24 Ultimate Things to Do in Boston

  • 24 Ultimate Things to Do in Boston

    Everything to see and do in one of America’s most historic cities.

    Boston is not only a college town, it is a creative hub for the art, culture, food, health, and tech industries. W.E.B. Du Bois attended school in Great Barrington. The renowned artist, Paul Goodnight, can often be seen walking around the city in his signature paint-splashed overalls. Mayor Kim Janey can be spotted enjoying lunch in her Roxbury neighborhood. There is so much history to explore throughout the Commonwealth, and Boston is where you’ll want to start. Home to the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park since 1912, this cosmopolitan city is rated as one of the most walkable in the country.  The North End is the city’s “Little Italy” and offers a variety of Italian dining. The Charles River has plenty of opportunities for water sports and green space for biking, jogging, or enjoying a picnic. Boston is home to many beautiful parks and green spaces, so it’s easy to enjoy what this coastal city has to offer. Check out the National Park Service, for which sites are open to the public during the pandemic.   For foodies, it’s not all craft beer and lobster rolls in Boston. The city is home to a rich and diverse food scene with dishes hailing from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, and Latin America. It’s safe to say, Boston has something for every traveler. Whether you like Boston baked beans, craft beer, seafood, history, or parks, “Beantown” is sure to entertain you. Now that COVID vaccines are on the market, many will travel for the first time since the start of the pandemic. Whether you like the beach life or are always in search of that next great meal, Boston should be a city on your travel list this year. Here’s a list of the must-see places and restaurants you’ll want to experience on your first trip to Boston.

    f11photo/Shutterstock

  • Live Like a Local Tours Boston

    Want to avoid tourist traps and have an authentic travel experience like a true Bostonian? Book a tour with Live Like a Local Tours Boston, and you ll get a taste of the history, gastronomy, diversity, and culture that makes Boston a repeat travel destination. Founder Collin Knight takes you through Dorchester, Jamaica Plain, and Roxbury to enjoy craft beer and tasty Caribbean food in Boston s more diverse neighborhoods. COVID-friendly groups and private tours are available on their website.

    Kalvin Desilva

  • Time Out Boston

    Time Out Boston is a food hall that opened in 2019 and is much like Eataly but features a variety of Boston ’s diverse food scene instead. It is located in the Fenway area, has 10 eateries with an additional two debuting this summer. Time Out offers local New England seafood, Asian, Eastern Mediterranean, Italian , Mexican, and New American cuisine.

    Leslee_atFlickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]/Flickr

  • The Institute of Contemporary Art Boston (ICA)

    The Institute of Contemporary Art is an art museum and exhibition space with glass walls overlooking the Boston Harbor. The museum is located in the South Boston Seaport District and has hosted DJ sets, adult PJ parties, and exhibitions. It was founded as the Boston Museum of Modern Art in 1936 and has been in its current location since 2006. You can book timed visits on the ICA site or enjoy virtual events on their site.

    Wangkun Jia/Shutterstock

  • Isabella Gardner Museum

    One of the city’s most charming attractions is the small but lovely Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Isabella Stewart, a New York socialite, came to Boston in 1860 to marry John Lowell Gardner, one of Boston’s prominent citizens. In short order, Isabella set to building herself a Venetian palazzo to hold her extensive art collection. Just like she was, the collection is eclectic, with masterpieces by Titian (Europa ), Giotto (Presentation of Christ in the Temple ), and John Singer Sargent (El Jaleo ), to name a few.

    Isabella left strict instructions in her will that the building remain exactly as she left it, so visitors today can almost picture her enjoying the gorgeous gardens in her Venetian courtyard or warming her hands by one of the Renaissance hooded fireplaces.

    Phillip Reeves /Dreamstime

  • Charles River Boat Tour

    One exciting way to see the city is by boat. Book a 70-minute tour of the city and explore Boston and Cambridge. In operation since 1990, the Charles River Boat Tour features a sightseeing tour or a sunset cruise where guests can enjoy a full-service bar onboard. You can also take advantage of Boston’s only 90-minute architecture tour of the Charles River and Boston Harbor by a local expert. The architecture tour operates from May through October, annually. Guests can also book the boats for private events. If you are short on time, the Charles River Boat tours are an exciting way to see the city in the warmer months.  

    aceshot1/Shutterstock

  • The Boston Copley Library

    This 1884 Renaissance Revival style is home to The Boston Copley Library . Grab a to-go sandwich from Flour Bakery or Eataly for an al fresco snack in this Italian-style courtyard, which comes complete with fountains and statues. During the spring and summer months, free classical music performances are held in the courtyard. Enjoy your lunch while pretending you re in a swanky Venetian cafe.

    eskystudio/Shutterstock

  • The Freedom Trail

    Experience this 2.5-mile red line, which reflects more than 250 years of history in Boston. The Freedom Trail is a historic walk that leads to 16 nationally recognized sites. It is a dream for history buffs as this trail boasts a collection of museums, churches, meeting houses, burial grounds, parks, a ship, and historic markers that tell the story of the American Revolution.

    F11photo/Dreamstime

  • Faneuil Hall

    Faneuil Hall is a meeting hall and marketplace that opened on Boston s waterfront in 1743. Built by John Smibert and funded by slave merchant, Peter Faneuil, it was once the site of Boston s slave auctions and the stage for many speeches by Samuel Adams and other famed Bostonians who demanded independence from Great Britain.

    Diego Grandi/Shutterstock

  • The Boston Tea Party Museum

    The Boston Tea Party Museum is a floating history museum that features live reenactments, a tearoom, and multimedia exhibits. There are modified visiting hours due to COVID, but you can still learn about the events that started a revolution and changed the course of history.

    ESB Professional/Shutterstock

  • The Museum of Fine Arts

    One of the most highly regarded museums in the world, the massive Museum of Fine Arts boasts about half a million objects spanning the centuries from ancient Egypt to present-day artwork. The museum officially opened its doors in 1876, with a little over 5,500 objects. It’s now the 14th largest art museum in the world. It’s best to make a game plan of what you want to see because tackling the museum in a few hours, or even a day, is impossible.

    Jay Yuan/Shutterstock

  • The Bunker Hill Museum

    The Bunker Hill Museum is located in Charlestown and is also home to the Bunker Hill Monument ; although the monument is closed due to the pandemic, the museum has a modified schedule and welcomes visitors. The monument is the site of The Battle of Bunker Hill (June 1775), where New England soldiers fought the British army. In 1961, the Bunker Hill Monument became a National Historic Landmark. The monument—a 221-foot tall obelisk made of quarrel granite—was once the tallest structure until the Washington Monument was erected in 1880. Visitors can climb the 294 steps to the observation lookout. For history buffs, a visit to the granite obelisk, which was completed in 1842, is a must.

    Jon Bilous/Shutterstock

  • Fenway Park

    Without a doubt, Boston is a town that takes its sports seriously. Very seriously. From the New England Patriots to the Boston Bruins, from the Boston Celtics to the Boston Red Sox, this is a city of super fans. Of all the venues where sporting events are held though, none can compare to Fenway Park, which locals hold in absolute reverence. The nation’s oldest Major League Baseball ballpark, where the Red Sox have played since 1912, seems like a throwback to more innocent days, where legendary games have played out over the decades. If you can’t make it to a game, excellent tours ( or virtual tours) run year-round and even get you onto the hallowed ground of the field.

    Keith J Finks/Shutterstock

  • Sway to the Sounds of Local Musicians

    Boston is home to an impressive music scene. For the past six years, Catherine T. Morris, Founder and Executive Director of the Boston Art and Music Soul Festival (BAMS Fest, Inq), has spearheaded this family-friendly event. Each June, you can count on amazing headliners for the BAMS Festival. In lieu of the BAMS Fest during the pandemic, the organization pivoted to a digital program call “ AMPLIFY THE SOUL.

    For more music, stop by The Beehive and Wally’s Café. The Beehive is a restaurant-meets-music venue offering food and drinks alongside a steady roster of Boston s most talented musicians. It’s located in Boston s South End neighborhood, and many local bands grace the stage of this fun location. Try their fried oysters paired with truffle aioli and pickled celery, their red braised lamb shoulder entree with spring vegetables, or the couscous and salsa verde.     

    Wally’s Caf é jazz club is one of the oldest family-run jazz clubs in the country, and hosts jam sessions and performances nightly. In 1947, Joseph L. Walcott—a native of Barbados—opened Wally’s Café jazz club.   In 2009, Wally’s was designated a historical landmark by the Boston Historical Society. Wally’s iconic red door is easily spotted on the busy Massachusetts Avenue in Boston’s South End neighborhood. Wally’s was one of the first racially integrated venues in all of New England, showcasing jazz greats like Billie Holliday, Charlie Parker, and Art Blakey. Today, Wally’s is owned by Walcott’s daughter, Elynor Walcott, and her son, Frank Poindexter, who is the General Manager, bartender, and founder of their “Student to Student Music Project.” Countless Berklee students flock here to hone their musical chops each week.

    Maya Rafie

  • The Best Bakeries to Check Out

    Whether you’re in the mood for a Vietnamese sandwich on crunchy French bread or Paris-inspired macarons, these are the bakeries to check out in Boston. Praline is a traditional French bakery that imports its ingredients from France, so you can enjoy pain au chocolat and macarons as if you were in Paris. Praline’s first shop is in Belmont, Massachusetts, and recently opened a second location in Cambridge.

    For all the bánh mì lovers out there, Ba Lė Bakery is a local favorite. Bánh mì is a tasty Vietnamese sandwich served with pickled veggies, paté, and a variety of Vietnamese deli meats on a small French baguette and drizzled with a savory hoisin sauce. Boston is home to a large Vietnamese community and this no-frills French-influenced bakery hits the spot every time. Be sure to order a bubble tea to enjoy with your bánh mì.

    Le Foyer Bakery is located in Boston’s Mattapan Square. This Haitian bakery boasts over 30 years of producing some of the best flaky meat pies, known as paté. On any given weekend, the queues are long for traditional Haitian bread, cakes, pastries, and patés. Some of the more popular paté fillings include spicy codfish, chicken, beef, and smoked herring.

    Kris Land/Shutterstock

  • Urban Grape

    Greta Rybus

  • Enjoy Classic Comfort Food

    From BBQ to burgers to good old Southern cooking, Boston has a variety of restaurants serving classic comfort food. The Pit Stop BBQ is a tiny BBQ joint boasting some of the most authentic Southern comfort fare and BBQ in Boston. Serving “soul food” for the past 30 years on Morton Street in Mattapan, the smell of smoked meat and wood chips waft through the air as you approach this no-frills Southern-style eatery. Ribs, collard greens, potato salad, macaroni and cheese, cornbread, and coleslaw all shine on the Pit Stop BBQ’s menu.

    Comfort Kitchen elevates “global comfort food” with flavors and ingredients from the African Diaspora. It is a cafe by day and a restaurant by night and touts itself as a food incubator with a keen interest in activating collaboration and cross-cultural understanding with efforts to engage its local community. Comfort Kitchen is a Black, immigrant, and woman-owned business in the heart of Boston’s Uphams Corner neighborhood. It is owned by Biplaw Rai, Nyacko Pearl Perry, and Kwasi Kwaa.

    Darryl’s Corner Bar and Kitchen is owned by Nia Grace, who has a background in music promotion and worked as a general manager for two years at Darryl’s Corner Bar and Kitchen before taking on the role as owner. You can enjoy Darryl’s Southern-influenced menu, regular live music, and a jazz brunch that draws locals from all over the city. Stop in and try classic Southern dishes like their fried catfish, collard greens, macaroni and cheese, and a great drink menu. Don’t skip on the red velvet cake for dessert—you’ll be happy you did!

    Looking for a classic burger? Head to Bred Gourmet in Dorchester. This burger spot serves gourmet-style grass-fed beef burgers, fresh salads, and smoothies. Come for the great food—like parmesan truffle fries and plantains — and stay for the friendly staff and welcoming service.

    Courtesy of Comfort Kitchen

  • Get Your Juice (or Coffee) Fix

    Cafe Juice Up is located in Mattapan. Opened by Denise O Marde in 2019, this popular juice bar serves up affordable fresh fruit bowls, fruit juices, smoothies, savory meat pies (called patties”), and soups. A welcomed healthy addition to the businesses that line Blue Hill Avenue in Mattapan, stop by and try their freshly pressed juices, have a post-workout smoothie, or grab a snack.

    If you’re jonesing for a caffeine fix instead, visit the Ripple Cafe  in Dorchester at Ashmont station. Owners Elle Ducheine and James Guerrier opened Ripple over two years ago and haven’t looked back. The java-loving duo created a cozy atmosphere in the Dorchester neighborhood with floor-to-ceiling glass windows and ample natural light that brightens the modern design of this Dorchester gem. Be sure to try the single-origin coffee, locally-baked goods, and avocado toast, all while enjoying their stellar playlist.

    Ketan Gajria

  • Asian-Inspired Restaurants to Visit

    Be it bubble tea, chicken curry, or fried rice, there is no shortage of delectable Asian-inspired menus to choose from in Boston. Caffe Bene is a Korean coffee house in Boston’s Symphony Hall area. The cafe is a cozy place to enjoy lattes, bubble teas, cheesecakes, macaroons, waffles, hand-pressed sandwiches, and a variety of pastries. It’s a great spot to enjoy a pre-symphony snack.

    Penang Malaysian Cuisine is home to both authentic Malaysian and Thai cuisine. Try their roti canal, which is a warm crispy pancake-style bread paired with a rich curry chicken dipping sauce. It’s the perfect appetizer for any meal at this busy downtown restaurant. Don’t skip on the beef rendang either, which is a rice dish with stewed beef. Pop into Chinatown for Malaysian cuisine in the heart of the city, then enjoy a walk through the Boston Common after your meal.

    Brassica Kitchen is a cafe and restaurant located in Jamaica Plain. Their lunch and dinner menu never disappoints. Try their unctuous koji risotto with cultured butter, their savory crispy fried chicken sandwich, and their Asian-inspired fried rice. They serve a diverse menu fusing American, Asian, and Southern comfort food weekly.

    In 2019, Chef Anthony Caldwell opened 50Kitchen in Dorchester. His Field’s Corner restaurant blends Asian and American Southern cuisines for a fast-casual dining experience. Try their Louisiana gumbo, the Jambalaya egg rolls, smoked bánh mì, or classic shrimp and grits. Chef Caldwell gives back to the community by mentoring Boston youth. With a tagline like “beautiful food for beautiful people,” Chef Caldwell welcomes all to his table.

    Ketan Gajria

  • A Taste of the African Diaspora

    Most cities—like New York or Los Angeles—boast a large selection of Asian or Italian restaurants, but Boston’s diverse food scene includes an array of cuisine from the African Diaspora as well. Enjoy authentic Cape Verdean cuisine at Restaurante Cesaria, which serves up traditional dishes like Katchupa (a meat stew with hominy, pork, beef, beans, and collard greens) and Feijoada (beans with pork and Linguica sausage). Or, head to Suya Joint  in Roxbury for authentic Nigerian food. Try the jollof rice or egusi stew to keep you warm on those cold Boston days. Suya Joint offers a bar, lounge, restaurant, and catering.

    Collin Knight

See more at Fodor's Travel