Top Things to See & Do in Boston, Massachusetts

Historic Beacon Hill is one of Boston's most exclusive neighborhoods.
Historic Beacon Hill is one of Boston's most exclusive neighborhoods. (Image: coleong/iStock/Getty Images)

Despite its venerable age, Boston never gets old. There, unlike many major cities, it's still a pleasure to get where you're going on foot and be delighted by what you see along the way. The concentration of top-ranked universities in the area helps keep this city's ambiance informal, its outlook cosmopolitan and its intellectual vitality high. Yet evidence of all the contributions Massachusetts' maritime capital has made in shaping American life and culture is never far from view.

Best Places for Art Appreciation

Boston is a city with more than its share of fine art museums and galleries, but CBS singles out several for special mention, each for different reasons. The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum provides a "stunning backdrop" for showcasing its collection of sculpture, decorative art, furniture, tapestries and paintings, the news agency says. At the Institute of Contemporary Art, the way interior and exterior spaces have been designed to harmonize encourages new perspectives on the collections on display. And for sheer size and range, you can't beat the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, which houses almost 450,000 works of art from around the world.

Where to Sample Beantown's Signature Dishes

Floating to the top "in a veritable ocean of chowdah" takes some doing, says "Boston" magazine, but for the meatiness of the clams and perfect balance of flavors, B & G Oysters on Tremont Street trumps the competition. For the tastiest Boston baked beans, Eat Your World refers diners either to the Island Creek Oyster Bar on Commonwealth Avenue, or Durgin Park on Faneuil Hall Market Place. And the best place for Boston cream pie continues to be where it was born -- downtown's Parker House Restaurant, which serves the dessert even for breakfast.

Going Green: Best Off-the-Beaten-Path Parks

A parking garage isn't where most people expect to find tranquil green space, but the Cambridge Center Roof Garden, hiding in plain sight over the Kendall Square garage, is just that kind of oasis, says Time Out Boston. East Boston's Piers Park boasts the city's best picnic grounds, as well as spectacular city and sunset views. And South Boston's scenic but under-utilized Pleasure Bay features 22 acres of beach, bike paths, picnic areas, and playgrounds in the shadow of historic Fort Independence.

The Freedom Trail: A Stroll Through America's History

How fitting that Boston Common, the oldest park in the U.S., should be the starting point for the Freedom Trail, which wends it way along a marked path encompassing 16 sites of historical importance. This self-guided tour can be done in a few hours or last for days, allowing you to envision Boston as it was in the past within the context of the city as it is today. One of the country's first historical walks, the Freedom Trail takes you through neighborhoods, parks and cityscapes, finishing up at the Bunker Hill Monument.

Best Boston-Area Watering Holes

In 2012, "Boston Globe" sports reporter and beer critic Gary Dzen scoured the city's brew bars, listing his opinion of the 10 best. He awarded top spot to the Publick House on Beacon Street in Washington Square for its comprehensive selection of foreign, domestic and craft beers, as well as superb pub grub. Second and third place went to Cambridge bars, Lord Hobo in Inman Square and Cambridge Brewing Company in Kendall Square. In "Esquire" magazine's 2014 list of the 25 best bars in America, two of Boston's made the cut: the Hawthorne in Kenmore Square and J.J. Foley's Bar & Grille downtown. Though the "Boston Herald" agreed with the "Esquire" first choice, it differed with the second choice of the downtown J.J. Foley's, only half a century old, instead of the original J.J. Foley's, founded in 1909, a South End landmark. To Boston's barflies, the "Boston Herald" said, mistaking one for the other was like confusing Elvis Presley and Elvis Costello.

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