Settled by Puritans in the 1600s, Boston has been defined and shaped by its history for nearly 400 years. The spirit of American independence was born in the city, and the sights that commemorate the vital role that the Sons of Liberty played in the Revolutionary War attract visitors from around the world. Whether taking in a game at Fenway Park, strolling along the new Harborwalk or enjoying a clambake on an island beach, Boston is an attractive travel destination for travelers looking for fun and relaxation too. With the city’s massive 15-year renovation known as the “Big Dig” at last completed, the tourist attractions in Boston are more accessible and appealing than ever before.
Located on the Central Wharf within walking distance of the Rose Kennedy Greenway, the New England Aquarium showcases numerous exhibits of sea life, from exotic jellyfish and stingrays to playful seals and penguins. Opened in 1969, the aquarium’s standout feature is a 200,000-gallon Giant Ocean Tank situated in the main building’s atrium that replicates a coral reef environment. A spiral walkway around the tank gives onlookers a close-up view of sharks, barracuda, sea turtles and schools of small fish. The facility is also home to an IMAX theater that shows movies with aquatic themes. Whale-watching tours are available too, and visitors can combine a cruise ticket with the aquarium’s price of admission.
The 34 islands that lie off the coast of Boston offer visitors endless opportunities for fun in the sun and sea. Thirteen of the islands are included in the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area. Must-see attractions include the Civil War Fort Warren on Georges Island and the public beach on Spectacle Island, which is only a 15-minute ferry ride away from the city’s Long Wharf. Georges Island is home to the nation’s oldest lighthouse as well. With trails that wander past dunes and forested areas as well as a swimming beach, Lovells Island is a popular spot for camping.
Fans of the television show “Cheers” who want to visit the bar that inspired the hit series may need to travel to two separate locations to fulfill their wish. Renamed Cheers Beacon Hill in 2002, the Bull & Finch Pub located on Beacon Street served as the exterior shot of the bar featured in the opening credits, but the pub’s interior was never used for the show. A replica of the show’s set, however, is on display at the historic Faneuil Hall market building downtown, and tourists asking for the location of Cheers are likely to be directed there. Both destinations sell souvenirs commemorating the show.
Fenway Park has been home to the Boston Red Sox baseball team since 1912, and for the city’s inhabitants, it’s one of Boston’s most beloved landmarks. As America’s oldest major-league stadium in continuous use, the park is a must-see attraction for fans of the sport as well. Fenway is also one of the few old-style parks remaining in the United States, and the park’s smaller-than-average field and infamous left-field wall known as the “Green Monster” makes the outcome of games played here hard to predict. Although games usually sell out quickly, visitors can often snag same-day tickets at the park’s box office. Tours of the park are available as well.
Berthed at Pier 1 on the Harborwalk, the USS Constitution is the world’s oldest commissioned navel vessel afloat, and still sets sail every Fourth of July to commemorate America’s independence. Launched in 1797, the three-masted Constitution was named by President George Washington in honor of the Constitution of the United States. The thick, durable hull on the wooden frigate earned the ship its nickname “Old Ironsides” during the War of 1812 when the ship gained fame for defeating five British warships. The ship is open to the public year round with free tours provided by US Navy personnel.
Located in Boston’s downtown district, Faneuil Hall is best known for the role that the brick building played during the American Revolution. Although built as a marketplace in 1742 with funds that donor Peter Faneuil acquired in the slave trade, the second-story assembly rooms became a gathering spot for patriots yearning for freedom. Among them was the lawyer James Otis, who not only gave the building its nickname, the “Cradle of Liberty,” but coined the rallying cry “no taxation without representation” as well. The building is still used as both a marketplace and as a place for political debates and among the most popular tourist attractions in Boston.
America’s oldest public park, Boston Common was acquired by the city’s Puritan founders in 1634. First used as a cow pasture, the park is also the site of many historic events. The British used the area as a camp at the start of the Revolutionary War. A plaque in the park marks the spot where public hangings were held. A kiosk hosted by Boston’s Freedom Trail Foundation offers visitors information about the park’s monuments. Landscaped with shady trees, fountains and a pond, Boston Common is a pleasant place to take a break from sightseeing excursions as well.
Bordered by the Charles River, the Back Bay neighborhood was so named because it was built on what once were stagnant pools of water. Today, the late-19th-century neighborhood is an upscale, fashionable district with picturesque streets lined with Victorian homes, trendy restaurants and chic boutiques. The neighborhood is also home to the Boston Public Garden, the oldest and largest botanical garden in the nation. The Old South Church in Copley is worth a visit too. Built in 1874 in the Gothic Revival style, the church features an interior redecorated by Louis Comfort Tiffany in 1905.
Designed by architect Alexander Parris and completed in 1826, Quincy Market is as well known for its architectural style as it is for the food that offered inside its more than 20 restaurants and 40 stalls. Named after Boston mayor Josiah Quincy, the rectangular-shaped edifice was built in the Greek Revival style that Thomas Jefferson introduced to America as break from the Georgian architecture. Constructed with granite, the building’s heavy materials provide a striking contrast to its delicate design, which includes a grand and ornate domed pavilion. Today, the market is known as a family-friendly spot where tourists and locals can grab a quick bite on the cheap.
America’s first historic walking tour, the Freedom Trail is a path that includes 16 of Boston’s most important Revolutionary War sites. Marked by a line of red paint, the 2.5-mile (4 km) trail starts at the Boston Common, the oldest park in the United States. The tour leads visitors past the Old State House, the site of the Boston Massacre, where British troops fired into a crowd of protesting citizens. It passes by Paul Revere’s House and the Old North Church where two lanterns were hung in the steeple to warn that the British would approach by sea. The end of the path connects with the Harborwalk, leading visitors to the USS Constitution.
More information can be found in the Explore Boston page.