As a former Colonial city, Boston’s layout still accounts for many public spaces. These were very fashionable in an era that pre-dated modern forms of transportation or communication when the citizenry would have to gather outside a public house or square in order to be informed of the news of the day, socialize or form a mob and run someone out of town. Thankfully, those chaotic days of revolution are behind this magnificent city but its residents still enjoy being out and about in the city’s many plazas, squares, and green spaces. The following are some of the best places in Boston to enjoy the outdoors.
The cobblestone streets, beautiful parks and historic buildings of the Cradle of Liberty set the perfect backdrop to celebrate a budding or long-term romantic relationship. Boston features a number of romantic things to do. Whether you are heading out to celebrate an anniversary, Valentine’s Day or just the perfect Boston date night, you can choose from simple pleasures or extravagant adventures. Locals as well as visitors can experience unforgettable outings with one of the following activities.
The Gibson House offers visitors a glimpse into 19th century living in Boston’s Back Bay. As one of the Back Bay’s first residences, the Gibson House was built in the mid-19th century and remains the unspoiled residence of a well-to-do Victorian Boston family. Kitchen, scullery, butler’s pantry, and baths, as well as formal rooms and personal quarters are filled with the Gibsons’ original furniture and personal possessions. Located on 137 Beacon Street, between Arlington and Berkeley Streets, Boston.
Built in 1742 at the site of the old town dock, Faneuil Hall was the location of town meetings in colonial Boston. It is often referred to as “the Cradle of Liberty” because it was here that Samuel Adams, James Otis and other leaders in the American Revolution made speeches against British oppression.
TD Garden is the home arena for the Boston Bruins of the National Hockey League and Boston Celtics of the National Basketball Association. TD Garden is owned by Delaware North, whose CEO, Jeremy Jacobs, also owns the Bruins. It is the site of the annual Beanpot college hockey tournament, and hosts the annual Hockey East Championships.
One of Boston’s oldest neighborhoods, Beacon Hill is known for its charming, narrow cobblestone streets, federal style row houses and gaslit street lamps. It’s also considered to be one of Boston’s most desirable and expensive residential areas in the city. A visit to Boston isn’t complete without a stop here. Whether to shop, dine or wander about admiring the architecture and numerous historic sites, there are so many things to do in Beacon Hill.
The Old State House, built in 1713 on the site of the first Town House, is the oldest surviving public building in Boston. The building served as a meeting place for the exchange of economic and local news and was said to be the center of politics in the colonies. The Declaration of Independence was read from the balcony on the east side of the building, and just below it is the spot where the Boston Massacre took place. The Old State House is one of the most important public buildings in the U.S.
The Bunker Hill Monument was the first public obelisk in the United States designed to commemorate the Battle of Bunker Hill. The battle was actually misnamed because the majority of the action took place on Breed’s Hill and that is where the monument sits. The monument was begun in 1827 but construction had to be halted and it wasn’t completed until 1843. The architect, Solomon Willard, had the granite for the 221 ft structure brought in from Quincy, Massachusetts.
In June of 2004, the Boston Convention Center opened near the South Boston Harbor and Boston’s World Trade Center. Boston’s Convention Center is the largest in New England, offering 516,000 square feet of exhibit space, 300,000 square feet of function space, and a 40,020 square foot ballroom overlooking the city skyline and Boston Harbor. The space had originally been planned to house a stadium for the New England Patriots but concern over traffic prevented its construction.
The Channel extends from Gillette Headquarters, home to America’s premier razor manufacturer since King Gillette founded the company over 100 years ago, to the site of the Boston Tea Party on those very waters in 1773 and out into the Boston Harbor. In today’s Boston, the Fort Point Channel is bordered by restaurants, fabulous hotels and water view condos (look at the beautifully mirrored InterContinental Hotel and Residences), as well as attractions like the Children’s Museum and the recently rebuilt Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum.
The Black Heritage Trail features various homes, memorials, and sites that are significant in the history of Boston’s 19th century African American community. The first slaves arrived in 1638 and by 1705 there were over 400. At this time there were also the beginnings of a free black community in the North End, and by 1790, the time of the first census, Massachusetts reported no slaves. The trail includes the Robert Gould Shaw & the 54th Regiment Memorial, first black regiment, the George Middleton House, the oldest home built by African Americans on Beacon Hill, and the Phillips School, one of Boston’s first schools with an interracial student body.
More than a dozen theaters are clustered in the Boston Theater District. On Warrenton Street or Shear Madness Alley, the Charles Playhouse is home to the Blue Man Group, as well as Shear Madness, the country’s longest running non-musical play. Other theaters include the Colonial, Shubert, Orpheum, Opera, Emerson Majestic & Wilbur, most of which were built in the grand architectural style of early 1900s performance halls. These beautifully restored Boston gems, some intimate, some grand, host critically acclaimed productions.
Chinatown in Boston is the only historic Chinatown in New England. The area first became populated by Chinese immigrants in the early 1890’s. Before that, the area was settled by White Anglo-Saxon Protestants. Irish, Jewish, Italian, and Syrian immigrants also all lived in the area at one time or another because of the low cost of housing and job opportunities in the area. In the late 19th century, manufacturing plants moved into the area and remained active through the 1990’s.
One of the most photographed streets in the city, Acorn Street offers visitors a reminiscent ride back to colonial Boston. It was on this lovely street that 19th century artisans and trades people lived and today the row houses are considered to be a prestigious address in Beacon Hill.
Built in 1805 and renovated in 1830, the Nichols House Museum was constructed by architect Charles Bulfinch. The museum takes its name from Rose Standish Nichols, who lived in the house between 1885 and 1960, and represents the lifestyle of the American upper class during that period. The Nichols House Museum offers a room-by-room tour of the four-story row house, which is decorated in original furnishings.
Charles River Esplanade is one of the many examples of land set aside in Boston for public enjoyment. During the summer you can catch a free concert or play at the Hatch Shell, or watch the rowers practice in the Charles River as you stroll in the park.
Harvard Square is an intellectual and offbeat area with a mix of languages, ages, and cultures. Its streets are lined with coffeehouses, independent bookstores, cinemas, and music stores. The centerpiece of the area, Harvard University, is the oldest institution of higher learning in America, established in 1636. Its long list of famous alumni includes seven presidents of the United States. The campus is distinguished by a diverse collection of historic buildings and the acclaimed Harvard University Museum offers expansive collections. For information, visit the University Events & Information Center on Massachusetts Avenue.
The campus of this world renowned science and technology institution extends more than a mile along the Charles River Basin. The school was founded by William Barton Rogers in 1861, with the founding philosophy of “learning by doing.” During WWII, the school served as a federally funded research and development center. In 1916, George Eastman donated the funds to build a new campus on the Cambridge side of the Charles River.
The Christian Science Plaza is the location of the First Church of Christ, Scientist, one of the largest churches in New England. The plaza consists of 14 spacious and serene acres, paved in brick and granite, with orderly rows of trees, buildings, stone benches, a large reflecting pool and a circular fountain. The Mother Church, built in 1894, consists of a Romanesque Church Edifice with a bell tower and stained glass windows, and the larger Church Extension, added in 1906, is a mix of Renaissance and Byzantine architecture.
The Symphony Hall in Boston, Massachusetts is considered one of the top concert halls in the world because of its impressive acoustics. The Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Pops share the hall. The Symphony Hall was designed through a collaboration of architects McKim, Mead and White and assistant professor of physics at Harvard University, Wallace Clement Sabine. Sixteen Greek and Roman statue replicas line the walls of the hall and Beethoven’s name is inscribed over the stage. The Symphony Hall’s organ, a 4,800 pipe Aeolian-Skinner, is also considered to be one of the best in the world. It was installed in 1949 and is autographed by Albert Schweitzer.
Isabella Stewart Gardner, a patron of the arts, established the museum in 1903 when her own property on Beacon Hill became too small for her growing collection. The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum was designed as a replica of the 15th century Venetian style palazzo. Because Gardner disliked the cold, impersonal experience that museums usually offer, she chose the palazzo-style, a design which provides natural light and garden views. The museum, a must-see Boston attraction, features three floors of galleries surrounding a garden courtyard. The collection includes paintings, sculpture, tapestries, furniture, and decorative arts spanning 300 years, from locations around the world.
The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston is one of the largest museums in the U.S., housing the second largest permanent museum collection in the Western Hemisphere. The museum is affiliated with the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and the sister museum, the Nagoya/Boston Museum of Fine Arts, in Nagoya, Japan. The Museum of Fine Arts offers a fine permanent collection from the masters of American painting as well as a vast selection of works of art from all important periods; it also hosts special exhibits on loan from around the world.
Named for Captain Cassin Young who was awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism during the attack on Pearl Harbor, the USS Cassin Young (DD – 793) is docked adjacent to Old Ironsides. Built in 1943, she was. The ship served during World War II and the Korean War. The destroyer saw action off Tinian, the island the Enola Gay took off from to drop the first atomic bomb, as well as Okinawa and Iwo Jima. One of only four Fletcher-class destroyers still afloat, she was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1986.
Boston’s Museum of Science, located on the Charles River Basin, has over 500 interactive exhibits and a variety of live presentations throughout the day. The museum also features a planetarium, New England’s only domed IMAX, a theater of electricity with one of the world’s largest Van de Graaff generators, and exhibits from the original Computer History Museum. Beginning with a collection of men sharing scientific interests in the early 1830’s, the museum still houses some of the artifacts that were originally stored and displayed.
The historic landmark pub was transformed from a long-standing neighborhood gathering spot for locals into one of Boston’s must-see stops for visitors after gaining notoriety as the location of the popular 1980’s TV sitcom, Cheers. The Cheers Pub was founded in 1969 and was discovered in 1981 by Hollywood couple Mary Ann and Glenn Charles. During their visit, they photographed the interior and exterior of the pub, which they gave to the set designer back in Hollywood to replicate for the set of the show. Cheers premiered on NBC in 1982 and remained on the air for 11 seasons, receiving over 100 Emmy nominations over the years. The pub eventually changed its name to Cheers to avoid confusion.
The landscaped, 24-acre Boston Public Garden, established in 1837, was the first public botanical garden in the U.S. The Public Garden contains lovely manicured paths, the famous “Make Way for Ducklings” statues, a 4-acre pond with swans and a variety of other birds, and several memorable statues throughout. You can enjoy a leisurely ride aboard the Swan Boats, pedal-powered gondolas which have been in operation during the summer months since 1877.
The Old South Meeting House was the largest building in colonial Boston and stands today as a symbol of the right to free speech and free assembly. The most well known meeting that took place here was held by the Sons of Liberty on December 16, 1773. The discussion in protest of the British tax on tea led directly to the Boston Tea Party, which took place later that very evening. 5,000 colonists gathered in the Old South Meeting House that day, an example of one of the larger crowds that could not have been accommodated by Faneuil Hall.
The gravestones in Copp’s Hill Burying Ground, Boston’s second oldest burying ground, tell the story of the population of the North End in colonial times. Originally known as Windmill Hill, the hill took the name of William Copp, a shoemaker who donated the land for a burying ground in 1659. It is the place of rest for thousands of artisans, craftspeople, and merchants. Some of the well known individuals are Increase and Cotton Mather, of the family of ministers, Robert Newman, sexton of the Old North Church at the time of Paul Revere’s ride, Edmund Hart, shipyard owner and builder of the USS Constitution, and Shem Drowne, the artist who made the weathervane for Faneuil Hall, among others.
Officially called Christ Church, the Old North Church is the oldest church building in Boston, a National Historic Landmark, and a stop on the Freedom Trail. Built in 1723, the Old North Church was inspired by the works of Christopher Wren, a British architect. It is most commonly known as the first stop on Paul Revere’s “Midnight Ride,” where he instructed three Boston Patriots to hang two lanterns in the church’s steeple. The lanterns were used to inform Charlestown Patriots that the British were approaching by sea and not by land.
Built in 1680, the unimposing wooden house at 19 North Square is the oldest house in downtown Boston. The 3-story building was the home of silversmith and Boston Patriot Paul Revere from 1770-1800, previously housing the parsonage of the Second Church of Boston. Revere sold the house in 1800 and it became a tenement with the ground floor used for shops and various businesses over the years. In 1902, Revere’s great-grandson purchased the property and restored it so that it could be opened to the public. In 1908, after restoration by architects and preservationists, the Paul Revere House opened to the public as one of the earliest historic house museums in Boston and the U.S.
The New England Aquarium, situated on the scenic Central Wharf, has more than a dozen exhibits that highlight hundreds of different species from around the world. Attracting 1.3 million visitors each year, the Boston Waterfront attraction recreates natural habitats ranging from reefs and tide pools to rocky shorelines. In addition to its exhibits, the aquarium offers Whale Watch excursions that take visitors 30 miles east of Boston to Stellwagen Bank where you can see whales, dolphins, sea birds and other marine life. The aquarium also has an IMAX® Theater that features films of animals and their habitats, 3-D movies and first-run feature
On March 5, 1770, the tension from the British military occupation of Boston escalated into the event now referred to as the Boston Massacre. There was heavy military presence in downtown Boston in order to maintain control over civilians and to enforce the Townshend Act. Various brawls between soldiers and civilians had taken place; but the evening of March 5th was the first to result in civilian deaths. Today the site of the massacre is marked by a cobblestone ring on the traffic island at the intersection of Devonshire and State Streets.
For the average Bostonian, life in the New England colonies during the 17th century was, as you might’ve guessed, not exactly one of ease and leisure. Before they were built by stone or brick masonry, homes were small, dank, drafty and made entirely of wood. This building practice was abolished toward the advent of the 1700s due to the susceptibility of fire. Most of the population subsisted as farmers, the drinking water was unsafe, medicine was still in the Dark Ages, and the average lifespan was just shy of 40 years. These were arduous and challenging times and living under the yoke of an oppressive foreign monarchy would eventually prove too much to bear and, thus, a revolution was born.
Comprised of 16 places of interest, each one a milestone in the evolution of Boston from English colony to independence, the Freedom Trail is an essential component of any trip to Boston. This historic attraction literally lays out Boston’s colonial history before you on the very streets where the city’s most transformative events unfolded several hundred years ago.
The thinking behind the design of the Freedom Trail is attributed to William Schofield, a former travel writer for the Boston Herald. He noticed that visitors eager to immerse themselves in the city’s historic past were having trouble finding the landmarks they were looking for. Schofield proposed a solution – Link the most important sites in a numbered sequence along a clearly marked, easy to follow trail that could be walked from end to end without the chance of getting rerouted or lost. There was also the idea that the Freedom Trail would’ve been a typical path to walk for the average colonist back in the day, further enhancing the sensation of traveling back in time.
One of Boston’s most well known historic sites, Faneuil Hall Marketplace was constructed in 1742 and served as a marketplace and meeting hall since it first opened its doors. Named after the wealthy merchant who provided funding for the hall, Peter Faneuil, this significant structure has been the site of many important and inspirational speeches by famed Americans, including Samuel Adams. When visiting Boston, a stop here is definitely a must do.