Boston is the capital of and largest city in Massachusetts and one of the oldest in the United States. Its rich colonial history and architecture, as well as its reputation as a center of education and culture, make it a popular tourist destination. There are many things to see and do in Boston, including visiting historic sites, exploring the city’s neighborhoods, and attending cultural events.
My trip here last summer was amazing as I got to explore a lot of the things that the city has to offer. And in this post, I’m sharing my top 20 recommendations for the best things to see and do in Boston!
1. Explore Fenway Park
Fenway is the oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball, and many fans consider it the best attraction to visit Boston. It is home to the Boston Red Sox, one of the most storied franchises in baseball history.
A visit to Fenway Park is a must for any baseball fan and a great experience even if you’re not that into sports. The 37,305-seat stadium was built in 1912 and renovated several times over the years while retaining its historic character.
The Fenway Park Tour takes you through the press box, luxury suites, and other areas not accessible during game days. The Behind the Scenes Tour goes even further, taking you into the batting cages, locker rooms, and onto the field itself.
On game days, the energy in Fenway is electric, and the experience of watching a game here is like no other. Even if you’re not a baseball fan, a tour of this historic ballpark is a must-do in Boston.
2. Faneuil Hall Marketplace
If you’re looking for the best things to do in Boston that are geared towards travelers of all ages, a visit to Faneuil Hall Marketplace is a must. This building, which dates back to 1742, served as a marketplace and meeting hall for many years. Today, it is one of Boston’s most popular tourist attractions.
The ground floor of the hall is home to a variety of shops and stalls selling everything from souvenirs to locally made arts and crafts. The second floor has a meeting hall that was once used by the Sons of Liberty and Continental Congress. Today, it is a popular event venue.
On the building’s west side is Quincy Market, a large food court with more than 30 vendors selling everything from seafood to desserts. There are also several sit-down restaurants in the area. Quincy Market is adjacent to Faneuil Hall Marketplace, consisting of three large brick buildings housing over 100 shops and restaurants.
3. Stroll Through Boston Common and Public Garden
The 50-acre Boston Common, established in 1634, is the nation’s oldest park and the starting point for the Freedom Trail. It’s also the central gathering place for all kinds of events and activities, from concerts and farmers’ markets to First Night celebrations on New Year’s Eve. In winter, go ice skating on the Frog Pond.
The adjacent 24-acre Public Garden, with its lagoon and Swan Boats, is one of America’s loveliest urban parks, especially in spring when the tulips are in bloom. Stroll along the paths, relax on a bench, or take a Swan Boat ride around the lagoon.
4. Explore Boston’s Back Bay
The historic Back Bay neighborhood is one of Boston’s most fashionable and affluent areas. It is home to some of the city’s best shopping, dining, and architectural sites. And for this reason, exploring this neighborhood is one of the best things to do in Boston.
Start your exploration at Copley Square, where you’ll find a number of iconic Boston landmarks, including the Trinity Church and the John Hancock Tower. From here, wander down Newbury Street, which is lined with high-end boutiques, cafes, and galleries.
If you’re looking for some great views, take a stroll down Commonwealth Avenue, which is lined with stately brownstone homes. At the end of the avenue is the Public Garden, a beautiful park perfect for a leisurely stroll.
5. Visit Beacon Hill
Beacon Hill is one of the most desirable and expensive residential neighborhoods in Boston, home to many influential politicians and businesspeople. The few commercial establishments are located along Charles Street, Beacon Hill’s main thoroughfare.
When exploring the neighborhood, stroll down gas-lit Acorn Street, said to be one of the most famous places in Boston. Or take a Beacon Hill walking tour to see historic sites, well-preserved architecture, and beautiful gardens. Highlights include the Massachusetts State House, designed by Charles Bulfinch and completed in 1798, and the 19th-century African Meeting House, the first African-American church in New England.
Other interesting things to see in Beacon Hill include the Museum of African American History, Abel Smith School, and the Beacon Hill Friends House.
6. Walking Tour at Freedom Trail
The Freedom Trail is a 2.5-mile walking route that includes 16 historically significant sites related to the American Revolution and early colonial history. This is definitely one of the best Boston sightseeing trails, especially for history buffs. The trail is marked by a red line painted on the sidewalks and takes about three hours to complete at a leisurely pace.
Start your journey at Boston Common and follow the red line that is painted on the sidewalk or embedded in bricks along the route. Some of the stops along the way include the Old State House, Faneuil Hall, the Old North Church, and the USS Constitution Museum.
There are a number of tour companies that offer guided tours of the Freedom Trail, which is a great option if you want to learn more about the history of the sites along the route. However, the trail is easily navigable on your own, and there are a number of interactive apps and audio tours that you can download to guide you along the way
7. Visit the Museum of Science
The Museum of Science is one of the world’s largest science museums and a leading authority on the interactive exhibition of science. With over 700 interactive exhibits, live presentations, and shows, the museum engages visitors of all ages in hands-on discovery.
Highlights include the Butterfly Garden, where you can walk among free-flying tropical butterflies; An Aquarium, home to penguins, sharks, seals, and thousands of fish; the Charles Hayden Planetarium, one of the most technologically advanced planetariums in the world; The Mugar Omni Theater, a state-of-the-art IMAX Dome film theater; among many others.
Guided tours are available for an additional fee and cover a variety of topics, such as the museum’s architecture, exhibits, and collections. The Museum of Science also offers a number of special programs and events throughout the year. Therefore, be sure to include a visit here in your list of things to do in Boston.
8. Take a tour of Harvard Square and Harvard Art Museums
You’ve probably heard of Harvard University, one of the most prestigious universities in the world. Established in 1636, it is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Harvard University’s campus is located in Cambridge, across the Charles River from Boston.
To tour the campus, you’ll need to join one of the daily tours or take a self-guided tour. The Harvard Visitor Center is located in the historic Harvard Yard and offers a number of services for visitors, including information about tours and events happening on campus.
Harvard Square is the commercial and cultural center of Cambridge and is a great place to explore even if you’re not interested in touring the university. The square is home to a number of shops and restaurants.
The Harvard Art Museums are also worth a visit and are located on campus. The museums boast a collection of paintings, sculptures, photographs, and one of the largest collections of Asian art in the United States.
9. Take a Duck Tour
A Boston Duck Tour is one of the most popular things to do in Boston with kids. These “Duck Boats” are WWII-style amphibious landing vehicles that have been renovated and are now used to give guided tours of the city. The tour lasts about 80 minutes with a guide who will entertain you with jokes and interesting facts about Boston along the way.
The tour starts off in the Museum of Science parking lot, where you will board the Duck Boat. The first part of the tour takes you through the city streets, where you will see iconic landmarks such as the State House, Boston Common, the Public Garden, and Quincy Market. The tour then takes you for a spin on the Charles River, where you will get great views of the skyline and learn about the city’s history.
During the summer months, the Duck Tours sell out quickly, so it is advisable to book your tickets in advance. You can also take a Duck Tour at night for a different perspective of the city.
10. Tour the USS Constitution Museum
No visit to Boston is complete without a stop at Old Ironsides, the legendary warship that earned its nickname by repelling enemy fire during the War of 1812. The ship is docked at Charlestown Navy Yard, and you can tour (strongly recommended) or just explore on your own.
The adjacent museum offers an excellent introduction to the history of the Constitution and the men who fought for it. Through hands-on exhibits, short films, and live reenactments, you can learn about the science of shipbuilding, sea battles fought by “Old Ironsides,” and what life was like for sailors in the early 19th century.
All in all, the USS Constitution Museum is one of the top attractions in Boston for history buffs and maritime enthusiasts. Allocate at least an hour to explore, and be sure to stop by the on-site gift shop for some unique maritime-themed souvenirs.
11. Stroll through Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway
This is a relatively new addition to Boston’s array of things to do, having opened in 2008. The Greenway is a 1.5-mile park that winds its way through the city, connecting a number of Boston’s most popular attractions.
The North End Parks feature charming brick pathways lined with flowers, trees, and benches. This is a great place to take a break from sightseeing and people-watching. The Faneuil Hall Market is perfect for shoppers, with a variety of stores and kiosks selling everything from souvenirs to ice cream. There are also a number of food trucks and carts selling a variety of cuisines, making it a great place to grab a bite to eat.
Take a leisurely stroll through the Greenway and enjoy the sights and sounds of this vibrant city. This is truly one of the best things to do in Boston if you want to get a feel for the city’s culture and atmosphere.
12. Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum
The Boston Tea Party was a significant event in American history that occurred on December 16, 1773. In protest of the British Parliament’s tax on tea, a group of American colonists boarded three ships docked in the Boston harbor and dumped 342 crates of tea into the water.
The Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum is located on the historic Congress Street Bridge in Boston. The museum features two replica ships of the ones that were involved in the Boston Tea Party, an immersive Revolutionary-era experience, and a multimedia presentation.
Costumed guides are on hand to answer any questions and provide insights into what life was like during the American Revolution. And in addition to the museum, there is also a tea room where you can enjoy a cup of tea and some light snacks.
13. The New England Aquarium
The New England Aquarium’s Giant Ocean Tank is one of Boston’s most iconic attractions. This 200,000-gallon cylindrical tank is home to more than 20,000 marine animals, including sea turtles, stingrays, eels, barracuda, and sharks.
You can view the tank from multiple levels, including a floor-to-ceiling window that provides an ocean’s-eye view of the activity. The 4-level Caribbean Coral Reef, one of the world’s largest indoor coral reef displays, is also a popular attraction in this aquarium. And don’t miss the harbor seal exhibit, where you can watch the seals frolic and feed. This exhibit is located just outside the main building.
In addition to the main tanks and exhibits, the New England Aquarium is also home to IMAX Theater. The large-format film screenings are popular with families and provide an immersive experience.
14. Get a Taste of Boston’s Chinatown
Another one of the best things to do in Boston is to explore its vibrant Chinatown. This is the largest Chinatown in New England and one of the oldest in the country. It is also one of the most compact, which makes it easy to explore on foot.
This vibrant neighborhood is home to a wide array of Chinese restaurants, bakeries, markets, and temples. Be sure to try some of the traditional dim sum dishes, such as steamed dumplings and rice noodle rolls. This is also a great place to do some souvenir shopping. You’ll find everything from tea sets and chopsticks to silk garments and jade jewelry.
To really get a feel for the neighborhood, join a walking tour led by a local guide. These tours typically last about two hours and provide a great introduction to the history and culture of Chinatown.
15. Explore the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston
The Museum of Fine Arts Boston is one of the largest museums in the United States and a top attraction in Boston. The museum’s collection includes more than 450,000 works of art spanning 5,000 years of history.
Highlights of the collection include Egyptian artifacts, Asian art, European paintings, and American art from the colonial era to the present day. All the galleries are beautifully displayed, and the museum does a great job of providing context for the art through signage and audio tours.
The museum is also home to a number of special exhibitions that rotate throughout the year. These exhibitions are usually quite popular, so it’s a good idea to buy tickets in advance if you’re interested in seeing one.
16. Harvard Museums and the Glass Flowers
The Harvard Museums of Science and Culture are a group of four museums affiliated with Harvard University. These museums include the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography, the Botanical Museum, the Museum of Comparative Zoology, and the Mineralogical Museum.
The Peabody Museum tells the story of human cultural and natural history. The botanical museum is home to the world-famous Glass Flowers collection, which consists of over 4,000 meticulously crafted glass replicas of flowers. The museum of comparative zoology is one of the oldest natural history museums in the world and houses thousands of fossils. And the mineralogical museum contains the world’s largest collection of meteorites.
These museums are all worth a visit, but if you can only see one, make it the botanical museum to see the glass flowers. Guided tours of the glass flowers are offered daily, or you can download an audio tour from the museum’s website.
17. Take a Cruise on Boston Harbor
Boston Harbor is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the city. And taking a cruise is a great way to see the harbor and get some great views of the skyline. There are a number of different cruises to choose from, ranging from leisurely sightseeing tours to more adrenaline-pumping whale-watching excursions.
If you’re not interested in taking a cruise, you can also hop on a water taxi or take a ferry to one of the harbor islands. These islands are all part of the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area and are a great place to relax, hike, and picnic. No matter how you choose to explore it, a visit here is definitely one of the best things to do in Boston.
18. Enjoying the views from Skywalk Observatory
Why not get a bird’s eye view of this beautiful city by visiting the Skywalk Observatory? This observatory is located on the 50th floor of the Prudential Center, Boston’s second-tallest building. The Skywalk Observatory offers 360-degree views of the city and beyond, and on a clear day, you can see up to 100 miles away.
There are a number of ways to enjoy the views from the observatory. You can simply take in the panoramic views from the observation deck, or you can join one of the guided tours that are offered. You can also take part in a number of interactive exhibits that focus on the city’s history, architecture, and culture.
No matter how you choose to explore the Skywalk Observatory, you’re sure to be impressed by the stunning views of Boston and beyond. This is a must-see attraction in Boston you must visit.
19. Enrich Your Mind at the Boston Public Library
Founded in 1848, the Boston Public Library is the third largest public library in the country and the first free municipal library in the United States. The building itself is an architectural masterpiece with a grand central atrium and stunning murals and sculptures.
Highlights of the library’s collections include murals by John Singer Sargent, a first edition of Charlotte’s Web, and other rare books and manuscripts. Also worth checking are the three sets of bronze doors designed by Daniel Chester French, the sculptor of the Lincoln Memorial. The library offers a number of programs and events throughout the year, including talks by authors, concerts, films, and exhibits.
Overall, the Boston Public Library is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Boston and is definitely worth a visit. Even if you’re not a bookworm, the beautiful building and incredible collections are sure to impress.
20. Boston Pops and Boston Symphony Orchestra
Are you a fan of classical music? Why not catch a performance by the Boston Pops or the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Symphony Hall? These world-renowned orchestras offer a wide range of classical and pop concerts throughout the year.
Opened in 1900, Symphony Hall is one of the best places to hear live music in Boston. It is widely considered to be one of the finest concert halls in the world. Even if you’re not a fan of classical music, a visit to Symphony Hall is sure to be a memorable experience.
If you’re visiting Boston in the summer, be sure to catch a performance of the Boston Pops Orchestra at the Hatch Shell on the Charles River Esplanade every Fourth of July. The concert is followed by a spectacular fireworks display over the river.
The city of Boston is full of historical landmarks, world-renowned museums, and unique neighborhoods that are definitely worth exploring. These are just a few of the great attractions and things to do in Boston which should definitely be on your list. Regardless of your interests, you’re sure to have a great time in this exciting city.