As one of the nation’s oldest cities, Boston is brimming with history, culture and architecture, all of which tells the story of the start of Massachusetts and the United States of America. While it is easy to walk around this compact city and see a handful of these historic sites at once, there are still numerous activities that could take much longer than the limited time you have. Culture Trip has put together a listing of the best tours in Boston that truly capture the spirit of the city.
Boston has become more bike-friendly over the years by installing more bike lanes, better traffic signals and rolling out education for drivers. Aside from walking, cycling is the best way to navigate the city quickly since it’s so flat. A quick hop on your bike and you’ll be able to see the Italian North End, Fenway Park, the Charles River Esplanade, Beacon Hill and the Rose Kennedy Greenway. Boston Bike Tours are designed for all ages and skill levels, so you’ll be able to bring the kids as well.
Boston’s food scene boasts an eclectic mix of options, from quality Indian food in Cambridge to German bratwurst in Somerville. There’s also amazing Korean barbecue in Brookline and incredible sushi just down the road in Coolidge Corner. Visitors can also select from more than a dozen sports restaurants near the TD Garden, while Beacon Hill is home to more higher-end establishments. Explore the Italian side of Boston with a North End Food Tour, which covers the old neighborhood. On this two-hour culinary adventure, you’ll stop by various North End businesses, taste Italian delicacies and even visit a historic church.
The Boston Movie Mile Walking Tour offers a quick way to explore the city’s movie history. The Departed (2006), Good Will Hunting (1997) and The Town (2010) are just a few of the blockbuster films that not only take place in Boston but were also filmed here. A few decades ago, Hollywood filming in Boston was a pretty big deal, and while it’s still exciting when big stars come to Beantown, it happens a lot more regularly these days. Check out some of the Boston-centric places in your favorite films on this tour.
With the Boston Common, the Paul Revere House and the Freedom Trail, Boston’s historical significance is inescapable. Luckily, many tours provide a glimpse into Boston’s past, ranging from the specific (Old State House) and all-encompassing (Old Town Trolley) to a drinking tour along the Freedom Trail. The Old Town Trolley is probably the easiest and most popular way tourists experience parts of the city. With launch sites all over Downtown and Faneuil Hall, the tour focuses on the area between the Boston Common and Waterfront. Additionally, the adventure is set up so you can hop on and off the trolley all day long.
Have you really experienced Boston if you haven’t taken a duck boat tour or at least seen one? Most notably seen around the Esplanade, Charles Street and the Back Bay, the Boston Duck Tours have become the go-to mode of transportation for the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and Bruins (the city’s baseball, football, basketball and hockey teams, respectively) when celebrating major wins. But the company also gives fantastic tours. The duck boats offer a land and water trip around some of the best parts of Boston.
The Ghosts and Gravestones Tour is a favorite because it focuses on the haunted aspects of Boston’s historical heritage. On this tour, you’ll get the lowdown from the gravediggers, haunted guides who dress the part and may assume the personality of the deceased. Visitors can expect to learn about executions on the Boston Common, paranormal high jinks going down at the Omni Parker House and the legend of the Boston Strangler.
Boston Harbor is home to a vast array of marine life, including several whale species. Attracted to the icy waters just off the coast, humpbacks, finbacks, minkes and even endangered North Atlantic right whales – which after being hunted nearly to extinction are making a comeback – are often seen a few miles from the harbor. Whale-watching excursions usually run from May through October.
Seeking a bit of high-speed excitement with your guided tour? Then look no further than the Codzilla harbor ride. Boston Harbor Cruises runs this thrill ride, which feels more like a speedboat than a tour vessel. Codzilla is 70ft (21m) long with two “turbo-charged diesel engines, state-of-the-art water jets and 2,800 horsepower,” so be ready for 360-degree turns and spinning on a dime.
Built alongside Massachusetts Bay, Boston offers visitors both land-based and water-based adventures. One of the best and mostly untapped resources in the city happens to be the Boston Harbor Islands, a chain of 34 small islands just off the coast. There’s also no shortage of spots to go fishing or whale watching, as dozens of tours take off from Boston Harbor daily.
Known for its commitment to higher education and culture, Greater Boston is still a world leader in art and architecture. Just take a stroll over to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) campus in Cambridge and you’ll see examples of both. Equally as impressive are the research and innovation that you’ll find inside – both of which could have a profound and direct impact on lives around the world. The MIT Tour also includes a look at MIT culture, its roots and growth, and famous alumni. Stops include Kendall Square, the Great Dome and several other points of interest.