Good Guided Tours in Boston?
March 19, 2010 7:39 AM   Subscribe

So March 30th, I'm heading to Boston to visit some friends for a week, only....they've told me they're going to have to work the whole time after all. No hanging out together until the weekend. Can anyone recommend some good tours and activities for someone on their own?

I know there are podcast walking tours and such, but I tend to have more fun with other people around than just wandering the city with earphones in.

I'm thinking of the Duck Tour since I want to hit the Science Museum anyway. Is it any good? Anything else to recommend?
posted by Caravantea to Travel & Transportation around Boston, MA (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You can track down all the planets. (Well, maybe not the one in Saugus)
posted by mkb at 7:47 AM on March 19, 2010

Take a guided tour through the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum! Call ahead to find out the schedule.
posted by oinopaponton at 7:50 AM on March 19, 2010

I've been on the duck tour and thought it was a lot of fun.
posted by thejanna at 7:56 AM on March 19, 2010

When I was in Boston visiting someone who was working I spent one day out on the Harbor Islands. It was lovely. I didn't do a tour, just hopped on one of the wee boats out there by myself. But there are tours, according to that link. Definitely worth doing if the weather's good.
posted by lapsangsouchong at 7:58 AM on March 19, 2010

The MIT Museum is very interesteing and if you have a student ID (even one thats old) bring it and it costs about $3.

The Isabella Stewart Gardner museum has chamber music on some days, which is cool to see (though I think it might be Sundays).
posted by WeekendJen at 8:00 AM on March 19, 2010

The Freedom Trail is great if you're into Revolutionary War-era American history. I've walked it with a guidebook (which is free), but it says here that you can buy tickets for a tour led by "an 18th Century Costumed Guide."
posted by sigmagalator at 8:31 AM on March 19, 2010

If you do the Freedom Trail, there will be a lot of other people around you as you stop at the landmarks, and I've found it to be great people-watching. Also, spend some time at Faneuil Hall where the street performers are. The advantage over being with a tour group is that you'll be able to stop and wander off when you see something interesting (a coffeeshop, a produce stand, a bookstore, lunch, a street performer). If you're out Friday daytime, and are into that kind of thing, stop by the Haymarket. The weather right now is pretty decent, so it's quite possible that outside will be a great place to be.
posted by aimedwander at 8:31 AM on March 19, 2010

The Science Museum is sort of best if you grew up in MA because it's been the same to a large degree for decades. It's fun but I wouldn't say amazing. The Aquarium is much more interesting [though also dated]. If your friends have a local library card, they may be able to get you a museum pass at any number of local museums which would be a serendipitous way to maybe pick some places. The good news is Boston is full of neat things to look at and that are easy to get to. I tend towards the historical and nerdy but here are some things I have liked

- JFK Presidential Library has a good exhibit and is in a lovely place [is spendy, get a pass from friends if you can]
- Boston Public Library downtown is a lovely old research library plus has free wifi
- Mount Auburn Cemetery has a tower you can climb and is a great place to walk around if the weather is stunning which it has been lately.
- Peabody Museum at Harvard has some neat exhibits
- If you are a baseball fan, Fenway Park has tours which I have heard are fun.
- The Freedom Trail which is history, has self-guided tours but also guided tours with docents which are really pretty good if you like guided tours. Again, a good weather option.

The Mass office of Travel and Tourism has some other suggestions. If you really want to hit a ton of things, you may save money using a CityPass. I went to the Gardner museum last year and found it amazing, so I suggest it strongly as well.
posted by jessamyn at 8:31 AM on March 19, 2010

I like the Institute of Contemporary Art. Also, if you have a car and are into architecture, check out the Gropius House in nearby Lincoln, and while in the area, also visit the DeCordova Museum, and then take a relaxing walk around lovely Walden Pond in Concord, which is the next town over. Henry David Thoreau lived at the Pond in the 1840s.
posted by Dragonness at 10:03 AM on March 19, 2010

Oh, and pick up a free copy of the Improper Bostonian at any subway stop or most restaurants, and you'll find a comprehensive listing of what's going on in the city at the moment.
posted by Dragonness at 10:08 AM on March 19, 2010

Take one of the group walking tours offered by Boston By Foot.
posted by cadge at 11:07 AM on March 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Nobody has said MFA yet.. nor the public garden.

Also I don't know about your age or if you drink, but people in Boston are pretty friendly in bars, and it's easy to strike up a conversation there--whether or not you are interested in one.

I personally love the museum of science, but I do have some childhood memories of the place... it is really super fun and I would love to take a day RIGHT NOW to wander around.
posted by shownomercy at 12:07 PM on March 19, 2010

Even if you're not a shopper, it can be fun to walk down Newberry Street and check out all the shops, ranging from high end boutiques to independent small shops.

Beacon Hill/Charles Street is where the Boston aristocracy lived and has a colonial feel.

Eat ice cream at Toscanni's in Central Square in Cambridge. Or at lots of fabulous ice cream places sprinkled around Cambridge and Boston.
posted by Sukey Says at 12:29 PM on March 19, 2010

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