as they make their final approach to Logan Airport. Free. Th 7 PM-dusk, Sa Su noon-3:30 PM.
Institute of Contemporary Art
The modernist building is the first new art museum to be built in Boston in over 100 years and allowed the ICA to launch its first permanent collection. The collection is small, but there are always temporary exhibitions taking place with works from up-and-coming artists. $15 general, $13 seniors, $10 students, under 17 free.
A public walkway that follows the edge of piers, wharves, beaches, and shoreline around Boston Harbor. The total harbor walk from end to end is about 47 miles (76 km) long from East Boston to the Neponset River (in Quincy).
Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum
Listen to colonial music while you climb aboard 18th-century ships afloat in Boston Harbor. Once aboard historical re-enactors teach you about the original tea party, and let you “toss the tea into the sea”. These interactive participatory tours last about an hour. Be prepared to wait to get into this very popular and widely regarded tourist attraction. Address: 306 Congress St (T: South Station). 10AM-5PM daily.
Lawn on D
A fun outdoor space with food trucks, adult beverages, music, and other performances. The Lawn on D has proven popular enough that it has become a permanent fixture in the neighborhood. FREE entrance. Address: 420 D St (T: World Trade Center). u-Th 7AM-10PM, Fr Sa 7AM-11PM.
St. Patrick’s Day Parade
The St. Patrick’s Day parade in Southie is a longstanding Bostonian tradition. The parade celebrates Irish history, veterans, and the expulsion of the British from the city of Boston in 1776.
Attendance at the parade is very high due to so many Bostonians claiming Irish ancestry, combined with the fact that it’s an official city holiday. Often, close to one million people will all cram into Southie to attend the event. Check ahead for the starting time, and plan to arrive hours in advance if you want to stake out a good spot.
Be aware that in America “St. Patrick’s Day” is synonymous with “Legal Public Drinking”. The organizers plead with people to take it easy, and police try to keep order, but your best bet is to keep your wits about you. Remember to wear green and enjoy the spectacle, everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day! FREE.
Parking is a nightmare. Taking the T is strongly recommended. (T stops: Broadway or Andrew).
Quincy is just south of Boston city and was the birthplace of two American presidents, John Adams and John Quincy Adams. United States Declaration of Independence signer and first Massachusetts governor John Hancock was also born here.
Quincy produced the first commercial railroad in the country in order to transport the granite from its quarries to Boston for use in many buildings there.
Quincy’s shipbuilding history started with sailing ships in the 1800s and continued with battleships at the Fore River Shipyard. Howard Johnson’s and Dunkin Donuts restaurants were also started here.
Adams National Historical Park
Located at 1250 Hancock St. Tours include the Old House and the Birthplaces. To see the historic homes, you must join a tour. The last tour leaves at 3:15 PM. Timing: Apr 19 through Nov 10. Daily 9 AM-5 PM. Visitor Center is open during the Winter Season: Tu-F 10 AM-4 PM.
Site orientation is also available here, along with exhibits, a bookstore, and the site’s only public restrooms. The 14-acre park is comprised of the Birthplaces of John and John Quincy Adams, the Old House, and the United First Parish Church.
Reservations are required for groups of 8 or more, however, there is no group rate. You can also see the “Adam’s Mansion,” home of US President John Adams, and his son John Quincy Adams, within a short walking distance of the Quincy Center. Cost: $5.00, under 16 Free.
The USS Salem is a 716 foot long US Navy Heavy Cruiser Gunship and is the worlds only example of that class of ship. The Salem was among the most advanced warships of her day and served until 1959. She is now permanently moored at the place of her birth, the former Fore River Shipyard in Quincy.
U.S. Naval Shipbuilding Museum
The USS Salem ship is also home to the US Naval Shipbuilding Museum and has on display thousands of items relating to Naval history and shipbuilding.
Timing: Summer daily 10 AM-5 PM; Winter Sa, Su 10 AM-4 PM. General Admission $5, children under 4 free, Active Duty Military free. Group guided tours are available with prior reservation.
The Adams Pew
The Adams Pew is inside the United First Parish Church. It’s the graves of the Adams and Quincy families and John Hancock’s father. Interesting graveyard art. Free.
Quincy Historical Society
Excellent overview of Quincy history in a lovely stone building built on the site of Hancock’s birth. $3. Timing: M-F 9 AM-4 PM, Sa Noon-4 PM
Other Points of Interest
- Dorothy Quincy Homestead (Timing: May-mid Oct. M-F 9 AM-1 PM)
- Josiah Quincy House (Tours starts every hour. $4/person)
- Thomas Crane Public Library (Timing: M-Th 9 AM-9 PM, Sa 9 AM-5 PM, Su 1 PM-5 PM. Free)
- United First Parish Church
Marina Bay is an upscale North Quincy town situated on the water with excellent and close up view of the Boston skyline and JFK library. There are excellent restaurants here some of which turn into dance floors. A beautiful place to take a walk with a view of the city of Boston.
The Quincy Quarries have supplied granite to Boston and buildings around the world with the tell-tale ‘fingers’ and bluish color. Now, they are empty and great places to hike or take a walk during the day.
Some areas are filled with color by generations of teenagers’ graffiti, others are used for rock climbing, and you can walk down the United States’ oldest railroad, an ox-drawn train to transport granite to the harbor for transportation to Boston or further.
Quincy Shore Drive and Wollaston Beach is a beautiful 2.5-mile-long beach with lifeguards, free parking, and a bathhouse with public restrooms. Swimming is officially safe and allowed.
Besides, Quincy Shore Drive is a popular jogging and bicycling trail and beach. The Boston sunsets are the most beautiful here as the sky is usually in the shades of red and orange. The Boston Skyline is also visible from the Quincy Shore. It’s a must visit.
Blacks Creek, along Wollaston Beach, is a very scenic marshland and creek. There are some paths through it, though few are maintained.
Nestled into Blacks Creek is “Kincade Island”, a peninsula into the creek with a children’s playground and benches, and is entered by crossing a short wooden bridge.
Nightlife in Quincy
Quincy, especially along and around Hancock Street in Quincy Center and in Marina Bay has a large number of bars and restaurants. They are generally filled with locals from Quincy and surrounding areas. Unlike Boston, though, Quincy bars close at 1 AM.
JFK Library and Museum
Visitors walk through exhibits in roughly chronological order. Starting with Kennedy on the campaign trail, and moving through the Cuban missile crisis, the space race, and civil rights issues. A dark claustrophobic hallway shows the events on the day of his assassination, before delivering you to a massive glass atrium of light and air. It’s really quite moving.
A more than worthwhile visit for those with an appreciation of American history, the museum can be toured in half a day. Adults $14, seniors and students $12, teens, $10, kids free. Address: Columbia Point (T: JFK/UMass, then take the free shuttle bus). 9AM–5PM daily.
Located in Dorchester, Nickerson Beach has free parking and a nice view of Boston.
James Blake House
Most locals drive right on by the James Blake House, the oldest house in Boston. Built circa 1661 and owned by the Dorchester Historical Society, the house is one of the only remaining examples of post-Medieval timber-frame construction in the United States. Free. Address: 735 Columbia Rd (T stop: JFK/UMass). 3rd Sun of Each Month: 11 AM–4 PM.
Boston Harbor Islands
Visiting an island generally offers a completely different take on life than being in the concrete city. Take a ferry out to George’s Island or take water shuttles to visit any of five major islands in Boston Harbor. Join ranger-led activities, participate in ongoing events, or just swim, picnic, camp, or fish.
For the detailed list of things to do and see, please visit Boston Harbor Islands destination page. If you have time, a few of them are worth checking out.
The Best of Boston
As you can see there is a lot to see and do in the greater Boston area. But, what if you only have 2 days or not enough time. What places should you visit and which ones to ditch?
Well, here we have listed the best things in Boston. (The description for each one can be found in the above detailed “Things To Do” section). Listed alphabetically.
- Boston Public Garden (FREE)
- Boston Public Library (FREE)
- Boston Duck Tour (Fee)
- Boston Children’s Museum (Fee)
- Eat/Drink at Top of the Hub Restaurant-Bar in The Prudential Tower (Expensive)
- Eat Canolies and Pastries in the North End (Mikes Pastry, etc.)
- Fenway Park (Fee)
- Freedom Trail (FREE)
- Frog Pond/Boston Common (FREE)
- Holocaust Memorial (FREE)
- Museum of Science (Fee)
- Museum of Fine Arts (Fee)
- New England Aquarium (Fee)
- Samuel Adams Brewery (Fee)
- The Prudential Center (FREE)
How Expensive is Boston
All cities on the East Coast are pricey and Boston is no different. You’ll find most costs to be on the higher side, but within expectations for a city. Hotels are usually expensive so we recommend looking into Airbnb and Couchsurfing options first.
When in Boston, you should eat like a Bostonian. Try one or all of the following (you are sure to love some of them):
- Atlantic Codfish or Scrod (cherished for its flavor)
- Clam Chowder (the New England traditional dish)
- Fried Clams (an iconic regional dish)
- Lobster Roll (a popular way of eating lobster)
- Oysters (usually cheap during happy hours)
- Steamers (steamed clams)
- Boston Cream Pie (a Boston original & the official dessert of Massachusetts)
- Fluff (basically marshmallows liquified into a spreadable paste)
How Safe is Boston
Boston’s crime rate has been low for a major American city. It’s a relatively speaking, a safe city. Follow normal common sense precautions. Like anywhere in the USA, dial 911 if there is an emergency. This free call will summon police, medical, and fire services to assist you.
Big tourist attractions draw crowds, crowds may draw thieves, so keep your eye on more than just that entertaining street performer! The same rules apply if you plan on enjoying Boston’s nightlife. Watch out late at night when bars and clubs are emptying of drunken revelers. Even if you’re not drinking, others may be, so look for erratic drivers and drive carefully.
During the winter months, drive carefully on the snow and watch out for black ice on roads, bridges, and corners on the highway.
Massachusetts, home of Northampton, Provincetown and Boston is the first US state to legalize same-sex marriage. It is arguably the most LGBT-accepting state in all of the USA. Gay villages exist in abundance in Boston, and in smaller cities such as Springfield.
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September 3, 2016 11:31 am 2 Comments