22 Ultimate Things to Do in Boston

It’s not surprising that a lot goes into running a theme park, and that couldn’t be more true than for Disney. From Disneyland’s classic rides and sights like The Haunted Mansion and Sleeping Beauty Castle to flashy, new attractions at Walt Disney World like Flight of Passage in Animal Kingdom, it takes a massive effort just to turn the lights on and get guests through the gates at Disney’s six American theme parks and two waterparks. That’s no secret. However, there are a lot of things going on behind the scenes that Disney would rather its guests and fans didn’t know.Of course they don’t want you to know what Mickey Mouse looks like without his head on or what exactly it looks like backstage, but there are 25 less obvious things that make the park run smoothly every day that you may not even think about.Did you ever wonder why the flags on Main Street don’t lower to half-mast, why it smells vaguely of saltwater when you walk by Pirates of the Caribbean, or why the raccoon at Splash Mountain looks so familiar from your childhood? Well, wonder no more — check out these 25 park secrets that Disney doesn’t want you to know.
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Slide 1 of 22: Walk the Freedom Trail
Slide 2 of 22: Catch a Game (or Take a Tour) at Fenway
Slide 3 of 22: Visit the North End, Boston's Little Italy
Slide 4 of 22: Eat a Lobster Roll
Slide 5 of 22: Walk Down Acorn Street in Beacon Hill
Slide 6 of 22: Take the Architecture Tour at the Boston Public Library
Slide 7 of 22: Ride a Swan Boat in the Public Garden
Slide 8 of 22: Ice Skate on the Frog Pond in the Boston Common
Slide 9 of 22: Spend the Day at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Slide 10 of 22: Visit the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum
Slide 11 of 22: Visit Faneuil Hall
Slide 12 of 22: Get out on the Charles River (Kayak, Canoe, Duck Boat)
Slide 13 of 22: Stroll Down Newbury Street in the Back Bay
Slide 14 of 22: Visit the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
Slide 15 of 22: Eat Oysters at the Union Oyster House
Slide 16 of 22: Head Out to the Boston Harbor Islands
Slide 17 of 22: Walk Along the Emerald Necklace
Slide 18 of 22: Visit the Institute of Contemporary Art
Slide 19 of 22: Step Back in Time at the Mapparium
Slide 20 of 22: Take a Tour of the Massachusetts State House
Slide 21 of 22: Dive Into the New England Aquarium
Slide 22 of 22: Explore the Rose Kennedy Greenway

Walk the Freedom Trail

One of Boston’s most famous, not to mention free, attractions is the Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile line alternately painted red or paved in red brick which guides visitors to some of the city’s most important historic sights. Highlights along the trail, which officially includes 16 sites, are Faneuil Hall, Old North Church, the Paul Revere House, King’s Chapel and the Bunker Hill Monument. Begin a self-guided tour from Boston Common (pick up a map or download one); sign up for a free guided tour given by the National Park Service at Faneuil Hall; or book a tour with the Freedom Trail Foundation, where 18th-century costumed guides lead the way.

PLAN YOUR TRIPVisit Fodor’s Boston Guide

Catch a Game (or Take a Tour) at Fenway

Visit the North End, Boston’s Little Italy

Eat a Lobster Roll

Walk Down Acorn Street in Beacon Hill

It is said that Boston’s most photographed street is Acorn Street, located in historic and picturesque Beacon Hill. While that may be simply anecdotal, it can’t be denied that the charming one-lane cobblestone street, complete with 19th-century rowhouses and gas lamps, looks like it belongs on a movie set. No matter what time of year, it’s picture-perfect. Gorgeous flowers spill from window boxes in spring and summer, carved pumpkins line the brick steps in fall, and stunning winter greens frame the houses in winter.

PLAN YOUR TRIPVisit Fodor’s Boston Guide

Take the Architecture Tour at the Boston Public Library

Ride a Swan Boat in the Public Garden

Ice Skate on the Frog Pond in the Boston Common

Spend the Day at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Visit the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum

This hands-on interactive museum lets you channel your inner rebel and toss (fake) tea overboard in a re-enactment of the Boston Tea Party. Exhibits at the museum (which is located on Griffin’s Wharf, close to where the actual Tea Party occurred in 1773) include 3-D holograms, talking portraits, and replicas of two of the three ships on-hand that fateful night, the Beaver II and the Eleanor. Actors clad in Colonial period costumes offer commentary and lead you through the museum. If you have time, stop by Abigail’s Tea Room for a cuppa and a great view of the harbor.

PLAN YOUR TRIPVisit Fodor’s Boston Guide

Visit Faneuil Hall

Get out on the Charles River (Kayak, Canoe, Duck Boat)

Stroll Down Newbury Street in the Back Bay

Whether or not you’re a big shopper, Newbury Street, Boston’s version of New York’s 5th Avenue, is worth a visit. The eight-block-long street is jam-packed with upscale shops, trendy cafés, quirky boutiques, and some of the best people-watching around. Park yourself at an outdoor café, order a drink, and watch the world go by.

Related: Where to Find the Best Craft Beer in Boston

Visit the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

One of the city’s most charming attractions is the small but lovely Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Isabella Stewart, a New York socialite, came to Boston in 1860 to marry John Lowell Gardner, one of Boston’s prominent citizens. In short order, Isabella set to building herself a Venetian palazzo to hold her extensive art collection. Just like she was, the collection is eclectic, with masterpieces by Titian (Europa), Giotto (Presentation of Christ in the Temple) and John Singer Sargent (El Jaleo), to name a few.

Isabella left strict instructions in her will that the building remain exactly as she left it, so visitors today can almost picture her enjoying the gorgeous gardens in her Venetian courtyard or warming her hands by one of the Renaissance hooded fireplaces.

Eat Oysters at the Union Oyster House

Locals like to give it a bad rap, but there’s something to be said for this National Historic Landmark, which the National Park Service designated as the oldest continually run restaurant and oyster bar in the United States and the oldest standing brick building in Boston’s Georgian architecture (it was constructed in 1717).Before it opened as a restaurant in 1826, it was a private home. Diners over the years include a veritable who’s who of the rich and powerful including Franklin Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and William Clinton, as well as governors, athletes, and movie stars. It is highly recommended to follow the example of Daniel Webster, a regular in the 1840s and 1850s, who sat at the raw bar and downed oysters with a brandy and water. Make sure to chat with the shuckers, some of whom have worked there for decades.

PLAN YOUR TRIPVisit Fodor’s Boston Guide

Head Out to the Boston Harbor Islands

Walk Along the Emerald Necklace

Visit the Institute of Contemporary Art

Along with the cutting-edge art inside its walls, the museum’s building itself can be considered a work of art in its own right. The gorgeous glass-walled cantilevered building sits right on the edge of the Boston waterfront, offering breathtaking views both inside and out. Since its inception in 1936, the ICA has been instrumental in identifying or showcasing the most important artists of the day, such as Edvard Munch, Andy Warhol, Laurie Anderson, and Roy Lichtenstein. Works by artists like Bill Viola, Kara Walker, Cindy Sherman, Shepard Fairey, and Rashaun Mitchell have been on view more recently. The museum offers a roster of changing exhibitions, live music and dance performances, film and digital media selections, talks, tours, family activities and teen programming.

Related: 7 Boston Hotels With the Best Views

Step Back in Time at the Mapparium

Take a Tour of the Massachusetts State House

The golden-domed Massachusetts State House is an iconic site from the outside, but take a free tour inside to learn all about its history. The land it sits on was originally used as John Hancock’s cow pasture. The building was designed by Charles Bulfinch and completed in 1798 and its cornerstone was laid by Samuel Adams in 1795. The copper dome was installed by Paul Revere in 1802 (it was later covered in gold). A fun fact is that the State House is home to the Sacred Cod, which visitors can find in the House of Representatives Chamber. A version of the almost five-foot-long wooden cod, which symbolizes the importance of the salt cod industry to the area, was first installed in the Old State House in 1784.

PLAN YOUR TRIPVisit Fodor’s Boston Guide

Dive Into the New England Aquarium

Explore the Rose Kennedy Greenway

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