Whether it’s delving into the city’s history at its many museums, indulging in retail therapy at chic boutiques, or savoring gourmet delights at renowned restaurants, Boston offers an array of fascinating indoor experiences that ensure your trip remains vibrant and memorable, rain or shine. This guide will uncover some of Boston’s best indoor activities, each one a reason to include them in your vacation itinerary.
Step onboard the time-honored Old Town Trolley for a fun-filled journey through Boston’s rich tapestry of history and culture. Regardless of the weather, the Old Town Trolley is your ticket to Boston’s most iconic indoor attractions. Our hop-on, hop-off service ensures you can explore Boston’s finest indoor attractions at your own pace.
Museum of Science
The Museum of Science, a centerpiece in Boston’s history, was established by Bradford Washburn in 1830. It served as a platform to introduce the wonders of science to the public and has since grown into one of the world’s most renowned science centers. The museum is renowned for its kid-friendly exhibits, making science fun and accessible for youngsters. With interactive displays and educational workshops, children are encouraged to explore their natural curiosity, making it a perfect indoor activity for families.
Despite the rain, the Museum of Science is a must-visit indoor attraction in Boston. It offers over 700 interactive exhibits, live presentations, and even a planetarium, offering visitors of all ages a fascinating, fun-filled day. From exploring the secrets of the cosmos to understanding the human body or the natural world, the Museum of Science provides an engaging, educational experience that keeps visitors coming back, regardless of the weather.
The Blue Wing of the Museum of Science is an exceptional space that houses a plethora of interactive exhibits. At the heart of it is the Butterfly Garden, a lush tropical habitat where hundreds of exotic butterflies flutter freely. This tranquil haven allows visitors to witness the enchanting life cycle of these beautiful insects up close. Adjacent to this is the Hall of Human Life, an innovative exhibit exploring the biology and anthropology of the human body. Here, guests can participate in interactive experiments, discovering unique insights about their biology. Lastly, space enthusiasts should not miss “To the Moon,” an immersive exhibit that transports visitors into the depths of space, offering a detailed exploration of lunar missions and the future of space exploration. Despite its indoor location, the Blue Wing offers a world of exploration that is as expansive as the universe itself.
The Green Wing at the Museum of Science is a cornucopia of experiences that stimulate both education and wonder. One of its standout features is Bird’s World, an immersive exhibit that transports visitors into the fascinating lives of our feathered friends. Here, you can observe a diverse range of bird species in remarkably recreated natural habitats, learn about their unique behaviors, and even explore the evolutionary link between birds and dinosaurs. The Green Wing, much like the rest of the museum, is dedicated to creating an environment that encourages exploration, curiosity, and learning, ensuring that your visit is as enriching as it is entertaining, regardless of the weather.
The Red Wing of the Museum of Science is home to two of the museum’s most captivating attractions, the Charles Hayden Planetarium and the Mugar Omni Theater. The Charles Hayden Planetarium, one of the most technologically advanced digital theaters in New England, presents a captivating journey into the cosmos, immersing audiences in the wonder of the universe through dazzling star shows. Adjacent to the Planetarium is the Mugar Omni Theater, a grand IMAX dome theater renowned for its stunning presentations of nature, science, and history, making every viewer feel as if they are part of the action. With its combination of immersive experiences and rich educational content, the Red Wing offers visitors an unforgettable journey through the realms of space and science.
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, another gem in Boston’s cultural landscape, was founded by its namesake, Isabella Stewart Gardner, in 1903. An art collector, philanthropist, and patron of the arts, Gardner established the museum to house her vast and eclectic art collection.
Isabella Stewart Gardner was a prominent figure in Boston society during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Known for her eccentricity and her love for art and culture, Gardner traveled the world collecting priceless pieces of art. She envisioned her museum as a place where people could experience art in a personal and intimate way, a testament to her adventurous spirit and love for the arts.
The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is a must-see attraction in Boston, providing visitors with the opportunity to delve into a diverse collection of European, Asian, and American art. The innovative arrangement of each room encourages a captivating conversation between the artworks, ensuring an immersive experience. Regardless of external circumstances, the museum guarantees a voyage of historical exploration and artistic inspiration, making it an enjoyable and enlightening indoor activity.
The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum boasts an impressive array of masterpieces. These include Titian’s powerful “The Rape of Europa,” and John Singer Sargent’s intimate “Portrait of Isabella Stewart Gardner.” Fra Angelico’s “Death and Assumption of the Virgin” stirs awe, while Rembrandt’s “Self-Portrait, Aged 23,” showcases breathtaking realism. Cellini’s “Bindo Altoviti” exudes elegance, Piero della Francesca’s “Hercules” exhibits strength, and Botticelli’s “The Story of Lucretia” tells a powerful narrative. Each piece is a testament to the museum’s diverse and influential collection.
The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, a treasure trove of art, hosts an impressive array of over 7,000 archival objects. These artifacts span various geographical regions and periods, from ancient Rome, medieval Europe, and Renaissance Italy to Asia, the Islamic world, 19th century France and America. A splendid collection of books, inclusive of early-print editions and manuscripts of Dante, works by miniaturist Jean Bourdichon, incunables, and illuminated manuscripts, form a significant part of the repository. Scholars and history enthusiasts will appreciate the museum’s extensive archives filled with over 7,000 letters from notable figures like Henry Adams, T.S. Eliot, Sarah Bernhardt, and Oliver Wendell Holmes. The collection also encompasses travel albums, dealer receipts, and guest books, all reflecting the rich history and cultural significance of the museum. This assortment, meticulously curated by Isabella Stewart Gardner, invites visitors on an immersive journey through art and time.
Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum
The Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum stands as a vibrant tribute to one of the most significant events in American history. Established by Historic Tours, Inc., in 1973, this interactive museum commemorates the 1773 Boston Tea Party, a pivotal moment that ignited the flames of the American Revolution.
On December 16, 1773, the Sons of Liberty, in Colonial Massachusetts, orchestrated a daring political and mercantile protest. Disguised as Mohawk Indians, American patriots threw 342 chests of tea from ships belonging to the British East India Company into Boston Harbor. This symbolic act was both a protest against the taxation on tea, exemplifying the concept of “taxation without representation,” and a demonstration against the perceived monopoly of the East India Company.
As 2023 marked the 250th anniversary of this historic event, the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum invited visitors to actively participate in reenacting the tea-throwing act and delve into the events that led to the Revolutionary War. Boasting a talented cast of actors, cutting-edge interactive exhibits, meticulously restored tea ships, and an acclaimed multi-sensory documentary titled “Let it Begin Here,” the museum offers an immersive and captivating journey back to the 18th century.
The Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum is brimming with rich historical artifacts and exciting exhibits that offer an immersive dive into the past. Once you step foot into this museum, you’ll find yourself in the middle of a bustling 18th-century town meeting, surrounded by life-sized figures passionately discussing the controversial tax on tea.
The museum is home to two meticulously recreated 18th-century sailing vessels, the Eleanor and the Beaver. Guests can step aboard these ships, where costumed interpreters bring to life the events of December 16, 1773. You can even participate in the historic act of defiance by throwing replica tea chests into Boston’s Fort Point Channel, as the Sons of Liberty once did.
In the Robinson Half Chest exhibit, you’ll come face to face with one of only two surviving tea chests from the original event. The chest is a tangible piece of history that epitomizes the spirit of American resistance.
A visit to the Minuteman Theatre reveals an award-winning short film, “Let It Begin Here,” which captures the dramatic buildup to the American Revolution and the first battle, transporting you to the heart of the conflict.
Finally, no visit is complete without stepping into Abigail’s Tea Room where you can taste five historically accurate types of tea that were available in colonial America.
John F. Kennedy Presidential Museum & Library
The John F. Kennedy Presidential Museum & Library remains an essential institution in Boston’s historical landscape, commemorating the 35th president of the United States who served from 1961 to 1963. Completed and dedicated in 1979 by President Carter, and later renovated in 1993, the library stands as a tribute to Kennedy’s life and presidency. It provides unique insights into the American political scenario of that era, chronicling significant events such as the Space Race, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the Civil Rights Movement. For visitors seeking fun indoor activities in Boston, the library and museum present a compelling option. Its range of exhibits, featuring a wealth of historical artifacts, photographs, and film clips, offer a fascinating journey through Kennedy’s life and tenure. The captivating multimedia displays and hands-on exhibits make history come alive, rendering the museum both educational and entertaining. Whether a history buff or a curious tourist, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Museum & Library offers an enriching exploration of America’s past, making it a must-see attraction on a Boston vacation.
The John F. Kennedy Presidential Museum & Library offers an intimate look at JFK’s early years through the exhibition “Young Jack.” This exhibit offers an engaging journey into Kennedy’s childhood and youth, highlighting his family ties, school years, and his service in World War II.
The pivotal 1960 presidential election is a significant focus within the museum. Visitors are transported back in time as the museum recreates the sights and sounds of the 1960 Democratic National Convention, immersing them into the atmosphere of a midcentury political gathering. Furthermore, a display showcasing the main streets of America, as traveled by Kennedy and Nixon during their election campaigns, provides a poignant reminder of this historic presidential race.
The “Kennedy Family” exhibit features an array of artifacts, including Kathleen Kennedy’s Red Cross uniform jacket, a commemorative cup, and a blackthorn walking stick. Particularly notable is a replica of the Great Mace of Galway, Ireland, symbolizing the Kennedy family’s Irish ancestry and their significant role in Irish-American history.
The museum also prominently features an exhibit on First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, showcasing her style, grace, and influence. This includes footage of the First Lady and numerous artifacts from her life, such as her iconic clothing that defined an era. Visitors will gain an understanding of her profound influence on American culture and the role of the first lady.
New England Aquarium
The New England Aquarium is a must-visit attraction for those looking for fun indoor activities in Boston. Founded in 1969 by Don White, the aquarium is a global leader in ocean exploration and marine conservation, offering an exciting hands-on experience for visitors of all ages. At the heart of the New England Aquarium experience is the Giant Ocean Tank, a four-story, 200,000-gallon tank that is home to hundreds of Caribbean reef animals, including sea turtles, eels, and a variety of tropical fish. This impressive tank is designed to mimic a Caribbean coral reef and offers visitors a 360-degree view of its inhabitants.
The aquarium’s robust conservation initiatives have made significant strides in protecting marine biodiversity and ecosystems, firmly establishing its position as a valued stakeholder in environmental discourse and policy. Thus, the New England Aquarium is not just an attraction; it’s a testament to Boston’s commitment to advancing scientific knowledge and promoting environmental stewardship.
At the New England Aquarium, visitors are transported into an underwater world brimming with vibrant marine life. Among its many inhabitants, the African penguins are a crowd favorite, their playful behavior and gestures providing much joy to onlookers. Another notable resident is Myrtle, the green sea turtle, the aquarium’s longest-living inhabitant, who has captivated visitors with her calm demeanor and graceful swimming motions for over 40 years. The aquarium also hosts a delightful troupe of California sea lions, their playful antics and acrobatic skills making them an entertaining spectacle.
The Giant Ocean Tank is the crown jewel of the aquarium. Here, you can come face to face with a variety of exotic species, including colorful tropical fish, menacing sharks, and majestic stingrays, all cohabiting in a stunning replica of a Caribbean coral reef ecosystem.
The Simons IMAX Theatre is another must-see attraction in the aquarium. Using state-of-the-art 3D technology, the theatre offers an immersive experience, bringing wildlife and natural phenomena to life on a nearly five-story high screen. The stunning cinematography and awe-inspiring narratives of these films provide an enlightening journey through marine life and conservation.
The Amazon Rainforest exhibit replicates the lush, diverse ecosystem of the Amazon, where visitors can spot anacondas, piranhas, and electric eels. For those seeking a hands-on experience, the Touch Tank enables visitors to feel the unique textures of stingrays and starfish under the guidance of dedicated staff.
Other must-see exhibits include the octopus exhibit, home to the giant Pacific octopus, and the “Cold Water Quest,” featuring creatures from New England’s local waters. Whether you’re an ocean enthusiast or a curious tourist, the New England Aquarium offers an enriching, awe-inspiring exploration of the underwater world.
The TD Garden, fondly known as “The Garden,” is an integral part of Boston’s vibrant sports and entertainment scene. Founded in 1995 by Jeremy Jacobs, owner of the Boston Bruins, the Garden is a premier sports and entertainment arena in the heart of Boston. It is home to the NHL’s Boston Bruins and the NBA’s Boston Celtics, making it a must-visit for sports enthusiasts.
Visitors can enjoy an electrifying atmosphere as they watch live high-stakes games, feel the city’s passionate spirit for its home teams, and immerse themselves in Boston’s rich sports culture. The arena also hosts an array of concerts, comedy shows, and special events throughout the year, delivering top-notch entertainment for all ages.
Besides sports and entertainment, the TD Garden offers a behind-the-scenes experience with its exclusive Garden View Tour, allowing visitors to explore the ins and outs of the storied arena, including the locker rooms, press box, and premium club areas.
In essence, the TD Garden is not just a sports arena — it’s an emblem of Boston’s fervor for sports, a hub for top-tier entertainment, and an essential stop on any Boston vacation.
The TD Garden has a rich history of hosting notable events. It has been the site of numerous unforgettable sports moments, such as the Boston Bruins’ dramatic Stanley Cup victory in 2011 and the Boston Celtics’ intense playoff battles. The Garden also has a long tradition of hosting high-profile boxing matches, featuring legends like Marvin Hagler and Sugar Ray Leonard.
The Garden’s music legacy is equally impressive, having hosted some of the biggest names in the industry. From Frank Sinatra to the Rolling Stones, and more recently to Beyoncé, the arena has been a top choice for world-class performers, delivering unforgettable concert experiences. The Garden has also been a preferred venue for high-profile benefit concerts, including the Concert for Boston held in the wake of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.
The TD Garden has also been a platform for significant rallies and speeches, reflecting Boston’s active civic spirit. In 2004, it was the venue for the Democratic National Convention, where then-Senator Barack Obama delivered his renowned keynote address.
Visitors to the TD Garden are offered a wealth of sights and experiences. One of the highlights is the Sports Museum, which features a vast collection of memorabilia and exhibits that celebrate Boston’s sports history. In the Premium Club areas, visitors can enjoy luxury seating, gourmet food, and excellent views of the action. For die-hard fans, the ProShop offers a wide array of team merchandise, from jerseys to caps and everything in between. The Garden View Tour provides a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the arena, including the chance to step onto the iconic parquet floor.
For those interested in the technical aspects of the arena, the state-of-the-art HDX scoreboard is a marvel to behold. This six-sided high-definition scoreboard is one of the largest in North America and offers crystal-clear replays and real-time stats. Lastly, the statue of Bobby Orr, located outside the arena, is a must-see for any sports enthusiast. It immortalizes Orr’s iconic “flying goal,” one of the most legendary moments in Boston sports history.
Faneuil Hall Marketplace
Faneuil Hall Marketplace, an iconic Boston attraction, has been at the heart of the city’s history since its construction in 1741. Initially built as a hub of commerce, its significance goes beyond mere trading. It was here that the Sons of Liberty, an organization of American patriots, proclaimed their dissent against the oppressive rules of the British crown, earning it the nickname “The Cradle of Liberty.”
Peter Faneuil, a wealthy merchant, funded the construction of the hall as his gift to the city. He played a crucial role in Boston’s development during the mid-18th century, and his philanthropic deeds, particularly the creation of Faneuil Hall, have cemented his legacy in the city’s history.
Today, Faneuil Hall Marketplace is not just a relic of the past, but a vibrant center of life and leisure that offers a plethora of fun indoor activities. The ground floor houses a bustling market, reminiscent of its historic role, where visitors can shop for unique souvenirs and culinary delights. The upper floor, Faneuil Hall’s Great Hall, features an array of exhibits and portraits of historical significance, offering an informative experience for history buffs.
In essence, a visit to Faneuil Hall Marketplace is like stepping into a living history book, offering a glimpse into Boston’s past while enjoying the present. Its vibrant atmosphere, historical significance, and varied offerings make it a must-visit spot on any Boston vacation.
One of the central attractions of the Faneuil Hall Marketplace is the Quincy Market, a historic food hall that has been serving a delicious array of meals since 1826. Visitors can explore a wide variety of food vendors offering both local and international cuisine, from New England clam chowder and lobster rolls to Italian pasta and Asian delicacies. Inside the grand column-lined building, you’ll also find an assortment of shops selling unique gifts, accessories, and Boston-themed souvenirs.
Faneuil Hall Marketplace is well-known for its street performers who provide lively entertainment throughout the day. These skilled entertainers range from musicians and jugglers to magicians and acrobats, each contributing to the vibrant atmosphere of the marketplace. Be sure to take a moment to enjoy their performances and maybe even join in on the fun!
At the front of Faneuil Hall stands a bronze statue of Samuel Adams, a patriot known for his significant role in the American Revolution and as a statesman in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The statue is a popular meeting point and a reminder of Boston’s rich history. It’s a must-see attraction for anyone interested in American history.
Faneuil Hall Marketplace is also home to the grasshopper weather vane, a well-known symbol of Boston that has been perched atop Faneuil Hall since 1742. Be sure to take a stroll through the North and South Markets, which house a variety of unique boutiques and specialty shops offering everything from fashion and accessories to home goods and local art. Finally, enjoy the beautiful Christmas tree lighting if visiting during the holiday season, as Faneuil Hall Marketplace hosts one of the largest Christmas trees in the Northeast.
See the City Aboard a Fully Covered Trolley!
For an all-encompassing tour of Boston, nothing beats the Old Town Trolley. This hop-on, hop-off service offers a comprehensive tour of the city, striking a perfect balance between informative historical commentary and entertaining storytelling. As the trolley winds its way through the city’s streets, you’ll get a unique view of Boston’s most iconic landmarks, including the TD Garden, Faneuil Hall Marketplace, and many others.
Each trolley is equipped with a knowledgeable and engaging guide who breathes life into the city’s past, making the rich history of Boston as captivating as ever. The flexibility of the trolley tour allows you to explore each site at your own pace. You can hop off at any stop, spend as much time as you wish to dig deeper into the attractions, and then hop back on to resume your guided tour.
For thrill-seekers and lovers of the paranormal, the Ghost Tour on the Trolley of the Doomed offers a spine-chilling experience. As night falls over the city, the trolley takes passengers on a journey through Boston’s haunted history, visiting sites infamous for paranormal activity. This eerie tour provides not only a chilling account of the city’s ghost stories but also an unusual perspective of Boston at night.
The trolleys are completely covered, providing a comfortable and secure environment from where you can observe the darkened city streets. As you traverse the city, your Ghost Host will regale you with tales of the city’s most infamous specters, from the Lady in Black of Fort Warren to the many spirits said to haunt the old Colonial burial grounds.
In conclusion, Boston offers a vibrant array of indoor attractions and activities, seamlessly blending history, cuisine, and entertainment. From the historic Faneuil Hall Marketplace to thrilling tours on the Old Town Trolley and the Trolley of the Doomed, there’s an adventure waiting around every corner. Whether you’re a history buff, foodie, thrill seeker, or shopper, Boston’s indoor activities ensure a memorable experience.
The Boston Children’s Museum is an excellent choice for a rainy day outing with kids. With three floors of interactive educational exhibits, kids can engage in hands-on learning while having fun. Alternatively, the New England Aquarium offers an exciting underwater experience, featuring diverse marine life and dynamic exhibits, perfect for sparking the curiosity and wonder of young minds.
On rainy days in Boston, some of the most historic attractions to visit include the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Museum & Library, and the Paul Revere House. The Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum takes visitors back to the Revolutionary War era, while the John F. Kennedy Museum & Library pays tribute to one of America’s most influential presidents. The Paul Revere House, the oldest standing structure in downtown Boston, provides a glimpse into Colonial life. These attractions offer a rich and enlightening experience, making them ideal destinations for rainy days.
Boston is teeming with fascinating indoor activities, and here are three recommended options.
Sporting events: Home to the Boston Celtics (basketball) and the Boston Bruins (hockey), TD Garden electrifies with the roar of the crowd and the fast-paced action on the court or ice. Check the schedule for games happening during your visit — the atmosphere is electric! If a sporting event is not on your schedule, consider a scientific experiment at the Museum of Science.
Scientific experiments: Visit the Museum of Science and explore interactive exhibits on everything from dinosaurs and the human body to robots and climate change. The museum is a wonderland for both kids and adults, sparking curiosity and igniting imaginations.
Shopping: Faneuil Hall Marketplace offers everything from local souvenirs and quirky crafts to high-end fashion and gourmet food. Browse at your own pace and discover hidden treasures at this iconic Boston landmark.