Boston’s history recalls revolution and transformation, and today it is still among the country’s most forward-thinking and barrier-breaking cities.
Founded in 1636 to educate men for the ministry, Harvard is America’s oldest college. The original Ivy League school has eight graduates who went on to be US presidents, not to mention dozens of Nobel laureates and Pulitzer Prize winners. The geographic heart of Harvard University – where red-brick buildings and leaf-covered paths exude academia – is Harvard Yard. Free historical tours of Harvard Yard depart from the Smith Campus Center; self-guided tours are also available.
What is it that makes Fenway Park ‘America’s Most Beloved Ballpark’? It’s not just that it’s the home of the Boston Red Sox. Open since 1912, it is the oldest operating baseball park in the country. As such, the park has many quirks that make for a unique experience. See them all on a ballpark tour. (Avoid afternoon tours on game days; crowds are huge and tours shortened.
Boston Public Library
Dating from 1852, the esteemed Boston Public Library lends credence to Boston’s reputation as the Athens of America. The old McKim building is notable for its magnificent facade and exquisite interior art. Pick up a free brochure and take a self-guided tour; alternatively, free guided tours depart from the entrance hall (times vary; see the website for the current schedule).
A masterpiece of American architecture, Trinity Church is the country’s ultimate example of Richardsonian Romanesque. The granite exterior, with a massive portico and side cloister, uses sandstone in colorful patterns. The interior is an awe-striking array of murals and stained glass, most by artist John LaFarge, who cooperated closely with architect Henry Hobson Richardson to create an integrated composition of shapes, colors and textures. Free architectural tours are offered following Sunday service; on other days there’s a modest admission fee.
The Boston Common has served many purposes over the years, including as a campground for British troops during the Revolutionary War and as green grass for cattle grazing until the 1830s. Although there is still a grazing ordinance on the books, the Common today serves picnickers, sunbathers and people-watchers. In winter, the Frog Pond attracts ice-skaters, while summer draws theater lovers for Shakespeare on the Common. This is also the starting point for the Freedom Trail.
Here you’ll find a cluster of handsome historic buildings, including the ornate French-Romanesque Trinity Church, the masterwork of architect HH Richardson. Across the street, the classic Boston Public Library, America’s first municipal library, lends credence to Boston’s reputation as the ‘Athens of America.’ Pick up a self-guided tour brochure and wander around, noting gems like the murals by John Singer Sargent and sculpture by Augustus Saint-Gaudens.