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Best things to do in Boston

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Where in the world: USA  /  Massachusetts  /  Boston
With many museums, churches, and political sites to explore, there is a versatile range of things to do in Boston. Travelers wishing to soak up some of America's earliest history can take a walk along Freedom Trail past over a dozen historical monuments. The cobbled passageways of Beacon Hill will also give you a pretty good idea of what early Boston must have been like. For a lesson in more recent history, head to John F. Kennedy Presidential Museum & Library. To take a break from the city's history-steeped streets and neighborhoods, relax among permanent plantings of meticulously maintained Boston Public Garden, or catch a baseball game at Fenway Park.

Boston is best known for its Historic Walking Areas, History Museums, and Gardens.

Top 15 things to do in Boston

1. Museum of Fine Arts

Boston's oldest cultural institution, Museum of Fine Arts is noted for its collection of French Impressionist paintings, including more works by Monet than any other museum or gallery outside of Paris. The museum also houses a vast collection of Egyptian, ancient Greek, and Roman art. The galleries displaying American works include paintings of famous historical figures, such as George Washington, Samuel Adams, and Paul Revere. In addition to works by the great European artists Gauguin, Renoir, Degas, and van Gogh, you can also see examples of some of the finest works produced by Americans John Singleton Copley, Winslow Homer, and John Singer Sargent. Be sure to leave a little time for exhibits of medieval sculpture and tapestries, as well as for displays of Chinese calligraphy and Japanese pottery.
Suggested duration: 3 hours
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2. Boston Public Garden

A meticulously maintained park in the middle of the city, Boston Public Garden features swan-ornamented pedal boats and the world's shortest suspension bridge. The park, America's oldest public garden (established in 1837 by philanthropist Horace Gray), showcases permanent plantings that include roses, bulbs, and shrubs. As you stroll through the 10 hectare (24 acre) garden, notice the weeping willows, elms, horse chestnuts, dawn redwoods, and ginkgo trees lining the main pathways. Before you leave, stop by the equestrian statue of George Washington, a popular photo op near the west exit of the park. Just to the north of the garden, you can also visit the "Cheers" bar, made famous by the 1980s television sitcom.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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3. Boston Common

The country's oldest city park, Boston Common dates back to the 1630s. Consisting of 20 hectares (50 acres), the common is part of an extensive chain of parks linked by parkways and waterways. It's named the "Emerald Necklace" because of the way it appears to hang from the "neck" of the Boston peninsula. Pick up a map at the on-site information kiosk to locate notable burial sites within the park, including the graves of painter Gilbert Stuart, composer William Billings, and poet Samuel Sprague. To see the first subway station in America, visit the southern corner of the park.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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4. Freedom Trail

Weave your way through the city center, the birthplace of the American Revolution, and soak up some of the country’s earliest history on Freedom Trail. The 4 km (2.5 mi) brick-lined trail passes 16 historical city monuments, including museums, churches, and political sites. Begin your walk in the Boston Common, the location of the British forces' encampment during the occupation of 1775-76. Then head to the impressive Massachusetts State House, which was built shortly after the revolution and now houses state government offices. Don’t miss a chance to visit the site of the infamous Boston Massacre, or to tour the oldest house in the city, the home of Paul Revere. While most visitors choose to walk the trail freely, guided tours and audio headsets are available at the tourist center.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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5. Museum of Science

Museum of Science is home to more than 700 interactive exhibits--including simulators that take you through space, the ocean, or the skies. There are live presentations, an IMAX cinema, and at least 100 animals. Take a walk through the butterfly garden, try out different optical illusions, or explore the renewable energy exhibit. You can also learn about New England habitats, see a hunter's trophy room, and much more. When you arrive, check the schedule of live presentations.
Suggested duration: 3 hours
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6. Faneuil Hall Marketplace

Since its opening in 1742, Faneuil Hall Marketplace has served as a place of meeting and commerce for the city of Boston. Find your way to the city's famous Freedom Trail pathway, and the complex that represents the site of speeches by early American revolutionaries, including Samuel Adams. Today, the "Cradle of Liberty", as the building was known prior to the American Revolution, acts as a mall. Here you can visit an array of restaurants, market halls, eateries, and shops. You'll find numerous spaces for live musical performances and of art exhibits.
Suggested duration: 1 hour
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7. John F. Kennedy Presidential Museum & Library

John F. Kennedy Presidential Museum & Library documents the life, career, and story of one of America's most well-known leaders through a collection of archives, exhibitions, and materials. You’ll see an array of memorabilia, photographs, and personal belongings spread out over seven permanent exhibits, including those focused on JFK's political career, the Space Race, and the Kennedy family. You’ll want to catch the series of films welcoming you to the center, one is narrated by JFK himself, and another documents the Cuban missile crisis. Originally opened in 1979, the complex was designed as the official home of records and papers pertaining to Kennedy's administration and government. Consult the museum’s website to create your itinerary before you go, because the complex is extensive.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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8. Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Designed after a Venetian palace, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is home to the private art collection of its namesake. Gardner bought her first painting, Vermeer's "The Concert," at auction in Paris. The painting was stolen in a famous heist in 1990, when 13 renowned works of art were stolen. Not to worry, because almost 3,000 pieces representing periods from ancient Rome to 19th-century America still fill the gallery spaces. These include furniture, textiles, illuminated manuscripts, ceramics, and paintings from almost every era displyed just as Mrs. Gardner left them, with empty spots where the artwork was stolen. Don't miss Anders Zorn's painting of Mrs. Gardner in the galleries. Her collection blossomed quickly after her first Vermeer and she commissioned the building of the current space to give the public access. Mrs. Gardner's great love of Italy, and particularly Venice, inspired her to recreate a Venetian palace to house her favorite pieces, and in 1903 it opened to great fanfare. If your name happens to be Isabella, you get free admission.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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9. North End

A taste of Italy in the middle of Boston, North End is the city's oldest continuously inhabited residential community, originally settled in the 1630s. Home to a sizable Italian-American population, this relatively small neighborhood boasts nearly a hundred Italian eateries and historical buildings, including Paul Revere's house. Often called "Little Italy," the area covering roughly five city blocks attracts visitors with its narrow streets lined with restaurants, cafes, bars, bakeries, and shops selling imported goods. Though Italian culture continues to dominate this part of the city, other ethnic groups also have left a mark on the neighborhood, among them Russians, Jews, and the Irish.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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10. New England Aquarium

New England Aquarium is home to a 760,000 liter (200,000 gallon) tank simulating a Caribbean coral reef. A spiral walkway takes you around the tank, where you can spot sharks, stingrays, eels, barracuda, sea turtles, and more through its 52 windows. Once you reach the bottom, you will be met by the aquarium’s penguin exhibit, though you will most likely hear the noise of the cheerful birds before you see them. The temperate gallery features ancient fish, rare sea dragons, and thousands of schooling fish, while the freshwater gallery hosts piranhas, anacondas, and electric eels. Outside the aquarium, you can enjoy a free viewing of the harbor seal exhibit. They have daily training sessions open to the public. There's an on-site IMAX theater.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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11. Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum

A multisensory experience, Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum presents one of the most important events in American history. Aboard restored ships, costumed performers reenact the Boston Tea Party's famous dumping of tea. After you've booted the tea overboard, visit an actor portraying Abigail Adams in her tearoom, where she will tell the story of husband John. Other exhibits use interactive technology to present Boston's rich history. Special events and programs, like Huzzah Tavern Night, take place on the ship throughout the year.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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12. New England Holocaust Memorial

Just steps from Boston's Freedom Trail, New England Holocaust Memorial, created by survivors, serves as a sobering monument to the 6 million Jews killed between 1939 and 1945. The memorial is made up of six identical paneled glass towers, each representing a million of the dead; in addition, they pay homage to those killed at each of six major Nazi death camps during the period. You'll see that each tower is inscribed with different numbers, as well as quotes from camp survivors and messages about the nature of evil, history, and remembrance. You can wander the area yourself, but if you'd like a guided tour, arrange for one ahead of time through the memorial's website.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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13. Food Tours

Suggested duration: 2 hours
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14. Newbury Street

Classical and Art Deco architecture dot Newbury Street with tall windows and red bricks. The first commercial establishments opened around 1906, and by the 1920s the area was a high-end social district. The attraction is known for its charming storefronts and luxury goods, which are located along the ground and first floors of the buildings. Take a stroll up and down the street and get a peek at merchandise in the shop windows.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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15. USS Constitution Museum

Step back in time almost 200 years to experience maritime history at USS Constitution Museum. Housed in a restored shipyard building at the former Charlestown Navy Yard, the museum features an array of interactive exhibits and artifacts dedicated to the history and preservation of the USS Constitution. Experience life at sea aboard “Old Ironsides” by furling a sail and firing a cannon, or take a tour of the ship to explore below deck. Bring photo ID as you must have it to enter the museum.
Suggested duration: 30 minutes
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