The 11 Best Museums to Visit in Boston

Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston

TripSavvy / Violet Smirnova 

Boston is a city filled with history, which is one of the reasons it’s a great destination to visit, whether it’s for an extended amount of time or a long weekend. Exploring Boston’s museum scene will give you a taste for what this New England city is all about, from the Museum of Fine Arts, one of the nation’s most popular museums, to The Sports Museum, where you’ll dive into not only Boston’s title-winning sports teams, but also iconic events such as the Boston Marathon. Read on for the best in the city. 

01 of 11

Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum

Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum

TripSavvy / Violet Smirnova

There’s a reason USA Today voted the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum the top “Best Patriotic Attraction” in the country. Where else can you travel to December 16, 1773 to reenact the Boston Tea Party to protest unfair taxation laws? You’ll get on board an authentically restored tall ship and throw bags of tea overboard into the Fort Point Channel—very close to where it actually took place—before heading into the museum to learn more.

From there, head to Abigail’s Tea Room for food and drinks. Starting in July, head to the patio Tuesdays through Fridays for “Sunset on Griffin’s Wharf,” where you can enjoy colonial-themed cocktails and a bite to eat. The Museum also hosts “Tavern Night” on the second and fourth Friday of each month, where you can even sing and dance with Sam Adams himself.

Hours: 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 or 5:00 p.m., depending on the season. Tickets: Kids 5-12 - $21.95, Adults $29.95; save up to $1.50 by booking online.

02 of 11

Boston Children's Museum

Entrance to Boston Children's Museum

Violet Smirnova / TripSavvy

The name says it all, but if the kids aren’t satisfied with dumping tea over the side of a boat, they’ll definitely have a good time at the Boston Children’s Museum just across the Congress Street bridge in Fort Point. For over 100 years, this museum has been entertaining kids of all ages with exhibits geared toward science, culture, environmental awareness, health and fitness, and the arts. Many of the exhibits have been around for decades, adding to the nostalgia that comes with taking your own children there. Turns out, playing with giant bubbles in the Science Playground or climbing through a tower maze never gets old! Of course, there have been many new additions, most recently the innovative Tech Kitchen and “Outside In/Inside Out” Art Exhibit.

Hours: Saturday through Thursday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; Friday 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Tickets: Kids and Adults, same price, $18. The Museum offers reduced pricing for admission on Friday nights, from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., at $1.

03 of 11

Institute of Contemporary Art

Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston

TripSavvy / Violet Smirnova

The Institute of Contemporary Art, located right on the waterfront, features contemporary art of all types, such as visual arts, music, film, video, and performances. Aside from the venue’s spectacular views and stunning exterior, this is a great place to take in work from emerging artists.

Hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday & Sunday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Thursday & Friday 10:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m. (closes at 5:00 p.m. first Friday of every month). Tickets: Adults - $15, Seniors - $13, Students - $10, Children 17 and under – free; admission is free for everyone on Thursdays from 5 :00– 9:00 p.m.

04 of 11

Harvard Museum of Natural History

Harvard Museum of Natural History in Boston

TripSavvy / Violet Smirnova

As the most visited attraction at Harvard University, the Harvard Museum of Natural History sees more than 250,000 people each year. The name speaks for itself, as it’s filled with exhibits to help attendees understand and appreciate the natural world, including everything from planets and climate change to evolution and animals found all over the world.

Hours: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Tickets: Adults - $15, Non-Harvard students with ID - $10, Seniors - $13, Children 3-18 - $10, Children under 3 – Free.

Continue to 5 of 11 below.
05 of 11

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

 Boston Public Library

Arguably one of the most beautiful museums in Boston is the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, which is home to artwork from around the world, collected by Isabella Stewart. In fact, what makes the museum, which is a Venetian palazzo, so special is that it actually lived there. It all started back in 1891, when Isabella inherited nearly $2 million when her father passed away, which led to her first big purchase when she was only 23 years old: Rembrandt’s Self-Portrait.

As she and her husband Jack became more avid collectors, the idea of creating the museum came about. It was her dying wish for the museum to remain with all of her artwork displayed, and in 2012, it was even expanded with the addition of the 70,000-square-foot New Wing. Aside from exploring her personally curated artwork collection, the courtyard is stunning and the museum also hosts classes and concerts throughout the year.

Hours: 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. with the exception of Tuesdays. They are also open late on Thursdays through 9:00 p.m. Tickets: Adults - $15, Seniors - $12, Students - $10. Admission is free on your birthday and all the time if your first name is Isabella. 

06 of 11

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

Photo of JFK in the JFK Library

Violet Smirnova / TripSavvy

Overlooking Dorchester Bay (near the JFK Red Line stop on the MBTA) is the John F Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, which features everything you’d ever want to know about JFK from his campaign through his tragic passing. The museum holds over 2,000 objects and pieces of artwork, ranging from sculptures and paintings to the First Lady’s clothing.

Hours: The Museum is open every day from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Tickets: Adults, $14; Seniors, $12; College students with I.D., $12; Veterans, $10; Kids ages 13 to 17, $10; Kids ages 12 and under, Free. 

07 of 11

MIT Museum

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

 Rick Friedman / Contributor

The MIT Museum’s main purpose is to share science and technology research and innovation coming out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in ways that are relevant to today’s society. There are all sorts of exhibits with inventions and other preserved materials that will spark inspiration and conversation around a variety of topics related to STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics)—what MIT is all about.

For example, exhibits in 2018 include “Robots and Beyond: Exploring Artificial Intelligence at MIT” and “The Beautiful Brain: The Drawings of Santiago Ramón y Cajal.” There’s also an ongoing exhibit that dives into the evolution of ocean engineering, the Hart Nautical Gallery.

Hours: 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Self-guided tour tickets available for students and seniors ($5) and adults $10).  During the school year, September through June, admission is FREE on the last Sunday of those months.

08 of 11

Museum of Fine Arts

Museum of Fine Arts

TripSavvy / Violet Smirnova 

The Museum of Fine Arts may be the most popular museum in Boston, with over 1 million annual visitors. Founded in 1870, the museum has grown over the years to now feature nearly 500,000 works of art that will take you back in time and across the globe. The museum also hosts special events throughout the year, along with art classes for those interested in enhancing their own skills.

Hours: Monday, Tuesday, Saturday & Sunday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Wednesday – Friday 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. Tickets: Adults - $25, Seniors - $23, Students - $23, Children – $10 (free during weekdays after 3 p.m., weekends and Boston public school holidays).

Continue to 9 of 11 below.
09 of 11

Museum of Science

Museum of Science in Boston

 TripSavvy / Violet Smirnova

One of the most popular museums in Boston, the Museum of Science has something for everyone in the family with over 500 exhibits that are both educational and interactive. The museum has a big emphasis on STEM education (science, technology, engineering and math), and you’ll see this brought to life through their permanent and temporary exhibits throughout the year.

Here you can travel to the moon, explore the science behind light and color, and go back in time to learn about the history of transportation. The Charles Hayden Planetarium is also a must-see, where you’ll be transported to outer space or experience music ranging from Pink Floyd to Beyonce under the dome with a light show.

Hours: Saturday to Thursday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Friday 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. Tickets: Kids - $23, Adults - $28, Seniors - $24 for Exhibit Hall; extra $8-$10 for Theater and Planetarium. Save $3 per ticket by purchasing Exhibit Hall tickets a day in advance online.

10 of 11

The Sports Museum

 The Sports Museum

Located on the 5th and 6th floors of the TD Garden, home of the Boston Celtics and Bruins, is The Sports Museum. It’s here you’ll see a half-mile worth of exhibits and memorabilia and learn about the history of all the Boston sports teams and their championship titles over the years, along with major sporting events such as the Boston Marathon.

You can also opt for the TD Garden Arena Tour, which offers a behind-the-scenes look at the arena, locker rooms and other areas that the public don’t typically get to see.

Hours: Monday – Saturday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Tickets (same price for each tour): Kids 6 and under – FREE, Kids 7-18 - $10, Seniors - $10, Adults - $15.

11 of 11

Paul Revere House

the Paul Revere House is the oldest house in downtown Boston.

Ken Wiedemann/Getty Images 

Take a walk down the Freedom Trail and you’ll wind up at the Paul Revere House in the North End. This house is Boston’s oldest building, built in 1680, and was owned by Paul Revere from 1770 to 1800. At the museum, you’ll head on a self-guided tour the house, which has artifacts from his family on display throughout.

Hours: April 15 – October 31 9:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m.; November 1 – April 14 9:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. Tickets: Adults - $5, Seniors and College Students - $4.50, Children 5-17 - $1.