Where Boston to Debut Fresh New Look, Content

(©FMUA/Shutterstock)

Top Things to Do in Boston

By Leigh Harrington on 05/12/15, updated 05/25/17
Favorite

Wondering where to start exploring in one of America's oldest cities? Well, you're here and there's loads to do, so you'd better get moving in order to make the most of your time in Boston. The quickest way to score tickets to Boston's top destinations is with CityPASS, which offers admission to popular attractions at a reduced rate, rolled into one ticket price.

A couple of interest categories tend to trend: history, culture, sports. History, obviously, is a big one and typically centers on the Revolutionary War era and the preceding century. For this, check out the Freedom Trail and corresponding sights, neighborhoods like Downtown, the Financial District and the North End, and many excellent themed tours that we don't mention here. As far as culture is concerned, the Museum of Fine Arts sees more than a million visitors every year looking to check out its collection of 450,000 pieces of art. Over in Copley Square in the Back Bay neighborhood, Trinity Church and the Boston Public Library are themselves works of art—and you can visit them for free. Sports teams in this city always seem to make it (as champions of their respective leagues) or break it from season to season, but regardless fans keep showing up, especially to Fenway Park, the legendary ballfield.

While the Big Three are the biggest draws, they are certainly not the only draws. Boston's waterfront is always hot. Stroll the HarborWalk, board one of many cruises of the Inner Harbor and beyond, and otherwise get some sun. And if it's raining, well, there's plenty of museums and aquariums and inside things to do, too.

Museum of Fine Arts Boston

Penny and Jeff Vinik Gallery at Museum of Fine Arts Boston, which focuses on Americans abroad in the 19th century. (©Chuck Choi)

Attractions

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

The Museum of Fine Arts opened on July 4, 1876, marking the nation’s centennial with a respectable collection of 5,600 works of art. Flash forward 139 years and the local institution has become a titan on the international art scene, welcoming one million visitors every year.

Harvard Yard

(©Sunny Ripert/Flickr CC license)

Attractions

Harvard Yard

This is Harvard’s iconic main campus, the Yard, worthy of a stroll on a lazy afternoon when one wants a visual reminder of learning in action.

Fenway Park

(©MOTT)

Attractions

Fenway Park

Built in 1912, Fenway is still very much the diamond where Babe Ruth pitched for the Boston Red Sox and won the 1918 World Series title and where Carlton Fisk hit his game-winning home run over the Green Monster in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series.

New England Aquarium

Clownfish at the New England Aquarium (©S. Cheng)

Attractions

New England Aquarium

By far one of Boston’s most popular attractions, New England Aquarium dives under the sea for a peek at thousands of marine creatures from across the world. Its four-story, 200,000-gallon Giant Ocean Tank recreates a tropical Atlantic coral reef environment.

Faneuil Hall

(©MOTT)

Attractions

Faneuil Hall

Pronounced “Fan-u-el” Hall, this eminently historic landmark was christened the Cradle of Liberty by James Otis in 1761—a moniker that’s plausible as well as, perhaps, somewhat dramatic.

Museum of Science

Inside the Hall of Human Life at Boston's Museum of Science (©Michael Malyszko)

Attractions

Museum of Science

From a live, walk-through butterfly garden to special exhibitions on the Maya, the Museum of Science is a day-worthy event.

Old North Church

(©Tim Grafft/MOTT)

Attractions

Old North Church

Founded in the Anglican faith in 1723, Old North was loyal to the Crown leading up to the American Revolution, a fact that offers a special irony considering its steeple was used under Paul Revere’s orders to alert the rebel cause that British troops would be traveling to Concord “by sea.”

Newbury Street

(©MOTT/Flickr, Creative Commons)

Attractions

Newbury Street

Boston’s Back Bay is a destination for high fashion heavyweights. Newbury Street, which runs through the heart of the neighborhood, is home to Chanel, Loro Piana, Valentino, Dolce & Gabbana, and Cartier on its first block alone.

Faneuil Hall Marketplace

(©Paul Gelsobello)

Shopping

Faneuil Hall Marketplace

Boston’s historic Faneuil Hall Marketplace is well known and highly trafficked. It’s a shopping mecca featuring both brand-name and local boutiques, and its Quincy Market colonnade features loads of local vendors serving up quick and casual lunch.

The Freedom Trail

(Courtesy Freedom Trail Foundation)

Attractions

The Freedom Trail

History buffs can self-guide and visit favorites like the Granary Burying Ground, Faneuil Hall and Old North Church. Alternately, whimsical tours run daily and are themed to a variety of interests: the wide-reaching Walk into History Tour, the scandalicious Pirates & Patriots Tour, and the Revere-focused North End Tour.

Union Oyster House

(©Union Oyster House)

Restaurants

Union Oyster House

After opening in 1826, this became a local favorite for its fresh shellfish. Daniel Webster never missed a meal of brandy and oysters at the bar; later, John F. Kennedy patronized the spot and still has a booth reserved in the upstairs dining room. A stone’s throw from Faneuil Hall; try the oysters, of course!

Boston HarborWalk

The Boston HarborWalk along Fort Point Channel (©Kindra Clineff/MOTT)

Activities

Boston HarborWalk

When you want a moment of peace and serenity with light breezes, take a walk along the harbor's edge or sit on a bench for a while and enjoy the incredible views.

Boston Public Library

Inside the serene courtyard at the Boston Public Library (Courtesy Boston Public Library)

Attractions

Boston Public Library

Books aren’t the only reason to visit the Boston Public Library in Copley Square. Two mesmerizing features inside the 1895 beaux-art building include the third-floor Sargent Gallery, home to John Singer Sargent’s arresting mural cycle “Triumph of Religion,” and the serene, open-air courtyard.

North End

(©Justin Hamel)

Areas to Explore

North End

This is a neighborhood where, today, you still hear Italian spoken, where street festivals and parades honoring a pantheon of Roman Catholic saints occur every summer weekend, and where Boston foodies go to buy imported olive oil, cold cuts and fresh-made pasta. With its restaurants and cafes, it is also is a delectable place to dine.

Beacon Hill & West End

(©Justin Hamel)

Areas to Explore

Beacon Hill & West End

This neighborhood is highly recognized for its Federal-style brick row houses and quaint charm. Be sure to check out historic Acorn Street, a narrow, sloped alley laid with cobblestones, which leads up to Louisburg Square, home to privileged Bostonians like U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

Durgin-Park

(©Emilie Baltz)

Restaurants

Durgin-Park

Durgin-Park began as a small dining hall in Peter Faneuil’s market house, catering to sailors and merchants (at the time, Boston Harbor lapped at its doorstep) as far back as 1742. Today, it still serves over-sized cuts of prime rib and classic Yankee fare like Indian pudding.

Trinity Church

(©Michael Piazza)

Attractions

Trinity Church

Designed and built by H.H. Richardson, this Copley Square landmark is one of the very first examples of true American architecture, now known as Richardsonian Romanesque. Pop in for a visit anytime, but if you're Sunday morning is free, the 11:15 am service features angelic vocals by the church's acclaimed choir.

Emerald Necklace

(©Todd Van Hoosear/Flickr, Creative Commons)

Attractions

Emerald Necklace

This park boasts the same landscape architect as New York City's Central Park, but similarities end there. Boston's version stretches for seven whole miles, all the way out to Dorchester, which is practically the 'burbs! Walk it, run it, bike it, love it.

Map of Top Things to Do in Boston