Boston, MA Visitor’s Guide: What to do + Where to Eat

boston guide header image 670

Nick and I each moved to Boston for school thinking it’d be temporary, but the charm of this small, historic city (with no shortage of seafood…yum) grew on us tremendously over time. We often get questions on what to do and where to eat, so finally pooled our favorites into this mega post! I’ll be keeping this updated and will add any new or forgotten favorites. Let me know if you guys have any questions, and be sure to check out my map at the bottom to see where everything mentioned here is located! When traveling we like to visualize where all the places we want to hit up are located, then find somewhere to stay central to those.

Things to do


Boston is very much a walking city, so pack your flats! One of my favorite paths to walk is starting at Hynes or Copley subway station on the green line, going along Newbury Street (our biggest shopping street) all the way to the Boston Public Garden and Boston Common. There you can also have a picnic, take kids on the (very slow-moving) swan boats or merry-go-round, and eat soft serve from the Boston Frosty truck. There is a week of gorgeous tulips in mid-spring, foliage a-plenty come Fall, or you can ice skate on the “Frog Pond” in the winter. From the Boston Public Garden, you can walk to either the small boutiques in charming Beacon Hill, grab a bite in Chinatown, or follow the Freedom Trail through Quincy Market to Charlestown.


Clothing and shoes under $175 are exempt from sales tax in Massachusetts, so I see many visitors shopping their merry hearts out. For individual items priced over that amount, the first $175 is still tax-exempt. Newbury Street is an outdoor shopping area with a range of stores from my affordable favorites like H&M, Uniqlo, and Zara to splurge spots like Burberry, Chanel, and much more. Other popular stores include Rothy’s, Reformation, Abercrombie and Allbirds. I also like the Copley Place & Prudential Center malls, which are right nearby, which is really one large indoor mall with department stores like Neiman Marcus and Saks, a variety of high end designer boutiques, and shops like Sephora, Banana Republic, Club Monaco, Stuart Weitzman, etc.

outfits from this blog post


We have a delicious variety of pick-your-own farms in MA, however most are a 30 minute + drive outside of Boston. If you happen to have a rental car, be sure to check out what’s in-season for picking! Berries (strawberries, blueberries, cherries) start late spring through the summer, peaches ensue in late summer, and then apples, pears, and pumpkins are in full swing come fall. Here are a few of my posts at local farms: Tougas Farms (also here), Honey Pot Hill, Parlee Farms, Verrill Farm.

For lovers of fresh blooms, Tip Top Tulips North of Boston and Wicked Tulips in RI can be picked April – May, Parlee Farms up north has gorgeous zinnias & dahlias in August – September, and Colby Farms has a field of sunflowers that peak briefly in September. Note though that Colby Farm’s flowers are for viewing, not for picking! Each of these farms are about an hour outside of the city, in different directions.

flower picking fields best new england parlee farm

outfit from this blog post


If the weather is nice, you can walk or run along the Charles River on the Esplanade path. You can rent kayaks or canoes from a small stand stationed near the Hatch Shell. From the river, you can see Boston on one side and Cambridge on the other. Pack some sandwiches and drinks to refuel while out on the water! There are also several awesome playgrounds for a variety of ages right along the Esplanade path that my kids really enjoy!

boston visitor activities_pedal boat rental charles river

Other Popular Activities:

– Visit Harpoon brewery for a flight of beer, or more importantly, their freshly baked soft pretzels (the cinnamon sugar one with cream cheese icing dip … droool). I also love to drink Downeast Cider but haven’t yet been to their tasting room. It’s located in East Boston, near the airport, and is open Thurs – Sun. If beer is your main objective, though, Nick’s favorite in the city is Trillium Brewing (multiple locations, all w/ outdoor seating).

boston harpoon brewery beer soft pretzels

– Stop by the Copley Square farmers market open on Tuesdays and Fridays, from Spring to Fall. Or if you’re by the south end, visit the SoWa market which is open Sundays May – October, featuring food trucks, a vintage market, and tents run by small artisans.

– Pop into the historic Boston Public Library. Pinkies up for their tea set of savory sandwiches and sweet treats, and of course your own potful of tea. The BPL is one of my most favorite spots in the city, although I’m a little biased since we got married there!

boston public library high afternoon tea catered affair

Afternoon tea set w/ matcha green tea lattes at Boston Public Library

-For the little ones: as a free stop, you can pop into the children and toddler’s room at the Boston Public Library. Other family-friendly activities are visiting Boston Children’s Museum ($1 Sunday afternoon tickets, and Martin’s park playground is right around the corner), New England Aquarium, and the Museum of Science.

best children's playground Boston
Boston Public Library childrens and toddler activities
left: tons of playgrounds around town // right: Children’s area at Boston Public Library

 – Take a Duck Tour which is an amphibious vehicle that hits up most of the city’s major landmarks, then plops into the Charles river to show a bit of Boston via water.

– Catch a Red Sox game at Fenway Park, then chow down at one of the many nearby food options on Peterborough Street (Rod Thai Family Taste, El Pelon Mexican, Basho) afterwards.

– Explore the Boston Harbor islands via ferry or boat tour. Recommended for history buffs (hotspots include war forts and a historic lighthouse) or hikers, not those seeking beachy sand to sunbathe on.

– Check the Boston Calendar for a list of local happenings, events, classes, or other things to do.

– Visit the Museum of Fine Arts or the Isabella Stewart Gardner art museum (indoor courtyard pictured below).

isabella stewart gardner art museum boston italian courtyard garden

Getting Around

A rental car is not necessary while in Boston unless you want to do a lot of day trips to the outer areas. In fact, finding and paying for parking is quite a burden, so I always suggest visitors take Uber, Lyft, a cab or try public transit on our MBTA train system.

Where to Eat and Drink

Breakfast & Brunch

Jugos – Tiny, tiny to-go spot located centrally near Copley Square, so on a nice day you can enjoy your food on the benches there (they also have a slightly bigger location with more food options in the South End). Grab a fresh smoothie or juice, frozen acai or pitaya (dragonfruit) bowls, or their chicken salad avocado toast.

boston jugos juice acai pitaya fruit bowls

Acai bowl from Jugos

Tatte – A cute, Instagram-able local bakery/café with multiple locations all around town, easily some of the most Instagram’d spots in the city.

Boston travel and food guide Tatte

– Dim Sum – we go to Hei La Moon for bigger groups, Winsor Cafe for takeout, or if it’s just the two of us or if it’s a weekday, we usually do Great Taste which is a small hole in the wall. Great Taste also has this traditional dish we love which is braised beef brisket & tendon over seared rice noodle rolls (pictured in the iron pot below) – it’s not on the menu so I try to show this photo! And if you’re in Chinatown, you’ll definitely want to stop at one of the many bakeries to pick up some buns to snack on later. 101 Bakery is our favorite for egg tarts and Portuguese tarts.

boston chinatown great taste chinese restaurant dim sum

Dim Sum faves: shrimp & chive dumplings for me, sweet custard buns for Nick

– Cafes & Dessert – I’m more a tea person but Nick also loves his coffee! His favorite local coffee shops are George Howell in downtown crossing and the Thinking Cup on Newbury Street (right by all the shopping). For sweet treats, we like Coco Leaf for Viet-inspired desserts, and Fomu (multiple locations) has some of the best non-dairy ice cream around – I even like it better than most regular dairy ice cream!

Lunch & Dinner: Loosely ranked in order of a super casual to a nicer ambiance

– None of these places are right in the city, unfortunately, but if craving Vietnamese we usually order from the following: Pho Viets in the Allston or Newton area. Banh Mi Ba Le for Banh Mi sandwiches and rice plates, or Pho Le for noodle soups, fish sauce fried chicken wings, and more traditional Vietnamese dishes.

boston best vietnamese noodles banh mi_pho viets hoa

Pho Viets beef stew over egg noodles, grilled pork & cold cut banh mi sandwiches 

Chicken & Rice Guys – for a quick grab & go lunch. Modeled after NYC’s popular “Halal guys” (which is now also in the Boston area) but C&R Guys actually tastes like real meat and is way better than the Halal Guys Boston location, imo. A small combo (chicken & lamb gyro over rice) is usually plenty to fill me up – don’t forget to douse it in their yummy sauces!

Taiwan Cafe – Decent soup dumplings in town, which doesn’t say much if you have a Din Tai Fung near you…but most of us don’t. What to get: juicy soup dumplings (transfer to your soup spoon carefully, nibble a hole off the top, and sip the soup out slowly to avoid a traumatic mouth-scalding experience), regular pan-seared dumplings, scrambled egg with beef & tomatoes rice plate (Chinese comfort food), Szechuan style white fish in spicy broth (“shui zhu yu”).

Best Boston eats Futago
Futago Udon – One of our family FAVES (Nori included) that we always bring visitors to. If you dine in, it’s a smaller but baby-friendly restaurant with a changing table. The fried chicken curry udon isn’t something I thought I’d like, but it is surprisingly delicious (ask for the chicken on the side to keep it crispy). In the summer Nick always gets the Mad Tiger (room temperature dish) and I like the hot version, their Dan Dan Noodles.

tonys clam shop boston quincy seafood lobster roll

Lobby rolls, steamers, and fried shrimp from Tony’s Clam Shop

– For good ol’ New England seafood in a casual setting, there’s the fisherman shack James Hook where you can grab a roll to-go or Yankee Lobster Co (right by Harpoon Brewery), both of which are a bit toursity. If you’re in Quincy (neighboring town to Boston), Tony’s Clam Shop has lobster rolls, fried seafood & steamers right by a small strip of water and a size-able kids playground. If you haven’t had steamer clams before, they are so big & tasty when in-season…our out-of-town visitors can never get enough!

For a different take on the classic lobster roll, Eventide is in the Fenway Park area and serves a tasty but small lobster atop a pillowy “bao” bun with brown butter. Also, Luke’s Lobster is a chain that is conveniently located for visitors near Newbury Stret and I’ve always enjoyed the seafood rolls there!

Shabu Zen (2 locations) – my weekly go-to for comfort food, especially in colder weather. If you haven’t had shabu or hot pot before, your ingredients come raw and you cook them quickly yourself in a boiling pot of broth, then eat with a dipping sauce that you mix up in your little sauce cup. What to get: combos (their #A5 beef, boneless shortrib, or the tontoro pork combo) that come with veggies, rice or udon noodles; plus a sake or a watermelon smoothie.

Spring Shabu is a great spot for all you can eat veggies and carbs (and green tea soft serve ice cream!), and you order the proteins a la carte.

boston shabu hot pot restaurant chinatown

Hot pot feast

Salty Pig – Restaurant with large patio near the Newbury Street / Copley area focusing on charcuterie, pizzas, and a nice craft beer selection … aka the express path to my husband’s heart. I do appreciate that they make a lot of their own charcuterie and pasta. Sundays are “red sauce Sundays” with cute checkered table cloths.

Holly Crab – Boston isn’t known for its cajun-style seafood boils, (Houstonians, no need to get it here) but if you haven’t tried it before, this place hits the spot! Shellfish comes in plastic bags smothered in garlicky, spicy, buttery and citrusy goodness. Put on the bib and rubber gloves, and leave your white silk blouse at home. Their crawfish here are very small, so our go-tos are the shrimp, mussels, and king crab legs (a splurge but so good) in holly crab medium sauce with sides of corn and sausage in the bag. Shaking Crab is a Boston chain that is also popular, with one location by the Public Garden!

holly crab boston cajun boil seafood restaurants

Spread at Holly Crab (don’t be deceived by my photo staging…the boil comes in a big plastic bag)

– Oyster happy hour spots (note: these happy hours are OFTEN subject to change, so please call ahead to ask) – You can’t come to New England without indulging in fresh oysters, but they can add up at the usual prices! Black Lamb in the South End has $2 oysters as of Summer 2023.

Boston $1 oysters

$2 Oyster happy hour at Black Lamb. Few Moda dress xs, earrings

– The Daily Catch (multiple locations) – small, “cozy” Italian seafood pasta spots known for their lobster fra diavolo dish made for sharing. We also love the aglio olio, which is their house-made squid ink pasta (you can substitute this noodle in most of their other pasta dishes too, for a small charge) tossed with oodles of garlic and ground calamari. I keep highlighting the spots with fresh house-made pasta, as some of the most popular Italian spots here don’t make their pastas or even their sauces! We prefer the Brookline location for this restaurant, as the North End one has rushed and at times, rude service (neither take reservations).

Boston Italian Seafood Pasta Daily Catch

Daily Catch Lobster Fra Diavolo for 2; various squid ink pasta dishes

Douzo by the Copley and Back Bay train stations is our favorite for “elevated takeout” sushi aka date night at home. Dining in ambiance is nothing special, but our go-to takeout is the chef’s sushi dinner (12 piece nigiri for ~$45). We also like the chef’s nigiri dinner or special rolls from Basho (same ownership as Douzo)! Update 2022: our current favorite sushi spot is Sakana in Cambridge! All of their nigiri and specialty maki rolls (except the one with beef – wasn’t a fan) have been fresh and delish. My usual order: nigiri dinner, sakana roll, hokkaido roll & crimson roll.

Douzo Boston travel and food guide

Douzo Chirashi Bowl and Chef’s Special Sushi (dinner menu)

Momi NonmiIt’s pretty pricey here but Chef Chris is super passionate about the food. If you are a vegetarian or have other dietary restrictions, they ask that you make a reservation and let them know a couple of days in advance as many of the components of the dishes are made from scratch in-house.

Boston and Cambridge food guide

Neptune Oyster in the North End (little Italy) is an iconic Boston spot for a big, hot, buttered lobster roll (market price on average is $35). Their food is usually yummy, but it’s a small restaurant and a wait could easily set you back a few hours unless you go at non-peak times. Now that I’ve had both Neptune Oyster and Saltie Girl on Newbury St several times, I have to say I prefer Saltie Girl which takes reservations!

Lobster roll, oysters, littlenecks and fried clams from Neptune Oyster

Barcelona Wine Bar – love this tapas spot! 2 locations in Boston. Great, bustling place to go with friends or to just sit at the bar. This is actually a chain restaurant from CT, but they do a great job with ambiance and catering to local tastes (their bread from a local bakery is heavenly, always hot and fresh). Make reservations if you can!

Toro – another tapas spot, by one of my favorite chefs in town. What to get: The cheesy Mexican-style corn, seafood paella (better than others in town; half size is plenty for sharing!), roasted cauliflower, bone marrow topped with braised oxtail. It’s so yummy, we’d eat here more if they took reservations.

– Drinks – Nick and I have opposite tastes in alcohol (he’s a beer, whiskey and scotch man, and I prefer anything but) but one thing we can agree on is we both like the drinks at Shojo. Nick also likes the menu-less bar Drink where you blab out what types of things you like in a beverage and the bartender makes you something, while you munch on their complimentary buttery popcorn.

If you’re visiting Boston and do check out some of the above spots, leave me a comment and let me know what you think! And for fellow Bostonians or those who have been here, I’d love to hear what some of your favorite places are!

When you purchase through the links on this blog, I may earn a commission. Thank you for your support!

When you purchase through the links on this blog, I may earn a commission. Thank you for your support!

For Daily Posts

Loading comments...

Get the newsletter!

What updates would you like?