30 Best Things to Do in Boston

30 Best Things to Do in Boston

See Also: Where to stay in Boston

Built on the spirit of revolution and transformation, Boston is a heritage city chock full of lessons and remembrance. Its cultural wealth is spread out through museums, libraries and art performance centers, only to be one-upped by the sheer historical material. Arguably the oldest city in America, Boston wears the Freedom Trail like a badge of pride, delineating the heritage sites that witnessed the Revolutionary War and everything that came after. If you call it an outdoor history museum – you’d be right. Here's the best things to do in Boston:

Learn about the Boston Common

Boston Common
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Get into the Boston spirit with America’s oldest city park – the Boston Common. Founded in 1634, this people’s park is poised downtown as the starting point of the Freedom Trail. Having witnessed revolutions, independence speeches, anti-slavery meetings and the birth of victory gardens, Boston Common is more than just a greenspace. This heritage site has now transformed into a place of peace, paved walkways, fountains, statuary and tree-scape welcoming those in need or some rest. It also includes ballfields and the Frog Pond where children frolic during the summer, and skate during colder seasons.

Admire the Trinity Church

Trinity Church
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There’s always a must-see church or cathedral in every city, and for Boston it is the Trinity Church. Architectural lovechild of Henry Hobson Richardson, this grand structure was completed in late 1870s in replacement of another Episcopal church nearby. Setting the tone for municipal buildings around the country, Trinity Church’s Romanesque style presents grounding pillars, dramatic edgings in the stone work, carved statues and many-windowed towers. It is a landmark for every visitor whether they are simply passing by outside, or wandering in for more grandiose architectural highlights.

All the fun things in Quincy Market

Quincy Market
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The stately gray façade of Quincy Market looks more like a place of diplomacy than festivities, but the lively interior will remove all doubts. Donated by the generous Mayor Josiah Quincy in 1824, Quincy Market is your go-to for fun knick-knacks, Boston-themed souvenirs, and other quirky trinkets. It is also well-visited for the culinary heaven that is the food hall, offering up mouth-watering choices cross cuisines. Game players may also be tempted by the chess and board game tables that will have you roaring in competitiveness – but it’s all in good fun.

Browse the Museum of Fine Arts

Museum of Fine Arts
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Go in for an introspective afternoon at the Museum of Fine Arts where distinctive galleries display masterpieces of all mediums. Paintings aside, you can expect textiles, craftwork and artifacts that date from ancient times to Pre-Columbian times to mid-20th century. While the collection spans across the globe, the museum is known for its American and European art exhibits; the new Art of Americas wing for instance, features over 50 galleries. Art lover or not, it’s worth spending a few hours perusing the gilded frames. Stop by on the gift shop on your way out as well to pick up artsy souvenirs or an art history book for people back home.

Trace the red-bricked Freedom Trail Walk

Freedom Trail Walk
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The red-bricked Freedom Trail Walk is significant, and not just because of its Wizard of Oz likeness. Highlighting major landmarks and heritage sites, the path takes you through the trajectory of Boston history, with a focus on the Revolutionary War. It delivers the keystone role Boston has played in winning ‘freedoms’; this one mile trail bundles up eleven historical sites of relevance. We recommend the guided tour for detailed exposition, costumed guides filling you in on 18th century Boston. Ask about local legends and scandalous stories to lighten up the historical talk!

Relax at the Boston Public Gardens

Boston Public Gardens
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Put away the maps and electronic distractions for a few hours of relaxation amid fresh lawns and shade-providing trees. The Boston Public Gardens were born in 1634 but modified during the Victorian Age to include a wider variety of plantation. New gardening techniques (hybridizing and propagating) introduced then experimental floral patterns and exotic plant life were brought in to further diversify. Now you can enjoy low-hanging willows, pops of flower troves and wispier plantations next to fountains and paved lanes. The magical lake is especially popular, families renting Swan Boats for a session on water.

Jog along Charles River Esplanade

Charles River Esplanade

There’s no need to explain the charms of Charles River Esplanade really. Like all wrap-around waterfronts, the Esplanade offers downtown views in long, breezy stretches. Solid canopies provide shade for the tired, whereas the energetic joggers can tread on paved lanes. Floating platforms extend out over water for sunbathers and people to dip their feet, a welcoming space in the summer. If you’re hoping to squeeze in a run, take the route from Berkeley Street to Charles River Dam Road for a scenic backdrop.

See Boston top-down from Prudential Tower Skywalk Observatory

Prudential Tower Skywalk Observatory
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Pay the Skywalk Observatory a visit as it will feed your camera roll with sweeping views over the city. Boston is spread out in an amalgamation of gleaming landmarks, bridges, busy intersections and pockets of green spaces. As sunset powers down the glare, Boston is awash in a soft glow of purple and the orange of evening lights, scoring high on the romantic vibe.

Whale watch with Boston Harbor Cruises

Boston Harbor Cruises
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Catering to eco-tourists and aquatic curious, Boston Harbor Cruises lead whale watching tours that are environmentally friendly and responsibly leaving the whales’ habitat untouched. Your expert tour guides will bring you into the Stellwagen Bank Marine Sanctuary where whales, dolphins, sea birds and more feed on rich natural resources. Do check the website regarding tour times and whether you’ll be there on or off season.

Tiptoe around Boston Public Library

Boston Public Library
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The Boston Public Library is a sacred place and not just for avid readers and researchers! Designed by Charles Follen McKim in grand Beaux Arts-Renaissance Revival style, the library is literally a work of art. Polished marble and granite characterize the halls and stairways, stone statues and inscriptions exuding an air of nobility. Large scale paintings of ancient societies draw your attention up to the detailed ceiling panels and elaborate stone etchings.

Take a Fenway Park Tour

Fenway Park Tour
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The dusty mounds and fresh-mown greens of Fenway Park are like a beacon for Major League fans. Don’t just shell out for tickets to a game – go for the full package with a Fenway Park Tour. Start your day with a two-hour early entrance, with guides walking you around the concourse and where the team is practicing batting. Amid recounts of Red Sox history you get to visit its highlights on the spot, such as Pesky’s Pole and the Lone Red Seat. Of course, the tour is only half of the experience; settle in for a Boston Red Socks game with your Fenway Franks and cheer the home team on.

Watch Boston Ballet at the Orchestra House

Orchestra House
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Fill up your performance art quota with a show by the Boston Ballet company. Founded in 1963, this professional ballet company has expanded to 69 dancers, having grown from its 1979 Nervi Festival opening act to a powerhouse across the globe. Best known for their Nutcracker performance, they have gone on to reimage several classics. The historic Opera House that houses their performances is worth a visit on its own merit, grand halls and elaborate details attracting architectural buffs.

Picnic at The Arnold Arboretum

The Arnold Arboretum
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Designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted to cover 281 acres, the Arnold Arboretum is in fact the second biggest link in the 1,100-acre chain of parks coined the Emerald Necklace. Owned and maintained by Harvard University, this recreational space is frequented by many families, joggers and casual wanderers. Imported trees are planted next to local shrubs and flora, and paved walkways bisect open lawns for easy access. Forgo restaurant sit-ins for a picnic when the sun is out.

Traverse life’s mysteries (and answers) at The Museum of Science

The Museum of Science
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Discovery is in the hands of visitors young and old as the Museum of Science rewards curiosity with interactive displays and hands-on exhibits. The massive complex features over 700 diverse exhibits, ranging from biology-focused hall of Human Life to the Theater of Electricity, where you learn about the science behind our technology fuel. There’s nothing like being awed by life when you watch baby chicks hatch, or the way the planetarium makes you feel small in the face of the mysterious universe. If you want to learn about everything, the museum is your classroom.

Edge along the Boston Harborwalk

Boston Harborwalk
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Boston Harborwalk in its entirety may be too long for you to walk, but stroll along the waterfront in snippets and you’ll be gifted with diverse sights. Skyline, beaches, wharves and piers weave in and out to bring you both city and quaint shoreline districts, where you can get a feel of Boston life. It’s a brilliant way to see the various faces of the city while getting some fresh air and exercise. You can also board a water taxi instead if you don’t have much time to spare. Upon completion, the Harborwalk will extend from Chelsea Creek to Neponset River.

Visit the JFK Presidential Library and Museum

JFK Presidential Library and Museum
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Whether you know your American presidents or not, JFK Presidential Library and museum will have you sucked into the political career of John F. Kennedy. Rarely do you get such a comprehensive narrative of key leaders; the library and museum traverses JFK’s presidency through his successes and failures via a mix of broadcasted interviews and private family materials. Other exhibits feature artifacts and objects from programs that Kennedy had championed, such as the famous Space Program. If you’re interested in American history, this is for you.

Wander around beautiful Beacon Hill

Beacon Hill
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Go residential with a walk around Beacon Hill, home to some of Boston’s most lavish properties. Characterized by the Federal red-bricked, gently arched and iron gated porches, this residential district is lauded not just for its historical past but for its classical vibes. Stroll down the gas-lamppost lined avenues of Charles Street and Louisbourg Square for some swanky shots, or settle in at boutique cafés for a cuppa. The morbidly curious however, may want to join a Beacon Hill Crime Walking Tour for a hair-raising tale of Boston’s notorious serial killer, who struck the idyllic neighborhood more than once.

Exploring Franklin Park Zoo

Franklin Park Zoo
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Zoos are always a controversial subject weighing in on the freedoms of these animals versus lessons on ecology, wildlife and conservation. But Franklin Park Zoo takes on the protection and sustainability of natural life forms as their main mission, actively designing the zoo experience around wildlife integration and conservation programs. Besides learning about the various animals that live within these realistic enclosures, visitors also pick up on global efforts to preserve natural habitats. Families will especially love Franklin Park Zoo, although it is geared towards all ages. Do note that winter hibernations mean some of the residents will be cozied up out of sight, so don’t be too disappointed if you don’t see them!

Get rocking on Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum

Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum
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Feel this museum collective rock under your feet where it is moored pier-side. Combining high tech interactive exhibitions and floating tea ships, the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum brings a multi-sensory experience. Between documentaries, costumed actors and scripted re-enactments, you’ll have a fun time learning about the history of tea party ships – and in a ‘so unexpected it should have been expected’ twist, you can enthusiastically throw your tea overboard.

Trawl around on the Hop-on Hop-off Boston Sightseeing Trolley

An alternative for those preferring spontaneous travel is to take the Hop-on Hop-off Boston Sightseeing Trolley. As trolley tickets cover two days, your schedule is extremely flexible. Pay close attention to the in-car narration as it passes major attractions such as Boston Common, the North End and Faneuil Hall, and disembark when something catches your eye. Do note that frequent stops and traffic may mean longer travel times so don’t rely on the trolley as your primary mode of transport.

Explore Faneuil Hall Marketplace

Faneuil Hall Marketplace
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Of the marketplace cluster comprised of Faneuil Hall, North Market, South Market and Quincy Market, Faneuil Hall stands out as a space of free speech. From its humble market origins in 1743 to a political and philosophical hub during the Revolutionary War, this historic hall continues to celebrate the freedom of expression even today. Street performers take to the open-air square to share their art, and other visitors arrive here by way of the Freedom Trail Walk. A military museum coexists with vendor stalls and food stalls, whilst Zumba and yoga classes entertain a health-seeking crowd.

Pinpoint the Bunker Hill Monument

Bunker Hill Monument
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Like many heritage sites around Boston, the Bunker Hill Monument was commissioned mid-1800s to commemorate a major battle of the Revolutionary War. Standing at 221 feet high, this obelisk is a symbol of victory despite the apparent loss by the colonists as it proved that the local community will stand strong. You can climb up top (if you dare) for views over Charlestown, or just lay on the lawn for some lazy napping. Across the street is a small museum that recounts the battle it was built in memory of.

Peer inside the Old North Church

Small and unassuming, you wouldn’t have known that the Old North Church is one of the city’s most visited heritage sites. Founded in 1722, Boston’s oldest church is believed to be the signaling point that alerted Paul Revere about the British not-land-but-sea landing. Simple white frames decorate the interior, the only grandiose adornment a pronged chandelier at the front of the hall. There’s a bust of George Washington within the church.

Explore sea depths at the New England Aquarium

New England Aquarium
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Dive deep into the tanks of New England Aquarium that display aquatic life from various seas and oceans. The vibrant Caribbean coral reef is a crowd favorite, alongside the Shark and Ray Touch Tank. Or maybe you prefer the cute penguins huddling in their icy habitat, maybe the playful seals flapping their fins at you. The aquarium is family-friendly and educational for adults too, the IMAX screenings showing stunning nature documentaries and the recess of deep seas. New England Aquarium is more than just a flashy tourist attraction as admission proceeds go into marine conservation efforts; just by visiting, you’re contributing to marine life preservation.

See the world at The Mapparium

Located within the Mary Baker Eddy Library is the hidden world of the Mapparium, a world map brought to life. A long bridge extends inside this 3D globe, a three-storied construct paneled with glass to display the countries in accurate geographical positioning to each other. Color-coded mappings and lights showcase global shifts over time, delineating important movements in the past decade. The experience is elevated with music, historical quotes and more sensory elements to build a compelling story of Earth.

Visit Harvard Memorial Hall

Harvard Memorial Hall
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There’s no shortage of beautiful architecture around Massachusetts – Harvard Memorial Hall is one of them. If you’re out around Cambridge on a daytrip, do drop by this Victorian Gothic hall in its fiery beauty. Marvel at the arched wooden beams and hanging chandeliers, massive hall flowering open in honor of those who sacrificed themselves in defense of the Union during America’s Civil War.

Stargazing at Coit Observatory

The lessons never end. Visit Boston University’s Coit Observatory for a night under the stars, helpful astronomy students and staff answering questions you might have. It’s no advanced science center, but for those who like off-the-beaten-path activities, this is a hidden gem. The telescopes are generally set on the moon and clearest planet so you won’t have to fumble around; there’s also something new to see thanks to the world’s constant turning. It’s open to public every Wednesday night barring bad weather, so consider sneaking this into your itinerary.

Double down with Boston Brewery Tours

Boston Brewery Tours
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Calling to (legal) adults only, the Boston Brewery Tours add a touch of alcohol to your Boston art and history meal set. Digging into Boston’s pub scene in alternative cultural pursuit, you’ll be taken around a few breweries to learn about the various brewing processes. Armed with knowledge about the mechanics and history of this happy hour grog, you get to sample a dozen or two of award-winning stouts, pilsners and other derivatives. Choose between a day or evening option, both including a meal to settle your stomach.

Marvel at the Massachusetts State House

Massachusetts State House
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Who would have thought that a cow pasture would one day evolve into a monumental building? Designed by Federal-style pioneer, architect Charles Bulfinch, the Massachusetts State House was the leading architectural piece in late 1790s. It is recognized for its golden dome; originally built with wood shingles, it was later reconstructed out of copper and coated with 23-karat gold coating to prevent leakage. The straight edges, white columns and burnished orange façade complement the crowning piece to exude a poised by approachable aura.

Climb aboard the U.S.S Constitution

U.S.S Constitution
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Battleships never cease to intrigue us and the U.S.S Constitution is the oldest of them all. Having undergone a few years of repair work, it is once again open for public tours. Be humbled by its span and war-worn decks, and reflect on how war has simultaneously brought destruction and creation, pushing forth engineering advancements. Naval scholars will also appreciate the adjacent museum dedicated to this heavy frigate.

Cruise around with the Boston Duck Tour

Waddling on land and in water are the iconic rainbow-stripped duck boats that take you around Boston. Ready for the splash when you enter the canals, and quack at passerby’s upon command! Your local guides make this tour fun and riveting while piling on the facts. Bringing you from Beacon Hill to Newbury Street and possibly even into Cambridge, these duck boats venture through political and cultural neighborhoods. Some major attractions you’ll see include Trinity Church, Prudential Center, Old North Church, Zakim Bridge and the intellectual reaches of Harvard and MIT.

See the world at The Mapparium

Located within the Mary Baker Eddy Library is the hidden world of the Mapparium, a world map brought to life. A long bridge extends inside this 3D globe, a three-storied construct paneled with glass to display the countries in accurate geographical positioning to each other. Color-coded mappings and lights showcase global shifts over time, delineating important movements in the past decade. The experience is elevated with music, historical quotes and more sensory elements to build a compelling story of Earth.