10 Walking Tours in Boston
The freedom trail is a 2.5 mile long walk through Boston that passes 16 sites that are significant to the early history of the United States. The trail, formed in 1951, stretches from the Boston Common to the Bunker Hill Monument in Charleston.
Most of the sites are free or suggest donations but a few charge admission: the Old South Meeting House, the Old State House and the Paul Revere House.
The trail starts at the visitor’s center in the Boston Common where there are public restrooms and they provide maps and information about the trail and its sites. There is also an additional visitors center about half through the trail located in Faneuil Hall.
The 16 locations on the freedom trail from South to North include: the Boston Common, the Massachusetts State House, Park Street Church, Granary Burying Ground, King’s Chapel and Burying Ground, Benjamin Franklin Statue and the Boston Latin School Site, Old Corner Bookstore, Old South Meeting House, Old State House, Boston Massacre Site, Faneuil Hall, Paul Revere House, Old North Church, Copp’s Hill Burying Ground, USS Constitution and the Bunker Hill Monument.
A more detailed description of these sites can be found here: Freedom Trail sites.
This 2 mile tour starts in the Back Bay a little north of the Avenue of the Arts at the Ayer Mansion, a residential house designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany. After visiting the Berklee Performance Center, Fenway Studios and the Boston Conservatory Theatre, the tour stops at the Christian Science Plaza where one can walk inside the glass world globe at the Mapparium and can see the First Church of Christ. The Boston Horticulural Center is located at the top of the Avenue of the Arts which is then followed by a number of performance spaces, museums and colleges including Symphony Hall, Huntington Avenue Theatre, New England Conservatory of Music, the Boston YMCA, the Museum of Fine Arts, the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and ends at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design and the MassArt Art Museum. These last locations border the Boston Fens one of a series of 6 parks designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. The walk is about 2 miles long and would take approximately 2 hours if walking from point to point.
A more detailed description of these sites can be found here: Avenue of the Arts sites
The Black Heritage Trail is a 1.5 mile long path in Boston through North Beacon Hill with stops at important African American historical sites. North Beacon Hill was a center of Boston’s 19th century African American community. The Trail contains more than 15 pre-Civil War structures including the 1806 African Meeting House which is the oldest standing black church in the United States.
The tour starts at the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial (commemorating Shaw and the Massachusetts 54th Regiment) and then continues to the George Middleton House, the Phillips School (1st integrated Boston public school), John J Smith House, Charles Street Meeting House (First African Methodist Episcopal Church or Charles Street A.M.E), Lewis and Harriet Hayden House, John Coburn House, Smith Court Residences, Abiel Smith School (Museum of African American History), African Meeting House.
Almost all of the sites on the trail are private residences so only the outside of the buildings can be seen. The National Park Service offers ranger guided tours in the spring and summer.
A more detailed description of these sites can be found here: Black Heritage Trail sites.
This tour spends most of its time in parks and gardens, starting at the eastern edge of the Boston Common at the Granary Grave Yard. After a stop at the Massachusetts State House the tour wanders through the Boston Common and the Public Garden stopping at the various interesting sites to see. From the Public Garden the tour crosses over the busy Storrow Drive using the Arthur Fiedler Footpath to the Charles River Esplanade, a three mile long park alongside the Charles River.
The tour includes the following sites: Granary Burial Ground, Massachusetts State House, Robert Gould Shaw Memorial, the Boston Common, Frog Pond, Soldiers and Sailors Monument, Boston Common Visitors Center, Central Burying Ground, the Public Garden, Swan Boats, Park Bench from Good Will Hunting, Equestrian Statue of George Washington, "Make Way for Ducklings" Statues, Charles River Esplanade, Edward A. Hatch Memorial Shell and Community Boating Boston.
If walked directly from location to location without stopping, the tour is about 1.9 miles long and would take approximately 45 minutes to walk.
A more detailed description of these sites can be found here: Boston Common to Charles River
Our Common to Copley tour starts at the oldest public park in the USA, the Boston Common. The early Bostonians used this area to graze their cows but now it is a green oasis in the busy city of Boston. We visit a variety of points in the Common and then move to the Public Garden and the Back Bay all of which were originally tidal marshes but in the mid-1800s in order to expand the city of Boston, this land was filled in. The Back Bay is now one of the premiere shopping and dining destinations of Boston.
Other locations on the tour include: the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial , the Frog Pond, Soldiers and Sailors Monument, Boston Common Visitors Center, Boston Massacre Monument / Crispus Attucks Monument, Central Burying Ground, 55 Boylston Place (Old Public Library), Public Garden, Swan Boats, "Make Way for Ducklings" Statues, Cheers (Bull & Finch Pub), Statue of George Washington, Back Bay / Newbury Street, Arlington Street Church, 234 Berkley St (Old Museum of Science), Berkley Building (Old John Hancock Building), 200 Clarendon Street (John Hancock Tower), Copley Square, Trinity Church, The Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel, Boston Public Library (McKim Building), Old South Church, Prudential Tower.
The path of the tour is about 2 1/2 to 3 miles long and would take a little over an hour if walking straight on the path without stopping.
A more detailed description of these sites can be found here: Common to Copley sites.
The Rose Kennedy Greenway is a 1.5 mile 17-acre park sitting atop a highway tunnel that stretches from Chinatown in the South of Boston up through the Financial District, the Waterfront and ends in the North End.
The park was born out of a plan to remove the elevated highway that ran most of the length of Boston from the South to the North. This highway had split Boston especially the North End section so a tunnel was built, the “Big Dig”, and the highway moved underground. The elevated infrastructure was dismantled (look for a remaining steel column near the Armenian Heritage Park) and replaced with the Greenway park system which had its inaugural celebration in October 2008.
There are six different parks within the Greenway – North End, Armenian Heritage, Wharf District, Fort Point, Dewey Square and the Uncle Frank & Auntie Kay Chin Park. They are open daily from 7am to 11pm and offer a variety of landscaped gardens, promenades, plazas, fountains and art. There are a variety of eating opportunities mostly comprised of food trucks and carts (daily schedule of vendors - rosekennedygreenway.org/food) but also include an outdoor beer garden and an outdoor wine garden.
A wide variety of plants and trees can be found across the parks and what is currently in bloom can be found here - rosekennedygreenway.org/bloom. The Greenway is Boston’s only organically maintained public park.
There is free wifi offered in the Greenway. Look for the “Greenway” wireless network on your laptop, tablet, or smartphone.
Sites on the tour include: Chinatown Gate, City Winery, Trillium Garden, Greenway Open Market , Boston Harbor Islands Pavilion, Greenway Carousel, Zipporah Potter Atkins House and the Freedom Trail.
A more detailed description of these sites can be found here: Boston's Greenway sites.
This tour starts at the marketplaces of Faneuil Hall, Quincy Market, Boston Public Market and Haymarket and then heads into the North End. Many of the sites were historically significant in the Revolutionary War times.
After beginning at the Faneuil Hall Marketplace, which includes Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market, the tours continues on to the Boston Public Market, Haymarket, the Zipporah Potter Atkins House, Paul Revere’s House, the Lewis Wharf, the Paul Revere Statue and Mall, the Old North Church, the Skinny House, Copp’s Hill Burying Ground, the Great Molasses Flood Plaque and the location of the Great Brinks Robbery.
If only walking directly from location to location without stop, the walking tour would cover a little over 1 1/2 miles of ground while taking about 45 minutes.
A more detailed description of these sites can be found here: Faneuil Hall and the North End Sites
Our tour starts on the edge of Boston and Charlestown at the Museum of Science. It then travels along the Charles River passing through a few different parks and the Charles River Dam until our tour ends at the Charlestown Naval Yards where the USS Constitution is located. While a few of the stops include inside destinations (Museum of Science, Navy Yard Visitors Center, the Constitution Museum) most of the stops are outside with room to run around and with great views of the Boston sky line. At the end of the tour, the most fun way back to Boston is to take the ferry from the Charlestown Navy Yard that will drop you off right next to the Aquarium and get a great view of Boston from the water.
The 2.2 mile path of the tour takes approximately 46 min.
We have not included the Bunker Hill Monument on this tour because many kids may be too tired after the rest of the walk to continue uphill from the USS Constitution to get to the monument. But if you still have energy, we’ve include the site as a one-off location. The walk will take about 10-15 minutes but also keep in mind if you want to go to the top of the monument it can only be accessed via a 294 step stairway.
A more detailed description of these sites can be found here: Museum of Science to the USS Constitution
This is not a long walking tour but there is plenty to see and do in this relatively small section of Boston. We start at the waterfront at the New England Aquarium. Walking a short distance west will take you through part of the Greenway (Boston moved its elevated highway underground and replaced the above ground section with a public park system that cuts south to north through Boston) up to the Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park. And then just on the other side of the Greenway is the Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Boston Public Market and the open-air market Haymarket. While there is a great deal of history at Faneuil Hall, and a number of retail stores for shopping, kids and adults will find an incredible number of eating places / food stalls / restaurants in this area providing an almost unlimited choice of foods.
Walking the path without stopping is less than a mile long and would only take about 20 minutes.
A more detailed description of these sites can be found here: Aquarium to Faneuil Hall
This free walking tour will primarily take place in the Seaport area which is a part of Boston that was reclaimed from the harbor. In the mid to late 1800s seawalls were built and the land was filled in but much of it used for the railroads. At the close of the 20th century the area had deteriorated but since then a great deal of new building has breathed life into this part of Boston.
We start our tour on an observation deck which will provide a great view of the area and then move on to the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum, the Hood Milk Bottle, the Boston Children’s Museum, Martin’s Park, Fan Pier Park, the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) and the Boston Fire Museum.
If traveled directly from point to point the walk should take a little over 30 minutes over 1 1/2 miles.
A more detailed description of these sites can be found here: Boston Tea Party to the Boston Fire Museum
Like most large US cities, finding a public restroom, especially when you are traveling with children can be quit difficult. We have put together a map of various locations in our tour areas that we have found.
The city of Boston is to be applauded for the list they have put together -- which can be accessed here -- which we have included in our list. Many of these locations are fire / police departments or public libraries. We have noted in the descriptions which locations are from this city published list.
What we have not included is hotels and restaurants that are not on the City of Boston's official list. It is always possible to ask or potentially just to use the facilities at these locations even though most will state that the restrooms are only for customers.
Boston is both the capital and the largest city in Massachusetts. With a population of approximately 685,000 it is also the largest city in the New England area. It is one of the oldest US cities, founded in 1630 by puritan settlers from England, and was the largest town in British American up until the mid-18th century.
The city played a significant role at the early stages of the Revolutionary War – the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party, the Battle of Bunker Hill and the Siege of Boston all happened in Boston.
Boston became one of the world’s wealthiest cities due to the trade and fishing that came through its port. Blockades during the War of 1812 slowed its harbor business and as activity and business moved inland, the city became one of the leading manufacturing hubs of the newly growing US nation.
Between 1630 and 1890 the city tripled its area through land reclamation filling in many marshes, mudflats, and other areas. Boston developed the first public park in the nation (Boston Common, 1634), the first public or state school (Boston Latin School, 1635) and the first subway system (Tremont Street Subway, 1897). The city’s many colleges and universities (Harvard, MIT, Tufts, Northeastern, BU, BC) make it a center of education.
While Boston has one of the highest costs of living in the US, it still ranks high on livability ratings (in a 2011 survey it ranked 36th worldwide in quality of living).