Filled with historic sites, charming neighborhoods, beautiful public parks for scenic strolls, a variety of museums and delicious dining options, Boston is one of those cities I could repeatedly visit and experience it differently each trip.
Boston had been on my travel wishlist for years. I even named it one of 10 U.S. cities I wanted to visit this year. At the end of March, I finally made it to Boston for the Women in Travel Summit (WITS). Although I was there for the conference, I planned to make the most of my limited time in Beantown. Was I successful? I think so, yet I barely scratched the surface of all the attractions I’d like to visit, the foods I want to eat and the experiences I could have in Boston.
Whether you like art, history, food, craft beer, sports or films, you could easily build a Boston trip itinerary around your interests. If you are like me, you probably want to experience everything. While that’s logically not possible in a long weekend trip, you can certainly make a dent in your list of things to do in Boston and get a real feel for the city within a few days.
If you are visiting for the first time, I’ve got five ideas for how to acquaint yourself with Boston.
First Thing To Do In Boston: Take A Tour
When I’m visiting a new destination, my favorite way to get to know the area is by taking a tour. Walking tours are ideal for photo opportunities, while bus tours tend cover a broader area, giving you an idea how the city is laid out. Both are often full of insightful notions and fun facts that only the locals seem to know. Walking tours sometimes require using public transportation, and this is a great opportunity to learn how to navigate the local subway or bus system.
Sightseeing tours are a great option if you are interested in seeing all the city’s sights in a short time frame, and Boston Duck Tours, which traverse the city by land and the Charles River, came highly recommended to me by one of my cab drivers and the Boston local I was seated next to on my flight from Detroit to Boston Logan International Airport. Since the vehicle drives right into the river, I’d say a Duck Tour would be one of the most fun things to do in Boston with kids.
Are you a history buff? A foodie? A literary geek? A film aficionado? Into ghost stories or pub crawls? Then skip the generic sightseeing tour. Opt instead for a tour tailored to your interests. I took two tours during my first couple days in Boston. After the tours, I was confident I could get myself around the city by foot or the T, and I pinpointed the landmarks, neighborhoods and attractions I wanted to explore further on my own.
My first tour — “Bittersweet Boston” — was offered to WITS 2015 attendees, and was led by Boston local Rese, of the Chronicles of Rese. With Rese leading us, Becky of The Girl and Globe, Melody of Wherever I May Roam, Mindy of 2foodtrippers, Mona, Jeannine and I rode the T to the end of the green line and walked with umbrellas in hand through the pouring rain to the Taza Chocolate factory, Bantam Cider and The Independent, a local pub with an excellent selection of craft beers and some deliciously potent cocktails like the Man Moth, a mix of bourbon, Averna, cinnamon, honey and whiskey-barrel-aged bitters. The Man Moth was a big hit with some of the lovely ladies on the tour. Although the Bittersweet Boston tour was a one-time event, you can find a number of other foodie tours in and around Boston.
The second tour I took was an On Locations Tour to movie and TV locations in Boston. The bus tour took us past settings used in Good Will Hunting, The Departed, Ted, Field of Dreams, Mystic River and The Town among many other movies. I hadn’t even realized how many films took place in Boston!
Second Thing To Do In Boston: Eat At One Of The City’s Oldest Restaurants
Boston is full of restaurants serving delicious dishes, but none have done that longer than America’s oldest restaurant — Union Oyster House, established in 1826. Jacob Wirth, the second oldest restaurant in Boston, has been serving sausage and beer (except during that silly prohibition era) since 1868.
I ate lunch at Jacob Wirth my last day in Boston, and it was the best decision I made during my visit. I’ll blog about the restaurant in further detail soon. Of course, oysters are a New England staple, so many visitors opt to dine at Union Oyster House. If you like traditional German cuisine, without a doubt, you should also stop into Jacob Wirth for a wurst with sauerkraut and potato salad.
Third Thing To Do In Boston: Visit A Museum
With more than 40 museums in the Greater Boston area, you are likely to find one that suits your interests.
Visiting Boston with kids?
Kids will have a hands-on experience at the Boston Children’s Museum and the Museum of Science. They can see penguins and Atlantic harbor seals at the New England Aquarium, and then go whale watching on a Boston Harbor cruise. At the Harvard Museum of Natural History, they may see an emu egg hatch.
Interested in history?
Visit the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum to dump tea into the harbor like the colonists did. Then stop along the Freedom Trail at Paul Revere’s home, where the silversmith left for his infamous “Midnight Ride.” To see more Paul Revere silver and Revolutionary War relics, visit the Americas collection at the Museum of Fine Arts. Skip ahead to the 20th Century to view Oval Office decor and Kennedy family photos at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.
Interested in art?
No matter which era or medium you enjoy, I highly recommend visiting the Museum of Fine Arts. The museum has one of the largest collections in the United States with more than 450,000 works of art. If you enjoy modern art, the Institute of Contemporary Art has a unique permanent collection and rotating exhibits in a stunning waterfront building with floor to ceiling harbor views in Boston’s Seaport District. Art lovers will find even more at the Harvard Art Museums in Cambridge.
Fourth Thing To Do In Boston: Dine In The North End
You absolutely must visit the North End while in Boston. Eat some pasta, drink some wine, get a cannoli and thank me later. Walk along Hanover and Salem streets, and you’ll find Italian eatery after Italian eatery. The restaurants all seem to post their menus outside, so you can just stop once one sounds appealing.
My friends, Sheila and Melody of Wherever I May Roam, and I ended up at L’Osteria, where I had a delicious lobster ravioli in creamy vodka sauce. After dinner, we stumbled upon Cocoanuts Boston, a little shop that carries local and regional nuts, trail mixes and chocolates. If you are looking for an after-dinner treat, stop by Mike’s Pastry or Modern Pastry for a cannoli.
Fifth Thing To Do In Boston: Take A Scenic Stroll
Now that you’ve taken a tour, visited a museum and dined around Boston, you can wander. Boston is wonderful for wandering. It’s a fairly small “big city” at 48 square miles, so a 30-minute walk could take you past Back Bay rowhouses, ritzy Newbury Street shops and Beacon Hill’s charming brick and cobblestone streets.
You could also stroll along the Charles River Esplanade or through Boston Public Garden and Boston Common. If you are walking through Boston Public Garden with children, be sure to find the “Make Way for Ducklings” statue near Charles and Beacon streets and take a ride on a Swan Boat.
Tell me, what are your favorite things to in Boston? If you haven’t been there yet, what would you like to do there?
Disclaimer: As a Women in Travel Summit attendee, I took the On Location Tours’ Boston TV & Movie Sites Tour for free and received a pretty rad swag bag. This tour normally costs $39. As always, I strive to share accurate information and fair and honest opinions about my experience. I was not otherwise compensated for this post.