Boston, MA Visitor’s Guide: What to do + Where to Eat

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Nick and I each moved to Boston for school thinking it’d be temporary, but the charm of this small, historic city (with no shortage of seafood…yum) grew on us tremendously over time. We often get questions on what to do and where to eat, so finally pooled our favorites into this mega post! I’ll be keeping this updated and will add any new or forgotten favorites. Let me know if you guys have any questions, and be sure to check out my map at the bottom to see where everything mentioned here is located! When traveling we like to visualize where all the places we want to hit up are located, then find somewhere to stay central to those.

Things to do

Walking

Boston is very much a walking city, so pack your flats! One of my favorite paths to walk is starting at Hynes or Copley subway station on the green line, going along Newbury Street (our biggest shopping street) all the way to the Boston Public Garden and Boston Common. There you can also have a picnic, take kids on the (very slow-moving) swan boats or merry-go-round, and eat soft serve from the Boston Frosty truck. There is a week of gorgeous tulips in mid-spring, foliage a-plenty come Fall, or you can ice skate on the “Frog Pond” in the winter. From the Boston Public Garden, you can walk to either the small boutiques in charming Beacon Hill, grab a bite in Chinatown, or follow the Freedom Trail through Quincy Market to Charlestown.

Shopping!

Clothing and shoes under $175 are exempt from sales tax in Massachusetts, so I see many visitors shopping their merry hearts out. For individual items priced over that amount, the first $175 is still tax-exempt. Newbury Street is an outdoor shopping area with a range of stores from my affordable favorites like H&M, Uniqlo, and Zara to splurge spots like Burberry, Chanel, and much more. Other popular stores include Rothy’s, Reformation, Abercrombie and Allbirds. I also like the Copley Place & Prudential Center malls, which are right nearby, which is really one large indoor mall with department stores like Neiman Marcus and Saks, a variety of high end designer boutiques, and shops like Sephora, Banana Republic, Club Monaco, Stuart Weitzman, etc.

outfits from this blog post

Picking

Fruit
We have a delicious variety of pick-your-own farms in MA, however most are a 30 minute + drive outside of Boston. If you happen to have a rental car, be sure to check out what’s in-season for picking! Berries (strawberries, blueberries, cherries) start late spring through the summer, peaches ensue in late summer, and then apples, pears, and pumpkins are in full swing come fall. Here are a few of my posts at local farms: Tougas Farms (also here), Honey Pot Hill, Parlee Farms, Verrill Farm.

Flowers
For lovers of fresh blooms, Tip Top Tulips North of Boston and Wicked Tulips in RI can be picked April – May, Parlee Farms up north has gorgeous zinnias & dahlias in August – September, and Colby Farms has a field of sunflowers that peak briefly in September. Note though that Colby Farm’s flowers are for viewing, not for picking! Each of these farms are about an hour outside of the city, in different directions.

flower picking fields best new england parlee farm

outfit from this blog post

Boating

If the weather is nice, you can walk or run along the Charles River on the Esplanade path. You can rent kayaks or canoes from a small stand stationed near the Hatch Shell. From the river, you can see Boston on one side and Cambridge on the other. Pack some sandwiches and drinks to refuel while out on the water! There are also several awesome playgrounds for a variety of ages right along the Esplanade path that my kids really enjoy!

boston visitor activities_pedal boat rental charles river

Other Popular Activities:

– Visit Harpoon brewery for a flight of beer, or more importantly, their freshly baked soft pretzels (the cinnamon sugar one with cream cheese icing dip … droool). I also love to drink Downeast Cider but haven’t yet been to their tasting room. It’s located in East Boston, near the airport, and is open Thurs – Sun. If beer is your main objective, though, Nick’s favorite in the city is Trillium Brewing (multiple locations, all w/ outdoor seating).

boston harpoon brewery beer soft pretzels

– Stop by the Copley Square farmers market open on Tuesdays and Fridays, from Spring to Fall. Or if you’re by the south end, visit the SoWa market which is open Sundays May – October, featuring food trucks, a vintage market, and tents run by small artisans.

– Pop into the historic Boston Public Library. Pinkies up for their tea set of savory sandwiches and sweet treats, and of course your own potful of tea. The BPL is one of my most favorite spots in the city, although I’m a little biased since we got married there!

boston public library high afternoon tea catered affair

Afternoon tea set w/ matcha green tea lattes at Boston Public Library

-For the little ones: as a free stop, you can pop into the children and toddler’s room at the Boston Public Library. Other family-friendly activities are visiting Boston Children’s Museum ($1 Sunday afternoon tickets, and Martin’s park playground is right around the corner), New England Aquarium, and the Museum of Science.

best children's playground Boston
Boston Public Library childrens and toddler activities
left: tons of playgrounds around town // right: Children’s area at Boston Public Library

 – Take a Duck Tour which is an amphibious vehicle that hits up most of the city’s major landmarks, then plops into the Charles river to show a bit of Boston via water.

– Catch a Red Sox game at Fenway Park, then chow down at one of the many nearby food options on Peterborough Street (Rod Thai Family Taste, El Pelon Mexican, Basho) afterwards.

– Explore the Boston Harbor islands via ferry or boat tour. Recommended for history buffs (hotspots include war forts and a historic lighthouse) or hikers, not those seeking beachy sand to sunbathe on.

– Check the Boston Calendar for a list of local happenings, events, classes, or other things to do.

– Visit the Museum of Fine Arts or the Isabella Stewart Gardner art museum (indoor courtyard pictured below).

isabella stewart gardner art museum boston italian courtyard garden

Getting Around

A rental car is not necessary while in Boston unless you want to do a lot of day trips to the outer areas. In fact, finding and paying for parking is quite a burden, so I always suggest visitors take Uber, Lyft, a cab or try public transit on our MBTA train system.

Where to Eat and Drink

Breakfast & Brunch

Jugos – Tiny, tiny to-go spot located centrally near Copley Square, so on a nice day you can enjoy your food on the benches there (they also have a slightly bigger location with more food options in the South End). Grab a fresh smoothie or juice, frozen acai or pitaya (dragonfruit) bowls, or their chicken salad avocado toast.

boston jugos juice acai pitaya fruit bowls

Acai bowl from Jugos

Tatte – A cute, Instagram-able local bakery/café with multiple locations all around town, easily some of the most Instagram’d spots in the city.

Boston travel and food guide Tatte

– Dim Sum – we go to Hei La Moon for bigger groups, Winsor Cafe for takeout, or if it’s just the two of us or if it’s a weekday, we usually do Great Taste which is a small hole in the wall. Great Taste also has this traditional dish we love which is braised beef brisket & tendon over seared rice noodle rolls (pictured in the iron pot below) – it’s not on the menu so I try to show this photo! And if you’re in Chinatown, you’ll definitely want to stop at one of the many bakeries to pick up some buns to snack on later. 101 Bakery is our favorite for egg tarts and Portuguese tarts.

boston chinatown great taste chinese restaurant dim sum

Dim Sum faves: shrimp & chive dumplings for me, sweet custard buns for Nick

– Cafes & Dessert – I’m more a tea person but Nick also loves his coffee! His favorite local coffee shop