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Boston waterfront
Photograph: Shutterstock

20 ways to still have an amazing summer in Boston

Summer isn't canceled. Here's how to make the most of Boston's warmest months in 2020.

By Eric Grossman

Summertime in Boston is normally a joyous time for locals. The college students depart, traffic dies down a bit, and the city's great parks and outdoor spaces come to life. But there's no denying that summer 2020 offers a very different landscape. The city is still cautiously reopening, social distancing remains in place, and all of the annual events we're used to attending have been canceled. Instead of dwelling on all the stuff we can't do, let's take a look at what we can do to make the most of summer in The Hub. This seasonal bucket list highlights only the activities that are allowed, acknowledging that not everyone is comfortable heading to a rooftop bar just yet. Whether you're still ordering delivery and checking out ebooks or you're comfortable venturing outside, this list has something for everyone. Take a look at 20 ways you can still make the most of summer in Boston. (Just remember, given these ever-changing times, be sure to check directly with venues to confirm details before heading out.)

The best things to do this summer 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. This summer, some of these cruise companies are offering additional private options, letting you secure a sail for only you and your family or friends. 

Boston Public Garden
Photograph: Shutterstock

2. Surprise someone special with a Public Garden picnic

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 the day away, especially this summer, when you can be certain there will be ample space to distance from others.

Charles River Canoe & Kayak
Charles River Canoe & Kayak

3. 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. This summer, reservations are required.

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

4. 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. While the indoor areas are closed this summer, the grounds are open daily from dawn to dusk.

Whale watching
Photograph: Shutterstock

5. Go on a whale watch

If you've been putting off going on a whale watch, there's never been a better time to get out on the water. After all, the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary 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. Take a whale watching cruise to learn more about the whales and their habitat. Keep an eye out for seals, porpoise, and dolphins too. Check out the Massachusetts Whale Trail site for more info.

Beacon Hill
Photograph: Courtesy GBCVB/Kyle Klein Photography

6. Stream or listen to some Boston-themed content

News City Life

Now is the perfect time to catch up on some movies filmed in Boston, learn a bit more about the city, or check in on some recent shows from local chefs and celebs you may have missed the first time around. 

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

7. Cool off with a scoop of delicious ice cream


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.

Boston Public Garden
Photograph: Shutterstock

8. Chill the day away at one of the city’s best 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.

Dorchester Brewing Co.
Photograph: Courtesy Dorchester Brewing Co.

9. Score nationally-lauded beers from the best breweries

Bars Breweries

There's just something about getting a pint fresh from the source. Fortunately, several of the area's top breweries are offering delivery service and curbside pickup this summer. Boston’s local brewers are making some of the best beers in the country, and scoring new releases at these breweries is a must for beer aficionados. Newer upstarts are gaining attention by incorporating innovative ingredients (local herbs, rare fruits), historic techniques and funky experiments.


Photograph: Courtesy Mela

10. Go gourmet at home by ordering from the best delivery options


When you want a meal from one of the best eateries in Boston but can’t leave the house — maybe you're working from home or practicing social distancing — delivery is the answer. Many of the best Indian restaurants and best Thai restaurants have been in the delivery game for a while, but now some of the best sushi eateries, vegetarian joints, and even bagel shops will deliver. Get ready to chow down on a delicious meal in the comfort of your own home, without all the effort.

Freedom Trail, Sights and attractions, Boston
Photograph: Shutterstock

11. Walk the entire 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.

Photograph: Pixabay

13. Devour the city’s best lobster dishes


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.

Concord Bridge
Photograph: Courtesy GBCVB

14. Challenge yourself with a scenic local hike


Adventurous types may head farther afield to the White Mountains or the Appalachian Trail, but when you just need a little bit of nature, there are plenty of quality hikes near Boston that are easy to get to. Whether it’s climbing a lung-busting hill or exploring trails through scenic wooded reservations, these Boston hikes offer relaxation and a healthy dose of fresh air.

The Colonnade
Photograph: Courtesy The Colonnade

15. Rise above the city at a rooftop hangout


Good weather normally equals good moods, and when New England’s notoriously fickle weather allows, locals revel in alfresco drinking and dining options. If you’re up for taking your fun to a higher level, check out our list of the best rooftop bars in Boston where you can get a bite and a great view of the city.


16. Get fit at home with an online workout from a local gym or studio

News City Life

Given how we've all been social distancing at home, it's easy to make excuses for skipping out on a workout, especially when we can lounge around and binge-watch our favorite shows. Fortunately, many Boston gyms and fitness studios are offering online alternatives to their typical workouts, so there's no excuse for not working on your beach bod this summer. From real-time classes via Zoom to downloadable instructional videos, keep up your fitness routine with these online options. 

Pier 6
Photograph: Courtesy Pier 6

17. Grab a bite along the waterfront


Boston loves seafood, and the waters from which it came, so it's no surprise that waterfront dining is always in-demand come summertime. Seafood lovers who have enjoyed all of the best seafood restaurants and best oyster bars in Boston can indulge further with fresh seafood by the seashore.

Trapology Boston
Photograph: Courtesy Trapology/Nicole Chan

18. Gather a group and tackle a tough escape room

Things to do

Escape rooms offer a portal out of our everyday lives and into the one of strategy, puzzles and make believe. While some escape rooms might have facilities for youngsters, themes and challenges are usually adult-oriented. An escape room brings the fantasy world of online gaming into three dimensions, while adding old-time puzzle game elements and immersive, interactive theater. This summer, several of the city's best escape rooms are offering private experiences and extra sanitizing between every group.

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

19. Walk the Rose Kennedy Greenway from end to end

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 while keeping distance from others. With plenty of nearby restaurants, the Greenway is a great spot for an urban picnic.

Portland, Maine
Photograph: Courtesy Visit Maine

20. Take a break with a fun day trip


Given how intense life can often be in our humble metropolis, every Bostonian gets a little stir crazy now and then. Fortunately, all one has to do is hit the road — or hop on a train, bus or ferry — to explore any number of nearby wonders.


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