Take a walk on the nostalgic cobbled stone, through a narrow alley to get an inside glimpse at our nation’s past. Once a place Puritans set up their model society patriots protested and a place where literature gathered some of its first verses. Most notably, Boston remains world renowned for its world class colleges and universities. Discover Boston Harbor, where 34 islands provide a scenic backdrop for boaters. Visit Copley Square to see Boston’s finest architecture, which has been given the nickname “Athens of America.” Stroll from the Boston Common to The Bunker Hill monument to see where Paul Revere once fought. Stop by Fenway park to see the Red Sox play at MLB’s oldest ballpark, where they’ve played since 1912. Or take a ride on a duck, a reconditioned amphibious World War II landing craft. Take in the old-world flavor of Boston’s Little Italy. Billed as “America’s walking city,” walking remains Boston’s best form of transportation.
Consider investing in a Boston CityPASS or a Go Boston Card for a significant savings on admission charge, as well as the opportunity to skip the ticket lines. Boston is a 4 hour drive from NYC (215 miles), 5½ hours from Philadelphia (300 miles) and 8 hours to Washington, DC (440 miles).
Top 11 Attractions
1. Boston’s Freedom Trail – Follow this red brick rode through downtown Boston leading to 16 historical sites. Put on your walking shoes for the 2.5 mile walk from Boston Common to the Bunker Hill Monument. Educational ground markers are conveniently placed along the way. Most of the sites are free.
2. Faneuil Hall Marketplace (aka Quincy Market) – This market receives 20 million visitors annually, making it the 4th most visited attraction in the country. This five-building “festival market” is unique to the city, offering 17 restaurants and pubs, over 40 eateries, shops, a wide variety of street performers, and so much more. The hall that proceeded the marketplace was given to the city of Boston in 1742 by Peter Faneuil. A number of important revolutionaries and abolitionists have given speeches here, giving it the nickname “Cradle of Liberty”.
3. Boston Children’s Museum – 2013 marked the 100th anniversary of this award-winning museum, which we rank as the #2 best children’s museum in the nation on our list of the 10 Best Children’s Museums In America. Featuring 18 permanent exhibits, a favorite is the Construction Zone, which is based on Boston’s Big Dig, the largest urban infrastructure project in US history. This exhibit allows children to jackhammer, walk on “high beam” girders, and ride in real Bobcat. It also stands out for being one of the few museums to offer many activities for toddlers and preschoolers, featuring attractions like a rock-climbing wall that’s been designed just for 3- to 5-year-olds. Kids will especially love the fully functional 100-yeard old Japanese house, with a 3-story climbing sculpture, as well as the Global Gallery, which temporarily imports exhibits from the finest museums around the world.
4. Boston Public Garden – Since its opening in 1837, America’s oldest botanical garden has been a delight to visitors of all ages. An irregularly shaped pound is the central feature of the garden, made where it appears to much larger than 4 acres. Admire the parks statuary or set sail on a foot-pedal-powered swan boat (only $2.75).
5. Harvard Museums – Have you ever wanted to visit one of the worlds most prestigious universities? The Harvard Museum of Natural History houses the university’s collection of artifacts and items that relate to the natural world. You never know what will strike your interest here; see Native American artifacts, huge dinosaur skeletons, the world’s largest turtle shell, the exquisite display of ancient Glass Flowers, and the Mineralogical Collections. Three art museums are also on-site: The Arthur M. Sackler Museum, the Fogg Museum (scheduled to reopen in 2013), and the Busch-Reisinger Museum (scheduled to reopen in 2013).
6. New England Aquarium – home to over 30,000 aquatic species, with 750 species, including the ever popular collection of harbor seals and penguins. The four-story, 200,000-gallon Giant Ocean Tank is the focal point of this aquarium. Come early because crowds can be bad, in the summer especially. Other exhibits include Amazing Jellies, the Edge of the Sea (touch sea stars and hermit crabs at this hands on exhibit) and The Medical Center, which is a working veterinary hospital. Don’t miss seeing North America’s largest collection of northern fur seals, located behind the main building. Catch a show on a 85-foot-by-65-foot screen at the nearby Simons IMAX Theatre. It’s featured on our list of the 25 Best Aquariums In America. Come in the morning, summer crowds are worse in the afternoon. Adult admission is $22.95 and child admission is $15.95.
7. Literary Landmarks Tour – In addition to holding some of America’s politically significant history, Boston has also been home to some of our finest authors. Explore the homes and hangouts of the magnificent authors Henry James, Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. This tour will reveal some of the inspiration behind the works of these great writers, which have vastly influenced our nation’s culture. Tours are offered May-October. Tickets are $12 for adults and $8 for children.
8. Boston Light – Visit the oldest lighthouse site in the United States at the Boston Light, located on Little Brewster Island off of the harbor. The current lighthouse was reconstructed in 1783 and is the second oldest functioning lighthouse in America. Climb up into the lighthouse and see the oldest lens in use. Take a ferry out to the island, bring a lunch, and take in the view of Boston from the lighthouse.
9. Museum of Bad Art – Head right outside of Boston to Somerville to discover MOBA, the world’s only museum dedicated to the collection, preservation, exhibition and celebration of bad art in all of its forms. It all started in the basement of a private home and has since grown to nearly 600 pieces of the best of the worst art around. This collection of art that is “too bad to be ignored” now has an online presence with a virtual gallery and 3 permanent locations at the Dedham Community Theater, the 1927 historic Somerville Theatre and Brookline Access Television. We rank it at #2 on our list of the 27 Coolest Museums In America. Admission is free, though donations are accepted.
10. Museum of Fine Arts – Spend as much time as you can walking through this magnificent museum. Noted as the oldest museum in Boston, and one of the largest in the United States, it contains collections from all over the world and features prominent works from Vincent van Gogh, Monet, and early American painters. Tickets for adults are $25 and children are free after 3 pm, and on weekends ($10 during other times).
11. Samuel Adams Brewery – It started in 1984, and now holds hour long tours that help guests learn more about the brewing process. The tour guides keep it informative and entertaining, and even better—free beer! Samples allow you to taste the brews for free, and you even get to keep the glass. We rank it as #1 on our list of the Top 10 Chocolate & Beer Tours In America. Free tours run Monday to Saturday, though a suggested donation of $2 for a local charity is asked at the end. Samuel Adams Brewery is located on 30 Germania Street in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood in Boston. It’s open Monday through Thursday and Saturday from 10 am to 3 pm and Friday from 10 am to 5:30 pm.
The Union Oyster House – This place is considered to be the oldest restaurant in Boston and the oldest restaurant in continuous service in the USA (though this is debatable), which opened in 1826 and was once a formal dress store. In 1771 a printer actually used the second floor to publish a newspaper called the Massachusetts Spy. The toothpick is said to have practically originated from here and today it is registered as a National Historic Landmark. The Kennedy family considers this among their favorite restaurants, with JFK often seen upstairs in a booth they named in his honor called “The Kennedy Booth.”
Menton – Visit Boston’s grand destination for French-Italian cuisine. It was named by both Bon Appétit and Esquire magazines as a best new restaurants in 2010, and it was nominated as a James Beard Foundation Awards 2011 finalist for Best New Restaurant. Menton received the Best Newcomer, Best French, and Best Service distinctions in the Zagat Boston Restaurant Guide 2011-2012 and is Boston’s only Relais & Châteaux, AAA Five-Diamond, and Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star property. The four-course prixe fixe runs at $95, with the likes of Monkfish, Colorado Lamb or East Coast Halibut.
Flour Bakery – You can’t visit Massachusetts without having the official state dessert, Boston Cream Pie–which really isn’t a pie at all. It traditionally features layers of sponge cake and vanilla custard, all covered in chocolate ganache, but at Flour Bakery in Boston’s South End, they’ve updated the classic by brushing each cake layer with robust coffee syrup before adding an ethereal pastry cream. They have been featured in MSNBC, National Geographic, and on the Today show.
Starbucks – The Starbucks at 63 Court St. (next to City Hall) isn’t just any old run of the mill Starbucks. Oh no. It is home to the largest tea kettle in the world. This shiny gold teapot hangs above the door with smoke often “boiling” out into the great blue Bostonian skies. It was cast in 1873 and is said to hold 8 boys and one full grown man, at a total of 277 gallons.
Empire Garden Restaurant – It is also known as Emperor’s Garden. This extravagant Chinese restaurant is actually housed in a grand old theater, offering a surprising streak of opulence at affordable prices. It’s located in Chinatown and did I mention that they even have chicken foot on the menu?! The only downsides are the ugly exterior with confusing signage, servers who may not speak English so well and and their lackluster, menu-lacking, ad-covered website. Ignore it all and give this place a try for yourself!
Cheers Pub – The beloved tv series that ran for 11 seasons was designed after a historic bar on Beacon St. Tourists can stop in to the place “where everybody knows your name” for a drink and a burger featuring the iconic Cheers logo.
The Cheesecake Factory – Since first opening in Beverly Hills in 1978, these restaurants have become well known for their fun atmosphere, huge portions and more than 200 menu selections to choose from. They offer 50 cheesecakes and specialty desserts, with some that are only offered seasonally. These include: Key lime cheesecake, Chocolate Chip Cookie – Dough cheesecake, pumpkin cheesecake (available from October – holidays), Pineapple Upside-Down Cheesecake, and after thanksgiving they even have a peppermint Bark Cheesecake!
Hard Rock Cafe – Located at the vibrant Faneuil Hall area, it is one of the city’s largest entertainment destinations with more than 16,000-square feet of space including a 514-seat restaurant, their Cavern Club featuring billiards, live music and special events, and a Rock Shop offering Hard Rock’s iconic and collectible merchandise.
Also Visit Little Italy- Boston’s North End neighborhood (the oldest in the city) houses Little Italy. Immerse yourself in Italian culture by walking through the cobblestone streets and eating at one of the 60 restaurants and bake shops. That’s right, here you get to enjoy pizza and tiramisu in true Italian fashion. After you’ve had your fill, head over to peruse the many shops, art, and history all found in this small corner of the city.
3 Star- Courtyard by Marriott Boston Copley Square (Avg. price $217-$424) is located in a great location, offers clean, inviting rooms that appear to be recently refurbished.
4 Star- Nine Zero Hotel (Avg. price $251-$459) from the sophisticated, contemporary décor to the wacky zero striped robes, there’s no doubting that these designers thought outside of the box. In a superb location, offering an ultra-comfy bed, elegance is all around and service is second to none.
4.5 Star- The Liberty Hotel (Rates start at $249 a night) – Enjoy the hipster vibe of this ritzy former jailhouse, which originally opened in 1851 and reopened as a hotel in 2007, after a $150 million renovation. 18 of the nearly 300 rooms were formerly prison cells. Not all prisons-turned-hotels manage to incorporate all the features in such a seamless way that really leaves the guest feeling inspired.. and actually wanting to go to prison! They are super pet friendly (even for non-hotel guests, as they’ve converted the courtyard where prisoners once exercised to have a “Yappier” Hour, a three-hour-long event where dogs and owners come to socialize on Wednesday nights. This National Historic Landmark is located downtown at the foot of Beacon Hill.
4.5 Star- Fairmont Battery Wharf (Avg. price $309-$467) is a premiere luxury hotel, conveniently located on Boston Harbor. This waterfront, urban retreat features 150 guest rooms in a gorgeous building that looks and feels brand new.