Boston is often called "America's Walking City," and while that may be true, it helps to know where you're going and what you're seeing before you start. That's why taking a guided tour is an excellent introduction to the city.
From self-guided treks to tours that go on land and in water, Boston offers a range of options for those looking to get better acquainted with the city. We consulted some of the city's local experts who are asked about tours every day – hotel concierges and guest ambassadors – to highlight their favorites.
The Freedom Trail
"My No. 1 recommendation for first-time visitors in Boston is the Freedom Trail," says Julianne Boyle, concierge at The Ritz-Carlton, Boston. "Visitors have the option to pick up a brochure and walk the 2.5-mile red line covering 16 of Boston's most historical sites including museums, parks, churches and burying grounds. For those interested in gaining the most knowledge of Boston's history in an interactive way, I recommend the walking tours led by the 18th-century costumed Freedom Trail Players."
[Read: The Best Hotels in Boston.]
The nonprofit Freedom Trail Foundation offers costumed guided tours year-round, leaving from the Boston Common Visitor Information Center or the ArtsBoston BosTix booth at Faneuil Hall Marketplace. Sites along the trail include Boston Common, Massachusetts State House, Park Street Church, Granary Burying Ground, King's Chapel, the site of the U.S.'s oldest public school, Old Corner Bookstore, Old South Meeting House, Old State House and the site of the Boston Massacre. Tickets are $12 for adults and $6.50 for children ages 6 to 12.
Kim Weeks, guest ambassador at the Kimpton Marlowe Hotel, agrees, saying, "If you've never been to Boston, it's the perfect way to see the city."
Boston Duck Tours
Another tour recommended by locals is Boston Duck Tours, which takes place aboard a World War II-style amphibious landing vehicle. The narrated tour swings by Boston's main sights, from the Massachusetts State House to Bunker Hill, and then heads straight into the Charles River.
"The Duck Tours are my favorite," Boyle says. "The best part of the tour is 'Splashdown,' where your captain will splash right into the Charles River and take you along the river to see the Boston and Charlestown skylines for a truly unique experience."
Senatore says the Duck Tour boats are especially appealing for families. "The Duck Tours are a huge hit with the children," she adds.
[Read: 8 Free Things to Do in Boston.]
Tours are 80 minutes long and leave from the Museum of Science, the Prudential Center and the New England Aquarium. Tickets are $39.50 for adults, $27 for kids ages 3 to 11 and $10.50 for children younger than 3.
Old Town Trolley Tours
For visitors who want to cover as much ground as possible, as quickly and as easily as possible, the hop on, hop off Old Town Trolley Tours make 19 stops throughout the city, from Beacon Hill to the North End, and tickets are good for two consecutive days.
"Old Town Trolley is for someone who has never been here before but wants to see as much as possible in a relatively short time," Weeks says.
Keith Loveless, head concierge at The Langham, Boston, says the tours are a step above the usual tour bus experience. "It's not scripted, it's not recorded. You can interact with [the tour guides]," he says.
The company has another fan in Senatore, who says, "I love the hop on and off trolley. They do an excellent job."
One-day tour tickets cost less than $40 for adults and less than $20 for kids ages 4 to 12 when you purchase them online. You can also purchase tickets in person (though they may cost more) at trolley depots and at hotel concierge desks around the city. Often, special perks, like free admission to the Old State House Museum and discounted admission to the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum, are included, as are discounts to other various attractions, restaurants and shops.
Fenway Park Tour
Without a doubt, Fenway Park, the home of the Boston Red Sox, is one of the most famous ballparks in America. Located right in the city, the beloved park has a fascinating history. One of its most recognizable features is the Green Monster, the more than 37-foot-high green wall overlooking left field.
"The ballpark is such an historic icon and has a lot of character and charm that you really can feel when you walk around the park itself," Weeks says.
Daily tours are available year-round, leaving every hour between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., except on game days, when the last tour leaves three hours before game time. Tickets for regular tours are $20 for adults and $14 for kids age 12 and younger. Special game day tours, where fans can enter the ballpark before the general public, are $35.
Senatore says, "The tour of Fenway does an amazing job."
Samuel Adams Brewery Tours
"Our guests love the Samuel Adams Brewery tour," Senatore says. "Sam Adams provided the momentum for the local craft beer movement in Boston. The one-hour free tour includes the history of the brand and an inclusive experience of the total craft brewing process – people love smelling the specialty hops – and of course, samples at the end!"
The brewery is a bit out of the way, in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston, but that doesn't deter the legions of fans who make their way to visit. Brewery tours leave about every 40 minutes. Tickets are handed out on a first-come, first-served basis, and tours fill up quickly. One way to avoid being disappointed is to sign up for the Morning Mash In Tour, which is offered six days a week at 9:30 a.m. It includes a tour, a tasting and a souvenir glass. Tickets for the 9:30 tours are $10 on weekdays and $15 on Saturdays, and visitors must be 21 and older.
To experience more of what Boston has to offer, check out the U.S. News Travel guide.
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