Anyone who is fascinated by or interested in the history of America must-visit Boston, Massachusetts, one of the oldest cities in the USA and known as the Birthplace of the American Revolution. It is also a university town with more than 150,000 students attending some 49 universities and colleges in the Boston Greater Metropolitan Area, making Boston a vibrant, energetic city.
But Boston is not all about history and learning, it is a beautiful city offering visitors lots of public parks and playgrounds, scenic walkways, quaint neighborhoods, and island beaches.
For visitors, one of the best things about Boston is the fact that many of its major attractions are relatively close to the downtown area and can be reached by foot following the Freedom Trail.
1. Freedom Trail
Undoubtedly the top attraction in Boston is the fabulous red brick walkway called The Freedom Trail. The comfortable 2.5-mile-long walk takes you through the city’s historic neighborhoods and leads you to 16 of Boston’s most famous historic attractions.
These include a collection of parks, museums, meeting houses, and churches from which you will get insight into the story of the American Revolution – the ideal way to start your exploration of the historic city. Some of the attractions you will see along the way are Massachusetts State House, the Capitol building, the Old North Church, Paul Revere’s House, the Granary Burying Ground where Paul Revere was buried, and the Old State House, site of the Boston Massacre.
It is suggested that you start your tour at Boston Common, the oldest public park in the USA, established in 1634. At the Boston Common Visitor Information Center, you can get a map and walker’s guide to plan your tour. For a few dollars, you can get the Self-Guided Tour, an audio tour that you download on your phone. It gives you directions and a narrated story of each point of interest.
2. Faneuil Hall And Marketplace
Rated as one of the top attractions in Boston, Faneuil Hall, and Marketplace near the waterfront and Government Centre is absolutely worth a visit. The name refers to Faneuil Hall and three markets around a quaint cobblestone promenade that attracts locals and visitors alike because of everything it has to offer. It is the place to go for its busy nightlife, shopping, eating, drinking and to watch jugglers, magicians, and musicians who entertain the guests.
Faneuil Hall played an important role during the American Revolution as it served as a meeting place for Patriots prior to the revolution to discuss their grievances. Between 1764 and 1775 meetings regarding the Stamp Act, the Boston Massacre, the so-called tea crisis, and many others were held at the Hall.
It is also referred to as the Cradle of Liberty as it is the site where well-known historical figures gave speeches to encourage Massachusetts independence from Great Britain. It was built in 1743 by Peter Faneuil, a wealthy merchant, with funds partially derived from the slave trade. It was his gift to the city and was meant to be a meeting- and marketplace, which it still is today.
3. Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum
History comes alive at this unusual museum as you become part of the action in the re-enactment of the one major event that led to the American Revolution: the Boston Tea Party.
You join the party at The Meeting House where you become part of a town meeting and get assigned a role in the experience that will take you on a journey back in time. You even get to throw tea in the sea where the event took place more than 240 years ago.
The museum features historic artifacts, replicas of two sailing vessels from the 18th century, interactive exhibits and documentaries. Two of the tea chests from the original event also form part of its permanent collection. You will find the museum on the Congress Street Bridge in Boston.
4. Old North Church
One of the best stops on the Freedom Trail is Old North Church because of the huge role it played in Boston’s history. It was to this church that Paul Revere went on his famous night ride to warn the people of the arrival of British troops in April 1775. Soldiers in Charlestown, across the Charles River, had been told to look out for signal lanterns that would indicate movement by the British army, and that is what he did on his ride: he stopped at the church and told patriots to hang two lanterns in the steeple as a warning that the Brits were on their way.
The warning by the two lanterns in the steeple, ordered by Paul Revere, was the fateful event that led to the American Revolution.
The church, which was built in 1723, is a National Historic Landmark and the oldest standing church building in Boston. Old North Church is in Salem Street near the Boston Inner Harbor.
5. Museum Of Fine Arts
Boston boasts more than 60 museums, of which the Museum Of Fine Arts is one of the largest in the city. Its extensive collection of art and artifacts include a huge collection of Korean art, ancient Egyptian treasures, paintings by French Impressionist and post-impressionist artists like Renoir and Van Gogh and Dutch old masters and the only permanent exhibition space in the USA for ancient coins.
It has a Claude Monet gallery in the European Wing and an impressive Arts of Islamic Cultures Gallery. Its latest addition is the Art of the Americas Wing that features artwork from both North, South and Central America. The museum is open every day of the week and offers free gallery tours, talks, and activities.
6. Fenway Park Tour
The home of the Boston Red Sox baseball team since 1912, Fenway Park, is the oldest baseball park in Major League history. It is relatively small and can seat only 40,000 spectators, but the beloved stadium is still in use continuously and worth a visit.
The park was chosen as the venue to host political and religious campaigns through the years, hockey and soccer games were played there and it hosted the World Series ten times. A tour of Fenway Park will take you to the stadium, press room, visitors’ clubhouse and seats above the 37-foot high green wall on the left-field, nicknamed Green Monster.
The seats are popular because they are close to the home plate. A visit to the park is a fun and entertaining outing whether you’re a sports fan or not.
7. John F Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum
Learn more about one of America’s most beloved presidents who was tragically assassinated at 46-years of age, when you pay a visit to the John F Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.
The spot where the museum was built after his death was chosen by President Kennedy himself, together with the architect who later designed the president’s tomb in Arlington, on a visit to Boston a few years before his death. His vision was to build a library and museum to preserve both personal and official effects to reflect “a complete record of a Presidential era”.
During your visit to the museum, you will explore galleries and exhibits that cover his life, including the period he served as president, his family, and political events during his time in office up to his death on November 22, 1963.
Take the free Highlights Tour to see interesting personal items, a piece of the Berlin Wall and to listen to footage from the first televised debate. President Kennedy was the first president to speak directly to the American people on air. The beautiful building which houses the Museum is in Columbia Point next to the University of Massachusetts at Boston, in the Dorchester neighborhood.
8. Boston Common
A very attractive feature, inherently part of Boston, is its Emerald Necklace, a series of parks and greenways that stretch through various neighborhoods, of which Boston Common forms part.
The 50-acre park is the oldest in the USA and used to be a cow pasture. The British used it as a camp before the American Revolutionary War and it was a site where many historic events like public executions and public gatherings took place.
Today it forms the starting point of the Freedom Trail with all its attractions and is absolutely worth a visit. Do not miss the Frog Pond, Boston Common’s most popular feature with a reflecting pool and carousel where kids can play in summer and that turns into a skating rink in winter. Boston Common is surrounded by Boston’s most popular streets including Beacon and Charles Street.
9. Boston Harborwalk
Get some exercise and fresh air and take the Harborwalk, a delightful waterfront trail that leads you past piers, nine beaches, and follows miles of shoreline.
The public walkway called Boston Harborwalk is 43-miles long and stretches through eight neighborhoods. Along your way, you will discover a variety of the city’s attractions and museums, you can rent a kayak to go paddling for views of the city from the water or take a seat and get something to eat and drink at one of the many restaurants.
It is a great way to experience aspects of Boston’s culture and history and features lots of sculptures and memorials along the way. If walking is not your thing or the path gets too long, take one of the water taxis that go to all the major points of interest along the waterfront.
10. USS Constitution
One of the great attractions you will find along the Harborwalk is the USS Constitution, berthed at Pier 1 of the former Charlestown Navy Yard. The vintage ship with her three masts and the wooden hull is famous for having captured numerous merchant ships and defeated five British warships during the War of 1812.
The USS Constitution was launched in 1797 and is the world’s oldest commissioned naval vessel that still floats. The ship was named after the Constitution of the United States by President George Washington but got the nickname Old Ironsides because not even cannonballs could penetrate her thick, durable hull.
As a fully commissioned Navy ship, she has a crew of 60 officers and sailors on active duty who keep the ship open and take visitors on formal tours of the ship.
11. Beacon Hill And Cheers
Another must-visit attraction in the city is the quaint, picturesque and historic neighborhood of Beacon Hill. Take a walk up its steeped streets to admire the beautiful Victorian brick row houses and antique lanterns that line the streets. While you are there, you should pop in and have a beer at the original Cheers, the Boston pub that was the inspiration for the setting of the hit NBC sitcom.
The pub was founded in 1969, then known as the Bull & Finch Pub, and is known as the best neighborhood bar in Boston. To this day it is still an intimate neighborhood bar that attracts locals and visitors alike. Like most of the other major attractions in Boston, Beacon Hill also forms part of the Freedom Trail.
12. Boston Public Garden
You must visit the Boston Public Garden for a cruise on the lake in a Swan Boat. The unique foot-peddled boats have been in operation in the park since 1877, and still, take visitors cruising from early April to late September every year. It is “the” thing to do in the Boston Public Garden.
It was America’s first public botanical garden and has a strong Victorian touch as it was designed in the style of an English garden and is surrounded by a Victorian cast-iron fence.
The Boston Parks and Recreation Department grows all the plants that are used in the park in their greenhouses. It cultivates over 80 species of plants in Boston Public Garden for future use in the park and lots of other locations around the city.
13. Boston Brewery Tours
Boston is known as a beer-drinking town, and while you are there you should pay a visit to a pub or two for a glass of liquid gold, or even better, take one of the brewery or pub-crawling tours to see what it is all about. In fact, ask Bostonians and they will tell you that if you think about Boston, you think about beer.
It is after all in Boston that the very first tavern in America was opened by Samuel Cole in 1634, making beer drinking also part of the city’s rich history. A tavern was called the “ordinary” at the time and played a huge part in the social and political lives of its citizens.
Today the Boston Beer Company that produces the well-known Samuel Adams Boston Lager is second on the list of the top 50 breweries in the United States. You can either do pub-crawling on your own or take one of many tours offered by different operators in the city to learn more about its beer-drinking history.
14. Back Bay
Do yourself a favor and visit the Back Bay neighborhood, home of the Boston Public Garden and now a trendy, fashionable area and major shopping and dining destination. The neighborhood was called Back Bay as it was built on reclaimed land that was once part of the Charles River Estuary.
Stroll down the picturesque streets to view the rows of Victorian brownstone mansions, architecturally significant buildings like the Old South Church, cultural institutions like the Boston Public Library and Boston’s tallest skyscraper, John Hancock Tower. The neighborhood’s central, well-connected location makes it the ideal place to stay when you visit the city.
15. Boston Harbor Islands
Take a break from the city and visit the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area which is made up of 34 islands and peninsulas. You can either take a tour of the islands or jump on a ferry to explore everything the islands have to offer on your own.
On some of the islands, you can visit historic attractions like the Civil War Fort Warren on Georges Island, or just visit the islands for a fun day on the beach or to go for a hike on one of many safe hiking trails.
The recreation area is minutes away from Boston’s city center, and well worth the time.
Before Visiting Boston
- Know that Boston is an old, historical city and that you will do plenty of walking.
- Boston’s public transportation system is known as the “T” and offers subway, bus, boat, and trolley car services everywhere in the Greater Boston area. To ride the T you must purchase a Charlie Ticket or T-pass.
- The best time to visit Boston is in the Fall.