Top Things to Do in Boston

It was our second day in Beantown, one of Boston’s many nicknames. The air was blowing incessantly creating a chilly weather. We don’t know if it’s the breeze or our sense of excitement which sends waves of adrenaline rush to us. Either way, we’re ready to discover and savour whatever Boston has to offer for its first-time visitors. Here’s our list of top things to do in Boston.

Boston Duck Tours

“Boston Duck Tours” is the best way and a great start to explore the city. This is particularly true for those who have limited stay in Boston. We boarded our “DUCK” – a restyled World War II amphibious landing craft which can navigate both on land and water, near Prudential Center.

Boston Duck Tours

A “ConDUCKtor” drives the vehicle whilst narrating as the sightseeing tour cruise past the more than 30 important sights and landmarks that made Boston a great city.

Among them are an assortment of historical churches, the popular green spaces of Boston Common and Public Garden, Beacon Hill and the golden-domed State House, the urban shopping mecca of Quincy Market, TD Garden – Celtics basketball and the Bruins ice hockey teams’ stomping ground, modern skyscrapers and the Public Library, to name a few. The tour runs one hour on land and twenty minutes on Charles River offering a breathtaking view of the Boston and Cambridge skylines.

A DUCK on Charles River
A DUCK on Charles River

Unfortunately, the tour is not a hop-on, hop-off one. As the vehicle is always on the move and depending on where you’re seated, you may not have a good or full view of the sights. As a result, it was difficult to snap photos.

Prudential Center

Prudential Center’s base consists of stores and restaurants. The 52-storey “Pru” has a Skywalk Observatory on the 50th floor. It was the only 360° aerial observatory providing striking views of the city.

We had lunch at one of the restaurants on the ground floor. Leaving the building, we thought Boston was invaded by freaks, monsters, aliens and what have you. We had the audacity to speak to a group. It was the opening day of Anime Boston, an annual three-day anime fan convention held during spring at the nearby Hynes Convention Center. A few of the more than 17,000 participants in their costumes were having their lunch break in the area.

Anime Boston

City of Cambridge

Across Charles River is Cambridge, home to two of the world’s most prestigious academic institutions – Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University. Cambridge is part of the Boston metropolitan area, hence these universities are closely identified with Boston.

MIT is an architecture lover’s delight. Sculptures from Alexander Calder and Henry Moore dot the campus grounds. Its various buildings are wildly diverse and designed by some of the world-renowned architects like Eero Saarinen and IM Pei. I would highlight two which we visited from among the college’s many striking buildings.

The Ray and Maria Stata Center is an academic complex designed by architect Frank Gehry. At first glance, it seemed that a powerful earthquake had just shaken the building. Its unique design had earned some praises but had been criticized as well.

The Ray and Maria Stata Center

Another is Building 10 where the Great Dome sits. It’s part of the original main campus and was designed to be the ceremonial main entrance. In front of the building is Killian Court, an open green space which has hosted MIT’s Commencement exercises since 1979.

MIT

Across MIT, we had an outstanding view of Boston skyline. A stroll along the serene Charles River with the sun out counteracted the cold and crisp spring weather. Whilst skyscrapers stood mightily in the background, some rowers and sailboats sliced the azure waters of the river possibly gearing up for upcoming competitions.

A stroll along Charles River

Established in 1636, Harvard University is a private Ivy League research institution whose rich history and influence have made it as one of the world’s bastions of academic excellence.

Harvard Yard, the oldest part and historic centre of the campus, is a grassy area crisscrossed by pathways and where different trees provide a nice contrast to the red-brick buildings around them.

Harvard Yard

Widener Library at Harvard Yard
Widener Library at Harvard Yard

The most important feature of the yard is the statue of John Harvard, dubbed as the “Statue of the Three Lies.” The statue’s inscription – JOHN HARVARD  • FOUNDER  • 1638 –  was widely refuted. First, the sculptor modelled the statue after a Harvard student. Second, many were involved in the founding of the college and thus, John Harvard cannot be considered as “the founder” but rather “a founder.” Finally, the college was founded in 1636. It was two years later when Harvard made his generous contribution to the school.

John Harvard Statue

Tradition dictates that rubbing the bronze sculpture’s left shoe will bring luck. However, rumours abound that college freshmen, as part of their initiation, were made to pee on the statues’ shoes. Fortunately for us, we did not rub either of Harvard’s shoe. We’re just happy to pose for a souvenir photo.

Boston College

Greater Boston has more than 100 colleges and universities, some of which were highly ranked in the world. About a quarter of a million students were enrolled in Boston and Cambridge alone.

We had the chance to visit Boston College, where my friend’s daughter who accompanied us on this day trip graduated. Referred to as BC, it is a private Jesuit Catholic research institution located 6 miles west of downtown Boston.

Gasson Hall at Boston College
Gasson Hall, a building in Boston College

We can only hope that our tours of these colleges had not been in vain. It’s our wishful thinking that the superior education they provide and the distinctive academic performances of their students had rubbed on us and made us mentally smarter.

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

After three days in New Jersey, New York and Washington, DC, we drove back to Boston. It’s our sixth and penultimate day on the East Coast. We visited the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum located at the mouth of Boston Harbor.

JFK Library and Museum

A soaring white concrete and glass monolith designed by IM Pei, the building was dedicated to the life and career of the most famous Boston-born politician. John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1917-1963) was the 35th President of the United States. More popularly known as JFK, President Kennedy was assassinated whilst on a motorcade in Dallas, Texas on November 1963.

Exhibitions highlight the short-lived Kennedy presidency in film and video, including a campaign for the Democratic Party nomination and debates with Republican opponent Richard M. Nixon, and many more. Memorabilia and other souvenir items are available for sale in the museum store.

Memorabilia

Dedham and Wrentham

We spent the remainder of the day in Dedham and Wrentham, two towns southwest of Boston, for shopping. There is a well-known retail outlet in Wrentham which attracts shoppers within the state as well as those from the nearby state of Rhode Island.

Wrentham Village Premium Outlets

Helen Keller, she of the famous “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing” quote lived in Wrentham for more than a decade.

Speaking of adventure, another one awaits us as we fly to the West Coast the next day.

Have you been to Beantown, what are your top things to do in Boston? If you have not been, would you like to visit?

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Top Things to Do in Boston

12 Comments

  1. My husband went to MIT but I’ve never really seen photos of the buildings. That architecture is incredible. I didn’t realise there were over 100 universities in the greater Boston area. I love that you stumbled upon an anime convention – you never know what you’re going to find while travelling.

  2. Been to Boston once and did a trolley tour. Had done a duck tour elsewhere before too. They totally are a lot of fun! Also did the Skywalk observatory while there. So you’ve made some great recommendations. Great post!

  3. 17,000 participants in their costumes – what a treat to the eyes! The design of Ray and Maria Stata Center is bizarre, hats off to the architect. You have got me interested in Boston. I hope I get to visit.

  4. My brother just returned from Boston and loved his pictures and stories. Your pics do more of the same to me. Guess its time to tick this off the list:) Need to check out MIT too!

  5. I grew up near Boston and frequently traveled there as a kid, but I’ve still never done most of the things on this list! I always wanted to do a duck boat tour. And I’ve been around the Harvard campus, but never explored MIT — that architecture is so interesting!

  6. I did a Duck Tour in Washington DC and really enjoyed it mostly. Did they pass out the duck quackers and people blew on them the entire trip? LOL that was the only thing I did not like about the trip.

  7. It’s amazing how two people can go to Boston and have two totally different trips! I did a harbour cruise but not on the duck boat. I love this post because you’ve given me so many different things to return to see! Thanks! 🙂

  8. I’m really looking forward to getting to Boston – Boston Duck Tours look fun! Hop on hop off would definitely be nice, but it sounds like it’s a good way to at least get an overview of the city’s main sights so you can figure out what you want to go back to and spend proper time at. Crazy to have been there during Anime Boston lol that would have taken me by surprise a bit too lol! I do want to get to MIT and Harvard though, MIT for the architecture, and Harvard because, well, it’s Harvard! Thanks for the cool list 🙂

  9. I’m surprised the duck tour isn’t painted yellow but pink hahaa. And what a coincidence it was running into Anime Boston! Must’ve been such a strange and bizarre experience at first not knowing what was going on. Looks like you had a great trip and I’ll be sure to add some of these to my Boston bucket list.

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