The Massachusetts State House: The Complete Guide

Boston State House

 Credit:Paul Marotta / Contributor/Getty Images

The Massachusetts State House is a recognizable landmark in the city of Boston, thanks to its golden dome, which is made from copper and covered with 23 karat gold. Located across from the Boston Common at 24 Beacon Street in downtown, this building is home to the Massachusetts government's legislative and executive branches.

The Massachusetts State House was designed by Charles Bulfinch in 1798, which is when the government moved to the building from the previous site. Aside from being a functional building for the government, this is a Boston attraction thanks to the portraits of governors, statues, and murals within and outside the property.

What to See and Do

Various city tours, such as the hop-on-hop-off buses, stop at the State House, but you will likely also find yourself stumbling into it if you're making your way through the city by foot as well. Official tours are run by the Tours and Government Education Division of the Secretary of the Commonwealth's Office, with history-savvy volunteers also assisting. The tours are free to the public.

How to Book a Tour

Tours of the State House take place throughout the year on weekdays from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., but the building itself is open weekdays from 8:45 a.m. to 5 p.m. and completely closed on weekends and holidays.

The tours, which last 30 to 45 minutes, will dive into both the history and architecture of the State House. You'll not only go behind-the-scenes to see the House and Senate Chambers, but you'll also learn about two Massachusetts staples, the Ladybug (the state insect) and the "Sacred Cod."

If you're interested in touring the State House, call ahead to book it, regardless of if you are by yourself or in a group of 50 people. The phone number for booking and information is 617-727-3676; note that this is the only way to book a tour.

If you're not into tours, ask about the self-guided materials, which will allow you to take in the State House on your own time, while still getting a taste of the history of the building.

How to Get There

The Massachusetts State House is easy to get to and very centrally located within the city of Boston. If you're walking around the city and plan to check out the Boston Common or Beacon Hill, for example, your best bet will be to walk on over for your tour. It's located on the corner of Beacon and Park Streets.

Public transportation is also a good option, with a few different MBTA train stations within close proximity. The easiest stop is Park Street Station, which is accessible by the Red or Green lines. Other close stations are Downtown Crossing, Government Center, Boylston, Haymarket and State.

If you prefer to drive into the city, the best combination of convenience and affordable parking is the underground Boston Common Garage, which can be found on Charles Street directly across from the Boston Public Garden.

Things to Do Nearby

The State House is on of the stops along the Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile historical walking path. It starts not far from the State House at the Boston Common, so you're in the right place to pick it up and continue on as long as you wish, from there to Charlestown.

The Boston Common is a destination to see in itself, as it's the oldest public park in America and has been around since 1634. This 50-acre park is centrally located and a nice place to walk through while touring the city. It's perimeter touches several of the main streets of Boston: Tremont, Park, Beacon, Charles and Boylston Streets.

One other attraction to see right in this area is the Boston Public Garden, America’s first public botanical garden. This is where you'll find two Boston staples: the Swan Boats and the "Make Way for Ducklings" statues.

If you're into shopping, you are in a good spot to do just that. Walk over to Back Bay where you'll find shops along Boylston and Newbury Streets, along with the Prudential Center and Copley Place. Or you can check out some of the boutiques along Charles Street in Beacon Hill. Downtown Crossing is also nearby and home to several stores, including a brand new HomeGoods.