1 Day In Boston? Here’s Our Must See List
This post is part of a series on what to do when you have one day in port on a Cruise. You can find more posts from this series on my page, How To Spend One Day In Port.
Boston is the base port for many cruise lines that do “fall colors” cruises through New England and Canada. We arrive at the end of the season just in time for the repositioning cruise to the Caribbean. This is our first time visiting the area, and we want to soak in as much history as possible.
Including our embarkation day, we have two days in town. But, for our 1 day in Boston, we focus our time on the “Freedom Trail” tour. The Trail is a 2.5-mile walk through the historical revolutionary sites of the City. The great thing about the path is that you also walk through some of Boston’s most iconic neighborhoods and learn about the American Revolution.
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There is no shortage of tours around this fantastic City, and there are probably 100 guided tours of the Freedom Trail daily. There are free walks, themed tours (the guides dress and talk like they are in Boston in the 1600s), the Duck tour, and the now ubiquitous Hop-On Hop-Off (HOHO) bus tours. You can pick your poison and your price.
If you are more independent-minded, the Freedom Trail is part of the National Park Service! Download the National Park Service App for your mobile. (You can find the link to the app at the bottom of the park services’ home page.) Here you will find a self-guided tour complete with narration.
Morning Of 1 Day In Boston
We decide to walk the Freedom Trail backward. Why? Our hotel is close to the usual start of the Trail, Boston Commons. With that in mind, we take a rideshare to the end of the walk, the USS Constitution. This way, when we finish the route, we will be close to the hotel versus the other way around.
There are around 15 sites along the Freedom Trail. You will want to enter and see the exhibits at some stops, like the USS Constitution and Paul Revere House. Some locations charge extra for entry. But many of the “trail” points are outdoor locations you can walk through at your own pace.
Starting Our Walk Of Boston’s Freedom Trail
Even though the Bunker Hill Monument is the “end” of the Trail, we start at the USS Constitution. The Constitution is the world’s oldest warship still afloat, initially commissioned in 1797.
During her years in active service defending the fledgling United States on the high seas, the Constitution was undefeated in battle. She destroyed or captured 33 opponents and earned the nickname “Old Ironsides.”
Today the frigate spends most of her time in Boston Harbor, fulfilling her mission to promote the Navy’s history. In 2022, Commander Billie J. Farrell became the first woman to command the Constitution.
After touring the ship, we locate the red brick path that guides you through the 2.5 miles of the Freedom Trail and head for Bunker Hill. It’s a fun walk on through the historic Charlestown District. The streets are lined with beautiful old townhouses, many decorated with Fall’s harvest bounty.
Crossing Back Over The Charles River
Leaving Bunker Hill and crossing over the Charles River drops you in the “North End,” maybe the most popular area in Boston. If you are looking for Italian food, this is where you want to be. Boston’s own “Little Italy.”
Mike’s Pastry on Hanover Street has some of the best cannolis you can find anywhere. You see people with little boxes of goodies all around.
Following the Trail, you walk through Copp’s Hill Burying Ground, past the Old North Church (home of “one if by land; two if by sea” fame), and maybe most importantly, the Paul Revere House.
Paul Revere’s house is the oldest remaining structure in downtown Boston and the only site on the Freedom Trail that is a home! We pause our walk here to tour the house and see how people lived in the late 1700s in Boston.
When you cross the John F. Fitzgerald Expressway, you are in Downtown Boston proper and at Faneuil Hall Marketplace. A historic building, Faneuil Hall now houses a shopping center. Back in the day, the hall hosted America’s first “Town Meeting.” Today a crowd has gathered outside the plaza to watch some buskers using a ridiculously tall unicycle that looks like a child’s riding pony to entertain us.
Walking onward, down Congress Street to State Street, we come to the site of the Old State House and the Boston Massacre. It was here that after months of tensions, Bostonians clashed with the British forces resulting in the death of five civilians.
Here’s Where Talk Of A Revolution Began
Just down the street from the Old State House is The Old South Meeting House. Old South was the center for public protest against the British, including the day Samuel Adams called for the Boston Tea Party and maybe where the American Revolution against the British started.
Just across the street from Old South is the Old Corner Bookstore. This building has had many uses, originally a home and apothecary, later a publishing house and bookseller. Many great American authors you know and love, like Hawthorne, Beecher-Stowe, and Longfellow, were first published here. Now the venerable building houses a Chipolte.
Because we are walking the Trail backward, I must admit that sometimes we go in the wrong direction. But this is how we found this mosaic representing the oldest public school in the US, Boston Latin School, founded in 1635, and the statue of Benjamin Franklin.
We are about three-quarters of the Freedom Trail when our stomachs get the best of us. We decide we’ve walked enough so far, and it’s time to get lunch.
Lobster Rolls, Clam Chowder And Beer!
Across the street on the corner of Washington and Water Streets is Luke’s Lobster. We read this is the go-to place for a true New England Lobster Roll. Unfortunately, the line to order is out the door, as is common these days with the popular spots.
We walk back towards our hotel, less than a quarter mile away, and choose to have a sit-down lunch at the Broadside Tavern. This is one of Boston’s many “Irish” pub-style eateries and a good choice. We order a hard cider for my husband, a Sam Adams for me, a pretzel, and New England Clam Chowder.
The pretzel is enormous, warm, and served with three mustard sauces. The chowder is thick, with lots of clams, bacon, and potatoes. Yummy! The perfect lunch on this drizzly afternoon.
Back On The Trail – The Final 5 Stops For Our 1 Day In Boston
After quick rest at the hotel to digest our lunch, we head out to complete our walk of The Freedom Trail. We backtrack a little to get on to the red brick trail and head for Kings Chapel & Kings Burying Ground. Kings Chapel was Boston’s first Anglican church, and the adjacent burial ground is the oldest in Boston.
Keeping with the burial plot theme, our walk takes us to the Granary Burying Ground. This was probably the most used cemetery in Boston. It’s estimated that over 5,000 are buried here. Indeed it is the final resting place for a few founding fathers, such as Robert Treat Pain, John Hancock, and Samuel Adams.
On the far side of the Granary is the Park Street Church. Why is it called the Park Street Church? Well, because obviously, it is on Park Street, the street that is the boundary of the Park (Boston Common). With its 217-foot steeple, the Park Street Chruch was probably one of the first landmarks travelers in the 1800s saw when approaching Boston.
The current Massachusetts State House sits at the intersection of Park Street and Beacon Street on the edge of Beacon Hill, one of Boston’s oldest neighborhoods. As you admire the Federal-era architecture of this government house, take a look behind you.
At the entrance to Boston Commons from Beacon Street is a monument to the 54th Regiment. This bas-relief sculpted by Augustus Saint -Gaudens commemorates the first all-Black volunteer regiment in the Civil War.
Lastly, we come to Boston Common, the starting point on the Freedom Trail. Even if you aren’t going to walk the Trail on your 1 day in Boston, this park is worth a visit. After all, this is the oldest public park in the United States! Adjacent to the Commons is Boston Public Garden, where you will find the famous swan boats.
The Public Garden was America’s first public botanical garden. And while Boston Common is great for recreational activities, the Garden is the place for quiet reflection on the flora of New England and, of course, the Swan Pond. And it’s here we finish our walk through the historic sites of Boston.
Morning Of Embarkation A Quick Visit To The New England Aquarium
With a few hours to kill before our embarkation, we check out the New England Aquarium; it’s only a 5-minute walk from our hotel. We drop our bags with the bellman and head over to see the fish!
As I mentioned in my Monterey, California post, we love aquariums. We head down to our beloved Monterey Bay Aquarium as often as possible. The New England Aquarium is not as extensive as Monterey. Still, it has some unique habitats and animals for the public to interact with.
How To Get To Black Falcon Cruise Terminal
Like many visitors to Boston in the Fall, we are here for a cruise. So after two days of soaking in this beautiful City, we head to the Black Falcon Cruise Terminal to board the Celebrity Summit. The easiest way to get to the terminal is by taxi or rideshare.
Our hotel near Faneuil Hall in downtown Boston is close to the cruise port. If not for our luggage, we could easily walk. I am kind of amazed at how close everything is here in Boston. Our ride downtown from the Logan Airport took around 20 minutes. And the ride to the Boston cruise terminal is about 10 minutes.
If you arrive in Boston for your cruise on the same day it leaves the distance from the airport to Black Falcon pier is just 4 miles and (once you get a car) probably less than 20 minutes.
Now I never recommend arriving at your embarkation port on the same day as your cruise. The weather and other flight delays make arriving on the day of the cruise too close for my nervous system. If you have a more robust constitution than me and want to try your luck, at least the distances are short.
Foods You Want To Try On Your 1 Day In Boston
Chowder – The Creamy New England Kind
You can find chowder on nearly every menu in Boston. The most often recommended restaurant and one of the best places for chowder is the Union Oyster House. If you want to make clam chowder at home, my recipe is based loosely on the Oyster House. I use a bit less butter and add some garlic to my recipe. It will warm your soul on a cold fall evening.
Parker House Rolls And Boston Cream Pie
Did you know that the most popular dinner roll, the Parker House roll is from Boston? As we are walking along the Trail, I glance across the street, and there stands the famous Parker House hotel. Home of the delicious buttery, flaky dinner rolls that bear their name.
If that one item wasn’t enough goodness to come from the Parker House’s kitchen back in 1856, it’s claimed that Chef Sanzian created the first Boston Cream Pie. Truth or fiction? Who knows, but I’m happy to have these two lovely baked goods.
Sea Food – Yes, Have The Lobster Roll!
With 1 day in Boston, we want to have seafood for Dinner. The Hotel Concierge recommends “Mare Oyster Bar,” which sits right on Boston Harbor like most places around us.
Finally, my husband gets his lobster roll. I, on the other hand, order the tagliatelli with lobster. Both ways, the lobster, is sweet and plentiful.
Where To Stay In Boston
It makes sense to stay in downtown Boston if you are here for a short stay. We fly into Logan Airport from San Francisco, and the ride to our hotel is just around 20 minutes. Of course, this was at 10:00 at night; timing is everything.
Being long-time Hilton Honors members, we usually choose from their brands. In the downtown area, there are several choices. We pick the Hilton Boston Downtown/Faneuil Hall solely based on location.
From our hotel, it’s a short walk to the North End (the place to go for Italian food), Boston Common, and more. No need for a car here. If where you are going is too far (or too rainy), it’s easy to call an uber.
For cruise passengers, downtown is easy access to the Black Falcon Cruise Terminal. Almost walkable, except for hauling your luggage.
Staying In Boston For More Than 1 Day? Check Out These Places
Being short on time means we couldn’t visit as much of Boston as we’d like. But now we have reasons to come back. I’d love to see the Red Sox play at the historic Fenway Park or visit the campus of Harvard University. And then there is the whole Back Bay neighborhood.
Using Boston as your home base, you can also have fantastic day trips. New England is chock full of charming towns and colonial history.
Want to see where those first refugees from England landed in the Americas? Make a day trip down to Plymouth and Cape Cod.
Or if witches are more your game, Salem is the place to go. Here you can learn about the witch trial that started in February 1692 and continued through May 1693. Over 200 people were accused of practicing the dark arts in this tiny hamlet. During this deadliest witch hunt in colonial North America, thirty women and men were found guilty of practicing witchcraft in Salem.
If You Only Have 1 Day In Boston, Plan Ahead To Make The Most Of Your Time
We are already planning another visit to Boston and the greater New England area. But I’m glad we planned ahead and could see a lot of the historic City of Boston in just one day.