Boston Battle Ship

One Day In Boston: Best Things To See And Do In 24 Hours

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One of the most legendary and historic cities in the United States is Boston. Knowing what to see and do with so much to choose from can be challenging if you don’t have much time.

We only had one day in Boston ourselves, so we know how overwhelming it can feel. But you can realistically hit up a lot of the top spots, even with such a short window of time.

One Day In Boston: Best Things To See and Do

The Freedom Trail

The Freedom Trail is a 2.5-mile (4 km) path through downtown Boston. It passes by 16 historically significant sites related to the American Revolution and the nation’s founding.

the freedom trail emblem on the ground in boston

You can begin your journey at any point along the route, but most start at Boston Common. We are actually going to suggest you start at the “end point” with Bunker Hill. It flows better for our itinerary as you will be close to the activities we are recommending for the evening.

Along the walk, you will follow the red-lined path and seals to iconic landmarks like the State House, Faneuil Hall, and the Old North Church. During the tour, you will learn about the brave men and women who fought for independence and helped to shape the course of American history.

The Freedom Trail is one of Boston’s most popular tourist attractions and provides a great way to explore the city’s rich past.

We will highlight several of our favorite stops along the way coming up next. Most of your day will be spent along the freedom trail and seeing what it offers.

Want a guided tour-Book your Freedom Trail small group tour


Bunker Hill Monument

The Bunker Hill Monument is a granite obelisk that towers over Boston’s Charlestown neighborhood. The monument honors the Battle of Bunker Hill, which took place onJune 17, 1775.

bunker hill monument is the first stop on our one day in boston tour

The battle was a significant early victory for the Patriot forces during the American Revolutionary War. Although the Patriots ultimately lost the fight, it served as a rallying point for the young nation and helped to bolster morale among the troops.

Standing 221 feet (67.4 m) tall, the monument is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Boston. The 294 steps to the top offer magnificent city views.

The monument is surrounded by a small park that contains various historical markers and statues, including one of Colonel William Prescott, who led the American troops during the battle. A museum with more information about the battle is located directly across the street.

The Bunker Hill Monument is a fitting tribute to those who sacrificed their lives for American freedom.

Address: Monument Square

πŸ“– A great day trip from Boston is the coastal town of Rockport. This artsy town has plenty to do.

Paul Revere House

The Paul Revere House is a historic house located in the North End of Boston.

The house was built in 1680, and it was the home of American Patriot Paul Revere from 1770 until 1800. It is the oldest remaining building in the downtown Boston area.

During the American Revolution, Revere used the house as a base for his famous Midnight Ride, which warned the colonists of the approaching British Army. In addition to its role in the history of the United States, the Paul Revere House is also notable for its colonial-style architecture.

Visitors can take a tour of the residence and view displays about Revere’s life and career. The Paul Revere House is a National Historic Landmark and is filled with original furniture and pieces from the period.

Address: 19 N Square

USS Constitution

If you only have one day in Boston, this one shouldn’t be missed.

The USS Constitution is a battleship with a long and rich history. It is one of the oldest ships in the US Navy fleet and is the world’s oldest ship still afloat.

the uss constitution floats in the water near the boston pier
Photo Credit: Catherine Kerr

The Constitution was introduced in 1797 and spent more than 75 years in service to the US Navy. It participated in a number of famous battles, including the War of 1812, where it earned the nickname Old Ironsides after defeating a British frigate.

The Constitution is a three-masted sailing frigate. And it is one of the largest and most heavily armed ships of its type.

In 1881, the Constitution was retired from active service. In 1907, it was designated as a museum ship.

The ship is currently docked in Boston Harbor, where it serves as a reminder of America’s maritime history. You can board and see numerous artifacts from the ship’s history and crew.

Address: Boston National Historical Park

πŸ“– Another fantastic boat to check out in the area is the Mayflower in Plymouth.

Faneuil Hall Marketplace

Faneuil Hall is one of Boston’s most iconic landmarks. Located in the heart of the city, the hall has been a gathering place for centuries.

Originally built as a market in 1742, the hall soon became a center for political activity.

Since the late 1700s, it has also been the site of many famous speeches, including eulogies for John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. And many famous men have met inside the marketplace, including Samual Adams.

The hall is located close to the water, allowing for gorgeous views of the harbor.

Today, the hall is filled with shops, restaurants, and historical exhibits. It is the perfect place to buy a souvenir of your visit to the city. You can also watch some incredible street performers as you rest your weary feet.

Whether you’re looking for a place to shop, eat, or just explore, Faneuil Hall is worth a stop sometime during your one day in Boston.

Address: 1 S Market St

Old South Meeting House

Built in 1729, the Old South Meeting House served as a church until 1872. It now serves as a museum and meeting place.

the old south meeting house looks small and historic set in among the tall glass buildings nearby, the meeting house is on our list of things to do with one day in boston

The Old South Meeting House is best known as a site related to the Boston Tea Party. A group of colonists assembled at the meeting house on December 16, 1773, to voice their opposition to the British Tea Act.

Afterward, they decided to dump the tea into Boston Harbor. This act of protest helped spark the American Revolution.

Today, visitors can see original artifacts, as well as learn about the history of the Old South Meeting House and its role in the American Revolution.

Address: 310 Washington St

Granary Burying Ground

The Granary Burying Ground is one of Boston’s oldest and most historic cemeteries. It was established in 1660, and many of the city’s founders and notable residents are buried here.

a memorial to john hancock sits in the granary burying ground cemetery

Among those buried on its grounds are John Hancock, Samuel Adams, Paul Revere, and several victims of the Boston Massacre. You will also find the mother of nursery rhymes, Mary Goose.

While there are over 2,000 gravestones in the cemetery, many believe more than 5,000 individuals have been buried here over the years. Many of the gravestones have deteriorated or been destroyed over time. Look for some of the oldest markers, dating back to the late 1660s.

We spent significant time here during our one day in Boston, just reading the grave markers.

Near the center, the cemetery has an obelisk dedicated to the parents of Benjamin Franklin.

The Granary Burying Ground is a must-see for anyone interested in early American history.

Address: Tremont St

πŸ“– If you are interested in old cemeteries, then you can’t miss the one in Salem.

Massachusetts State House

The Massachusetts State House is located on Beacon Hill and is the seat of state government for Massachusetts. It is one of the oldest state capitols still currently in use.

The structure was completed in 1798 and was designed by Charles Bulfinch. It is regarded as one of the most illustrious displays of Georgian architecture in the country.

The building is clad in red brick with white granite trim and has a copper-domed cupola: the interior features intricate designs, coffered ceilings, and brass chandeliers.

Visit the State House to take in the beauty of this historic building while learning about the part it has played in the history of Massachusetts and the United States. You can also see the office of the Governor of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts General Court, and the Massachusetts Senate.

Address: 24 Beacon St

King’s Chapel

King’s Chapel was the first Anglican church in New England and began as a wooden church in 1688.

In 1749, a granite stone structure began to be built AROUND the wooden church.

The wooden church within was dismantled piece by piece when the stone church was finished in 1754. It was then passed out the windows and was shipped overseas.

the inside of king's chapel was a beautiful hanging chandelier and curved ceiling spaces

The new church was designed by Peter Harrison, a leading colonial architect, and is considered one of his finest works. The chapel’s exterior is clad in granite, and its interior features are simple but elegant, with a high barrel-vaulted ceiling, tall arched windows, and dark wooden pews with white paneling.

King’s Chapel is a beautiful and historic landmark that continues to serve as an active church today.

πŸ“Ž Tip: Take note of the pulpit; it is the oldest in the US, dating back to 1717.

Address: 58 Tremont St

Boston Common

Boston Common is a 50-acre (20.2-hectare) public park in Boston. It is considered the oldest city park in the United States, dating back to 1634.

Though it wasn’t always a park in the way we think of parks today.

Its history consists of being a cow pasture and a place where Puritan punishments like hangings were handed out. During the Revolutionary War, it was where the British set up camp for a time.

In the 1900s, the park held war protests and was the backdrop to some very famous historical figures, including Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today, it is a popular spot for locals and tourists to enjoy the outdoors. The park features numerous trees, flowers, and a wide variety of birds and squirrels. It also has an array of amenities, including a playground, a carousel, a frog pond, and numerous sculptures and monuments.

Boston Common is a beautiful oasis in the heart of the city and a perfect place to relax and enjoy nature.

Address: 115 Boylston St

This ends our highlights from the Freedom Trail. If you have stopped by all 16 sites along the trail and taken extra time at some of them to do the tours or look more in-depth, then you have already spent 1/2 to 3/4 of your one day in Boston.

We only have a couple of suggestions left to fill your day.

Boston Public Garden

The Boston Public Garden is located right next door to Boston Common, and together they are sometimes confused as one large park.

boston public garden with its relaxing space shouldn't be missed if you have just one day in boston
Photo Credit: Sahaj Bedi

The garden is the oldest botanical garden in the United States, created in 1837. It is also one of the most successful and beloved.

Whereas the common was created with straight pathways for quickly crossing it, the garden was created with flowing and curving paths meant for you to take your time and ponder the beauty of the landscape.

The 24-acre (9.7-hectare) park contains a lagoon, benches, flowers, trees, and several monuments. In the spring, the park is filled with more than 20,000 tulips. The park is also home to the famous Make Way for Ducklings statues, which depict a mother duck and her ducklings waddling across a busy street.

One of the favorite things to do here at the public garden is take a swan boat ride. The ride is only about 15 minutes, but it is something that tourists and locals must do at least once.

Address: 4 Charles St

Cheers For Dinner

Cheers is one of those places that needs to be visited at least once so you can say you have been there. We suggest you stop by for dinner now that it is getting to the evening hours.

The bar was made famous by the popular television show of the same name and has been a popular destination ever since. Located directly across from Boston Public Garden in the center of downtown, Cheers is a cozy and welcoming bar that features a variety of beers on tap and a full menu of pub fare.

The bartenders are always friendly, happy to chat with guests, and create a festive atmosphere.

If you don’t recognize Cheers from TV or bar food isn’t what you had in mind, there are tons of other options in the area.

Address: 84 Beacon St

Beacon Hill Neighborhood

Beacon Hill is one of Boston’s most iconic and well-loved neighborhoods. Located just minutes from downtown, the neighborhood is characterized by its picturesque streets lined with Victorian row houses and gas lanterns.

ivy grows up the side of a brick building in beacon hill

The neighborhood is a popular tourist destination for its historic charm. Despite its small size, Beacon Hill packs a lot of character into its narrow streets and brick houses.

Even if you have to skip something else on our list, we implore you to take some time here on your one day in Boston because this neighborhood is gorgeous and a photographer’s dream.

It’s no wonder that this beloved Boston neighborhood has been named one of the best places to live in Massachusetts.

πŸ“Ž Tip: Don’t miss Acorn Street, the most famous street in the Beacon Hill area. With its original cobblestone street center, narrow alleyway, and growing ivy, this is one of the most picturesque streets we have ever seen.

Other Options If You Have More Time Or Want To Switch Things Up

Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum

Located at the original Boston Tea Party harbor site, the museum features two replica ships, the Beaver and the Eleanor, as well as a variety of interactive exhibits.

You can learn about the events leading up to the tea party and the impact they had on the American Revolution. The museum also offers a unique chance to view artifacts from the original tea party, including the Robinson tea chest.

The museum is a fully immersive experience with costumed tour guides and even provides a chance to throw tea overboard as they did on that fateful day.

Once you are done with the tour, pop by for a spot of tea at Abigail’s Tea Room right on location.

Address: 306 Congress St

Book your ticket to throw tea in the harbor

Trinity Church

Trinity Church in Boston is a beautiful example of Romanesque Revival architecture. The church was completed in 1877 and is considered one of the finest examples of this style of architecture in the United States.

a small statue sits among white flowers in the garden of trinity church, one of the places you should see when spending one day in boston

The church’s exterior is covered with rough stone and large intricate arches. There is a small garden with beautiful flowers and statues.

The interior of the church is just as impressive. It is filled with a large nave, high ceilings, stained glass windows, and an altar that is decorated with carvings.

During your visit, stand in front of the church and take a photograph looking across at the glass building. This ended up being one of our favorite shots from our own one day in Boston because of the juxtaposition between the new glass building and the old Trinity church seen in the reflection.

Address: 206 Clarendon St

Harvard University

Harvard University is one of the most prestigious schools in the world. The university dates back to 1636, making it the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States.

Harvard’s campus spans 200 acres and is situated in Cambridge, which is located on the other side of the Charles River from Boston.

The buildings mix old and new, with historic landmarks like Memorial Hall and modern facilities like the Science Center. The campus is also home to several museums and libraries, as well as athletic fields and green spaces.

Take a student-led campus tour. Or wander down to Harvard Square, passing by the book store or souvenir shops where you can pick up your own Harvard items.

Address: Harvard Yard, 1, Cambridge, MA (Harvard Library)

USS Cassin Young

The USS Cassin Young is a WWII Fletcher-class destroyer escort vessel named after Captain Cassin Young, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his service during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

the uss cassin young sits docked at the boston navy pier

The ship saw action in the Atlantic and the Pacific during the war and was present at the Battle of Leyte Gulf, one of the largest naval battles in history. After WWII, the Young was decommissioned but later reactivated for use in the Korean War and stayed active until 1960.

Today, the USS Cassin Young is a museum ship and is one of only four fletcher-class destroyers still afloat. It is docked at Boston Harbor and is a memorial to those who served on it during WWII.

You can climb aboard, explore her decks and compartments, and learn about the crew’s daily life.

The Cassin Young serves as a moving reminder of the bravery and selflessness displayed by individuals who battled for freedom during one of the darkest eras in human history.

Address: 198 3rd St

Rundown For Your Day Trip To Boston

Recap Of What To Visit In Boston

  • Freedom Trail (16 Stops Starting At Bunker Hill And Ending At Boston Common)
  • Boston Public Garden
  • Cheers Restaurant
  • Beacon Hill Neighborhood
  • Extras/Other Options: Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum, Trinity Church, Harvard University, & USS Cassin Young

Map For Spending The Day In Boston

We are providing a map to help you get around while spending the day in Boston.

The purple icons are all the stops we recommend you visit on your Boston day trip. They will give you a great overview of Boston and its history in a short amount of time.

The light green icons indicate the other options we are providing in case you have some extra time or want to swap out something you aren’t particularly interested in.


FAQs For Visiting Boston

Best Time To Visit Boston

We believe summer and fall are the best times to visit Boston. Granted, we have never been there in the winter, but New England is notoriously cold and snowy, and it wouldn’t be our preference to brave it during that time.

a turtle and hare sculpture are just a couple of the art pieces you can find during your one day in boston

Summers, especially July and August, will have the best weather but will also be crowded. You will need to plan in advance for your one day in Boston.

Temperatures during the day will reach just over 80Β° F (26.7Β° C) for these two months. For some, that may seem hot. But for us Midwesterners, it is perfect and much cooler than home during this same time.

Fall is another really great option. Not only are kids back in school so fewer families are traveling, but you can be there for the spectacular leaf-changing season.

Where To Stay In Boston

Luxury πŸ’΅ πŸ’΅ πŸ’΅ – The Newbury Boston

  • Rooms are spacious and comfy
  • First-class service for all guests
  • Close to all the downtown attractions

Check Availability & Pricing at The Newbury Boston


Mid-Range πŸ’΅ πŸ’΅ – The Godfrey Hotel Boston

  • Modern, clean rooms
  • Free bikes to help you get around the city
  • Great downtown location

Check Availability & Pricing at The Godfrey Hotel Boston


Budget πŸ’΅ – The Verb Hotel

  • Colorful, retro vibe
  • Friendly staff
  • Close to Fenway Park

Check Availability & Pricing at The Verb Hotel


a statue of ben franklin sits among the trees

Best Ways To Get Around Boston

There’s no shortage of ways to get around Boston, and with a bit of planning, you can make sure you see the best of the city without spending a fortune on transportation.

One of the best ways to get around is on foot – Boston is a very walkable city, and you’ll be able to see a lot simply by strolling around.

Everything we have discussed as part of your one day in Boston itinerary can be seen by walking (Harvard might be a bit far if you choose to add this on). You will put in a lot of steps during your 24 hours, but your feet will be the cheapest and most effective means to get around.

If you want to cover more ground and visit something we haven’t mentioned further afield, the MBTA subway system is efficient and reasonably priced; a day pass will give you unlimited rides on all trains and buses.

Another great way to see the city is by water – hop on one of the many sightseeing cruises that depart from the Boston waterfront for a leisurely tour of the harbor.

Is Boston Worth Visiting

Absolutely! Boston is one of the most historic and culturally significant cities in the United States.

Founded in 1630, it was the site of several key events during the American Revolution, including the Boston Massacre and the Boston Tea Party.

Today, Boston is home to numerous world-renowned museums, universities, and historical landmarks. Its rich cultural heritage and vibrant downtown make it an ideal destination for visitors worldwide.

Plus, we just shared with you a ton of things to see and do if you only have one day in Boston. We know it is worth visiting to explore some of these sites.

Is Boston Safe For Tourists

There are plenty of reasons to visit Boston. But is the city safe for tourists?

Overall, Boston is a safe place to visit. However, like any major city, some areas are best avoided. Roxbury, Mattapan, and Dorchester fit into this category. But you don’t really have any reason to go there anyway.

If you stick to the high-traffic tourist areas, you should be safe. While we were there, we never felt uneasy or unsafe, and I always had an expensive camera with me.

Just take the usual precautions as with anywhere new you are traveling. Be aware of your surroundings, use common sense, and keep an eye on your valuables, especially in crowds.

Tips For Spending One Day In Boston

Bring Comfortable Shoes

Wear sneakers or extremely comfortable shoes for all the walking you will do in the city. Boston is very walkable, especially the area we have recommended you tour. But your feet will be sore at the end of the day. You will severely regret wearing heels or dress shoes of any kind.

Eat Seafood

Much of the Northeast is known for its fresh seafood, and Boston is no different. While we did recommend Cheers due to its fame, seafood should top your list to eat during your stay.

Budget More Than You Think

Boston is one of the most expensive cities in the US. Even the budget-friendly hotel we suggested is on the high side compared to many other cities. Food and drink will be more expensive as well.

On the bright side, everything we have on our one day in Boston itinerary is free to see. A couple of them have a small admission to go inside, like the Paul Revere house, but many on our list are free to go inside as well. You can climb the Bunker Hill Monument, board the USS Constitution, and head inside King’s Chapel, all for free.

ivy crawls up the brick next to a black door in beacon hill, a famous neighborhood you shouldn't miss if you have just one day in boston

Day Trips Near Boston

Salem

For those looking to take a day trip from Boston, the historic city of Salem is the perfect destination. With its rich colonial history and abundance of witch-themed attractions, Salem is sure to be a hit with history buffs and horror fans.

You can explore the Salem Witch Museum, visit the House of the Seven Gables, or take a guided tour detailing the notorious witch trials. Additionally, Salem’s charming downtown district is home to a variety of stores and eateries.

an armed forces jeep sits at navy pier

Plymouth

Plymouth is another excellent option for a day trip if you are in the Boston area. Less than an hour from Boston, Plymouth is home to various historical sites and natural attractions.

Visitors can explore Plymouth Rock, the historic site where the Pilgrims first stepped ashore, or step aboard the Mayflower II to see what the voyage might have been like back in 1620. And with a variety of delicious restaurants and cafes, there’s no shortage of places to grab a bite to eat.

Gloucester

Located just a short drive from Boston, Gloucester is a popular destination for a day trip. The city is known for its expansive beaches, perfect for swimming and sunbathing.

You can also enjoy a variety of activities, such as fishing, kayaking, and the famous Massachusetts whale watching. In addition, Gloucester is home to several historic sites and museums, including the Cape Ann Museum. And, of course, no visit to Gloucester would be complete without savoring some of the fresh seafood for which the town is famous.

If you have made a trek north to Gloucester, you could also drive the additional few minutes to Rockport and see the famous Motif #1 and Bearskin Neck.

an interesting gazebo creates a unique shot of boston's skyline from below

Read More From Massachusetts:
Amazing Whale Watching In Massachusetts
17 Interesting Things To Do In Salem, Ma
30 Best Things To Do In Rockport, Ma & Nearby
11 Best Things To See On A Day Trip To Plymouth


To Finish – One Day In Boston: Best Things To See And Do In 24 Hours

Boston is a city that has something for everyone. You can spend one day in Boston and see many of the major sites we have shared today, or you could expand your trip and find even more to do with the extra time.

Either way, we know there will be plenty for you to do no matter how much time you decide to spend in this historic coastal city.