What are the best things to do in Boston in the winter?
Okay, maybe winter in Boston isn't an obvious choice for a dream vacation, but if you find yourself in Beantown during the snowier months, have no fear--there’s still plenty of fun to be had visiting Boston in the winter! Sure, the Boston harbor cruises, music festivals, and the cheers coming out of Fenway Park are just distant memories (some years, more distant than others), and the trees have shed their famous fall foliage, but it’s something special to see a blanket of snow falling on Beantown. The truth is, winter in Boston can be quite magical, not to mention a bit quieter--and the hotel room rates in Boston are much cheaper! So, what’s there to do in Boston in the winter, you ask? We’re here to give you a few tips!
Mix a little Boston sightseeing into your ski trip
You probably won’t be hitting the slopes on Beacon Hill (though, you might see people attempt this during a nor’easter), but for many folks looking to ski New England, Boston is the gateway. If you’re heading for the mountains of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, or Vermont, and you have even one day in Boston, you’ll want to do a little sightseeing. In the winter, we operate our 3 hour guided Best of Boston Trolley Tour on Saturday mornings--it’s a nice alternative to a hop on hop off Boston tour, because you still see lots of the main sites (USS Constitution, the Freedom Trail, Faneuil Hall, Back Bay, and more), but you don’t have to worry about lines, crowds, or waiting. If you want to see it all, try one of our most popular day trips from Boston, the Boston Total Experience coach tour--you won’t be sorry you did! It features a little bit of Harvard, a little bit of Paul Revere’s Ride, the battlefields of Concord and Lexington, a stop for lunch at Faneuil Hall/Quincy Market, and a great overview of Boston’s best sites.
Sharpen your skates and hit the ice on the Boston Commons
Starting soon after Thanksgiving, the Boston Commons are fully decked for the holiday season, and the Frog Pond is frozen over and open to the public for ice-skating. With fresh snowfall, it’s a picture-perfect site to behold, in one of the nation’s oldest public parks. If you're like us, and you've slipped and planted your backside on the ice enough times for the day, you can warm up with some fine dining and some of Boston’s best boutique shopping on Charles Street, or head for the huge selection of department stores and cafes in Downtown Crossing.
See how the world works, or relax at the IMAX, at the Boston Museum of Science!
Whether you’ve got your children with you or not, this is another great place to while away the winter hours. Classic dinosaur exhibits, the hair-raising Lightning Show, and our favorite cinematic thrill rides in the Mugar Omni Theater will be fun for visitors of all ages--but remember to purchase tickets in advance, especially on weekends!
For more Boston winter activities that won’t leave you out in the cold, explore Back Bay
When temperatures fall to freezing and the snow piles up, some of Boston's top tourist attractions along the Freedom Trail are perhaps better seen from the inside of the tour bus, as we suggested. There are also plenty of fascinating places where you can spend your time indoors, and Back Bay is home to many of them! Consider one of Boston's hidden gems, the Boston Public Library in Copley Square. The modern wing of the library is home to lots and lots of books (shocking, we know!)--but in case that doesn’t have you and the kids lining up at the door, you might want to venture into the old historic wing--and suddenly, you’ve stepped back in time! Make your way through the majestic atrium, into the original structure, which houses a magnificent reading room, some epic murals and portraits done by famed artist John Singer Sargent and others, and a labyrinth of scattered mini-museum exhibits tucked into quiet nooks and crannies, including collections of everything from creepy old marionettes, to stunning 19th century dioramas and collections of antique musical instruments.
If you are braving the elements in Copley Square, trying to get a closer look at architect I.M. Pei's stunning glass tower at 300 Clarendon, or visiting the Trinity Church, you might need a little refueling--perhaps a good cup of coffee and a pastry. Lucky for you, the church is a stone's throw from Flour Bakery + Cafe, one of Boston’s best bakeries, where you can grab heavenly bread pudding, gargantuan sticky buns, ganache tarts, and pastries like the divine "Butter Breton Roll”, inspired by the French kouign aman.
Out by the Fens, don’t miss the Museum of Fine Arts, which houses incredible selections from around the world, including an especially renowned collection of Impressionist paintings (some of Monet’s finest!), and a fascinating collection of art and artifacts from the ancient worlds of Egypt, Asia, Rome, Greece, and more. If conventional museums aren’t your thing, you won’t want to miss the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum! The eccentric heiress' lovingly curated home is itself a masterpiece; with rooms designed to house specific paintings and motifs. Each room is tastefully jam-packed with the finest eclectic pieces of art, furniture, and decorations that she and her husband came across in their world travels--more of an enormous, lived-in shrine to art, than a museum.
Beat the sleet while shopping in Copley Place and the Prudential Tower
In the winter, you can avoid Back Bay’s blustery wind-tunnel effect by ducking into the shops at Copley Place, where you'll find designer shops like Neiman Marcus, an assortment of kiosks selling everything from jewelry to lattes and fudge, a cinema, and a host of world-class eateries including a branch of Boston’s favorite local seafood chain, Legal Seafoods, where you can try some award-winning clam chowder and lobster.
Take the glass bridge over Huntington Avenue, where you’ll find the shops at the Prudential Center. A giant Barnes and Noble Bookstore, Saks 5th Avenue, and the Prudential Skywalk observation deck, which boasts a bird’s eye view of the city, are some of the main draws here. In the mood for Italian food? The Prudential now houses a Boston branch of the famed food emporium, Eataly. If it’s Italian and it's food related, you’ll find it here--Italy's finest cured meats, imported cheeses, fresh pasta, gelato, cannoli, fresh seafood, and great wines by the glass. See? Even in the midst of a winter in Boston, the world is still your oyster!