Day Tours and Guides
- Places to Explore
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- Fodor's Choice
Day Tours and Guides
Traveling to Boston on a package tour makes it quite convenient for those interested only in hitting the highlights or major historic sites such as the Freedom Trail, Faneuil Hall, the Bunker Hill Memorial, Quincy Market, and Harvard Square. If you're interested in exploring more neighborhoods, a tour will likely not give you access to them.
Boston has many waterways that offer stunning views of the city skyline. Narrated sightseeing water tours generally run from spring through early fall, daily in summer and on weekends in the shoulder seasons. (Labor Day weekend is often the cutoff point.) These trips normally last ¾–1½ hours and cost about $20. Many companies also offer sunset or evening cruises with entertainment.
The Boston Duck Tours, which give narrated land-water tours on a World War II amphibious vehicle, are particularly popular. After driving past several historic sights, the vehicle dips into the Charles River to offer a view of the Boston skyline. These tours, costing $32 per person, run later than most, through late November (they also offer a handful of weekend tours in December).
June through September, you can relive the golden age of sail aboard the Liberty Clipper, a replica two-masted gaff-rigged schooner that operates midday harbor tours and romantic sunset cruises from Long Wharf.
Boston Harbor Cruises and Massachusetts Bay Lines have tours around the harbor. Trips with Boston Duck Tours and the Charles Riverboat Company are along the Charles River Basin.
Fees and Schedules
Boston Duck Tours (617/267–3825. www.bostonducktours.com.)
Boston Harbor Cruises (1 Long Wharf, Boston, MA, 02110. 877/733–9425 or 617/227–4321. www.bostonharborcruises.com.)
Charles Riverboat Company (100 Cambridge Pl., Suite 320, Cambridge, MA, 02141. 617/621–3001. www.charlesriverboat.com.)
Liberty Clipper (67 Long Wharf, Boston, MA, 02110. 617/742–0333. www.libertyfleet.com.)
Massachusetts Bay Lines (60 Rowes Wharf, Boston, MA, 02110. 617/542–8000. www.massbaylines.com.)
MassBike (171 Milk St., Downtown Crossing, Boston, MA, 02109. 617/542–2453. massbike.org.)
Bus tours, which cost around $25 and run daily from mid-March to early November, traverse the main historic neighborhoods in less than four hours. Reserve bus tours at least a day in advance. Boston Private Tours has customized tours in vans or limousines. Brush Hill has more traditional charter bus tours as well as smaller tours, with lots of prepackaged options and add-ons; the 1½-hour narrated tour is popular.
Fees and Schedules
Boston Private Tours (707 Main St., Boston, MA, 01740. 978/771–4471. www.bostonprivatetours.com.)
Brush Hill Tours (Transportation Bldg., 16 Charles St. S, Boston, MA, 02116. 800/343–1328 or 781/986–6100. www.brushhilltours.com.)
See how a brewery operates at the Boston Beer Museum & Samuel Adams Brewery; hear spine-tingling tales about Boston's famous cemeteries; or tour (for free) the offices and printing plant of the Boston Globe. Some organizations have special restrictions, such as an age limit for children. Many tours are free, but you often need to make a reservation at least a few days in advance. It's always a good idea to call ahead to confirm schedules).
Boston Beer Museum & Samuel Adams Brewery (Boston Beer Company, 30 Germania St., Jamaica Plain, Boston, MA, 02130. 617/368–5080 tours. www.samueladams.com.)
Boston Athenaeum (10½ Beacon St., Beacon Hill, Boston, MA, 02108. 617/227–0270 Ext. 279. www.bostonathenaeum.org.)
Harpoon Brewery (306 Northern Ave., Waterfront, Boston, MA, 02210. 617/456–2322. www.harpoonbrewery.com.)
Urban AdvenTours (103 Atlantic Ave., Waterfront, Boston, MA, 02110. 617/670–0637. www.urbanadventours.com.)
Boston by Little Feet (Meet at Samuel Adams statue in front of Faneuil Hall, Boston, MA. 617/367–2345. www.bostonbyfoot.com/tours/Boston_By_Little_Feet.)
Gardens and Parks Tours
Beacon Hill Garden Club Tours (Charles and Beacon Sts., Beacon Hill, Boston, MA. 617/227–4392. www.beaconhillgardenclub.org.)
Boston Park Rangers (Parks and Recreation Dept. kiosk in Boston Common, Boston, MA. 617/635–4505. www.cityofboston.gov/parks.)
Narrated trolley tours, which usually cost $36 or so, don't require reservations and are more flexible than bus tours; you can get on and off as you wish. A full trip normally lasts 1½ to 2 hours. All trolleys run daily, though less frequently off-season. Because they're open vehicles, be sure to dress appropriately for the weather.
Old Town Trolley tours, which usually focus on history, includes a tour that's 1½ hours and narrated.
Old Town Trolley (380 Dorchester Ave., South Boston, Boston, MA, 02127. 888/912–8687. www.historictours.com/boston.)
Boston is the perfect city for walking tours, to explore topics ranging from history and literature to ethnic neighborhoods. Most tours cost about $20 and last one to two hours. Guides prefer to keep groups at fewer than 20 people, so always reserve ahead. Several organizations give tours once or twice a day spring through fall and by appointment (if at all) in winter. Others run tours a few days a week, spring through fall.
The Women's Heritage Trail, the Freedom Trail, and the Black Heritage Trail can be completed as self-guided tours. Maps for the Women's Heritage Trail are available online and at the Old State House and the National Park Service Visitor Center. The Boston Common Visitor Information Center has maps of the Freedom Trail, which is indicated with a red line painted on the ground. The Freedom Trail and the Black Heritage Trail can also be completed with a ranger-led group. The Boston and Cambridge Centers for Adult Education lead in-depth educational tours on many topics, most of them centered on art, architecture, and literature.
Harvard Square is the starting point for free student-led campus tours.
Fees and Schedules
Black Heritage Trail (617/725–0022. www.maah.org.)
Boston by Foot (290 Congress St., Suite 100, Boston, MA, 02110. 617/367–2345. www.bostonbyfoot.com.)
Boston Center for Adult Education (122 Arlington St., Boston, MA, 02116. 617/267–4430. www.bcae.org.)
Boston Common Visitor Information Center (888/733–2678. www.bostonusa.com.)
Cambridge Center for Adult Education (42 Brattle St., Cambridge, MA, 02138. 617/547–6789. www.ccae.org.)
Freedom Trail (617/357–8300. www.thefreedomtrail.org.)
Harvard Campus Tours (Harvard Information Center, 1350 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA, 02138. 617/495–1573. www.harvard.edu/visitors.)
Historic New England (141 Cambridge St., Boston, MA, 02114. 617/227–3956. www.historicnewengland.org.)
National Parks Service Visitor Center (617/242–5642. www.nps.gov/bost.)
North End Market Tour (6 Charter St., Boston, MA, 02113. 617/523–6032. bostonfoodtours.com.)
Women's Heritage Trail (www.bwht.org.)
Boston By Segway (420 Commercial St., North End, Boston, MA, 02109. 866/611–9838 or 617/670–4200. bostonbysegway.com.)
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