Boston is a great city to visit, whether it’s for a vacation or for one of the myriad conferences and conventions that take place here. But even though I am a big fan of all things Boston, I will admit there is a lot more to do in Boston during the summer than there is in winter because of all the outdoor activities here. People think of Boston as a big city, while in fact, it is small in terms of square mileage and very compact. It’s a very walkable city and getting outside is the best way to experience Boston.
One of the best ways to get an introduction to Boston (and have great fun while doing so) is to take a Boston Duck Tours tour. The tour takes place on a WWII era amphibious vehicle (a DUKW boat) and includes the DUKW entering the water and giving a view of Boston and Cambridge from the Charles River. Another option would be to take a trolley tour which allows you to get on and off throughout the day to spend more time at sites that interest you.
Of course, there is the Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile red-brick trail that leads to more than 15 historic sites around Boston. You can explore on your own or take a guided tour. A lot of stops on the trolley tours and the Freedom Trail overlap, so you probably don’t need to do both.
A highlight of the Freedom Trail is the USS Constitution, ‘Old Ironsides’. Old Ironsides is the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world. You can go on a guided tour and visit the museum. Note that because she is still commissioned, the USS Constitution is a secure US Navy facility, so you have to go through airport-style security to get in.
Boston has great parks that are a lot of fun to explore. Boston Common is in the heart of Downtown and has wide-open spaces as well as a playground and the Frog Pond (wading pool in summer, ice skating in the winter). Next to Boston Common is the Public Garden. The Public Garden and its swan boats were made famous in the popular children’s book ‘Make Way for the Ducklings‘.
There is a multi-use path in the park along both sides of the Charles River. This is a very popular park for biking, jogging, walking and playing in the two playgrounds. Biking the 17-mile inner-loop is one of my favorite after-work rides. While on this path you can see both the Boston and Cambridge skylines depending on which side of the Charles you are on.
Boston’s Museum of Science
At the east end of the park is Boston’s Museum of Science. You can rent bikes or go on a bike tour of Boston with Urban Adventours. Also along the Charles River is the Hatch Shell (the location of the Pops Goes the Fourth 4th of July fireworks and concert). At a couple of different places, you can rent canoes or kayaks and enjoy the Charles River from the water.
Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area
The crown jewel of Boston parks is one of the country’s newest National Parks, the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area. You can take ferries from Long Wharf, near the Aquarium, to Spectacle and Georges islands and from there to some of the smaller islands. If you have one day to explore the islands go to Georges Island. Georges Island features a Civil War era fortress, picnic area and is a great place to explore. I have been to Georges Island too many times to count, but I still loving going out there and spending the day.
You can also take a ferry out to Little Brewster Island to take a tour of Boston Light, the oldest manned lighthouse in the country.
Along the waterfront of Boston Harbor is the 47 mile HarborWalk. The HarborWalk is a series of connected (sometimes loosely) paths and spaces along Boston Harbor to give the public access to all areas of the waterfront.
The Prudential Tower in Copley Square has the Skywalk Observatory on the 50th floor that offers a 360 degree of Boston. Near the Prudential Tower is Newbury St which is great for people-watching and shopping.
Another great people-watching area is Harvard Square in Cambridge.
Sports fans may want to visit Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox, either for a game or for a tour on non-game days. Boston and the surrounding areas have some great museums that can add to any trip to Boston.
Boston Children’s Museum
If you have kids (especially under 10 y/o) Boston Children’s Museum is not to be missed. There is a special play space just for kids under 3 and the 3 story climbing sculpture in the main lobby is great for older kids. Another museum, great for kids and adults, is the Museum of Science which also has a planetarium and a 5 story tall 180-degree IMAX theater. There are lots of other great museums in Boston. There are many fun things to do in Boston with kids.
There are many great outdoors day trips that you can take to see some areas outside of Boston too. Mt Washington (6288 feet) is about a 3-hour drive from Boston. It’s a great place to hike and the summit area is amazing. Mt Washington has the worst recorded weather in the world and is not a hike/mountain to take lightly. Closer to Boston is the Blue Hills Reservation, which is only about 30 minutes by car from Boston. The Skyline Trail at Blue Hills is an easy-to-moderate level hike that provides great views of Boston.
From Long Wharf in Downtown, you can take the High Speed Ferry to Provincetown on Cape Cod. The trip takes about 1:40 and leaves you in the center of town. You can either take the shuttle bus to one of the beaches or rent a bike and get all around town. There are great bike trails that are part of the Cape Cod National Seashore. There are great restaurants to enjoy in P-town before heading back to Boston on the fast ferry.
There are so many more things to do outdoors in Boston and there are also lots of things to do indoors, and the nightlife is great in some spots. The Boston Globe websites travel section on Boston is a great resource for local information. For kid-oriented information on Boston and the surrounding areas check out BostonCentral.com. Even though I may be biased towards Boston during the summer, being so close to so many ski areas can make Boston a great winter destination too.
Enjoy your trip to Boston!