Boston is one of the most historic cities in the United States. Known as the “Cradle of Modern America,” the birthplace of the American Revolution can still be felt at every cobblestone corner. The Freedom Trail is an excellent way to see 16 historical sites placed all across the city. The location of the Boston Tea Party, the USS Constitution, the Old State House, and the Paul Revere House are just some of the places you’ll visit on this two- to three-hour self-guided or guided tour. History isn’t just a footnote; it’s a way of life. So follow the red brick road and take a step back in time.
Boston is often cited as America’s seafood capital and rightly so, considering it’s right next to the Atlantic Ocean. Don’t leave without trying the New England clam chowder, a Boston classic. Known for its thick, white, creamy base and delicate clam meat, this hearty soup is a local favorite (often referred to as “chowdah”) that is also loved nationwide. Come to the heart of New England at nearly any seafood or local restaurant in Boston for the most authentic, harbor-side version.
Boston is smaller than a lot of major cities, so the beauty of its skyline is really better appreciated up close and in fine detail. Rather than solely gazing upward, the quaintness is most complete from top to bottom and big to small: seeing cobblestone roads beneath rows of trees against rows of brownstones against modern structures. The juxtapositions of old and new are quite striking and visitors are taken aback at the eclectic mix of gothic churches in front of glass skyscrapers. Boston’s maze of winding streets (that almost make no sense on a map) can either be delightful or dizzying depending on your goals, but they’re certainly unique in the US and picturesque. For a stunning 360-degree view of it all, head to the top of the Prudential Tower. There you can choose from either the Skywalk Observatory (accompanied by personal audio tours so you know what you’re looking at) or the Top of the Hub restaurant (accompanied by delicious food, crafted cocktails, and the occasional live music) to take in it. If you love architecture, check out our self-guided architecture walking tour of Boston.
Every year in April, tens of thousands of runners finish the oldest annual marathon in the world, along with numerous wheelchair and hand-cycle racers crossing the bright yellow and blue finish line. The first Boston Marathon was run in 1897 and the best time was just under three hours. These days, winners usually finish a full hour faster, usually somewhere just over two hours. The first woman to ever officially run a marathon was also in Boston. Kathrine Switzer had to fight to be part of the race — almost literally since male officials attempted to grab her and stop her during the run, but her fellow running mates protected her. Runners pound over history on the pavement beneath them, while hundreds of spectators have a giant citywide party along the sidelines. But perhaps what has solidified this event in the hearts of Bostonians is its significance outside of the sporting realm. When bombs went off on April 15, 2013, the city came together like nothing else to support the victims, recover from the tragedy, and continue moving forward with even more profound determination – and so the phrase “Boston Strong” was born.
Fenway Park, known as America’s Most Beloved Park, is the oldest ballpark in the US. It has been the home of the Boston Red Sox since 1912. It’s an experience to watch a baseball game here, incomplete without a Fenway Frank and a beer in your hands. Spectators come to see the towering Green Monster, sing along to the famous Neil Diamond’s ‘Sweet Caroline’ during the eighth inning of the game, and squint their eyes for long fly balls lost in the Triangle. If there aren’t any games during your trip, visitors can also schedule a tour of the park during downtimes to see and hear all about the history. The Fenway neighborhood surrounding the ballpark is packed full of bars and restaurants and has been growing with new developments, so there’s always something to do during a visit to the area.
Grab a kayak, canoe, paddle board, or rented sailboat and situate yourself on the Charles River for a breathtaking view at any time of day – and especially during sunset. With adorable boathouses dotted along the sides and pedestrian docks situated for casual lounging around, the scene is a picturesque activity in itself. But whether you’re paddling through the river or admiring the view from dry land, this is not something to miss when you’re in Boston. The sights can also be viewed from either the Esplanade or one of the many bridges that cross the water. Whether choosing the Longfellow, Harvard, or Boston University bridge, all of the bridges are easily walkable and provide some of the best views of water, sky, and skylines of both Boston and neighboring Cambridge. The river is a popular destination for collegiate rowing teams practicing at the crack of dawn and hosts the annual Head of the Charles Regatta, where hundreds of spectators crowd along the sidelines to cheer on the race and festivities. If you happen to be in Boston in July, the river is home to one of the most spectacular Independence Day fireworks displays that dazzle in the sky above the water, mirrored on the reflective surface below. Check out our guide to the top 10 things to do in Boston.
With over 60 museums varying in sizes all across Boston, there is probably an institution fit everyone’s tastes, from history buffs to the politically inclined to sports fanatics. Some of the more well-known institutions include the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) and the Museum of Science. The MFA is the fifth largest museum in the US with an extensive collection and therefore is one of the most respected in the region. The Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) is a perfect choice for more modern works housed in a beautiful glass edifice looking out at the harbor. Additionally, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is located in a mansion with gorgeous gardens and is worth a visit for the architecture and horticulture alone, in addition to fantastic works of art. The Gardner Museum also offers discounted tickets if you’re wearing Red Sox memorabilia and free entry if it’s your birthday or free entry for a lifetime if your name is Isabella – just make sure you have your ID to prove it. If you love visiting museums, read our list of the best museums in Boston.
Did you know that Boston is home to America’s first public park? The park is now known as the Boston Common, a large grassy area in the center of the city with ball fields and the Frog Pond, which is a skating rink in the winter and a spray pool for children in the summer. It’s directly next to the Boston Public Garden, which is full of flowers, winding paths, and swan boat rides on the peaceful lake. The fleet of dual-pontoon swan boats have been in operation since 1877 and have since become a cultural icon of the city, making for the perfect warm-weather activity. And while in the garden, watch out for the ducklings! Nope, not the duck boat tours that are hard to miss but rather a string of adorable copper duckling statues located in a corner of the park. Bostonians will dress up these little ducklings for the changing of seasons or any important day. Keep a watchful eye or you’ll miss them during your walk.
And the green doesn’t end there – Boston has over seven miles of connected parks throughout the city. From the Commons and Public Garden, the green then continues in a stretch of leafy foliage down Commonwealth Avenue and connects a series of parks throughout Boston. Collectively known as the Emerald Necklace, this chain of green spaces includes the Back Bay Fens, the Riverway, Olmstead Park, Jamaica Pond, the Arnold Arboretum, and Franklin Park. Combined with the Esplanade (that runs along the sides of the Charles River) and the Rose Kennedy Greenway (that goes from Chinatown to the harbor), that’s a lot a green space woven throughout the entire city. There you’ll find yoga classes and running clubs, plots of farm-like community gardens, free outdoor movies on the lawns, and music concerts or events at the Hatch Shell. Altogether, these spaces provide the perfect backdrop for strolling, picnicking, and generally balancing out the urban bustle.
Boston is a collegiate mecca, with over 50 colleges and universities in the city and greater metropolitan area, including the world-renowned Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. At least a quarter of a million college students from around the world make this city America’s youngest major metropolis. According to the Boston Globe, students make up 20% of the city’s population. Many of the universities offer tours, so don’t be shy about checking out the campuses. And thanks to these world-class institutions, Boston has the greatest concentration of living Nobel laureates.
How often do you get the chance to be on a vehicle that drives from the city streets straight onto a body of water? The Boston Duck Tours have become an icon in Boston – you can’t walk downtown without seeing at least one. The tours are conducted on half-automobile, half-boat machines replicated from WWII that operate on both land and sea. Unlike typical tour bus rides, it’s quite an experience to view a city from the streets below and then subsequently from the surrounding water. Departing from either the New England Aquarium, the Prudential Center, or the Museum of Science, the 80-minute tours take you to over 30 crucial sites around the city and explain their background and significance. Boston seems to have quite an affinity for ducks; besides decking out the vehicles with images of the same water birds seen all around the public gardens, the so-called conDUCKtour drivers will quack over the intercom for children during their guided narration if requested.
The now clean Boston Harbor has 34 islands for visitors and locals to venture and escape the city. You can get out to Georges Island or Spectacle Island by taking a ferry from Long Wharf. From these bits of land, you can explore other islands nearby as well. If you have a boat of your own or want to rent one during your trip, then your options are limitless.
Boston is home to one of the best symphony orchestras in the country and one of the world’s best ballet companies. The Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Ballet attract talent from around the world and regularly put on internationally-acclaimed productions and festivals. The ballet team masterfully executes a range of performances, from classics like the Nutcracker and Swan Lake to contemporary dance that pushes boundaries and leaves viewers pondering the power of the abstract. They put on shows regularly, so it’s always worth taking a peak and considering spending an evening in the city’s majestic theater district. The symphony orchestra provides another option to experience a profound night out in Boston. Additionally, every year the Boston Pops score the background to the 4th of July fireworks display from the Hatch Shell to create a truly momentous event for anyone lying on a blanket near the river. So there’s even more reason to come during one of Boston’s prettiest months.
No city shows the beauty and adapts to the changing seasons better than Boston. This New England metropolis survives the worst of the bitterly cold winters thanks to the best snow-removal system that puts other East Coast cities to shame. But the beauty of Boston shines during the fall and spring months. While most people in the northeast must travel further north in the autumn to peep at leaves, Boston has the luxury of having its own fiery array of red and orange leaves right in the city itself. The spring here is equally explosive, and you’ll swear you’ve never seen so many blossoms at once or giant magnolias whose scent carries on the breeze down the streets through the entire city. With both seasons, there is nothing quite like it.