Things to Do in Massachusetts - page 3
This bronze statue, which stands at the center of Harvard Yard, is frequently visited by both travelers and prospective students, and it’s also been the target of dozens of pranks since its unveiling. Whether it’s covered in tar, paint, or some other substance, the John Harvard statue remains at the heart of the school named for him … even though the statue isn’t actually of him.
Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) houses one of the world’s most comprehensive art collections, with nearly 450,000 works ranging from ancient Egyptian sculptures to contemporary masterpieces. With more than 1 million yearly visitors, the MFA is a true Boston highlight and must-see attraction for art lovers and first-time city travelers.
One of Boston’s leading art institutions, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum occupies an early 20th-century mansion that’s modeled on a medieval Venetian palazzo. The 2,500-strong collection—which belonged to the city’s arts patron Isabella Stewart Gardner—features paintings, sculptures, and furnishings.
Not surprisingly, Boston boasts the nation's oldest continually operating lighthouse. Boston Light on Little Brewster Island dates back to 1716 and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1964.
The original lighthouse was virtually obliterated by British forces near the end of the Revolutionary War. The tower was resurrected in 1783 and in 1859 was raised 14 additional feet to its current height of 102 feet. The beacon is still in use by the Coast Guard today and is capable of shining its light up to 27 miles across the Atlantic.
By decree, the Coast Guard had automated all lighthouses throughout the country by 1990. A handful of preservation groups petitioned to keep Boston Light in its original state and eventually Congress relented. Today it is staffed by only a few Coast Guard workers who perform geological surveys, meteorological studies, and other data collection.
The island is largely devoid of wildlife and vegetation, save for a few flowers planted near the lighthouse keeper's house. Visitors fortunate enough to climb the lighthouse tower are rewarded with stunning views of the Brewster Islands, the town of Hull, and of downtown Boston.
Plymouth, a quintessentially New England spot with a 400-year-old legacy, set the stage for the very first American Thanksgiving. From Plymouth Rock to the Mayflower II and the famous Grist Mill, this Massachusetts town exudes charm throughout its many historical attractions.
The expansive collection of the Harvard Museum of Natural History, located on the grounds of Harvard University, comes from the school’s major research museums. Visitors will find fabulous displays of fossils and dinosaurs, taxidermied animals from around the world, exquisite glass models of plants, and more at this family-friendly museum.
In 1928 a strip of land was used to connect Castle Island to mainland Massachusetts, and while this destination for outdoor recreation and history is no longer technically an island, locals still refer to it by its original name. Castle Island is home to Fort Independence, and was one of the main military bases for the British during the American Revolution.
Today, Castle Island attracts travelers and locals alike who are in search of outdoor recreation and leisure. Visitors can wander the boardwalk, picnic in open green space, fish into the bay, take in views from a scenic overlook, swim and enjoy grilling and shower facilities, too.
Travelers can spend an afternoon soaking up the sun on Castle Island or take one of the guided tours of Fort Independence on a visit to this iconic Boston destination. It’s also possible to check out the island from aboard one of the city’s brunch or dinner cruises, too.
The story of America’s first settlers comes to life on a visit to the iconic Mayflower II. Travelers can venture aboard a life-size replica of the famous ship and interact with costumed characters who describe what life was like on the high seas.
Visitors can learn about early navigation techniques and explore exhibits that highlight the lives of the ship’s first passengers. Experts will share stories about ancestors and crew while still leaving plenty of time to comb through artifacts and photos, too. And perhaps most impressive of all, the Mayflower II provides travelers with the chance to see just what it was like aboard what is arguably the world’s most famous ship.
This iconic boat is the perfect way to bring history to life and an ideal stop for families with children on a journey through New England. Whether it’s visiting the ship on its own, or combining a tour with the Plimoth Plantation and the Living Museum, a stop at the Mayflower II is bound to be a memorable part of any American history-themed vacation.
Please note: the Mayflower II is currently undergoing renovations. It is scheduled to sail to Boston in mid-May, then back to Plymouth on May 21, where it will reside permanently.
Located in Franklin Park in south Boston, Franklin Park Zoo is one of the city’s top family-friendly attractions. Extending across 29 hectares (72 acres), the zoo houses a diverse array of animals that ranges from gorillas and bison to exotic birds and African lions.
The Samuel Adams Boston Brewery is where the popular company’s beers are invented. Visit the small-batch brewery and tap room to try a variety of ales, lagers, and seasonal brews and to learn about the company’s history and its brewing process.
More Things to Do in Massachusetts
Boston Children's Museum is the city’s premier destination for the education of children and the second oldest museum of its kind in the country. It boasts a wide variety of activities and hands-on exhibits for children through entertainment and fun. Many are just as entertaining for parents as they are for children.
The museum hosts nearly 20 permanent exhibits. Among them, the incredibly popular Arthur & Friends is home to characters from Marc Brown’s TV show and book series. In the Art Studio, parents work with their children to create freeform art. The Construction Zone inspires children to work with trucks and power tools to explore the world of construction. While the Japanese House is an actual house shipped from Kyoto to help foster an understanding of foreign cultures a world away.
History buffs will also appreciate the museum’s rare and substantial collection of Natural History, Dolls and Dollhouses, Americana, Native American and Japanese artifacts. While many of its more than 50,000 artifacts are safely stored away from the public, visitors are still able to view a sizable portion of the collection.
Cambridge Common is a popular green space near Harvard Square where local recreational sports teams play, picnickers gather, and energetic kids run around. On the site where George Washington gathered troops during the Revolutionary War, the park contains historic cannons and plaques that commemorate some of the revolution’s major events.
If you’re looking to visit the most exclusive neighborhood in Boston, you’ll want to stop by Louisburg Square in Beacon Hill. The townhouses lining the square have an average value of over $6.7 million, with many selling for well over $10 million.
The houses on Louisburg Square were built primarily in the 1840s, but the area was first settled back in the 1600’s. Rev. William Blaxton moved to this part of Beacon Hill from Charlestown, where the Puritans had settled, to enjoy more peace and quiet.
From the time of the first house, the neighborhood was the most fashionable address in Boston. Famous names from shipping and merchant banking, such as Cabot and Appleton, used to call the square home, as well as some famous artistic figures. Charles Bulfinch, the architect of the Massachusetts State House and portions of the US Capital Building, lived in the square, as did Louisa May Alcott and artist John Singleton Copley. Today, US Secretary of State John Kerry lives on Louisburg Square.
Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Longfellow House is the former home of poet Henry W. Longfellow and served as headquarters to General George Washington during the Siege of Boston from 1775 to 1776. Visitors can wander the decorated halls of this Georgian mansion and learn about the dynamic Longfellow family.
Historic records show that vendors have been gathering in Boston's Haymarket space to peddle fresh foods since before 1830. Today, the historic market offers some of the best, freshest and often cheapest groceries anywhere in downtown Boston.
The list of available foods is, of course, seasonal and ever-changing. Vendors sell not just fruits and vegetables, but also a variety of other wares, including fresh fish, cheeses, Halal meats, Caribbean and Asian foods, spices and more. Even for those who aren't planning to buy, it’s a great destination for people-watching and getting a true feel for the city. Located a stone’s throw from Faneuil Hall, Haymarket Boston sits in the heart of downtown, surrounded by historic sights, restaurants and attractions, including the famous North End.
Travelers will appreciate that Haymarket is not well-known as a tourist attraction. It’s a no-frills, authentic city market that’s been serving locals for well over 200 years. Today it’s one of the best, still-surviving remnants of the way Boston used to be: a modern day connection to the past.
Locals and visitors alike flock to the Waterfront, which stretches from one of the city’s best parks to the Boston Tea Party ships. In the vibrant neighborhood, you’ll find enough tourist attractions, restaurants, and shops to keep you busy for days. Or, just take in the view of Boston Harbor as you leisurely stroll the walkways.
The South End neighborhood of Back Bay in Boston is where you will find the famous Victorian row houses. It is northwest of South Boston, north of Dorchester, northeast of Roxbury and southwest of Bay Village.
Bow-front row houses are the star of the Boston South End. These are aesthetically uniform rows of buildings that date back to the 19th century and are typically five-story red-brick residential and commercial structures that showcase various styles of architecture including Renaissance Revival, Italianate and French Second Empire, Queen Anne Gothic Revival, Greek Revival and Egyptian Revival. Although there are varying styles, these row houses maintain their uniformity through the use of similar materials—red brick, slate, granite or limestone trim and cast iron railings.
Bay Village is one of the highlights of the South End section of Boston. It encompasses about six blocks around Piedmont Street and is the hub for Boston’s gay community. Art lovers should check out the Boston Center for the Arts, while those looking for shopping will be delighted with South Ends increasing number of retail shops. The neighborhood’s commercial space is full of unique stores, including a few dedicated to items for dog owners.
South End has seen a surge in restaurants wanting to open in the neighborhood, especially on Washington and Tremont Streets. Tremont is often called “Restaurant Row” and includes a variety of ethnic influences. Look for French, Ethiopian, Indian, Italian, Peruvian and Brazilian cuisines, among others. Although many restaurants in South End can be on the pricey side, it’s definitely worth exploring the best eats. Consider a South End food and walking tour to learn about the history and diverse cultures that have helped shape South End’s current culinary scene.
Built in 1782 out of Texas limestone and stucco, Mission San Jose is the largest mission in San Antonio, earning it the nickname Queen of the Missions. While portions of the church and its gristmill and granary have collapsed over the years, much of the structure has been fully restored to its original design.
Journey back to the time of America’s original settlers with a visit to Massachusetts' historic Plimoth Grist Mill. This working mill was built some 200 years ago, and still operates today, offering visitors a hands-on history lesson perfect for families and kids. Take a tour to learn how the water-powered mill was constructed and the process by which it turns ground local corn into delicious meal. The onsite gallery’s interactive exhibits feature knot tying and corn grinding with mortar and pestle for anyone ready to get their hands down and dirty.
While this historic mill is worth a stop all its own, combo tickets that include the nearby Mayflower II and Plimoth Plantation round out the New England experience.
Boston’s Chinatown, in the heart of downtown, is the last remaining Chinese area in New England and is home to 70% of the city’s Chinese inhabitants. As an area it is known for its rich history, culture, and great food. The large gate with two protective foo lions, which signals the entrance, has become an icon for the neighborhood.
Once inside, the best way to see it is to simply explore the small shops and winding streets, stopping for bites of authentic Chinese food along the way. Check the timing and you may run into one of the many traditional festivals that run here throughout the year.
Boston’s Chinatown is the third largest in the United States, following New York and San Francisco. With many community organizations and maintained traditions, it is considered to be the center of Asian American life in Boston.
One of thirteen custom homes built in Salem in early America, the Custom House is known for its appearance in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1850 novelThe Scarlett Letter. As Salem was an important seaport for the United States at this time, custom houses were built to collect taxes on incoming cargo. At first collected for the British Government during the colonial era, the American Government began collecting the funds in 1789. The importance of the structure to the federal government is evident in its elegant design and impressive attention to detail, with its wide staircase, high ceilings, and exquisite wood carvings.
This was the last Custom House built to hold these offices. Author Nathaniel Hawthorne did in fact work in the house as a surveyor, and his time there inspired his masterpiece novel. Today visitors can have a look at his former office, as well as learn about the history of the customs process through various exhibits.
The iconic building blocks of childhood are now more than just an afternoon activity, thanks to theLEGOLAND® Discovery Center of Boston. Families with children between the ages of 3 and 10 will find even more of what they love at this popular themed destination that’s dedicated to the colorful blocks that have been inspiring youth to create for decades.
Whether it’s touring the LEGOLAND Factory to learn how this American favorite is made, experiencing the multi-sensory wonder of a 4-D film or building a car to race at the LEGO® Racers: Build and Test site, there’s plenty to keep kids busy and entertained. The jaw-dropping Master Builder Academy will also inspire youth to imagine and create thanks to impressive examples of LEGO construction at its finest!
Located in Boston, the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) is an art museum and exhibition space that has seen a number of changes over the years. It was founded in 1936 as the Boston Museum of Modern Art and has undergone both name and location changes since. It currently sits in the South Boston Seaport District, where it was built in 2006 and designed with the idea of “from the sky down,” with contemplative space for viewing contemporary art, and “from the ground up,” with areas for public enjoyment.
The ICA is 65,000 square feet, and its design resembles a dramatic folding ribbon with a cantilever that reaches to the water’s edge. Galleries have movable walls and ceilings with adjustable skylights. The Barbara Lee Family Foundation Theater seats 325 people and is located on the second and third floors. The Charles and Fran Rodgers Education Center is a two-story education center, which includes Bank of America Art Lab.
The ICA exhibits include the permanent collection and temporary exhibitions. The permanent collection of works by contemporary artists began in 2000 and features their work at seminal moments in their careers. Works from the permanent collection rotate approximately every 12 months. The ICA also features three other galleries of temporary exhibits, usually including at least one featured artist quarterly in the West Gallery.
Overlooking the sea in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum documents the life and legacy of President Kennedy. The building holds official presidential documents and correspondence, a wealth of multimedia exhibits and artifacts, and literary gems such as some unpublished writings of Ernest Hemingway.
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