A single day affords the opportunity to sample some experiences unique to Boston. You won't have time for full immersion, but you can touch on several singular attractions and destinations. Your focus will be the downtown area, home to the city's oldest and most historic neighborhoods.
Start: Boston Common (Red or Green Line to Park St.), 15 State St. (Orange or Blue Line to State), or Faneuil Hall (Green or Blue Line to Government Center).
One Singular Sensation: On a 1-day visit, consider concentrating on just one or two things you're most excited about, plus a good meal or two. If what really gets you going is the Museum of Fine Arts, the Museum of Science, Newbury Street's art galleries and boutiques, or even a day trip, you have a good excuse for not doing more — and for a return trip to Boston!
1. The Freedom Trail
Boston's signature attraction is a 2.5-mile line of red paint or brick laid out at the suggestion of a local journalist in 1958. Following the whole Freedom Trail can consume the better part of a day, but several options that concentrate on the downtown part of the walk take 2 hours or so. Your goal is to cover — at whatever pace suits you, as carefully or as casually as you like — the first two-thirds of the trail, from Boston Common through Faneuil Hall. Start at the Boston Common Visitor Information Center with a pamphlet describing the self-guided tour or with the audio tour available from the Freedom Trail Foundation. If you prefer a guided tour, check the schedule of tours with National Park Service rangers, Boston By Foot, and the Freedom Trail Foundation.
2. Faneuil Hall Marketplace
Faneuil Hall Marketplace offers a host of shopping options, many of which are outlets of national chains. You can give your wallet a workout before, after, or even (this can be our little secret) during your sightseeing.
3. Quincy Market
The main level of Faneuil Hall Marketplace's central building, Quincy Market, is a gigantic food court. You can eat at the marketplace, but I suggest crossing Atlantic Avenue and enjoying your snack or lunch with a glorious view. Stake out a seat overlooking the marina next to Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park. If you'd rather eat indoors, head across the street to Union Oyster House.
4. Paul Revere House
Our favorite Freedom Trail stop is a little 17th-century home overlooking a picturesque cobblestone square.
5. The North End
The Freedom Trail continues here with another famous Paul Revere hangout, the fascinating Old North Church. But there's more to this historic neighborhood than just history. The city's "Little Italy" (locals don't call it that) is a great place for wandering around.
6. Hanover Street
Coffee outlets throughout the city valiantly attempt to serve good espresso and cappuccino; the shops here always succeed — and if they don't, they don't stay in business very long. Pair your caffeine with a fresh-baked pastry, settle in at a bakery or caffè, and take in the scene on the North End's main drag. Top choices: Caffè Vittoria, Mike's Pastry, and Caffè dello Sport.
7. The Waterfront
Now downtown Boston's small size pays off: In almost any direction, the gorgeous harbor is a short stroll from the North End. As the day winds down, you can take a sightseeing cruise from Long Wharf or Rowes Wharf — though a ferry ride from Long Wharf to Charlestown and back may be better for your schedule and budget. If cruises aren't for you or are out of season, explore the New England Aquarium or the Boston Children's Museum. If those don't appeal to you, head for the nearby Seaport District (also known as the South Boston Waterfront) and visit the Institute of Contemporary Art. It's a 20- to 30-minute walk or 10-minute cab ride.
Or—it's not the Waterfront, but bear with us—abandon the sightseeing after the Paul Revere House and go shopping in the Back Bay, starting with a stroll along Newbury Street.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.