Attractions in My Beloved Massachusetts Capital!
I’ve run Around the World “L” Travel Blog for a decade now, and have lived in Boston nearly my whole life (multiple decades!), but it isn’t until THIS article that I am finally, comprehensively answering the question I get so much…
What are the Best Things to Do in Boston, MA?
So glad you asked! My aim in this compilation is to bring you beyond the cliches of Boston tourism — beyond Fenway Park, the Freedom Trail, Duck Tours, Faneuil Hall, Cheers, and Mike’s Pastry — fun as all those are.
In this article, I will show you some of Boston‘s lesser-discussed attractions — many of them totally FREE — which bring joy. All are easy to walk or take public transport to, which is key, because I do not recommend renting a car or driving in Boston. Now without further ado, I bring you…
The Best Walking Tour of Boston
My #1 favorite FREE thing to do in Boston with visitors (or myself!) during any season is the walk explained in this article, which spans Copley Square and Back Bay, the Boston Public Garden, and the Esplanade. So beautiful! Lots of tasty places to eat along the way, too. This article also contains tips about visiting the city during winter months.
Boston Public Market: Local Food and Fun!
If you're seeking a delightful culinary and cultural activity, Boston Public Market (located near the Haymarket T station, just north of Downtown) is a large gathering of local food and craft producers. Wander, eat, and smile!
Swan Boats: Boston Public Garden Happiness
If you visit Boston during the warmer months, take a tranquil (and extremely inexpensive) float through the lagoon of the Boston Public Garden on the famed Swan Boats -- in operation since 1877! In the garden, you'll see the romantic bridge where my husband proposed, and the adorable "Make Way for Ducklings statues" (which are strong enough for kids to pose on top of, creating priceless photos).
Boston's North End: Yummy Little Italy
Just a short walk from Downtown, explore the North End: Home of famed Italian restaurants and shops, and goo-gobs of history. Though Mike's Pastry is one of the best known bakeries, this article details eateries that you might like even more...
Central Square, Cambridge: Epic Murals
Across a scenic bridge from Downtown Boston lies the city of Cambridge, best known for Harvard University. Don't overlook nearby Central Square, however: It's got some of the coolest art installations in the country, including Graffiti Alley, which changes every day, and can provide the backdrop for stunning photos!
Do NOT Miss Boston's Copley Library
The Central Branch of the Boston Public Library in Copley Square (a short walk south of Downtown, easily accessible by public transport, too) is among the most stunning buildings in the world, and you can visit for FREE! Don't miss the soaring marble arches in the green-light Reading Room, and if you're with kids, the Children's Room is good for hours of entertainment. Bonus for fun poses with the stone lion sculptures...
Explore the African-American History of Boston
Boston has a powerful Black Heritage Trail, and a long history of African-American contributions and accomplishments. Check out this article's detailed timeline, and follow the trail, yourself, which centers on charming Beacon Hill, right near Downtown.
Visit the MFA and Other Great Boston Museums
The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston is a world-class collection of art. Special exhibits rotate (as with the quilt show pictured here), and the permanent works range from Ancient Egypt and Greece to modern day. Boston is also home to numerous other excellent museums, including the Museum of Science, the Children's Museum, the ICA, Harvard's museums, the Gardener, the Aquarium, and more! Check each for special discounts, and also know that locals can sign out free passes to them for you.
Kayaking: A Great Way to Tour a River City Like Boston!
I've rented kayaks in Boston four different times -- both with and without kids -- from different launching points in and around Boston, and HIGHLY recommend this activity. You get to admire the beauty of our city from such a different vantage point, and it's both relaxing and active. Note that rental companies are stationed all along the river, so pick the spot that best matches with your touring plans.
The Arnold Arboretum: Emerald Necklace Glory
No discussion of Boston is complete without acknowledging its stunning 7-mile system of parks created by Frederick Law Olmsted: the Emerald Necklace! Wandering this greenspace is one of my favorite things to do in our city. The Arnold Arboretum, featured in this article, is particularly astounding in spring and autumn with its riot of colors.
Franklin Park: Zoo, Golf, and Huge Greenspace
Looking for Boston's zoo? You'll find it in the largest park in the Emerald Necklace: Franklin Park. There is something for everyone in this green oasis, including a golf course, hiking trails, scenic ruins, and rolling green hills. Just be careful not to get lost in its wide expanse!
Jamaica Pond: Boston's Best Place Tourists Don't Know
Right near the Arboretum lies Jamaica Pond -- a perfect spot for a tranquil stroll, or to take in a sunset before eating at the fabulous nearby restaurants. Both "The Arb" and "The Pond" are in the neighborhood of Jamaica Plain: a flavorful area accessible from Downtown by the Orange Line, or several bus routes.
The Lantern Festival and Parade in Jamaica Plain
If you happen to be in Boston in autumn, a wonderful, kid-friendly activity is the two-day Latern Festival around Jamaica Pond. People make their own lanterns from recycled materials, then dress up in Halloween costumes to celebrate with a parade.
A Dog Halloween Costume Contest in Boston?!
You're really in luck if you're in Boston in October and squeal at animal cuteness. Jamaica Plain hosts an annual canine costume competition! Click through to see the hilarious contestants.
See Boston's Skyline on a Harbor Cruise
Let's now move to the ocean! Boston is a seaport city, so exploring the harbor is glorious. You get sparkling skyline views, can check out the Harbor Islands, see planes taking off over the water from Logan Airport, and even pick a themed boat ride for food, dancing, or whale watching.
The Best Ice Cream in Boston?
If you see a cow logo with a pink background, it's likely a branch of J.P. Licks, the famed local ice cream company. I love the unique rotating monthly flavors! December's Gingersnap Molasses was my favorite, but the Brownie Batter flavor (offered year-round) is a perennial winner.
The Marshmallow Fluff Festival in September
Love Fluff? The "What the Fluff" festival in Somerville, MA (an easy MBTA jaunt from Boston proper) is... an experience. I will warn you that this celebration of marshmallow goo has grown exponentially over the years, so be prepared for massive crowds!
City Hall: Good Festival Space and Odd Building
One of the strangest pieces of architecture in our fair town is City Hall: a "brutalist" building with a massive concrete patio. I bring this up because, first, visitors often wonder what that hulk is, and second, there that concrete expanse of a plaza is often put to good use for festivals and concerts, so look up what's on offer when you're in town. (My favorites are the Scooper Bowl Ice Cream Fundraiser and the Donna Summer Roller Disco Party.)
The Most Affordable Hotel in Boston is a Hostel
Boston can be an extremely expensive place for accommodations, so allow me to tip you off to one of the most affordable places to stay right downtown: the New Boston Hostel, run by HIUSA: Hostelling International. They have both shared bunk rooms and private rooms, and plenty of common areas and events to meet fellow travelers and locals alike. The article here shows photos of the hostel, and has my speech when I was the keynote at the building's ribbon-cutting ceremony.
A Tour of Famous Boston TV and Movie Sites
Boston has been home to numerous movie filming sites, including "Good Will Hunting," "The Departed," and "TED." Check out some of these locations on a guided tour, or track them down yourself!
Fascinating Facts About Boston's Big Dig
While we're touring, here's an account of the Context Travel guided expedition around Boston's Big Dig area. The layers of history in this city blow my mind, and the architectural and engineering details impress.
The Paramount Theatre Sign in Boston is Important
While Downtown, you'll likely spot the glamorous Paramount Theatre sign. The back-story about it is epic. Check it out...
A Chocolate Trail in Boston to Make You Drool
Chocolate abounds in Boston! Here is a guide to where to find some of the most luscious cocoa nuggets.
The Most Romantic Architecture in Boston
Reflecting pools and pseudo castles are a feast for the eyes. See where these are in the capital of Massachusetts!
A Hot Dog Eating Contest at a Creative Restaurant
Spike's Junkyard Dogs has ridiculously creative hot dog options -- and a contest for who can eat the most! This article shows ridiculous photos from the field trip I took students on to compete there.
Where in Back Bay to See a Boston Sunset
This article shows several beautiful locations in the European-feeling neighborhood of Back Bay to catch a glorious sunset. To emphasize: My recommended starting point for any Boston trip is Copley Square.
Boston Fitness Classes and Groups
When in a new city, I always like to explore exercise opportunities (both to stay in shape and to meet people). Boston has a number of free workout opportunities, as well as countless gyms for all levels and budgets. This article explains several options.
What’s YOUR Favorite Boston Activity?
I will be adding to this list as I document more Boston shenanigans, so which spots on this list have you tried and recommend, and what should be added that is missing? Do share!
Day Trips and Short Getaways Near Boston
Enjoyed Boston and ready to explore the surrounding towns and attractions? Click here for a hefty list of getaways in New England within easy reach from the Massachusetts capital. Have fun!
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