Revolutionary history comes alive in a city that buzzes with high culture and big events
Few U.S. cities can boast the historic track record of Boston. Many of the nation’s pivotal historic events occurred here, from the siege of Boston to the Battle of Bunker Hill to the Boston Tea Party. Through the centuries, the city’s influence on the rest of the nation remains significant, with its vibrant neighborhoods spawning political leaders, renowned artists and major writers. Today the city upholds the traditions with a host of well-preserved historic buildings, venerable institutions like Harvard University and elegant regattas on the Charles River.
English settlers first established the city in 1630 and named it after Boston in Lincolnshire, England. The population quickly boomed, owing largely to widespread immigration from Ireland during the devastating potato famine. Over the years, Boston has distinguished itself as home to some of the world’s finest institutions with cultural attractions that put it on the map. To top it off, a bustling arts scene and a sports tradition that’s second to none make Boston a must-visit destination.
City of History
Most visitors to Boston put the Freedom Trail on the top of the list. This 2½-mile walking path takes visitors past many of the city’s most historically significant attractions, from the Paul Revere House to Boston Common to the USS Constitution warship, which saw action in the War of 1812. Make sure to stop off at Faneuil Hall, an iconic 1742 structure where many American Revolution leaders gave speeches exhorting fellow colonists to throw off the shackles of British domination. Today it is bordered by the city’s Government Center and has a rich history of hosting important speakers and state-level political debates. Other important stops on the trail include Bunker Hill, where one of the first major Revolutionary War battles took place in 1775. Today, a granite obelisk monument stands atop the hill, and there’s a free museum across the street that gives more detailed information about the battle.
Fans of iconic American architecture should add a stop at the Beacon Hill neighborhood to their itineraries. This historic district is full of old Federal-style brick row houses that frequently make appearances on Boston postcards. Beacon Street is also home to the Massachusetts State House, the 1798 state capitol building that has provided architectural inspiration for the capitol buildings across the country. The neighborhood is also home to the Boston African American National Historic Site, which features 14 historic sites related to the city’s African-American community in the 19th century. Highlights include the Museum of African American History, which operates some of the older buildings, including the African Meeting House, the nation’s oldest African-American church edifice still standing in the U.S. There are also a number of former homes of significant abolitionists along the trail. Many of these freedom fighters harbored runaway slaves as part of the so-called Underground Railroad, the network of safe harbors for those seeking freedom.
While Boston can get pretty chilly in the winter, travelers visiting in the spring and summer might want to head out to the 24-acre Public Garden, which dates back to 1839. These gorgeous grounds sit on a former salt marsh and feature a large selection of native and introduced plants and trees.
Sports are a big deal in Boston, with a roster of major league teams that includes the Boston Red Sox (MLB), the Boston Celtics (NBA) and the Boston Bruins (NHL). The New England Patriots (NFL) and the New England Revolution (MLS) play at the Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, some 30 miles away.
Runners know Boston as the home of the Boston Marathon, one of the world’s biggest long-distance foot races, held annually on the third Monday of April (Patriots’ Day). This marathon attracts the crème de la crème of the running community, the top runners of their age groups. There are a few charity bibs for those who haven’t earned a fast qualifying time.
The city’s Fenway Park, which dates back to 1912, is the oldest Major League Baseball stadium in the U.S. The Red Sox play here to this day, and even if you come to town outside of baseball season, you can still take a 50-minute tour of the renowned facilities. The Sports Museum is also popular and displays a large collection of memorabilia from local teams.
Arts and Culture
Boston has a vibrant cultural scene, and its award-winning Symphony Orchestra is considered among the greatest in the nation. The Boston Pops, likewise, has gained popularity for its repertoire of popular and light classical music. Culture vultures won’t want to miss the Museum of Fine Arts, which houses a stunning collection of 18th- and 19th-century American and European paintings along with artifacts from the ancient world and a huge collection of photographic works, prints, drawings, jewelry, textiles and musical instruments. New galleries at the museum include the Arts of the Pacific, which displays works from Micronesia, Indonesia, Melanesia and Polynesia. There’s also a gallery dedicated to art from the Benin Kingdom in West Africa, a gallery dedicated to ancient coins, and a number of ancient Greece-themed galleries covering themes ranging from Greek theater to Homer and the epics.
Other important Boston museums include the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, which features arts from Europe, Asia, and North America, along with regular public events and programs for children. Show up wearing Red Sox gear and you’ll get a discount. The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum is another popular museum. Along with its large collection of books and other printed material, the museum features a number of JFK-related exhibits, including Kennedy family memorabilia, an exhibit on the president’s 1960s campaign trail, and a Space Race exhibit focusing on Project Mercury of the U.S. space program.
For More Information
Greater Boston Convention
& Visitors Bureau
Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism