One of the oldest cities in the United States, Boston, Massachusetts has become a bustling city with lots of things to do and see. From historic trails and Harvard tours to Red Sox games and lively Irish pubs, Boston has a little something for everyone.
Whether you’re vacationing with the family, or going solo, this capitol city won’t disappoint. Below, you will find our list of favorite places to visit and things to do in Boston.
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Visit Little Italy
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If you follow the Freedom trail, you’ll walk right through Boston’s North End to see the Old North Church and Paul Revere’s house. But wait, there’s more to the North End than historic buildings! This neighborhood, also known as Little Italy, has some of the best food in Boston!
Excellent Eateries in Boston
Walking along the cobbled stoned streets you’ll find excellent eateries for awesome Italian meals, decadent desserts, or a light snack. Since Boston is known for its seafood, you can’t go wrong with one of the pasta dishes loaded with local clams, muscles, shrimp, and/or lobster.
You’ll find one of the best lobster rolls in Boston at Paulie’s on the corner of Salem and Cross Streets. Get the large, it’s big enough to share, and then you can explore more Little Italy food stops!
Down the street on Salem, the family restaurant, La Famiglio Giorgio is good for lunch. Next door to Paul Revere’s house you’ll find Ristorante Limoncello known for their amazing meatballs. For some of the best pizza in Boston, go where the local’s go, Pizzeria Regina.
If you can’t fit a lunch or dinner into your Boston itinerary, at least eat a cannoli from Mike’s Pastry or Modern Pastry, or both! You won’t regret it!
New England Aquarium
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As a coastal city, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Boston has an epic aquarium. The New England Aquarium is a wonderous destination for anyone looking to dive in, where you’ll find the usual suspects including penguins and jelly fish. Their main feature is a three story, columnar tank complete with sharks, sea turtle and various tropical fish.
Re-Investing in the Environment
You can walk through it in about an hour but it’s easy to spend more time if you move at a slow pace, taking in all the beauty. And you can feel good about your investment knowing that the New England Aquarium is all about re-investing in the environment, as you learn about all the great, local research initiatives they manage.
Don’t have enough time to walk through the aquarium? Make a quick stop by the entrance to watch their harbor seals cruise around their tank for a few minutes. These cuties are poster children for coastal New England.
The aquarium also offers whale watching tours if you’re looking for several hours of entertainment. You’ll board a vessel that will take you out to Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, a short trip from Boston Harbor.
Visiting the New England Aquarium
Admission to the aquarium is part of the GoBoston and CityPass discounts if you’ve purchased one of these packages.
Visiting the aquarium is one of the top things to do in Boston with kids and when in New England.
The Freedom Trail
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Settled in 1625, Boston figures prominently in American history since it is one of the first cities in the United States and part of the original 13 colonies. Many of the important events around the Revolutionary War has connections to the city. Sixteen of these historically important sites compose the Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile pedestrian path that snakes through Boston.
Aside from its historical significance the trail also hits many of the tourist attractions of Boston like Boston Common, the Paul Revere House, and the USS Constitution. There are numerous tours from hop-on-hop-off buses, to private, and self-guided options and the walk can last anywhere from two to four hours.
Many of the sites are free to enter, though the Paul Revere House and the USS Constitution charge admission. The start of the trail is marked by a plaque and has a red brick and concrete trail that connects all the sites, making it easy to follow the trail.
Best Time to Visit
Winters are pretty cold in Boston, so the best time to visit is in Spring when the flowers are in bloom or in the Fall to catch the changing of leaves and their fiery colors. And of course, visitors should stop for a bowl of clam chowder at Ye Olde Union Oyster House, cannoli at Mike’s Pastry, and a brewery tour at Samuel Adams.
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
Isabella Stewart Gardner was an avid art collector and philanthropist who helped design every aspect of her museum. It was said that Isabella, and her husband Jack, had a love for travel and learning about different cultures and art from around the world. Much of the art you’ll find in the museum was acquired during their travels to Europe.
Take a Tour
The museum is several floors and has an outdoor viewing area as well. When you first arrive, there is a brief history session you can attend that only lasts about 5-10 minutes. It is highly recommended that you start there if you are unfamiliar with her collection. You can also purchase a self-guided, pre-recorded tour or take a guided tour.
Art from Around the World
Each floor of the museum is filled wall to wall with stunningly beautiful works of art from around the world. Most of the art found in the museum is from Europe, Asia, and America.
In the middle of the museum, there is a beautiful courtyard garden which can be seen from each floor of the museum. The entire museum is just spectacular. Visiting the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum should be on every art lover’s itinerary!
Boston Harbor Islands State Park
If you’re looking for some time outdoors, then the Boston Harbor Islands are the perfect destination. With 34 islands and peninsulas, the Boston Harbor Islands National and State Park is easily one of the top things to do in Boston.
How to Get There
While some of the islands are off limits to protect wildlife, others can be accessed by public ferry or private boat. The ferry ride over to the islands is part of the experience as the scenery is quite beautiful. Currently, you may take the ferry over to Spectacle and George Islands. There are a few other islands that can be accessed by private boat, however you’ll need to make a reservation.
Things to Do
If you’re looking for some beach time, you’ll have to head over to Spectacle Island as it is the only island with beach access. But if you’re looking to learn a bit of history, head over to George Island and wander Fort Warren.
If you are lighthouse lover, take a scenic boat tour of the Boston Light! While direct access to the lighthouse if off limits, a boat cruise will get you beautiful views of the area.
The islands also offers beautiful hiking and biking trails for you to enjoy. And lastly, if you want to extend your stay, go camping!
Boston Food Tour
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When you are planning a trip to a city and you are a first time visitor, beyond anything else, you want to learn about the city. That includes where to find the key historic or interesting attractions, beautiful parks, amazing shopping, and of course, the best food and restaurants.
That is where a food tour is an excellent option. Not only do you tour around significant neighborhoods in a city, normally you hear about important historical facts and learn about the city as a whole.
Boston Secret Food Tour
That is especially true if you take the Boston Secret Food Tour. This half day tour takes you through beautiful sections of Boston, including the incredible Italian district. While doing so, you are sampling food that is significant to Boston. For example, a lobster roll where the lobster was literally caught hours before, or a cannoli from one of the first bakeries in the USA offering cannoli.
While you eat and walk, your guide is also recommending restaurants, amazing stores and offering other behind the scenes advice about what you should and should not do in Boston.
The other plus is if you time the tour right, you are able to satisfy both your lunch and dinner needs as you eat so much food.
Harvard Walking Tour
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Harvard is the oldest university in the United States established in 1636. A walking tour of the campus is composed of stops around notable buildings and statues that exemplify the history of the university and its ties to American culture. It is located just outside Boston in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and worth a visit during a trip to Boston.
Buildings of Significance
From Boston, visitors can get on the T Red Line and arrive right outside the Out of Town News. This newsstand may look like any other but it is a national historic landmark and has been around since the 1950s.
The university’s library is the third-largest in the US, behind the National Library of Congress, and the New York Public Library. Another building to keep an eye out for is Sever Hall and its domed entrance.
It is one of the few whisper galleries where words spoken into one side of the arch can be heard clearly on the other side, 12 feet away.
In Harvard Yard, the statue of John Harvard with its shiny left boot cannot be missed. Over the years students and visitors have rubbed the statue for good luck. Just outside the campus is the Lampoon Castle which houses the Harvard Lampoon a humor magazine. Conan O’Brien was once the editor of the publication, as well as several writers of the cartoon The Simpsons, and other comedians and writers.
Red Sox Game at Fenway Park
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Even if you aren’t a baseball fan, or if you are but not a Red Sox fan, seeing a Boston Red Sox game at Fenway Park is one of the top things to do when in Boston.
Fenway Park is the oldest active ballpark in Major League Baseball since opening on April 20, 1912. As an add on to your game, take a guided tour of Fenway Park before you go. Tours operate daily from 9:00am-5:00pm on non-game days. Game days start at 9:00am and run until three hours before game time.
When to Go
The regular season will run from mid April until late September or early October. The spring and fall will be the best time to go for the mild weather.
What to Expect
Tickets can be difficult to come by thanks to the popularity and small stadium size. Plan ahead if this is something you will want to enjoy.
Once you have your tickets taken care of it is time to map out your day. The stadium opens 90 minutes before the game starts. You will want to arrive early as there is so much to see and do inside the park.
What to Eat
There are tons of options available to choose from. If you want a true Fenway experience then get the Fenway Frank. However, if you are looking for something different chances are you will find it at Fenway Park. They have everything from hamburgers to lobster rolls to pizza.
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Boston Common, located in downtown Boston, is the oldest public park in the United States. In fact, the park consists of 2 parts: Boston Common and Boston Public Garden.
The history of the park began in 1634, when the area became a designated public pasture. Later on, people started using this space for public purposes, and in 1830, Boston Common officially became a public park. It has been very popular with Boston residents ever since. The park has 2 small ponds, the oldest cemetery in Boston, numerous interesting places and sculptures.
George Washington monument is located at the entrance to the Boston Public Garden from Arlington Street. The statue’s gaze is directed to one of the longest streets in Boston – Commonwealth Avenue.
The park and the surrounding area is home to numerous buildings and landmarks of Boston. One of them is the Massachusetts State House, built in 1798 by the famous architect Charles Bulfinch. Its most distinguished feature is the gilded dome. The Colonel Robert Shaw Memorial is situated directly across from the Massachusetts State House.
Another landmark, the Brewer Fountain which is cast in bronze and skillfully decorated with figures of Greek Gods. The total weight of the fountain is 7 tons, it was made in Paris by French casting masters just to cross the Atlantic and to be installed in its current place.
Dedicated to the heroes of the Civil War, the Soldiers and Sailors Monument dating back to 1877 is located in the center of the park.
All the social events take place on the lawns in the western part of the park. The eastern part is now used during concerts and performances. Frog Pond serves as a public ice skating rink during the winter months.
Highly recommended, explore quaint historical streets around the Boston Common for beautiful pictures. Both fans of an eco-friendly travel style and history lovers will appreciate this area!
Plimoth Patuxet Museums
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If you are looking for things to do in Boston for your next vacation, how about a day trip outside of the city?
Step back in time as you enter the Plimoth Patuxet Museums. Experience the history of an English village from the 17th Century Plymouth Colony along with the Indigenous homeland of the Wampanoag (pronounced Wam-pan-og) people.
Children of all ages will love the immersive Historic Patuxet experience interacting with the Wampanoag people. They speak with guests in English (not their native tongue) and share insights into the life of families living in the area years ago. Enter their wetu (house) and learn about their life as they cook over a fire, weave handbags, prepared to hollow out a tree to make a canoe, and grow and harvest from their garden.
Continue on to the 17th Century Plymouth Colony where pilgrims (in character) share their experiences in establishing their community, building homes, growing gardens, playing games, participating in muster drills and taking care of livestock.
You Can Also Visit
Plimoth Grist Mill – Learn the mill’s history and workings as it utilizes the Town Brook to power the waterwheel. As a functioning mill, the miller orchestrates the water wheel, gears, and stones to grind corn, wheat and other grains.
Mayflower II – This is a full-size re-creation of the original ship that has been fully restored. The Mayflower II is berthed at the State Pier in Pilgrim Memorial State Park. Come aboard to explore the decks and learn about the confining areas where passengers lived for seven to nine months as they traveled to a new land.
Craft Center – Watch as skilled craftspeople recreate the world of the 17th century making pottery, growing medicinal gardens, and creating herbal remedies.
Take a little piece of history home with you with amazing finds from the Museum Shops. You can browse the Plimoth Apothecary, search for souvenirs in the Main Shop, or even take home your very own 17th century reproduction of a beautifully crafted clay pot or jug.
Plimoth Patuxet Museums are located in Plymouth, Massachusetts approximately one hour outside of Boston.
Boston is a city known for its rich history and vibrant culture. Whether you are interested in exploring the many historic sites and landmarks, tasting some of the region’s famous cuisine, or enjoying some of the local arts and entertainment, there is something fun for everyone in Boston.
Alexandrea Sumuel is a travel writer and the founder of Wander With Alex, where she provides vacationers and travel enthusiasts with trip ideas, travel guides, news, and itineraries. She travels to experience, eat, and explore-- and, on occasion, escape! Alex’s mission is to help people travel a little easier.