Things to Do in Boston in Summer 2017 – Attractions, Activities & More

Summertime really makes the city of Boston seem to come alive. The streets are bustling with locals and visitors alike, as they make the most of the sunshine before sweater weather returns.

If you’re planning a visit and looking for things to do in Boston in the summer 2017, check out our list of the top attractions and activities going on this year, including…

  • Boston Duck Tours
  • Whale Watching Cruise
  • Fenway Park Tour
  • Bike along the Charles River Esplanade
  • and more…

Heading to the area to celebrate Independence Day? Then check out our post on things to do in Boston 4th of July Weekend.

Oh and here are a few fun things to do in Boston Labor Day Weekend, if you’re around town then.

Save on Summertime Activities

Regular admission to a number of these attractions are available on the Go Boston Card.

Choose as you go from popular attractions and save up to 55% on combined admission vs paying at the gate.

Check out all Boston tourist passes, attractions and prices.

Please note, some of these special Summer events may be separately ticketed and not available on the Go Boston Card.

Note: the below ads are not affiliated with SmartDestinations.com

Boston Duck Tours

Boston-Duck-Tour-Bonus-4-newYou might have seen members of the Celtics, Bruins, Patriots or Red Sox riding on them on TV, but the experience of going on a Duck Boat isn’t just reserved for professional athletes.

The Boston Duck Tour is probably my number one recommendation for things to do in Boston in the summer.

The tour will take you on a guided ride across land and water that sometimes goes past top tourist locations like Trinity Church, the Hancock Tower, the Boston Common, the Holocaust Memorial, the Boston Public Garden and even “Cheers.”

Check out our guide for tips for taking a Boston Duck Tour.

Getting In: Boston Duck Tour tickets are available as a premium attraction option with the 3-, 5-, and 7-Day Go Boston Cards.

Fenway Park Tour & Ball Game

Fenway-Park-Tour-1No summer trip to Boston would be complete without a trip to “America’s Most Beloved Ballpark” – Fenway Park.

You’ll be hard-pressed to find another park in the country that is ingrained into a city as much as Friendly Fenway is into Boston (Wrigley Field in Chicago comes close, though).

We suggest taking a behind the scenes Fenway Park Tour. The tour take about an hour and tickets are available for day of only on a first-come, first-served basis and are subject to availability.

During the walking tour, an experienced tour guide will bring you onto the field that Ted Williams, Carlton Fisk, Jim Rice, and Pedro Martinez called home.

You can also opt to snag tickets to a game – what’s better summer fun than a leisurely afternoon spent watching baseball with a beer in hand?

Getting In: Boston Red Sox Game tickets (to select games only) are available as a premium attraction option with the 3-, 5-, and 7-Day Go Boston Cards. Fenway Park Tour tickets are included with the Go Boston Card.

Whale Watching Cruise

new-england-aquarium-whale-watchHop aboard a waterborne adventure with a New England Aquarium Whale Watch, featuring a tour of the Boston Harbor and the chance to see the area’s incredible marine wildlife in their natural habitat.

You’ll sail out to Stellwagen Bank Marine Sanctuary, a feeding ground for all sorts of marine creatures. Your expert guides will tell you all about the natural history of this area and the habits of the critters that come here to feed.

Be on the lookout for humpback whales, finback whales, minke whales, and white-sided dolphins as you cruise in the comfort of a high-speed catamaran.

Getting In: New England Aquarium Whale Watch tickets are available as a premium attraction option with the 3-, 5-, and 7-Day Go Boston Cards.

Roam the Boston Public Garden

The-Swan-Boats-of-Boston-1If you’d prefer something a little less active to do in Boston, head to the Public Garden – the first public botanical garden in the United States – to see the early summer flowers in full bloom.

The ornately landscaped Public Garden is known for its iconic Swan Boats, unique vessels with over a hundred years of history. Enjoy a ride around the pond, and make sure to bring your camera.

Exclusively available once the weather warms up, the historic Swan Boats are among the most iconic sites in the city. Hidden in the ponds of Boston’s gorgeous public gardens, the traditional Swan Boats date back to the 1870s.

Still run by the original owner’s descendants more than 130 years later, the Swan Boats provide a relaxing, historic Boston experience!

Getting In: The Boston Public Garden is free to explore. Swan Boat tickets are included with the Go Boston Card.

The Freedom Walking Trail

IMG_1373Break out your walking shoes! The Freedom Trail is a 2.5 mile trek marked by a line of red brick that guides you around the city.

The trail begins in the Boston Common, right near the Public Gardens, and takes you to many historic locations and destinations. It’s easy to follow, and you can stop at any time if you get tired or want to wander elsewhere.

If you opt for a guided Freedom Trail Walking tour, you’ll be treated to informative narration about 16 historically significant sights. Keep an eye out for markers that feature information about the American Revolution and historical significance of each stop.

In advance, you should also be sure to download a helpful map and list of the stops.

Getting In: Freedom Trail Walking Tour tickets are included with the Go Boston Card.

Boston Harbor Cruises

boston-harbor-brunch-cruisesThe summer sun draws Bostonians to the harbor, where the piers are teeming with activity.

Embark on a tasty harbor brunch cruise by Boston Harbor Cruises as you enjoy a fresh and diverse menu.

There’s always time for a little romance on your vacation. Embark on a spectacular sunset cruise of Boston to experience the illustrious Boston Harbor at its most alluring.

Feel the breeze and smell the salty sea air as you take in unparalleled views of the Boston skyline. Three spacious outdoor and indoor decks provide you with plenty of climate options, as well as your ideal vantage point.

Boston is a maritime city, so a trip to Beantown just isn’t complete until you take to the seas!

Getting In: Boston Sunset Cruise tickets are available on the Build Your Own Pass. Additional harbor cruises are separately ticketed and are not included on the pass.

Franklin Park

Giraffes at the Franklin Park zoo; image copyright Franklin Park Zoo.

Giraffes at the Franklin Park Zoo; image copyright Franklin Park Zoo.

Although it’s not quite as famous as the Boston Common, Franklin Park is another marvelous green space in Boston that’s not to be left out of any outdoor activities.

Picnic, stroll, run, or even just lounge on their beautiful lawns. There’s also a nice golf course, for those who enjoy the game. Don’t forget about a visit to the local favorite Franklin Park Zoo!

This family-friendly zoo is perfect for the little ones in your group, featuring a variety of exotic animals in several different authentic environments. They also host frequent special programming, so check their events schedule before you visit to see what’s on.

Getting In: Franklin Park Zoo tickets are included with the Go Boston Card.

Bike Rides

bike-rentals-bostonBicycling is a big part of Boston culture, and though the fiercest among us are out on two wheels year round, the spring and summer months are when the fair weather bicyclists take to the roads and paths.

No bike? No problem. A bike rental from Urban AdvenTours is all you need to join the crowd of cyclists that ride along the Charles each day in the summer.

As one of the country’s most bike-able cities, you’ll find paved bike trails on the Esplanade that will take you all along the waterfront, trails in the parks, and well-established bike lanes on the roads – so you can ride feeling secure.

Urban AvenTours will provide you with a bike lock, helmet, and a map of the popular Boston bike routes. See Boston’s historical buildings, gardens, and modern vistas!

Getting In: Boston Bike Rentals are included with the Go Boston Card.

Museum of Science

A view of the Charles River & the Museum of Science.

A view of the Charles River & the Museum of Science.

In the evening, turn your eyes to the sky to experience “Astronomy After Hours” at the Museum of Science on Friday nights.

The Museum’s best-kept secret is the Gilliland Observatory on top of the Museum’s parking garage.

This free-admission public event is one of the most unique Boston attractions, featuring a view that’s hard to get anywhere else in the city.

If you want to visit the museum during the day to see their full scope of exhibits and offerings, there is more than enough to keep visitors of all ages occupied. Don’t miss their landmark exhibit, the Hall of Human Life!

Getting In: Regular Boston Museum of Science tickets are included with the Go Boston Card. Astronomy After Hours is free.

Museum of Fine Arts

BOS MFA (4)If you’re more interested in the arts, there’s no better place in the country than the Museum of Fine Arts.

This prestigious institution specializes in American art, both modern and classical, including American craftwork, furniture, and portraiture.

This is not, of course, to devalue their fine and extensive collection of European and World art.

Don’t miss out on this summer’s special exhibitions, featuring everything from “Matisse in the Studio” to Indian art and contemporary installations.

Getting In: Museum of Fine Arts tickets are included with the Go Boston Card.

New England Aquarium

New England Aquarium Plaza, Central Wharf, Boston, Mass. - Credit: New England Aquarium

New England Aquarium Plaza, Central Wharf, Boston, Mass. – Credit: New England Aquarium

If you love the idea of communing with nature but aren’t sure a whale watch is right for you (or, if you couldn’t get enough of the whales on your whale watch), head to the famous New England Aquarium, where you’ll find maritime critters from around the world.

Be sure to scope out their famous colony of penguins, the exciting touch tank exhibit, their collection of Pacific ocean life, and exhibits featuring their conservation and rehabilitation efforts.

Set along the harbor, enjoy a post-aquarium stroll on the pier and watch the sailboats and ships pass by.

Getting In: New England Aquarium tickets are included with the Go Boston Card.

The Charles River Esplanade

Charles-Riverboat-Cruise-4The Esplanade runs for a 3 mile stretch along the Charles River between Boston Museum of Science and the Boston University Bridge.

Here you will find swing sets, sailboats, sculptures, and more! During July and August “Friday Flicks” are held every Friday night with a free (kid-friendly) movie you can watch on the grass. The movies start when the sun goes down, usually between 8-8:30.

This waterfront park is very popular in the summertime and is one of the most beautiful places to walk and see views of the city.

Insider tip: Walk across the Boston University Bridge near sunset for amazing photos of the city!

Getting In: It’s free to stroll the Esplanade.

Faneuil Hall

quincy-market-bostonYou could easily spend the day wandering around Faneuil Hall. There’s always something to see in this area of town during the warmer months, and it’s simply perfect for people-watching.

Whether it’s the  shopping, historic bars, or tasty restaurants, Faneuil Hall is one of the most popular places to visit.

You will find street performers, festival-style jugglers, and musicians all competing for attention and small change.

There are also a number of souvenir shops, restaurants, and outlet shopping as well.

Those who love the historical side of Boston will want to know that this site has been a marketplace and meeting hall since 1742!

Getting In: It’s free to visit Faneuil Hall.

SoWa Sunday Vintage Markets

IMG_1581Sundays are the best days to find outdoor festivals, markets, and activities happening during the summer months, and we Bostonians take full advantage of the warm weather.

At the SoWa markets, you’ll get to browse offerings from dozens of local vendors. The market is organized into 3 sections. First up are the handmade craft stands, featuring everything from one-of-a-kind paintings to Boston-themed home goods.

You’ll also find produce and food stands from local farmers and artisans where visitors can sample gourmet foods, stock up on fresh produce, and more. Don’t forget about the food trucks from some of the best local eateries.

Insider tip: The food trucks have become very popular so we recommend going before noon to avoid waiting in line, but either way, it’s worth the wait!

Getting In: SoWa Markets are free to attend.

Boston Harborfest

Downtown & Waterfront
July 1 – July 4, 2017

Boston Haborfest 1

Held as one of the many 4th of July events in the Boston area, Boston Harborfest is a local tradition.

Designed to highlight Boston’s rich history, this festival features attractions, reenactments, and tours that emphasize the city’s colonial and maritime history.

This year’s events include Revolutionary War-era re-enactments, walking tours, displays by U.S. naval ships, concerts, cruises, museum exhibits, and more.

Getting In: Most Boston Harborfest events are free or come at a modest cost. They are separately ticketed and are not included with the Go Boston Card.

Boston Scooper Bowl Ice Cream Fest

City Hall Plaza
June 7 – 9, 2017

This uniquely Boston event offers locals and visitors alike the chance to consume as much ice cream as they’d like. And it’s for charity!  (Proceeds go to benefit the Jimmy Fund at Dana Farber). What’s not to love?

After you’ve finished, you can also cast your vote for the best flavor out of 30 odd options. Plus, there’s nothing that says you can’t go back on every day of the event!

Getting In: All-you-can-eat tickets at the Scooper Bowl are separately priced and are not included with the Go Boston Card.

Dragon Boat Festival

Charles River
June 10 – 11, 2017

If you’re looking to explore a little bit of Boston’s multicultural side, then a trip to the iconic Dragon Boat Festival is a must.

This is actually the longest running dragon boat race in North America, so you know there’s some serious competitiveness going on.

Trials occur on Saturday, and races will take place on Sunday. Visitors can also enjoy Asian arts & crafts, dance performances, martial arts demonstrations, and more at the festival on Sunday.

Insider tip: Watch the races from the Cambridge side of the river, because that’s where the festival part takes place.

Getting In: The Dragon Boat Festival is free to attend.

Newport Folk Festival

Fort Adams State Park, Newport, RI
July 28 – July 30, 2017

This perennial favorite festival is actually a bit outside of the immediate Boston area, but it’s well worth the trek.

This year’s lineup promises to be better than ever, featuring folk legends and modern favorites from Fleet Foxes and Wilco to Regina Spektor and John Prine.

You’ll also find beer, cider, and wine gardens, available for the 21+ crowd. Bring a little extra cash for the merchandise tents, too, if you’re interested in some souvenirs or t-shirts from your favorite bands or the festival itself.

Getting In: The Newport Folk Festival is separately ticketed and is not included with the Go Boston Card.

Let’s Recap

So there you have it. Our picks for some of the top things to do in Boston in the summer.

While we’ve briefed you with a pretty extensive list, there are many more Boston attractions and popular events in the summer months.

Please note, the summer events taking place at some of these attractions may be separately ticketed and not included with the Go Boston Card.

Plan to visit some of these top attractions during your trip. Whether you are traveling with your family or a couple of friends, we’re sure you will have a great time.

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