The 15 Best Boston Tours

Get to know one of America's most historic cities with these tours.

U.S. News & World Report

The 15 Best Boston Tours

Best Boston Tours

Boston's Freedom Trail tours offer a glimpse into Boston's history.(Courtesy of the Freedom Trail Tour)

Hoping to experience Boston through the eyes of a local? A guided tour may be just the thing. Factoring in traveler sentiment and expert opinion, U.S. News selected 15 of Boston's best tours. Whether you're eating your way through the North End or zipping around Boston Common on a Segway, you'll see the city in a new light and learn some history along the way during these top tours.

Freedom Trail Tour – Walk Into History
The nonprofit Freedom Trail Foundation leads the way on this 90-minute tour of the Freedom Trail – a 2 1/2-mile path that weaves past some of the city's most historic sites. A costumed guide, in character, leads you to 11 sites, including Boston Common, King's Chapel, the Old South Meeting House, the Boston Massacre site and Faneuil Hall. Reviewers rave about the guides and the characters they portray and highly recommend this over a self-guided tour of the Freedom Trail. The Foundation offers tours daily and tickets start at $14 for adults, $12 for students and seniors, and $8 for children ages 6 to 12. Other themed tours, including tours that focus on the women of the Revolutionary War and African American patriots, are also available.

Boston Harbor Cruises – Boston Whale Watching Cruise
Hop on one of Boston Harbor Cruises' high-speed catamarans for a whale-watching excursion to the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. This area is a magnet for whales, dolphins, sea birds and other marine creatures who head there to feed. New England Aquarium naturalists on board offer their insights on whales, answer questions and explain their behaviors, a big plus for travelers. During your approximately three-hour trip, you may see several different species of large whales, including humpbacks, finbacks, minkes, pilot whales and endangered right whales. If you don't spot any whales, you'll be given a ticket for another cruise. Tours leave several times a day from mid-March through late November. Tickets start at $55 for adults, $47 for seniors and $35 for children ages 3 to 11.

CityView Trolley Tours
The hop-on, hop-off CityView Trolley Tours offer a convenient and comfortable way to explore the city and visit its top attractions, something visitors (especially those in Boston for the first time) appreciate. Stops at the New England Aquarium, Quincy Market and Old North Church, among others, make it easy to access sites along the Freedom Trail and other neighborhoods. What's more, guides share fun and informational tidbits along the way. Hours vary depending on the season. One-day tickets cost around $40 and include admission to the Dreamland Wax Museum. Two-day passes are also available.

Boston Foodie Tours – Beacon Hill & Back Bay Food Tour
Boston Foodie Tours explores two fascinating neighborhoods on its Beacon Hill and Back Bay Food Tour, which, somewhat unusually, starts with a light three-course meal. After enjoying what renowned chef Lydia Shire whips up at Scampo, visitors wander through Beacon Hill and then the Back Bay, sampling everything from wine to chocolate along the way. The 4 1/2-hour tour costs approximately $100 and is limited to 12 people, a number travelers appreciate for its intimate nature. If you're interested in exploring more than Beacon Hill and the Back Bay, you can sign up for one of the company's other foodie excursions, which explore the Boston Public Market and the North End.

The Rose Kennedy Fitzgerald Greenway is a great outdoor space in the city.(Courtesy of Rose Kennedy Fitzgerald Greenway)

Boston Segway Tours
Boston Segway Tours takes visitors on an adventure through the city on one- or two-hour tours. Since it's faster to glide than walk, you can cover more much ground on Segway than by foot. As you travel from Boston Common to the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, your guide takes you by some of Boston's most famous landmarks while always keeping an eye out for riders' safety, according to tour-takers. The longer tour includes a visit to Cambridge. Participants must be 14 or older and weigh at least 100 pounds to ride. Tickets start at $60 for a one-hour tour and $90 for two hours.

Haunted Boston Ghost Tours
Haunted Boston Ghost Tours promises to give you thrills and chills on its 90-minute walking tour in and around Beacon Hill. Follow your lantern-carrying guide to sites like Boston Common and the Boston Athenaeum and learn about the city's famous ghosts, hear tales of haunted hotels and listen to stories of the founding of Boston. Visitors say it's an enjoyable way to learn about Boston's history and is not too scary, so kids will like it, too. Tours are offered every night at 8 p.m. from early April through mid-November. Tickets cost approximately $20 for adults, $15 for seniors and $15 for children ages 16 and younger.

Urban AdvenTours – City View Bike Tour
Exploring Boston by bike is a great way to cover a lot of ground in an exciting, active way. Urban AdvenTours' flagship City View Bike Tour takes participants on a 10- to 12-mile trek through six different Boston neighborhoods over the course of about three hours. You'll bike through major Boston sites, such as North End, the Boston University campus and Kenmore Square, Fenway Park, the South End, Boston Common and Long Wharf. Along with the comprehensive overview of the city, riders commend the care guides take in making them feel safe. This tour rides daily at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. and is best for those comfortable riding on city streets. Children must be age 10 or older. Tickets start at $55 (you can upgrade to an electric bike for an extra $35). Urban AdvenTours also offers a sunset tour and cycling trips through Cambridge and the Emerald Necklace park system, among others.

Boston Crawling – Independence Pub Crawl
Sip your way through Beantown at four historic watering holes on Boston Crawling's Independence Pub Crawl. On this roughly two-hour tour, you'll visit pubs that served as meeting spots for some of the country's founding fathers, drink local brews and hear Boston's "secret" history as you barhop along the Freedom Trail. Reviewers say the tour is informative and fun and applaud the beer recommendations provided by the guides. Participants can take tours daily at 3 and 7 p.m. and must be at least 21 years old. Tickets start at $59.99, which includes four draft beers or ciders of your choice. If you prefer to purchase drinks as you go, tickets start at $34.99. Boston Crawling also offers a sports-themed Fenway Pub Crawl.

Dorchester Brewing Company is one of several local Boston breweries that you may visit while out with City Brew Tours.(Courtesy of Dorchester Brewing Company)

City Brew Tours – Original Brew Tour
For an in-depth Boston beer education, City Brew Tours' five-hour Original Brew Tour is a great place to start. During the tour, you'll be chauffeured around the city in a comfortable van, visit four breweries, get behind-the-scenes tours and enjoy up to 16 different local craft beers, including a beer-pairing lunch at Meadhall or Chelsea Station. Tourgoers laud the knowledgeable guides and love that driving isn't an issue. City Brew offers this tour weekdays at 10:20 a.m. and weekends at 10:40, 11:20 a.m. and noon. Tickets cost approximately $100. Evening tours, as well as condensed 3 1/2-hour tours, are also available.

Lessons on Liberty
Led by guides who are trained historians, Lessons on Liberty promises their researched 90-minute tours are factually accurate, not just entertaining. Guides wear period clothing – many are Revolutionary War re-enactors – and take visitors along the Freedom Trail. Along the way, you'll learn about the Stamp Act, the Boston Massacre, the Siege of Boston and the 1776 evacuation of the British. For many reviewers, it was the guides' commitment to accuracy and engaging storytelling that made the tour a must-do. Tours run daily from late March through October. Tickets start at $14.95 for adults, $12.65 for seniors and students, and $8 for children.

Off The Eaten Path Tours
On this three-hour food tour of the North End – Boston's famous Italian neighborhood – owner Paula Taylor promises more than just samples of tasty food. Besides stopping at popular spots, such as Bricco Panetteria and Galleria Umberto, you'll hear tips on how to shop for the best extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegars. You'll also enjoy a wine tasting and learn about the history and architecture of this unique neighborhood, a highlight for reviewers. Tours are generally offered Wednesday through Friday at 11 a.m. and Saturday at 10:45 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. (though the schedule varies) and are limited to 12 people. Tickets cost approximately $70 per person.

Fenway Park Tours
Baseball fans and history buffs relish the chance to take a behind-the-scenes peek at America's oldest ballpark. Even non-baseball fans find the tour worthwhile, according to reviewers. The one-hour tour takes visitors to important sites within the ballpark, including the world-famous 37-foot-high Green Monster. The excellent guides, full of Red Sox and Fenway Park trivia, offer an entertaining tour and are a hit with participants. Tours run year-round from 9.m. to 5 p.m. (at 10 a.m. November through March) and start on the hour. Tickets start at $21 for adults and $15 for children ages 3 to 12. Fenway Park also offers a variety of other stadium tours, including Pregame Tours, Day Game Premium Tours and Fenway in Fifteen, a condensed 15-minute tour.

Boston Duck Tours' vehicles offer a unique way to explore the city(Courtesy of Boston Duck Tours)

Boston Duck Tours
Quack and splash your way around Beantown with the entertaining Boston Duck Tours, which takes passengers around Boston and into the Charles River on World War II-style amphibious landing vehicles. On the approximately 80-minute tour, entertaining "conDUCKtors" keep up a lively patter, describing neighborhoods, Boston history, architecture and trivia along the way. A highlight for many visitors is when the vehicle heads into the river offering a different perspective of the city. Tickets start at $42.99 for adults and $28.99 for children ages 3 to 11. Tours run daily from late March through November and depart from the Museum of Science, the Prudential Center and the New England Aquarium several times a day.

PhotoWalks Tours of Boston – Freedom Trail
On PhotoWalks Tours of Boston's Freedom Trail Tour you can explore the historic sites of the city and refine your photography skills at the same time. On this 90-minute tour, you'll not only visit Freedom Trail landmarks, such as Boston Common, Park Street Church, the Granary Burying Ground and the Boston Massacre Site, you'll also learn expert tips on how to use your camera or smartphone to take the best pictures, a highlight for many participants. Tours run Tuesday and Saturday year-round at 1 p.m. Tickets cost approximately $40 for adults and $20 for youths ages 10 to 17. If you're interested in exploring other neighborhoods or topics, you can sign up for one of PhotoWalks' other tours, including Beacon Hill, Back Bay Boston Architecture and the North End, among others.

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Bites of Boston Food Tour – Sweet & Savory South End Neighborhood Food Tour
Boston's artsy South End – the largest urban Victorian neighborhood in the country – is a fun setting for Bites of Boston's Sweet & Savory South End Neighborhood Food Tour. The three-hour walking and tasting tour includes stops at five or six eateries, with a historical, architectural and cultural overview of the area shared along the way. Even Boston locals say they learned new things about the neighborhood. Tours, limited to 16 people, run Thursday through Sunday, March through mid-December and depart at 11:30 a.m. and/or 12:30 p.m. depending on the day of the week. Tickets start at $69. If you're interested in exploring more than the South End, you can sign up for one of Bites of Boston's other food tours, which take visitors to Allston, Chinatown or downtown.

Kim Foley MacKinnon, Contributor

Kim Foley MacKinnon, a Boston-based travel and food writer, has been a Travel contributor for ...  Read more

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