Boston tours and excursions

Boston tours

Boat tours

Massachusetts Bay Lines runs a variety of boat tours including historic, whale-watching and music cruises. The Charles Riverboat Company operates sunset cruises and architecture-themed tours on the river and the harbour, while Boston Harbor Cruises operates cruises to the offshore Harbor Islands - the Inner Harbor Cruise and the Outer Harbor Cruise as well as whale watching cruises.

Telephone: (617) 542 8000 ; (617) 621 3001 ; (617) 227 4321.
Bus tours

The oldest and most popular trolley bus tour is the two-hour Beantown Trolley/Brush Hill Tours. Other options include Old Town Trolley Tours which operates two-hour general city tours as well as themed tours, such as ‘Boston Chocolate Tour' and ‘Ghosts and Gravestones'.

Telephone: (781) 986 6100 ; 1 888 910 8687 (TOUR)
Duck tours

The popular Boston Duck Tours are in refurbished WWII amphibious vehicles - called ‘ducks', which cruise the land and the Charles River. Tours depart every 30 to 60 minutes from the Prudential Center, 101 Huntington Avenue in front of Shaw's Supermarket and from the Museum of Science, Science Park at Charles River Dam from April through November.

Telephone: (617) 267 3825.
Walking tours

The Freedom Trail is a self-guided, 4km (2.5 miles) walking tour that starts at the Boston Common Visitor Information Center and follows a red-brick line on the pavement. Its historic sites are associated with the movement to free the colonies from British control and information is provided at every point. Many of its locations have their own admission conditions and opening hours. The trail's highlights include the Park Street Church, an early 1800s, anti-slavery venue; Granary Burying Ground, where revolutionaries Samuel Adams, John Hancock and Paul Revere are interred; the Old South Meeting House, the site of the decisive meeting regarding the Tea Party, and the USS Constitution. A two-hour Freedom Trail audio guide of the trail is available at the Boston Common Visitor Information Center.

The Black Heritage Trail is a 2.5km (1.6 miles) trail that celebrates 19th-century African-American history and contributions, and includes 14 historic sites, most in the Beacon Hill district. Attractions include the Robert Gould Shaw and 54th Regiment Memorial, a commemoration to the first black regiment of the Civil War, the Phillips School, one of the first mixed-race schools, and the home of the black abolitionist, John J Smith House. Tours can be arranged by contacting the Boston African National Historic Site.

North End Market Tour is a unique three-hour walking tour around Boston's Italian neighbourhood. It combines American-Italian history with culinary origins. Audissey Guides brings the history of the city to life with sound effects and drama. It is an individual two-hour walking tour to different sites with a CD or MP3 (visitor's own equipment) which can be purchased online or at the Boston Visitor Center.

Telephone: (617) 357 8300 ; (617) 742 1600.

Excursions from Boston

Cape Cod

Although Cape Cod feels like an island, it is actually a 105km-long (65 miles) peninsula with 15 small towns, numerous villages and around 960km (600 miles) of distinctive, beautiful sandy coastline. The gateway town, Sandwich, is also the Cape's oldest, founded in 1637. Route 6A, better known as the Old King's Highway, forms the spine of the peninsula taking in many historic settlements on its way up to New Beach.

Just before New Beach is Provincetown, long renowned as an artistic colony and known also as the gay centre of New England. Falmouth in the southeast has a classic village green, white church and 19th-century houses. On the south side is Hyannis, famous for being a home of the Kennedy family, and where you will find the JFK Memorial & Museum. Wellfleet, halfway up the western coastline, is popular for its oysters. Nearby Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket are also worth exploring.

Telephone: (508) 362 3225.

New England is very much about small towns with history, culture, white churches and colourful autumn leaves. Concord, only 35km (22 miles) northwest of Boston, is the stereotype. It can be combined with a stop at Lexington to make a full day's excursion.

This is the place where the advancing colonial British troops (the ‘Redcoats') first encountered the speedy defence capabilities of the ‘Minutemen', so-called because they were ready for battle in only 60 seconds. The first American victory, of what was to become the American War of Independence, was here at North Bridge. An idea of what they were firing at each other is to be found at Bullet Hole House, pierced by a Redcoat musket ball.

Literary culture also abounds in Concord. Ralph Waldo Emerson's house is now a public museum, not far from the town's central Monument Square. Nearby are the Orchard House and the Wayside of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. Just south of the square is Henry David Thoreau's Walden Pond. All three are buried in Author's Ridge at the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.

Telephone: (978) 369 3120.

Boston holds most of Massachusetts' major landmarks, but it is not the only place with history. The coastal town of Plymouth, just 64km (40 miles) from Boston, is most famous for being the landing point for the original settlers from the Mayflower. The beach features a replica of the ‘Plimouth Rock' which legend says was the exact spot where the settlers beached their ship.

For colonial enthusiasts, there is the Plimouth Plantation, 147 Warren Avenue, a re-enactment of a typical settlement of the original pilgrims, complete with cooking demonstrations, authentic mud shelters and wigwams. Guides, clad in breeches and buckled shoes, will take you through a typical day in the life of the pilgrims.

In true New England fashion, Plymouth is also home to a great deal of ‘fresh-off-the-pier' seafood restaurants and coastal-themed eateries. The boardwalk is brimming with boutiques and ice cream stalls; if the weather permits you might want to take a stroll along the breakers (a stone wall protecting the harbour) and enjoy an uninhibited view of the Atlantic Ocean and a traditional New England coastline.

Telephone: (508) 747 7533.

The site of the famous 1692 witch trials, the little town of Salem is less than an hour north of Boston. One of the main attractions is the Salem Witch Museum, which chronicles witchcraft and witch hunts. Salem was also the birthplace of author Nathaniel Hawthorne.

New England's oldest mansion (1668), the House of the Seven Gables, was the inspiration for Hawthorne's book of the same name. The Salem Maritime National Historic Site explores the town's rich history with the Peabody Essex Museum. The best time to visit Salem is between spring and early fall.

Telephone: (978) 744 3663.