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Best Attractions in Boston

In a city with dozens of attractions, you may have trouble deciding where to spend your time when you visit on vacation. Here are the highlights for this destination, as chosen by AAA editors. GEMs are “Great Experiences for Members.”

For Curious Minds

With more than 550 playful exhibits, Boston's Museum of Science makes science not only palatable but fun for kids, science-phobes and even jaded adults. There are so many things to do, this museum feels like a theme park. On the waterfront, the New England Aquarium is another perennial favorite. Highlights include the ever-popular penguin exhibit, a 200,000-gallon coral reef display and an outdoor tank for harbor seals.

For Art Lovers

On the Avenue of the Arts, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston , has all the Manets, Monets, Picassos, Rembrandts, Renoirs, Sargents and Whistlers you'd expect to find at one of the country's premier art venues. I.M. Pei designed the west wing. Nearby is the Venetian-style palazzo of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum with its private collection of paintings, sculptures, furniture and textiles.

The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum is another example of I.M. Pei's architectural vision. This dramatic glass and concrete structure at Columbia Point honors the Boston congressman who became the 35th president of the United States. Adams National Historical Park in Quincy preserves the birthplaces of presidents John and John Quincy Adams, along with their homes and the churchyard containing their graves. It's a must-see stop on any trip.

For the History Buff

Boston means history, and when you travel the 2.5-mile Freedom Trail, it will lead you past dozens of famous sites. The Boston Massacre occurred in front of the Old State House , where John Hancock was inaugurated as first governor of the commonwealth. Stirring speeches and passionate pleas echoed within the walls of Faneuil Hall , ultimately leading to revolution. Lanterns hung in the steeple of Old North Church signaled Paul Revere's celebrated midnight ride. Revere forged the original copper sheathing for the warship USS Constitution , nicknamed “Old Ironsides” during the War of 1812. Bunker Hill Monument marks the site of a critical battle during the British occupation. In the nearby town of Lexington , you can stand on the bridge where war began with “the shot heard 'round the world” in 1775.

For Educated Minds

With one of the highest concentrations of colleges and universities in the world, Boston is a college town of the highest order—and Harvard University is its most venerable symbol. The Ivy League campus in Cambridge is a destination that exemplifies the history of American architecture, representing styles from Colonial to ultramodern.

Cambridge also is home to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology , a perfect stop to add to a group travel itinerary. This hotbed of high-tech innovation features a museum with holography displays and other technology-centered exhibits. Eero Saarinen designed the stark, windowless MIT chapel to represent “spiritual unworldliness.”

Spiritual enlightenment drew 19th-century intellectuals and writers to Boston, among them Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Nathaniel Hawthorne. The Concord Museum displays the contents of Emerson's 1882 study and a large collection of Thoreau's possessions, including his bed, desk and chair from Walden Pond. In Sudbury, Longfellow's Wayside Inn , made famous in his series of poems published in 1863, includes a 13-room museum, a chapel and formal gardens.

In Salem, you can visit The House of the Seven Gables , actually a collection of six historic buildings including Nathaniel Hawthorne's birthplace and the seven-gabled home that inspired his classic novel. They must be included in any vacation packages you're considering. The nearby Peabody Essex Museum , noted for its maritime art collection and 24 restored houses, boasts more than 2.4 million art objects.

Nearby Attractions

If you have extra time for sightseeing, don't miss AAA GEM attractions in Gloucester, Lowell, Plymouth and Saugus, all within a 40-mile radius. These locales all offer fun things to do for every traveler.

See all the AAA recommended attractions for this destination.

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Boston, MA

Top AAA Diamond Hotels

AAA’s in-person hotel evaluations are unscheduled to ensure the inspector has an experience similar to that of members. To pass inspection, all hotels must meet the same rigorous standards for cleanliness, comfort and hospitality. These hotels receive a AAA Diamond designation that tells members what type of experience to expect.

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138 St. James Ave. Boston, MA 02116

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50 Park Plaza. Boston, MA 02116

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Boston Harbor Hotel

70 Rowes Wharf. Boston, MA 02110

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Fairfield by Marriott-Amesbury

35 Clarks Rd. Amesbury, MA 01913

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Travel Information

City Population

617,594

Elevation

20 ft.

Sales Tax

The state sales tax in Massachusetts is 6.25 percent. Combined city and state taxes on hotel occupancy in Boston is 14.45 percent.

Emergency

911

Police (non-emergency)

(617) 343-4500

Fire (non-emergency)

(617) 343-3550

Time and Temperature

(617) 637-1234

Hospitals

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, (617) 667-7000; Boston Medical Center, (617) 638-8000; Massachusetts General Hospital, (617) 726-2000; Tufts Medical Center, (617) 636-5000.

Visitor Information

2 Copley Place, Suite 105 Boston, MA 02116. Phone:(617)536-4100 or (888)733-2678

Air Travel

Logan International Airport (BOS) is just 3 miles east of downtown across Boston Inner Harbor.

Rental Cars

Boston is served by most major rental car agencies. Hertz provides discounts to AAA members; phone (617) 568-5200 or (800) 654-3131.

Rail Service

Amtrak offers service to and from New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., out of Boston's South Station at Atlantic Avenue and Summer Street. Connections to all points in the national Amtrak system can be made at the Back Bay Station, 145 Dartmouth St.; phone (800) 872-7245 for reservations and information. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) operates commuter rail service; phone (617) 222-3200.

Buses

Greyhound Lines Inc., (800) 231-2222, and Peter Pan Bus Lines, (800) 343-9999, operate from South Station.

Cruise Ports

Cruiseport Boston’s Black Falcon Cruise Terminal is at 1 Black Falcon Ave. in South Boston.

Taxis

Cabs in Boston are metered, with the fare $2.60 for the first 1/7 mile or less and 40c for every 1/7 mile thereafter. Phoning for a pickup or going to a hotel taxi stand is easier than hailing a cab on the street. Local companies include the Independent Taxi Operators Association, (617) 268-1313. Limousine service is available throughout the Boston area for about $80 an hour, normally with a 4-hour minimum.

Public Transportation

Transportation by trolley, bus, boat and subway is available in Boston.

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