Anyone coming to New England to visit family, friends, attend a conference, or simply get away for a few days would do well to visit Boston. It’s a city that is rich in history as well as offering plenty of things to do, places to eat, and sports to watch. Of course, Boston’s Freedom Trail is a huge draw for those that want to dive into some of Boston’s Revolutionary and early American History. It’s a great way to spend the afternoon, either on a guided tour, or simply walking the trail on your own. But what else is there to do while in town for a few days? Luckily, there is no shortage of activities to do while visiting Boston. Here are the Knockabout Top Five Things to Do in Boston that are NOT part of the Freedom Trail.
Fenway Park Tour or Red Sox Game
You certainly don’t need to be a Red Sox fan in order to enjoy a tour of America’s most beloved ballpark. Fenway is the oldest park in Major League Baseball, in operation since 1912 and it has scores of stories from over the generations to keep you entertained.
Why is there a single red seat in the sea of green bleachers way out in right field? What are the Fisk and Peske poles? Why is there a “ladder to nowhere” in the middle of the Green Monster? How many pounds of organic produce is grown on the rooftops of Fenway Park each year? You could Google any of these questions and find out the answers real quick, but it is infinitely more interesting hearing it from a tour guide while looking out at the infield from the best seats in Fenway (those would be atop the Green Monster).
You will see and hear about how Fenway has evolved over the past century, see the World Series trophies, sit in the press box, and understand that Fenway has become more than a ballpark. It’s a living museum that even a Yankees fan can appreciate.
Samuel Adams Brewery Tour
Photo by mroach, CC BY-SA 2.0
These days, there’s no shortage of craft breweries to visit. The industry has blossomed into big business, with hundreds, if not thousands of independent breweries across the country producing some great IPAs, APAs, and just about any other fermented grain that you can imagine. But in Boston, you can visit the brewery that started it all.
Jim Koch is a fifth-generation brewer in his family and started the Boston Beer Company with a few of his grandfather’s homebrew recipes. His dad advised against going into the brewing business. The competition was too great, with huge industrial brands taking a lion's share of the market. At the time, American beer was tepid swill, and just as the Monty Python skit goes, was like having sex in a canoe - “fucking too close to water.” But Koch argued that he didn’t plan on competing with Anheuser-Busch, Miller, and Coors. He was making something different. Something better. He took those family recipes and started another revolution in Boston. This time, a tastier, happier type of rebellion. The craft brew industry was born and has been growing ever since the first Samuel Adams Boston Lager was kegged in 1984. No matter what your favorite beer is, and there are many fine craft brews across the country, it’s likely that their start is a result of Jim Koch’s dream to create a better beer in America.
The brewery is a bit off of the typical tourist path. It's located in Jamaica Plain, a section of Boston that's not often frequented by casual visitors. However, if you are into beer culture, then this is a tour that you should definitely check out. The Boston brewery serves as the research and development point for Samuel Adams new products. You may get to taste some beers before they ever hit the market, or some not at all.
And just for fun: Samual Adams was never a brewer of ale. It’s true that his family owned a malt house and he worked there for a bit after failing in a business venture. But the business only malted the grain, then sold it off to brewers to make the finished product. Sam probably never enjoyed working there. He was much more interested in politics and rebellion. Learn more about this with the Knockabout Boston Audio Tour, a great way to enjoy a self-paced walk through some of Boston’s greatest highlights.
Kayak on the Charles River or Gondola Ride
The Charles River, which splits Boston and Cambridge is famous for its annual Head of the Charles Regatta, where crew athletes participate in head-to-head competition every October. Although the regatta accepts entries from novice and elite athletes alike, you don’t need to have a sleek crew shell in order to get some time on the water.
Visitors to Boston can rent canoes or stand-up paddleboards at multiple points along the river. One option is Community Boating Boston, which offers two-hour kayak or paddleboard rentals for $32. This is an experience for any water aficionado not to skip. The views of both Boston and Cambridge are beautiful and one can see MIT university, the Prudential and Hancock towers of the Back Bay, as well as Boston’s Esplanade Park. Community Boating rents sit on top-style single and tandem kayaks, so you will get a bit wet. No big deal. Just lay out on the Esplanade’s lawn in front of the Hatch Shell when you’re finished to dry off. Then walk across there Arthur Fielder footbridge and head to Cheers, the place where everybody knows your name and inspiration for the hit TV series Cheers.
If you are visiting Cambridge and want to give paddling on the Charles a try, or would prefer to go with a guide, then head to Charles River Canoe and Kayak, located near the MIT campus. 1.5-hour tours are available for $49. Charles River Canoe and Kayak rents sit-in style kayaks, so you are more likely to keep your shorts dry if you’d like to walk around town afterward.
Rose Kennedy Greenway
For more than a decade Boston was under construction. The Big Dig was the nation’s largest highway project in history at the time and relocated a major interstate highway that cut through the heart of Boston to an underground tunnel. The project was saddled with cost overruns, corruption, and intolerable delays in completion and remains a cautionary tale for any city planning to undertake such an ambitious project. But the double-deck highway was a complete eyesore and in its place, Boston got the Rose Kennedy Greenway. This linear park that replaced the interstate is some of the most beautiful open space in Boston. The Greenway contains plenty of open lawn for lounging around, ample tables for sitting and eating, food trucks placed at multiple points along the park, a carousel, water fountains where kids can splash around in summer. Also back for the 2021 season in a post-COVID world are the Trillium Brewery beer garden and the City Winery on the Green to keep your thirst at bay.
Many folks visiting Boston will cross over the Rose Kennedy Greenway at some point during their travels, often in the vicinity of the North End while walking the Freedom Trail. But feel free to walk its length in its entirety for a great afternoon outdoors in the city. Some of the places along the way where you can stop while walking the park (within one city block) include:
- Faneuil Hall Marketplace/Quincy Market
- New England Aquarium
- Simons IMAX Theater
- Legal Sea Foods
- Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum
- Chinatown Gate
- Union Oyster House (the nation’s oldest continuously running restaurant)
- New England Holocaust Memorial
Boston Museum of Science
Boston has several excellent museums that are worthy of your time, but the Boston Museum of Science has at least something that can appeal to everyone in the family. Kids will enjoy learning about the science and design behind some of their favorite Pixar films like Toy Story and Monsters Inc. Adults will be fascinated by the interactive Hall of Human Life, where guests take a deep dive into the inner workings of the human body. And all will enjoy the 4D Theater where the films jump off the screen and viewers can even feel and smell the experience. Films usually focus on some science-related topic such as geography or a particular animal species.
The Museum of Science also has an incredible IMAX Theater. But it’s not just any typical IMAX. The Mugar Omni Theater is a domed theater that encompasses 180º of the viewer’s field of vision and accompanied by a crazy surround sound system. The effect is total immersion. The Omni Theater has been super popular with visitors as well as residents of Massachusetts since 1987 when it first opened. All films are educational in nature and appropriate for families.
When on vacation, you may not really feel in the mood for learning or reading a bunch of poster presentations in a museum. But the Museum of Science is one of the most interactive museums that you will visit, and they do a great job of making learning fun…which sounds corny, but it’s true.
Knockabout Boston Audio Tour
Take a self-paced walk through Boston's most historic neighborhoods. Includes all audio files streamed directly to your smartphone. No apps, no accounts, no passwords to remember.
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