Things to Do and See in Boston

Walking Tours

  • The Freedom Trail - A line of red paint or red brick on the sidewalk, the 2 1/2-mile Freedom Trail links 16 historic sites, many of them associated with the Revolution and the early days of the United States. The route cuts across downtown, passing through the busy shopping area around Downtown Crossing, the Financial District, and the North End, on the way to Charlestown. Markers identify the stops, and plaques point the way from one to the next. (Map)
  • The Back Bay is the youngest neighborhood in central Boston, the product of a massive landfill project that transformed the city from 1835 to 1882. It's flat, symmetrical, logically designed -- the names of the cross streets go in alphabetical order -- and altogether anomalous in Boston's crazy-quilt geography. (Map)
  • Harvard Square Popular impressions to the contrary, Cambridge is not exclusively Harvard. In fact, even Harvard Square isn't exclusively Harvard. During a walk around the area, you'll see historic buildings and sights, interesting museums, and notable architecture on and off the university's main campus. (Map)

Museums

  • Harvard Museum of Natural History - The highlight is the famous botanical galleries, which feature more than 3000 lifelike pieces of handblown-glass flowers and plants. (Admission: $12.00. Open daily: 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.)
  • Institute of Contemporary Arts - This dramatic waterfront venue is Boston's focal point for contemporary art. The Diller Scofidio + Renfro designed building is a work of art in itself - a striking glass structure cantilevered over a waterside plaza. The spacious light-filled interior allows for multimedia presentations, educational programs and studio space. More importantly, it provides the venue for the development of the ICA's permanent collection of 21st-century art. (Admission: $15. Open Tue-Sun 10:00-17:00)
  • Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum - The magnificent Venetian-style palazzo that houses the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum was also home to 'Mrs Jack' Gardner herself until her death in 1924. A monument to one woman's exquisite taste for acquiring art, the Gardner is filled with almost 2000 priceless objects, including outstanding tapestries and Italian Renaissance and 17th-century Dutch paintings. (Admission: $15. Open Wed-Mon 11:00-17:00, Thursday until 21:00.)
  • MIT Museum - Leave it to the mischievous brainiacs at MIT to come up with the city's quirkiest museum. An exhibit called Robots and Beyond demonstrates MIT's ongoing work on artificial intelligence. You can meet humanoid robots like observant Cog and personable Kismet and decide for yourself if they are smarter than humans. Sculptor Arthur Ganson explores the fine line between art and engineering with his display of interactive sculpture. (Admission: $10. Open Daily 10:00-17:00)
  • Museum Of Afro-American History - Beacon Hill was never the exclusive domain of blue-blood Brahmins. Waves of immigrants, and especially African Americans, free from slavery, settled on the backside of the hill in the 19th century. The Museum of Afro-American History occupies two adjacent historic buildings: the African Meeting House, the country's oldest black church and meeting house; and Abiel Smith School, the country's first school for blacks. (Admission: $5. Open Mon-Sat 10:00-16:00.)
  • Museum of Fine Arts - One of the world's great art museums, the MFA works nonstop to become even more accessible and interesting. Every installation reflects a curatorial attitude that makes even those who go in with a feeling of obligation leave with a sense of discovery and wonder. (Admission: $23. Open Sat-Tues 10am-4:45pm, Wed-Fri 10am-9:45pm, Thurs-Fri 10am-5pm.)
  • Museum Of Science - This educational playground has more than 600 interactive exhibits. Favorites include the world's largest lightning bolt generator, a full-scale space capsule, a world population meter and a virtual fish tank. The amazing array of exhibits explores computers, technology, complex systems, algae, maps, models, dinosaurs, birds and much more. (Admission: $20. Open Sep-Jun: Sat-Thu 09:00-17:00, Fri 09:00-21:00.)
  • USS Constitution Museum - The USS Constitution Museum was incorporated in 1972 as an interpretive complement to the active duty naval vessel USS CONSTITUTION. In 1976, the private, non-profit museum opened the doors in the present facility located just across the pier from the still floating USS CONSTITUTION. The Museum houses and displays artifacts related to the Ship's history in interpretive exhibitions offering the context of USS CONSTITUTION's history. The founding of the Museum enabled the Ship to clear the decks of display cases so that visitors who tour aboard see a frigate ready to sail, rather than a floating museum. (Admission: Free. Open Daily: 09:00-18:00)

Sites

  • Boston Common - a central public park in Boston, Massachusetts. It is sometimes erroneously referred to as the "Boston Commons". Dating from 1634, it is one of the oldest city parks in the United States. The Boston Common consists of 50 acres (20 ha) of land bounded by Tremont Street, Park Street, Beacon Street, Charles Street, and Boylston Street. The Common is part of the Emerald Necklace of parks and parkways that extend from the Common south to Franklin Park in Roxbury. A visitors' center for all of Boston is on the Tremont Street side of the park.
  • Bunker Hill Monument - The so-called Battle of Bunker Hill is ironically named, as most of the fighting took place on Breed's Hill, where the Bunker Hill Monument stands today. The 200ft granite obelisk rewards physically fit visitors with fine views at the top of its 294 steps. The adjacent museum contains historical dioramas depicting the battle. (Admission: Free. Open daily from 9 A.M. to 5 p.m. Last climb at 4:30 PM.)
  • The Emerald Necklace - The only remaining intact linear park designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr., America's first landscape architect. As such, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Green and open spaces, rivers and ponds, and a wealth and diversity of trees, shrubs, flowers, wildlife habitat, riparian life, bridges and other structures make up this urban jewel.
  • Faneuil Hall - A brick colonial building topped with the beloved grasshopper weather vane - was constructed as a market and public meeting place in 1740, at the urging of Boston benefactor and merchant Peter Faneuil. In 1805, Charles Bulfinch enlarged the building and enclosed the 1st-floor market, designing the 2nd-floor meeting space that's here today. (Admission: Free. Open 9 am - 5 pm, except during city sponsored events.)
  • New England Aquarium - Dive into the world of water without getting wet at the New England Aquarium. Explore vibrant coral reefs, from the Bahamas and the tropical Pacific to temperate Australia. Meet the lionfish and the stonefish, some of the most poisonous fishes in the sea. Discover how the Aquarium collects these specimens at the Bahamas Collecting Trip Blog, introduce yourself to the harbor seals, and don't forget to say hello to Myrtle, the green sea turtle. (Admission: $21. Open July-Labor Day Mon-Thurs 9am-6pm, Fri-Sun and holidays 9am-7pm; day after Labor Day-June Mon-Fri 9am-5pm, Sat-Sun and holidays 9am-6pm.)
  • The New England Holocaust Memorial - Erected in 1995, these six glass towers spring up in the midst of attractions that celebrate freedom, reminding visitors of the consequences of a world without it. The pattern on the glass, which at first appears merely decorative, is actually 6 million random numbers, one for each Jew who died during the Holocaust. As you pass through, pause to read the inscriptions.
  • USS Constitution - Old Ironsides, one of the U.S. Navy's six original frigates, never lost a battle. A tour, led by an active-duty sailor in an 1812 dress uniform, is an excellent introduction to an era when the future of the new nation was anything but certain. (Admission: Free. Open Apr-Oct Tues-Sun 10am-6pm; tours every 30 min. 10am-3:30pm. Nov-Mar Thurs-Sun 10am-4pm; tours every 30 min. 10am-3:30pm.)