12 Things to Do During Your Visit to Historic Boston
Home to Harvard University and one of the most famous tea parties in history, the city of Boston has been a significant tourist destination for decades. One of the oldest and most culturally diverse cities in the United States, Boston has a wealth of things to do whether you’re after sports, history or culture.
During the city’s warmer months, outdoorsy types will love exploring local parks and gardens, while art lovers can enjoy entire neighborhoods full of galleries and performing arts spaces.
There’s plenty to learn about the city’s profound impact on the evolution of the United States as well, through historical landmarks and museums. Of course, if you’re traveling with kids, you won’t want to miss all of Boston’s family-friendly attractions.
If you’re wondering what to do in Boston, “Beantown” has plenty to offer for the nearly 18 million people who come to visit every year.
For Nature Lovers
1. Boston Common
The oldest public park in the United States, Boston Common features historical monuments and memorials across a sprawling 50 acres. The park plays host to a number of events throughout the year including outdoor movie screenings, fun runs, and even free concerts and theater at the onsite bandstand.
In the summer, you can bring the kids to ride the carousel or splash around at the Frog Pond, which also turns into an outdoor ice skating rink in the winter. Plus taking a stroll through the park is one of the best free things to do in Boston.
2. Boston Public Garden
Right across Charles Street, you’ll find the Boston Public Garden, which has a delightful array of seasonal flower varieties, tree species, decorative statues and fountains. Like the Common, it too has a central water feature, The Lagoon, where local wildlife tends to congregate.
Visitors can take a ride in one of the iconic swan boats with a tour guide, or walk across the adorable suspension bridge — a great spot for picture taking.
3. Charles River Esplanade
A scenic trail of sorts, the Esplanade runs along the banks of the Charles River and is perfect for a jog, walk or bike ride. Small boats, canoes and kayaks can launch from one of the many boat ramps, and are also available for rental.
From June to August, kids will love the Charles Bank playground and spray pool, which has quite an extensive setup for both little ones and big kids. After all that activity, enjoy a bite to eat or a seasonal beverage at the Charles River Bistro, where you might find yourself entertained by a passerby tickling the keys of a public piano.
For History Buffs
1. Freedom Trail
Boston makes for the perfect educational trip, whether you have kids on summer holidays or you are just a history lover yourself. One of the best self-guided walking tours of the city runs along the Freedom Trail, two-and-a-half miles of notable historical locations.
Bronze markers guide the way to sites like Faneuil Hall, The Paul Revere House, and even the site of the Boston Massacre.
You’ll learn all about the people who shaped the history of Boston and what life might have been like when the Declaration of Independence was first signed. The echoes of America’s political, religious and military origins are explored along the trail, which makes it a great formal introduction to the city.
2. Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum
Commemorating the historical protest that eventually led to the American Revolution, the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum offer an interactive experience for visitors along with traditional exhibits.
You can explore the ships — which are staffed by a team of reenactors — and immerse yourself in a battle via a multi-sensory film, or dump actual tea into the ocean, just like the Sons of Liberty did.
One of the original chests from the Tea Party, which had been passed down for generations before getting donated to the museum, also rounds out the authentic historical experience of visiting the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum.
3. Harvard University
Although it’s a private research college, Harvard University’s prestigious reputation has made it a highly sought-after attraction for Boston tourists. The campus predates the creation of the United States of America and has a number of historical buildings and museums on campus.
A walk through Harvard Yard will show you the freshman dormitories where Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook and multiple U.S. presidents attended classes. Just across the street from the University’s entrance, you’ll also find Harvard Square — a bustling plaza where both students and locals hang out at the many shops, bars, cafes and restaurants.
For Art Lovers
1. Museum of Fine Arts
Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts holds one of the most comprehensive art collections in the world. Spanning six continents from ancient to modern times, it showcases paintings, sculpture, photography, drawings, jewelry, textiles and even musical instruments.
You can view artworks in their permanent collection by familiar names such as Monet, Degas and Rembrandt, or discover something new in their rotating exhibits. The museum also has monthly film screenings, art classes, public lectures and free activities to encourage artist appreciation and expression among the local community.
2. Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
Practically across the street from the Museum of Fine Arts is another spectacular art collection at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. The museum itself is a work of art, built in the early 20th century to resemble a Venetian Palace.
It houses an impressive private art collection by many Renaissance masters, but also includes art, textiles and furniture from across the globe. Aside from the three floors of galleries, it also has an interior courtyard and exterior gardens where you can enjoy a pleasant stroll or listen to live music during special events.
3. South End
Bordered by Berklee College of Music and Northeastern University, South End is a beautifully preserved Victorian neighborhood that’s home to quite a few famous art and cultural institutions. Enjoy a concert by the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Symphony Hall, which has been called one of the top concert halls in the world for its excellent acoustics.
The Boston Center for the Arts is an entire complex with onsite theaters, gallery, music center and restaurants along with the home of the Boston Ballet. If you have children, be sure to also bring them to Boston City Lights for free performing arts classes in dance, voice and acting — along with visual arts like graphic design, video and photography.
1. Fenway Park
Home to the Boston Red Sox baseball team, Fenway Park is a must-visit for sports fans and their families. Although it’s considerably smaller than most ballparks, its designation as the oldest park in the United States makes it significant to the world of sports.
One visit to Fenway Park is enough to make anyone a baseball fan for life. While you should definitely see a game, the area around Yawkey Way (on the west side of the park) also has a bunch of pre-game activities for families to enjoy.
Kids can play games, enjoy free giveaways, and even watch players warm up from the windows of the Bleacher Bar, located off the outfield.
2. Museum of Science
Housing over 35 permanent exhibits, in addition to four or five rotating ones, you could easily spend an entire day or two at the Boston Museum of Science. Its hands-on, interactive exhibits make learning fun for kids as they explore topics related to science, technology, engineering and math.
There’s a 4D theatre, which shows science-based IMAX films, and a planetarium where you can learn about the cosmos or see a laser light show set to classic rock songs. The museum also has a number of events, presentations and activities to encourage curiosity and exploration of the sciences.
3. New England Aquarium
Learn all about ocean conservation at the New England Aquarium. Its 200,000 gallon, four-story tropical coral reef tank holds dozens of species including a green sea turtle named Myrtle who has lived at the aquarium for 47 years.
If you’ve ever wanted to know what a shark or manta ray feels like, you can have a close encounter with one at the touch tank. In addition to sharks, you can find three species of penguin and a group of harbor seals at the aquarium.
There’s even a tidepool tank where children can pet sea stars, lobsters and hermit crabs.