Located in City Hall Plaza, Government Center in Boston is exactly what it sounds like – the center of government! Boston City Hall is in this square and many other federal and state government buildings are located on the plaza or very close by. Government Center is also a popular hub for people visiting Boston, as there are many fun things to do within walking distance of the Government Center T stop.
As Dentists in Government Center (located in Court St) we love the area in which we live and work and wanted to showcase this beautiful part of Boston to our patients who may not have fully explored this part of the city. So we created a list of 10 things to see and do in and around Government Center.
Walk the Freedom Trail
The Freedom Trail is a 2.5 mile walking tour that takes you past 16 historic sites that played a part in the American Revolution. It begins at Boston Common, only a short walk from Government Center, and winds its way through the city. Daily tours are available, but you can also choose to follow the Freedom Trail on your own – it’s laid out in red bricks on the city sidewalks, so you can’t miss it. At each stop, a plaque offers information about the historic location, and about the events that occurred and the people who were involved. For those interested in learning about some of Boston’s rich history, a trip along the Freedom Trail is a must-do.
Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market
Just across the street from Government Center lie the duo of Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market. For those interested in following the Freedom Trail, Faneuil Hall is one of the later stops on the trail. When heading on foot from Government Center, Quincy Market lies just behind Faneuil Hall. These two historic buildings are within a larger concourse offering a plethora of shopping and dining options, so it’s an ideal stop for when you’re feeling hungry!
Quincy Market offers a huge range of food court options with interior and exterior seating, and there are often special exhibitions to see as well. Nearby are many famous restaurants, including the restaurant from the television show Cheers! and Durgin Park, which is located in Faneuil Hall and was established pre-Revolutionary War, making it one of the oldest restaurants in the country. It’s slogan? “Established Before You Were Born.”
The New England Aquarium
Whether you have kids in tow or you’re just interested in marine life, the Boston Aquarium has something for everyone. It’s within walking distance from Government Center and the Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market Area, making it an easy activity to include in a larger day of sightseeing and shopping. A sea lion pup named Ron was born on July 2, 2017, and has now been introduced to the main pool, so be sure you catch a glimpse of him before you leave!
The towering building is built around a central cylindrical tank, the bottom of which comprises the penguin habitat. A spiral ramp curves around it; as you make your way up or down, you can look below at the penguins hopping and swimming through their habitat. Start at the top and work your way down or work your way up as you go – this unique architecture adds something special to any visit. Interactive tablets placed at regular intervals allow you to identify the dozens of different species of marine life happily swimming through the water. Touch pools offer kids and adults alike the chance to get hands-on with a number of species, and the daily sea lion shows are exciting for all.
Boston Common and Boston Public Gardens
No trip to Boston would be complete without a visit to the Boston Common and the Boston Public Gardens. These two massive parks are divided by Charles Street, and each offers a great range of sights to see and activities to explore. It’s just a few blocks walking from Government Center, or you can take the T to Park Street Station.
Boston Common is the larger of the two parks. During the summer, many free outdoor concerts are held and the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company puts on free, open-air Shakespeare plays. There are also rolling hills and wide expanses of grass that are perfect for relaxing out on with a book, a picnic, and a game of catch or Frisbee. Here, you’ll also find the Frog Pond, a splash pond for kids in the summer and a frozen ice rink in the winter, along with a concession stand and a playground.
Across Charles Street lies the Boston Public Gardens. Here, the swan boats are a major attraction, and a quiet paddle across the swan pond is a perfect way to spend an afternoon. Kids will love seeing the swans and ducks wander around near the water’s edge. Head to the northeast corner of the Gardens to witness the famous Make Way for Ducklings statues – you can purchase a copy of the book at the swan boat house. Casually exploring the Boston Common and Boston Public Gardens is one of the best ways to spend a summer afternoon.
The Dreamland Wax Museum
Within walking distance of Government Center lies the Dreamland Wax Museum. This unique attraction features over 100 wax statues of celebrities, historical figures, and local Boston icons. More than a dozen themed galleries are open for your perusal. Take a selfie with your favorite stars while you learn about their individual contributions to the city, the country, and the world. Dreamland Wax Museum is open daily and is a great place to wander through for an afternoon. This Boston landmark can be a fun diversion from other activities.
Boston’s Chinatown is one of the coolest places to wander around for an afternoon. Packed with open-air stalls selling foods you’ve heard of and foods you haven’t, this bustling center of commerce is perfect for the adventurous foodie. Restaurants galore line the streets, and this is your chance to try out some of Boston’s best cuisine. Whether you’re looking for fine dining or grab-and-go, you’re certain to find a number of tasty options to enjoy, as well as some unique souvenirs to take with you when you go. And make sure you stop to check out the golden arch that marks the entrance to the area, as It’s the perfect photo op to savor the memories.
Visit the Site of the First Public School
It’s impossible to avoid the history of Boson, and within walking distance of Government Center, you can visit the site of the country’s first public school: on School Street, of course! Established in 1635, the Boston Latin School still makes up a central hub of Boston’s public school system today (although it is no longer in its original location). In the sidewalk there is a mosaic commemorating this historic location. It is believed that one building of this original school house stood where the statue of Benjamin Franklin stands now, and the second building was across the street, occupying part of what is now Parker House. As public schooling now makes up such a large part of American culture, it is an enlightening experience to see the spot where it all began.
Tour the Massachusetts State House
With its gleaming gold dome, the State House is identifiable from a mile away. Located at the corner of the Boston Common, this touring this historical building is a perfect way to learn about the history of the state and of the government. The building has some architectural secrets as well! When you enter the Visitor’s Galley, you will be greeted by the Sacred Cod: a large sculpture of a codfish, representing its importance to the people of Massachusetts. This same cod originally hung in the Old State House before Revolutionary War and was transferred to the current State House when it was built.
Explore the Old Corner Bookstore
The Old Corner Bookstore occupies one of the oldest buildings in the city. Built in 1712 by Thomas Crease, this historical Boston landmark is a must-visit for literary folk. The building has hosted a number of different shops across a wide range of interests. Before it was built, a different building in the same location was used to host séances and the building that stands now was first a residence for several families and then an apothecary shop. It has been a bookstore for nearly two centuries, being first used for this purpose in 1828. Many famous authors have visited this hallowed ground, including Massachusetts natives Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathanial Hawthorne, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and myriad others.
Tour the Old South Meeting House
History buffs will not want to miss out on this opportunity! The Old South Meeting House (known to locals as “Old South” was the location of dozens of vital conversations that ultimately lead to the Revolutionary War. This building was built in 1729, replacing an earlier meeting house on the same location that had been in use since 1669. Old South served as a place for civilians to wait for information following the Boston Massacre (the site of which also lies nearby) and the Boston Tea Party was likely planned within these walls. In 1776, George Washington himself even stopped at the very same building that stands on the location today.
So there you have it – ten exciting adventures, all within walking distance of Government Center. Visit one or two and spend an afternoon, or combine several shorter visits – it’s up to you. If you must limit your time in Boston, centering yourself around Government Center is a great choice as there are so many different options and types of activities nearby.