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The best Boston attractions

We’ve sifted through the city’s museums, parks and historic sites to select the very best Boston attractions

Written by
Eric Grossman
Time Out Boston Staff
Camila Karalyte
Talia Stanton

Boston has a whole host of amazing attractions to suit every individual. From storied landmarks to world-class museums, there's a range of experiences both indoor and outdoor. You could spend the better part of a day exploring the Art of the Americas wing of the Museum of Fine Arts, or a couple days checking out all the historical sites along the Freedom Trail.

For a more intimate cultural experience that’s unique to Boston, visit the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, or a short walk along the Emerald Necklace. For those with little ones, check out the best things to do with kids in Boston. One big bonus about these Boston attractions? They’re all close to some of Boston’s best restaurants—so make a day, or night, of it.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best things to do in Boston

Best Boston attractions

  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • Boston Common

The dual jewels of the Emerald Necklace, the city’s historic park system, perfectly reflect the vision of landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. The Public Garden is a lovely place to stroll, with pathways designed for promenading. Across Beacon Street is the Boston Common where, depending on the season, you can ice-skate on the Frog Pond, play softball or tennis, or lounge with a book on a grassy knoll.

Don't miss: The seasonal Swan Boats are adored by children and adults.

  • Things to do
  • Sport events
  • Fenway/Kenmore

Seeing a game at the home of the Red Sox is a quasi-religious experience for countless locals. If you’re not the sporty type, look out for a big-name concert. The oldest ballpark in the majors, Fenway dates from 1912, and to truly appreciate Fenway’s colorful history, join one of the daily guided tours. 

Don't miss: Be sure to check out the most famous part of the stadium: its 37-foot-high left-field wall, known affectionately as the Green Monster.

  • Attractions
  • Zoo and aquariums
  • Waterfront

The breathtaking centerpiece of this excellent aquarium is the colossal 200,000-gallon salt-water replica of a Caribbean coral reef. The cylindrical tank, 40ft in diameter and three stories tall, is alive with moray eels, stingrays, gigantic sea turtles and menacing sharks. Stop by the touch tank to get up close and personal with starfish, sea urchins and hermit crabs. 

Don't miss: There's a huge indoor penguin exhibit, where you can watch their antics from almost any balcony. 

  • Museums
  • Art and design
  • Fenway/Kenmore
  • price 2 of 4

Founded in 1870, the MFA moved from Copley Square to its current home, a neoclassical granite building on Huntington Avenue—the so-called “Avenue of the Arts”—in 1909. The globe-spanning collection encompasses more than 500,000 objects. An array of performances and special events attract culture hounds of all ages. 

Don't miss: Penny pinchers can visit on Wednesdays after 4pm, when admission is by voluntary contribution.

  • Attractions
  • Libraries, archives and foundations
  • Back Bay

The BPL regally sits across from Copley Square, attracting scores of student groups, visitors, and casual book-browsers to its multi-faceted complex. The labyrinthine structure is a joy to get lost in; be sure to visit the cloistered courtyard, a most tranquil place to linger. 

Don't miss: Join a free tour covering the library’s art and architecture, or check out one of the talks and readings that are regularly offered.

  • Attractions
  • Religious buildings and sites
  • Back Bay

The unabashedly ornate Trinity Church is the visual centerpiece of Copley Square. The intricate, colorful stained-glass windows are most impressive, as is the list of Boston royalty who have passed through the doors over the years. The church is also known for its extensive murals—almost every inch of wall was handpainted by a team led by American artist John La Farge. 

Don't miss: The venue plays host to concerts and music events, including a weekly organ recital on Fridays. 

Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum Interactive Tour
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7. Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum Interactive Tour

Step back in time and relive the events that led to the American Revolution. Suitable for all the family, you can immerse yourself in the rich history and explore the recreated replicas of two of the tea party ships. The 3D holographic characters that appear right before your eyes will transport you back in time. The experience will last about an hour and you'll have a host to guide you through it. Ahoy!

Don't miss: Experience the thrill of throwing a crate of tea into the sea.

  • Things to do

For first-time visitors to Boston, the Freedom Trail provides a useful starting point before checking off the best attractions in Boston. The self-guided, two-and-a-half-mile tour is clearly marked by a red line on the sidewalk, which has winded its way past several of the Hub’s best-known historical sites since 1958. The Trail begins at the Visitor Information Center on Boston Common and ends at the Bunker Hill Monument. 

Don't miss: Keep an eagle eye out during the tour, as there are 16 official historic sites to see. 

  • Things to do
  • Event spaces
  • Quincy Market

Built for the city by the wealthy merchant Peter Faneuil in 1742, Faneuil Hall has hosted countless key moments in Boston's history. While the building is mostly synonymous with the surrounding commercial activity—most notably Quincy Market's myriad shops—it still hosts the occasional political debate and symposium as a nod to its history. Faneuil Hall is part of Boston’s National Historic Park, and rangers provide brief historical talks in the Great Hall daily.

Don't miss: This tour includes a surprise local treat – and the guide is always happy to give recommendations for the best things to do in Boston, night or day.  

Boston: Historical Sightseeing Cruise
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10. Boston: Historical Sightseeing Cruise

Experience Boston from the comfort of a cruise. This historical sightseeing cruise will have you taking in the panoramic views as it swims past the Boston skyline and Boston Harbour Islands. Learn all about American history and enjoy the sights of the USS Constitution, Bunker Hill Monument, and Old North Church. You'll get your very own captain but unfortunately, food and drink are not included, so bring your own snacks or purchase them on board the cruise. Don't fall over deck!

Don't miss: Grab the prime spot on the outdoor viewing deck for unobstructed sightseeing. 

  • Attractions
  • Monuments and memorials
  • Charlestown

This 221-foot granite obelisk commemorates the first major battle of the American Revolution. Visitors can listen to free talks from park rangers, or climb the monument's 294 steps (a brisk ascent takes five minutes) for a breathtaking view of Boston. 

Don't miss: Join a Freedom Trail tour to see the Bunker Hill Monument, along with 15 other historic landmarks. Admire the sites while hearing gripping tales from Revolutionary Boston – courtesy of your all-knowing guide. 

Boston Duck Tour: The Original and World-Famous
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12. Boston Duck Tour: The Original and World-Famous

Take to the water for Boston's number-one floating tour on a World War ll-style amphibious vehicle. Bob along Charles River before transferring seamlessly to land thanks to the adaptable 'Duck' vessel. Enjoy audio commentary alongside views of Boston from the Common to Quincy Market. 

Don't miss: Be on the look out while passing by the unique neighborhoods featured on the tour.  

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