This post compares the various different Boat tours available in Boston to help you decide which option is best for you. Boston is an absolutely beautiful city full of rich history and fantastic views. With so many sights to see, it’s no wonder that there are a plethora of different tour companies located in Beantown. In addition to the many different bus and walking tours you will find here, there are also several services that provide excursions out on the water. If you’ve ever wanted to explore the Boston Harbor, what better way than by taking a cruise?
Whether you want to discover the historical significance of this location or you just want to enjoy some fine dining with a view of the city, there are several options to consider. With so many different tours and cruises to choose from, it might be difficult to find the right journey for you or your family. If you’re having trouble picking just one trip out on the harbor, let us help you decide with our comparison of each major service in Boston!
Free Tours by Foot is more than just a guided walking tour company for your sightseeing visit. Consider us the best resource for your trip – from how to get tickets to top tourist attractions, where to stay, and how to get around the city. Our guides are experts in the city and here to help you plan your weekend or sightseeing trips.
The Boston Subway system is the nation’s oldest, founded in 1897, and is the fourth largest subway system in the United States. It is operated by The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) or just the T as us Bostonians call it. Boston’s public transportation system is an inexpensive and convenient way to travel through our great city. Boston’s public transportation system is made up six lines Blue, Green, Orange, and Red, as well as the Purple Line; which travels out to the suburbs of Boston (as well as Salem, MA) and the Silver Line which is bus system covering the Seaport District.
If you are interested in getting around on foot, be sure to consider our free walking tours.
The streets of Boston are jam packed with history, and since its founding in 1630, authors, professors, politicians, and revolutionaries have left their marks on these historic cobblestone streets. However, there is no Bostonian name more known throughout the world than Kennedy. Using this guide you can walk in the same path, check out some John F. Kennedy’s favorite spots, and see some of the places where JFK and the and the rest of the Kennedy Clan worked, dined and called home. From Rose Kennedy’s childhood home to JFK last address, this guide will introduce you to these sites in an easy to follow path.
(A) Start you walk at 401 Hanover St. at Stephen’s Church in the Northend/Little Italy Neighborhood located right across the street from the Paul Revere Statue and Paul Revere Prado. This is the church is the only church building in Boston that is still standing that was designed by the architect Charles Bulfinch (who also designed the Massachusetts House). This is the church where baby Rose Kennedy was baptized a Catholic in 1890 as well as where her funeral in 1995. Rose Kennedy was born in the neighborhood and her birthplace is just down the street.
(B) Take a right (if facing St. Stephen’s and follow the Freedom Trail (the brick line at your feet) to Fleet St. take a right on Fleet St. and Garden Court St. is on the right, follow Garden Court St. to 4 Garden Court St. and there is where baby Rose lived.
(C) After checking out Rose’s birthplace, follow the Freedom Trail to the series of parks named for her, The Rose Kennedy Greenway. The Greenway is a series of parks which run through several neighborhoods in Boston. It was created as a result of the “Big Dig” which was 16 year construction project from 1997 to 2007 part of which demolished the John F. Kennedy Expressway (which ran on an elevated bridge running through the city) and developed an underground highway (Rt. 93) which now runs beneath the park. Named for the family’s matriarch, her son, Senator Edward Kennedy, played an important role in creating the park.
(D) From the Rose Kennedy Greenway you will spot the large lettering sign of The Union Oyster House, 41 Union Street. This is the United States’ oldest restaurant. The building has been there since 1742, but has been a restaurant since 1826 when the Union Oyster House was opened. John F. Kennedy and the rest of the Kennedy Clan often dined here. Located on the second floor is JFK’s favorite booth, where he would sit and catch up on events with the newspaper and a cup of chowder. This booth is dedicated in his memory. (All these sites above are included on our Northend and Little Italy Tour). You could also learn more on your own with our self-guided version.
(E) Follow the Freedom Trail down Union Street to historic Faneuil Hall. Inside Faneuil Hall in 1979, Senator Edward Kennedy announced that he would run for president.
(F) Walking the Freedom Trail down Washington St. to School St. and you will see Old City Hall, where Boston mayors held court from 1865 to 1968, and this is where the office of Mayor John F. Fitzgerald “Honey Fitz”, father of Rose, worked as the 38th and 40th Mayor of Boston 1906-1908 and 1910-1914.
(G) Sitting across the street from Old City Hall is the Omni Parker House, where John F. Kennedy is said to have made his first public speech when he was seven years old. The topic of the oration, which was made in the Press Room, while attending his grandfather Honey Fitz’s birthday party, was how much he loved his grandfather. According to one story, then Mayor James Michael Curley picked up young John and stood him on a table where the boy elegantly spoke for a few minutes about Grandpa John. The Press Room later became the place where he announced his candidacy for U.S. Congress and also where he held his bachelor party, which much have been quite an event. At the restaurant inside the Omni Parker House is Table 40 where one legend has it that JFK asked Jacklyn to marry him.
(H) After exiting the Omni Parker, walk up Beacon Street and you will come to Bowdoin St. One block down on the right, across from the Massachusetts State House at 122 Bowdoin St., is the address that JFK was registered to vote and his last address in Boston before his death.
(I) Just a few doors down from 122 Bowdoin St. is 150 Bowdoin St. and the 21st Amendment Pub. This is one of the waterholes where JFK was often seen and is a great spot to pop into for a bite to eat or a drink.
(J) Across the street from 122 Bowdoin St. sits the Massachusetts State House (1798) (included on our Freedom Trail Tour) and it is here where on Jan. 9, 1961, eleven days before presidential inauguration, JFK gave another speech, in which he quotes one of the founders of Boston and the first Massachusetts Governor, John Winthrop’s “city upon a hill” sermon and highlights four qualities that he wanted to associate with his presidency: courage, judgment, integrity and dedication. On the Beacon Street, or west side of the State House, is a statue of JFK in mid-stride exiting the building.
(K) Continue down Beacon St. and at 21 Beacon St. you will see the former Bellevue (now a private residence) where JFK lived in 1946 when he ran for the US Congress.
Other JFK Sites that are not in walking distant of these sites are located at Harvard University and there are a few sites on campus that are worth checking out either on our Cambridge/Harvard University Tour or on you own with our self-guided version of this tour:
(L)Weld Hall: Located inside Old Harvard Yard is where JFK lived as a freshman.
(M) Winthrop House: As an upperclassman at Harvard University, JFK lived at Winthrop House.
(N) The Kennedy School of Government: The Harvard University School which was name for the man.
(O) The JFK Museum: Located in Dorchester, can be reached via the MBTA (Subway) on the Red Line at the JFK/UMass Stop.
Nothing is more special than Holiday time in New England. Jack Frost is nipping at your nose, stars shine brighter in the sky, chestnuts roast on an open fire, bell ringers herald the season and nothing tastes better than a hot chocolate.
Our tour takes us from Faneuil Hall’s Holiday Tree and its fabulous light and sound show to the window displays at Macy’s, shopping at Downtown Crossing, Boston’s official Christmas Tree and lights on Boston Common, the Commonwealth Avenue spectacular. The tour ends at Copley Square/Place shopping center (and the shops at the Prudential Center). Stories, lights, carols, and shopping will all be part of the fun for adults and children alike.
The USS Constitution and the Bunker Hill Monument are two of the last sites of the Freedom Trail (when picking up the Freedom Trail on Boston Common) which are a bit further from the other 14 sites. Even-though it can be a bit of jaunt from the other sites, if you are interested in the history of the birth of our nation, both these sites are worth checking out. Both sites are wonderful, and just like the first four letters in the word Freedom they are FREE.
Because they are located at the end of the Freedom Trail and are about a 15 minute walk from the Copp’s Hill Burial Ground (if you follow our self-guided Freedom Trail stating at Boston Common, Copp’s Hill Burial Ground is stop Q), the best way to get there is using the MBTA Water Shuttle. One can walk there easily by following the Freedom Trail, but the water shuttle is a bargain at $3.25 (if you have a MBTA Subway Pass it is free), and is a short boat ride over to Charlestown, which also doubles a scenic harbor cruise.
The shuttle departs from Boston’s Long Wharf (map) at the New England Aquarium and will whisk you over to the USS Constitution in 10 minutes. Once you are there you are able to board the USS Constitution (launched in 1797), is the oldest commissioned warship in the US Navy. A quick note is that adults will need a picture ID and there is a small security check (metal detector, bag check, etc.) before you are allowed to enter the naval base. Not a big deal, but something to be aware of. Once on the base, the navel personal will take you on the ship for a short (about 10 to 15 minutes) guided tour.Read more »
With a bus tour one can cover more ground and take in more sites, though the trade-off is that you will receive a more condensed version of the sites. If done the right way a bus tour will give you a good overview of much of the city, and if used in conjunction with one of our pay-what-you-wish walking tours, you will come away with a great education about the history and culture of the great city of Boston.
With so many options for bus tours in Boston the choices of bus tours can be a bit overwhelming. So which to choose? Depending what you are looking for the answer varies. We have put together this list of Boston bus tours with some tips on who may benefit from each.
This company offers 20 hop-on and hop-off stops where you can get on and off as often as you wish (within your ticket time period). Tours operate from 9 am – 5 pm from April through October and 9 am – 4 pm from November through March. Stops are made at locations such as the USS Constitution, the Cheers Bar, Fenway Park, the Boston Convention Center and more.
Of all the trolley companies, Old Town Trolley is the best reviewed company of all the 4 trolley companies in Boston, but it is also the most expensive. Although there are a few negative comments here and there, this company has a 4 ½ star rating overall on TripAdvisor. Reviews for their hop-on, hop-off service are generally favorable, with most passengers reporting that this is a very good deal. A lot of guests enjoy the ability to hop off whenever they wish, exploring the city at their own pace.
Recommended for those looking for a premium hop-on, hop-off Boston bus service. Read more »
We are happy to have produced several self guided Boston walking tours and our collection is growing. We designed these self guided tours to be used on your own time and your own pace or as companion pieces on our guided tours. Some tours are only available as a self-guided tour. We hope these tours are helpful to you.
The Freedom Trail – The Freedom Trail at the center of historic Boston is a red brick path through the city leading visitors to the historic sites. At the center of Revolutionary America, you’ll weave your way through the eighteenth century. This self-guided tour and map will covers the entire 2.5 miles of Freedom Trail sites and will should take you two hours to complete. Make sure to take a look at our self-guided tour of the Granary Burial Ground, one of the Freedom Trail’s most important stops.
Beacon Hill – Boston’s Beacon Hill is and always has been Boston’s most exclusive neighborhood where politicians, poets and philanthropist among others have made their home. It is a neighborhood that many tourist fail to explore as it can be a bit intimidating without a guide but this 90 minute self-guided tour should make navigation of that neighborhood easy.
Harvard University – Harvard University is the oldest college in the United States (1636). Eight United State Presidents attended Harvard University and the name is known world-wide. Here is a self-guided Harvard University tour that will help to explore some the wonderful sites on campus.
North End and Little Italy – Boston’s North End/Little Italy neighbor is famous for its delicious food as well as its colorful history and we at Free Tours By Foot Boston have put together a quick, self -guided walking tour of North End/Little Italy and some of its most interesting sites.
Additional Resources – There are many more self guided tours of Boston available. The City of Boston offers several resources, including walking maps, audio tours as well as theme tours, such as the JFK Boston trail.
Harvard University is the oldest college in the United States (1636). Eight United State Presidents attended Harvard University and the name is known world-wide. Here is a self-guided Harvard University tour that will help to explore some the wonderful sites on campus.
Travel insurance is often the last thing you have on your mind when planning your next trip for just yourself, with your family or with friends. We look forward to a well-earned and long-desired vacation and we know deep down, however, that travelling brings about the unexpected (mostly in good ways). For the hopefully rare bad case scenarios, where you need to cancel a trip due to hazardous weather, sickness, the death of a family member, or any accidents during your trip, stolen or lost luggage/passports/wallets, and even worse injury or death of a travel mate, you want to be covered. Instead of overthinking the many things that might happen, travel insurance can help to put your mind at ease for the many what-ifs, so you can get back to planning and enjoying the fun things about your next trip. So, is travel insurance worth it?