The birthplace of the American Revolution, the 'Cradle of Liberty', home of the first Thanksgiving, the place that founding father John Winthrop called 'the shining city on the hill' and the 'Athens of America', Boston is a city of many faces.
It's also a friendly and beautiful destination that extends a warm welcome to visitors, making it the ideal choice for romantic city breaks or long, relaxing vacations. And, there's so much to do! Linger in some of the world's finest seafood restaurants, shop in some of the best stores and malls on the East Coast or see the largest collection of Monet paintings outside Paris at the Museum of Fine Arts.
Boston's magnificent architecture recalls over 400 years of history and innovation. Explore the Freedom Trail and see the site of the infamous Boston Tea Party or the Battle of Bunker Hill as you learn more about the city's impressive history. Alternatively, take a sailboat tour of the harbor and see the modern downtown skyline from a different angle.
Boston has the cleanest harbor in the US and its parks, gardens and outdoor spaces are second to none. It's a city for sports fans and families, couples and history buffs, gourmets and culture vultures. In fact, there are hundreds of compelling reasons to plan your stay in the Massachusetts state capital.
Top 5 Reasons to Visit Boston
1. Its History
Take the 2.5 mile long Freedom Trail past 16 spots that mark momentous moments in the country's history. Starting at Boston Common and ending at the Bunker Hill Monument, highlights include the Benjamin Franklin statue, the Paul Revere house, Copp's Hill Burying Ground and Faneuil Hall. Boston is also the US capital of education and home to the country's most prestigious seat of learning, Harvard University. It was named after major benefactor John Harvard in 1638 and much of the university is open to visitors.
2. That Harbor, Those Islands
As well as being the country's cleanest harbor, with the certification to prove it, Boston Harbor is the perfect spot for a sunset cruise. You can even scuba dive for lobster or, if diving doesn't appeal, explore some of the 34 islands dotted around Boston. Take the Harbor Express ferry to Spectacle Island or George Island from Long Wharf and then hop between other islands via water taxi.
3. It's a Sports Fan’s Paradise
Catch the world-famous Boston Marathon on Patriot's Day. The race has taken place on the third Monday in April since 1897. Or, cheer on the Red Sox, the city's iconic baseball team, at Fenway Park where they've played since 1912. The Red Sox aren't the only championship team in this fine city; basketball fans can show their support for Boston Celtics at the TD Garden Arena which they share with top hockey team, the Boston Bruins. And, if you're feeling active the city also boasts some of the country's best gyms and sports centers!
4. And it's a Great Place for Families!
Take the kids to ride the famous swan boats on the pond at Boston Public Garden, past the island from 1941 classic, Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey and the world's shortest suspension bridge. It's the quintessential Boston experience and has been since 1877 - be sure to take their photos by the exquisite statue of Mama Mallard and her babies. If it's rainy, head for the New England Aquarium at 1 Central Wharf. Children of all ages will love seeing the 80 penguins and the giant tank that's home to over 2,000 sea creatures.
5. The Great Outdoors - Boston Style
Frederick Law Olmsted was the brains behind the transformation of the swampy Charles River Basin into the city's most popular green space, the Charles River Reservation. This verdant haven in the heart of the urban landscape features trails for runners and cyclists, picnic spots, parks and playgrounds. It's also the site of the city's Independence Day celebration and there are free concerts and events at the Hatch Memorial Shell on the Boston Esplanade in summer.
What to do in Boston
1. Freedom Trail: Walk down History Lane
The heart of New England, Boston boasts the highest density of historical birth-of-the-nation landmarks than any other northeastern city. The Freedom Trail makes sure you won't miss a beat - set your own pace while exploring over a dozen landmarks through downtown Boston. Wander past the Old State House, the Boston Massacre Site, Paul Revere House and the Old North Church, taking time to enjoy the waterfront and the North End neighborhood as you go.
2. Fenway Park: Home of the Green Monster
Built in 1912, Fenway is baseball - from the asymmetrical "Green Monster" in left field to the classic foods that never extend beyond (delicious) hot dogs or burgers. Game day brings the neighborhood to life. Devoted Red Sox fans arrive early to the tunes of street performers and the smells of sizzling food trucks, and in the stadium itself, you can even catch players at batting practice! Don't worry, even in the offseason, you can still take a tour of the historic fields.
3. Boston Common: Hub of the City
Bordered by the quaint and historic Beacon Hill neighborhood, this park is not only the city's ultimate meeting point, but is also the oldest public park in the country. Walk the trails and enjoy the perfectly landscaped grounds, before crossing over into the adjacent Boston Public Garden to appreciate a diverse range of plants and trees. There, the famous swan boats are available on the pond to rent during the warm months, offering you a soothing moment off of your feet.
4. Museum of Fine Arts: Art through the Ages
The Boston Museum of Fine Arts sits on the perennially-popular Copley Square and houses one of the most comprehensive art collections in the world. Splitting its focus between global and local artists like Winslow Homer and Mary Cassatt - one of the first prominent American female painters - the gallery is both distinctly Northeastern and international at the same time. Check out the nearby Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum for even more world-class art.
5. Faneuil Hall: Home of Free Speech
One of the most worthwhile stops on the Freedom Trail is this historic building, now converted to be part of a popular, modern marketplace. The well-preserved hall was once a meeting place for important revolutionaries and has witnessed speeches from Samuel Adams and the likes. Visitors come to admire the age-old atmosphere, while also hitting the revamped area for chic shopping opportunities and good eats.
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Boston is a great choice at any time, so when you choose to visit will depend on what you plan to see and do. There are events and festivals all year round and some of the most popular include the oldest marathon in the world in April, the Fourth of July fireworks and First Night, the city's amazing New Year celebration. Summer, from May to September, is the most popular period for tourists as the days are warm and sunny and most of the city's attractions are open. However, visit in March and you'll catch one of the world's biggest St. Patrick's Day parades, or come to Boston in fall for the glorious fall foliage that transforms the city's parks and avenues.
Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) is just three miles from Downtown and it's where many visitors will enjoy their first taste of the city. From the airport, you can take the MBTA Blue Line Subway or the Silver Line bus service. It's $2.75 for a single journey on the subway and the Silver Line bus is free. Buses pick up travelers from each terminal every fifteen minutes for South Boston waterfront and South Station. Taxis are readily available and the trip from Logan International to Downtown is around $25.
The city has three rail stations that are served by both intercity Amtrak trains and the MBTA commuter train network. Trains from the west and south terminate at South Station where you'll find good local transport links to any part of the city. The same applies if you're arriving from the west or south to Back Bay station. Those traveling from north of the city will alight at North Station which is beneath the TD Garden Arena and served by MBTA Orange and Green line trains.
The 1-90 or Massachusetts Turnpike, referred to as the Mass Pike locally, is the main route for those driving to Boston from the west. It is a toll road and there is a $1.25 to enter the city. Drivers coming from the north or south should take the 1-90.
Bus is an affordable alternative to air or train travel and the city is served by numerous companies who offer regular services from all over the country and Canada. These include Greyhound, Boston Deluxe, and Busbud. A Greyhound bus from New York to Boston costs from $17 for a one-way trip. South Station Terminal is the main bus terminal in Boston.
Boston is known for its glamorous upscale hotels such as the Four Seasons Hotel Boston, the Fairmont Copley Plaza, the Ritz-Carlton Boston, the Mandarin Oriental Boston and the Sheraton Boston Hotel. They're ideal for that special break but you'll also find lots of affordable chain hotels, bed & breakfasts and mid-range hotels such as the Best Western Plus Boston Hotel, Boston Common Hotel and the Verb Hotel.
Popular Neighborhoods in Boston
Downtown - the tourist hub and home to the Freedom Trail, Faneuil Hall, Boston Common, and Boston Public Garden. It's also the city's main shopping and commercial district.
Back Bay - this trendy, upscale neighborhood is home to some of the best restaurants and designer stores in the city and where you'll find elegant Copley Square, the Hynes Convention Center and many of the city's attractions.
Beacon Hill - the historic heart of Boston and one of the city's elite areas. Some of the cobblestone streets are illuminated by gaslight at night and you can often see original brickwork that dates back to the birth of the city. It's also where Massachusetts State House is located.
South Boston - this friendly and accessible waterfront district is home to one of the country's largest Irish-American populations. The St. Patrick's Day parade attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. Notable landmarks include the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center and the Institute of Contemporary Art.
The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) or the T, as it's known in the city, is the fourth largest transit system in the US. The subway system has four lines, Orange, Green, Red and Blue that cover all areas of the city. There are local bus services as well as the Silver Line rapid transit bus service and the Harbor Express Ferry covers the harbor and islands. A one-way subway ticket is $2 but you can buy a 1-day LinkPass for $12 or a 7-day LinkPass for $21.25. The pass allows you to travel on the bus or subway, as well as the inner harbor ferry and commuter trains, in Zone 1 A.
Taxis can be found in all the major tourist areas such as Copley Square and Kenmore Square and can be hailed on the street. However, they can be an expensive way to get around the city and a 5-mile trip on a business day costs from $16.
Unlike most American cities, Boston isn't laid out in the traditional grid system. It's older than many other places and its narrow and winding streets can be difficult for drivers. However, if you're patient and confident, car rental is a great way to traverse the city or explore further afield. It costs from $40 to rent a family car from major brands like Avis, Hertz and Sixt.
Boston is the place to find everything from designer clothing to the latest electronic equipment. Newbury Street in Back Bay is often called the Rodeo Drive of the East and the most expensive stores are towards the Boston Common end. You can find all your favorite brands at the Copley Place and Prudential Center mall or the Cambridgeshire Galleria. Alternatively, visit Downtown Crossing for souvenirs, music stores and the Macy's department store.
Groceries and Other Necessities
There are lots of good supermarkets in the city as well as neighborhood groceries and mom and pop stores. Local favorites include Roche Bros, Mings Supermarket, and C Mart Supermarket and you'll pay $3.39 for a dozen large eggs and $0.94 for a quart of milk.
Boston is one of the oldest cities in the US and visitors will love eating in the country's oldest restaurant, the Union Oyster House. The iconic Downtown restaurant has been serving up the best clam chowder and New England fare since 1826. In fact, Boston really can't be beaten for seafood and Legal Sea Foods is another great option; find branches at Copley Place, State Street and Park Plaza. Forget the Cheers replicas and end the night with a beer or whiskey at the oldest continually serving bar in the US. The Bell in Hand Tavern was named by its first owner, Jimmy Wilson, in 1795. A town crier for 50 years, Jimmy reported on some of the city's most important events including the Boston Tea Party.