10 Best Things To Do In Boston
So you are thinking about visiting Boston? Good for you. Most people overlook this historical city for its ritzy, over-priced neighbor to the South. I am looking at you, New York. But for those of you who are interested in US history and not so interested in paying $20 dollars for a cocktail, Boston is an excellent option. The city is filled with amazing restaurants, plenty of attractions to keep you busy, and super friendly locals. I had the pleasure of spending four days here, and if I could have, I would have extended it to a week or longer. I immediately fell in love with the red brick buildings, cobble stone streets, open air market and of course the Bahston accent.
However, not all that glitters is gold. Whenever I visit a new city, I make a point to find something that I dislike about it. Everyone wants to share the good stuff, but nobody wants to share the not so good parts of their travel stories. As someone who has had Boston on their must visit list for FAR too long, it was pretty difficult for me to find something about this city that I didn’t love. If I had to choose one thing, it would be that the main attractions of the city are spread out so far that it was hard to explore without a car. I didn’t rent a car during my stay, mostly because I planned on doing a fair bit of drinking and knew that driving wouldn’t be a viable option for me. Thus, I ended up spending close to $100 on Uber’s during my 4 day stay. So my suggestion to you is to rent a car, limit your alcohol intake and spend the days cruising through some of the oldest streets in the country.
10 Best Things to do in Boston
Eat Italian in the North End
So you are on a search for the best bruschetta this side of Tuscany? Wander through the North End of Boston and you are likely to find more than a handful of contenders. When I was in the city, the best Italian food I had was from a restaurant called Panza. It was a little place with maybe 10 tables. The Italian staff know exactly what you are looking for and are totally willing to suggest their favorite dishes on the menu. I ordered the bruschetta, obviously, as well as the baked ziti with meatballs. Though my eyes were definitely bigger than my stomach (the portions are huge), I left completely content and full to the brim. I went for lunch, so I didn’t have to wait for a table, but their Yelp reviews suggest that it is fairly tough to get a seat here for dinner. They do take reservations though, so hit up OpenTable before you go, just to be on the safe side.
Eat a Canoli at Mike’s Pastry
Address: 300 Hanover St, Boston, MA 02113 Phone:(617) 742-3050 Hours:8AM–10PM
Take the Harpoon Brewery Tour
Before arriving in Boston, I had never even heard of Harpoon Brewery. I had come to Boston with every intention of taking the Sam Adams Brewery tour, but my travel partner mentioned that Harpoon was supposed to be cool. Though it is a ways from the center of the city, it was definitely worth the price of the cab ride. The brewery is huge and the tour was really interesting. I learned from the tour that it is the oldest and largest continually operated brewery in Massachusetts, and that they don’t sell their beer on the West Coast, which was a bummer since I got very attached to their Hoppy Adventure Double IPA. When you walk into the building you will face the German crafted beer hall where you can enjoy a cold one and a pretzel which transported me back to my days in Munich. The tour only costs $5 per person and on Sunday’s it runs every half hour. I believe it is every 15 minutes on Saturdays and once an hour during the week. After the main portion of the tour, you enter the Tasting Room, where the tour guides will pour you as many samples as you like over a period of 20 minutes or so. I think I tried all 10 beers that they had on tap in 20 minutes, so my cab ride back to the hotel was interesting to say the least. Maybe don’t drink the IPA flight in the 20 minutes before the tour, like I did.
Address: 306 Northern Ave., Boston, MA 00210 Phone:(617) 456-2322 Tour Hours:11:30AM–5:30PM Beer Hall Hours: Friday - Saturday 11AM-11PM Sunday - Thursday 11AM-7PM
Have a Drink at Russell House Tavern in Harvard Square
After strolling through the pristine grounds of the Harvard campus, you are likely going to want to drink away the fact that you were not smart enough to be a part of this elite group of academics. If so, Russell House Tavern in the center of Harvard Square is an excellent choice. They have a wide variety of beers to choose from, as well as a fully stocked bar and food that rivals the best restaurants in Seattle. I ordered an IPA, of course, and followed it with 6 of their most popular oysters. I can’t tell you what type they were because the IPA was 10% alcohol and I honestly don’t remember, but they were awesome. The bar has a hipster vibe with old school light bulbs hanging over the bar and a bartender with a huge beard and a bow tie. Coming from Seattle, this was right up my alley.
Have Tea at the Boston Public Library
After signing up for a Secret Boston group on FB and reading about Tea Time at the Public Library, I thought I was so cool. I had found an underground activity that no one knew about and I was going to impress everyone with my insider knowledge. After talking to a coworker who used to live in Boston, I realized that I wasn’t that cool and that most locals do know about it. Oh well, it was still really fun and it is an off-beat activity that not everyone gets to experience. The library itself it beautiful, though a bit confusing. I spent about 15 minutes wandering around looking for the bathroom after I had consumed too much tea. Don’t be like me. Ask someone instead of thinking you will be able to find it on your own. Back to the tea. The cost is $35 and it is completely worth it. They have a ton of different tea options as well as scones, cookies, and some savory sandwiches. Everything we ate lived up to our expectations and we walked away full, and you can check out the menu here.
Visit Boston Common
Boston Common, or The Common, is the oldest city park in the country and was created in 1634. It consists of 50 acres of land that was at one point used for cow grazing until the cows overgrazed the park and the Boston government had to limit the area to 70 cows at a time. Intersting, right? Well now it is just a huge park that is constantly filled with families and people walking their pets even on a blustery January day. While we were in town their was an ice skating rink set up in the center. Though it wasn’t as treed as Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, it was still a lovely place to unwind in nature in the middle of a metropolitan city.
Address: 139 Tremont St, Boston, MA 02116 Phone: (617) 635-4505
Go to a Boston Celtics Game
While I was in Boston, I had the opportunity to go to my very first NBA game. Since Seattle no longer has a team (RIP Sonics), I have never really had the chance to see an NBA team live. Even though I am not a huge basketball fan to begin with, I think that experiencing a sporting event is an essential part of getting a feel for a city and its people. I even got to meet Brian Scalabrine, the White Mamba, in the flesh while I was picking up my tickets. If basketball isn’t your thing or if you happen to be in Boston during NBA off-season, check out a Red Socks game at Fenway Park or a Bruins game at TD stadium instead. You will get to see Boston fans in their element, and there is nothing more electric than that.
Visit the Oldest Bar and Oldest Restaurant in America
The country’s oldest bar and restaurant are right next to each other in Boston on a cute cobblestone street. The Bell in Hand Tavern was established in 1775 and modeled after popular taverns in London at the time. It has since expanded and is now home to three separate bar areas so there is plenty of seating for all the tourists. While we were there, the pub was hosting a pub crawl so it was filled with drunk, rowdy Bostonians looking to have a good time, which made the experience much more entertaining. Union Oyster House which is located just down the street from the Bell in Hand opened its doors in 1826. We ordered clam chowder as well as a half dozen oysters, of which they only have one type to choose from. After having oysters at Russell House Tavern in Harvard Square, these were actually kind of disappointing, but the experience of sitting in the tiny wooden booths and reading about the history of the restaurant and its famous patrons made up for it. We went at lunch on a Saturday and there was not a wait, though I have heard that it is harder to get in for dinner, especially during peak tourist season.
The Bell in Hand
Union Oyster House
Visit the New England Aquarium
This is by far, the best aquarium I have ever been to. Since I have the attention span of a 5-year-old, this was the perfect way for me to wrap up my busy weekend in Boston. There is SO much to see here. Not only are there three different types of penguins, two types of seals, and countless species of fish to watch, there are also two different touch pools. Have you ever touched a sting ray? Well, pop into the New England Aquarium and you will be able to see and feel these beautiful creatures. In the second touch pool, you can feel star fish and sea anemones (which are kind of sticky and a little weird, don’t know how I really feel about that). I spent about 2 hours wandering around, dodging children and strollers, and videotaping jelly fish. I LOVE jelly fish.
Address: 1 Central Wharf, Boston, MA 02110 Phone: (617) 635-4505 Hours: Monday - Friday 9 am - 5 pm Saturday - Sunday 9 am - 6 pm
Bike the Freedom Trail
After I have over inundated you with enough food options to kill a horse, you will definitely need to work off some of those pasta and pastry calories. A leisurely bike ride along the Freedom Trail is the perfect way to see the historic landmarks around Boston, while also making yourself feel better about eating those 3 canolis for breakfast. The trail is 2.5 miles in length and runs from Boston Common to the USS Constitution in Charlestown. The hotel we stayed at offered a bike sharing program, so we were able to borrow bikes and helmets which was awesome, but there are also a few bike rental shops near the start of the trail. There are 16 landmarks along the course of the trail, though the most famous of which is Paul Reveres home. I have added a list of all the locations so that you make sure you don’t miss out on any photo ops. Your Instagram will thank me later. Though most of the sights are free admission, the Old South Meeting House, the Old State House, and the Paul Revere House do charge admission, just so you are aware. We didn’t go inside any of these places, so I can’t tell you whether or not it would be worth it to pay for entry. I guess it all depends on what you want to get out of the experience.
- Boston Common
- Massachusetts State House
- Park Street Church
- Granary Burying Ground
- King’s Chapel
- King’s Chapel Burying Ground
- Benjamin Franklin Statue
- Old Corner Bookstore
- Old South Meeting House
- Old State House
- Site of the Boston Massacre
- Faneuil Hall
- Paul Revere House
- Old North Church
- Copp’s Hill Burying Ground
- USS Constitution
- Bunker Hill Monument
Visit the Top of the Hub in the Prudential Tower
The views from the top of the hub are some of the best views we saw in Boston. To me, it was definitely worth the hefty $17 dollar admission price to see 360 degree views of the city from 50 stories up.
Spending 4 days in Boston, I was able to accomplish everything on this list. If you have a long weekend and are looking for a great city to visit without the high price tag associated with most East Coast cities, check out Boston. It is filled with US history, which made my heart happy, amazing food, which made my tummy happy, and outdoor activities, which kept my waistline happy. Overall, I enjoyed nearly everything about my experience in Boston and I will definitely be back to check out all the things that I am sure I missed.
What are your favorite things to do in Boston? Are there some local restaurants or bars that you love that I forgot? What drew you into Boston in the first place, history, culture, food? Let me know!