Boston is consistently ranked as one of the top 10 most-visited cities in the United States of America — and for good reason. Home to a thriving food and drink scene, historic landmarks, and activities for all types of travellers, the city offers plenty to keep visitors occupied. So, whether you’re on a solo adventure or travelling with the whole family, here are 30 of the best things to do in Boston. By Stacey Leasca
Walk the Freedom Trail
The two-and-a-half-mile (four kilometre), self-guided Freedom Trail tour takes visitors through the city, telling the story of the American Revolution with stops at museums, churches, meeting houses, and other historical markers along the way. Do it alone, or find tour options here.
Step back in time at the Paul Revere House
Want even more Boston history? Head to the Paul Revere House. The home, which was once owned by Revere and sold in 1800, served as everything from a boarding house to a local shop to tenement apartments. Now, it’s a museum offering guided tours of the restored home that will transport you back in time.
Stroll through the Boston Common
The Boston Common is the very heart and soul of the city. First built in 1634, it is the oldest public park in the United States of America. On the park’s 50 acres (0.2 square kilometres) of land, guests will find the frog pond, a softball field, and monuments galore. Take your time strolling through the landscaped gardens and enjoying the sights.
See the animals at the New England Aquarium
For more than 50 years, the New England Aquarium has invited guests to come and meet a few of the coolest sea creatures on Earth. From penguins to sharks, stingrays to seals, and everything in between, the aquarium has all kinds of animals for curious visitors. It’s also a working research aquarium, meaning visits and donation dollars partially go toward ocean conservation and preserving these species for generations to come.
Take the kids to the Franklin Park Zoo
For even more animal adventures, pay a visit to the Franklin Park Zoo. The 72-acre (0.3 square kilometre) zoo is the place to be for a red panda, tiger, or zebra sighting right in the middle of the city. There are also plenty of expert-led chats to attend, as well as children’s events, making it a place the entire family will love.
Or, see animals in their natural habitat with a whale-watching tour
Take to the waters outside of Boston for a high-seas adventure like a whale-watching excursion. Hop aboard a tour with the New England Aquarium or Boston Harbor City Cruises to see whales, dolphins, and sea birds on their migration routes — all from a safe distance, of course.
Go for a walk around the Esplanade
Another worthy place for a stroll is the Esplanade, a three-mile (almost five kilometre) path that hugs the Charles River. It’s an excellent spot for a walk or bike ride along the lovely green spaces on the banks of the river, where you can watch boaters. And if you’re so inclined, you can donate to the Esplanade Association, a nonprofit working to preserve the space for more than two decades.
Take to the Charles River
You may feel inclined to get on the water yourself — and you can do just that by joining Community Boating Boston on a sail. The organisation offers sailboat, kayak, and stand-up paddleboard rentals for those feeling adventurous.
Watch a midnight movie at Coolidge
The Coolidge Corner Theater, which first opened its doors during the golden age of cinema in 1933, is already one of the most incredible places to see a movie in the city. But to up the ante, try and visit for one of its After Midnite showings. The late-night programming includes horror films and off-beat flicks, making it great for an after-dark fright.
Visit the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
Isabella Stewart Gardner was a woman who knew what she liked. She was a millionaire, a bohemian, and an intellectual, and the museum bearing her name is a gem of Boston’s thriving art scene, with luxurious landscaped grounds. Perhaps some of the museum’s most famous works aren’t hanging on the walls, though, as eagle-eyed visitors can spot empty frames that once held priceless pieces, stolen from the space in a famed art heist in 1990.
Spend a day at the Institute of Contemporary Art
The iconic Institute of Contemporary Art is housed in 65,000-square-feet of space, making it a spot where you can easily spend an entire day. The institute includes gallery exhibits, a theatre, and a cafe, along with a gorgeous outdoor deck so you can get a breath of fresh air and reflect on all the works you’ve just seen. Plus, admission to the institute is free on Thursdays after 5 pm, but make sure to snag your timed ticket in advance.
See the Arnold Arboretum
The Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University is a living museum of trees and plant life, with a particular focus on flora and fauna from eastern North America and Asia. This National Historic Landmark is open every day and always free for visitors.
Scope out the treasures at The Museum of Fine Arts
The Museum of Fine Arts is a crown jewel in Boston’s museum scene. It includes American works of art and artefacts from around the globe, including pieces from across Europe, Asia, and Africa. The museum also holds collections in photography, musical instruments, textiles, and more.
Swing by Encore Boston Harbor
Encore Boston Harbor is the place to go if you’re looking for some good old-fashioned fun. The entertainment venue, which opened in 2019, includes a hotel, five-star dining options, shopping, and even a casino for those wanting to roll the dice and test their luck. Head out for a meal, stay for a game, and perhaps book an overnight stay so you can do it all again tomorrow.
Shop on Newbury Street
Visitors to Boston could make an entire vacation out of just strolling down Newbury Street. The famed street is chock-full of boutique shops, restaurants, galleries, and more, so you may have to visit more than once to ensure you’ve seen and done it all. Keep track of pop-up events on the street’s website here.
“Travel” the world at the Mapparium
The Mapparium may just be the best way to “see” the world without ever leaving Boston. The three-story site is actually the world’s largest walk-in globe. Guests can walk through the globe via a bridge dissecting its equator before leaving to check out “Our World: Mapping Progress,” an exhibit highlighting “humanity’s advancement since 1935.”
Root for the Red Sox at Fenway
There is arguably nothing more iconic in Boston than Fenway Park. If you visit during the regular baseball season, try to get tickets to a game. While inside, cheer for home runs over the Green Monster and get ready to sing “Sweet Caroline” at least once.
And cheer on the Celtics and the Bruins at TD Garden
Visitors to Boston can continue to root for the hometown team by getting tickets to a Celtics or Bruins game, depending on the season. Luckily, both teams play under one roof at TD Garden, which also hosts plenty of concerts, so check the calendar to see what shows or games you can take part in next.
Grab a good book at the Boston Public Library
When constructed in 1848, the Boston Public Library became the first large free public library in the nation. It remains a place where visitors can check out a good book or read in the public spaces. The library hosts both tours and regular events, so check its calendar and see what piques your interest.
Grab a bite at Boston Public Market
The Boston Public Market, a year-round indoor marketplace, hosts more than 30 New England-based food purveyors and artisans. It’s also a place you can feel good about visiting, as it’s a registered nonprofit with public impact goals to support “economic development, New England food system resilience, public health and education, affordability, and access.”
Drink a local brew at Samuel Adams Boston Brewery
Boston is home to a thriving craft beer scene, though the best-known spot for brews is popular brand Sam Adams. The company now sells its brews just about everywhere and even allows guests to come and taste its latest creations on a brewery tour. See all tour options here.
Devour dessert with a cannoli from Mike’s Pastry
There are plenty of excellent places to grab a cannoli in Boston’s Italian mecca, the North End. Walk into any bakery in the neighbourhood and you’ll surely be delighted. But if you need a little guidance, we suggest heading to Mike’s Pastry. It’s the largest bakery in the neighbourhood and wildly popular, but for good reason. Just be prepared to wait in line for your sweet treat.
Explore more city history on a walking tour of Chinatown
In the 1890s, Chinese immigrants to Boston founded their own community, now known as Chinatown. The neighbourhood has always played a significant role in the city’s history and is a place where visitors can come to both learn and dine to their heart’s delight. Hop on a Boston by Foot tour to ensure you see and dig in at all the right spots.
Watch a show at the Boston Ballet
The Boston Ballet has delighted audiences since the 1960s, with performances ranging from classics like George Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Mikko Nissinen’s Swan Lake, as well as modern pieces by William Forsythe, Jiří Kylián, Wayne McGregor, and more. See the calendar of events for upcoming performances.
Waddle around on a Boston Duck Tour
The Duck Tour may not have started in Boston, but the city has certainly perfected it. We’d be remiss not to mention this as a perfect Boston attraction for out-of-town visitors, as it goes to all the best city locations and even right onto the Charles River thanks to the amphibious vehicles. See all tour options here.
Shop and dine at Faneuil Hall Marketplace
Want to pack as much Boston as you can into a single place? Simply head to Faneuil Hall. The famed marketplace is home to more than 70 retailers across its 2,00,000-square-foot space, including food, apparel, and speciality gift shops. It’s a place to see and do it all, and it’s especially magical if you can visit during the holiday season.
Learn something new at the Museum of Science
Boston’s Museum of Science may be one of the most fun spots in the city. It’s filled with interactive exhibits that will surprise, delight, and leave you in awe. Head there to learn about the evolution of dinosaurs, see its latest exhibit on how vaccines work, and much more.
Stop by Trinity Church
If you love architecture, design, and history, Trinity Church should be high on your list of things to see in Boston. A National Historic Landmark, the church is also considered by the American Institute of Architects to be one of the country’s top 10 buildings thanks to its Richardsonian Romanesque design and stained-glass windows. The church is open for both worship and tours throughout the week.
Get medieval at Castle Island
Castle Island is a hidden gem that even locals tend to overlook. We’re not quite sure how considering there is an entire castle-like fort hiding in plain sight. The 22-acre (89030 square metres) “island” isn’t actually an island anymore after a small strip of land was added to connect it to shore, but that doesn’t make it any less special. Visitors can come to tour the fort, walk the grounds, or head to its trails for a bit of rollerblading or biking.
Pick up new art at the SoWa studios
Stroll through the SoWa studios and get a glimpse of the fantastic work from the city’s artistic community. Visitors can swing by the first Friday of every month for open gallery tours or make an appointment with an artist to get up close to the works before buying.