It’s difficult to escape history in Boston. Around every corner there’s a historic landmark, a Revolutionary War relic, or a building older than America herself. Almost every activity you can participate in while visiting Boston has some historic significance. Watch a Red Sox game at the country’s oldest baseball park. Enjoy the view of Harvard University from the Charles River on a Duck Tour. Or grab lunch at Warren Tavern, the oldest tavern in Massachusetts.
Rather than trying to outrun history on your next trip to Boston, embrace the past! Take a stroll down the Freedom Trail or check out one of Boston’s many world-class museums. Below, we’ve outlined some of the best Boston museums. Dive into the past, and explore every topic from art to sports history.
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
Isabella Stewart Gardner, an art collector and philanthropist, developed her 2,500-piece art collection through extensive world travel. In 1903, Mrs. Gardner founded the museum to bring her art collection to the public. The collection includes paintings, sculptures, ceramics, letters, manuscripts, rare books, furniture, and photographs from ancient Rome, Medieval Europe, Renaissance Italy, Asia, the Islamic world, and 19th-century France and America.
In 1990, two thieves dressed as Boston police men stole thirteen works of art from the museum. This was the biggest art heist in American history! The investigation is still active and there is a $5 million dollar reward for information leading to the recovery of the art.
On a lighter note, in keeping with Mrs. Gardner’s wishes, anyone wearing Boston Red Sox gear is allowed discounted entrance to this Boston museum. Also, anyone named Isabella is allowed to view one of the most colorful Boston museums for free!
The Institute of Contemporary Art
Founded in 1936, this art museum and exhibition space focus on contemporary art. Free gallery tours are offered throughout the day, and special exhibits and performances frequently take place. The Institute of Contemporary Art likes to support emerging artists, and frequently commissions art for one of the funkiest Boston museums.
Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum
This floating Boston museum focuses on the history of the Boston Tea Party, a pivotal moment in the Revolutionary War. There are live actors, interactive exhibits, and authentically restored tea ships. This is the most seaworthy of Boston museums. Dump tea overboard just like the colonists did, then swing by Abigail’s Tea Room for a sip of tea before shoving off!
Museum of Fine Arts
One of the largest museums in the United States, the Museum of Fine Arts contains approximately 500,000 works of art, making it one of the heftiest Boston museums. The collection is varied, and includes pieces from Ancient Egypt to contemporary times. This Boston museum is the 4th largest museum in the United States, and is home to many masterpieces, including works by Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, and Mary Cassatt.
Harvard Museum of Natural History
The Harvard Museum of Natural History is actually a compilation of three museums: the Museum of Comparative Zoology, the Harvard University Herbaria, and the Mineralogical and Geological Museum. This Boston museum allows visitors to explore the natural world. You’ll find the most dinosaurs fossils and gemstones on display out of all the Boston museums.
Peabody Essex Museum
Considered one of the oldest continuously operating museums in the United States, the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts was established in 1799. The original society was founded by captains and supercargoes who wanted to collect “natural and artificial curiosities.” Society members collected items from all over the world, and visitors can view some of these items today. One of this museum’s prized collections comprises of more than a half million rare and vintage photographs. Although no technically one of the Boston museums, this institution is worth the drive.
John F Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum
John F. Kennedy’s political career was launched in Boston (he was born in Brookline), so it is only fitting that his presidential library be housed in the city. This Boston museum showcases the life, leadership, and legacy of the 35th president. Visitors of one of the most presidential of Boston museums can tour a recreation of JFK’s Oval Office.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Museum is dedicated to collecting, preserving, and exhibiting items and ideas that preserve the history of MIT. This Boston museum includes exhibits on the history of MIT, projects by MIT students and faculty, robots, and engineering models. The museum contains a large collection of camera prototypes as well as the largest and most comprehensive collection of holograms in the world. Best of all, the MIT Museum is the only of the Boston museums to display inventions and art by MIT students.
Boston Children’s Museum
This Boston museum is dedicated to the education of children. The second oldest children’s museum in the United States, the Boston Children’s Museum contains a multitude of activities that amuse and educate kids (and adults)! This is the only one of the Boston museums where kids rule! Visitors are encouraged to climb a three-story structure; explore a real two-story townhouse from Kyoto, Japan; and ride in a Bobcat tractor.
Museum of Science
Located along the the Charles River, the Museum of Science contains over 700 exhibits. Visitors can view the stars in the planetarium and watch IMAX movies in the theater. This Boston museum is even home to over 100 animals, some that have been rescued or rehabilitated. The Museum of Science has a diverse collection that includes butterflies, artificial lighting bolts, and a classic explorer’s trophy room filled with taxidermy animal heads from big-game hunting.
African Meeting House
The African Meeting House was built in 1806 and is now the oldest black church still standing in the United States. This Boston museum explores the role African Americans played in colonial New England. It is located in Beacon Hill and is one of the 14 sites on the Black Heritage Trail.
The Sports Museum
Located in the Garden— former home to the Celtics and Bruins— the Sports Museum was founded in 1977. It is the only collection of the Boston museums that focuses on the history of Boston sports, including the Boston Bruins, Boston Celtics, Boston Red Sox, New England Patriots, Boston Marathon, New England Revolution, and a handful of others. And you can’t miss the life-size sculptures of Bobby Orr, Larry Bird, Carl Yastrzemski, and Ted Williams!
Enjoy the best Boston museums while on your Boston Tour!
Boston Tour Benefits
- Curated Sites
- Audio Tours
- Offline Map