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The view from a slender opening in a tall war monument. Shutterstock

The best things to do in Boston right now

The region’s 26 must-experience places this fall include several parks, museums, and monuments—and one very old battleship

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Ah, fall in the Boston area. No other region of the U.S. does it quite as beautifully.

The latest version of our seasonally adjusted rundown of the essential places to visit in the region takes this autumnal rep into consideration: The map (plotted west to east) emphasizes the great outdoors given how great those outdoors are during the fall in New England’s biggest metro area.

Thank you to all who have nominated particular sites since the last update. We'll update this for the winter, too, so feel free to drop us further suggestions at the always-discreet Curbed Boston Tipline.

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1. Fresh Pond

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Fresh Pond
Cambridge, MA 02138

The 162-acre wildlife sanctuary surrounding Cambridge’s 155-acre water source is full of hiking, walking, and jogging trails. This is also one of the top spots in the region for watching the leaves change. Who needs Western Mass.

Trees changing color in a lush park. Shutterstock

2. Mount Auburn Cemetery

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580 Mt Auburn St
Cambridge, MA 02138
(617) 547-7105
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This cemetery includes more than 900 people who served during the Civil War. The big sphinx statue, in fact, is a memorial to those who died in the war.

Perhaps most importantly, though, the 187-year-old Mount Auburn was the first planned rural cemetery in the United States, a pastoral model for subsequent such sites.

Rows of headstones amid a nicely manicured lawn. Shutterstock

3. Arnold Arboretum

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125 Arborway
Boston, MA 02130
(617) 524-1718
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Located in Jamaica Plain, the Arboretum is a 281-acre oasis of trees, flowers, and parkland that Harvard University owns and maintains. As such, it positively brims with hiking trails, bike paths, and activities for the kiddos. It’s also a great place to take in the fall foliage

Colorful trees shading a walking path with a bench next to it. Kevin Fleming/Corbis/VCG/Getty Images

4. Harvard Memorial Hall

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Quincy St and Cambridge St
Cambridge, MA

Done in High Victorian Gothic and completed in the late 1870s, the cavernous hall honors the 136 Harvard students who died fighting for the United States in the Civil War. (Efforts over the decades to honor the university's Confederate dead in the same place have been rebuffed.)

Pay particular attention to the memorial transept, with 28 plaques honoring those who died.

Shutterstock

5. Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

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25 Evans Way
Boston, MA 02115
(617) 566-1401
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The famed repository of Asian, European, and American artwork also boasts one of the most beautiful interiors in the Boston region.

The prime interior attraction of the Willard T. Sears-designed complex dating from 1901 is actually an exterior of sorts—namely, it’s a walled-in courtyard meant to reflect the love of horticulture of the museum’s namesake.

Shutterstock

6. Franklin Park Zoo

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1 Franklin Park Rd
Boston, MA 02121
(617) 541-5466
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The 72-acre zoo in the northeast corner of Franklin Park—which itself is worth a visit during the fall—hosts more than 220 species, There are also thousands of educational and other engagement opportunities offered by Zoo New England, the zoo’s operator.

Shutterstock

7. Charles River Esplanade

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Charles River Esplanade
Boston, MA

As the name implies, the esplanade hugs the Charles River and provides nonstop downtown views and a wee briskness this time of year. The most scenic run is from about Berkeley Street in Back Bay to Charles River Dam Road in the West End—it can make for one heck of a stroll or jog, too.

Trees changing color along the Charles River and next to a pedestrian walkway. Getty Images

8. Boston Public Library main branch

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700 Boylston St
Boston, MA
(617) 536-5400
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The formidable Charles Follen McKim designed the Beaux Arts-Renaissance Revival hybrid, which was completed in 1895. It contains much of the library's research archives and administrative offices.

Shutterstock

9. Trinity Church

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206 Clarendon St
Boston, MA

Designed by Henry Hobson Richardson and completed in the late 1870s, the current Episcopal church replaced one nearby that burned down (the parish dates from 1733). Other municipal buildings locally and nationwide have imitated its Romanesque style.

Shutterstock

10. Museum of Science

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1 Museum Of Science Driveway
Boston, MA 02114
(617) 723-2500
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This museum, which has roots stretching back to the early 1800s, includes more than 700 interactive exhibits as well as a planetarium and IMAX films.

It’s also a particular favorite with kids and their caregivers.

In the foreground is a body of water. In the distance are various red brick buildings. Shuttertock

11. Public Garden

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4 Charles St
Boston, MA 02116
(617) 635-4505
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The lusher neighbor of the Common dates from the early 19th century and includes 24 acres of statuary, flowers, foliage, and assorted other plantings as well as plenty of bench seating.

It can be particularly gorgeous as the leaves change. Though, while taking in that aesthetic charm, don’t forget to keep an eye out for the garden’s less obvious gems, too.

Fallen leaves and leaves changing color next to a pond. Shutterstock

12. Boston Common

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139 Tremont St
Boston, MA 02111
(617) 635-4505
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America’s oldest public park dates from way, way back in 1634.

Its 50 acres are particularly inviting and scenic in the cooler months, with a number of statues, markers, and monuments for perusal—some less obvious than others—as well as plenty of places to sit and take in the leaves changing.

Trees with their leaves changing color on either side of a pedestrian pathway. Shutterstock

13. Massachusetts State House

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24 Beacon St
Boston, MA 02133

Finished in early 1798 and built on a cow pasture John Hancock once owned, the State House was designed by Charles Bulfinch, the starchitect of his day and a pioneer in the Federal style.

Wood shingles originally comprised its famous dome. Those gave way to copper and then to a 23-karat gold coating (which looks neat, yes, but was also practical: to prevent leaks).

A domed building in Boston with gold covering the dome. It is the Massachusetts State House and it is just across the street from Boston Common park. Shutterstock

14. Park Street Church

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1 Park St
Boston, MA
(617) 523-3383
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The Congregational church dates from 1810 and is an unmistakable part of the Freedom Trail: It's right there toward the start and next to the cemetery containing the graves of John Hancock, Paul Revere, Samuel Adams and other luminaries.

When its 217-foot steeple was completed, the Park Street Church became for a time the tallest building in America.

A 19th-century church with a tall steeple, and trees in front of it. Shutterstock

15. Bunker Hill Monument

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31 Monument Sq
Boston, MA
(617) 242-5641
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The 221-foot obelisk was dedicated and opened in 1843 to commemorate the June 1775 battle of the same name, the first major fight of the Revolutionary War. Visitors can climb all the way to the tip-top for some nice Charlestown views and then recover on the sloping law afterward.

There is also a museum about the battle and the surrounding area across the street.

The view from a slender opening in a tall war monument. Shutterstock

16. Rose Kennedy Greenway

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John F Fitzgerald Surface Rd
Boston, MA 02111
(617) 292-0020
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Snaking through the heart of Boston, the Rose Kennedy Greenway was born of the Big Dig roughly 11 years ago and is essentially a roof garden atop a highway tunnel—one of the more unique urban parks in the U.S., in other words.

The 1.5-mile linear park includes a slew of prominent and not-so-prominent markers, memorials, and curiosities.

A pedestrian path through a park, and the path is lined with trees. Shutterstock

17. U.S.S. Constitution

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Charlestown Navy Yard
Boston, MA
(617) 426-1812
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The world’s oldest commissioned battleship reopened for public tours more than two years ago after 30 months of repairs.

Visitors can also check out the neighboring museum dedicated to the heavy frigate first launched in 1797.

An 18th-century battleship being restored. Boston Globe via Getty Images

18. South Station

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700 Atlantic Ave #2
Boston, MA 02110
(800) 872-7245
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South Station is both New England’s busiest train hub and its busiest bus terminal.

There are about 75,000 boardings and alightings daily in the portion of the station that is part of the T, including commuter rail; and the Amtrak portion services some 1.5 million boardings and alightings annually. Moreover, an estimated 1 million passengers arrive and depart from its bus terminal yearly.

Go here and soak in the daily-commute experience of so, so many Bostonians.

Buskers at a busy train station, one playing a trumpet, the other a guitar. Boston Globe via Getty Images

19. Old North Church

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The building dates from the early 1720s and is Boston's oldest church.

What makes it iconic, though, is that it was from its 191-foot steeple that Paul Revere learned the British were coming by sea, not land. Robert Newman, the church's sexton, provided Revere the two-lantern signal.

An 18th-century church’s steeple prominent against an aerial shot of a cityscape. Shutterstock

20. Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum

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306 Congress St
Boston, MA 02210
(617) 338-1773
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Incredibly interactive, right down to costumed performers and a replica of an 18th-century ship, this museum is about all things Revolutionary (capital R). It’s also part of a very vibrant waterfront area in general in Boston.

A museum building and dock against a harbor front at twilight. Shutterstock

21. Boston Children's Museum

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308 Congress St
Boston, MA 02210
(617) 426-6500
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This stop is exactly what it sounds like. The institution dates from 1913, making it one of the oldest children’s museums in the U.S.

It’s also part of a very vibrant waterfront area in general in Boston.

A waterfront pier is in the foreground. In the distance are a row of attached red brick apartment buildings. Shutterstock

22. New England Aquarium

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1 Central Wharf
Boston, MA 02110
(617) 973-5200
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A staggering variety of marine life calls the aquarium home, starting with the seals you can see even before you pay admission (hint, hint).

There are also plenty of interactive exhibits, especially for the youngsters; and the aquarium melds nicely with the Boston waterfront.

The exterior of the New England Aquarium. There are many people outside. Shutterstock

23. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

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Columbia Point
Boston, MA 02125
(617) 514-1600
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The I.M. Pei-designed repository of all things Kennedy marks its 40th year in 2019. The modern building is itself worth the trek as is its preeminent collection of manuscript material from Nobel laureate Ernest Hemingway. 

A modern building housing the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum on Boston’s waterfront. Shutterstock

24. Castle Island

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Castle Island
Boston, MA 02127

The five bastions of the old Fort Independence dominate this 22-acre state park. There is also plenty of greenspace as well as a long run of the HarborWalk within what is one of Boston’s best waterfront parks.

Plus, Castle Island connects easily with the JFK library area via Marine Park and Carson Beach.

A park bench along a pedestrian path, and there are fallen leaves around the bench. Shutterstock

25. Deer Island

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Deer Island
Boston, MA 02152

The peninsula is partly in Boston, partly in Winthrop, and is entirely a piece of a national park covering the Harbor Islands.

There is a 2.6-mile pathway along the waterfront and a further 2 miles of trails on the hills farther inland.

Deer Island also hosts a curiously awesome wastewater treatment facility, which is open for tours.

The giant, cylindrical generators of a waste-treatment plant, with a barren landscape in front of them. Shutterstock

26. The Institute of Contemporary Art

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25 Harbor Shore Dr
Boston, MA 02210
(617) 478-3100
Visit Website

The museum itself dates from 1936, but this striking iteration right on the water opened in 2006. As the name suggests, the ICA is all about contemporary art and design.

A contemporary art museum with gigantic windows and a prominent overhang lighted up at night. Shutterstock

1. Fresh Pond

Fresh Pond, Cambridge, MA 02138
Trees changing color in a lush park. Shutterstock

The 162-acre wildlife sanctuary surrounding Cambridge’s 155-acre water source is full of hiking, walking, and jogging trails. This is also one of the top spots in the region for watching the leaves change. Who needs Western Mass.

Fresh Pond
Cambridge, MA 02138

2. Mount Auburn Cemetery

580 Mt Auburn St, Cambridge, MA 02138
Rows of headstones amid a nicely manicured lawn. Shutterstock

This cemetery includes more than 900 people who served during the Civil War. The big sphinx statue, in fact, is a memorial to those who died in the war.

Perhaps most importantly, though, the 187-year-old Mount Auburn was the first planned rural cemetery in the United States, a pastoral model for subsequent such sites.

580 Mt Auburn St
Cambridge, MA 02138

3. Arnold Arboretum

125 Arborway, Boston, MA 02130
Colorful trees shading a walking path with a bench next to it. Kevin Fleming/Corbis/VCG/Getty Images

Located in Jamaica Plain, the Arboretum is a 281-acre oasis of trees, flowers, and parkland that Harvard University owns and maintains. As such, it positively brims with hiking trails, bike paths, and activities for the kiddos. It’s also a great place to take in the fall foliage

125 Arborway
Boston, MA 02130

4. Harvard Memorial Hall

Quincy St and Cambridge St, Cambridge, MA
Shutterstock

Done in High Victorian Gothic and completed in the late 1870s, the cavernous hall honors the 136 Harvard students who died fighting for the United States in the Civil War. (Efforts over the decades to honor the university's Confederate dead in the same place have been rebuffed.)

Pay particular attention to the memorial transept, with 28 plaques honoring those who died.

Quincy St and Cambridge St
Cambridge, MA

5. Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

25 Evans Way, Boston, MA 02115
Shutterstock

The famed repository of Asian, European, and American artwork also boasts one of the most beautiful interiors in the Boston region.

The prime interior attraction of the Willard T. Sears-designed complex dating from 1901 is actually an exterior of sorts—namely, it’s a walled-in courtyard meant to reflect the love of horticulture of the museum’s namesake.

25 Evans Way
Boston, MA 02115

6. Franklin Park Zoo

1 Franklin Park Rd, Boston, MA 02121
Shutterstock

The 72-acre zoo in the northeast corner of Franklin Park—which itself is worth a visit during the fall—hosts more than 220 species, There are also thousands of educational and other engagement opportunities offered by Zoo New England, the zoo’s operator.

1 Franklin Park Rd
Boston, MA 02121

7. Charles River Esplanade

Charles River Esplanade, Boston, MA
Trees changing color along the Charles River and next to a pedestrian walkway. Getty Images

As the name implies, the esplanade hugs the Charles River and provides nonstop downtown views and a wee briskness this time of year. The most scenic run is from about Berkeley Street in Back Bay to Charles River Dam Road in the West End—it can make for one heck of a stroll or jog, too.

Charles River Esplanade
Boston, MA

8. Boston Public Library main branch

700 Boylston St, Boston, MA
Shutterstock

The formidable Charles Follen McKim designed the Beaux Arts-Renaissance Revival hybrid, which was completed in 1895. It contains much of the library's research archives and administrative offices.

700 Boylston St
Boston, MA

9. Trinity Church

206 Clarendon St, Boston, MA
Shutterstock

Designed by Henry Hobson Richardson and completed in the late 1870s, the current Episcopal church replaced one nearby that burned down (the parish dates from 1733). Other municipal buildings locally and nationwide have imitated its Romanesque style.

206 Clarendon St
Boston, MA

10. Museum of Science

1 Museum Of Science Driveway, Boston, MA 02114
In the foreground is a body of water. In the distance are various red brick buildings. Shuttertock

This museum, which has roots stretching back to the early 1800s, includes more than 700 interactive exhibits as well as a planetarium and IMAX films.

It’s also a particular favorite with kids and their caregivers.

1 Museum Of Science Driveway
Boston, MA 02114

11. Public Garden

4 Charles St, Boston, MA 02116
Fallen leaves and leaves changing color next to a pond. Shutterstock

The lusher neighbor of the Common dates from the early 19th century and includes 24 acres of statuary, flowers, foliage, and assorted other plantings as well as plenty of bench seating.

It can be particularly gorgeous as the leaves change. Though, while taking in that aesthetic charm, don’t forget to keep an eye out for the garden’s less obvious gems, too.

4 Charles St
Boston, MA 02116

12. Boston Common

139 Tremont St, Boston, MA 02111
Trees with their leaves changing color on either side of a pedestrian pathway. Shutterstock

America’s oldest public park dates from way, way back in 1634.

Its 50 acres are particularly inviting and scenic in the cooler months, with a number of statues, markers, and monuments for perusal—some less obvious than others—as well as plenty of places to sit and take in the leaves changing.

139 Tremont St
Boston, MA 02111

13. Massachusetts State House

24 Beacon St, Boston, MA 02133
A domed building in Boston with gold covering the dome. It is the Massachusetts State House and it is just across the street from Boston Common park. Shutterstock

Finished in early 1798 and built on a cow pasture John Hancock once owned, the State House was designed by Charles Bulfinch, the starchitect of his day and a pioneer in the Federal style.

Wood shingles originally comprised its famous dome. Those gave way to copper and then to a 23-karat gold coating (which looks neat, yes, but was also practical: to prevent leaks).

24 Beacon St
Boston, MA 02133

14. Park Street Church

1 Park St, Boston, MA
A 19th-century church with a tall steeple, and trees in front of it. Shutterstock

The Congregational church dates from 1810 and is an unmistakable part of the Freedom Trail: It's right there toward the start and next to the cemetery containing the graves of John Hancock, Paul Revere, Samuel Adams and other luminaries.

When its 217-foot steeple was completed, the Park Street Church became for a time the tallest building in America.

1 Park St
Boston, MA

15. Bunker Hill Monument

31 Monument Sq, Boston, MA
The view from a slender opening in a tall war monument. Shutterstock

The 221-foot obelisk was dedicated and opened in 1843 to commemorate the June 1775 battle of the same name, the first major fight of the Revolutionary War. Visitors can climb all the way to the tip-top for some nice Charlestown views and then recover on the sloping law afterward.

There is also a museum about the battle and the surrounding area across the street.

31 Monument Sq
Boston, MA

16. Rose Kennedy Greenway

John F Fitzgerald Surface Rd, Boston, MA 02111
A pedestrian path through a park, and the path is lined with trees. Shutterstock

Snaking through the heart of Boston, the Rose Kennedy Greenway was born of the Big Dig roughly 11 years ago and is essentially a roof garden atop a highway tunnel—one of the more unique urban parks in the U.S., in other words.

The 1.5-mile linear park includes a slew of prominent and not-so-prominent markers, memorials, and curiosities.

John F Fitzgerald Surface Rd
Boston, MA 02111

17. U.S.S. Constitution

Charlestown Navy Yard, Boston, MA
An 18th-century battleship being restored. Boston Globe via Getty Images

The world’s oldest commissioned battleship reopened for public tours more than two years ago after 30 months of repairs.

Visitors can also check out the neighboring museum dedicated to the heavy frigate first launched in 1797.

Charlestown Navy Yard
Boston, MA

18. South Station

700 Atlantic Ave #2, Boston, MA 02110
Buskers at a busy train station, one playing a trumpet, the other a guitar. Boston Globe via Getty Images

South Station is both New England’s busiest train hub and its busiest bus terminal.

There are about 75,000 boardings and alightings daily in the portion of the station that is part of the T, including commuter rail; and the Amtrak portion services some 1.5 million boardings and alightings annually. Moreover, an estimated 1 million passengers arrive and depart from its bus terminal yearly.

Go here and soak in the daily-commute experience of so, so many Bostonians.

700 Atlantic Ave #2
Boston, MA 02110

19. Old North Church

Boston, MA 02113
An 18th-century church’s steeple prominent against an aerial shot of a cityscape. Shutterstock

The building dates from the early 1720s and is Boston's oldest church.

What makes it iconic, though, is that it was from its 191-foot steeple that Paul Revere learned the British were coming by sea, not land. Robert Newman, the church's sexton, provided Revere the two-lantern signal.

20. Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum

306 Congress St, Boston, MA 02210