Experience Boston in 3 Days
Boston is just one of those cities that we simply can't get enough of. Beantown's chalk full of diverse cultural experiences, world-class museums, New England food (gotta love it), renowned architecture, and some of the nation's favorite attractions.
Most Boston visitors don't have enough time to do everything in one trip and it can be difficult to decide what to do and when to do it. However, that just got a whole lot easier with the Smart Destinations "Experience Boston in 3 Days" itinerary.
We've done all the research and planning to get you to as many top attractions as possible and we didn't just stop with attractions. We've scoped out the best restaurants and activities too. By following this itinerary, you'll optimize your savings with Smart Destinations.
Getting To Boston
You'll arrive at Logan International Airport, often referred to as simply "Logan." Logan, located in East Boston, has 4 terminals--A,B,C, and E-- each with ATMs, internet kiosks, pay phones, and information booths. If you have a lot of luggage, you may want to catch a cab into town, which usually costs anywhere from $20 to $35, possibly more if traffic is bad.
The travel time in a cab also depends on traffic, ranging from 10 minutes (no traffic) to 45 minutes (very heavy traffic). It is also relatively easy to use public transportation (MBTA) to get into town. First, you'll take a free shuttle bus from any terminal to Airport Station on the Blue Line. From Airport Station, you can take the Blue Line downtown to State Street or Government Center, and either exit to the street or switch lines.
Boston has 3 rail centers, South Station (700 Atlantic Ave), Back Bay Station (145 Dartmouth Street), and North Station (On Causeway Street, under the TD Bank North Garden). Amtrak serves all 3 stations and, conveniently, all 3 stations are also stops on the MBTA. To get downtown from South Station, take the red line to Park Street. From Back Bay Station, take the Orange Line to Downtown Crossing. From North Station, take either the Orange Line to Downtown Crossing or the Green Line to Government Center or Park Street.
The bus is typically used by travelers coming out of small New England towns. The bus terminal is located on Atlantic Ave, next to South Station. From South Station, take the red line downtown to Park.
Getting Around Boston
Boston has a comprehensive public transportation system (the MBTA), referred to as the "T." The T is probably the best way to get around Greater Boston if you're not going too far outside the city. It consists of 4 main subway lines, Green, Red, Blue and Orange, which will get you most places you'll want to go around the city. The T also includes a system of buses, boats, and commuter rails. To use the T, you'll need to purchase a CharlieTicket or CharlieCard (both are reusable), which you can do at any subway station.
You can pay as you go, store money on the card, or purchase a daily LinkPass to load on the ticket/card. There are 2 things to remember about the T: (1) It stops running at 12:30 A.M. at most stations and shortly after at all other stations, and (2) the ticket vending machines only give change back in the form of one dollar coins. So, if you put $2 on your card and pay with a $20 bill, prepare to carry around $18 in coins. For more information, go to the MBTA website.
Cabs are also plentiful in Boston, and it's easy to hail one in most areas. It's rare that you'll need to call a cab company ahead of time if you're in the popular parts of the city. Taxis are a quicker form of transit than the T, but remember that cab fares add up fast.
Walking is, of course, another great way to get around Boston--a surprisingly small city. In fact, Boston bills itself as "America's Walking City," and walking is a lot easier than navigating a car around some of Boston's narrow, meandering, and seemingly arbitrary streets.
Boston is proudly distinguished by its diverse neighborhoods, of which there are officially 16. However, unofficially, the borders and names are less precise. Each neighborhood has its own culture and personality that you'll experience on your travels. Here's a quick guide to some of the most popular areas.
You'll often hear Boston locals refer to "downtown," however, don't be confused: there is no "midtown" or "uptown." The downtown area generally includes Boston's financial district, government buildings, and historical landmarks--the famously historic Freedom Trail tours most of "downtown." Downtown includes well-known places like the Boston Common, Faneuil Hall/Quincy Market, Downtown Crossing, Haymarket, and Government Center.
- Back Bay
Boston's "Back Bay" is the city's most affluent area. It's here you'll find high-end shopping on Newbury Street and stroll along tree-lined Commonwealth Ave. Popular tourist sites in this area include Copley Square, the Prudential Center, and the Public Library. There are also several extravagant old churches at which to marvel. At night, you'll find this area lively with classy bars and restaurants.
You guessed it, the focal point of this area is Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox. This area, bordered by Mission Hill and the Back Bay Fens, also houses several colleges and art institutions, like The Museum of Fine Arts, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Northeastern University, Boston University, and Harvard Medical School. You'll find Kenmore Square if you simply follow your eyes to the giant landmark Citgo Sign. Fenway/Kenmore has quite a college-town feel, particularly when Sox fans are sweeping Lansdowne Street.
- North End
In Boston's "Little Italy," you'll be swept away with culture and history. In this area, you'll find Old North Church, Paul Revere's house, and colonial burial grounds. However, the neighborhood is also packed with Italian restaurants and pastry shops. Although certainly not all the residents are Italian-American, you'll hear Italian spoken on the streets and discover a real appreciation of deep-rooted Italian culture.
North Station is also technically part of the North End, although it is just as close to Beacon Hill, and often included in the "downtown" area. North Station is home to the TD Garden, Boston's big sports and performance arena where the Celtics and Bruins play.
- Beacon Hill
This small area would hardly constitute a neighborhood if it weren't so distinct. Beacon Hill is a combination of very narrow streets, brick and cobblestone alleyways, and old brick Federal Style apartment houses. A mostly residential area, Beacon Hill is surrounded by Government Center, Boston Common, the Back Bay, and the Charles River.
- The South Boston Waterfront/Seaport District
This area in the upper corner of the South Boston neighborhood used to be filled with wharves and warehouses, and now is home to luxury condos, marinas, restaurants, bars, offices, and hotels. You'll also discover attractions for all ages like cruises and whale watches, The Institute of Contemporary Art, The Boston Children's Museum, and several seafood restaurants with great views of the Harbor.
There are many great options for hotels in Boston. Here are some of the best values in the most convenient locations.
Hilton Boston Back Bay This well-maintained hotel is convenient and comfortable for vacationers. It's located across from the Prudential Center complex, but quite a bit calmer than the mega-hotels attached to the Pru. The rooms are reasonably priced, with double rooms starting at $149/night; and you can expect deals on weekend packages.
The Sheraton This 29-story hotel attached to the Pru is one of the previously mentioned mega-hotels. It also offers direct access to Hynes Convention Center. In addition to a convenient location, you'll enjoy gorgeous views, a big pool, and loads of amenities. Because of its size, the Sheraton also tends to have room when other hotels are full. Of course, prepare to spend a little more, with double rooms starting at $209/night.
The MidTown Hotel It's also got the convenient location right across from the Pru, but this 2-story hotel is inexpensive and offers free parking, making it popular among families and budget-conscious travelers. The Midtown offers just the basics (the basics include an outdoor pool), but it's really unbeatable in terms of price, and some rooms have connecting doors that allow families to spread out. Double rooms start at $119/night.
InterContinental Boston Although it's quite a bit pricier, for a luxury hotel in absolutely prime location, the InterContinental is a good value. Rooms are large, bathrooms are huge, and amenities are endless. Plus, the location is close to both the Financial District and the Boston Harbor, meaning it boasts convenience AND spectacular views. Good customer service is also a highlight at this hotel, no less than you'd expect for $350/night.
Doubletree Hotel Boston Downtown As it's actually located in Chinatown with an easy walk to Downtown and Back Bay, the Doubletree is able to offer very reasonable prices. Expect high ceilings, well-designed rooms, and contemporary Asian décor. The Doubletree is connected to the YMCA of Chinatown, and as a guest your room rate includes access to the Y's facilities. Double rooms start at $129/night.
Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites, Boston GardenWith a convenient location less than 5 minutes from the Green Line, this "express" hotel offers convenience and comfort for the budget-minded vacationer. Each room has a fridge and microwave, which is good if you're planning to save money by eating some meals in. At $140/night, this hotel is perfect for the traveler who can do without on-site restaurants and exercise facilities in exchange for great location.
What to do in Boston
Day 1: Historic Boston
Attractions: Freedom Trail Walk Into History Tour, USS Constitution Cruise, USS Constitution Museum, Faneuil Hall/Quincy Market, Boston Common
Dining: Boston Common Coffee, Durgin-Park, Strega Ristorante, Mike's Pastry or Modern Pastry
9:30 A.M: Start the Day Off Right
Start off the day like a true Bostonian at Boston Common Coffee Co. in Downtown Crossing. It's a hot spot coffee shop, but it's spacious and rarely crowded or loud. There's seating for all types, including couches, bar tables, and regular tables.
Then, make your way over to the Boston Common, just a short 5-minute walk away.
11 A.M: Take a Walk on the Freedom Trail
At the Boston Common, head to the Visitor Center, located along the Tremont Street side of the Common. It's here that you'll start your guided Freedom Trail Walk into History Tour. You'll follow the legendary red-brick path around the downtown area to the most historic sites, like the State House, King's Chapel Burying Ground, and the site of the Boston Massacre. Finally, the guided portion of your tour will end at Faneuil Hall marketplace.
12:30 PM: Faneuil Hall Marketplace
At Faneuil Hall, there's plenty to do and see...and eat. If you're not hungry after the 90-minute tour, shop around or simply explore the area. You'll be sure to find several street performers, and it's a great place for photo ops. It's also the perfect place to grab a souvenir with some local flare.
When you're ready, get lunch at the Boston staple, Durgin-Park. People have been pouring into Durgin-Park since 1827, but the waits aren't usually very long if you don't mind being seated at a long table with other people (this is the traditional style and we recommend giving it a try!). Enjoy huge portions of ribs, seafood, salad, Boston-baked beans, and all the New England classics.
3:30 PM: Visiting the Charlestown Navy Yard
Give your feet a break for the afternoon while continuing to the last portion of the Freedom Trail. From Faneuil Hall, walk 5-10 minutes to Long Wharf (just walk down State Street), which will take you to "Old Ironsides" with some great site-seeing along the way, like views of Bunker Hill Monument and The Boston Tea Party Boat. Disembark at the ship and explore its interior, or check out the USS Constitution Museum, both of which are located in Charlestown Navy Yard.
In the Evening
Make your way back to the mainland and hit the North End; it's about 15 minutes in total. Walk from the Navy Yard to the bus stop at Chelsea St. & Warren St. Then hop on the 93 bus (part of the T system) and get off at the Washington St. at Medford St. Stop. Now you'll be in the corner of "Little Italy". Take a right on Causeway Street, then a right on Prince Street. Walk about a third of a mile down Prince Street, and take a left on Hanover to arrive at Strega Ristorante, your Italian dinner destination.
Optional Evening Activities
Hennesey's of Boston To experience downtown Boston's nightlife, check out the bar voted "Best Irish Bar in Boston" by Improper Bostonian magazine 5 times. Hennesey's has 2 floors, 3 bars, and a live cover band on the weekends. Its Irish pub atmosphere attracts locals and tourists alike.
Address: 25 Union St.
Boston Gondolas Enjoy a private tour of the Esplanade on authentic Venetian gondolas. Bring your own wine or champagne and Boston Gondolas will provide glasses, ice, crackers, cheese, chocolates, and blankets. The gondola tours are one of the best-kept secrets in Boston, and with your Boston Go Card you'll receive a $15-$25 savings on your tour.
Address: Charles River Esplanade, Storrow Drive.
Shear Madness This interactive, hilarious "whodunit" has been voted "Best Comedy of the Year" seven times by The Boston Globe. It's a great chance to see the best of Boston's improv scene, and you'll save $10 with your Boston Go Card.
Day 2: Coast & Culture
Attractions: Beantown Trolley Tour, New England Aquarium, Institute of Contemporary Art, Beacon Hill
Dining: Elephant & Castle, Cheers-Beacon Hill, The Daily Catch
8:00 AM: Breakfast is Served
Start out your day with breakfast at Elephant & Castle on Devonshire Street in the heart of the downtown Financial District. They serve up the best British Classics, and you can get 20% off breakfast with your Go Boston Card.
9:30 AM: Pick Up Your Tickets to the Beantown Trolley Tour
Head to Faneuil Hall to pick up your 2-day ticket for the Hop On/Hop Off Beantown Trolley Tour. It's only about a 7-minute walk. Head down Devonshire Street toward State Street, take a right on State and then a quick left on Congress St. Walk until you see Faneuil Hall on your right. Here, you'll find a red kiosk shaped like a trolley car where you can get your ticket.
10:00 AM: Visit the New England Aquarium
From here, walk once again towards the Long Wharf (down State Street), but this time your stop will be the New England Aquarium. Plan to arrive at and spend a couple of hours exploring the aquarium.
12:00 PM: Hop On!
From the Aquarium, hop on the Beantown Trolley and Enjoy your narrated city tour until you reach the Cheers stop (about halfway through the tour).
12:45 PM: Hop Off to Get Some Lunch
Enjoy 15% off your lunch at the ORIGINAL "Cheers" restaurant. After lunch, take a walk around the historic and unique Beacon Hill neighborhood.
2:30 PM: Hop On Again!
Hop back on the trolley in front of the Shaw Memorial, right on Beacon St (this is not the same stop you got off at). From Beacon Hill, the trolley will take you through the West End in a loop down to the Seaport District.
3:30 PM: Enjoy the Institute of Contemporary Art
Make your departure from the trolley when you are at the Seaport Hotel stop and walk to the Institute of Contemporary Art. Plan to spend 1-2 hours here.
In the Evening
Optional Evening Activities
Atlantic Beer Garden For the best of Boston's waterfront nightlife, head to Atlantic Beer Garden. ABG is best known for its fantastic views of the water and the Boston skyline from their rooftop patio. There's lots of space and a small dance floor, but expect it to get quite crowded; get there early if you don't want to wait in long lines.
Address: 146 Northern Ave
Bikes@Night Tour by Urban AdvenTours Although it starts in the North End, this relaxing and fun ride focuses on Boston's beautiful waterfront as the sun goes down and the lights come on. It's about a 2 hour tour and all levels of bikers are welcomed. Plus, get a discount on the tour with your Go Boston Card.
Address: The North End along Columbus Park
Day 3: Back Bay, Fenway, Cambridge
Attractions: Beantown Trolley, Fenway Park Tour, MIT Museum, Newbury Street, Prudential Center, Copley Square
Dining: Croissant du Jour, Cask n' Flagon, Emma's Pizzeria
8:00 AM: Good Morning!
Start your morning bright and early in the Back Bay with breakfast at Croissant du Jour on St. James Street. It offers fast service, good seating, and fair prices; plus, it's close to your next stop: Newbury Street!
9:00 AM: Walk Along Newbury Street
After breakfast, cross over to Newbury, and start making your way down the street that is one of the best-known shopping destinations in the nation. You'll find everything from local souvenir shops to world-renowned high-end boutiques.
11:00 AM: All Aboard the Beantown Trolley!
When you reach Copley Square, hop back on the Beantown Trolley. The trolley will first take you past the Prudential Center, where you can either get off and shop some more or stay on until you get to Fenway Park.
12:00 PM: Are You a Baseball Fan?
Take a tour of Fenway Park, the oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball. The tour will last about an hour and brings you atop the Green Monster, into the dugout, and up to the press box.
1:30 PM: Let's Do Lunch
Eat lunch like a true Sox fan at the Cask n' Flagon at the corner of Lansdowne Street and Brookline Ave. It's right outside the park and a classic Boston restaurant and bar.
3:00 PM: Cambridge Bound
Hop back on the Beantown Trolley and ride over the lovely Charles River to Boston's sister city, Cambridge. Get off at the Kendall/MIT Stop. From Kendall, it's about a 15 minute walk to the MIT Museum. Start out walking down Portland St. toward Main St.
3:30 PM: MIT Museum, Anyone?
Arrive at the MIT Museum and discover Boston's technical side with the latest in innovation and science at the museum of one of the nation's most distinguished colleges.
In the Evening
Sit down for dinner at Emma's Pizzeria on Hampshire Street, back towards the Kendall MIT Stop. Emma's serves delicious thin crust pizza at a reasonable price and boasts quick service. Plus, its convenient location near Kendall Station means you can hop back on the T and either head back downtown or check out Harvard Square.
Optional Evening Activities:
Kendall Square Cinema Catch a flick at this unique, independent theater. Kendall's beloved cinema features intriguing independent films, foreign language films, restored classics, and documentaries. It's also noted for its architectural design and considered one of Boston's cultural epicenters.
Address: One Kendall Square, Cambridge
The Middle East This Cambridge restaurant and nightclub features 3 live-music performance rooms, 2 family-style restaurants with full-service bars, and an elegant restaurant named ZuZu. It's a great place to grab a drink while enjoying some great local music. You'll definitely get the full Cambridge experience with staff and customers that are an international mix of musicians, students, townspeople, and professionals.
Address: 472/480 Mass Ave., Cambridge
The Comedy Studio The Comedy Studio (located about the Hong Kong Restaurant) offers innovative comedy shows every Wednesday thru Sunday night, starting at 8 p.m. The Comedy Studio offers a casual, open atmosphere for sharing food and drinks. They are particularly known for their Scorpion Bowls, and a full Chinese food menu is available downstairs.
Address: 1236 Mass Ave. Cambridge
Burdick Café If you have a sweet tooth, Burdick chocolate is what you want. Burdick serves a variety of tasty pastries, candies, and drinks. The hot chocolate drinks are made with melted shaved chocolate and are simply "to die for" (and they can be served cold, too!). Burdick is Harvard Square's best spot to grab a sweet treat or drink.
Address: 52 Brattle Street, Cambridge
Buy Now & Save!
With this 3-day itinerary, you'll pay less than the gate prices for the top Boston attractions. Plus, you'll get great discounts on meals and activities with your Go Boston Card. Your Go Boston Card will include admission into all 70 of our Boston attractions, so feel free to alter our itinerary to meet your needs.