Boston is an incredible American city full of history and life. Visitors can get overwhelmed by the sheer number of places to see, but that’s just a testament to Boston’s legacy.
25 of the Best Things to Do in Boston in 2023
Boston is vibrant, alive, and full of incredible people and places. However, Boston can also be dense and hard to navigate. Choosing where to go and what to do isn’t easy in a place as full as Boston, but there are certain must-sees you simply can’t miss when you visit the city.
1. Downtown Crossing
The Downtown Crossing is an intersection of three major city streets, Washington, Winter, and Summer. It’s home to some of the best shopping available in Boston, with plenty of walkable malls and parks to enjoy.
Most of the more prominent store brands have a storefront in the area, including Macy’s, DSW, Champs, GAP, and more. In addition, there are also many attractions and outdoor spaces like Brewer’s Fountain.
It’s a great place to explore on foot or in a car, and make sure you stop by other famous shopping streets like Charles and Newbury St while you’re in the area.
2. Freedom Trail
The Freedom Trail is a walking trail through Boston that visits significant Revolutionary War historical places, including Paul Revere’s house and the Bunker Hill monument. It begins at the Boston Commons Visitor Center and ends at the USS Constitution in Boston Harbor.
Anyone interested in history must visit these historical sites in Boston, and if they aren’t interested, it’s still a fun walking tour through Boston. The Freedom Trail is one of the most popular attractions in Boston, so expect a crowd.
3. The Boston Harborwalk
The Boston Harborwalk is nearly 43 continuous miles of boardwalk that link all Boston’s waterfront neighborhoods and harbor. This impressive stretch of waterfront is still under construction but is nearing completion.
The Harborwalk is a great place for shopping, restaurants, or just enjoying the ocean. Pools, parks, hotels, and more line Boston’s coastline, making the Harborwalk one of Boston’s best places to walk and explore.
4. Harvard Museum of Natural History
The Harvard Museum of Natural History includes some jaw-dropping exhibits, including their centerpiece: Marine Life. A complete recreation of the New England underwater ecosystem towers in a central aquarium, inviting anyone who loves marine life to visit.
Of course, that’s hardly the only exhibit.
Walk through the evolution of vertebrate creatures, including some rare mounted dinosaurs, or check what temporary exhibits are available to see. Whatever you choose to do here, you won’t be disappointed.
5. New England Aquarium
If the aquarium in the Harvard Museum didn’t impress you, Check out the New England Aquarium to see all the aquatic creatures you desire. Of course, not just New England fish are included.
Otters, seals, penguins, octopi, and more call this aquarium home. From recreations of oceanic ecosystems to shows and petting aquariums, the New England Aquarium makes a fantastic day trip.
6. Path of Presidents
The Path of Presidents is a group of historical sites influenced by former presidents. From those born in the city to those who lived there a short time or even just visited, the Path of Presidents shows significant landmarks and historical sites.
The sites are scattered about Greater Boston, but it is possible to hit most on one walking trip. History buffs won’t want to miss out on this historic walking tour.
7. Fenway Park
If you’re a baseball fan, you simply can’t miss Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox. And if you don’t care for the sport, it’s still one of Boston’s most famous landmarks.
Tickets for a game or concert are a great way to enjoy the stadium, or you can simply visit and take a stroll through their museum to learn about the park’s history.
8. Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
Isabella Gardner lived an extraordinary life filled to the brim with laughter, adventure, and art. Upon her death, she left her museum, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and art collection for the public to enjoy, cementing her legacy.
Isabella traveled the world and collected curios and art that would make any aficionado swoon. She continued her collecting, eventually opening her collection to everyone in Boston and creating a museum for all to enjoy.
The Museum has some fine pieces of Italian art and sculptures, making it an absolute must-visit for those who love the art scene. Besides the art, the collection includes rare manuscripts and medieval books, and artifacts gathered throughout her travels.
9. Boston Commons
The Boston Commons can be argued to be the oldest park in America, with over 350 years of history. It set the stage for Colonial militia to train for the Revolutionary War, and it continues to be an area that encourages free speech and assembly.
Besides the park’s historical value, it offers ample green space for residents and visitors to enjoy. It includes a tot park, a Frog Pond that has ice skating in the winter, sports fields, and a spray pool for children in the summer.
The Boston Commons is a great place to start any Boston trip, as their visitor center includes tons of information on current events in the park and beyond.
10. Castle Island and Pleasure Bay
If the Commons didn’t have enough greenery for you, a visit to Castle Island and Pleasure Bay is in order. Castle Island is a thin peninsula with Fort Independence that overlooks the bay. It was constructed in the 1600s to protect Boston from naval invaders.
You can explore the beach and the fort all in one trip, learning how Colonial Army took the defensive fort from the British and then used to defend Boston throughout the Revolutionary War.
The fort was initially named Castle William, and that’s where Castle Island received its name. Pleasure Bay has a lagoon and several beaches for visitors to enjoy, and hitting both in one day is the best way to get your history and beach time.
11. Public Garden
If you’re visiting in the spring, you must visit the Public Garden. As America’s first public garden, it maintains its Victorian traditions. Founded in 1837, the Public Garden was the first of its kind in America.
You can see the difference between this park and the Boston Commons, as they were made at different times for different purposes. A walk through the flowers will make you feel like you’ve gone back to when the garden was founded during the Victorian Era.
It makes a perfect date and wedding location with a wide variety of beautiful and unusual plants. The iconic Swan Boats that have been in operation for over a hundred years attract visitors worldwide.
12. Wilbur Theater
The Wilbur is a theater with several types of events, from comedy shows to live music. Whatever’s playing now, you’re sure to find something you’ll enjoy.
The Wilbur was built in 1914 by the Shubert brothers, and it was named after their friend and theatre manager, A.L. Wilbur.
It was revitalized in 2008 and is the premier comedy and music club in Boston. Ensure you book your tickets well ahead of time. It makes a great date spot or a night out with friends.
13. Strand Theater
If the Wilbur is for a fun night out, the Strand Theater is for broadening your horizons and mind. It’s a public theater anyone can rent and is meant for cultural events and plays.
The Strand Theater plays more severe plays and compositions, but you can still find plenty of fun here. It stands as a multicultural landmark in Boston and encourages various voices in its art.
The Strand has two goals: to strengthen the neighborhood’s fabric and engage the multicultural residents of Boston. This thriving arts center makes it a great place to see shows and events that affect the local community and mingle with locals.
14. Farmer’s Market
If you want to buy some fresh produce or just take in the bustling market air, a stroll through one of Boston’s local farmer’s markets is just the thing.
There are several throughout the city scattered through different neighborhoods and parks, so there should be one near where you’ll stay. Farmers are the perfect places to visit for local delicacies and sweet treats and support locals.
15. Caffe Vittoria
Caffe Vittoria is Boston’s first Italian cafe. Enjoy authentic Italian coffee as you sit back and watch the busy city streets. Located in Boston’s North End, they serve high-quality coffee with delicious pastries that can tempt anyone into coming in.
Caffe Vittoria has remained one of the top cafes in Boston for nearly a century. They opened in 1929 and are still going strong today.
With award-winning drinks filling their menu, there’s a little something for everyone. The cafe is also purportedly haunted and receives many visits from paranormal enthusiasts and coffee drinkers.
16. Walk to the Sea
Walk to the Sea is a historical walking tour of Boston, and it covers over four centuries of history. It starts at Beacon Hill and ends at Long Wharf, covering more than a mile.
If you want to immerse yourself in the history of Boston, this walking tour is the best. It covers many famous Boston landmarks like King’s Chapel and the Old State House, covering several landmarks in one trip.
17. USS Constitution
The USS Constitution is an old warship and museum dedicated to “Old Ironsides.” Old Ironsides is the nickname for the USS Constitution during the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.
The USS Constitution earned this name from bystanders during a fierce skirmish near Novia Scotia, where they claimed the bullets bounced right off of its side as if the ship were made of iron.
The museum covers the history of the navy and naval conflicts during the Revolutionary War, particularly the USS Constitution. This unique piece of US history is a testament to the American Revolution and is a must-see for anyone visiting Boston.
18. Museum of Fine Arts
Art buffs know that visiting the local art museum is a must while traveling. And Boston has an incredible Museum of Fine Arts to see. Their current exhibits include Art in Bloom, an exhibition featuring flowers and art made of flowers.
This is usually an annual exhibit, but it has been postponed a few years because of the pandemic. Now, it’s finally returning, bigger than ever.
New exhibits featuring Dutch and Flemish artists are going up, along with their usually museum exhibits of contemporary and historical art. Of course, there’s plenty more to see than just the flowers.
19. Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum
We all know the famous story—the revolutionary act of throwing tea off British trade ships to protest taxation, the Boston Tea Party. But if you want to commemorate this historic moment, pay a visit to the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum.
It’s located at Griffin’s Wharf, the original location of the incident, and it’s an incredibly interactive experience. The staff dress in period attire and walk you through the history and planning that went into the tea party.
Then you can enact the historic moment yourself and throw heavy packs into the water and cry “No Taxation Without Representation” to get into the experience. Kids will love the interactive portion of the museum tour, and you can learn something about the Boston Tea Party yourself.
20. Samuel Adams Brewery
If you plan to do any drinking in Boston, you have to visit the first location of Samuel Adams, the Samuel Adams Brewery. They first opened in 1984 on Jamaica Plains, and they’ve been serving their signature Boston lager ever since.
The brewery regularly hosts events and live music, making it a great place to hang. Their quality beer is nothing to sniff. Try something from their R&D menu. The brewery is where their innovation department is located.
21. North End
Admittedly a lot of locations listed here are already in the North End. However, the neighborhood itself is something you should take your time to explore.
The North End has restaurants and shopping galore, and it’s considered the more historic district of Boston, so you should take some time to admire the architecture and city.
Filled with farmer’s markets, parks, charming boulevards, the North End is one of the loveliest neighborhoods in the city, so you should take your time to appreciate it.
22. Boston Harbor Islands State Park
You should always aim to appreciate some nature while you’re traveling, and Boston has quite the selection. The famed “Emerald Necklace” is a string of parks surrounding the city center.
However, there’s more to explore just a few minutes away. If you hop on a ferry, you can go from Downtown Boston to Boston Harbor Islands State Park within minutes.
This state park is made of several small islands with all manner of wildlife. You’ll see seals, otters, and even some incredible landmarks. A short half-day trip is about all you need to explore the highlights of this natural beauty.
23. John F. Kennedy Presidential Museum and Library
John F. Kennedy and Boston are intricately intertwined. The city launched him to greatness, and he loved the city. The John F. Kennedy Presidential Museum and Library stands as a memory of America’s 35th president.
Besides the museum, the library also features several famous works, and the entire structure overlooks a ten-acre park.
If you’re interested in mid-20th century politics or the life of John F. Kennedy, this is the perfect stop. However, those uninterested can take their time exploring the rest of the library and the grounds.
24. Beacon Hill
Of all the neighborhoods in North End, there is none more historic than Beacon Hill. As Boston’s premier landmark neighborhood, it’s strictly protected and looks like a time bubble to the colonial era of Boston.
One of the oldest communities in the city, Beacon Hill, was where Paul Revere lit the beacon to warn the townspeople of the coming invasion. And that very same beacon is what Beacon Hill has been named after.
Unfortunately, the beacon no longer stands, but several other historic landmarks dot the neighborhood, like the Old State House and the Boston African American Historical Site.
25. Quincy Market
Quincy Market has almost everything you could ask for in Boston. Mayor Quincy founded this now enormous shopping center in 1825 because of the lackluster shopping markets available.
This massive market now has three buildings: Quincy Market, North Market, and South Market, and is home to hundreds of shops and restaurants for people to enjoy. With great shopping, great food, and great people, you’ll find everything you’d want in a Boston landmark.
Things to Consider
Before heading to Boston, you should consider a few things, like where you should book your hotel, what neighborhoods are safe, and the locals’ abrasive attitude.
You should generally keep your wits about you when traveling, but this goes double in a large city like Boston, where you could be mugged or pickpocketed. As a rule, walk around during the day, and stay in safe neighborhoods or your hotel at night.
Keep local customs in mind, and also know that Boston is very much a college town where most of the city is packed with students on the weekends.
The locals may seem rude and have harsh attitudes at time, but this combined with the area’s iconic accent is part of Boston’s charm. Nevertheless, you should avoid Mission Hill and stay in the city’s more touristy areas to stay safe.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you’re planning a trip to Boston but don’t know where to start, check out the tourism websites for the city of Boston and the neighborhoods linked above. They usually have deals on hotels for you to stay in.
Is Boston a friendly city?
Yes, and no. Boston is a very touristy town. It has a lot of famous landmarks and attractions for visitors to enjoy. But it’s also home to rude Bostonians. Their rudeness may be a part of the local charm, but you should still stay in the tourist areas.
What should you not miss in Boston?
If you can only visit five locations in Boston, they should be the Harvard Museum of Natural History, Fenway Park, Boston Commons, Freedom Trail, and Beacon Hill.
They cover most of the historical and cultural features Boston is known for. However, if you have the time, you should explore all the locations on this list and enjoy everything Boston offers.
What is Boston best known for?
Boston is probably best known for its people. Boston may be full of crazy people, but it’s never dull, and everyone there seems like a real character. There’s a reason the accent and attitude of Bostonians are known the world over.
The next most important thing would be the history. Boston played an essential role in the Revolutionary War, and many landmarks show its age and importance in history.
How many days in Boston is enough?
If you pick and choose your favorite spots from the list above, three days should be enough to see the main highlights. It all depends on what you want to do, but three days should hit most landmarks and even give you some extra time to hang out with the locals.
However, you can quickly fill a week with activities with everything there is to do in Boston, so plan your trip accordingly.
What is the best time to go to Boston?
The best seasons to go to Boston would be either in the spring or fall. These are the shoulder seasons for Boston tourism, so there are fewer crowds to deal with. On the other hand, some arguments can be made for summer or winter.
In summer, the beaches are open, and the schools are closed, so you can avoid the students and chill on the beach. But tourists crowd the area this time of year. On the other hand, there’s no one in winter, but there’s terrible weather and no outdoor activities.
However, those visiting during the winter can enjoy a New England Christmas and its festivities. In the end, it depends on what you want to do in Boston.
So, What Are the Best Places to Go in Boston?
Boston has a little something for everyone with historical landmarks, cultural attractions, and great beer. It’s a fantastic place to visit and explore with plenty of shopping and activities for the entire family.
So choose your hotel wisely, and pack your bags to explore everything Boston has to see, from Fenway Park to Boston Harbor. Happy travels!