Are you visiting the historic city of Boston? While we recommend a visit of at least four days – more if you want to do day trips in the area, there is definitely a way to maximize your time on a shorter visit. Perhaps you are visiting on a cruise stop, or are stopping by on a college visit, or a road trip. If you are wondering how to spend one day in Boston – this is what I would recommend.
Remember, we are focusing on a number of things that you can easily see in one day. So, we are skipping some of the museums and tours that you may prefer to see. If you have something specific that you want to see, then you should definitely do that. Otherwise, this 24-hour Boston itinerary is a great way to explore Boston and see some sites from American history and the American revolution.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links and a purchase/click through one of these links may result in a commission paid to us at no additional cost to you. All opinions are my own. I had visited some of these paid attractions at no cost in the past.
If you are considering visiting multiple Boston attractions, you may want to purchase a Boston CityPASS. This allows you to pay one fee for admission to multiple popular attractions. While offerings are subject to change, right now the CityPASS offers the following:
Admission to these two attractions:
- New England Aquarium
- Boston Museum of Science
And then you can choose two of the following three (you don’t need to decide when you purchase):
- Boston Harbor City Cruises
- Franklin Park Zoo
- Harvard Museum of Natural History
Keep in mind that you will definitely need more than one day in Boston to take advantage of these incredible activities.
How To Spend One Day in Boston: Itinerary for 24-Hour Visit
When to Visit Boston
This 24-hour Boston itinerary involves a lot of walking – and some of it is on unlevel and cobblestone sidewalks. We recommend visiting in the late spring, summer, or early fall when the weather is nice. If you are visiting during a different part of the year, you may want to pick choose a few items on this list and take public transportation between them.
Don’t forget your comfortable shoes. Because of the nature of the sidewalks in downtown Boston, we recommend flats or sneakers – leave the heels in your suitcase! You may also want to pack a rain poncho and/or umbrella for rainy days or pop-up showers.
Boston Public Garden
Start your day in the beautiful Boston Public Garden, which is the first public botanical garden in America. It’s free to walk through and explore.
The iconic Swan Boats, located in the Public Garden, typically open in April for the season. It’s about a 15-minute ride, and worth doing. Reservations aren’t needed, and tickets can be purchased right at the ticket booth.
The Boston Common is located adjacent to the Boston Public Garden. It was built two centuries earlier as the first public park in the United States. The Boston Public Garden offers more open space and fewer flowers and plantings than the Public Garden.
Be sure to take a look at the Frog Pond in the corner of Boston Common. While the Frog Pond is a skating rink in the winter, it offers a carousel in the warmer months.
Beacon Hill is a picturesque, historic neighborhood in Boston. While there are shops, restaurants, salons, and fitness studios in the neighborhood, I recommend just walking by and admiring the architecture. Don’t miss Acorn Street, which is a beautiful street that is one of the most photographed in the city.
Beacon Hill is also home to the bar that inspired the bar Cheers. It was originally called the Bull and Finch Pub but was later renamed Cheers Beacon Hill.
Massachusetts State House
As you continue walking up Beacon Street towards Park Street, you’ll find the Massachusetts State House. This historic building was designed by Charles Bulfinch. It’s definitely worth seeing, and it’s an easy stop on your walk.
You probably won’t have enough time during your one day in Boston to explore the entire 2.5 mile walk of the Freedom Trail. But you will still see some of it during this itinerary.
The Freedom Trail includes 16 historic sites – some of which are included in this list. If you are especially interested in US history, you may consider booking a guided tour of the area. Otherwise, you can follow the Freedom Trail yourself, along the red-line path painted on the sidewalk.
Granary Burying Ground
Take a detour on your walk to Tremont Street, where you can pass by the Granary Burying Ground. Many famous historic Bostonians are buried there, including Paul Revere and John Hancock.
Old State House
The Old State House, one of the oldest public buildings in the United States, is a Boston National Historical Park partner site. You can walk the exterior for free, but there is a charge for admission inside. Admission is free, however, with a ticket to the Old South Meeting House. Keep in mind that you will need to use the stairs if you enter the museum.
Samuel Adams Statue
As you walk past the Old State House toward Faneuil Hall Marketplace and Quincy Market, you’ll pass the Samuel Adams Statue. It’s located on Congress Street, right past the Sam Adams Boston Taproom.
Faneuil Hall Marketplace/Quincy Market
Faneuil Hall Marketplace/Quincy Market is one of the more popular attractions in Boston. It includes several buildings including the North Market and the South Market.
Faneuil Hall has lots of shops and restaurants including many chain locations. But there are also some independent pushcarts with fun souvenirs from the city, as well as street performers outside.
If you are hungry, visit the large food hall located in the center of Faneuil Hall. Here you’ll find many different food options, including Boston specialties, like clam chowder and lobster rolls.
Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park
Looking for a quick break? Continue walking toward the waterfront to the Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park. This public park is located right on the water and has some beautiful views.
The North End is one of the most popular neighborhoods in Boston. This Italian neighborhood offers history as well as a collection of delicious restaurants, cafes, and bakeries. It’s the best place for lunch or dinner during your day in Boston.
While some of these North End restaurants accept reservations, many don’t. So you may want to do some research in advance, in case you have a place you really want to visit. Don’t miss a visit to one of the famous Boston bakeries – including Mike’s Pastry and Modern Pastry.
Old North Church is also located right in Boston’s North End. This church is thought to be where the famous “One if by land, two if by sea” came from. If you want to go into the church, there is an admission fee.
Visiting with younger kids? Ask about their scavenger hunt, which is included in the admission fee. The Old North Church does close seasonally, so be sure to check their website for the season-opening date.
Other Things To Do in Boston
This is just a sample itinerary, and there are lots of other things you may consider doing during your day in Boston. Here are some ideas:
- Fenway Park (tours are offered, and are a great way to see the park without attending a game)
- Harvard Square and Harvard University (in nearby Cambridge)
- Boston Museum of Fine Arts
- Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
- USS Constitution
- New England Aquarium
- Boston Museum of Science (and see the Charles River)
- See a show at the Boston Opera House or another venue in the Theater District (including Blue Man Group)
- Tour on a Boston Duck Boat
- The Boston Tea Party Ship
- The Boston Children’s Museum
- Paul Revere House
- The Old South Meeting House
Hotels in Boston
While this is just a one-day itinerary, you may need to spend an overnight in Boston. Here are some of the more popular hotels in the area:
- Bostonian Hotel (book here)
- The Verb Hotel
- Boston Marriott Long Wharf
- Hotel Commonwealth
- The Four Seasons Boston
- Omni Parker House
- The Seaport Hotel
You can also search through the map below to see some great options (affiliate)