The 50 best things to do in Boston

Your ultimate guide to the best things to do in Boston, from the city’s top restaurants to museums and sightseeing
Do List Boston
By Eric Grossman and Time Out contributors |
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Boston may not be the biggest city, but to locals it’s the Hub of the Universe. Numerous Boston attractions and activities can lay claim as the best things to do in Boston; options run the gamut from top-notch eats at Boston’s best restaurants and cool treats at the best ice cream shops to engaging cultural offerings at world-class Boston museums. So whether you’re a newcomer or a lifelong local looking for the best things to do around the area, be sure check off these essential activities.

Done something on this list and loved it? Share it with the hashtag #TimeOutDoList and tag @TimeOutEverywhere.

You can also find out more about how Time Out selects the very best things to do all over the world, or take a look at our list of the 50 best things to do in the world right now.

 

Best things to do in Boston

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Photograph: Shutterstock

Wander around the Boston Common and Public Garden

What is it? Americas first botanical garden (Public Garden, 1837) and oldest public park (Boston Common, 1634).

Why go? The dual jewels of the Emerald Necklace perfectly reflect the vision of venerated landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. Depending on the season, you can ice-skate on Frog Pond, play softball or tennis, or simply lounge with a book on the 50-acre Boston Common. But its smaller adjunct across Charles Street, the Public Garden, is the real star; its the perfect park in miniature, with pathways designed for promenading, formal flower beds and a petite lagoon fringed with weeping willows. 

Don’t miss: The seasonally operated, waterfowl-shaped Swan Boats (introduced in 1877) are adored by children. 

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Fenway Park, Sights and attractions, Boston
Photograph: Elan Fleisher
Things to do, Sport events

Root for the home team at Fenway Park

icon-location-pin Fenway/Kenmore

What is it? Seeing a game at Fenway Park has been a rite of passage among most locals since it opened in 1912.

Why go? As the oldest ballpark in the majors, its one the smallest, with a capacity of around 38,000, meaning tickets can be hard to come by for big games. Fortunately, public tours are offered year-round, wowing even non-baseball types by detailing the park's colorful history and intricate details. 

Don’t miss: If you get the chance, take a seat atop the stadiums most distinctive feature, the 37-foot-high left-field wall known as the Green Monster.

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Photograph: Courtesy Gardner Museum
Museums, Art and design

Explore the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

icon-location-pin Mission Hill

What is it? Modeled on a Venetian palace, the former home of the American art collector Isabella Stewart Gardner is a sightseeing gem. 

Why go? As per Gardner’s explicit instructions, the museum stands “for the education and enrichment of the public forever.” The ISG’s most famous treasures remain unlabeled, turning the whole thing into a glorious guessing game (printed guides in each room are on hand to help, as is the museum's website). The museum also boasts a flower-filled courtyard that blooms all year long. 

Don’t miss: Enjoy free admission on your birthday; anyone with the first name Isabella gets in for free as well.

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Boston Public Library, Sights and attractions, Boston
Photograph: Courtesy Boston Public Library
Attractions, Libraries, archives and foundations

Learn something new at the Boston Public Library

icon-location-pin Back Bay

What is it? The BPL (1852) contains approximately 19 million volumes and electronic resources, making it the second-largest public library in the US behind only the Library of Congress.

Why go? At nearly 1 million square feet, the BPL impresses like few libraries can. The original structure, designed by Charles McKim and completed in 1895, is now the research library, while an extension (opened in 1972) functions as the general library. Talks, performances, and tours delight culture vultures, and recent renovations have introduced interactive elements to the complex.

Don’t miss: At the center of the library is a cloistered courtyard, one of the citys most beautiful, tranquil places to read a book.

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Museum of Fine Arts
Photograph: Roger Metcalf
Museums, Art and design

Get your culture fix at the Museum of Fine Arts

icon-location-pin Fenway/Kenmore

What is it? Founded in 1870, the Museum of Fine Artswhose globe-spanning collection encompasses more than 500,000 objectscontinues to grow and innovate.  

Why go? Of particular note is the collection of American art, including Paul Revere’s Liberty Bowl and paintings by John Singleton Copley; the Egyptian collection, much of which was acquired through excavations in conjunction with Harvard University; the Japanese collection (the first in America, and one of the finest in the country); and the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist sections, including one of the largest collections of Monet's work outside Paris. 

Don’t miss: The museum offers one of the citys best freebies on Wednesdays after 4pm, when admission is by voluntary contribution. 

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Arnold Arboretum, Sights and attractions, Boston
Photograph: Elan Fleisher

Scope out seasonal blooms at the Arnold Arboretum

What is it? The Arboretum—one of the world’s leading centers for plant study—was established in 1872 and is administered by Harvard University. 

Why go? The 281-acre park—a lovely place to take a stroll on a nice day—was planned and designed in collaboration with Frederick Law Olmsted. (As a National Historic Landmark, it's one of the best preserved of Olmsted’s landscapes.) Open to the public, this living collection of thousands of trees, shrubs, and woody vines is recognized as one of the most comprehensive and best documented of its kind in the world. 

Don’t miss: Free guided tours are available on designated days throughout the year.

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Greenway
Photograph: gconservancy

Take a stroll along the Greenway

What is it? This verdant, mile-long ribbon of grassy parks and outdoor resting places invites the weary traveler (or office warrior) to stop and take a break. 

Why go? The linear park covers an expansive 15 acres that connect the Chinatown Gate with the iconic Zakim Bridge. During the day, people stroll, bike and lounge along its length, which is dotted with fountains and serviced by food trucks, making the area the perfect warm-weather hangout.

Don’t miss: Keep an eye out for the periodic festivals, events, and parades taking place on or near the park.

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Row 34
Photograph: Morgan Ione

Slurp oysters at a new-wave shellfish spot

What is it? Boston is famous for its fresh seafood; enjoy the fruits of the sea with a visit to one of the city’s top oyster bars.

Why go? Ever since the Union Oyster House opened in 1826, raw oysters have been integral to Boston’s culinary scene. Today, the briny bivalves grace a wide array of restaurant menus, and star in buck-a-shuck nights up and down the coast. In-the-know types seeking locally-sourced shellfish swear Island Creek Oyster Bar and its newer sibling, Row 34

Don’t miss: For a primo waterfront option, check out Legal Harborside on Liberty Wharf in the Seaport.

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SoWa Open Market
Photograph: Courtesy Firesika
Shopping, Markets and fairs

Shop for local finds at SoWa Open Market

icon-location-pin South End

What is it? The South Ends SoWa Open Market runs every Sunday from May through October. 

Why go? The SoWa area erupts into a weekly street fest that draws visitors from all over the city and beyond. Roughly 200 makers and vendors sell their wares, and theres also a farmers market, food truck bazaar, and a beer barn housed in the imposing SoWa power station (complete with lawn games and live music). 

Don’t miss: Theres more inside the market building—the SoWa Vintage Market offers stall after stall of quirky vintage clothes and housewares. 

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Harvard University, Sights and attractions, Boston
Photograph: Elan Fleisher

Educate yourself by taking a tour of Harvard

What is it? There’s a lot more on the grounds of Harvard University than elite pupils and posing tourists.

Why go? The iconic redbrick walls have contained some truly stunning stories, and a visit will connect you to a Whos Who of American history—alumni include John Hancock, JFK and Barack Obama, while Matt Damon, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg are among the famous dropouts. The campus also features striking architecture designed by such luminaries as Bulfinch, Le Corbusier (his only American building), and Sert.

Don’t miss: Steps from campus, Harvard Square contains some of the best eating and shopping in the city.

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New England Aquarium
Photograph: Courtesy New England Aquarium
Attractions, Zoo and aquariums

Commune with penguins at the New England Aquarium

icon-location-pin Waterfront

What is it? New England’s largest aquarium, and one of Boston’s most popular attractions.

Why go? More than 80 African, rockhopper and little plue penguins live in the New England Aquarium’s first-floor display, which surrounds the Giant Ocean Tank, a gigantic coral reef exhibit that's home to myriad marine creatures—including sharks and loggerhead sea turtles. The building is designed in such a way that the penguins can be seen from multiple vantage points. 

Don’t miss: Be sure to say hi to the harbor seals at their enclosure out front (free and open to the public), even if you’re not visiting the aquarium.

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Newbury Street
Photograph: Shutterstock

Splurge on Newbury Street

What is it? Boston’s premier retail strip wins kudos for its sheer volume and variety of shops.

Why go? Between Arlington Street and Massachusetts Avenue, there are eight blocks of bow-fronted brick townhouses stuffed with everything from ultra-luxe designers like Chanel and Burberry to chic boutiques (Intermix, Rag & Bone) and international chains. With a never-ending assortment of galleries, salons, cafés, bars and eateries to explore, you can easily spend an entire day browsing, relaxing and indulging here.

Don’t miss: If youre more interested in unique, indie finds, head to the neighboring South End

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Photograph: Shutterstock

Watch out for whales and enjoy some fresh air

What is it? The waters surrounding Boston offer some of the best whale watching opportunities in the US.

Why go? Whale watching isn’t just for school field trips. Hop on one of the boats departing Boston Harbor daily and rediscover how awesome it actually is to be within spitting distance of the largest mammals on earth. Bring a sweater and park yourself at the hull of the boat for the day and keep your eyes on the water. 

Don’t miss: Don’t make the rookie mistake of shunning sun protection, or youll join those who resemble lobsters after picking up a wicked sunburn.

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Mapparium, Sights and attractions, Boston
Photograph: Courtesy Mary Eddy Baker Library
Attractions, Libraries, archives and foundations

Discover a lost world at the Mapparium

icon-location-pin Fenway/Kenmore

What is it? Located inside the Mary Baker Eddy Library, The Mapparium is essentially a three-story model of the globe built to scale. 

Why go? Calling all geography nerds: The Mapparium, the worlds largest walk-in globe, is among the citys quirkiest landmarks. The perfect sphere runs 30 feet in diameter and can be crossed by means of a glass bridge that bisects its interior. Inside, sound bounces off the globe rooms non-porous glass walls, amplifying it ten-fold—which means that whispered sweet nothings from your partner across the room register directly in your ear.

Don’t miss: The 608 stained-glass panels recreate the world as it was in the mid-1930s, when the project was completed. (Keen eyes will note the outdated borders.)

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The Banshee
Photograph: Courtesy The Banshee
Bars

Drink a proper pint at an authentic Irish pub

What is it? Boston’s collection of cozy, welcoming Irish pubs might just be the most impressive in the country.

Why go? In a city chock full of proud Irish expats and Irish-Americans, it’s little wonder Boston boasts an excess of authentic Irish pubs. To get the full experience, head in on a lively trivia night, or during an authentic Irish live music performance. Longtime favorites such as Doyles Cafe, The Burren, and The Druid all but guarantee a lively night of big laughs and fun times.

Dont miss: For a centrally-located option with nightly live Irish music, look no further than the Black Rose.

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North End festival
Photograph: Creative Commons

Join an Italian festival in the North End

What is it? In the summer months, the North End goes full-throttle as the local Italian community throws a number of lively feasts and festivals in honor of Italian saints. 

Why go? The streets fill with participants and bystanders alike, all watching the confetti fly, the banners sway and the processions make their way through the narrow cobblestone streets. The biggest celebrations, such as the Fisherman’s Feast of the Madonna and Saint Anthony’s Feast (both in August), bring out capacity crowds. Expect great food, live entertainment, enthusiastic vendors, and statues covered in dollar bills.

Don’t miss: Given the crowds, traffic, and lack of parking, it’s wise to take the T to Haymarket.

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TD Garden
Photograph: Courtesy TD Garden
Things to do, Sport events

Catch a game or a show at the TD Garden

icon-location-pin West End

What is it? Besides serving as the home for the NBA’s Celtics and NHL’s Bruins, the city’s premier arena hosts big-name concerts and events.

Why go? While it’s not the original Boston Garden (a no-frills venue that hosted some of the most important cultural events in Boston history), the spirit of Boston sports runs deep throughout the venue. An assortment of fans—from intense locals whose season tickets go back decades to new-school supporters sporting the latest in merch and gear—scream and shout while supporting the local teams.

Don’t miss: Fuel up before a big game with a killer Italian meal in the neighboring North End.

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Boston Symphony Hall, Sights and attractions, Music and nightlife, Boston
Photograph: Courtesy Digfarenough
Music, Music venues

Class it up by seeing the symphony

icon-location-pin Fenway/Kenmore

What is it? Symphony Hall opened its doors in 1900 as the home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Pops Orchestra. 

Why go? Expanded and updated over the years, the venue continues to draw music aficionados from around the globe. Still, it’s the all-important acoustics of the original interior design that have made it one the country’s top auditoriums. Special, collaborative performances with contemporary artists help to bring in new generations of patrons. 

Don’t miss: In July and August, the BSO is based at its summer home, Tanglewood, in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts.

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SoWa Artists Guild, Museums and galleries, Boston
Photograph: Courtesy Greater SoWa Boston
Art, Galleries

Get an inside view of SoWa’s studios

icon-location-pin South End

What is it? As the citys premier artistic hub, the 450 Harrison building is a veritable hive of artistic activity in the back of the South End. 

Why go? Many artists open their doors a few times a month for open studios events where they greet locals and visitors. First Fridays (5-9pm) is the flagship event; held each month, more than 200 artists, galleries, shops and showrooms welcome everyone from art aficionados to afterwork activity-seekers for an evening of art, wine, cheese and mingling.

Don’t miss: Once youve had your fill of art, follow the other culture vultures by enjoying the best of the South End.

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John F Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum
Photograph: Elan Fleisher
Museums, History

Ask not what your country can do for you at the JFK Library

icon-location-pin Dorchester

What is it? Located behind UMass Boston’s Dorchester campus, the JFK Presidential Library and Museum occupies I.M. Peis dramatic concrete-and-glass monolith.

Why go? The well-presented multimedia journey through the former president’s life continues to fascinate, as do temporary exhibits and special events that incorporate politics, culture, and current events. On the ground floor, the stunning atrium commands panoramic views of the sea and the city. Downstairs, the museum contains an extensive display of memorabilia, as well as a series of temporary shows. 

Don’t miss: Check the Librarys homepage in advance to learn about special events and award ceremonies.

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deCordova
Photograph: Courtesy Dmadeo
Museums, Art and design

Discover the deCordova Museum & Sculpture Park

What is it? Head west to suburban Lincoln to visit the former estate of Massachusetts merchant Julian de Cordova. 

Why go? Even during the peak of winter or dog days of summer, the deCordova Museum & Sculpture Park lures art lovers to its a 35-acre spread in leafy Lincoln. Open year-round, the regions premier outdoor sculpture park is the perfect place to get some fresh air while checking out world-class art. The ever-changing indoor exhibits provide shelter from the sometimes-fickle elements.

Don’t miss: Check the museumcalendar to learn about special outdoor events and the like.

 

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Fort Independence, Sights and attractions, Boston
Photograph: Courtesy Greater Boston CVB
Attractions, Parks and gardens

Storm the fort at Castle Island

icon-location-pin South Boston

What is it? South Boston lays claim to one of the citys most appealing shoreline parks: the 22-acre Castle Island.

Why go? Among the oldest fortified military sites in North America, the centerpiece of Castle Island is Fort Independence, a pentagonal granite structure that was finished in the 1850s. Prior to its construction, seven other forts had been built and destroyed in the area, occupied by American and British troops in turn. Today, the islands green space provides an exceptionally picturesque spot for an all-day picnic.

Don’t miss:  Leave room for lobster rolls and fried clams at Sullivan’s, a Castle Island institution open from the end of February until the Sunday after Thanksgiving.

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Institute of Contemporary Art
Photograph: Courtesy Institute of Contemporary Art
Museums, Art and design

Browse the Institute of Contemporary Art

icon-location-pin Seaport District

What is it? The dramatic, glass-walled ICA is unquestionably the cultural cornerstone of the buzzing Seaport District. 

Why go? The 65,000-square-foot building houses galleries, a theater, and a café. The museum staff prides itself on providing a platform for challenging, sometimes controversial works. After youve contemplated the art, retreat to the scenic outdoor deck, site of myriad performances and events. Note: Admission is free on Thursdays from 5pm-9pm.

Don’t miss: Across the water in East Boston, the ICA Watershed is a seasonal satellite gallery, open spring through summer.

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Improv Asylum, Music and nightlife, Boston
Photograph: Courtesy Improv Asylum
Comedy, Improv

Laugh it up at the Improv Asylum

icon-location-pin North End

What is it? For more than two decades, Improv Asylum has hosted both improv and sketch comedy shows in the heart of the North End. 

Why go? No matter how you’re feeling, Boston’s famed Improv Asylum will give you an excuse to laugh your face off. With shows offered nightly, this North End laugh factory is a favorite among couples and groups needing to add some levity to their nightlife. Longtime fans love the fact that it’s never the same show twice. Additionally, the staff hosts classes for local aspiring performers, as well as special custom shows and corporate training programs. 

Don’t miss: Midnight shows, regularly offered on weekends, see the kid gloves removed in favor of risqué, R-rated fare.

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Frog Pond
Photograph: Courtesy Greater Boston CVB

Go ice skating on the Frog Pond

What is it? Few holiday traditions are as entrenched as an icy spin around Boston Common’s Frog Pond. 

Why go? Bundle up, grab your skates (or rent some), and take a spin in the middle of America's oldest public park—preferably on a clear, starlit night. Rink snobs need not worry: the Frog Pond is Zamboni-slick and has its own ice-making system. On special event nights, holidays, and busy weekends, the rink can get crowded, providing colorful people-watching opportunities for those staying on the sidelines. 

Don’t miss: Those who prefer to stay on non-slippery ground can snuggle up beside the snack bar with a hot chocolate and free Wi-Fi.

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Photograph: Shutterstock

Take a foodie crawl through Chinatown

What is it? As one of the Bostons most densely-packed and exotic neighborhoods, Chinatown thrills adventurous gourmands. 

Why go? Many of the citys best Chinese restaurants can be found in Chinatown. Rather than sticking to one spot and doing a big meal, pace yourself by walking around the neighborhood, snacking along the way. Gourmet Dumpling House is a smart place to start; enjoy some house-made dumplings with spicy dipping sauce to fire up your palate. Next, stamp your culinary passport by trying a few Taiwanese specialities at Taiwan Cafe. Finish off with a bang at Peach Farm, where you can select seafood straight from the tanks.

Don’t miss: Exotic hand-pulled noodles at Gene’s Chinese Flatbread Cafe.

 

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Harvard Art Museums
Photograph: Creative Commons/Flickr/Bill Comstock
Museums, Art and design

Study fine art at the Harvard Art Museums

icon-location-pin Harvard Sq

What is it? Harvard’s history and status help to explain how it has one of the country’s best university art collections. 

Why go? Following a lengthy expansion project, Harvard’s three art institutions—the Fogg Museum, the Busch-Reisinger Museum, and the Arthur M. Sackler Museum—were united under one Renzo Piano–designed glass roof. Visitors are able to peruse highlights from the university’s collection of roughly 250,000 pieces, from Neolithic sculpture to 21st-century conceptual installations. 

Don’t miss: Harvards Museum of Natural History, home to one of the universitys most famous treasures, the acclaimed Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants.

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Photograph: John Phelan

Conquer the Minuteman Bikeway

What is it? Stretching from Cambridge to Bedford, this 11-mile path is a great way to check out some of the areas most scenic communities.

Why go? Built on a former railway, the Minuteman Bikeway is open to biking, rollerblading, jogging, walking and more—anything sans motor, basically. There’s also plenty to see along the way, including Alewife Brook Reservation, Spy Pond and Arlington’s Great Meadows.

Don’t miss: Arlington Center and Lexington Center—both a short detour from the bike path—provide ample options for a snack or bathroom break.

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Sacco's Bowl Haven, Things to Do, Nightlife, Boston
Photograph: Creative Commons
Restaurants, Pizza

Go candlepin bowling at Sacco’s Bowl Haven

icon-location-pin Somerville

What is it? A unique, casual Somerville hangout where you can enjoy gourmet pizza and craft brews while trying your hand at candlepin bowling.

Why go? Candlepin bowling is a uniquely New England quirk—the pins are tall and much thinner than those of standard ten-pin, and balls are closer to softball-sized. For those seeking this social, group-friendly activity, the lovingly maintained Sacco’s Bowl Haven (which dates back to 1939) at the Somerville location of Flatbread Company is a local favorite. An eclectic mix waits for lanes to open up while nibbling on organic pizzas with eccentric toppings.

Don’t miss: Reservations are accepted for groups of eight or more; call ahead or expect to wait.

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Central Square
Photograph: Sara Skolnick

Dance the night away at a hot club

What is it? Boston’s best clubs might not compare to the nightlife in Miami or Vegas, but there are plenty of popular options for late-night fun.

Why go? With hot spots such as Royale, Venu, and Icon, the Theatre District hostss biggest concentration of nightclubs. A far cry from the Top 40 club-banging hotspots on the other side of the river, Central Square offers an eclectic assortment of places to shake it like there's no tomorrow. Popular options include house DJ nights at the Middlesex Lounge, the eclectic throwback and hip-hop parties at Phoenix Landing.

Don’t miss: If toe-tapping along to live jazz is more your speed, check out Wallys, a South End institution.

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Photograph: Courtesy Commonwealth Shakespeare Company

See Shakespeare for free on the Common

What is it? Boston’s favorite way to see Shakespeare is in the park, sitting on a blanket while (discreetly) enjoying treats from home. 

Why go? Claim a grassy spot on the Boston Common and check out the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company's productions of the Bard’s best works, with performances taking place during some of July and August. All performances are free, making for a perfect summertime date or relaxing literary outing.

Don’t miss: Boston is one of America's best cities for theater, with Shakespeare productions taking place regularly. Consult our Theater Guide to learn more.

 

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Middle East
Photograph: Michael Young
Music, Music venues

Catch a concert at the Middle East

icon-location-pin Central Sq

What is it? One of New England’s best locations for live music features a kaleidoscope of genres and styles.

Why go? Most nights of the week, the Middle East will host a show on each of its stages—upstairs, downstairs, and the corner. Weekends are especially busy, with frequent matinee concerts. Each Saturday night, the complex’s fourth branch—the bar and restaurant ZuZu—hosts "Soulelujah," a funky throwdown fueled by classic soul tracks.

Don’t miss: Keep the party going by enjoying the best of Central Square.

 

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The Baldwin Bar
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Ran D.
Restaurants, American creative

Sip an inventive drink at a top cocktail bar

icon-location-pin Kendall Sq

What is it? Given the areas focus on academics and the sciences, its no surprise that Boston has a bevy of talented mixologists.

Why go? Why merely go out for a meal when you can embark on an immersive sensory trip? Trailblazing bars include Drink and The Hawthorne, both of which offer an endless variety of creative drink options. For a truly mind-blowing experience, head to ArtScience: Culture Lab & Café, where the staff employs scientific techniques—look out for a fractional distiller behind the bar—when whipping up tasty concoctions. 

Dont miss: For a next-level experience, try cocktails featuring house-made spirits at the Bully Boy Tasting Room and GrandTen Distilling.

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Gilliland Observatory, Things to Do, Boston
Photograph: Nicolaus Czarnecki

Look for the stars during public stargazing programs

What is it? A pair of astronomy programs—both free to the public—offer primo star-watching opportunities.

Why go? Every Wednesday night (weather permitting), Boston University’s Coit Observatory opens up its facilities for free public viewings of the stars, allowing visitors to use telescopes and binoculars to see the great beyond. Over at the Museum of Science, the Astronomy After Hours program is offered for free on select Thursdays and Fridays from April through October. Located on the museums parking garage rooftop, the Gilliland Observatory is equipped with a powerful computer-controlled telescope, and when its cloudy there are hands-on astronomy and space science activities.

Don’t miss: IMAX movies in the five-story Mugar Omni Theater and multimedia shows at the Charles Hayden Planetarium, when visiting the Museum of Science.

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B&G Oysters, lobster roll
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Marianne P.
Restaurants

Devour the city’s freshest lobster rolls

What is it? Perhaps the ultimate seafood treat, lobster rolls are found on menus across town.

Why go? A fresh lobster roll is a beloved culinary treat anytime of year in Boston. Sourced from cold waters along the New England coast, chunks of sweet lobster meat are removed from the shell, allowing diners to enjoy all of the flavor with none of the messy work. Some of the city’s newer seafood entries offer a modern, upscale spin; Eventide Fenway thrills gourmands who always wanted to know what a brown butter lobster roll on a Chinese-style bun might taste like. 

Dont miss: For a low-key, no-frills lobster roll experience, head to Belle Isle Seafood in quiet Winthrop. 

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Arlington Farmers Market
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Johonna C.
Shopping

Nibble on local produce at a colorful farmers market

What is it? Over the past decade, the Boston area has become flush with farmers markets, each a colorful display of locally grown fruits and vegetables.

Why go? Environmentally and nutritionally sound, market shopping is a favorite pasttime of local foodies. And while the best market experiences can be had during the warmer months, there are a few markets—e.g. Boston Public Market, Haymarket—that remain open year-round, meaning you can score tempting small-batch dairy and homemade baked goods whenever you like.

Dont miss: For a centrally-located option, look no further than Boston’s biggest and busiest, the Copley Square Farmers Market (open mid-May through mid-November).

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Photograph: Elan Fleisher

Take the train to the beach

What is it? There are a number of awesome beaches just a short train ride away from the city.

Why go? Some of the best can be found north of the city in Essex County. Crane Beach, which can be reached by a shuttle bus that departs from the Ipswich commuter rail station throughout the summer, boasts some of the best wildlife-attracting salt marshes around. Another pair of relaxing destinations—Singing Beach and Good Harbor Beach—are also accessible by the commuter rail. 

Don’t miss: If you’re not content with merely relaxing by the waves, hop on the train to Plum Island, where you can also explore the seaside town of Newburyport. 

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Sam Adams Brewery
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Thomas C.

Drink local while visiting top-rated breweries

What is it? For a city that’s often hamstrung by booze-related blue laws, Boston sure has a fine collection of breweries. 

Why go? Historically, the city’s most famous brewer was Samuel Adams, the Revolutionary and “maltster” for whom the city's most famous beer is named. Tours of the Samuel Adams Brewery in Jamaica Plain are as inexpensive ($2 suggested donation) as they are entertaining. But recent years have seen a craft brewery boom across the city. Taste small-batch farmhouse-style ales at Fort Point’s Trillium Brewing Company, or experimental suds at Somerville’s Aeronaut Brewing Company, founded by a science-focused trio with MIT connections.

Don’t miss: Any of the lively, beer-fueled holiday festivals at the Harpoon Brewery.

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Donkey Show
Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Ben Becker
Theater, Performing arts space

See a pre-Broadway hit at A.R.T.

icon-location-pin Harvard Sq

What is it? One of the country’s top regional theatres, the American Repertory Theater at Harvard University has been making waves on the international scene since its inception in 1980.

Why go? An impressive list of Broadway musicals—Once, Pippin, The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess—began life at Harvard’s American Repertory Theater. Much of A.R.T.’s success can be attributed to its innovative artistic director, Diane Paulus. Since taking the reins in 2008, the Tony-winner hasn’t dumbed down the institution, which has had a reputation for staging complex, serious-minded plays, but she also relishes comedies, musicals, acrobatics and interactivity.

Don’t miss: Go the dinner-and-a-show route by seeking out one of Harvard Squares best restaurants, all within walking distance of the theater.

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Champions
Photograph: Courtesy Boston Marriott Copley Place
Bars

Make friends with locals at the best sports bars

What is it? The next best thing to going to a big game is watching it with superfans at the areas best sports bars.

Why go? Between the high prices, high demand, and occasionally challenging weather conditions, going to big games can be challenging. Fortunately, an assortment of top-notch sports bars allow fans to feel as if they're at the game, thanks to big-screen TVs, surround sound, and the presence of screaming fans. Some of the city's best—The Fours, Cask ’n Flagon, Baseball Tavern—can be found in the shadows of Fenway Park and TD Garden.

Dont miss: Connected to the Copley Plaza shopping mall, Champions is a great choice for families or groups when certain members might not be so interested in the game. 

 

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J.P. Licks, Restaurants and cafés, Boston
Photograph: Courtesy J.P. Licks

Stop for a scoop at Boston’s best ice cream shops

What is it? According to some studies, New Englanders eat more ice cream than just about anyone, which explains Bostons impressive array of ice cream shops.

Why go? J.P. Licks is a local institution, with branches scattered all over the city serving creamy, crowd-pleasing flavors. A bit tougher to get to is Inman Square’s Christina’s, a favorite for painstakingly-crafted, seasonal flavors such as fresh rose, burnt sugar and ginger molasses. Toscanini's is another Cambridge spot with offbeat ingredients; the staff constantly labors to come up with new and interesting varieties like salty caramel or green tea.

Don’t miss: Make an evening of it by checking out Picco in the South End, where you can enjoy gourmet pizza followed by homemade ice cream.

 

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Boston sunset cruise
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Kunal Mukherjee
Things to do

Appreciate Boston from the water with a relaxing cruise

What is it? Ask locals for a special occasion recommendation and they’ll likely tell you to get out on the water by taking one of the city’s best cruises.

Why go? Nautical types will argue how the best way to truly see the city in all of its glory is through an entertaining, informative cruise. A longtime local favorite, Odyssey Cruises offers a variety of cruises; most feature food, drink, live music, and dancing. 

Dont miss: If time on the water has you fiending for fish, seek out one of Bostons best seafood restaurants.

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The Colonnade
Photograph: Courtesy The Colonnade
Bars, Rooftop bars

Look over Boston from a rooftop bar

What is it? An assortment of rooftop bars provide killer views of the city.

Why go? Boston never looks better than it does when youre drinking a designer cocktail at a buzzing rooftop bar. Popular options include hip hotel spots such as Rooftop@Revere and Lookout Rooftop and Bar. For a low-key alfresco option, head to Harvard Square, where the rooftop lounge at Daedalus is a favorite of local academics.

Dont miss: Besides killer water views, the rooftop lounge at Legal Harborside offers the chance to hear live tunes from the neighboring Blue Hills Bank Pavilion.

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Photograph: Courtesy Coolidge Corner Theatre
Movie theaters, Independent

Catch a late-night flick at Coolidge After Midnite

What is it? In Brooklines Coolidge Corner, this beloved non-profit movie house hosts the citys most popular late-night film series.

Why go? With this weekly late-night film series—screenings are held on most Fridays and Saturdays—the Coolidge Corner Theatre has established itself as the areas premier destination for campy, weird, avant-garde and niche cinema. The schedule incorporates everything from ’90s cheesefests to horror staples such as Psycho and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Don’t miss: Be sure to fuel up before (or during) the show—late-night food and drink options near the cinema are few and far between.

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African Meeting House
Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/City of Boston Archives

Retrace historic steps with a top walking tour

What is it? Guided tours of the Freedom Trail and other neighborhoods are a great way to take in local history and culture.

Why go? The Freedom Trail isn’t the only historical walk in town. While the self-guided, 2.5-mile tour provides a useful sightseeing starting point for newcomers, there are numerous specialized walking tours that will help you dig deeper. Expert local guides will lead you around the city on themed tours covering everything from movies to wine and pizza.

Don’t miss: Improve your photo skills with a PhotoWalks Beacon Hill tour.

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Blackbird Doughnuts
Photograph: Courtesy Blackbird Doughnuts/Brian Sacco

Make the rounds at Boston’s best donut shops

What is it? Get your fill of fried goodness at some Boston’s top donut shops, spanning the latest cult bakeries and under-the-radar mom-and-pops.

Why go? The antithesis of mass production (sorry, Dunkin), Boston’s best donuts are lovingly made by hand, satisfying even the most discerning sweet tooth. Stick with the classics if you must—cake donuts and honey glazed are local favorites—but we recommend tearing into exotic options such as sea salt bourbon caramel or blackberry lavender, found at popular new-wave spots such as Union Square Donuts and Blackbird Doughnuts.

Don't miss: For an old-school, no-frills, late-night option, head to Allstons Twin Donuts.

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Haymarket
Photograph: Shutterstock
Shopping, Markets and fairs

Check out cheap groceries and thick accents at the Haymarket

icon-location-pin Quincy Market

What is it? Bostons oldest outdoor market—open year-round from dawn-to-dusk on Fridays and Saturdays—offers the best deals on fresh produce, fish and flowers in the historic heart of the city.

Why go? Even if you're not in the market for a pallet of produce or a fistful of bananas, the people-watching is among the best in town—youre guaranteed to hear both the thickest of Boston accents as well as voices from around the world. 

Don’t miss: If the crowds get too intense, you can always escape to the Greenway, which is just steps away.

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Memorial Drive
Photograph: Courtesy BostonCentral.com

Stroll down Memorial Drive on a Sunday

What is it? From the last Sunday of April until the second Sunday of November, the city of Cambridge shuts down Memorial Drive to automobile traffic along the Charles River.

Why go? Celebrate your right to thumb your nose at frustrated motorists as you blithely cruise down the double yellow on in-line skates or sprint down the middle of the street pushing a baby carriage. The vehicle-free days provide locals with the epitome of a relaxing Sunday stroll. Expect to share the pavement with lots of bikers, rollerbladers, and fitness enthusiasts.

Don’t miss: After working up an appetite, reward yourself by walking over to one of Harvard Squares best restaurants.

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Franklin Park Zoo, Sights and attractions, Boston
Photograph: Courtesy Franklin Park Zoo
Attractions, Zoo and aquariums

Get wild at the Franklin Park Zoo

icon-location-pin Roxbury

What is it? The citys zoo wont make any national best-of lists, but its compact size and kid-friendly approach make it a local favorite.

Why go? As fascinating as lions and tigers are on the TV screen, they’re far more impressive in the flesh. The zoo—whose mission is to inspire people to protect and sustain endangered species—has them all, as well as zebras, gorillas, giraffes and a host of other exotic animals that wouldn’t normally be seen in the wilds of New England. 

Don’t miss: Little visitors are well-served at the childrens zoo, which features everything from a prairie dog neighborhood to a grass maze.

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Bon Me Truck
Photograph: Courtesy Bon Me

Chase down a food truck

What is it? In Boston, there’s a whole world of food truck cuisine just waiting to be devoured.

Why go? The self-explanatory Roxy’s Gourmet Grilled Cheese has received national attention for its sinful sandwiches. There are plenty of healthy options such as Saté Grill, which offers health-minded Asian cuisine (including an impressive list of curries, some vegan). Bon Me is perhaps the citys most prolific option, with multiple trucks (and storefronts) selling its fresh take on Asian fare (rice bowls, noodle salads, bánh mì). 

Dont miss: Check the citys official food truck site for additional options.

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Uluru’s ‘Field of Light’
Photograph: Mark Pickthall, courtesy Field of Light, Uluru, Bruce Munro 2016
Things to do

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Clover
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Sue C.
Restaurants, Vegan

The 12 best vegan restaurants in Boston

Boston has a great selection of restaurants for vegetarians, and many of the best Boston restaurants offer vegetarian options or are happy to modify their dishes for the meat-free

Schlow burger at Tico
Photograph: Courtesy Tico
Restaurants

The 17 best burgers in Boston

Many of the best Boston restaurants have a signature version on the menu, but cheap-eats legends are also staking their claim for "the best"

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Oak + Rowan
Photograph: Courtesy Oak + Rowan
Restaurants, Cafés

The 17 best brunch spots in Boston

Whether you’re fighting a hangover or fueling up before shopping or taking in a few museums or galleries, these are the best places for brunch in Boston

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