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The best things to do in the summer in Boston

Enjoy fun in the sun and lots of outdoor time with the best summer activities in Boston

By Gerrish Lopez and Time Out Boston Staff
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After a long winter (and spring) bracing against the cold—while occasionally enjoying the Boston’s best winter activities and best indoor activities—it’s time to get outside and soak up the sun. Whether it’s enjoying nature, taking in some historical sites, getting out on the water, attending an outdoor concert or having a picnic, there are plenty of top-notch summer activities in Boston. If you have little ones, check out our lists of the best things to do with kids in Boston and the best beaches in the Boston area

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

Best summer activities in Boston

Boston sunset cruise
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Kunal Mukherjee

1. Take a cruise on the water

Things to do

One of the best ways to take in the city in all of its glory, especially in the summer, is by getting out on the water. From a sunset dinner affair to the traditional duck tour, check out this list of the best Boston cruises around. 

Fenway Park, Sights and attractions, Boston
Photograph: Elan Fleisher

2. Catch a Red Sox game or a concert at Fenway Park

Things to do Sport events Fenway/Kenmore

Seeing a game at Fenway Park has been a rite of passage among most locals since it opened in 1912. It's the oldest ballpark in the majors, and also one the smallest. Tickets can be hard to come by for big games, but you can also experience the park through a public tour or one of the big name concerts held in the summer. And remember to check out Time Out Market Boston before or after your next Fenway visit.

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Boston Public Garden
Photograph: Shutterstock

3. Picnic at the Public Garden

Attractions Parks and gardens Boston Common

The Public Garden is America's first botanical garden, a beautifully-designed park with pathways meant for promenading, formal flower beds, and a willow-fringed lagoon with a wrought-iron bridge and graceful swan boats. It's a great spot for summer picnicking and whiling away the day.

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Rockland Trust Bank Pavilion
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Hector H.

5. See a show at the Rockland Trust Bank Pavilion

Music Music venues Seaport District

This major outdoor venue is located on the waterfront in the ever-buzzing Seaport District. From May to October, shows feature mainstream rock, pop and R&B acts, with a sprinkling of contemporary newcomers. Summer is a great time to see a show, when warm weather and cool breezes from the water enhance the experience.

Charles River Canoe & Kayak
Charles River Canoe & Kayak

6. Paddle the Charles River

Things to do

Join the hordes on the river in summer. You can rent a canoe, kayak, or stand up paddle board to get out on the water. There are a few different rental and launch locations, check the website for more info.

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

7. Stroll the Arnold Arboretum

Attractions Parks and gardens Jamaica Plain

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. Take a summertime stroll and see bursts of green, blooming flowers, and plenty of birds. Free guided tours are available on designated days throughout the year.

Scooper Bowl
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Mary I.

8. Eat ice cream for a cause at the Scooper Bowl

The Scooper Bowl — one of the summer's tastiest events — also benefits a great cause: the Jimmy Fund, which raises money for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. This all-you-can-eat ice cream event features a slew of flavors from top ice cream companies like Ben & Jerry's, Breyers, Hood, and more.
June 4-6, 12-8pm

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Stellwagen Bank
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Deb M.

9. Go on a whale watch

Stellwagen Bank is one of the best spots for whale watching in the world. Each summer, around 50 individual humpback whales, identified by researchers, return to this hotbed of biological activity. Female whales bring their calves to teach them to hunt for food in the plentiful waters. Take a whale watching cruise to learn more about the whales and their habitat. You might spot seals, porpoise, and dolphins too. Check out the Massachusetts Whale Trail site for more info.

Boston Common
Photograph: Shutterstock

10. Visit one of Boston's many parks

Things to do

From the Emerald Necklace the nation’s oldest linear park system to the Rose Kennedy Greenway (a gift of the Big Dig), Boston has a slew of beautified greenspaces. Stroll, relax, picnic, and enjoy a little bit of nature at one of the best parks in Boston.

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Rose Kennedy Greenway, Things to do, Boston
Photograph: Courtesy gconservancy

11. Stroll the Rose Kennedy Greenway

Attractions Parks and gardens Downtown

The Greenway is one of the most celebrated results of the now-infamous Big Dig, formed when I-93 was sunk underground. The mile-long ribbon of green is a great place toget a dose of the outdoors. Fair-weather food and drink popups and plenty of nearby restaurants make the Greenway a great picnicking spot. There are also periodic festivals, events, and parades on or near the park.

The Freedom Trail
Photograph: Shutterstock

12. Walk the Freedom Trail

Things to do

For the first-time visitor to Boston, the Freedom Trail provides a useful starting point before checking off the best attractions in Boston. For locals, it's a chance to brush up on everything you should know about your city's history. The two-and-a-half-mile trail is easy to follow for a self-guided tour, or join one of the organized tours on offer.

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PhotoWalks Beacon Hill Tour
Photograph: Courtesy Facebook/PhotoWalks Tours of Boston

13. Take a walking tour

Things to do Walks and tours

Boston is a compact, walkable city, with a wealth of historic landmarks to easily explore. Guided tours of the Freedom Trail and of Boston's unique neighborhoods are a great way to take in local history and culture. A photo tour will show you some of the most photogenic spots, and food tours will steer you towards the best of Boston's rich culinary scene.

The Colonnade
Photograph: Courtesy The Colonnade

14. Have a drink at a rooftop bar

Bars

Good weather calls for an alfresco drink. Even better: an outdoor drink with a view of the city from above. From the Back Bay and North End to Harvard Square, escape from it all at one of Boston's best rooftop bars.

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Emack & Bolio's
Photograph: Courtesy Emack & Bolio's

15. Cool off with a scoop of delicious ice cream

Restaurants

Enjoying ice cream is a popular Boston pastime year-round, and in the summer it's nearly essential. Fortunately there are plenty of ice cream shops serving flavors both classic and innovative, and many delicious options for sundays, floats, and other frozen treats.

Pan-roasted lobster at Summer Shack
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Summer Shack-Boston

16. Devour some of Boston's best lobster dishes

Restaurants

Summer means lobster, whether steamed or stuffed in a roll. There are a slew of delicious lobster rolls in the city, as well as spots that serve a classic seafood shack preparation. Many of Boston's chefs prepare the beloved crustacean in a myriad of creative ways. For this summer favorite, work your way through the best lobster dishes in Boston.

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Duck boat Tours
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Rob

17. See the city on land and sea with a Duck Tour

Things to do Walks and tours Back Bay

The city’s most iconic tour takes in Boston’s history and architecture, with a side of humor, on the land and the water. Learn about the city in a revamped, World War II-era amphibious vehicle manned by a “ConDUCKtour.” You'll see landmarks such as the State House, Bunker Hill, Boston Common, and Quincy Market before plunging into the Charles River where you'll have views of both the Boston and Cambridge skylines.

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