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Boston See And Do

Boston Common and Public Garden
www.cityofboston.gov/freedomtrail/bostoncommon.asp

City-center Boston Common is the nation's oldest public park. Cattle grazed here between 1634 and 1830, but today, the rolling green hills and bench-lined paths—which are being spruced up in an ongoing renovation—are populated with sunning and strolling Bostonians of every stripe. Kids frolic in the fountain of the shallow Frog Pond during the summer; in winter it becomes a picturesque ice-skating rink. The adjacent Public Garden is more formally landscaped, with flower plantings, a statue of George Washington on horseback, and a pond where the famous pedal-powered Swan Boats operate from mid-April through mid-September. It's one of America's most scenic public places. A beloved bronze sculpture of baby ducks on parade is in the northeast corner of the park, inspired by Robert McCloskey's children's classic, Make Way for Ducklings. Both parks are good places for a picnic lunch. Cute sandwich shops line Charles Street; local favorite Finagle-a-Bagel is directly across from Boston Common (129 Tremont St.; 617-426-3300), Chacarero, in Downtown Crossing, serves up Chilean sandwiches of chicken or beef with Muenster cheese, string beans, tomato, avocado spread, and hot sauce (426 Washington St.; 617-542-0392; closed weekends), and

Boston Harbor Islands
Long Wharf
Boston , Massachusetts
02110
Tel: 617 223 8666
www.bostonislands.org

Just a seven-mile ferryboat ride across the Boston Harbor, this little-known national park makes a great day trip on a sunny summer day. The park extends to 34 islands, 6 of which are accessible to visitors. The extraordinarily well-preserved Fort Warren on Georges Island was built in 1833, and served as a military training ground and a Civil War prison. Nature lovers will enjoy Grape Island, which has a multitude of shorebirds and berry bushes—all within sight of the Boston skyline. Ferries depart from Long Wharf in front of Christopher Columbus Park and run between Georges, Lovells, and Spectacle islands; interisland ferries shuttle to Grape, Bumpkin, and Peddocks islands. The schedules vary depending on the season and the day of the week; be sure to check the schedule online in advance). And pack a picnic lunch, as food options on the islands are slim (just hot dogs, subs, and sodas on Spectacle and Georges).—updated by Jon Marcus

Early May—early October, with occasional special events off season.

Boston Public Library
700 Boylston Street
Copley Square
Boston , Massachusetts
02116
Tel: 617 536 5400
www.bpl.org

The Boston Public Library is a destination in itself, and not just for bookworms. Charles Follen McKim designed the original building (check out where the stonemasons ran out of room to chisel "Shakespeare" among the names of the literary greats inscribed on the facade), and the addition is courtesy of Philip Johnson. Inside is art by Augustus and Louis Saint-Gaudens, Lincoln Memorial sculptor Daniel Chester French, John Singleton Copley, Winslow Homer, James Abbott McNeil Whistler, John James Audubon, Rembrandt, Goya, Picasso, Toulouse-Lautrec, Rockwell Kent, and Alfred Stieglitz. There are also murals, including John Singer Sargent's Judaism and Christianity, a depiction of the development of world religions, which Sargent considered his greatest achievement, and The Quest of the Holy Grail, by Edwin Austin Abbey, with 150 life-size figures illustrating the legends of King Arthur. In its research room, the library exhibits some of its rare book holdings, which include Shakespeare first folios and the personal papers of presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams. Free art and architecture guided tours meet in the lobby of the McKim Building: Check the Web site for times.—Jon Marcus

Open Mondays through Thursdays 9 am to 9 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 9 am to 5 pm, Sundays 1 to 5 pm.

Boston Red Sox / Fenway Park
4 Yawkey Way
Kenmore Square
Boston , Massachusetts
02215
Tel: 877 733 7699 (toll-free)
Tel: 617 226 6000
www.redsox.com

Even Yankees fans have to admit that there's something special about seeing a ball game at Fenway Park. First opened in 1912, it's one of the smallest stadiums in the major leagues, and it's always packed (every game has been sold out since May 15, 2003) with fans eagerly awaiting a home-team hit over the Green Monster, the 37-foot-high left-field wall. (The seats on top of the Green Monster are particularly coveted.) Sellouts or not, you can still get face-value tickets on game day—300 are set aside for every game and are sold beginning two and a half hours before the first pitch at the little-noticed Gate C ticket window on Lansdowne Street. Or you could pay a huge surcharge to one of the ticket brokers with storefronts in the neighborhood. If you still can't score seats for love or money (or because the Yankees are in town), you can take a guided tour of the ballpark, including the press box, the dugout, the graffiti left by players inside the Green Monster, and the exact spot (Section 42, Row 37, Seat 21) where Ted Williams' record home run touched down. The whole Fenway experience is steeped in tradition, from the manual scoreboard to the organ to the Boston-accented hecklers. Grab a sausage-and-pepper sandwich outside the park before or after. Remember, Massachusetts liquor laws are strict: Beer vendors do not wander the stands, so you'll have to buy your overpriced beer at the beer stands underneath the seats. And bring ID, even if you haven't needed it in years.—updated by Jon Marcus

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Boston Symphony Orchestra
Symphony Hall
301 Massachusetts Avenue
Boston , Massachusetts
02115
Tel: 617 266 1492 (for information)
Tel: 617 266 1200 (for tickets)
www.bso.org

Bostonians display a similar devotion to the Boston Symphony Orchestra as they do to their beloved Red Sox. One of the finest orchestras in the world, the BSO presents some 30 programs each season (September through early May) in the elegant Symphony Hall, which has some of the world's best acoustics. Tickets to sit in on rehearsals for sold-out performances are available online, at the box office, and by phone; it's open seating, and every man for himself, however, so look out for the little old ladies with walkers. During the summer, the symphony decamps to Tanglewood, its home in the Berkshires. In spring and early summer, the Pops presents more contemporary, popular tunes both at Symphony Hall and at the outdoor Hatch Shell on the Esplanade along the river in Back Bay. The Fourth of July program is a Boston (and American) tradition.—updated by Jon Marcus

Cambridge, Harvard University, and MIT
www.cambridge-usa.org

Billing itself as "Boston's Left Bank," Cambridge is an academic center, a technological corridor, and a vibrant, multicultural city located just across the Charles River from Boston. It's easily reachable on the T or by foot across one of the several bridges, and you'd do well to set aside an entire day to explore it properly. In Harvard Square, street musicians compete for attention with socialists handing out literature. Purists complain that it's become too commercial and there are too many chain restaurants and shops (and it's true, you'll find the usual Gaps and Pizzeria Unos), but it's still a great place for strolling and people-watching with an ice cream cone from Herrell's (15 Dunster St.; 617-497-2179). South of Harvard along Mass. Ave. (only tourists call it Massachusetts Avenue), Central Square is a corridor of ethnic restaurants, bars, clubs, and shops with a funkier, edgier feel, such as the Middle East music venue and the1369 Coffee House (1369 Cambridge St. in Inman Square, 617-576-1369, and 757 Mass. Ave. in Central Square, 617-576-4600,). At Harvard University, get your bearings at Harvard Information Center, located in the Holyoke Center arcade (1350 Mass. Ave.; 617-495-1573), then walk around Harvard Yard to admire the centuries-old academic and residential buildings. There are three art museums to choose from: American and European works at the Fogg (32 Quincy St.; 617-495-9400), art from German-speaking countries of northern and central Europe at the Busch-Reisinger Museum (32 Quincy St.; 617-495-9400), and Asian, Islamic, and Indian art at the Sackler (485 Broadway; 617-495-9400). Even non–science types will be impressed by the Harvard Museum of Natural History, home to the intricate Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants, commonly known as "the glass flowers." It includes more than 830 species that were created as early as 1886 for botany students to study (26 Oxford St.; 617-495-3045). Across the street from Harvard Yard, the Sanders Theatre presents concerts (from folk to classical music) and public lectures. First used in 1876, this all-wooden space evokes old English academia, and is prized for its acoustics (45 Quincy St.; 617-496-2222). Farther downriver, MIT has a museum, too, which details some of the technological breakthroughs and geeky pranks of that university's rich history (265 Mass. Ave.; 617-253-5927); some cutting-edge architecture to admire, by the likes of Frank Gehry (the Ray and Maria Stata Center on Vassar Street); and world-class art by Pablo Picasso, Louise Nevelson, Alexander Calder, and others. Pick up a guide, or arrange a guided tour, at the List Visual Arts Center (20 Ames St., Building E15; 617-253-4680).—updated by Jon Marcus

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deCordova Museum and Sculpture Park
51 Sandy Pond Road
Lincoln , Massachusetts
01773
Tel: 781 259 8355
www.decordova.org

More popular with locals than tourists, the deCordova is off the beaten track by virtue of its location, about 16 miles west of Boston, in the picturesque town of Lincoln. The experience is well worth renting a car for the day. Set in a converted mansion overlooking woods and a large lake, the museum focuses on contemporary art, much of it by New England artists. But the real fun here is the sculpture park: 35 acres of rolling hills and wooded areas, populated by about 80 contemporary sculptures. You (and any kids you happen to be toting) will enjoy the time outdoors while taking in a little culture, too. Don't miss Jim Dine's Two Big Black Hearts: two huge bronze hearts with the artist's handprints and various tools, such as hammers and garden clippers, cast into them. If renting a car isn't an option, you can access the museum by taking the MBTA commuter rail (Purple Line) from Boston's North Station to Lincoln and then a taxi (see the Web site for details). And since you're in the neighborhood, you might want to swing by nearby Walden Pond, where Henry David Thoreau wrote Walden.

Museum building open Tuesdays through Sundays 10 am to 5 pm; sculpture park open daily from dawn to dusk.

Freedom Trail
Boston Common Visitor Center
148 Tremont Street
Boston , Massachussetts
02111
Tel: 617 357 8300
www.TheFreedomTrail.org

Winding around 16 historical sites, the two-and-a-half-mile Freedom Trail is a good introduction to Boston history—and also to the city's sometimes complicated geography. Pick up a map at the visitor's center on Tremont Street at the edge of Boston Common and walk along the red line on the ground (it's sometimes painted, sometimes lined in brick). While it's possible to walk the trail in an hour or two, leave time to stop along the way. You'll pass the graves of John Hancock, Samuel Adams, and Ben Franklin's parents at the Granary Burying Ground; Boston's first meeting house, Faneuil Hall, which hosted debates about the Sugar Tax of 1764 and the Stamp Act of 1765—note the distinctive grasshopper weather vane on the top of the building, and don't miss the little-known military museum in the attic (4 South Market Building; 617-523-1300)—and the Paul Revere House. Dating to 1680, it's the oldest building still standing in downtown Boston, and a good example of Colonial-era architecture, though it's been used for so many purposes since Revere lived there (including, at one point, a cigar factory), and it really doesn't look much like it did then (19 North Sq.; 617-523-2338). As immortalized by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in his poem "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere," two lanterns (as in "two if by sea") were hung in the belfry tower of the Old North Church to signal the landing of the British in 1775. It's a lovely building, though you cannot climb the tower (193 Salem St.; 671-523-6676). Launched in 1797, the U.S.S. Constitution is the oldest commissioned warship in the world that's still afloat. U.S. Navy sailors take you below deck to explain what life was like for early-19th-century seamen, and there's also a World War II destroyer, the U.S.S. Cassin Young, berthed nearby (1 Constitution Rd.; 617-242-7511). Both are free.—updated by Jon Marcus

Guided tours are available daily between April and mid-November. Specialty tours, such as a historic pub crawl, are held the rest of the year. Tickets can be purchased online.

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Institute of Contemporary Art
100 Northern Avenue
Boston , Massachusetts
02210
Tel: 617 478 3100
www.icaboston.org

Founded in 1936, the ICA showcases work by the likes of Nan Goldin, Mona Hatoum, Paul Chan, and Julian Opie (major exhibitions rotate three times per year). But it's the institute's new building, a cantilevered structure by New York–based architecture firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro, opened in 2006, that's really special here. Large wooden terraces overlooking the harbor seem like a giant's staircase leading into the museum, though the main entrance is actually on the opposite side of the building. In summer, the steps serve as an amphitheater for free waterside concerts and performances. Inside are white-on-white galleries, a glass elevator the size of a small hotel room, and a glass-enclosed theater—curtains lower to block natural light from flooding in when necessary. The most dramatic space, however, is the Poss Family Mediatheque. Suspended from the main cantilever at a 45-degree angle, its inclined window frames the water with no land or sky in view, making you feel as if you're about to fall in.

Open Tuesdays and Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays 10 am to 5 pm; Thursdays and Fridays 10 am to 9 pm (free after 5 pm).

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
280 The Fenway
Boston , Massachusetts
02115
Tel: 617 566 1401
www.gardnermuseum.org

Isabella Stewart Gardner was an heiress and something of a black sheep of late-19th- and early-20th-century Boston society: She was a rabid Red Sox and horse-racing fan. Tapping into a $1.75 million inheritance from her father (a linen merchant) and husband (a financier and heir to a shipping fortune himself), Gardner personally designed this four-story building, modeled on a Venetian palazzo, to house her extensive collection of art and antiquities. The exhibits include paintings by Manet, Sargent, Holbein, Whistler, Rembrandt, Matisse, Michelangelo, and Titian; 15th-century Flemish tapestries; a first edition of Dante's Divine Comedy; and inscrutable documents—look for the one signed by Marie Antoinette. A visit to the museum is like meandering through the attic of a wealthy, if eccentric, old aunt. Mrs. Gardner believed that art should be appreciated on its own merits, so almost nothing is labeled, though some rooms have laminated information cards that fill in the blanks (and some have blank spaces on the walls where masterpieces hung until they were stolen in one of the greatest art heists in American history). The indoor garden courtyard, filled with citrus trees, orchids, and seasonal plantings, is as impressive as the collection—and there's an explanatory book about it that you can pick up at the information desk. If your name is "Isabella," you will be admitted free, and there's a discount if you have visited the nearby Museum of Fine Arts within a two-day period. (Bring your ticket stub.)—updated by Jon Marcus

Open Tuesdays through Sundays 11 am to 5 pm.

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John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum
Columbia Point
Boston , Massachusetts
02125
Tel: 866 535 1960
www.jfklibrary.org

The JFK Library, which opened in 1979 in an I.M. Pei–designed building, is dedicated to the study of the 35th president's life and work, and houses his presidential papers and a museum. Start with a film chronicling JFK's life until the 1960 campaign season, then work your way through exhibits of campaign memorabilia (signs, buttons, and TV ads); video of the Kennedy–Nixon debates; correspondence between family members; and photos of the Kennedys at Hyannisport. It's great for history buffs, but be aware that getting there without a car is a bit of a schlep (on the T's Red Line, then a free shuttle bus); leave about 30 minutes each way. The museum, ringed by a pleasant harborside walking trail, is located adjacent to the University of Massachusetts Boston campus and steps away from the Commonwealth Museum of Massachusetts history, where you'll find original royal charters, John Adams's Massachusetts state constitution, and the copper plates from which Paul Revere engraved his famous etching of the Boston Massacre (220 Morrissey Blvd.; 617-727-9268).—updated by Jon Marcus

Open daily 9 am to 5 pm.

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Museum of Fine Arts
465 Huntington Avenue
Boston , Massachusetts
02115
Tel: 617 267 9300
www.mfa.org

One of America's grandest art museums, the MFA holds American and European paintings from the 7th century to the present (Sargent, O'Keefe, and Monet are well-represented); sizable collections of African, Egyptian, and Near Eastern artifacts; and one of the most highly regarded collections of Asian art in the Western world. The collection is housed in an 1909 neoclassical building and two critically acclaimed additions: the Art of the Americas Wing, by British architect Norman Foster, and the Linde Family Wing of contemporary art. Make a day of it; the MFA has excellent restaurants, innovative special exhibits, and a peaceful courtyard. The museum is free on Wednesdays after 4 pm (though you'll still get hit up for a donation), and paid admission entitles you to come back for free one time within a 10-day period. —updated by Jon Marcus

Open daily 10 am to 4:45 pm; the West Wing and select galleries stay open until 9:45 pm Wednesdays through Fridays.

Museum of Science
Science Park
Boston , Massachusetts
02114
Tel: 617 723 2500
www.mos.org

At the mouth of the Charles River, with views of the Boston skyline, the Museum of Science is crowded with hands-on exhibits that demonstrate everything from biology to computers to physics. Kids can determine how much sugar is in a bottle of Coca-Cola, measure the volume of their lungs, and investigate the mysteries of lightning with the world's largest Van de Graaff generator. (That one's a blast for adults, too.) There's also an adorable troupe of live cotton-top tamarin monkeys who live here to help the museum staff study evolution, a planetarium that was renovated and reopened in 2011, and an Omnimax theater that shows science- and technology-oriented films, such as Galápagos. Volunteers roam the building on Segways to dole out information. The Butterfly Garden, a humid greenhouse opened in 2005, flutters with about 100 butterflies (monarchs, owl butterflies, and bamboo pages) and features exotic plants, like the Stachytarpheta (or Blue Rat's Tail). In a city as high-tech as this one, the museum falls surprisingly short of being cutting edge, and some of the exhibits are worn. Nonetheless, it's generally mobbed by school groups on weekdays and herds of suburban families on weekends (a huge parking deck sits next to the building to accommodate them). Visit on a Friday evening after 5 pm to avoid the crowds.—updated by Jon Marcus

Open daily 9 am to 5 pm (until 9 pm on Fridays). Summer hours, between July 5 and Labor Day, 9 am to 7 pm (until 9 pm on Fridays).

New England Aquarium
Central Wharf
Boston , Massachusetts
02110
Tel: 617 973 5200
www.neaq.org

Located right on Boston Harbor on Central Wharf, the New England Aquarium is home to animals from both the Northeast and around the world. Atlantic harbor seals greet guests from an outdoor habitat, and 3 of the 17 penguin species are represented here—you can use a beam of light to encourage them to play in the water, or show up at 9 am or 2:30 pm for feeding time. There are exhibits on local ecosystems, such as the Boston Harbor Islands, but the centerpiece of the building is the 200,000-gallon Giant Ocean Tank. Start at the top and wind down the ramp to view Murtle the Turtle, a 550-pound Atlantic green turtle, as well as schools of fish, sharks, and rays that rub right up against the glass. The largest IMAX theater in New England, which screens 3-D movies such as Deep Sea 3D (narrated by Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet), is housed in an adjacent building. Between April and October, the aquarium hosts whale-watching tours that last three to four hours; book in advance online.

Open Mondays through Fridays 9 am to 5 pm, Saturdays and Sundays 9 am to 6 pm. Summer hours, between July 1 and Labor Day, Sundays through Thursdays 9 am to 6 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 9 am to 7 pm.

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.