When you’re planning a trip to New England, you should spend at least one day in Boston. It’s an incredibly charming, historic American city that will leave you wanting more. I spent a week road tripping across the state of Massachusetts.
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I spent a few days exploring Western Massachusetts and Northampton (known as “the other side of Massachusetts”), and a couple of days in North Central MA. Don’t miss the awesome beer scene in Johnny Appleseed Country.
At the same time, you’ll want to incorporate 1 day in Boston within a larger New England trip. Spend 2 days in Boston if you can before moving on to other amazing destinations, like Portsmouth (New Hampshire), Southern Maine, and Portland, Maine.
While I had a little over 24 hours in Boston, I made the most of my time in the city by wandering around and seeing the most important Boston attractions. When you’re looking for things to do in Boston in one day, you know that it won’t be enough time.
Seeing any place in a day is always tricky. However, you can cover a lot of ground with the proper planning. I’ve got you covered in that regard! Here’s my one day in Boston itinerary for an awesome trip.
Where to Stay in Boston
I managed to arrive in Boston during Friday afternoon rush hour traffic. I don’t recommend this. While I am used to driving in Toronto city traffic, which can be terrible at the best of times. Boston was on a whole other level. By the time I reached the hotel, I was feeling beyond stressed out.
Thankfully, the staff at the Lenox Hotel immediately eased my tension. They helped us with my luggage and the valet whisked my car away. I was happy to bid farewell to my car for the duration of my time in Boston. Between Uber and walking everywhere, there was no reason to deal with traffic jams and finding parking spaces.
Staying at the Lenox Hotel in Boston
The Lenox Hotel is the complete package: it’s romantic, luxurious, and has a prime location. I had an enormous room had two beds, a sitting area, a desk, and even a fireplace. From one window, I could gaze beyond this historic, brick hotel across the rooftops. From another window, I watched the most gorgeous sunset.
Summer sunsets in Boston are incredible, and it was such a treat to view it so perfectly from our hotel room. One of my favorite things about The Lenox was how easy it was to walk everywhere. It served as the best home base as it was right in the middle of town. I loved being able to leave the car behind and not worry. You can easily explore Boston on foot, too.
I stayed for two nights at the Lenox Hotel, although I could have easily stayed for longer. Even though this Boston itinerary gives you plans for 24 hours in Boston, I actually stayed here for about a day and a half. It’s the best accommodation, even if you are only discovering Boston in a day or two days. Book your stay at the Lenox Hotel or read more reviews by fellow travelers who have spent the night.
More Hotels in Boston
Want more choices? There are lots of incredible hotels in Boston. Here’s a handy booking tool where you can see all of the accommodations and vacation rentals in one place. It’s easy to compare prices and find the best rate for your trip to Boston.
Getting Around Boston
I drove my own car to Boston from Toronto on a road trip across New York and Massachusetts. Once I reached Boston, I parked my car at the hotel and didn’t need it in the city. I either walked around most places or took an Uber from place to place.
With that said, you might want access to a rental car during your stay in Boston. Perhaps you’d rather have the freedom to drive wherever you’d like. Boston is a pretty big place, and you won’t be able to get everywhere with walking alone. You also might want a rental car once you leave Boston if you continue on a New England road trip.
If you plan to stay for one day in Boston, two days in Boston, or longer, I suggest getting your hands on a Boston CityPASS. You gain admission to four Boston attractions for one low price.
I recommend taking the Boston Harbor Cruise (more details below!), visiting the Museum of Science, and checking out the Harvard Museum of Natural History. You’ll save some cash and be able to visit some top Boston attractions and activities.
Go Boston Pass: Another Way to Save Money
I wasn’t able to take advantage of this option when I visited Boston, but it seems like a great deal to me. The Go Boston Pass allows you to save up to 55% on top attractions in the city. With the pass, you’ll get admission to over 40 activities and attractions, plus discounts on many others.
You have the option to choose a 1-, 2- , 3-, 5-, or 7-day pass. It’s perfect even if you’re wondering what to see in Boston in one day. It comes with a digital guidebook that helps you select your activities and map out your day.
The Night Before: Dinner at By Chloe
Once I arrived to Boston in the late afternoon and got settled in at the Lenox Hotel, I was pretty hungry. It was time for dinner! If you end up spending two nights and one day in Boston, this is a great dining recommendation.
Even if you aren’t vegan or purely plant-based, By Chloe is a delicious option for everyone. It’s comfort food and fast food that’s quite a bit healthier than the standard fare. The menu items contain no meat, dairy, eggs, animal products, and they’re free of artificial flavors, preservatives, cholesterol, and animal saturated fats.
There are a wide variety of menu options, including burgers, sandwiches, pasta, sides, baked goods, ice cream, and more! You order at the front counter and the food is made fresh and fast. I ordered the Mac N Cheese – shell pasta with a sweet potato cashew cheese sauce, topped with shiitake bacon, and my travel buddy ordered a vegan hot dog with all the fixins’.
They’ve also got a great selection of desserts at the front, including vegan ice cream and cupcakes. By Chloe even has those little Hostess cupcakes, gone completely plant-based, of course!
One Day in Boston Itinerary: Must See Boston
Waking up feeling completely refreshed at The Lenox Hotel, we headed out for breakfast. Unfortunately, I had an epic blogger blunder and brought my camera…without its battery. The battery was still charging in the hotel room!
Thank goodness our breakfast place was a five minute walk from the hotel. I jogged back and grabbed the battery and made it back for breakfast shortly after it was prepared. For breakfast, I recommend dining at the Juice Press.
Breakfast at the Juice Press
Start the day off right! The Juice Press has two locations in Boston, and over 70 shops across the country. They’re a completely vegan establishment with the exception of honey in an item or two. The Juice Press has smoothies, smoothie bowls, juices, protein shakes, and light meals like salads and noodle jars.
I ordered the Acai Blueberry Bowl, which was nutritious and delicious. Made with banana, acai berry, blueberry, coconut nectar, maple, granola and maple toasted coconut flakes, it was satisfying and healthy. This is a great place to stop for a quick meal on the go, and I imagine that people working near the Juice Press love their grab and go lunch options.
Go Sightseeing With Boston Harbor Cruises
For my first Boston attraction during my one day in Boston, I boarded a boat to see the coast and city skyline. With Boston Harbor Cruises, you’ll view an entirely different side of Boston from the water. Cruise around for 90 minutes to view the city’s skyline and surrounding islands. We heard some interesting historical tales about Boston that you’ll just have to hear for yourself on the trip.
The cruises depart at set times throughout the day, so be sure to take a peek at their schedule before you head out. I recommend arriving early to make sure you ensure a spot on the boat, and also to get one of the best seats in the house.
Tip: I booked my cruise with the Boston CityPASS. This card saves you up to 45% on top Boston attractions, including a trip with Boston Harbor Cruises. Present your CityPASS voucher at the ticket booth to board the cruise.
All of the chairs face the same direction and for good reason – so you’re looking at the best view! Snag some seats in the front row like we did for the best viewing (and photo) opportunities. Another tip: wear sunscreen! After sitting out in the summer sun for an hour and a half, my shoulders were a little bit red.
I suggest starting your 24 hours in Boston with the harbor cruise so you can learn some historical facts and details about the city. It’s great to learn some interesting stories and perspectives before going sightseeing in Boston.
One Day in Boston: Visit the Boston Public Market
By now, you might be feeling a little bit hungry again. Head on over to the Boston Public Market, home to over 35 vendor stalls and open 7 days a week all year long. You can find locally sourced food from Massachusetts and New England. In this land of seafood, there are a few vegan options.
I opted for a falafel pita at Inna’s Kitchen, which serves traditional Jewish cuisine from around the world. Super flavorful falafels, stuffed inside a pita with veggies and topped with tahini – you can’t go wrong with this one.
Jennifer Lee’s Allergy Free Bakery
Wander across the market to Jennifer Lee’s Allergy Free Bakery to indulge in some vegan desserts. From cookies to donuts, Jennifer has got your cravings covered. There are also sandwiches and paninis, too, although these sell out as the day goes on. Get your favorite while it lasts!
Time for Coffee: Thinking Cup Coffee Shop
The Boston Public Market was very busy around lunchtime and there weren’t many places to sit. We actually stood at the only free table to eat our lunch. In need of somewhere to rest our legs (and, as always, the desire to sip a cup of coffee), we walked across the way to the Thinking Cup coffee shop.
This cute and charming cafe was the perfect place to pause on a day of adventures. The coffee was strong and there were even some vegan and gluten-free options for food. Even though I was really full from lunch, I’d consider going back for more dessert here if I had 2 days in Boston or more.
Things to Do in Boston: North End Park
On a hot day, don’t you wish you could run through a sprinkler like when you were a kid? Well, fear not. North End Park is a grassy patch in the middle of the city where the young and young at heart can go for a roam through the fountains. If you’ve got one day in Boston and happen to be walking past, why not check out this darling little green space?
Well, maybe it wasn’t designed for a grown-up travel blogging lady to go prancing through…but, why not? I also adored the urban garden bursting with greenery and flowers in the middle of the park. It’s a great picnic spot, or even just an area to cool down from the summer heat.
Must See in Boston: Beacon Hill
Who wouldn’t love wandering around an enchanting, historic neighborhood? As you stroll around the streets of Beacon Hill, you’ll notice colonial row houses, brick sidewalks, cobblestone streets, antiquated iron fences, and painted front doors.
On Beacon Street itself, walk past the captivating Massachusetts State House with its majestic pillars and impressive golden dome. Then, take a detour towards Acorn Street, one of the most photographed streets in the United States. You can’t help but immediately fall for this neighborhood.
Boston in 24 Hours: See the Boston Public Garden
The Public Garden quickly became one of my favorite places to visit in Boston. When spending one day in Boston, you must add the Public Garden to your travel plans. Established in 1837, it’s the first public botanical garden in the USA.
The garden showcases over 80 species of plants and flowers initially cultivated in local greenhouses. It is free to wander and explore. From paddling around in a Swan Boat to admiring the fountains and statues, a jaunt around Boston’s Public Garden is something you simply must do.
Make Way For Ducklings
While you’re there, say hello to the adorable “Make Way For Ducklings” statues and greet the real ducks that grace the lagoon. Relax beneath a weeping willow tree on a warm, summer day, and you might never want to leave this oasis in the city.
I also managed to see some real ducklings in addition those of the statue variety. There were also other residents of the park: squirrels, chipmunks, pigeons and birds.
Monuments and Statues
Boston Public Garden and Boston Common have many monuments and statues dedicated to important figures throughout history. Stop to discover these plaques and memorials whether you’re visiting the park or walking the Freedom Trail.
Boston Common and the Freedom Trail
Although we didn’t spend a lot of time exploring the Freedom Trail, I’d start here upon my return to Boston. Start at Boston Common, America’s oldest public park, founded in 1634. Boston Common has loads of walking paths, a vintage carousel, a frog pond (that becomes a skating rink in the winter), and many monuments.
Prepare to be fascinated by 16 historically significant sites, from churches to burying grounds. For more information, including a detailed map, please check out the Freedom Trail’s official website.
Dinner at Artbar Cambridge
After a day of wandering, we were pretty starving. Enter ArtBar Cambridge. The chef prepared a special vegan meal for the both of us, and it was incredibly delicious. On the menu, everything that’s vegetarian is marked with a “V”.
Be sure to inquire in advance if you follow a vegan diet, as I’m sure you can savor an equally magical dining experience to the one that I did! This meal matched the summer patio weather so well, starting with a chilled peach and watermelon soup.
From there, we were served a flavorful pesto vegetable flatbread, topped with artichokes and arugula. The main course was falafel served over couscous. At the end of the meal, we devoured a tart fruit sorbet with ripe berries. To drink, what could be better than a watermelon sling?
The view was almost as good as the food, as we admired scenery of the sun setting over the harbor as we dined.
Extended One Day in Boston: Stay for Breakfast
Before heading out the next morning, I went for breakfast at a nearby restaurant with the best name ever, The Friendly Toast. It’s a pretty popular place and often difficult to get a table right away. Fear not: the restaurant puts you on a list, and they’ll text you when your table is ready. Pretty cool, eh?
The Friendly Toast has a wild, eclectic design. There are lots of kitschy knickknacks on the bar, shelves, and hanging from the ceiling. Even our table had a little ceramic owl on it.
The menu has a few vegan breakfast items, including a breakfast burrito and a tofu scramble. I ordered the vegan pancakes with a side of home fries. It ended up being way too much food, although I don’t regret the decision as both the pancakes and potatoes were very yummy.
2 Days in Boston: More Things to Do in Boston
Planning to stay longer than just one day in Boston? I can hardly blame you! Boston is such a fascinating city with so many things to see and do. Here are some more ideas for your Boston travel itinerary that I’m adding to my list for the next time I visit.
- Harvard University Tour: Embark on a student led tour of Harvard
- Explore more of Cambridge after visiting Harvard. There are lots of squares, cafes, restaurants, boutiques, and more.
- Boston Craft Beer Tour: Go behind the scenes at three local craft breweries
- Check out a sporting event, like a Boston Red Sox game at Fenway Park
- Besides the Boston Public Market, there are other great markets to check out. Faneuil Hall Marketplace is a marketplace district that’s home to Faneuil Hall, Quincy Market, South Market, and North Market.
- Go for a walk on the Charles River Esplanade
- Check out the Skywalk Observatory for epic city views