Boston’s mix of history, modernism, academics and sports means that the city has a plethora of museums that fit a variety of interests. Visitors can view collections of fine art from around the world, learn about science while watching a lightning show or take in beautiful harbor views while looking at contemporary art, to list a few. Indeed, the city has over 60 museums within its limits – but here are 12 to get you started.
The MFA is one of the largest museums in the United States. See art from around the world and explore collections that date back to the ancient world. Plan to spend a few hours here to experience all the museum has to offer. A ticket also allows visitors to come back once for free within 10 days.
The stunning Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum was built to evoke a 15th-century Venetian Palace, and it does so gracefully. The museum opened in 1917 and was Isabella Stewart Gardner’s life work – she believed the young country was in great need of art. View paintings, rare books, drawings, furniture and more from ancient Rome, Asia, Medieval Europe and Renaissance Italy, and be sure to stop at the picturesque courtyard. Also, if your name is Isabella, bring your birth certificate or some form of official ID and you can even access the museum for free. For everyone else, you can get free admission on your birthday or discounted admission for wearing Red Sox paraphernalia, since Gardner was a huge fan of the city’s baseball team.
The Boston Children’s Museum is the number one stop for families with young children. Let them explore the kid-friendly play spaces, see Arthur and Friends or create artwork in the art studio. Visitors can also get ice cream and other treats at the Hood milk bottle situated directly in front of the museum – it’s large and hard to miss. The museum also has seasonal attractions, such as sock skating, and even hosts occasional “Boston Grown-Ups Museum” nights.
The Museum of Science is another ideal option for both children and adults. Learn something new as you wander through the interactive exhibits or watch an IMAX film. Check out the Butterfly Garden, Cosmic Light exhibition and the very popular Science in the Park room. The museum also offers telescopes to view and learn about the night sky for free at their astronomy after-hours program that runs from May through October. There’s also a planetarium for when the weather is not so great, and you still want to lean back, gaze upward and experience some celestial views.
The ICA is an architecturally unique waterfront museum. Located on the Boston Harbor, the museum’s modern design offers gorgeous views from inside. Within the venue, you can see the work of leading contemporary artists, as well as emerging artists and new commissions. The beautiful outdoor seating space behind the museum often hosts events and musical or dance performances.
The JFK Presidential Library and Museum is dedicated to the United States’ 35th president and those interested in making change through politics. With videos, rare photos and original clothing, the exhibit is laid out in a space that mimics the interior of the White House. View exhibits that range from JFK’s Campaign Trail to the Space Race and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy’s life.
If you want more of JFK, you can view the house in which the beloved president grew up over in Brookline. About six years after John F Kennedy was assassinated, his mother, Rose Kennedy, gifted his childhood home to the National Park Service. There you can learn about his early life and the values that shaped his principles. The house is open to visitors seasonally, May through October. Visitors can choose to take a tour of the house, the surrounding Brookline area or Boston’s North End where his mother and family came from.
During the American Revolution, a group of colonists snuck onto a British ship docked in the Boston Harbor in the middle of the night to stage a protest against England. The Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum commemorates that act by explaining the taxation without representation that led to the event and how it helped act as a catalyst of war. The interactive exhibit partially takes place on a real boat moored in the harbor, and participants can throw boxes of tea into the harbor the same way the revolutionists did over 200 years ago. The museum also includes holographic displays and films, 3D reenactments and Abigail’s Tea Room, where you can taste one of the five original tea flavors thrown overboard in addition to other historically inspired foods and beverages.
The Harvard Museum of Natural History is both comprehensive and intimate. View exhibits about mammals, extinction and evolution, and marine life. Be sure to check out the treasured Glass Flowers exhibit that features the internationally acclaimed Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants, complete with over 4,000 models that represent 830 plant species.
The Old State House museum allows you to experience the Revolutionary era through its collection of artefacts. View historical documents, maps and newspapers, and enjoy the Old State House itself. See the floating spiral staircase, John Hancock’s coat and the Council Chamber.
Located at the Charlestown Navy Yard in a restored shipyard building near the USS Constitution boat, the USS Constitution Museum is the last stop on the Freedom Trail. Learn about the boat’s story, the people who designed and sailed it, as well as its influential role in the War of 1812.
The MIT Museum features artefacts, photographs and instruments that highlight MIT’s innovation in science and technology over the past decades. See the world’s largest holography collection, with over 2,000 holograms, and check out the exhibits on architecture and naval engineering.