Boston is one of the oldest and most famous cities in the United States. There’s no shortage of historic Boston attractions to visit, making this an incredible travel destination. If you’re planning a trip there but are unsure of what to do in Boston, read on for a look at some of the best things to see and do.
Dating back to 1630, Boston holds an important place in American history. The city was founded by Puritan colonists who were fleeing religious persecution in England. Much of the American Revolution unfolded here, including crucial events such as the Boston Massacre and the Boston Tea Party.
Boston is the capital of Massachusetts and the biggest city in the area known as New England. It has several nicknames, including “The City on a Hill” and “Beantown.” Baked beans and bread were a very common dish back in colonial times, and the name stuck — well, with tourists, not so much with the locals!
Here you’ll find an abundance of historical sights, world-class museums, beautiful parks, and much more. With so much going on in one city, it can be a bit tricky deciding what to do in Boston.
I really enjoyed my visit to the city and am excited to share my tips and all the best things to do on a trip to Boston.
1. Freedom Trail – topping the list of things to do in Boston!
One of the top Boston attractions is the Freedom Trail – a 2.5 mile-long walk that takes you to some of the most famous places in the city. Along the way, you’ll pass by 16 different historic sights, from the Boston Common all the way to the USS Constitution.
If you’re new in town and don’t really know what to do in Boston, just hop on the Freedom Trail and take in some of the sights. There’s so much to see and learn along the trail that you could easily spend all day or even a few days taking it all in.
Going for a walk on the Freedom Trail in Boston is like being inside of a history book. You’ll see the site of the Boston Massacre, the former home of Paul Revere, and the final resting place of such patriots as John Hancock.
It’s quite easy to do a self-guided tour of the Freedom Trail. I recommend starting at the Visitor Center in Boston Common and moving along at a leisurely pace. Just click here for a PDF map that you can follow.
If you’d prefer the insight of a local guide dressed in traditional 18th-century garb, you can sign up for one of the popular Freedom Trail tours. Click here to browse the options and book your tour.
2. Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum
History buffs will definitely want to add a visit to the Tea Party Ships & Museum to their list of things to see in Boston. It’s an interactive museum that allows you to experience this historic event as if you were living it.
The Boston Tea Party is believed to be one of the most important events leading up to the American Revolution. Colonists boarded British ships in the harbor and tossed chests full of tea overboard in protest. They were known as the Sons of Liberty and their famous rallying cry was “No taxation without representation.”
At the museum, your guide will lead you through a colonial town meeting and then onto an authentically restored ship to actually dump boxes of tea into the harbor. After that, you can peruse their informative exhibits and check out the impressive multi-sensory documentary called “Let it Begin Here.”
You can find the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum at 306 Congress Street (click here for directions). It’s open daily from 10-4 or 5 depending on the season. Tickets cost around $30 for adults and $22 for children. Click here to learn more and to book tickets online.
3. Fenway Park
There’s no doubt that Boston is one of the best sports cities in the world. Bostonians are very passionate about their teams, especially the Red Sox. The Sox play at Fenway Park, which is the oldest ballpark in the country. It dates all the way back to 1912 and is even on the National Register of Historic Places.
Catching a game at Fenway Park is definitely one of the most fun things to do in Boston. That is if you can manage to score tickets! It’s one of the smallest ballparks in the league and home to the reigning World Series champions. I recommend going for a day game on a weekday for the best chance of getting decent seats at a reasonable price.
Even if you don’t get to see the Sox play, it’s well worth it to take a tour of Fenway Park. It’s known as “America’s Most Beloved Ballpark” and a fascinating place to visit. You’ll get to see the famous Green Monster and Pesky’s Pole and learn all about this iconic sports venue.
There are several different options for tours of Fenway Park, even on game days. You can purchase tickets online up to 30 days prior, and they are sold on a first-come, first-serve basis. Tours last one hour and cost $21 for adults or $15 for children. Click here to browse the options and book your tour of Fenway.
Check out the Freedom Trail, Fenway Park, and much more in our video tour.
4. Duck Tour
If you’re wondering what to do in Boston that’s fun for the whole family, you should be sure to sign up for a duck tour. I’m not talking about the birds that quack, though. This “duck” is an amphibious vehicle that can cruise on both land and sea.
After boarding the duck, your group is whisked around Boston for a fun and informative tour of the city and its many landmarks. From there, you get to splash into the Charles River to enjoy some fantastic views of the skyline.
Duck tours last around 80 minutes and depart from either the Museum of Science, Prudential Center, or the New England Aquarium. Tours leave every 20-30 minutes throughout the day. Click here to book tickets.
5. Boston Common and Public Garden
I know I mentioned it in the blurb about the Freedom Trail, but Boston Common definitely deserves its own spot on this list of things to see in Boston. Dating all the way back to 1634, this is actually the oldest city park in the country!
Before you get moving along the Freedom Trail, be sure to spend some time walking around Boston Common. During the summer, you can cool off in the Frog Pond. In the cold winter months, it transforms into an ice-skating rink.
Boston Common also hosts several different events and festivals throughout the year. You can check out Shakespeare on the Common in the summer for some outdoor theater, or see the ice sculptures and fireworks displays on New Year’s Eve.
Walk across Charles Street and you’ll find yourself in the beautiful Boston Public Garden. Here you can enjoy a scenic stroll or jump in a swan boat for a spin around the lagoon. Click here to check the location on the map and get directions.
6. Faneuil Hall – a great place to eat and shop in Boston
After a few hours of walking the Freedom Trail and taking in the sights, you’ll surely be ready to grab some lunch and sit down for a while. The perfect place to go is Faneuil Hall, a marketplace full of shops, restaurants, and bars.
Historic Faneuil Hall is known as the “Cradle of Liberty,” as it was once home to the meetings that eventually led to the American Revolution. It’s one of the most famous Boston attractions and a must-visit while in the city.
In addition to all the options for shopping and dining here, you can also watch some pretty incredible street performers. There are various free outdoor activities here as well, including fitness classes and dance nights.
Faneuil Hall is open from Monday to Saturday from 10-9 and on Sunday from 11-7. Click here to get directions. For a full list of all the business that operate there and the event schedule, check out their website.
7. Feast on Seafood
Ask any local what to do in Boston, and you’re sure to get responses that include the words “chowdah” and “lobstah roll.” Whether you can understand the accent or not, one of the most fun things to do in Boston is trying some of the city’s classic seafood dishes. (If you find yourself in Canada’s east coast province of Nova Scotia, eating lobster rolls is one of the best things to do there as well!)
Perhaps the most quintessential dish in Boston is New England clam chowder. This creamy seafood soup has been a staple of the Boston diet since the time of the Pilgrims. Great places for some chowdah include Legal Sea Foods and B&G Oysters.
Another must-eat in Boston is a lobster roll. This delectable concoction is made by adding lobster meat to a hot dog-style bun. The lobster is usually soaked in either butter or mayo along with some salt and pepper. If that sounds amazing, that’s because it is! Some of the best places to get this Boston classic are Island Creek Oyster Bar and the aptly named Lobstah on a Roll.
8. Visit The North End (and eat Italian food!)
While lobster is one of the most popular foods in Boston, so too is Italian food. The North End has been inhabited since the 1630s, and is home to an Italian American population.
If you love Italian food (balsamic vinegar, cheese, pasta, pizza, olive oil…oh my!), you’ll want to check out the North End. However, it’s not just about the food here, there are some great sites to see as well. Don’t miss the sculptures and artwork, the oldest church in Boston (Old North Church), the Paul Revere House, the birthplace of Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, and more.
You can wander around the North End sampling gelato as you go, but if you want to learn more about the neighbourhood and find some great restaurants, check out this tour.
9. JFK Presidential Library & Museum
John F. Kennedy was the 35th President of the United States. He grew up just outside of Boston in Brookline, MA and he attended school at Harvard University. Tragically, JFK was assassinated in 1963. History buffs will want to add a stop at the JFK Presidential Library & Museum to their list of things to see in Boston.
The striking building was designed by world-famous architect I.M. Pei on Boston’s waterfront. Before his untimely death, Kennedy visited the area to find a location for his future library, but he never got to see it completed. Since he encouraged his administration to save both official and personal documents, this complex is considered both a library and a museum.
Through the various exhibits, you can learn all about the life and legacy of JFK. With interactive displays, high-definition projections, and countless original artifacts, it’s an amazing look into one of the country’s most beloved public figures.
The JFK Presidential Library is located at Columbia Point (click here for directions). It’s open daily from 9-5 with the last introductory film showing just before 4 PM. Tickets cost $14 for adults and $10 for children. You can purchase tickets online in advance on their website.
10. Famous Universities
Boston is one of the biggest educational centers in the United States. The city is home to several prestigious universities, such as Harvard, MIT, and the University of Massachusets.
Harvard consistently ranks at #1 on lists of the top universities in the world. As such, the campus of this Ivy League school is considered one of the top things to see in Boston.
You have a few different options for seeing this world-famous university. Click here to download a free map for a self-guided tour along with an accompanying audio tour. It’s read by current Harvard students and provides a great introduction to the school.
Another option is signing up for one of their walking tours led by students. Click here to learn more and to book online.
11. Skywalk Observatory
If you want to see the city from above, then head on over to the Skywalk Observatory. It’s located on the 50th floor of the Prudential Center and offers the best views in all of Boston.
From here, you can get a bird’s eye view of some of the city’s most iconic landmarks, such as Fenway Park. On a clear day, you can actually see up to 100 miles away from the observatory! They offer audio tours in several languages to enhance the experience.
In addition to the great views, you can check out the Dreams of Freedom Museum, which celebrates the role immigrants have played in the city’s history. You can also catch a film called “Wings Over Boston” in their three-screen theater.
You can find the Skywalk Observatory at 800 Boylston Street (click here for directions). It’s open daily from 10-10 from March to November and from 10-8 the rest of the year. Tickets cost $21 for adults and $15 for children, and admission is included in the Go Boston Card if you choose to go that route.
12. Museum Hopping
If you’re ever unsure of what to do in Boston, just pop into one of the city’s many excellent museums. In addition to the aforementioned JFK Library & Museum, you have several other choices to learn about art, history, and science.
Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts has an impressive collection of art from all corners of the globe. It’s not only one of the best museums in Boston but in the entire United States. You could spend weeks here and still not take in all the amazing art that’s on display.
The museum is open daily from 10-5 Sat-Tues and 10-10 Wed-Fri. Tickets cost $25 for adults and $10 for children, but kids can visit for free any day after 3 PM and on weekends. The Museum of Fine Arts is at 465 Huntington Avenue (click here for directions).
Other great choices include the Boston Children’s Museum, the Museum of Science, and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Travelers will love the Mapparium, which is home to a 3-story stained-glass globe that gives you a 3D perspective of the world. It’s located in the Mary Baker Eddy Library (click here for directions) and costs just $6 for adults and $4 for children.
13. Newbury Street
For those interested in finding some of the best shopping and dining options in town, a stroll along trendy Newbury Street is a must. I personally hate shopping and even I’ll admit that this is one of the most fun things to do in Boston!
This mile-long street is home to historic brownstones dating back to the 19th century. Here you’ll find a wide variety of boutiques, salons, cafes, restaurants, galleries, bars, and more. It really is a one-stop-shop and a great place to spend a few hours.
At the lower end near Boston Public Garden, you’ll find mostly upscale shops. Because of this stretch, Newbury Street is considered one of the most expensive streets in the country! As you make your way up the street, though, it turns into more of a bohemian vibe with more budget-friendly options.
One of the most iconic shops here is Newbury Comics, which was opened back in 1978 and kicked off the street’s transformation into a hip shopping area. Come here to peruse their vast collection of pop culture merchandise, from comic books to vinyl and much more. Click here to get directions.
14. Castle Island
One of the coolest things to see in Boston is definitely Castle Island. Here you’ll find the historic Fort Independence and Pleasure Bay Beach.
It’s a beautiful place to visit in the summer months when you can go for a walk along the waterfront, go for a dip, and maybe have a picnic on the beach. If you don’t feel like bringing your own lunch, stop by local favorite Sullivan’s for fried clams and ice cream.
The Fort is only open from Memorial Day to Columbus Day, and there are free tours given by volunteers. These always run from noon to 3:30 on Sunday, and there are also Saturday tours during the summer. In June and July, they add additional skyline viewing tours on Thursday evening at 7.
15. Brewery Tour
It’s no secret that Boston is a city that enjoys a cold one from time to time. Taking a brewery tour is definitely one of the most fun things to do in Boston, and you have plenty of options. In fact, there are over 100 craft breweries in the state of Massachusetts!
Boston is very much a revolutionary city, and the craft beer revolution got going here as well. Brewer Jim Koch made his first batch of Boston Lager in his kitchen in the 80s. Decades later, Samuel Adams is one of the most well-known beers in the country.
Tours of their Boston Brewery run Monday to Saturday from 11-5. You can read about the various tour options on their website. You can find the Sam Adams Boston Brewery at 30 Germania Street (click here for directions).
Other popular options for brewery tours in Boston include Harpoon, Somerville Brewing Co., and Night Shift Brewing. If you prefer to leave the planning to someone else and focus more on the drinking, sign up for one of the City Brew Tours. You’ll get to taste up to 15 different craft beers and enjoy a delicious lunch, all for under $100.
Ready for Boston?
Hopefully, after reading this guide you won’t have a hard time figuring out what to do in Boston. As you can see, you’ve got plenty of amazing options!
It really is a fascinating city to visit, whether you’re interested in history, sports, art, or just enjoying the culinary and nightlife scenes. With a few days in Boston, you can enjoy a nice mix of them all.
Have you been to Boston and have a great recommendation on things to do, places to eat, or cool spots to grab a drink? Let us know in the comments below!
Some images in this article are courtesy of Shutterstock.com.
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