If you’re a first-time visitor to Boston, you’re in for a treat. The city offers a wealth of attractions, from educational museums and historical monuments to legendary ballparks and world-famous bars. Regardless of your age, your interests, or your budget, there’s truly something for everyone in “Bean Town”. Without further ado, here’s our rundown of the “Top 20 Best Things to do in Boston for First Time Visitors”.
20. Ride a White Swan at Boston Public Garden
Situated just next door to the Boston Common is the equally charming Boston Public Garden. As the first botanical garden ever to be created in the US, its unquestionably the highlight of the Emerald Necklace, Boston’s string of recreational parks. In addition to simply being a great place to sit and enjoy the delights of nature, the garden offers a host of things to see and do, including a wide variety of exotic flora and fauna, and even the chance ride one of the Swan boats across the lake – the best way to really sit back and enjoy the stunning scenery of the park.
19. Pick Up A Penguin at the New England Aquarium
Whether you’re 5 or 50, you’re guaranteed to be enthralled by the marine life at Boston’s excellent New England Aquarium. Watching the penguins, sea turtles, and sea lions play in their recreated natural habitats will almost certainly put a smile on your face, while the joy of watching the sea creatures and fish at the Aquarium will keep you enthralled for hours. Don’t miss out on the chance to learn more about New England’s sea life at the numerous exhibits, or on the opportunity to pick up some fun souvenirs of your visit at the excellent gift shop.
18. Visit the Bunker Hill Monument
To visit Boston without taking in at least a few of its many historic sights and attractions would be more than remiss. Not only are they a great way to learn about the history of the city, they also give an incredible insight into the events that shaped the US into the country it is today. Take the Bunker Hill Monument as one example. Built to commemorate the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775 (the first major battle of the American Revolution), it stands as a permanent reminder of the lives that were sacrificed in the name of freedom.
17. Travel the World in an Afternoon
If you haven’t got the time, the money or the energy to travel the world, do the next best thing and visit the exquisite Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Gardner was a leading American art collector, philanthropist, and patron of the arts who spent several decades traveling the world. During her travels, she amassed a considerable collection of art pieces, most of which are now on display at the museum that bears her name. Reflecting a vast array of cultures, periods, and mediums, no one with even the vaguest interest in art will want to give it a miss.
16. Experience the Cheers’ Pub
If you spent most of the 1980s glued to the legendary “Cheers”, you’ll not want to miss a visit to Cheers Beacon Hill. Granted, the TV series wasn’t actually filmed here, but the iconic bar served as the inspiration behind one of America’s best-loved sitcoms. We can’t guarantee everyone will know your name when you arrive, but thanks to its great, welcoming vibe, there’s every chance they’ll know it by heart by the time you leave.
15. Take a Duck Tour
Want to experience the best of Boston with the help of a friendly guide? If you struggle to navigate maps on your own, a great way to experience the city’s highlights is by joining a Duck Tour. The tour takes you on a whistle-stop journey over land and water aboard one of the iconic Boston duck boats. The on-hand guide will help you identify local landmarks and sights such as Trinity Church, Hancock Tower, Prudential Center, Boston Common & Boston Public Garden, Old North Church, and the Zakim Bridge… they may even encourage you to “quack” at locals and other duck boat passengers, but feel free to ignore them at that point.
14. Visit the Museum of Fine Arts
There’s no shortage of galleries and art museums on offer in Boston, but the Museum of Fine Arts is unquestionably one of its finest. As home to more than 450,000 works of art, it’s one of the largest collections in America, ranking second only to the Metropolitan Museum in New York in terms of numbers. More than one million visitors a year pass through its doors and considering the quality of works on display, it’s understandable why. As well as the numerous exhibits on offers, visitors have the chance to expand their knowledge at one of the regular lectures or even hone their own artistic talents by taking a class. Otherwise, they can just stand and admire the genius of the many iconic art pieces.
13. Visit the Boston Children’s Museum
If you’re visiting Boston with your family in tow, you won’t want to miss a visit to the delightful Boston Children’s Museum, Full of the kind of interactive experiences that make learning a positive breeze, it’s a joyous experience that will leave even the surliest of kids with a smile on their face. With a full program of exhibits, activities, and programs, you could spend your entire trip there without getting bored.
12. Visit the New England Sports Museum
If you’re sports mad, a few hours at the New England Sports Museum is guaranteed to please. Founded in 1997 in nearby Cambridge, it eventually made its way to Boston where it now serves as a celebration of the history of sports in the Boston area. With a collection of exhibits, sports memorabilia, and curiosities that tell the story of the Boston Bruins, Boston Celtics, Boston Red Sox, New England Patriots, Boston Marathon, New England Revolution, boxing, college sports and more besides, it’s a testament to the significant role sports have played in Boston’s history.
11. Explore the Museum of Science
Regardless of your age, you’ll find plenty to keep you amused at Boston’s Museum of Science. With an impressive list of attractions that include a planetarium, an IMAX movie theater, a dinosaur exhibit, a live animal exhibit, a discovery center and a two-story Van de Graaf generator capable of producing 2.5 million volts of electricity, it’s as much entertaining as it is educational. Exhibits change frequently, so be sure to check the museum website before your visit to plan your itinerary.
10. Tour the Ball Park
Fans of the Boston Red Sox won’t want to miss a pitstop at America’s most iconic ballpark, Boston’s Historic Ballpark. Take a tour of the grounds where Carlton Fisk hit one of baseball’s most famous home runs, and even give the “Green Monster” a little good luck rub. Before you leave, stop by the Red Sox Team Store, which offers enough official Red Sox caps, game jerseys, memorabilia, and merchandise to keep even the most devoted Red Sox fan happy.
9. Meet Some Ghosts on A Haunted Tour
Leave your inner skeptic behind and prepare to get your fright on with one of Boston’s famous haunted tours. The Ghost and Graveyard Tour promises to take you back in time as it guides you through Boston’s grisly past, taking in the events and locations of “grisly murders, heinous torchings, and cold-blooded executions”.
8. Visit Harvard
Before you leave the area for good, make the short trip over to Cambridge. Located just across the Charles River from Boston, Cambridge has a unique vibe all of its own, serving up a blend of hip stores, alternative art venues, funky cafes, colorful local characters, and, thanks to its close proximity to MIT and Harvard, some of the brightest minds in the country. While poking the students is rarely encouraged, there’s plenty of fun to be had in the town’s intellectual quirkiness, none the less.
7. Visit the USS Constitution and Museum
The USS Constitution & Museum is a fun, educational experience that’s as enjoyable for adults as it is for kids. The exhibits on the War of 1812 and the Barbary War are particularly noteworthy, while the ground flow workshop is a great place to check out the talents of a team of modelers as they create incredibly intricate miniatures of the USS Constitution and other ships.
6. Sam Adams Brewery
Samuel Adams Brewery may be an adults only kind of thing, but if you’re travelling without the kids, it’s a great place to enjoy one of Boston’s most beloved contributions to the world – beer. As well as offering a great tour around the museum, a fabulous gift shop, and an insight into the ingredients and brewing process that goes into the making of Sam Adams beer, there’s also that most glorious of things- free beer samples.
5. Dine at Faneuil Hall
No trip to Boston is complete without a visit to the historic Faneuil Hall. Built in 1742, the site has witnessed some of the most historic moments in Boston’s history, including numerous rallies by Patriotic protestors. Today, it serves as one of Boston’s premium shopping and dining destinations, offering a myriad of boutiques and restaurants for you to enjoy at leisure. Once you’ve finished browsing the aisles or tucking into some fine food, take a moment to admire the architecture, which is about as impressive as you’ll find in all of Boston.
4. Admire the Art at the Institute of Contemporary Art
The Institute of Contemporary Art is set in one of the most stunning buildings you’ll find in Boston, occupying 65000 square feet-across the waterfront and offering a showstopping design of glass and metal. Even more impressive than its exterior, however, is the enthralling collection of artwork it houses, and the superb way the skylight system, column free galleries, and moveable walls allow it to be showcased. If you enjoy contemporary art, this is one place you definitely don’t want to miss.
3. Visit the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum
if you want the opportunity to recreate the Boston Tea Party, where better to do it than the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum? The museum is a truly revolutionary experience, in more ways than one. The magnificent multi-sensory technology and knowledge Historical Interpreters bring the past to life, given you an inside look into the events of December 16, 1773 in a way you probably never thought to experience. Once you’re done soaking up history, don’t miss a quick stop at Abigail’s Tea Room and Terrace- as the museum itself says “your adventure isn’t complete without a spot of tea”.
2. Visit the African Meeting House
As one of the most important National Historic Landmarks in the nation, the African Meeting House and Museum stands in memory of Boston’s vibrant African -American community of the 19th century. The building has served at various times as a church, a school for African children, and a meeting house. Today, it offers visitors the chance to hear some of the tales of freedom through interactive exhibits and cultural programs.
1. Step into the Past on the Freedom Trail
Experience history with every step on the Freedom Trail, a 2.5 mile hike through downtown Boston that passes through 16 landmark locations that have a strong significance to the US’s past. Each of the museums, churches, meeting houses, burial grounds, parks, and historic markers you pass through will give you a glimpse into the story of the American Revolution, and the events that shaped the city into what it is today. While you’re free to walk the trail alone, those who’d rather have the option to book themselves onto a guided tour. Tours run 362 days a year at frequent intervals throughout the day.