When it comes to unique things to do in Boston, there’s no shortage of exciting and creative activities. Whether your idea of a great time is chasing down a legendary cannoli in Little Italy or hunting ghosts on the notorious Freedom Trail, you’ll find something special to do around every corner. If adventure is your thing, strap up those walking boots and prepare for some historical fun! From museums full of art galleries and history to pirate tours along the coastlines, come discover all that this vibrant city has to offer!
The Mapparium gives you a rare chance to see the world in a way that doesn’t distort the surface of the earth. Even when looking at an accurate globe, the relative sizes of the continents are distorted by perspective, as the spherical shape causes different regions to appear at different distances from the eye. But, with a view from the very center of a globe, looking out, the eye is the same distance from every point on the map.
It is fascinating to view the earth this way for the first time. Africa is huge. North America, Europe and Asia are all jammed up against the North Pole. You have to look nearly straight up to see them. Sizes and locations of continents and countries you’ve always taken for granted are suddenly unfamiliar.
Boston’s early Puritan settlers first arrived in the early 1600s, fleeing the increasing religious conflicts in England after the coronation of the pro-Catholic King Charles I (who was later beheaded in the English Civil War), as well as what they viewed as a corrupt and wealth-intoxicated, Catholic-influenced Anglican Church. Approximately 700 Puritans settled around the area that is now the Boston Common in 1630, trading perceived freedom for unbelievably harsh living conditions, and they died in droves in the early years.
The primary ethos of their community was piety, hard work, education and a morally upright, ascetic lifestyle, with harsh punishments for trespassers. Their religious views included bans on anything considered extravagant or “popish,” including “graven images” and religious symbols. They also had strict views on who might qualify to enter heaven, with most people doomed to merely rot. What followed were some creative solutions in tombstone design.
Located behind a secret door in a seemingly innocuous corner store, Bodega is a high-end clothing store for the freshest kids in the city, the cred of which is probably going down just by being written about.
From the outside, Bodega appears to be simply another of the interchangeable convenience stores found on nearly every block of every major city. The windows are completely packed with dusty nonperishables, and the interior is not much better, with every inch of space selling snacks or household basics in a visually deafening assault of brand names. However, those in the know simply stroll past all this noise and head for the old Snapple machine in the back of the shop.
The machine is not that at all but a door that slides open to reveal a whole other store on the other side — this is the real Bodega. Neatly appointed lacquered shelves hold the latest in street and skate fashion, from shoes to shirts to jackets. The whole space is clean and orderly and is a far cry from the cramped storefront.
The outside of the shop does not advertise its presence, so any sneakerheads looking for some retail therapy will just have to hear about it via word of mouth. Or this write-up. They also don’t have a phone. Get real.
Boston’s iconic Scarlett O’Hara House is not actually a house. It’s an optical illusion. A few decades ago, the faux facade was built to cover up a brick and concrete wall at the end of Rollins Place, fake shutters and all. Today, the facade’s small porch doesn’t lead into the nonexistent white house, but into two separate homes on either side of it.
The three-bedroom abode dates back to 1843, offering four levels of living space and several wood-burning fireplaces. The kitchen and dining areas are accented by exposed beams, built-in shelving and a chandelier, and they open to a private patio. The place is in need of a few upgrades, however. The main staircase could stand to be refinished, while the kitchen and bathrooms might benefit from updated fixtures.
Boston makes up the end of the 80-mile-long Charles River before it leads out to Massachusetts Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. Because of this, it has a long history with water sports, with everything from kayaking to sailing being popular in the warmer months.
Its most famous claim to fame, though? Rowing, which is sometimes known as crew. When you think of important sports landmarks, we’d argue Fenway Park, nearby Gillette Stadium, and the Charles River are all on pretty equal footing. Unlike Fenway and Gillette, though, the Charles River isn’t home to just one crew team or boathouse but many. The most well-known, of course, are the teams from Boston University and Harvard University. It also hosts the world’s largest two-day rowing event for collegiate crew teams — the Head of the Charles Regatta.
Don’t worry, though. You don’t have to be a top collegiate athlete to try your hand at the oar of one of these boats. Learn with the Community Rowing Initiative, which has a mission of inclusivity for the sport.
While you already know about Boston’s ties to the American Revolution and the founding of our nation as we know it, did you also know it has strong ties to the civil rights movement?
To learn more about this, just head over to the neighborhood of Roxbury. Once a town, Roxbury is another municipality that predates America itself, as it was founded as part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630. It’s been known as the “heart of Black culture in Boston” since the mid-20th century and saw the likes of both Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. during their respective formative years. For Malcolm X, this meant his teen years, while for M.L.K., it meant his college years where he fell in love with a certain music student by the name of Coretta Scott.
We highly recommend booking a tour with Live Like a Local to really learn about its history from guides who also call this place home. The company was founded by Collin Knight, a Roxbury native who is passionate about sharing the area’s rich history and culture. He’s designed the tours to really showcase Roxbury and take visitors to interesting places such as Nubian Square, the main center of the neighborhood.
While there, make sure to pop into the Frugal Bookstore. The only African-American-owned bookstore in Boston, it was also named the city’s best bookstore in 2020 and has spent the last 10 years putting BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) authors front and center on their shelves.
The entry fee for Mapparium is $10* per adult, with discounts available for seniors, students and children. The admission ticket includes access to all the exhibitions, including a guided tour of the Mapparium (available in English only). Mapparium is open to the public from Monday to Saturday (9 am to 5 pm*).
*Fees and schedules are subject to change.
The head of the Charles Regatta is the world’s largest two-day rowing event and has been held annually since 1965 on the Charles River in Boston. It is open to any person who owns or can borrow a boat and has the skills to row it safely; however, most of those who compete are serious amateurs or members of college and school teams. The event consists of 54 different races, where each boat has a designated start time and a number of competitors racing over a 3.2-mile course from the Charles River Basin to Artesani Park in Brighton.
Boston is a great city to visit for anyone looking for an urban adventure. It’s a vibrant, historical city with plenty of sights, sounds and activities to explore. Whether you’re looking for a day of sightseeing or a longer stay, there’s something for everyone in Boston.