Beantown in a Day: 3 Boston Attractions You Can’t Miss

Jill Robinson
boston in a day

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What are you waiting for? Go! Image by Jill Robinson.

Beantown is a city with numerous sights to see, but if you only have a day to explore, check out these three Boston attractions — experiences that appeal to the inner DIY traveler in all of us.

First Stop: New England Aquarium

The New England Aquarium is an interactive space with much to see without feeling overwhelmed. I give it quite a few DIY points for (literally) giving me some hands-on experiences during my tour. As a resident of Chicago, I  don’t often get the chance to interact with starfish or sea anemone. At the aquarium I lightly pressed two fingers into a starfish’s fleshy meat and felt a sea anemone’s tiny tendrils stick to my fingertips in an attempt to sting me.

The Aquarium opens daily at 9 AM. I suggest arriving early both to beat the crowds and to catch the adorable penguins being fed a breakfast of small, silvery fish. Beginning the morning before the throngs of visitors arrived also gave me the chance to take my time gazing at the colorful aquatic life and the gigantic sea turtle in the four-story fish tank without much pressure to keep moving.

new england aquarium sea turtleThis giant sea turtle is just one of the amazing creatures in the 26-foot-deep ocean tank. Image by Jill Robinson.

Another Aquarium highlight is the Shark and Ray Touch Tank, where I enthusiastically dipped my hands into the waters, trying to woo cownose rays to come my way. Touching these personable creatures was a bit like touching a piece of cold cut deli meat (if a slice of thick ham could zoom through lukewarm water). The whole experience was amazing and strange.

new england aquarium cownose rayAquarium visitors have the chance to touch cownose and Atlantic rays, as well as epaulette sharks in the hands-on Shark and Ray Touch Tank. Image by Jill Robinson.

The jellies were my favorite, however. The colors and shapes of these alien-like creatures reminded me of the creative impulse that permeates through Mother Nature,  the ultimate inspiration for my DIY recipes and concoctions.

new england aquarium jelly fish

 Moon jellies are just a few of the mesmerizing creatures located on the bottom floor of the New England Aquarium. Image by Jill Robinson.

Second Stop: Walk Into History Freedom Trail Tour

Nothing beats the DIY mentality of the first settlers that shaped the city of Boston and, ultimately, our nation. So, after wandering through the New England Aquarium, I jumped on the Metro and headed to Boston Common to embark on the Walk into History Freedom Trail Tour.

Winding through 2.5 miles along the historically significant Freedom Trail, our group was led by the extremely entertaining and knowledgeable Captain Thomas. As a guide, he was a fantastic storyteller who braved the chilly temperatures dressed in authentic 18th-century colonial attire to complete the experience.

freedom trail tour in bostonIf only all my high school teachers could have been as entertaining as our Freedom Trail guide. I might have retained more in my history classes. Image by Jill Robinson.

Captain Thomas led our group through Boston Common and the Granary Burial Grounds that date back to 1660, where we stopped to pay tribute to such big names as John Hancock, Paul Revere, and Samuel Adams. We wound our way to various historical landmarks, such as the site of the Boston Massacre and Faneuil Hall. I was excited to learn of a time capsule found in the golden grasshopper weathervane that tops the latter. The capsule is rumored to be complete with a letter and a few old coins and trinkets congratulating its discoverer.

freedom trail tour and paul revereOne of many historical grave sites in the Granary Burial Grounds in Boston. Image by Jill Robinson.

Final Stop: Mary Baker Eddy Library Mapparium

To round out the day’s exploration of Boston, I visited the awe-inspiring Mapparium located in the Mary Baker Eddy Library. For this DIY traveler who happens to also geek out over maps, this was the highlight of the day.

The Mary Baker Eddy Library is the amazing collection and realized vision of Christian Science founder Mary Baker Eddy. Housed within the library is a beautiful three-story stained glass globe. Rather than looking at the globe from the outside, Baker wanted the visitor to have a shared experience within the sphere of blue glass. Visitors to the library have the chance to look out at the globe’s countries, all measured to scale.

mappariumSurrounded by handcrafted stained glass panels. Image by Jill Robinson.

Walking onto the 30-foot bridge that floats at the equator of the Mapparium, there is a feeling of being inside an aquarium. Basked in a blue glow of the Earth’s ocean, the countries, colored in red, orange, green, and purple, are like eye candy within the 608 stained-glass panels.

The original idea was to be able to replace the panels yearly to keep the map accurate, but the only panel that was ever edited was a last-minute change to what was, at the time, Persia, with a revised image of Iran in 1935. This was two months before the Mapparium’s grand opening.

Ending the day with a visit to the Mapparium, a globe intended to express our shared humanity and inspire conversation, was a fitting way to complete my Boston travel adventure. For the DIY traveler looking to get a hands-on experience of the city while being inspired by its history and culture, don’t miss these three attractions on your next visit to Boston.

Editors’ Note: This post was sponsored by the incredible must-see sites of the New England Aquarium, Walk into History Freedom Trail Tour, and the Mary Baker Eddy Library. However, the views and opinions are completely my own! Click here for Wanderful’s full disclosure statement.

What are your favorite places to visit in Boston? Comment below!

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Jill Robinson

Author Jill Robinson

Blogger Jill booked a one-way ticket to Scotland on a work visa after graduation and has suffered from wanderlust ever since. In Edinburgh and York, England she learned to pour a proper pint of beer, and in Costa Rica she learned to surf and drive ATVs through a jungle at dangerous speeds. Her most recent trips included a solo-backpacking excursion through Spain and a surreal week in Guatemala. While Chicago was home for the past 12 years, Jill is now enjoying her next adventure in Brighton, England and testing out the digital nomad lifestyle while enjoying Sunday Roasts and cask ales. When she’s not traveling, she is hoarding jars for all her DIY home remedies and herbal concoctions.

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