Now that you have a feel for the city, it's time to explore beyond downtown and investigate subjects other than history. The Back Bay, Beacon Hill, and other destinations contrast invitingly with the colonial extravaganza of the Freedom Trail. This itinerary may require some flexibility, because you probably won't have much control over when your Duck Tour starts. Aim for tickets on a tour that starts in the afternoon, when the scene on the river is liveliest, with rowers zipping around and sailboats skimming past. If your tour falls in the morning, the rest of this itinerary easily adjusts to accommodate it.
Start: Museum of Fine Arts (Green Line E to Museum of Fine Arts or Orange Line to Ruggles).
1. Museum of Fine Arts
Be at the museum when the doors open at 10am. The MFA can easily — and most enjoyably — take up a full day, but it doesn't have to. Check out the website to get some sense of what you want to see. If you prefer not to explore on your own, take the first guided tour of the day, which begins at 10:30am. The museum has a cafeteria, cafe, and restaurant, but I'd suggest saving your appetite for the next stop.
2. Shops at Prudential Center
One of my favorite branches of Legal Sea Foods is here, on the main level off Boylston Street. If you prefer something lighter, the food court is nearby. Or walk 5 minutes to the Back Bay branch of Jasper White's Summer Shack.
3. Boston Duck Tour
This is the most entertaining motorized way to see the city. On a reconditioned World War II amphibious landing vehicle, you see the top attractions, pick up some historical background, and head for the water. Then, thrillingly, the Duck plunges into the Charles River and cruises around the basin.
Duck Tours don't operate from January through March (unless they're needed for a Patriots Super Bowl victory parade) or on weekdays in December. An excellent alternative is a Boston Symphony Orchestra or Boston Pops concert at Symphony Hall, a short walk from either the MFA or the Prudential Center.
4. Newbury Street
The commercial heart of the Back Bay, Newbury Street offers the best shopping in New England. Familiar chains and one-of-a-kind boutiques and galleries make it a can't-miss destination for serious consumerism or just window-shopping. It's also architecturally fascinating. One block away, Boylston Street also offers excellent shopping.
5. Public Garden
Newbury Street begins across Arlington Street from the most beautiful park in Boston. The Public Garden is lovely year-round — a visit will brighten up even the grayest off-season day — and the Make Way for Ducklings sculptures are always delightful. In warm weather, leave time for a Swan Boat ride.
6. Afternoon Tea
All that walking makes a perfect excuse for a hearty meal of pastries, finger sandwiches, and, of course, tea. My favorite afternoon tea is at the Bristol Restaurant and Bar, off the lobby of the Four Seasons. The Taj Boston and, currently on a pop-up basis, the lobby lounge in the Mandarin Oriental, and the Courtyard restaurant at the Boston Public Library also put on a good show.
7. Beacon Hill
The most picturesque neighborhood in town is a festival of red brick, cobblestones, and gorgeous architectural details. Charles Street, the main thoroughfare, is a lively shopping destination with a refreshing lack of chain stores. Wander on your own or seek out a guide — on summer weekdays, a Boston By Foot tour starts at 5:30pm.
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.