Founded in 1630 by Puritan colonists from England, Boston is one of the handful of American cities that were among the largest and most important of the colonial era, and remain so today. Many of its most popular tourist sites relate to its colonial and Revolutionary periods, but besides being a living history lesson, Boston provides many other attractions to its many visitors.
Sample a few of the following on your next trip to Massachusetts’s capital:
* Boston Public Garden
Next door to Boston Common is the Boston Public Garden, America’s oldest botanical garden. Thomas Ball’s statue of George Washington on a horse welcomes you to an array of roses, bulbs, and flowering shrubs, as well as weeping willows, elms, horse chestnuts, and many other varieties of trees.
Especially popular from April to September on the four acre pond on the grounds of the Garden are rides on the famed Swan Boats, which are pedaled by a tour guide sitting next to the large ornamental swan in the back. During the winter, the pond becomes a skating rink.
* Fenway Park
Opened in 1912, Fenway Park is the oldest of Major League Baseball’s surviving “Jewel Box” ballparks. Bostonians love their Red Sox as rabidly as they hate the rival Yankees. If you are a baseball fan or a sports fan at all, Fenway is one of a handful of stadiums where you really ought to take in a game before you die.
Whether you are able to attend a game or not, you may also take a guided tour of the ballpark. The 50 minute tours start every hour from 9 AM until 4 PM, or until three hours before game time on game days.
* Freedom Trail
Boston’s famed Freedom Trail is a self-guided walking tour of historically significant sites. Two and a half miles from start to finish, it can take an hour or two or the better part of a day, depending on how much you want to stop and see everything.
The Trail starts at Boston Common, the oldest public park in America. There are a total of sixteen marked stops, including historically significant churches, houses, cemeteries and more, and ending in Charlestown at the Bunker Hill Monument. See where Paul Revere lived and where he lies buried, and relive some of the moments you’ve only read about in history books, such as the Boston Tea Party.
* Museum of Fine Arts
Founded in 1870 and moved to its current location in 1909, Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts is one of the largest museums in the United States, drawing over one million visitors a year.
Among the many treasures housed at the Museum are imperial Chinese paintings and calligraphy; 5,000 pieces of Japanese pottery; jewelry, sarcophagi, and sculptures from ancient Egypt; and paintings by Cezanne, Gauguin, Degas, and Van Gogh. There are more of French Impressionist Monet’s works here than anywhere outside of France.
The Museum opens at 10 AM seven days a week, closing at 4:45 PM Saturday through Tuesday, and 9:45 PM Wednesday through Friday.
* Museum of Science
One of the top science museums in the world, the Museum of Science at Science Park includes an IMAX theater, the Charles Hayden Planetarium, 3-D science films, a state of the art full-motion simulator, live lectures and presentations, and of course countless permanent and temporary exhibits, from dinosaurs to butterflies to medical devices to new green technologies. The Discovery Center is especially fun for kids, with its many opportunities to experience science hands-on.
Hours vary for different parts of the museum and different exhibits, but the Museum of Science is open seven days a week, with extended hours Friday evenings.
* New England Aquarium
A big hit with families since its opening in 1969, the New England Aquarium at the Central Wharf was one of the first aquariums to emphasize creating the most natural settings for its aquatic exhibits. In addition to the primary building, there is an IMAX theater, and the New England Aquarium Whale Watch.
The most popular feature of the Aquarium is the Giant Ocean Tank, which can be viewed from above, or through glass from the descending spiral walkway that surrounds it. The 200,000 gallon tank simulates a Caribbean coral reef, and includes barracuda, eels, sea turtles, rays, sharks, and much additional marine life. But there are numerous other fine exhibits as well, where you can see penguins, otters, poisonous fish, and more.
The Aquarium is open every day but Thanksgiving and Christmas. Expect crowds and long lines (though purchasing a membership enables one to bypass the lines), as the Aquarium is very popular with both locals and tourists.
* Sam Adams Brewery
Named for the famed patriot and brother of our second President, Sam Adams beer has become one of America’s favorites. At their brewery in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston, you can watch a video history of the company, followed by a guided walking tour of the facility, and culminating in the tasting room, where you will sample not only the different varieties of their classic Sam Adams beer, but the other products brewed there, such as their Hard Core Cider.
Tours are offered every day but Sunday, with no admission charge, beyond a suggested $2 donation that goes to charity.
Whether you’re more the type to appreciate a ball game or a Monet, there are plenty of reasons to spend some time in Boston.
Eric Wilbur, “Top Attractions in Boston.” About.com.
“Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau.” BostonUSA.com.
“Travel Guide to Boston.” Start Here Boston.