Boston is known for its many incredible attractions such as the Freedom Trail, Fenway Park, and the Museum of Fine Arts. But there are plenty of hidden gems scattered throughout the city that are well worth your time. So when you’re next at a loose end, veer off the beaten path and head to one of these nine underrated attractions.
1. The Boston Athenæum
If you’re a book lover, the Athenæum belongs on your Boston bucket list. During the middle of 19th century, this was one of the biggest libraries in the U.S. and today its collection includes 500,000 books, many devoted to local history. Although this is a private library that people pay a membership fee to join, non-members are welcome to explore the rooms open to the public. Here you’ll find art and sculpture, views of the Granary Burying Ground, and that wonderfully musty smell that means you’re surrounded by old books! The Athenæum is hiding in plain sight at 10 1/2 Beacon Street in Boston.
2. Lynn’s murals
"Lynn, Lynn, City of Sin" has made way for "Lynn, Lynn, City of Murals" – not as catchy but far more appealing. This year, the Beyond Walls initiative led to colorful, large-scale murals being created on walls across downtown Lynn. The artwork showcases a variety of styles and subject matters, but what they all have in common is their striking beauty.
3. Captain Jackson’s Historic Chocolate Shop
Did you know that chocolate could be educational? Discover the history of chocolate and how it was made during the 18th century in Boston at this unique store. After watching demos, pick up locally made chocolate to savor later. Captain Jackson’s can be found on the Freedom Trail at 21 Unity Street in Boston. Bear in mind that opening hours are limited in winter.
4. Spy Pond Park
A small pocket of natural beauty in Arlington, this park offers a playground, bike path, seasonal boat rentals, and walking trails. Bring a picnic then kick back and enjoy the views. Spy Pond Park is located at 50 Pond Lane in Arlington.
5. The Mapparium
Inside the Mary Baker Eddy library lies a hidden gem that is as impressive as it is stunning. When you step into the Mapparium, you’ll find yourself in the middle of a stained glass globe, showing the world’s borders as they were in 1935, when this stained glass sphere was constructed. The Mapparium is located at 200 Massachusetts Avenue in Boston.
6. The Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation
This museum is a Steampunk fan’s dream, brimming with cogs and contraptions that make your fingers twitch with the desire to crank handles and touch buttons! This is the location of the first factory in the country, where all the stages of cotton fabric manufacturing took place in one building. The museum feels a little disorganized in places, but if you’ve ever harbored dreams of becoming an inventor, then this is a cool and unique place to visit. You’ll find this museum tucked away in an old mill building at 154 Moody Street in Waltham.
7. Castle Island
Although Castle Island is hardly a secret, it protrudes far out into Boston Harbor and isn’t a place that you stumble on by accident. There’s been a fort on Castle Island since 1634, which makes this the oldest fortified military site in British North America. Today, in addition to seeing the fort, visitors can stroll along the walking paths and admire the ocean. Castle Island is located at 2010 Day Boulevard in Boston.
8. The Ray and Maria Stata Center
Maybe you’ve already wandered around the Harvard campus, but what about MIT? The university offers a self-guided walking tour for visitors who aren’t hoping to attend school here. Of course you can check out the whole campus, but the Stata Center is definitely worth a look. Frank Gehry designed this one-of-a-kind, eco-friendly building that houses departments such as the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.
9. Jackson Homestead Museum
This federal-style home dates back to 1809 and the house is beautifully preserved. The most interesting part of this often overlooked historic home is the exhibit on the Underground Railroad. The Jackson Homestead Museum is located at 527 Washington Street in Newton.