Boston - AttractionGuide


Welcome to MetroGuide Networks' overview of Boston-area attractions. The Greater Boston area is full of attractions for all ages. From the Boston Tea Party to the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere and far, far beyond, Boston and environs provide a kaleidoscope of attractions giving a patriotic perspective on yesterday, today and tomorrow. As New England's largest, most important city, Boston is far older than the republic. But it's also a contemporary center of high finance and higher technology, not to mention home of the very pub that inspired television's long-running Cheers. Some of its citizenry regard it as not only the hub of the region but the universe as well. High on the social pecking order is Back Bay, a neighborhood comparable to an address on New York's Park Avenue or San Francisco's Nob Hill. Most lovely among Boston's neighborhoods is Beacon Hill, bounded by Cambridge and Beacon streets, the Charles River and the Esplanade. Across the Charles lies Cambridge, “Boston's Left Bank” according to tourism promoters fond of depicting it as funkier, spunkier, and spicier than staid old Boston. Definitely, Cambridge is a city where counter-culture thrives alongside classic-culture in a world of multi-culture. Greater Boston, with 50-some colleges and universities, is awash in students, assuring a non-stodgy ambiance. Water plays a big role in this seaport city, and Boston's parks, like its boat rides and other waterfront activities, provide a change of pace from urban frenzy. Boston Common, America's oldest park, anchors a miles-long stretch known as the "Emerald Necklace." Quite compact from an attractions viewpoint, Boston is comparatively easy to navigate by foot, ferry, and its subway called the T.

Below is a list of some suggested things to do in the Boston Metropolitan Area, with links to more details when available.

African Meeting House / Abiel Smith School & More
The Meeting House church on Beacon Hill, dedicated in 1806, is the oldest extant black church building in the U.S. built by free African-American artisans. The Abiel Smith School, constructed in 1834, was named after a white businessman who left a $2,000 endowment to Boston for educating black children. The Museum of Afro American History (MAAH) is dedicated to preserving accurate interpretations of African-American contributions during the Colonial period in New England. The Black Heritage Trail is a 1.6 mile walking tour encompassing the largest collection of historic sites in the nation relating to lifestyles of a free African-American community prior to the Civil War.
Meeting House, 46 Joy Street. (617) 742-1853
American Repertory Theatre
Among the nation's most celebrated resident theaters and winner of numerous awards, the A.R.T., located at the Loeb Center in Harvard Square, presents a classic mix of drama, music, comedy, and important new cutting-edge works.
63 Brattle Street, Cambridge. (617) 547-8300
Boston Art Tours
For "cultural fun with style," Boston Art Tours covers artistic ground in and around Boston for individuals, families and groups, offering a variety of private tours and packages for adults and children. Foreign language tours are also available. Art Gallery tour participants meet across from Public Garden.
Corner of Newbury and Arlington. (617) 732-3920
Boston Common
As starting point of the Freedom Trail, the nearly 50-acre Boston Common is among the nation's oldest public parks. Purposes have varied over the years. Public hangings took place here until 1817, and cattle grazed the Common until 1830. British troops left from Boston Common to encounter Colonial resistance at Lexington and Concord in April, 1775. Today's fare at the park ranges from swan boat rides on the lake to winter ice skating at the Frog Pond.
Between Boylston, Park, Tremont and Beacon streets.
Boston Movie Tours
Insider gossip and behind-the-scenes trivia abound during Theater-on-Wheels tours and on Boston Movie Tours of the famed Movie Mile, covering locations made famous by television shows and movies such as Ally McBeal, Cheers, Mystic River, and more. Custom tours are offered on request.
927 Lagrange Street. (866) 668-4345
Boston PhotoWalks
PhotoWalks captures distinct angles on walking tours of Boston, with each of four tours -- Public Garden, Beacon Hill, Freedom Trail, and Waterfront -- accompanied by fascinating historic commentary and tips for composing artistic photographs of city sites and attractions. With or without a camera, PhotoWalks offers creative perspective.
Starting points are at Shaw Memorial and elsewhere, depending on tour. (617) 851-2273
Boston Public Library
Built in 1888, the Boston Public Library's three-story monumental free-standing block building is the first outstanding example of Renaissance Beaux-Arts Classicism in America, and it set the precedent for grand scale urban libraries. Copley Square's McKim Building is reminiscent of an Italian Renaissance palace surrounding an open courtyard. Established in 1848, the Boston Public Library has a pioneering history of revolutionary notions, having been the first publicly supported municipal library in America, the first public library to lend a book, and the first with a children's room. Holdings include more than 650,000 photographs, and 100,000 prints (30 by Rembrandt) and drawings (72 by Toulouse-Lautrec), and the Newspaper Room has more than 250 papers from Boston's Southie News to the Egyptian Gazette Mail. With 27 branches, BPL has free Internet access, two restaurants, and an on-line store with reproductions of its priceless photographs and artwork. BPL each year fields more than one million reference questions. All programs and exhibits are free, open to the public, and books are only the beginning.
666 Boylston Street, Copley Square. (617) 536-5400
Boston Tea Party Ship and Museum
Fire damage forced closure of the Boston Tea Party Ship and Museum, with plans to reopen after restoration. The Boston Tea Party Ship and Museum offers a multitude of exhibits, films and memorabilia. A full-size working replica of one of three original Boston Tea Party ships, allows visitors to walk along her decks, explore the galley, crew's quarters, and cargo hold.
Congress Street Bridge on Harbor Walk. (617) 338-1773
Bull and Finch Pub, Birthplace to Cheers
Across from the Public Garden, this neighborhood institution was the inspiration for Cheers, the long-running TV sitcom with Sam, Diane, Norm and the gang. The menu features wings, nachos and burgers along with Cheers memorabilia. Service is friendly, and clientele is heavy on out-of-towners.
84 Beacon Street. (617) 227-9605.
Bunker Hill Monument
At the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775 – one of the Revolutionary War's earliest confrontations -- British troops incurred heavy losses as Americans held back their fire with inaccurate muskets until the last possible “whites of the eyes” moment. A 221-foot monument on Breed's Hill, where most of the blood was spilled, was dedicated in 1843. A 294-step spiral staircase leads to sweeping vistas. Dioramas and other exhibits tell how the British won the battle, while confirming American hopes of winning the war.
Monument Square. (617) 242-5641
Dominated by a pair of world-renowned institutions – Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology – Cambridge, just across the Charles, teems with cafes, bookstores, and boutiques, providing off-beat alternatives to comparatively staid Boston. Its squares – Central Square (a seat of government), Harvard Square (surrounding brick walls of the nation's oldest university), Inman Square (brimming with shopping and dining), Kendall Square (home to M.I.T.), and Porter Square (with antique shops, boutiques, sidewalk cafes and a serious concentration of Japanese enterprises) are all treasure-troves of museums and historic sites. Porter Square was home of the late Tip O'Neill, former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, who opined that “all politics is local.”
Cambridge Common
As a focal point for social, religious, and political activity for more than 360 years, Cambridge Common's land – it was once four times larger – was staked out in 1631 for grazing cattle, training militia, and holding assemblies. Annual elections were conducted under the “Election Oak” and George Whitefield delivered controversial sermons under the Whitefield Elm. When Gen. George Washington arrived in Cambridge on July 2, 1775, the common was the Continental Army's main camp and training ground. A trio of British cannons captured by the Patriots in 1775, a Civil War Monument, and a new memorial commemorating the Irish Famine are now on the Common.
Massachusetts Avenue/Garden Street, Harvard Square.
Charles River Dam Visitor Information Center
Guided tours and a 12-minute presentation explain dam operations. The Charles River separates Cambridge from Boston.
250 Warren Avenue. (617) 727-5114
Charles Riverboat Tours
While cruising the Charles River, the captain notes historic sights of Boston and Cambridge including Beacon Hill, Esplanade Park, Back Bay, Boston University, M.I.T., and Harvard. Sunset cruises also are scheduled.
CambridgeSide Galleria, 100 CambridgeSide Drive, Cambridge. (617) 621-3001
Computer Museum
Next to the Children's Museum, the Computer Museum has nearly 200 exhibits including two-story walk-through computer and a software gallery.
300 Congress Street. (617) 426-2800
Duck Tours
Explore Boston by land and sea on these remarkable amphibious vehicles, tour the historic areas, then dive into the Charles River to enjoy a breathtaking view of the Boston and Cambridge skylines.
Departs from the Prudential Center and Museum of Science. (617) 267-DUCK
Faneuil Hall
Erected in 1742 as a public market and place for town meetings, Faneuil – the Cradle of Democracy -- has witnessed impassioned political speeches from Revolutionary times through the present. The hall's interior has Gilbert Stuart's portrait of Washington at Dorchester Heights. On top floors are the headquarters of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts. Adjacent is Quincy Market, another colonial landmark.
Faneuil Hall Square. (617) 523-1300
Fenway Park
Generations come and go, yet the Boston Red Sox home remains, much like on opening day, April 20, 1912. Harking back to an era before so-called state-of-the-art parks began replacing fields steeped in hot dog and mustard lore, Fenway Park is the smallest major league ball park, its record attendance of 47,627 (for a Sept. 22, 1935 Yankees doubleheader) now reduced by fire laws to a capacity of 33,871. Even so, no player has ever hit a home run over its right field. Why Fenway? As the new park's opening neared, Red Sox owner John I. Taylor (who already had changed the club's name from Pilgrims to Red Sox) noted its location in an area known as the Fens, adding “It's in that section of Boston, isn't it? Then call it Fenway Park." From a pigeon's perspective, Fenway has had up and down moments. In 1945, Athletics outfielder Hal Peck‘s throw hit a pigeon flying over. The ball then deflected to the A's second baseman, who tagged out Boston's Skeeter Newsome trying to stretch his hit into a double. The pigeon flew onward unharmed, sans only a few feathers. But in 1974, another low-flying pigeon was not so lucky when Willie Horton hit a foul ball into the air at Fenway, slamming the bird so hard it fell from the sky — dead — landing in front of home plate. Tours depart from Gate D on Yawkey Way hourly seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. or until three hours before game time, whichever is earlier.
4 Yawkey Way. (617) 236-6666
Franklin Park Zoo
On 72 acres within historic Franklin Park and a crown jewel of Frederick Law Olmsted's Emerald Necklace Park System, Franklin Park Zoo is operated by Zoo New England as a year around playground for animal lovers of all ages. More than 200 species roam within Butterfly Landing, Franklin Farm, Giraffe Savannah, Kalahari Kingdom, Serengeti Crossing, Tropical Forest, and on Australian Outback Trail. Changing exhibits such as Summer 2004's Dinosaur Kingdom showcase fresh aspects of zoo wonders.
One Franklin Park Road. (617) 541-LION
Freedom Trail
The Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile-long route marked on sidewalks by a redbrick or painted red line, winds along some of Boston's --and the nation's -- most noteworthy historical sites, including the Paul Revere House, Old North Church and its lanterns ("one if by land, two if by sea" to warn of British attack) and Old South Meeting House, where Colonists in 1773 orchestrated the less than genteel Boston Tea Party. Extending from the Boston Common to Charlestown Navy Yard, the Freedom Trail can be covered at a reasonable pace in an hour or so, with more time required for stops at any of the 16 sites along the way. Costumed characters at various points illuminate Colonial life. Rangers give free 90-minute Freedom Trail tours departing the National Park Service Visitors Center hourly from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., April through September.
Boston Common
Gibson House Museum
Preserved with all its Victorian fixtures, Gibson House is one of the first Back Bay residences, built in the mid-19th century and remaining as 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. This private, non-profit house museum, near the Arlington Street subway stop on the Green Line, is a favored film site and is available for group tours.
137 Beacon Street, between Arlington and Berkeley streets. (617) 267-6338
Granary Burying Ground
Massive Egyptian Revival-style gates lead to the Granary Burying Ground, final resting place of many Revolutionary-era patriots including Samuel Adams, Peter Faneuil, Paul Revere and John Hancock. Once called South Burial Ground, given its southerly locale, it was renamed Middle Burying Ground as Boston grew southward. The Granary name came from the grain storage building, which stood on the site of the Park Street Church.
Tremont Street. (617) 635-4505
Harrison Gray Otis House
The 1796 house constructed by Charles Bulfinch for Harrison Gray Otis and his wife Sally exemplifies the elegant life led by Boston's new aristocracy and governing class emerging in years immediately after the Revolution. As a developer of Beacon Hill, Otis made a fortune, and he later served as a Representative in Congress and Mayor of Boston. The Federal Style is emulated in the home's classic architecture and elegant furnishings.
141 Cambridge Street. (617) 227-3956
John Hancock Tower
New England's tallest building, designed by famed architect I.M. Pei, stands aloof in Copley Square, away from Boston's downtown high-rise area. Despite its enormity, the structure's presence is tempered by crystal-like geometry and reflecting glass skin. The dominant view when within close proximity is to see the reflection of nearby historic buildings with subtle distortions of color and shape. When first built, scores of windows fell out because of changing heat and wind conditions. The solution was to stick sensors on each of 10,000 windows to detect which might be the next to blow, and to monitor from a special control room. The 60th floor observatory, once drawing some 400,000 visitors per year – mostly unknown to security personnel -- closed following destruction of New York's World Trade Center. The Observatory was not part of the tower's original design, and layout of lobby and elevator banks prevents adequate control of visitor access into or out of the 60th floor facility.
200 Clarendon Street, St. James Avenue and Trinity Place.
Harvard Museum of Natural History
The composite public-accessible portion of Harvard's on-campus Museum of Comparative Zoology, Herbaria, and Mineralogical and Geological Museum, and the university's most visited museum, the Harvard Museum of Natural History features interactive exhibits ranging from pre-historic animals and plants to crystals, gems and fossils found in the immediate area and throughout the United States.
26 Oxford Street, Harvard University. (617) 495-3045
Harvard University
Founded in 1636, Harvard is the oldest university in the United States, and among its graduates are six U.S. Presidents – John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Theodore and Franklin D. Roosevelt, Rutherford B. Hayes, and John F. Kennedy. Historic Harvard Yard has such noteworthy buildings as the circa 1726 Wadsworth House (headquarters for Gen. George Washington in 1775); Daniel Chester French's 1884 statue of John Harvard (French also sculpted Abraham Lincoln in the Washington D.C. Memorial) and Widener Library, housing the world's largest university book collection with more than 13 million volumes.
Harvard Square. (617) 495-1000
Harvard University Art Museums
A trio of museums – Fogg Art Museum, Busch-Reisinger Museum, and Arthur M. Sackler Museum – together house more than 150,000 works of art ranging from antiquity to the present, from Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, India and Asia, and North America. Apart from being outstanding in their respective fields, the Fogg also houses the Straus Center for Conservation, a leader in research and development of scientific and technology-based analysis of art. Serving students at and after Harvard, the museums also welcome the public.
32 Quincy Street, Cambridge. (617) 495-9400
John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library and Museum
The John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library and Museum are dedicated to the nation's 35th president, and “to all those who through the art of politics seek a new and better world.” Within a 9.5 acre park landscaped Cape Cod-style with pine trees, shrubs and wild roses, the site features Kennedy's 26' foot sloop Victura and a 135,000 square foot library along with an 18,000 square foot museum. Library holdings include JFK's papers (4,200 linear feet), still photos (180,000), audio tapes (1,000) and printed materials (70,000 volumes). The museum includes a full-scale replica of JFK's Resolute desk, originally presented as a gift to President Hayes by Queen Victoria. Also on display are mock-ups of the 1960 Democratic convention floor and a recreation of former Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy's office at the Justice Department. Through Oct. 31, 2003, the museum showcases a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Sept. 12, 1953 wedding of Jacqueline Bouvier to JFK. Highlights include the bride's ivory-silk-taffeta wedding dress, her emerald-and-diamond Van Cleef & Arpels engagement ring, and rarely seen color footage of the wedding reception taken by the President's friend Paul “Red” Fay, zooming in on the couple dancing to "I Married An Angel."
Columbia Point, Boston. (866) JFK-1960
King's Chapel
Looming over the corner of Tremont and School streets, the notable 1754 structure was executed entirely by design. Lack of funds kept it from being topped with a steeple that its architect, Peter Harrison, had envisioned. The Georgian interior is of elegant proportion, and the chapel's bell is Paul Revere's largest. Adjacent is the King's Chapel Burying Ground, the city's oldest cemetery where John Winthrop and other prominent citizens are buried. To the entrance left is the 1704 gravestone for Elizabeth Pain, Nathaniel Hawthorne's inspiration for Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter.
Tremont and School streets. (617) 523-1749
Museum of Fine Arts
This facility contains almost 200 galleries of paintings and sculptures. Included in the museum are works from Monet, Picasso, Rembrandt and others.
465 Huntington Avenue. (617) 267-9300.
Museum of Science
Interactive exhibit on natural history, astronomy, medicine and physical science.
Science Park. (617) 442-8614
New England Aquarium
Home to more than 7,000 fish and aquatic mammals, the focal point of the New England Aquarium's main building is the 200,000-gallon Giant Ocean Tank, encircled by a four-story spiral ramp. It contains a replica of a Caribbean coral reef and an assortment of sea creatures. To help keep the peace, scuba divers feed the sharks several times a day. Other exhibits showcase freshwater and tropical specimens, sea otters, and the ecology of Boston Harbor. At the Edge of the Sea exhibit, visitors can touch the sea stars, sea urchins, and horseshoe crabs in the tide pool. The first stage of expansion was the dramatic West Wing, echoing waves on adjacent Boston Harbor. It holds exhibit space, the gift shop, and a cafe with views of the city and harbor. Harbor tours teaching "Science at Sea" run daily spring to fall. Aquarium whale watches aboard Voyager II or Voyager III, which have indoor/outdoor seating and full service galleys, not only look for the world's largest mammals, but also provide on-board hands-on exhibits.
Central Wharf, between Central and Milk streets. (617) 442-8614
New State House
The gold-domed Massachusetts State House atop Beacon Hill, overlooking Boston Common, was designed by Charles Bulfinch and completed in 1798. This "new" State House remains the home of the Massachusetts legislature.
Beacon Street. (617) 727-3676
Old North Church
This Episcopal church built in 1723 is the oldest church building in Boston, where the first set of bells brought to the American continent sounded in 1744. Paul Revere was among the bellringers. On April 18, 1775, church sexton Robert Newman stood by with lanterns in the church steeple – at 191 feet, it is Boston's tallest -- to signal British movements with a “one if by land, two if by sea.” The steeple is 191 feet tall, making it Boston's tallest. The lanterns indicated to patriots across the Charles River that British troops had set out by water in order to seize the weapons stored in Concord. Paul Revere already had left for his famous ride to warn the patriots in the area; the two lanterns were lit as a back-up in case he was intercepted by the British and prevented from delivering his message. Despite Old North Church's association with patriot lanterns, it actually served both sides. During the Battle of Bunker Hill, British Gen. Thomas Gage watched the bombing and burning of Charlestown from its spire. Later, British troops worshipped in the church during their occupation of Boston.
193 Salem Street. (617) 523-6676
Old South Meeting House
Here at Old South, some of the pre-Revolutionary War era's most blistering debates took place, all leading up to the Dec. 16, 1773 conclave called by Samuel Adams to address the issue of dutiable tea. More than 5,000 colonists showed up to take a “no tax on tea” stand that led to the Boston Tea Party. Benjamin Franklin was a member of Old South's congregation, and as a meeting place and haven for free speech and assembly, Old South Meeting House has been in continuous use for more than 250 years. The National Historic Landmark's events shaping the nation can be viewed through the new multimedia exhibition, Voices of Protest.
310 Washington Avenue. (617) 482-6439
Old State House
As the Colonial government's seat from 1713 until 1776, the Old State House is embellished with a gilded lion and unicorn -- symbols of British Imperial power. After the Redcoats fled in 1776, the Old State House served the independent Commonwealth until a replacement on Beacon Hill was ready. Actually its lion and unicorn were ripped off and tossed into a bonfire in 1776, but were returned to the east façade during an 1882 restoration. As the oldest surviving public building in Boston, the Old State House was built in 1713 to house government offices of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, standing where Boston's first Town House of 1657-8 burned in 1711. Official proclamations were read from the Old State House balcony, on the east side looking down State Street, called King Street before the Declaration of Independence. Beneath the balcony is where the Boston Massacre happened on March 5, 1770, when a squad of British soldiers fired into a taunting crowd, killing five men including Crispus Attucks, the first black to fall in the American Revolution. A circle of paving stones now marks the Massacre spot. Seven of the British soldiers were tried for murder, with John Adams representing them in court. Five were acquitted, while two were found guilty of manslaughter. In 1976, Queen Elizabeth II addressed Bostonians from the balcony. In 2013, a tercentennial for the building will be celebrated by the Bostonian Society, founded in 1982 to preserve the building..
206 Washington Street. (617) 720-1713.
Park Street Church
Built in 1809, Park Street Church on “Brimstone Corner ” (so named because of fiery sermons delivered at the pulpit) was where William Lloyd Garrison made the first anti-slavery address. The church basement doubled as a storage bin for gunpowder during the War of 1812.
Park and Tremont streets. (617) 720-3290.
Paul Revere House
The oldest house in downtown Boston, among the city's oldest sections also just happens to have been the home of patriotic silversmith Paul Revere. The house contains 17th and 18th century furnishings and memorabilia. Built circa 1680 (nearly 100 years before the famed 1775 midnight ride), several of Revere's furnishings are now on display along with his silver creations.
19 North Square. (617) 523-2338
Prudential Center
Boston's first unified business, residential and civic complex has 28-acres of hotel, restaurant, shop, and plaza space, plus parking and covered walkways. It also features the Prudential Tower Skywalk with a 50th floor panoramic city view.
Huntington Avenue and Boylston Street. (617) 859-0648
TOMB presented by 5WITS
In this interactive experience presented by 5WITS, the first show, TOMB, is part adventure movie, part video game. Guests (posing as archaeologists) find themselves trapped in Pharoah's tomb, faced with riddles and puzzles to compLete for any chance of making it out alive. Groups must work together on challenges, or face the Pharoah's wrath.
186 Brookline Avenue. (617) 375-WITS
The USS Constitution
As the world's oldest floating commissioned ship (and far better known as Old Ironsides), the USS Constitution, launched in 1797, is docked adjacent to the museum. Principal service was in the War of 1812, and of 42 engagements, her record was 42-0. The Museum has artifacts and hands-on exhibits, and most questions about the USS Constitution's history are addressed within A Most Fortunate Ship, by Cdr. Tyrone G. Martin, USN (Ret.), (Naval Institute Press, 1997), available through the Museum Store. The book provides perspective on how designer Joshua Humphrey used new “Yankee” technology resulting in a faster, more heavily armed frigate that awed and frightened the British.
Pier 1. (617) 242-5670
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