Top 12 Things to Do in Boston, Massachusetts

Last Updated on February 14, 2024 by Emily Johnson

Founded in 1630, Boston is one of the oldest and most historic cities in the United States. This vibrant metropolis is home to elite universities, championship sports teams, a thriving arts and culture scene, stunning colonial architecture, and top-notch restaurants.

Explore the Freedom TrailWalk through historic sites related to the American Revolution.
Tour Harvard UniversityVisit the campus and its landmarks in Cambridge.
Visit Boston Common & Public GardenEnjoy these historic parks in central Boston.
Relive the American RevolutionVisit sites and museums highlighting this period.
Shop on Newbury StreetExplore boutiques, galleries, and eateries.
Watch the Boston CelticsExperience a game of this historic NBA team.
Cruise Boston HarborTour the harbor with views of the skyline and islands.
Sing Karaoke in ChinatownEnjoy karaoke and dining in this vibrant neighborhood.
Relax at Boston Public LibraryExplore the architecture and collections of this historic library.
Tour Fenway ParkVisit the historic baseball stadium.
Spend a Day in SalemExplore the history of the witch trials and maritime heritage.

With so much to see and experience, visitors are spoiled for choice. Here are 12 of the top things to do on your next trip to Boston.

Explore the Freedom Trail

Name and Location: The Freedom Trail is a 2.5 mile walking trail through downtown Boston passing 16 historical sites.

History and Significance: Established in 1951, the Freedom Trail tells the story of the American Revolution and founding of the nation through key landmarks from Boston Common to Bunker Hill.

What to Expect: As you follow the red-lined sidewalk, interactive guides detail events at each site from the gold-domed State House to the Old North Church. Costumed reenactors provide immersive living history.

Visitor Information: Maps available from the Boston Common Visitor Center. Guided tours offered or self-guide. Takes 2-3 hours round trip walking.

One of the best ways to dive into Boston’s pivotal role in American independence is to walk the iconic Freedom Trail. This route winds 2.5 miles through downtown to see 16 historical landmarks related to the American Revolution. Toddle down ancient cobblestone streets past sites like the Paul Revere House, Old North Church, Old State House and Faneuil Hall. Costumed guides provide engaging commentary about the events and personalities that gave birth to the nation.

You can walk the trail with free maps or pay for 90-minute guided tours departing frequently from Boston Common. However you choose to experience this iconic trail, it’s sure to provide an immersive journey into the early days of the United States of America.

Tour Harvard UniversityHarvard University Campus Tour from Boston - Klook United States

Name and Location: Harvard University in Cambridge dates to 1636 as the oldest higher education institution in the United States.

History and Significance: Founded in 1636, Harvard University helped establish higher education standards in the Americas. Today, the Ivy League institution contains renowned school programs, museums, libraries and research centers spanning over 200 buildings.

What to Expect: Walking tours showcase Harvard Yard architecture and statue legends. Campus museums like the Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology exhibit artifacts. The Harvard Museum of Natural History features prized glass flowers.

Visitor Information: Free student-led and professional tours available with advance reservations. Public transit accessible or pay parking on-site.

One of the world’s most elite universities, Harvard invites visitors to explore its sprawling campus across the Charles River in Cambridge. Join free historical tours led by Harvard students to check out top sites like stately Harvard Yard, John Harvard statue and the stunning Widener library. Indulge your inner bookworm wandering through the Harvard Book Store, or catch a show at Sanders Theatre inside ornate Memorial Hall.

Whether you choose a guided group tour or self-guided smartphone walking tour, Harvard’s manicured vistas dotted with ivy-covered history promise a scenic outing learning more about Boston’s academic crown jewel.

Visit Boston Common and Public Garden

Name and Location: The Boston Common and adjacent Public Garden represent America’s oldest public parks located right downtown.

History and Significance: Dating to 1634, these sites host community events and protests key to founding US independence, serving today as popular urban green spaces with artistic sculptures and famed Swan Boats around a glistening pond.

What to Expect: People watch fellow visitors relaxing on lawns and benches under shade trees. Seek acclaimed New England fare nearby after exploring sylvan pathways through these National Historic Landmarks or reading plaques commemorating pivotal demonstration grounds vital for free speech over nearly 400 years.

Visitor Information: Always open. Ranger-guided tours start from Boston Common Visitor Information Center daily late May through October.

Two emerald jewels resting side-by-side in central Boston, the Boston Common and adjacent Public Garden enchant locals and visitors alike. America’s oldest public park dating back to 1634, the Common hosts seasonal concerts, plays, rallies and more inside its spacious lawn confines. Meandering pathways just beg for romantic strolls, or families and friends can picnic in the shade of a noble elm tree.

Next door at the 24-acre Public Garden, manicured Victorian-era styling dazzles passersby. Tree-lined pathways wind past radiant flower beds and stately statues to the iconic Swan Boats pedaling around the pond as they have since 1877. Few city center green spaces compare to this picturesque oasis ensconced within bustling downtown Boston.

Relive the American Revolution

Name and Location: Boston’s legacy as the cradle of American independence endures through living history sites scattered citywide.

History and Significance: As the stage for early rebellious events like the Boston Tea Party and Paul Revere’s ride warning colonists, nearly two dozen locales detail the Revolutionary War period when the nation was founded through exhibits and reenactments.

What to Expect: Costumed guides at sites like Paul Revere House chronicle defiance. The U.S.S. Constitution offers deck access. Learn soldier life at Bunker Hill Museum. Dynamic multimedia immerses visitors within volatile times laying groundwork for future freedoms.

Visitor Information: Save on admission with Boston’s Freedom Trail Pass. Most locations accessible via MBTA transit. Hours vary by site.

Few cities in America witnessed more pivotal events surrounding the Revolutionary War than Boston in the late 1700s. While walking the Freedom Trail provides an introduction, several additional sites transport visitors back in time to relive the nation’s founding first-hand.

Watch reenactors fire muskets and cannons at the Boston Tea Party Ships Museum before exploring full-size replicas of the ships raided during that fateful night in 1773. Ticketed history buffs can dine on traditional colonial fare while costumed guides share tales about revolutionary spies and soldiers at two centuries-old taverns downtown. The USS Constitution Museum comes alive through battle recreations and multimedia exhibits revealing the ship’s storied history in America’s march toward independence on the high seas starting in 1798.

Shop Till You Drop on Newbury Street

Name and Location: Newbury Street spans eight vibrant blocks as Boston’s premier shopping, dining and cultural destination located in the picturesque Back Bay area.

History and Significance: Developed in the 1800s, this tree-lined central spine attracts well-heeled clientele and serious fashionistas towards rows of Victorian brownstones housing major brands alongside chic boutiques, galleries and cafes radiating luxury retail refinement.

What to Expect: Saunter under string lights past stylish window displays from designer stores like Chanel and Diane Von Furstenberg. Refuel with coffees, cocktails or gourmet bites between hunting for shoes, apparel and New England-centric gifts ranging wildly in price and exclusivity catering to diverse tastes.

Visitor Information: Accessible year-round. Public parking available. Upscale shopping corridor best explored at leisurely pace given density of offerings.

Fashionistas flock to Newbury Street in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood to stroll block after block of chic boutiques, salons and art galleries housed inside charming brownstone facades. Splurge on designer threads at high-end flagship stores for names like Diane von Furstenberg, Brooks Brothers and Cole Haan. At street level, food options also abound with cozy cafes and five-star eateries vying for patronage from deep-pocketed shoppers.

Don’t miss ducking into Newbury Comics institution – a massive music megastore spanning three levels of vinyl records, band apparel, kitschy pop culture gifts and more since 1978. Also scope out boutique European jewelers and craft artisans within the elegant Mall at Chestnut Hill for eclectic gifts made locally across Massachusetts.

Watch the Boston Celtics

Name and Location: The NBA’s most decorated franchise with 17 championships plays downtown in the TD Garden arena.

History and Significance: On parquet hardwood since 1946, the Celtics have entertained devoted local fans through dynasties led by Russell and Bird to the Big Three era of Pierce, Allen and Garnett hanging more championship banners than rivals alongside the Bruins NHL hockey team who also call this venue home.

What to Expect: Catch East coast powerhouse roundball led currently by Tatum and Brown driving diehards wild with flashy fast break dunks and rapid ball movement requiring stout defense through four tension-filled quarters. Deafening cheers shake the rafters throughout playoff runs annually chasing another title.

Visitor Information: Games late October through April. Secondary ticket prices vary greatly. Accessible via North Station transit with surrounding food and nightlife options.

The Boston Celtics need no introduction as the most successful franchise in NBA history with a record 17 World Championship wins. Since debuting in 1946 inside the Boston Garden, the Celtics have wowed generations of hoops fans across New England flaunting names like Bill Russell, Larry Bird and Paul Pierce.

Catch the contenders back running the famed parquet floor today at electric TD Garden in the city’s West End. Enjoy a cold Sam Adams lager while cheering the hometown Green Team alongside diehard, face painted superfans reliving the Celtic’s glory days through another nail-biting playoff run.

Cruise Boston Harbor

Name and Location: Narrated Boston Harbor tours depart downtown daily showcasing the city skyline and nearby islands.

History and Significance: As one of America’s most important Atlantic ports dating to the 1630s whose history overflows with rebellion drama and immigrants that shaped the region’s culture and trade economies. Views of the harbor forged early visions of independence.

What to Expect: Glide past the bustling waterfront district and Tea Party museum to glimpse lighthouses, North End parks, Airport runway peripheries and perhaps even humpback whale sightings when available. Multilingual options cater to global visitors through the breeze.

Visitor Information: Departs Long Wharf daily March thru November. Save online purchasing discounted tickets around $27 for narrated 90 minutes loops with indoor and outdoor seating options.

See the city from offshore while touring Boston Harbor, framed by the dramatic city skyline and dotted by the harbor islands in the distance. Plenty of tour providers like Boston Harbor Cruises offer tickets for everything from quick 45-minute spins highlighting city landmarks to sunset cocktail sails and dining voyages taking you along the scenic waterfront.

History buffs appreciate the naval perspective from Boston Tea Party Ships that passes by the USS Constitution, Old Ironsides and the iconic Bunker Hill Monument. Whale watches carried by Boston Harbor Cruises and Captain John Boats embark between April and October while massive humpback whales migrate past Boston feeding grounds.

Sing Karaoke in Chinatown

Name and Location: Vibrant late-night Asian restaurants and clubs cluster near Boston’s Theater District with karaoke options to sing favorite hits across languages and genres publicly.

History and Significance: As the third-oldest Chinatown community within America since the 1870s, this downtown neighborhood retains deep cultural roots through original family-run restaurants alongside diversified offerings from dim sum teahouses, barbecue noodle joints to buzzing Southeast Asian dance clubs radiating today’s Asian diversity through hospitality and nightlife.

What to Expect: Dumpling crawl between steaming buns and tapas dishes ahead of commandeering glowing private karaoke boxes for English and foreign pop songs with friends til late hours. Belt fan favorites fueled by plentiful drink menus amidst neon ambience and fiery woks hissing tasty aromas nearby.

Visitor Information: Most venues open daily with cash preferred. Nightlife peaks Thursday thru Saturday nights from 9pm onwards clustered around Beach Street and Harrison Avenue lined by iconic gateway Chinatown arches.

While nominally covering just a few downtown blocks, Boston’s spirited Chinatown neighborhood punches above its weight class hosting scores of restaurants and an utterly unique karaoke lounge – Limelight Stage and Studios. Beneath blinking neon lights and glittering disco balls, Limlight transforms nightly into the ultimate karaoke party emceed by charismatic staff pulling wannabe crooners onstage.

Tune your vocal chords for a slot on the list to sing your heart out on Limelight’s stage. Partake in wicked-good cocktails named after pop divas while cheering fellow revelers tackling Sinatra, Adele or Bon Jovi anthems in this dazzling karaoke theater. The affordable bar menu and lack of cover charge ensures great fun even for guests who prefer dancing in their seats to taking the mic!

Relax at Boston Public Library

Name and Location: Founded in 1848, Boston Public Library’s flagship McKim Building has invited generations to engage with millions of volumes within a lavish neoclassical setting downtown since 1895.

History and Significance: America’s first municipally-funded library today balances increasing digital services while preserving original splendor like towering arched entryways and barrel-vaulted Bates Hall epitomizing knowledge temples of the Gilded Age when emerging civic institutions aimed to uplift immigrant populations through educational initiatives.

What to Expect: Beyond enjoying free Art Deco reading rooms and topical exhibits, visitors admire sublime Italianate courtyard vista, carved lion sculptures, murals depicting Muses and Minerva plus the rare book department’s rotating displays like John Adams volumes showcasing early imprints.

Visitor Information: Free access for all with valid photo ID required. Guided tours run select days for deeper insights by trained docents. Right near public transit hubs.

Founded as the first municipal library in the country, the Boston Public Library has expanded since 1852 into an aesthetically stunning network spanning 26 branch locations. The Central Library overlooking picturesque Copley Square stands out as a veritable palace for book lovers entering ornate lion-guarded doors into a grand Italian-inspired reading hall bathed in sunlight from towering arched windows. Hand-painted murals grace the vaulted ceiling as visitors whisper between book-lined shelves holding over 23 million tomes.

Beyond the main research stacks, the iconic McKim building also houses exquisite exhibits like ancient Buddhist scrolls and medieval Christian illuminated texts inside ornate glass cases. Bibliophiles simply get lost wandering this architectural showpiece leaving inspired by the library’s rich legacy as a venerable community learning hub.

Tour Fenway Park

Name and Location: Home of the Boston Red Sox since 1912, Fenway Park provides Major League Baseball’s ultimate vintage ballpark experience via tours.

History and Significance: America’s oldest active sports venue today hosts 45,000 fans cheering World Series champions originally built for Boston’s American League club when emerging professional athletics first captivated the public through heartfelt sporting and civic traditions here embracing generations.

What to Expect: Stadium tours let visitors walk the Green Monster wall, peek inside cramped clubhouses and glimpse baseball-shaped folklore artifacts recalling Golden Era greats like Williams and Yastrzemski who brought Fenway glory before 2004 reversed the Sox curse towards modern diamond dynasties led by later legends Ortiz and Pedroia.

Visitor Information: Non-game tours offered daily 9am-5pm starting around $25, advance purchase recommended. Located near transit in Kenmore Square. Season runs April through October.

The Boston Red Sox have played America’s pastime inside historic Fenway Park since 1912, making it baseball’s oldest functioning stadium. Watching a game from the Green Monster left field bleachers counts among the most quintessential Bostonian experiences for sports fans.

The park comes alive through 60-minute guided tours providing insider access to press boxes, dugout seats and more even on non-game days. Hear decades of Fenway lore about Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Carlton Fisk and the Sox’s modern dynasty that broke “The Curse” winning four titles since 2004! Outsiders also appreciate the ballpark facade’s role anchoring the vibrant neighborhood called Fenway dotted with sports bars, concert venues and Boston University campus.

Spend a Day in Salem

Name and Location: The city of Salem set along Massachusetts’ picturesque North Shore holds infamy for notorious witch trials of 1692 that influenced lasting New England lore.

History and Significance: An early landing site of Puritan settlers, Salem later germinated valorous maritime fortunes yet remains haunted by backward hysteria falsely accusing many locals of dark wizardry, leaving several women convicted then executed horrifically before campaign reversals.

What to Expect: Today’s Salem embraces its storied past through museums like the Witch House showcasing spellbook relics and testimony archives. Nearby, gothic waterfront districts lined with magic shops and psychic readers lean into the legacy annually for supernatural enthusiasts, especially around Halloween.

Visitor Information: Salem sits 25 minutes by train north of Boston. Walk witch trial grounds and memorials daily. Events peak each October when tourism swells dramatically for seasonal attractions.

Just 45 minutes north of Boston lies the quiet coastal city of Salem, notorious for its 17th century witch trials. Today Salem pays homage to its haunted history through witch-themed tours, museums, landmarks and annual Halloween celebrations.

Get your witch fix wandering downtown to peek at macabre relics and learn about the fateful hysteria at the Witch House where trials took place. Nearby, the Salem Witch Museum recreates the drama of the witch hunts through stage sets and life-size dioramas. After, stroll down the Eerie Evening tour to hear chilling tales of the accused while passing by Salem’s oldest burial grounds. Before leaving, make sure to visit the Salem Maritime National Historic Site to see tall ships docked that hearken back over 400 years to the city’s earliest days as a bustling port and trading hub along the New England coast.

With this roundup of iconic landmarks, quintessential experiences and offbeat discoveries, visitors tapping into Boston’s richness quickly appreciate why locals boast so much hometown pride. From retracing revolutionary footprints to singing under disco balls, Boston’s vibrant character promises dynamic memories stretching well beyond the Freedom Trail’s cobblestone course.

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