The best things to do in Boston, one of America’s most historic cities.
Sailing on the Charles River, eating lobster rolls, drinking craft beers from Sam Adams Brewery, and touring Harvard and MIT campuses are just a few things that Boston is known for. Whether you like a leisure walk through the Emerald Necklace, or beach time on Cape Cod or Martha’s Vineyard, or apple picking in Western Mass–there’s something for every traveler to enjoy.
Home to the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park since 1912, this cosmopolitan city is rated one of the most walkable cities in the country. Boston has many beautiful parks and green spaces, so it’s easy to enjoy what this coastal city has to offer. Plus, history is alive here: W.E.B. Du Bois attended school in Great Barrington, Massachusetts; Paul Goodnight, the renowned artist, can often be seen walking around the city in his signature overalls; you might even run into Mayor Michelle Wu in Roxbury, where her office is located.
The North End is the city’s “Little Italy” and offers a variety of Italian dining. The Charles River has plenty of opportunities for water sports and green space for biking, jogging, or enjoying a picnic. It’s not all craft beer and lobster rolls in Boston, but there’s a rich food scene from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, and Latin America. It’s safe to say, Boston has something for every traveler. Whether you like Boston baked beans, craft beer, seafood, history or parks, “Beantown” is sure to entertain you.
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT BOSTON?The best time to visit this historic coastal New England is arguably the autumn, when the leaves are changing and the weather is cool, but pleasant. Spring is also beautiful, but summer can get very hot (and expensive, with so many tourists).
Visit Boston’s government COVID site for the latest information, guidelines, and restrictions.
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Live Like a Local Tours Boston
Want to avoid tourist traps and have an authentic travel experience like a true local? Book a tour with Live Like A Local Tours Boston and you’ll get a taste of the history, gastronomy, diversity and culture that makes Boston a repeat travel destination. Founder, Collin Knight, takes you through Dorchester, Jamaica Plain and Roxbury to enjoy craft beer, tasty Caribbean food in Boston’s diverse neighborhoods. Covid-friendly groups and private tours are available on their website.
Dine at Food Halls
Time Out Market Boston is a food hall that opened in 2019 and features a variety of Boston’s diverse food scene. It is located in the Fenway area and offers seafood, New American, Asian, and Latin cuisines for every palate. Besides eateries and bars, you can watch cooking demos and video installations. Eataly is another popular option, an Italian food hall with several restaurants, a cafe, a grocery store, gelateria, and a demo kitchen for hosting cooking classes open to the public.
The Institute of Contemporary Art Boston (ICA)
The Institute of Contemporary Art is an art museum and exhibition space with glass walls overlooking the Boston Harbor and is located in the South Boston Seaport District and hosts DJ sets, adult p.j. parties, and exhibitions. It was founded as the Boston Museum of Modern Art in 1936 and has been in its current location since 2006. The COVID policy states masks are optional for admission however, for seated events proof of vaccination or a negative covid test within 48 hours and masks are required for events taking place in the Barbara Lee Family Foundation Theater.
Isabella Gardner Museum
One of the city’s most charming attractions is the small but lovely Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Isabella Stewart, a New York socialite, came to Boston in 1860 to marry John Lowell Gardner, one of Boston’s prominent citizens. In short order, Isabella set to building herself a Venetian palazzo to hold her extensive art collection. Just like she was, the collection is eclectic, with masterpieces by Titian (Europa), Giotto (Presentation of Christ in the Temple), and John Singer Sargent (El Jaleo), to name a few.
Isabella left strict instructions in her will that the building remains exactly as she left it, so visitors today can almost picture her enjoying the gorgeous gardens in her Venetian courtyard or warming her hands by one of the Renaissance hooded fireplaces. It’s the perfect wedding location and is a photographer’s dream with its European-style design and all the green plants maintained on the property.
Charles River Boat Tour
One exciting way to see the city is by boat. Book a 70-minute tour of the city and explore Boston and Cambridge. In operation since 1990, the Charles River Boat Tour features a sightseeing tour or a sunset cruise where guests can enjoy a full-service bar onboard. You can also take advantage of Boston’s only 90-minute architecture tour of the Charles River and Boston Harbor by a local expert. The architecture tour operates from May through October, annually. Guests can also book the boats for private events. If you are short on time, the Charles River Boat tours are an exciting way to see the city in the warmer months.
The Boston Copley Library
This 1884 Renaissance Revival style is home to The Boston Copley Library. Grab a to-go sandwich from Flour Bakery or Eataly for an al fresco snack in this Italian-style courtyard, which comes complete with fountains and statues. During the spring and summer months, free classical music performances are held in the courtyard. Enjoy your lunch while pretending you’re in a swanky Venetian cafe.
The Freedom Trail
Experience this 2.5-mile red line, which reflects more than 250 years of history in Boston. The Freedom Trail is a historic walk that leads to 16 nationally recognized sites. It is a dream for history buffs as this trail boasts a collection of museums, churches, meeting houses, burial grounds, parks, a ship, and historic markers that tell the story of the American Revolution.
Faneuil Hall is a meeting hall and marketplace that opened on Boston’s waterfront in 1743. Built by John Smibert and funded by enslaver Peter Faneuil, it was once the site of Boston’s enslaved persons auctions and the stage for many speeches by Samuel Adams and other famed Bostonians who demanded independence from Great Britain.
The Boston Tea Party Museum
The Boston Tea Party Museum is a floating history museum that features live reenactments, a tearoom, and multimedia exhibits. There are modified visiting hours due to COVID, but you can still learn about the events that started a revolution and changed the course of history.
The Museum of Fine Arts
One of the most highly regarded museums in the world, the massive Museum of Fine Arts boasts about half a million objects spanning the centuries from ancient Egypt to present-day artwork. The museum officially opened its doors in 1876, with a little over 5,500 objects. It’s now the 14th largest art museum in the world. It’s best to make a game plan of what you want to see because tackling the museum in a few hours, or even a day, is impossible. Its initial location was in Copley Square and has been located in Fenway since 1909.
The Bunker Hill Museum
The Bunker Hill Museum is located in Charlestown and is also home to the Bunker Hill Monument; although the monument is currently closed due to the restoration, the museum has a modified schedule and welcomes visitors.
The monument is the site of The Battle of Bunker Hill (June 1775), where New England soldiers fought the British army. In 1961, the Bunker Hill Monument became a National Historic Landmark. The monument—a 221-foot tall obelisk made of quarrel granite—was once the tallest structure until the Washington Monument was erected in 1880. Visitors can climb the 294 steps to the observation lookout. For history buffs, a visit to the granite obelisk, which was completed in 1842, is a must.
Without a doubt, Boston is a town that takes its sports seriously. Very seriously. From the New England Patriots to the Boston Bruins, from the Boston Celtics to the Boston Red Sox, this is a city of super fans. Of all the venues where sporting events are held though, none can compare to Fenway Park, which locals hold in absolute reverence. The nation’s oldest Major League Baseball ballpark, where the Red Sox have played since 1912, seems like a throwback to more innocent days, where legendary games have played out over the decades. Red Sox have won six World Series at Fenway. If you can’t make it to a game, excellent tours ( or virtual tours) run year-round and even get you onto the hallowed ground of the field.
Eat Your Way Around the World
Boston is home to a diverse food scene that can transport your taste buds around the globe. In the mood for delicious Mexican food? Head to Chilacates in one of their various locations. Their Centre Street location in Jamaica Plain is ideal because J.P. Licks is across the street for all the best ice cream, sorbet, and non-dairy treats.
While Boston’s North End is home to “Little Italy,” a trip to the South End for MIDA’s Bucatini All’Amatriciana or the Classic Carbonara is worth all the carbs. MIDA has that neighborhood feel and a world-class dining experience to match. Roman-style pizza is at the heart of this new eatery launched by James Beard-nominated chef, Douglass Williams and Seth Gerber of MIDA, the team behind this Italian restaurant in South End. Apizza’s specialty is that their pies are made fresh daily as is their house-made dough.
For a more eclectic menu, ZaZ Restaurant located in Hyde Park adds an international flavor to staples like burgers, salads, and wraps. Every item on their menu is influenced by Asian, Caribbean, and Latin cuisines. Stop in and try their shrimp and grits, Cajun shrimp mac and cheese or their teriyaki salmon burger. Chef Olrie Roberts’ menu reflects his more than a 10-year culinary career. Their menu has something for every palate, plus a robust catering menu for large events.
Try the diverse menu at Brassica Kitchen, a cafe and restaurant located in Jamaica Plain. They serve a diverse “fermentation forward” menu fusing American, Asian, and Southern comfort food weekly. Chefs Jeremy Kean and Philip Kruta of this Jamaica Plain eclectic restaurant are James Beard-nominated for Best Chef in the Northeast in 2022.
And you can’t miss seafood in Boston: a visit to The Pearl should be at the top of your list. The Pearl is a family-owned business in Dorchester’s South Bay plaza. Southern hospitality and city sophistication are what shape this raw bar and seafood restaurant. Expect fresh oysters and handmade cocktails in a relaxed setting.
Sway to the Sounds of Local Musicians
Boston is home to an impressive music scene. For the past 5 years, Catherine Morris, Founder of Boston Arts and Music Soul Festival (BAMS Fest) has spearheaded this family-friendly event. Each June, you can count on amazing headliners for BAMS Fest, check out their virtual programming this summer.
For more local music, stop by The Beehive and Wally’s Café. The Beehive is a restaurant-meets-music venue offering food and drinks alongside a steady roster of Boston’s most talented musicians. It’s located in Boston’s South End neighborhood, and many local bands grace the stage of this fun location. Wally’s Café jazz club is one of the oldest family-run jazz clubs in the country and hosts jam sessions and performances nightly. In 1947 Joseph L. Walcott, a native of Barbados, opened Wally’s Café jazz club. Countless Berklee students flock here to hone their musical chops each week.
The Best Bakeries and Cafes
Boston serves up buzzy caffeine and tasty treats to power your visit. A few to try include Ula’s Cafe, a Jamaica Plain institution, college students, families, and friends come here regularly for coffee dates, workshops, and much more. Their commitment to locally sourced produce and sustainable menu options is what keeps customers returning to this cozy neighborhood spot. Polcari’s Coffee opened in 1932 in Boston’s North End on Salem Street. Come in for specialty coffee, teas, and spice and enjoy the old-world charm of this historic shop.
Ripple Cafe is located in Dorchester at Ashmont station. The floor-to-ceiling glass windows welcome natural light that brightens the modern design of this Dorchester gem. Be sure to try the single-origin coffee, locally baked goods, and avocado toast, all while enjoying their stellar playlist. Praline, a traditional French bakery, imports its ingredients from France so you can enjoy pain au chocolat and macarons like you’re in a Parisian cafe. Praline’s first shop is in Belmont, and recently opened a second location in Cambridge.
Cafe Juice Up is located in Mattapan and serves up affordable fresh fruit bowls, fruit juices, smoothies, savory meat pies called “patties” and soups. A welcomed healthy addition to the businesses that line Blue Hill Avenue in Mattapan, stop by and try their freshly pressed juices, have a post-workout smoothie, or a snack between weekend errands. Also in Mattapan Square is Le Foyer Bakery, a Haitian bakery boasts over 30 years of producing some of the best flaky meat pies, known as paté. On any given weekend, the queues are long for traditional Haitian bread, cakes, pastries, and patés. Some of the more popular paté fillings include spicy codfish, chicken, beef, and smoked herring.
Shop the Best of Black-Owned Boston Retail
Some of the best shopping in Boston includes brick-and-mortar stores found throughout the city. To support Black businesses, first check out the successful brand, Black Owned Bos.–it functions as a platform, consulting agency, and resource to amplify Black-owned businesses in Boston. Black Owned Bos. has been recognized by Boston Magazine as the Best Retail Pop Up in 2021. Turner has secured partnerships with many brands. Turner organizes large-scale outdoor markets in Boston’s Seaport district, bringing a steady stream of diverse vendors to the city’s waterfront, and encouraging shoppers to buy local. Turner’s impact is certainly felt among the many business owners and entrepreneurs who benefit from Black Owned Bos.
Then get shopping. Try Frugal Bookstore, a local family-owned bookstore in Roxbury that hosts events for the community. Leonard and Clarissa Edgerton have operated the bookstore since 2006. They welcome the local community and writers for events throughout the month. Check out their programming for the spring and summer seasons.
What’s a good meal without a perfectly paired wine or drink to enjoy it? The Urban Grape is a wine and spirits shop located on Columbus Avenue in the South End. Owners TJ and Hadley Douglas have taken the intimidation out of wine by focusing on education and exposure. The Urban Grape has gained a loyal following and earned “The Best of Boston” in 2021 by Boston Magazine. Come here to find out how best to pair wine even if you’re not an oenophile; drop in on any of their free weekly wine tastings to learn more. And finally, Black Market Nubia, launched by duo Kai and Chris Grant, is a marketplace in Boston’s historic Roxbury neighborhood that features artisans and entrepreneurs at this hub celebrating Black-owned businesses. They create an avenue for hundreds of businesses in the city that would otherwise not have retail space to meet the needs of their community and customer base.
Enjoy Incredible Black-Owned Restaurants
Come to D Coal Pot for Caribbean comfort food. Stewed meats, and savory rice dishes like pelau, a traditional stewed meat and rice with coconut milk and pigeon peas. This Hyde Park restaurant offers classic Trinidadian fare. Try their curry duck and doubles, a vegetarian sandwich made with two flatbreads called bara and filled with curried chickpeas, called channa.
Suya Joint, located in Roxbury, is home to authentic Nigerian food. Try the jollof rice or egusi stew to keep you warm on those cold Boston days. Bar, lounge, restaurant, and catering.
Natif Natal is tucked in between a row of businesses on Blue Hill Avenue in Dorchester, this is Haitian restaurant consistently delivers a taste of home for many locals who flock here each week. Come here to try their diri djon djon, a rice dish prepared with dried mushrooms, or their griot, a deliciously seasoned fried pork shoulder. Order pikliz, a spicy, pickled cabbage-based condiment that pairs well with most meals if you want to dial up the heat; it pairs well with any dish. The white rice, black bean gravy with well-seasoned stewed vegetables with meat is a classic Haitian dish.
Darryl’s Corner Bar and Kitchen is owned by Nia Grace. You can enjoy its Southern-influenced menu, regular live music, and a jazz brunch that draws locals from all over the city. Stop in and try Southern classic dishes like their fried catfish, collard greens, macaroni and cheese, and a great drink menu. Try their red velvet cake—you’ll be happy you did.
The Pit Stop BBQ is a tiny BBQ joint that boasts some of the most authentic Southern comfort fare and BBQ in Boston; serving “soul food” for the past 30 years on Morton Street in Mattapan, the smell of smoked meat and wood chips waft through the air as you approach this no-frills Southern-style eatery. Ribs, collard greens, potato salad, macaroni and cheese, cornbread, and coleslaw all shine on the Pit Stop BBQ’s menu.
Bred Gourmet located in Dorchester is a burger spot and serves gourmet-style grass-fed beef burgers, fresh salads, and smoothies. Come for the great food—like parmesan truffle fries and plantains—and stay for the friendly staff and welcoming service.
Asian-Inspired Restaurants to Visit
Be it bubble tea, chicken curry, or fried rice, there is no shortage of delectable Asian-inspired menus to choose from in Boston. For all the banh mi lovers out there, Ba Lė Bakery is a local favorite. Boston is home to a large Vietnamese community, and this no-frills French-influenced bakery hits the spot every time. Caffe Bene is a Korean coffee house in Boston’s Symphony Hall area is a cozy place to enjoy lattes, bubble tea, hand-pressed sandwiches, and a variety of pastries. It’s a great spot to enjoy a pre-symphony performance. And Penang Malaysian Cuisine is home to authentic food from Malaysia. Pop into Chinatown for Malaysian cuisine in the heart of the city. Then enjoy a walk through Boston Common afterward.
A Taste of the African Diaspora
Most cities—like New York or Los Angeles—boast a large selection of Asian or Italian restaurants, but Boston’s diverse food scene includes an array of cuisine from the African Diaspora as well. Enjoy authentic Cape Verdean cuisine Restaurante Cesaria serves up traditional dishes like Katchupada, Feijoada, Cabritada made with fresh ingredients daily. In Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood, Nôs Casa Cafe is another Cape Verdean restaurant serving traditional West African cuisine with Portuguese influences. Family-run by a mother and son, Ana Maria and Joshua Fidalgo, are a staple in the Roxbury community, creating jobs for local residents.
Comfort Kitchen elevates “global comfort food” with flavors and ingredients from the African diaspora. It is a cafe by day and a restaurant by night and touts itself as a food incubator with a keen interest in activating collaboration, cross-cultural understanding with efforts to engage its local community. Comfort Kitchen is a Black, immigrant, and woman-owned business in the heart of Boston’s Uphams Corner neighborhood.
Get Your Fill of Caribbean Flavors
Boston is home to a thriving Caribbean community and Haiti is represented in a variety of ways from the city’s elected officials to families, business owners, thought leaders, and artists. Haitian cuisine is not only available in Boston’s Mattapan neighborhood, but Boston’s first Haitian food truck, Gourmet Kreyol, is serving savory meals throughout the city. This family business was launched by two cousins, Karyn Glemaud and Nathalie Lecorps, and the duo enjoy sharing their culture and cuisine with their community. Try their fritay, a delicious meal of fried plantains, spicy pickled cabbage called pikliz, served with seasoned chicken.
Jamaica Plain (JP) has a sizable Latin and Afro-Latin community which also means there’s plenty of amazing food that spans the Caribbean. Alex Chimi’s Restaurant is where you can get a taste of Dominican cuisine in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood. Try an order of their seasoned roasted chicken, arroz con gandules (rice and peas), empanadas (meat pies), and platanos (fried plantains) with pickled red onions.
At D Coal Pot you’ll find classic Trinidadian fare including stewed meats and savory rice dishes like pelau. Try their curry duck and doubles, a vegetarian sandwich made with two flatbreads called bara and filled with curried chickpeas called channa.
Get Your Souvenirs at Women-Owned Shops
Founded by Haitian American fashion designer, Joelle Fontaine, I Am Kreyòl is the brains behind this eclectic woman-forward brand. The brand is inspired by the resilience displayed by the founder’s mother, Yolette Fontaine, who is a businesswoman and seamstress. The I Am Kreyòl brand is known for bold pieces, unique prints, and silhouettes. I Am Kreyòl is now part of the Bow Market collective, a retail space that hosts diverse small businesses from art, food, entertainment, and more.
You don’t need a green thumb to shop or attend a workshop at Emerald City Plan Shop. It’s New England’s first Black-owned plant shop and botanical event space. Owner, Quontay Turner, who’s a multi-talented creative entrepreneur with over ten years of community organizing in the city of Boston. Stop into any of her botanical-themed workshops.
Owner Sofi Madison launched Olives & Grace in 2012. The shop is located in the South End. Come shop their custom products from emerging creatives. You’ll find the perfect gifts here whether you are on the hunt for graduation gifts or celebrating an anniversary, Olives & Grace, will have products designed with care.