10 Things to Do in Boston

Published 03 April 2017

Angela Griffin

Angela Griffin

Boston, the capital of Massachusetts and the state’s largest city, is a popular stop on the USA’s east coast, and is easily combined with a trip to New York City, just under four hours away by car. Home to Harvard University, this bright and leafy city is ranked at number ten in the most visited US city by foreign travellers and is especially popular with those touring New England in the fall, when the trees turn golden brown. 

Here are our favourite things to do in the city:

Boston Old State House Building

Follow the Freedom Trail

The 2.5-mile-long Freedom Trail winds its way through Boston, passing by no less than 16 significant historical locations along the way. It’s marked with red bricks and large metal plaques inlaid into the pavement (or should that be sidewalk?) starting in Boston Common, and ending at the Bunker Hill Monument. Popular stop-offs include the Old South Meeting House, the Old State House (pictured) and the Paul Revere House, the colonial home of patriot Paul Revere during the American Revolution. Make a day of it, take a picnic, or stop at one of the cafés along the route.

Clam chowder

Eat clam chowder

If your only encounter with chowder is the infamous Simpsons episode, then you should be first in line to try this Boston favourite, a hot soup made with clams, potatoes, onions, celery and parsley. New England clam chowder, sometimes even called Boston clam chowder, is the local speciality, made with milk or cream to give it a thicker consistency than the water-based varieties. In 1939, the state of Maine attempted to pass a legislation to make it illegal to put tomatoes into clam chowder, but the bill did not pass.

Fenway Park baseball stadium, Boston

Flickr Eric Kilby

Catch a baseball game

Boston is a sports-obsessed city, with the local basketball, hockey, football and soccer teams all closely followed and admired to the point of obsession. The most famous of these, the Red Sox, have won the baseball World Series no less than eight times, the last time (2013) being the first time they have won in their home stadium at Fenway Park, which is of course the best place to catch a game. It can be difficult to come by tickets, so a little advance planning is required, although you can always tour the stadium on a non-game day if you can’t get hold of any.

Boston trolley

Take a trolley tour

If you’re short on time and want to see as much of the city as you can in a small space of time, or just want a great overview of the sights before you start exploring independently, then a trolley tour is the way to go. Stopping at the must-see attractions, including the Old State House, the Paul Revere House, Harvard Square and the Cheers Bar, as well as some hidden gems, these tours take place on the historic orange and green trolleybuses, which have been transporting people around the city since 1936.

Boston from above

See the city from above

Another way to get an overview of Boston is to see it from above. The Prudential Tower, where you’ll find the Skywalk Observatory on the 50th floor, is the second tallest in the city at 228m, and a popular choice for an aerial view. On a clear day, you can see over 100 miles from up here, and there’s a vertigo-inducing view of the streets below. Other options include the Marriott Customs House Tower, with an observation deck on the 26th floor, and Independence Wharf, with its 14th-floor deck overlooking the harbour.

Boston Museum of Science

Tour the museums

If museums are your bag then you’re in luck; Boston boasts a list as long as your arm. As one of the most detailed museums in the city, the Museum of Fine Arts makes a good starting point, bursting with paintings and sculptures, including both the largest collection of Monet paintings outside Paris and the largest collection of Japanese art outside Japan. The New England Aquarium, home to penguins and myriad fish, is another popular one, as is the Boston Museum of Science, which overlooks the Charles River.

Fort Independence, Castle Hill, Boston

Check out Fort Independence

Connected to Boston by a narrow spit, Castle Island is home to Fort Independence, one of the oldest British fortifications in North America. A building first appeared on the island in 1634, when it was known as Castle William, but it was rebuilt in the 19th century and renamed Fort Independence. It’s open to the public, and although it’s often overlooked by tourists, it makes a good day out, especially if you come on a sunny day and go for a walk along the sandy shoreline.

Harvard University, Boston

Pretend you go to Harvard University

Established in 1636, Harvard University is well-known as one of the most prestigious universities in the world. An Ivy League institution that produced eight US presidents, Harvard’s pretty red-brick buildings and leafy lawns are open to visitors. Get down to Harvard Yard for a free tour or take a stroll around the Memorial Church and the Peabody Museum, or admire the exquisite glass flowers on display at the Harvard Museum of Natural History.

Boston street in springtime

Watch the seasons change

New England is one of the best places in the world to observe the changing autumn leaves, and although many head to the countryside, the greens and golds of fall can be seen in Boston too. In September and October, Boston Common and the Public Garden offer lovely foliage views, especially on a clear day when they reflect in the lagoon. But it’s not just autumn; spring is a delightful time to photograph the blossom, with many streets turning dusky pink and the cherry trees of the Esplanade looking especially ravishing in the spring sunshine.

Cheers Bar, Boston

Flickr Nick Ares

Say Cheers

A place where everybody knows your name, Cheers Beacon Hill is the restaurant that served as the exterior of the bar in the hit US sitcom Cheers. Although the interior was never used in the programme, there is a replica of the set inside, and Cheers fans from all over the world flock to pose for photos with the signpost. Even if you’re not a fan, come for the beer, the burgers and the friendly atmosphere. 

Head to Boston with Round the World Experts' New England Encompassed holiday.

You might also like:

New England in the Fall: the Loveliest Autumn Sights

8 Essential Stops on the USA's East Coast

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