Whether you were led to Boston by a sports event, are a college student, parent, friend or relative of a recent graduate, or just interested in seeing what the city has to offer, this article is for you. Find highlights of sights to see and ways around town.
1. Getting Around
I never fully understood what my friends from out of town meant when they called Boston a walking city until I moved to Georgia and couldn’t go anywhere without taking my car. Whether you’re staying in the center of the city or further out in one of the surrounding towns, you’ll find that most major places of interest are either within walking distance or easily accessible by bus or train (called the “T” by locals). Although the fare has increased over the past few years, at just over $2.00 per trip Boston by bus or train is still far cheaper than most major cities.
2. Take a Tour: On Your Own or Guided
Boston offers a variety of guided tours including Old Town Trolley and walking tours led by men and women dressed in Revolutionary War apparel. One of the most unique and impressive ways to see the city is to take a Boston Duck Tour in the part-boat part-bus World War II vehicle. Your guide will lead you through all of the major points in Boston before plunging into the Charles River where children are encouraged to take the wheel while adults can snap photos of the Boston skyline. Quacking at all stops along the way is highly encouraged.
Prefer the freedom to start and stop wherever you like? Walk The Freedom Trail– a 2.5 mile brick trail that stretches from Charlestown to the Boston Common and includes 16 Revolutionary War sites along the way. If you’re anything like me and get lost wherever you go, you’ll appreciate the clearly marked trail in brick or red paint and occasional placards identifying major sites. In addition to walking by historical sites and cemeteries, you’ll also get to see most of Boston by foot. Cross through Charlestown where you’ll see the USS Constitution and Bunker Hill Monument and into the North End, home of Mike’s Pastry and Italian dining on every corner. From there, follow the trail to Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market with shops, eateries, pubs, and nightlife. Finally, the trail will take you along State Street, through Downtown Boston and on to the Common and State House. If you’re only spending a day in the city, The Freedom Trail is the best way to see most of Boston. Don’t want to miss a step? Guided tours are also available.
3. Sites to See and Things to Do
Take the green or orange line to Haymarket for an afternoon of food and fun. Street performers line the cobblestones in the summer time when crowds gather to see magicians, dancers, jugglers, unicyclists, and musicians. The centrally located building pictured above is home to dozens of food-on-the-fly options. The ethnically diverse food found here will satisfy just about anyone. If fast food doesn’t appeal to you, you can choose from a number of restaurants and pubs in the area with both indoor and outdoor dining. If you’re interested in shopping you can browse the carts that line the length of Quincy Market for souvenirs, clothing, and other specialty items. You’ll also find Boston-only shops like Newbury Comics and Yankee Candle beside more popular chains like the Gap and Victoria’s Secret.
Just beyond the bustle of Quincy Market, heading toward Haymarket station, you’ll find the six striking glass towers and smoking underground pits that make up the New England Holocaust Memorial. Six million numbers are carved into the green-tinted glass towers– a solemn remembrance of the Jews killed during the Holocaust. Sobering quotes and markers line the path through the towers.
A short walk from Haymarket or accessible via the Aquarium stop on the blue line, The New England Aquarium hosts a striking collection of fish, sharks, penguins, turtles, seals, and sea lions. The main part of the aquarium consists of an upward spiraling ramp with newly renovated glass windows perfect for little viewers. There are plenty of hands-on opportunities for children on the ground floor where they can reach into shallow waters to touch sting rays and small sharks or explore more on large touch screen displays.
If you’re heading away from Haymarket on foot, cross the street across from Faneuil Hall and climb the steps toward Government Center. Enjoy the view of the market from above, then turn left to head down Washington Street toward Downtown. The gray building on the right at the top of the steps is Boston City Hall–voted one of the ugliest government centers in the US. In the summer you might be lucky enough to catch a free concert on the plaza.
State Street and Downtown are a short walk from City Hall Plaza. You’ll pass carts and historical sites along the way. The Downtown area, currently under renovation, is home to department stores including Macy’s, Marshals, TJ Maxx, and DSW Shoe Warehouse, as well as an indoor food court with fast food options including the iconic Dunkin Donuts (don’t worry, you’ll pass at least five others along your travels if you miss the one at Downtown.)
Walk up any side street in Downtown and you’ll find yourself facing the Boston Common– also accessible via the Park Street T stop on the red or green lines. Bring a blanket or a picnic and relax under a variety of trees while you listen to street musicians playing in the distance. Several fountains and monuments can be found throughout the park and the Boston State House with it’s gold dome sits tall just beyond the entrance at the corner of Beacon and Park Streets. Frog Pond within the park serves as a skating rink in the winter and children’s bathing pool in the summer.
Walk through the Common and across the street to the nation’s oldest public park– The Public Garden where you can take a Swan Boat ride for $3.00 or less (discounted rates available for children and seniors.) You’ll circle the pond for picture perfect views of the Boston skyline and may be lucky enough to see the two swans that call the park home in the summer months. Trees, roses, and flowers line the paths throughout the park.
If the parks aren’t your thing, you can walk along Beacon Street with its rows of high-rise luxury apartments and visit Cheers where everyone will know your name. From the far end of the Public Garden intersecting Beacon Street, you can cross over to Newbury Street and take a stroll through Boston high fashion. Newbury Street is a prime place for high-end clothing, people watching, window shopping, and fancy outdoor dining. It will lead you right to Copley Place and Boston’s Back Bay.
Running parallel to Newbury Street, Boylston Street stretches from the Boston Common to Fenway Park. Visit Trinity Church and the Boston Public Library along the way. You’ll also pass the Prudential Center, the second tallest building in Boston, and Copley Place, home to high-end clothing stores like Saks Fifth Avenue and Barney’s.
Not far from the Prudential Center in the Back Bay, the John Hancock Tower, Boston’s tallest building, rises above and reflects the city. Head inside and take the elevator up the 62 stories for panoramic views of Boston.
4. Looking for More?
I’ve called Boston home for most of my life and although I live just outside of the city, I frequent the brick-lined and cobble-stone streets. Have questions about other aspects of Boston that I haven’t discussed or want to see another article about the city? Just post your question or comment below or email Carmela at firstname.lastname@example.org