Boston is a city packed with incredible history, charming streets, moving landmarks, and amazing food. All of this packed into a city so physically small that you can walk across the heart of it in an hour. Unless you choose to get lost in the winding streets and soaking in the atmosphere of the historic city.
The atmosphere of Boston is like no other city. And there really is something here for everyone to enjoy.
History is the most prevalent part of life in Boston. It is difficult to walk more than a few hundred feet before being reminded of the importance of Boston as the “cradle of liberty”. Many famous events during the course of history, and especially the American Revolution, took place near and around the city of Boston. Some of the more famous events include the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party, and the Battle of Bunker Hill.
It is home to top universities who each inhabit their own corner of the city and breathe life in the area; from Harvard and MIT in Cambridge, Boston University in Kenmore, or Northeastern on Huntington Ave. The thirst for knowledge in Boston has helped it become a premier center of scientific research in the United States.
Boston at a Glance
Boston’s Rich History
Boston was settled in 1630 by Puritans from England. Initially, they had formed a colony in Charlestown, over the river, and eventually settled as well into the area known today as Boston. Boston remained the largest town among the colonies up until the mid 18th century when Philadelphia grew larger, and later so did New York.
The city of Boston was a port-based that thrived on fishing and shipping. Boston’s role in the lead-up to the Revolution was significant. In 1765 the Boston Massacre occurred when the British troops tried to quell a mob rioting against the Stamp Act. And in 1773, only 8 years later, Bostonians responded angrily to the Tea Act and enacted the Boston Tear Party. By 1775 the escalation of anger towards the government culminated into the battles of Lexington and Concord with the “shot heard around the world”.
We know how that particular story ends and the tremendous role that Boston and the Bostonian statesmen played in establishing independence and the United States of America.
During the 1800s Boston had a tremendous influx of European immigrants, especially Irish immigrants fleeing the Great Famine around 1850. The influences of the immigrations remain present in different neighborhoods of the city – the Irish in South Boston and the Italians in the North End.
Modern Boston covers less than 50 square miles of land. Much of this land, especially the neighborhood of Back Bay, was created from reclaimed land and was once a bay located to the west of Boston.
Boston is now known for its institutions of higher education and its scientific research. There are 44 universities and colleges in Boston and among them are some very famous names – Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston College, and Tufts University to name only a few.
What to Eat in Boston
Boston is famous for several key dishes but there are a few on this list of “must try” that will surprise you. With the proximity that Boston has to the Atlantic, it should come as no surprise that many of the Boston dishes feature seafood heavily. A trip to Boston is incomplete without indulging in local and fresh seafood!
Clam Chowder is one of the favorite dishes in New England. It’s a milk-based chowder with clams, potatoes, onions, and salt pork. Typically it is served with a saltine cracker or oyster crackers and is usually served as part of the appetizer course or as a side with a meal.
Baked Beans are one of the main regional dishes from Boston, where the beans were slow-cooked in molasses. While baked beans are a more widely enjoyed dish across the country and internationally they were first perfected in Boston, and it’s even known as “Beantown” as a result.
Cannolis are a traditional Italian dessert that can be found in the North End, the neighborhood settled by Italian immigrants. The very best Italian restaurants, eateries, and bakeries are located in the North End of Boston. Cannoli is a tube-shaped fried pastry that is filled with sweet ricotta cream.
Boston Cream Pie
Boston Cream Pie is a yellow butter cake with a custard filling and topped with a chocolate glaze. This means that the Boston Cream Pie is technically a cake but was named during a period of time when cake and pie were often interchangeable. There are a variety of other items found in and around Boston with the “Boston Cream” flavor palate – like Boston Cream Donuts from Dunkin Donuts.
Lobster is a well-known and enjoyed delicacy around New England, and especially Maine. It should also be on your list of what to try while in Boston. The Lobster Roll features good Lobster meat with butter and mayonnaise and placed on a split-top roll, a fantastic way to eat Lobster without dealing with the cracking and extraction yourself.
Oysters are a popular dish in Boston due to the ease of harvesting them from the sea. There are several well-known restaurants that feature Oysters that are worth visiting – such as the Union Oyster House near Haymarket.
Getting Around Boston
Walking is the easiest way to get around Boston. It’s a flat city that covers very little land and can be walked end to end in under an hour. Wandering on foot can ensure you see all the cute nooks and crannies that the city has to offer. And in many ways the subway map can be deceiving in the distance between stations, sometimes a stop or even two stops are easier to walk than to take the T.
The “T” – Boston’s Subway & Tram
The “T”, short for the MBTA (Massachusetts Bay Transport Authority), is the subway network in the city of Boston. It represents both the underground subway lines as well as the overground tram lines that continue to run in modern Boston.
It is the easiest way to get out of central Boston and into the neighboring areas of Cambridge, Brighton, or even the Airport.
There are 5 distinct lines that comprise the “T”:
- Red Line: Running from Alewife (north) to Ashmount/Braintree (south) through the center of the city. It’s comprised of more traditional subway carriages and runs underground in the city of Boston but overground outside of the city.
- Orange Line: Running from Oak Grove (north) to Forest Hills (south) through the center of the city. Similar to the Red Line it’s comprised of traditional subway carriages and runs both underground and overground.
- Blue Line: Running from Wonderland (north) to Bowdoin (central Boston), and passes through the Airport. Similar to the Red and Orange Lines it also comprises of traditional subway carriages and runs both overground and underground.
- Green Line: The Green Line is actually comprised of 4 separate Trams that convert in central Boston to form the Green Line, each line terminates at a different central Boston location, except for E which continues into Cambridge.
- B Line (Boston College): Runs from Boston College (west) to Park Street (central Boston).
- C Line (Cleveland Circle): Runs from Cleveland Circle (west) to North Station (central Boston).
- D Line (Riverside): Runs from Riverside (west) to Government Center (central Boston).
- E Line (Heath Street): Runs from Heath Street (west) to Lechmere (Cambridge).
Fare: $2.40 One-Way with a CharlieCard, CharlieTicket, or Cash.
Taxi, Lyft & Uber
There are also taxi companies throughout Boston, as well as ride-sharing companies like Lyft and Uber.
Trolley Tours & Dock Tours
If you prefer a tour of the city there are options to join the Trolley Hop-on Hop-off Tours as well as the Boston Duck Tours, which drive an amphibious vehicle into the Charles River for some spectacular skyline views of Boston.
Top 5 Sites to See in Boston
The Freedom Trail is a red-brick path that leads through the center of Boston. It connects over 16 historical locations in the city. It begins at Boston Common and ends at the Bunker Hill Monument, across the river in Charlestown.
It is a fantastic way to enjoy a self-guided walking tour of the city of Boston. Though it is 2.5 miles in length you can cut off an entire mile if you don’t cross the River Charles, ending your tour at the Old North Church.
The stops on the Freedom Trail are:
- Boston Common
- Massachusetts State House
- Park Street Church
- Granary Burying Ground
- King’s Chapel and King’s Chapel Burying Ground
- Statue of Benjamin Franklin
- Old Corner Bookstore
- Old South Meeting House
- Old State House
- Boston Massacre Site
- Faneuil Hall
- Paul Revere House
- Old North Church
- Copp’s Hill Burying Ground
- USS Constitution
- Bunker Hill Monument
USS Constitution and the Bunker Hill Monument are worth visiting, so you could continue on the trail to see these or visit them on another day of your Boston break.
Many of the sites are brief stops but there are several that you should plan to spend extra time at exploring. Fanueil Hall is the best place to plan a stop for lunch because it is adjacent to Quincy Marketplace. And while you’re in the North End it’s worth taking a break at Mike’s Pastry and try one of the fabulous cannoli or another of their mouth-watering desserts.
You’ll notice that several of the sites on the trail appear at various points throughout this article. This makes the Freedom Trail a great way to orient and introduce yourself to Boston and learn more about the city. For shorter trips this is a must-do part of your visit, no matter the season!
Boston Common & Boston Public GardenFreedom Trail Stop
Boston Common is a central park within the city of Boston that dates back to 1634. It covers over 50 acres of land and sits next to the more formal Boston Public Gardens. The original use of Boston Common was used as grazing lands and a cow pasture during the 1600s all the way through 1830. Boston Common is also the starting point of the Freedom Trail
Boston Public Gardens are located next to Boston Common and is a large park as well. It was the first public botanical garden in the United States and dates back to 1837. It was originally part of the mudflats of the river and was one of the first areas in Boston to be filled in to form the neighborhood of Back Bay. Unlike the Commons, the Public Garden was heavily designed and catered to leisure, rather than function.
While visiting the Public Gardens make sure you visit the “Make Way for Ducklings” statue, featuring the mother duck and ducklings from the famous Boston-based children’s book. In the warmer months, you can enjoy a ride on one of the Swan Boats that traverse the ponds in the middle of the Public Garden.
There is no better place in the world to catch a baseball game than the famous Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox. It is the oldest active baseball park and dates back to 1912. It has undergone many renovations over the years and has created unusual structures within the ballpark.
Whether you visit Fenway Park for a game or for a tour of the historical ballpark it’s a must-see on anyone’s itinerary of Boston. Fenway hosts a variety of events as well, from concerts to sporting events including ice hockey in winter months and even soccer in summer months.
The unique features of the ballpark, which are included in any scheduled tour, include the Green Monster, the Triangle, the Pesky Pole, the Fisk Pole, and the incredible history of the park. The stadium is host to over 170,000 artifacts and even more photos.
Visitors do not need to be fans of the Red Sox or baseball to appreciate this historic tour of the beautiful and classic ballpark.
Tickets to a Red Sox game range from $25 to $150. Tours of Fenway Park cost $21 for adults.
Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum
The Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum are a fantastic interactive experience aboard the restored tea ships. The interactive exhibit includes dramatic reenactments and learn about the history of the Boston Tea Party. The full length of the tour lasts for about an hour and covers revolutionary history.
In 1773 the revolutionaries in Boston staged a protest now known as the Boston Tea Party, following the Tea Act passed by parliament back in England. The museum details and the lead up to this momentous event in history.
The museum consists of two restored tea ships, the Eleanor and the Beaver, and the nearby Griffin’s Wharf. The museum includes artifacts from the tea party, including a tea chest retrieved from the harbor, and the tea rooms.
Throw tea into Boston harbor, just like the revolutionaries, and experience scenes featuring professional actors from the debate of a patriot and a loyalist.
Tickets cost $30 for adults.
Museum of Fine Arts
The Museum of Fine Arts, or the MFA as it’s locally known, is a large art museum located in the city of Boston. The museum dates back to 1870 and started at a smaller location in Copley Square, and took up residence in its current location in 1909.
It is considered to host one of the most comprehensive collections in the Americas and includes over 450,000 works of art. The majority of the features focus on European artists but there is a lot more to be seen including an ancient Egyptian collection, Japanese Art, and Chinese art as well. The museum is host to several famous art collections from Hartley, to Rothschild, and Rockefeller.
Some of the most famous pieces at the museum include:
- “Salem Harbor” by Fitz Henry Lane
- “George Washington” by Gilbert Stuart
- “Dance at Bougival” by August Renoir
- “The Artist in his Studio” by Rembrandt
- “La Japonaise” by Claude Monet
- “Postman Joseph Roulin” by Vincent van Gogh
- “Poppy Field in a Hollow near Germany” by Claude Monet
The collection is fantastic and a must-visit for lovers of fine art. It includes many famous pieces as well as thousands of others to immerse yourself in and enjoy the wide variety of options.
Tickets cost $25 for adults.
Tip: The MFA is not the only top-class art museum in Massachusetts – the Worcester Art Museum is located only an hour outside of Boston and has cheaper entry prices
Bostons’ Museums & Historical Sites
Boston Public Library
Boston Public Library was founded in 1848 and currently hosts over 24 million volumes. It is known as the “Athens of America” and is a well-known architectural masterpiece, known as the McKim building.
There are free guided tours available or free brochures that can guide guests through a self-guided tour.
The library is located in Copley Square and famously is where the Boston Marathon has its finish line. The building itself has Italian architectural influences, especially that of the Renaissance palazzi, and includes French references as well.
U.S.S. ConstitutionFreedom Trail Stop
The USS Consitution, also known as Old Ironsides, is the oldest commissioned navy ship still afloat and located in Charlestown. Once a year the ship is sailed out to sea, turned around, and returned to port so that she faces a different direction to ease the aging on her frame with the tides and sea.
Built-in Boston and launched in 1797 the Constitution has had a long history and many skirmishes. The ship is most well known for its participation during the War of 1812. The nickname of Old Ironsides was earned during the battle with the HMS Guierriere when shots from the British ship bounced off the wooden hull of the USS Constitution.
The Constitution was turned into a museum ship in 1907 and was recommissioned by the navy for the express purpose of serving as educational outreach. It is one of the stops towards the northern end of the Freedom Trail.
The ship and its museum offer a fantastic glimpse into American history but also specifically into the navy life. There are interactive exhibits that include hammocks and education on how sailors lived aboard the ship.
Ticket cost has a suggested admission of $10-15 for adults.
Old North ChurchFreedom Trail Stop
“One if by land, two if by sea.”
The Old North Church in Boston is the location where the famous lantern signal was sent to have been sent at the start of the Revolutionary War. On April 18, 1175, the patriot Paul Revere famously rode through the city of Boston in order to set the signal at the Old North Church to identify how the British would be approaching, by land or by sea.
The church is the oldest standing church in Boston dating all the way back to 1723 and having significant historical value to the city and the country. It’s a fantastic site to visit to take in all the history related to the Revolutionary War and includes a famous bust of George Washington inside the church.
The MIT Museum is located on the campus of Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, just across the River Charles from Boston.
The museum includes a wide variety of scientific exhibits ranging from robotics to artificial intelligence. The focus is science-based, given the nature of the university, but includes technology artworks as well as more traditional scientific exhibits. The museum also hosts temporary exhibits from time to time as well.
Exhibits within the museum feature:
- Kinetic Art, most famously a long-running gallery by Arthur Ganson
- Holography collection, acquired when MIT bought the Museum of Holography
- Nautical collection, an exhibit featuring marine technology
- Photography, as it relates to science and technology
- Hacker relics, including famous MIT student pranks
- Architecture, featuring the study of architectural instruction and practice
- MIT 150, an exhibit commemorating the 150th anniversary of the university
- Student showcase
Tickets are $10 for adults, and worth every penny. And the museum is open 7 days a week from 10am – 5pm, only closed on major holidays.
Museum of Science
The Museum of Science in Boston founded in 1830 and features over 700 interactive exhibits. It’s well known as a hands-on interactive museum and great for children and inquisitive adults alike.
There are a variety of exhibits throughout the museum ranging a wide variety of sciences. Some of the highlights include the spectacular Planetarium, the Insect Zoo, the Triceratops fossil, and the Theatre of Electricity.
Without a doubt, the best part of the Museum of Science is the interactive elements, where visitors are invited to touch and engage with the exhibits.
The New England Habitats exhibit is also a favorite, depicting the unique landscapes, animal models, and castings that are native to the northeast of the United States.
Tickets cost $29 for an adult.
New England Aquarium
The New England Aquarium opened in 1969 and has been a popular attraction for visitors to Boston ever since. The focus is on marine animal conservation and research, and are considered a global leader in ocean exploration and conservation.
There are over 1.3 million visitors annually who come to the Aquarium to learn more about marine life. The Aquarium itself is host to a wide variety of exhibits, with the two most famous and popular being the Penguins and Ocean Tank.
The Aquarium has over 60 penguins who inhabit the area of space that surrounds the large Giant Ocean Tank. There are two different types of species of penguin, including the African penguins and rockhoppers. One of the joys of visiting the Aquarium is to take some time to watch the penguins frolic in their environment and interact with one another.
The Giant Ocean Tank is a huge exhibit that sits in the middle of the aquarium. It’s a 4 story tank that features a coral reef, windows on all 4 levels, and hundreds of fish. There are also sea turtles, eels, and stingrays who call this tank home. Without a doubt, the biggest start of the exhibit is Myrtle, a giant green sea turtle who is over 90 years old and weighs over 500 pounds and has lived at the Aquarium since 1970.
For those that would enjoy seeing animals in a wild habitat, the Aquarium also offers a Whale Watching experience. This is a several-hour experience aboard a boat that will take guests deeper into Boston harbor to see the whales in their natural environment. This comes at an additional cost and is booked separately from your Aquarium visit.
Tickets for the Aquarium cost $32 for adults, and recommended that you buy them in advance as this is a highly popular destination in the city.
John F. Kennedy Presidential Museum & Library
The John F. Kennedy Presidential Museum & Library is one of the United State’s 13 Presidential Libraries. Since Hoover, each president has had a library established in their home state that features artifacts relating to their lives, both political and professional. The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library was established in Boston in 1979 and was dedicated by Jimmy Carter and members of the Kennedy family.
The library is host to artifacts, archives, and documents related to the charismatic president. The exhibits feature the length of his life, starting with childhood. It covers in great detail the 1960 Presidential Election, his Inauguration, and his time as President of the United States. There are great exhibits on the Peace Corps, the US Space Program, and the First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy.
The library also features the Ernest Hemingway collection which includes documents and belongings of the famous author. It features a wide variety of artifacts spanning the long length of Hemingway’s career including books from his private library and letters.
This is a great stop to add to a trip to Boston for any visitor, but especially so for those who are interested in the history of JFK.
The JFK Museum is located outside of central Boston and can be reached by taking the Red Line to UMass/JFK and then a shuttle service that runs from the T stop to the Museum.
Tickets cost $14 for adults, and visits should be planned in advance where possible.
Old State HouseFreedom Trail Stop
The Old State House was built in 1713 is one of the oldest public buildings in the United States. It was originally built to replace an earlier wooden Town House that burned in 1711.
The Old State House was the main center of civic, political, and business life for Boston. It served as the seat of the colony government for the period of time covering 1713 – 1776, and then as the seat of state government from 1776-1798.
The current Massachusetts State House was then built-in 1798 to replace the much smaller Old State House. After the seat of government moved to the new state house the Old State House was transformed to Boston’s City Hall. Over time it served a wide variety of governmental and business needs through its long history.
In 1881 the building was under threat of destruction given the increasing real estate values in the neighborhood. The Boston Society was formed to protect the Old State House and preserve the history within. They oversaw the restorations to bring the Old State House back to its former glory.
Today the Old State House is a museum and one of the stops on the Freedom Trail as it winds through the city of Boston. Its unique position in the city of Boston has seen large skyscrapers grow around it while it remains intact in its original spot in downtown Boston. The Museum features performances and interactive guides through the historic period rooms that were restored to their former glory.
Tickets cost $12 for adults, but it costs nothing to appreciate the unique perspective of the original brick building in downtown Boston with the skyscrapers overshadowing it.
Massachusetts State HouseFreedom Trail Stop
The Massachusetts State House is one of the first stops on the Freedom Trail and is the current seat of the state government of Massachusetts. The building sits on top Beacon Hill overlooking the Boston Common and has a distinct golden dome. It was built in 1798 and has had several expansions over the years given it significantly more space. It now covers 6.7 acres on Beacon Hill on a piece of land donated by John Hancock, Massachusett’s first governor.
The unique golden dome was originally a wooden one that was later covered in copper to stop leaking and later was gilded in gold leaf. A pine cone sits atop the dome as a nod to the lumber industry, which was a key economy during colonial times.
Today the Massachusetts State House is a working legislative building that houses the Governor’s office. It is also home to the 40 members of the Massachusetts State Senate and the 160 members of the Massachusetts House of Representatives.
There are free walking tours on weekdays that tour the building and its collections. The tours last about 45 minutes and are given by local volunteers who are versed in the history and architectural background. The entire building features fantastic period architecture and showcases the inner workings of a state-level government. It is recommended that you book the tours in advance.
Paul Revere HouseFreedom Trail Stop
Paul Revere was one of the first patriots of the American Revolution and is revered throughout the city of Boston. He is best known for his midnight right and lighting the latnerns at the Old North Church to share the news of how the British were approaching – by land or by sea.
The Paul Revere house was his colonial home and was built in 1680, and is the oldest house in downtown Boston. It was built in the traditional style using timber and has been through a variety of renovations over its history.
In 2016 a museum was opened by the Paul Revere Memorial Association. The museum covers the popular topic of the Ride in 1775, facts about the Man, information on his Silver Shop and a variety of education for all ages.
Tickets cost $6 for adults.
USS. Cassin Young
USS Cassin Young is another famous warship that can be visited in Charlestown’s naval yard, and serves as a museum ship. The USS Cassin Young was built, launched and commissioned in 1943 and later decommissioned in 1960. It saw most of its action in World War II and later the Korean War. The ship later opened as a museum in 1981 and underwent a major renovation between 2010-2013.
The importance of the ship is that it is one of the surviving Fletcher-class destroyers still afloat. This particular destroyer class was designed in the early 1900s and was intentionally small, and carried the newly created torpedo.
Tickets are free to visit the USS Cassin Young.
The Boston Athenaeum, founded in 1807, is a membership library and one of the oldest independent libraries in the United States. It is well known for its members, such as: Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., Louisa May Alcott, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. The Boston Athenaeum has a large number of resources available to its members, including a large circulation library, a public gallery, an art collection, and a rare books collection.
Day passes to access the full collection and services of the Athenaeum costs $40.
Tickets to access the first floor and general admission cost $8 for an adult.
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is one of Boston’s art museums located near Longwood and the Back Bay Fens. The collection houses mostly European, American, and Asian art. The museum and its collection belonged to Isabella Stewart Gardner, who chose to display her art collection as a permanent exhibit. The collection includes “Lamentation Over the Dead Christ” by Raphael, “The Rape of Europa” by Titian, “Self-Portrait” by Rembrandt, and “The Story of Lucretia” by Boticelli.
The museum is famous for an art heist that took place in 1990 when 13 pieces of work were stolen, estimated to be worth $500 million. The works were never recovered and the mystery remains unresolved, despite the $10 million reward that remains in place.
The museum’s architecture is absolutely stunning, especially in the inner Courtyard, and was built in 1903. Isabella Stewart Gardner had the building designed to reflect the grandeur of 15th-century Venetian architecture.
Tickets cost $20 for adults.
Bunker Hill MonumentFreedom Trail Stop
“Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes!”
The Battle of Bunker Hill was the first time the Revolutionaries faced the British army in pitched battle. The fight took place across the River Charles from Boston on the pastures and fields of Bunker Hill. Although the British won the battle they suffered significant casualties during the battle.
The monument was built between 1825 and 1843 to represent the first major battle of the Revolutionary War, and was one of the first monuments built in the United States. The granite obelisk has 294 steps inside to reach the top, where there are small viewing windows.
Admission to the monument is free and is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Culture, Shopping & Food in Boston
When Quincy Market was built in 1825 it was one of the largest market complexes in the United States at the time. When it was built the Boston Mayer, Josiah Quincy, gave it the name of Faneuil Hall Market. It became known as QuicnyMarket for his efforts in spearheading its creation, and in 1989 was officially given the name of Quincy Market.
Quincy Market is a fantastic place to break for food. The long market hall has individual stalls of a wide variety of food shops down the center of the historic building. The wide variety of food makes Quincy Market a great place to visit with a larger group or to sample a wide variety of cuisines, with over 30 stalls available to order from. And for those who were fans of the Cheers TV show, there is a Cheers-themed bar at Quincy Market too, though the original location is on Beacon Hill.
Some of the best food stalls include:
- Boston Chowda Co – we recommend the clam chowder bread bowl!
- Boston and Main Fish Co – we recommend the lobster rolls.
- Regina Pizzeria – we recommend any of their brick oven pizzas, which can be bought by the slice!
- The Fisherman’s Net – we recommend the fried scallops!
The exterior of Quicky Market is home to small retail kiosks that have a wide variety of souvenirs. On either side of Quincy Market are buildings, the North and South Market, which host a variety of retail shops as well. This makes the area a great stop for those who want to indulge in a bit of shopping.
Seating is limited inside the market, but available on the second level and a few tall tables in the middle of the marketplace as well. It’s worth finding a table because you get a fantastic view of the domed interior on the second floor.
Faneuil Hall MarketplaceFreedom Trail Stop
“No taxation without representation.”
Fanueil Hall Marketplace opened in 1743 and was created as a public market. The current building was rebuilt in 1762 after being burned down a year earlier. The building was home to a variety of merchants, fishermen, and meat sellers. The building also played an important role by giving a platform to some of the country’s most famous orators. The famous doctrine “no taxation without representation” started here in response to the Sugar Act of 1764. The first birthday of the United State, in 1777, was toasted to by George Washington at Fanueil Hall.
Over time it was also given the nickname the “Cradle of Liberty”, and hosted many famous orators including Susan B. Anthony, Bill Clinton, and Oliver Wendall Holmes.
The ground floor at Fanueil Hall these days is host to a small retail marketplace featuring a variety of shops and crafts. It’s a charming atmosphere to enjoy to escape the weather or to indulge in a bit of shopping during your visit to this vibrant neighborhood.
Whale Watching Tours
Not far from Boston Harbor is the fantastic Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, and it’s considered to be one of the best spots in the world for whale watching. Boston’s proximity to this amazing marine sanctuary makes it the perfect place to catch a boat and watch the magnificent whales in their natural habitat. Because of the proximity to this unique marine sanctuary, many of the boats that take visitors whale watching are often on a primary mission of research, which is supported by tourism.
Whalesense has identified the Boston-based Boston Harbor City Cruises whale watch as environmentally friendly; an adult ticket costs $60, or $82 if combined with admission to the New England Aquarium. With these tours, the boats come with a skilled captain and a naturalist from the Aquarium who can help share knowledge about the whales and this unique habitat.
Whale Watches are also commonly available from Gloucester, on the North Shore, and Cape Cod.
Boston Harbor Cruises
Beyond Whale Watching there are also great opportunities to enjoy cruises of Boston Harbor. It provides a fantastic viewpoint to appreciate the unique skyline of Boston and to enjoy the view and experience of getting onto the water.
Boston Harbor City Cruises offer two types of harbor cruises.
- The Historic Sightseeing Cruise features a 90-minute cruise that tours the historic sites of the city, from the Revolutionary War to the legends of the sea. It also covers the history of the cleanup of Boston Harbor to make it one of the cleanest in the United States.
- The Sunset Cruise is a 90-minute cruise that showcases the glory of Boston framed by sunset and talks to the history of Boston harbor as well. It’s a really wonderful way to see the city at such a beautiful time of day.l
Harpoon Brewery is a local craft brewery located in Boston, and with a second brewery site in Vermont. It was founded in 1986 and has grown to become the 12th largest craft brewery in the United States.
They brew a wide variety of beer and many seasonal offerings. Their most popular brews are: IPA, UFO Hefeweizen, and a Boston Irish Stout.
The brewery in Boston is located in the Seaport District. It consists of a brewery, beer hall, and gift shop. There are tours of the brewery available which cost $5 for adults and is well worth the visit.
Even if you don’t make it to the brewery it is well worth ordering a pint or bottle of a Harpoon draft when you’re at the local bars and eateries. They have a fantastic beer offering and their seasonal range is particularly great.
Mike’s Pastry & Modern Pastry
Where can you find the best cannoli or pastry in the North End? Bostonians can’t agree but often are very passionate about which pastry shop in the North End is their favorite, but the two most popular choices are – Mike’s Pastry or Modern Pastry. Both are located on Handover Street in the heart of Boston’s North End and attract fierce loyalty from their long-time fans.
Mike’s Pastry is one of the most well-known pastry shops in the North End and has been in business since 1946. Aside from being one of the oldest it also has the largest storefront and often the longest lines. Their selection of cannoli is massive and covers a very wide variety of options. It is easy to feel overwhelmed while trying to order at the chaotic counter, but visitors can’t go wrong with ordering the classic cannoli. Mike’s also featured homemade gelato and a variety of other Italian and American sweets and desserts. What Mike’s storefront lacks is charm it makes up for in variety and efficiency.
Modern Pastry has a more charming interior, but less selection. It’s better for sitting in and enjoying a short break at the store. The pastry is not as large or as filled as Mike’s but is very good and worth the visit. Why not try both during your visit to compare your favorite?
Honorable mention for North End bakeries: Bova’s Bakery (Salem Street),
Samuel Adams Brewery
The Boston Beer Company is the owner of the Samuel Adams brand and was established in 1984. Samuel Adams was named in honor of the found father of the United States of the same name, who was said to be a brewer himself. The beer was founded as a craft beer, one of the first craft beer brands in the United States.
The brewery itself is located in western Boston, near the Stony Brook stop on the Orange Line, in Jamaica Plain. They have a fantastic Beer Garden, brewery tours, and a shop. The location of their brewery has been the same since the 80s and is the focus of their Research and Development work. The Beer Garden features their limited-release experimental beers as well as the classic favorites and seasonal beers.
Some of the favorite beers produced by Samuel Adams are:
- Octoberfest, an autumn seasonal release
- Porch Rocker, a summer seasonal release with a hint of lemon
- American Kriek, a Belgian-influenced cheery beer
- Cold Snap, a winter seasonal release
Tickets are free to tour the Brewery but Sam Adams does ask for a small donation to one of their local charities.
Downeast Cider House
Downeast Cider House is a craft hard cider located in Boston. It’s relatively new to Boston, having been founded in 2011, but has picked up a lot of local support. They’re known for their fresh-pressed unfiltered cider and offering a wide variety of seasonal specials.
It’s located in Jeffries Point close to the Airport and easily accessed via Maverick Station, and a 10-minute walk. Downeast recommends taking a boat to their location, using one of the water taxis operated by Boston Harbor Cruises, and directing them to drop guests off at stop #68.
They offer Cider to go as well and growler refills for locals who may want a place to return to time and time again. If you do make it to Downeast, or find their Ciders in a local pub or store, some of the best to try are:
- Downeast Original – unfiltered craft cider
- Downeast White – with orange and lemon peel and cracked coriander
- Downeast Pear – a spring seasonal release
- Downeast Pineapple – a summer seasonal release
Tickets for a tour of the Brewery cost $12 for adults, and include samples.
Other Boston Breweries to Visit
Haven’t had your fill of amazing craft beer in Boston? Never fear! There are even more breweries to visit in the city beyond Harpoon or Sam, why not check out any of these great brewers:
- Trillium Brewing Company – one of the more popular Boston based beers to hit the scene in recent years
- Boston Beer Works – incredible microbrewery and brewpub, grab a bite to eat while you enjoy their atmosphere, no tours offered but none needed as their brewery is visible from all points in the restaurant.
- Cambridge Brewing Company – another great brewpub located in Cambridge with a fantastic beer offering
Prefer a guided tour? City Brew Tours offers incredible experiences while chauffeuring guests around to the craft breweries they visit on their tours. They cover all the breweries mentioned above and many more.
Newbury Street is a high-end shopping and eating area in Boston. It has a really charming atmosphere and a fantastic opportunity for window shopping and a beautiful stroll through the Back Bay. The street is a mile long and is located in the Back Bay neighborhood. It connects the Boston Public Garden to Brookline Avenue and runs parallel to Commonwealth Avenue and Boylston Street, providing good access to transport and parking.
The fancier shops and boutiques are located on the end near the Boston Public Garden and more bohemian shops are located closer to Brookline Avenue. Some shops located closer to Brookline Avenue include Urban Outfitters, Starbucks, and Vans. And the shops closer to the Boston Public Garden include Burberry, Cartier, and Brooks Brothers. The mile-long Newbury Street caters to all types of clientele, and a map of the street and the different boutiques and eateries can be found on the Newbury St website.
The street itself features the traditional brownstone architecture of Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood and is worth visiting for the atmosphere and architecture alone.
Cheers Beacon Hill
Cheers was a highly popular American sitcom that ran from 1982 to 1993. It starred Ted Danson as Sam Malone, a former baseball pitcher, and proprietor of the Cheers Bar. The sitcom follows the antics of the ensemble cast of characters. The Cheers Bar in the TV show was located on Beacon Hill and today there is a replica bar that fans of this show can visit. The building it is located in was the one features in the exterior shots of the bar in the TV show as well and was originally known as the Bull & Finch Pub, but later renamed to “Cheers Beacon Hill” in 2002.
The Cheers Bar is now a restaurant and bar featuring the famous bartop and the regular’s places mapped out with plaques. The theme is carried on throughout the restaurant from the menu, to the shop, and memorabilia.
Yes, it’s touristy, but any fan of the original TV show will love visiting this quirky tourist trap.
Boston Duck Tours
“Cue the Duck Boats!”
Fancy a city tour by bus and by boat? Look no further, the Boston Duck Tours can accomplish all this without guests even getting out of their seats! The World War II replica amphibious DUKW vehicles are the most fun way to tour the city of Boston. Each of the boats are uniquely named and painted, with names that honor Boston like “Back Bay Bertha” or “Olga Ironsides”.
Founded in 1997 the Boston Duck Tours have become a hugely popular tourist attraction in Boston. There are 3 departure points in the city – Prudential Center, Museum of Science and New England Aquarium. All routes showcase the best of what the city has to offer by land and by water. The boats enter the Charles River at a designated ramp and provide a skyline view of the city from a unique vantage point in the river.
Starting in 2002 the Duck Boats also became the vehicle of choice for parades in the city that celebrated sports wins. The first one was in 2002 for the New England Patriot’s win at the Super Bowl. But the most famous one was in 2004 when the Boston Red Sox won the World Series for the first time in 86 years. The Duck Boats have become synonymous with Boston championships, and the phrase “cue the duck boats” is one Boston sports fans long to hear.
Due to the popularity of this attraction, it is recommended to book your tour in advance.
Tickets cost $45.99 for adults.
Boston Harbor Islands
There are 34 islands located in Boston Harbor, most of which can be accessed by ferry from the city. Together they make up the Boston Harbor Islands National and State Park. The islands are open for visitors and include a variety of hiking trails, beaches, historic forts, and lighthouses.
Of the 34 islands in Boston Harbor, there are 13 that are open to the public to explore, and 6 of which can be reached by ferry. The islands accessible by ferry include:
- Georges Island – home to Fort Warren, a Civil War-era Fort, and the Harbor Island Visitor Center
- Spectacle Island – includes a lifeguarded beach and incredible views of Boston, great for hiking
- Grape Island – fantastic for outdoor fans with fantastic seaside walks
- Bumpkin Island – a smaller island that is great for camping and hiking
- Lovells Island – home to Fort Standish, beaches and some great views and sunsets
- Peddocks Island – home to Fort Andrews, with fantastic hikes on one of the largest of the islands
A trip to the Boston Harbor Islands is a great way to escape from the city and enjoy nature at its finest. The islands are well maintained and offer fantastic experiences in the spring and summer months.
The Boston Harbor Islands recommend allowing for 4 hours to enjoy your stay, including travel time to and from the islands via ferry.
Tickets cost $24.95 for a round-trip ferry ticket to the islands.
Neighborhoods & Landmarks in Boston
Boston’s North End is the oldest residential area of the city and has been home to European immigrants, most notably Italian Americans. It is well known for the Italian food scene that dominates in the North End, from incredible restaurants to mouth-watering pastries.
The neighborhood is also home to a number of famous stops on the Freedom Trail, including the Old North Church, Paul Revere’s house, and Copp’s Hill Burying Ground.
The food scene in the North End is exceptional, but some restaurants worth considering:
- Artu Trattoria, 6 Prince Street
- Regina Pizzeria, 11 1/2 Thacher Street
- Giacomo’s, 355 Handover Street
- Prezza, 24 Fleet Street
- Carmelina’s, 307 Hanover Street
Closest T Stops: Haymarket (Orange & Green Lines), Government Center (Blue & Green Lines) or North Station (Orange & Green Lines, and Commuter Rail)
Beacon Hill is one of the most historic neighborhoods in Boston. It sits adjacent to the Boston Commons and the Massachusetts State House sits on top of the hill itself. Traditional brownstone rowhouses line narrow cobblestoned streets and make the neighborhood uniquely picturesque to visit and explore. Over time it has become one of the most desirable neighborhoods to live in.
Visitors should take a stroll through the unique architecture and streets of Beacon Hill to appreciate the traditional homes and charming atmosphere. It is by far the most beautiful neighborhood in Boston and is the most iconic.
The sites to see on Beacon Hill include:
- Acorn Street, the most photographed of the charming Beacon Hill architectural streets
- Boston Common, the gorgeous and large central park in Boston
- Massachusetts State House, with the gorgeous gold dome this is the seat of Massachusetts’ government
- Charles River Esplanade, the charming riverside park and walk
Closest T Stops: Bowdoin (Blue Line), Park Street (Green & Red Lines), or Charles MGH (Red Line).
Back Bay is a historical neighborhood in Boston that was built up using landfills. It was truly once an actual bay based on the Charles River basin which was reclaimed to make the Back Bay neighborhood.
The neighborhood is famous for its gorgeous architecture and tree-lined streets. The Victorian brownstones are gorgeous and are thought to be one of the most well-preserved examples of urban design from the 19th century in the US.
In more modern years the Back Bay has become home to the city’s tallest skyscraper, the John Hancock Tower. It’s also home to a variety of other famous buildings, such as the Prudential Center, the Christian Science Center, or the Old John Hancock Building. The modern architecture really shines in this neighborhood as does the traditional Victorian architecture.
Back Bay includes a wide number of key areas to visit, including:
- Newbury Street
- Prudential Center & Copley Place
- John Hancock Tower
- Copley Square
- Boston Public Library
And for food, a few places to check out:
- Saltie Girl, 281 Dartmouth Street
- Parish Cafe & Bar, 361 Boylston Street
- The Capital Grille, 900 Boylston Street
- Dirty Water Dough Company, 222 Newbury Street
Closest T Stops: Prudential (E Green Line) & Copley (Green Line)
Harbor, Waterfront & Wharfs
The Boston Waterfront has been growing in popularity in the last few years, especially after the completion of the Big Dig and the creation of the Rose Kennedy Greenway.
The Harborwalk is a gorgeous continuous walkway that links several of the waterfront neighborhoods and creates a fantastic walk to enjoy in the city. It’s a fantastic way to experience this unique and vibrant area of Boston with some incredible views.
Some of the best places to eat:
- Legal Harborside, 270 Northern Avenue
- The Barking Crab, 88 Sleeper Street
- Rowes Wharf Sea Grille, 70 Rowes Wharf
- Nautilus Pier 4, 300 Pier 4 Blvd.
Closest T Stops: New England Aquarium (Blue Line) or South Station (Red Line, Silver Line and Commuter Rail).
Rose Kennedy Greenway
The Big Dig was an enormously ambitious urban redevelopment project that relocated one of the major elevated highways in Boston underground and into a series of tunnels. The highway cut through the center of downtown Boston and took 16 years to deliver the project to completion.
By moving the highway underground the city opened up a tremendous amount of real estate, 17 acres in total, on top of the ground which was immediately converted to green space and a park. This was named the Rose Kennedy Greenway and provides a new beautiful park space in Boston as well as the opportunity to host art exhibits as well.
Walking the Rose Kennedy Greenway is a great way to experience the incredible transformation the city of Boston has undergone during the Big Dig. It’s full of art exhibits, foundations, and a famous carousel. It also hosts a variety of events throughout the year, which can be seen on the Greenway’s Online Calendar.
Closest T Stops: New England Aquarium (Blue Line).
Harvard Square is a junction located in Cambridge and often refers to the wider neighborhood, and especially the business district. Harvard Yard is across from Harvard Square and is known to be the heart of Harvard University’s campus. This eclectic area reflects the university vibe and has a fantastic atmosphere at all times of the year.
Harvard Square, and many of the others in the area, often feature street performers. In fact, the neighborhood is well known for its performances. And it is home to the Brattle Theatre and American Repertory Theatre, both experimental-style theatres.
“The Garage” is a fun indoor shopping mall, converted from an old parking garage, located near Harvard Square. Don’t miss visiting the Newbury Comics store!
What else can you see near Harvard Square?
- Harvard University
- Harvard Coop Book Shop
- Harvard Art Museums
- Museum of Natural History
- Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology
Closest T Stops: Harvard (Red Line).
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