There are a variety of interesting things to do in Boston, Massachusetts. While thousands of visitors fly in and out of Boston on a daily basis, most of us probably don’t think of Boston as a vacation spot. However, vacationing in Boston is becoming more and more popular as travelers realize how many things there are to do in this great city and its New England environs. Not only is it full of historical buildings and culture, but it is also home to many colleges, including MIT and Harvard, making the city a Mecca for fresh, innovative thinking.
Learn about Boston History
Recent Boston traveler Fred Palmerino insists that while you are in Boston, you must learn a bit about Boston history. One couldn’t even learn everything there is to know about Boston’s history in one trip, but here are a few places to start.
Paul Revere House
Paul Revere’s house is the oldest structure in downtown Boston. This is the very house that Paul and his family lived in when he made his famous messenger ride to warn the militia that the British were coming. In 1908, after the house served as a boarding house for immigrants, the house was restored and reopened for the public. Now it showcases what Boston domestic life was like in the 1700s.
If you are interested in learning about Boston’s vast history, take the Freedom Trail around the city. Follow the red line painted on sidewalks throughout the city to sixteen historically significant spots. The Freedom Trail spots include the Boston Common, the State House, Park Street Church, Granary burying ground, the King’s Chapel, the King’s Chapel burying ground, Benjamin Frankin’s statue and Boston Latin School, Old Corner Book Store, Old South Meeting House, Old State House, the site of the Boston Massacre, Faneuil Hall, Paul Revere’s House, The Old North Church, Copp’s Hill Burying Ground, USS Constitution Museum along with “Old Ironsides”, and Bunker Hill Monument. The tour is free if you walk unguided but guided walking tours are not expensive.
Boston Walking Tours
A variety of Boston walking tours are guided by several companies and foundations. Mr. Palmerino recommends that you take the Freedom Trail walking tour if you want to really understand all sixteen sites that you will visit. The tour takes about 90 minutes to complete if you go through the Freedom Trail Foundation, so make sure that you have on your walking shoes! In addition to the Freedom Trail, you can take other historical tours often with festively dressed tour guides. Boston also has themed tours such as ghost tours, witch tours (Check out Salem’s witch tour – home of the Salem Witch Trials), and the Harvard tour. Take one tour or multiple tours during your trip!
More Boston Attractions
Boston has more to offer than just history. Among the many Boston attractions, you can find amusement parks, museums, mazes, and much more, but don’t overlook nature’s natural attractions as well.
Because Boston’s Charles River runs through the middle of the city and the east side meets the ocean, Boston is full of beaches and harbors. While there are some beaches within the city limits, the best beaches are slightly outside the city in Gloucester and Ipswich. Inner city beaches can be a blast, but they tend to be very crowded, lack parking, and just are not as beautiful as some of the beaches farther outside the city. To really appreciate Boston’s beaches, you must travel to Gloucester, Ipswich and Rockport. Crane Beach in Ipswich as well as Singing Beach and Wingaersheek Beach in Gloucester are less than an hours drive from Boston. On Singing Beach, just glide your dry feet through the pure white sand and listen to the sounds. Doesn’t happen on any other beach. Boston beach frequenter Fred Palmerino advises, “Take insect repellent (especially to Ipswich) and your own food from home. At certain times of the year mosquitoes can become annoying without spray. Usually Boston beaches have food available for sale, but it can be expensive for the quality of food.”
Boston Fall Foliage
New England is beautiful in the Fall, and many visitors choose this time of the year to visit Boston because of the beautiful fall foliage. As you explore the city by foot or train in the crisp, fall weather, you will see an array of bright fall colors emanating from the leaves on trees all around you. Bring a camera to capture the many differing hues: red, orange, brown, yellow, burnt orange. If you want to be enveloped in the fall foliage, visit Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plain, which is only six miles from downtown Boston and has over 14,000 varieties of trees and shrubs.
Museum of Fine Arts
While there are many excellent museums in Boston, the Museum of Fine Arts is the most comprehensive and well known. The museum is so vast that you should definitely pick up a map upon entering to make sure that you see the whole museum or at least the parts that you choose. The Museum of Fine Arts is most known for its collections of European paintings, European and American decorative arts and furnishings, Egyptian sculpture, and Asian fine and decorative arts. However, it does have an astonishing collection from practically every time period and culture. In addition to art, the museum has gallery talks, restaurants, gift shops, and concerts. Check out their website to learn about upcoming exhibitions and concerts.
Jeff Corwin’s EcoZone
You may have seen Jeff Corwin on his Animal Planet show The Jeff Corwin Experience. Now you can visit the South Shore Natural Science Center’s EcoZone, which was built partly because of Jeff Corwin’s influence. Born and raised in Massachusetts, this nature-enthusiast thought that the Nature Center needed a section that represented the local ecosystems. The Nature Center’s EcoZone is fun for the whole family.
You may think that you’ve seen sports fanatics, but if you’ve never been to Boston during Red Sox season, then you haven’t seen anything according to Mr. Palmerino and his friend Eric Marinakis. The Sox play at Fenway Park – built in 1912, it is the oldest sports arena or stadium still in use in the United States. Boston is certainly known for its allegiance to the Red Sox, but Bostonians also stand firmly behind their football team, the New England Patriots, basketball team, the Boston Celtics, and hockey team, the Boston Bruins. While the more traditional sports do get a lot of attention in this New England city, the annual foot race – the Boston Marathon – is in a league of its own. The Boston Marathon is the world’s oldest marathon and each year more than 20,000 participants run through the streets of downtown Boston as much of the city cheers them on. Attending a sporting event or the Boston Marathon is a great way to see part of the modern culture of the city.
Boston is known for its exquisite seafood restaurants, which are strategically and conveniently placed throughout the city. Legal Seafoods is one of the most popular local chains. While this is a small chain, it certainly does not seem like a restaurant that would fall into the “chain” category. Its upscale atmosphere and tasty dishes make it a popular destination for tourists and locals alike. In addition to seafood, Boston’s North End, referred to as Little Italy sometimes, has an array of traditional Italian restaurants that will leave you with memories of the old country and true Italian hospitality. Fred Palmerino recommends that if you visit Boston in the summer that you venture to the North End in the afternoon to take part in one of the traditional Italian Saints Festivals and then stay for a fabulous dinner.
Boston Metro: The “T”
You can certainly drive in Boston, but it is also known as America’s walking city. Mr. Palmerino says, “If you really want to get to know the city, put on your walking shoes – you can get almost anywhere in Boston using the Boston Metro and some light walking.” Boston’s Metro, fondly called the “T” by locals, is not always the most timely train system, but it has worked since 1897, making it America’s first subway system. But don’t worry – the “T” has undergone many renovations since the 19th century. The convenient aspect to the Boston Metro is that their hubs are connected to above ground train hubs that bring commuters into Boston from as far away as Rhode Island and New Hampshire.
When it comes to Boston accommodations, there is something to fit everyone’s budget. Whether you choose a high-end, chic hotel or a more middle-of-the-road lodging, just make sure that you stay in a hotel within the city limit so that you can take advantage of the public transit system and walk around the city. If you are on a very tight budget, you may consider staying in a Boston hostel, there are a handful scattered around the city and they offer very affordable rates if you are willing to share a room with other travelers. Some even offer affordable private rooms.