Bountiful Boston

Beantown is brimming with great vacation destinations

Boston Latin School and Benjamin Franklin Statue, Freedom Trail, Boston, MA / Photo by Brett Wharton

When it comes to East Coast vacation spots, NYC isn’t the only city worth seeing. Boston offers an almost endless array of unique and fun-filled destinations for tourists.

Whether your vacation preferences revolve around the arts and cultural experiences or outdoor explorations with a historical twist, Beantown doesn’t disappoint! Whether you’ll be in the area for just a day or for several weeks, this small sampling of the city’s diverse entertainment options has something for everyone.

USS Constitution Museum

“Old Ironsides” is one of the most beautifully restored historic ships in the world, and a visit to Boston wouldn’t be complete without a visit to this impressive vessel. History buffs will appreciate the fact that you’ll not only have an opportunity to see the ship itself, you will also find an outstanding maritime museum of the same name at the site.

The museum is family-friendly, with exhibits and activities geared towards all ages, so if you’re traveling with grandchildren, you can rest assured that every member of your party, from the youngest to the oldest, will enjoy themselves during your time at the USS Constitution Museum. In fact, little ones will have so much fun they’ll forget they’re also receiving a history lesson.

The Boston Pops

The Boston Pops is one of the most renowned orchestras in the world, and performance after performance they live up to their legendary reputation.

Conductor Keith Lockhart and the musicians of the orchestra consistently deliver extraordinary music laced with the energy and joy of those who have dedicated their lives to honing their art.

You’ll be captivated by the experience of exquisite music performed in a gorgeous setting. An evening at the beautifully restored Symphony Hall promises to be one of the most memorable of your life.

The Freedom Trail

While some might argue that the Freedom Trail is more of a very long walk than a hike, you’re definately going to feel like you’ve taken quite a trek if you do the trail in its entirety! The Freedom Trail starts in the Boston Commons and runs throughout the entire city.

Take one of the guided tours offered by several local companies, or grab a map and follow the red lines for a self-guided experience.

Either way, you’ll encounter many of the most enticing historical attractions the city has to offer as you walk the trail. You’ll see Paul Revere’s house, the USS Constitution, sites of the Revolutionary War, and many other points of interest as you navigate the city.

Stop off at Quincy Market for a vast array of delectable lunch options, as you’ll work up an appetite!

Walking part of it is still a worthwhile experience, and should you decide to stop at any of the landmarks along the way, you’ll have no trouble accessing either public transportation or a cab.

Arnold Arboretum

Whether you’re an expert level botanist or simply have an appreciation for plant life, Harvard University’s Arnold Arboretum is both breathtaking and educational..

You’ll find more than 4,000 plant varieties on the 281 acres that make up the arboretum. As you explore the grounds, you’ll see majestic maples, more than 200 kinds of lilacs, and an exquisite sampling of members of the rose family. From azaleas to conifers, the arboretum’s extensive offerings are astounding.

Be sure to bring a camera, as you’ll have ample opportunities to photograph varieties of plants you’ve never seen in real life before, or perhaps didn’t even know existed before encountering them here. Take a guided tour if you’d like to learn from an expert, or explore on your own if you prefer to set your own pace.

Be aware that there are no restaurants on the grounds, and it is not possible to bring your own food, so it’s a good idea to eat before you go. The visitor’s center is also happy to provide you with maps and information about nearby eateries.

All paved roads with the arboretum are wheelchair accessible, ensuring that all guests can enjoy the spectacular plant life.

Museum of Fine Arts

Lovers of every variety of art will want to schedule an entire day to explore the Museum of Fine Arts. The collections are vast, and even a full day might leave you wishing for more time to take in the exhibits.

Be sure to see the Egyptian collection, photography, musical instruments and world-renowned Impressionist paintings.

The museum prides itself on being accessible to all visitors; guests using wheelchairs, as well as those with hearing or visual impairments will find that every possible accommodation has been put in place to ensure that your visit will be enjoyable and worthwhile.

The museum offers four different dining experiences, ranging from family-friendly cafeteria food options like pizza and burgers to locally sourced haute cuisine for the more adventurous palate. You’ll also be able to enjoy snacks, desserts, coffee, tea or a glass of wine during your visit.

Fenway Park and the Boston Skyline / Photo by Lauren Thimmesch

Fenway Park

Whether you’re a baseball fanatic and hold season tickets for your hometown Major League team or haven’t bought peanuts  and Cracker Jacks in the stands since you were a kid, catching a Red Sox game at the country’s oldest Major League baseball park evokes nostalgia of simpler times, when a trip to the ballpark might have been a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

The park is relatively small, so you’ll have a great view of the game and a feeling of being part of the action that just can’t be had in today’s mega-parks.

Boston Public Garden

This iconic public garden was the first in the country, and its Victorian design is an example of timeless beauty. No matter what time of year you visit Boston, it is always worth the time it take to take a stroll here.

With more than 600 varieties of trees and an endless array of flowers, the serene environment will make you forget that you’re in the middle of a bustling city. Be sure to take a ride on the legendary swan of boats for some fantastic photo opportunities. The Boston Public Garden is the perfect place to pass an hour or an entire afternoon.

By Mani Canaday. This article first appeared in the April 2014 issue of Minnesota Good Age.