Three Days in Boston: What to Do and How to Budget for your Trip

Boston is a historically rich and beautiful city that I’m so glad I traveled to on a whim last November. I was originally planning to meet up with Lauren’s Journey but things came up and I decided that even if I couldn’t meet her I could go alone!

I hadn’t really explored a place alone since being in Europe so I was a little scared. But Boston was such a great place for me to dip my toes back into solo travel!

Below you’ll find a map of all the places I visited and places I wish I had visited. The map also includes some brunch and regular food recommendations!

Getting Around Boston: the Subway System

Boston’s subway is soooo easy to use. You just have to know the name of the last place on a route because that’s what trains are called.

For example, if you were trying to go from Park Street to Hynes Convention Center you would take the green line. But there are four trains: the Boston College (B), Cleveland Circle (C), Riverside (D), and Heath Street (E). But the E trains don’t go to Hynes Convention Center, so you’re left with the B, C, and D trains. None of which have Hynes in their name, but they all cross that specific stop. You just have to look at the map at the stations! And make sure you’re in the right station, inbound or outbound.

Inbound trains are heading towards downtown and outbound trains are heading out of downtown. It’s pretty easy to get a hang of and I only went into the wrong station once. But I noticed before I paid thank goodness!

If you’re looking for more tips about Bostons public transit this website gives line-specific tips. Like tips for the blue line, red line, orange line, etc. 

Where to Stay in Boston

I stayed in the Fenway area and I really enjoyed it. It was super easy to get downtown, or anywhere in the city. I would also recommend staying in the Backbay or Southend area

I ended up staying in a hostel to save money and I really enjoyed it. I stayed at the Bosten Fenway Inn and I would recommend it to others. It has the cleanest bathrooms I’ve ever seen at a hostel. The only downsides are there is no kitchen to cook your own meals and the free breakfast is basically just toast, coffee, orange juice, and some pastries. There is a convenience store right next door where you can buy some food to keep in their fridges though!

Budgeting for Boston

Before leaving I planned out everything I wanted to do in Boston and created a budget to know if I could afford everything I wanted to do. I ended up planning to spend $110 on attractions, $125 for food, $35 for transport, and $130 for accommodation. That came to $400 in total for my trip.

In the end, I only spent about $290. Go me! 

However, if I had wanted to save some more money there is one mistake I made. That was I kept buying individual subway rides instead of getting a weekly pass. Had I bought a weekly pass I would have only spent $21.25 on subway rides instead of $29. This would have been a higher net save but I’m stubborn and would walk miles instead of paying for another subway ride.

cafè au lait from Tatte Bakery in Beacon Hil

I stayed really on the budget for food at $88.60 but that’s because I skipped meals some nights. Or just had coffee and a pastry for some meals. Oops. I was so tired or too cold to go out and find food at least one night. My hostel also had free breakfast and when I went to brunch with an old friend one day they paid for my meal. So don’t be me and let yourself eat all the food you want and not worry about the budget!

And I actually killed the attraction’s budget and only paid for the $40 for the ghost tour. Everything else I did was either free or I got in free with my military ID. Many of the attractions also have student discounts as well!

What To Do in Boston

I stayed in Boston for three days so I decided to sort things out that way for this travel guide. I mostly just share the same schedule of how I went about doing things but moved things around a bit to make them actually better located. When I travel I do things as I want to do them, and not how they are set up geographically sometimes. Aka not the best way to suggest things.

Day 1

Boston Public Library

This is actually the first thing I did do in Boston. I went at night since I got in late in the day so if you don’t go first thing in the morning just know the library is still just as cool at night! 

boston public library lion above stairs
boston public library lion statues

The library is pretty massive and I had no idea where I was going. Most people go to the library to find the famous Bates Hall, so if that’s what you’re trying to do, the best entrance to use is the one on Dartmouth Street. That way you can walk in, go straight up the stairs past the lions, and the room is right there.

boston public library reading room at night
boston public library reading room at night

I didn’t explore much else of the library, but I know they have exhibits and a huge collection of items to browse. 

Boston Public Garden

After leaving the library, just continue down Bolyston Street and you’ll end up at the Boston Public Garden. The garden is great to visit at any time during the day, but it was so nice and quiet in the morning. There was almost no one there so walking around felt pretty magical.

Besides just walking around, there are a few little sights to see here. The first being the swan boats! Which unfortunately were out of season when I went. The boats are only in season mid-April to Labor Day. However, if they are not there you can walk out on the dock and get a better view of the pond and of the garden!

The next few things I didn’t really go out of my way to see because they aren’t really for me, but I recognize they might be your thing! So here are a few more sights in Boston’s Public Garden that you might be interested in:

  • Robin Williams bench
  • Garden of Remembrance 9/11 Memorial
  • George Washington Statue
  • Make Way for the Ducklings statue

Beacon Hill

Next, you can either go straight to Boston Common since it’s just a street over or pop on over to Beacon Hill. I opted for Beacon Hill so as to be able to fully distinguish the garden and commons and not lump them together when looking back since they are so close but different destinations.

Beacon Hill was a dream in November! I had booked my trip for another autumn getaway so still seeing pumpkins and spooky decor everywhere really made my heart happy. I walked around a bit aimlessly just enjoying the neighborhood and taking photos of people’s doorsteps.

I did happen to run across the famous Acorn Street, though! It was very lame in person honestly. It definitely looks much cooler in photos and has more meaning to people who have seen it in movies. I have not. Not that I know of at least.

acorn street beacon hill
acorn street beacon hill

Boston Common

Now we’re going back to finally enjoy the Boston Common! I loved Boston Common and really enjoyed just walking around and people watching. There’s a lot of history behind Boston Common and what it was used for over the years which is why I also think I may have enjoyed it so much.

The common is pretty large, but not so large you think you’re going to get lost. It has a very Central Park vibe, but exceptionally smaller. Something I enjoy it since NYC was much too rambunctious and large for me.

Central Burying Ground in Boston Common
Central Burying Ground in Boston Common
Central Burying Ground in Boston Common
Central Burying Ground in Boston Common

There are a couple of things close to the common that I think are worth visiting as well! The first being a restaurant perfect for lunch if you haven’t eaten yet. It’s called MOOyah and it’s amazing. It’s a customizable burger place and they have vegetarian options and amazing fries. Ten out of ten would recommend it. I wish I could go back and eat it again right now. It was that good.

Then, a few blocks over you’ll find Brattle Book Shop. Established in 1825, this is one of the oldest secondhand bookstores in the country. It was a lot more organized and modern than other secondhand book stores I’ve been to, which is helpful when you’re looking for something specific. I ended up buying three books there!

If you’re still wanting to walk around Boston, Washington Street is a block away! That area has a ton of stores for shopping. Including a massive Primark!

Day 2

Old State House

Who’s ready for some history!?

Boston Old State House
backside of Boston State House

This day is going to be visiting some of the places on the Boston Freedom Trail. I was way too lazy (and cold) to do the whole trail so I only visited a select few of the locations on the trail. The first being the Old South Meeting House.

It was a little wild to see downtown because the little brick building is literally surrounded by skyscrapers. Which is crazy to think about because back when it was built it was probably considering a tall building to the people of Boston.

Postcard with the Old Boston State House that says "1775 Revolutionary Boston"

I went inside but did not pay for entry because I found it to be a super steep charge at $12 for a tiny building. There was nothing I knew of to be interesting enough to see to actually pay for so I just snapped some photos and moved along after warming up. But if you want to make the choice yourself, you can read about the major historical aspects of the Old State House and decide if the fee is worth it. 

Old South Meeting House

Ah, the place where the Boston Tea Party came into existence. (Anyone else always think about the episode of The Suite Life of Zach and Cody anytime they think of the Boston Tea Party?) 

This is actually super similar to the Old State House in the fact that it didn’t seem worth the price point for me. I could tell from online photos that inside was absolutely gorgeous, but nothing else really drew me to pay the fee ($6 ) so I passed on going inside.

I actually totally walked past the building and just saw they had a little entry porch to block me from the cold for a couple of minutes and had no idea it was the Old South Meeting House. Meaning the outside is actually pretty boring and plain. 

Faneuil Hall

Next up we have the Boston famous market area. Faneuil Hall was built over 275 years ago and was used for merchants, debates, meetings and public protests. The area is a little more modern now with upscale restaurants and shops but still a piece of Boston history. 

The hall itself has four floors. It hosts the National Park Service Visitor Center, the Great Hall, and The Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company. Plus, they have free bathrooms. Something very important when walking around a city all day.

Okay I know it sounds like I’m trashing every historical site so far but I promise I love history! 

Boston Tea Party Ships

This is the one thing I regret not visiting while in Boston. I’m a huge sucker for anything related to water, but especially old wooden ships. Had I actually made it over to this part of town I totally would have handed over the $30 for a ticket. 

Included with that ticket you get to go aboard one of the replicas of a restored 18th-century vessel and get a fully guided experience by people in full costume! How fun is that? Dang, now I want to go back to Boston just to do this. Please don’t skip this stop y’all! Do it for me!

view of Boston at sunset from Skywalk

Skywalk Observatory

And now for some history in the sky! This is pricer than all the other historical places I mentioned already at $21 a ticket, but it’s so worth it. Even if it’s a little tricky to find the entrance.

In no information or guide I saw online did it tell me that you have to go inside the Prudential Center to get to the Skywalk. And even when I figured that out I had nowhere to go because it was a shopping mall? Like who puts the elevator to a big skyscraper in the basement of a shopping mall? But yes, take the escalators downstairs and you’ll finally see signs leading to a fancy elevator to take you all the way up to the skywalk.

view of Boston from Skywalk

When you buy your ticket you’ll be given an audio guide and then you’re free to roam around as long as you like. I learned so much on the audio tour and would recommend actually listening to each section and not skipping any. Just make sure you don’t forget to snap some good photos as well!

I timed my visit to be there when the sunset and it was one of the best decisions I made. And also why I made this at the end of the day for you!

Day 3

Museum of Fine Arts Boston

This museum is one of the best I’ve ever been to! I love walking around just about any museum but this one had amazing exhibits and architecture throughout the entire building. I’d say this would be second only to the British Museum in London.

I easily spent two and a half hours walking around and could have spent even more if I didn’t get so hungry for lunch. So keep that in mind when you schedule your visit there!

Boston museum of fine arts
Boston museum of fine arts
painting in Boston museum of fine arts

My favorite exhibits were the photography and European paintings. I’m not sure if the photography exhibit is permanent, but if it’s still on the map when you visit you have to go!

Back Bay Neighborhood

If you’re like me and spent more than half the day pursuing the art in the Museum of Fine Arts and eating, then you aren’t going to be able to fit much else in before it gets dark. So, I would recommend walking around another gorgeous little area: Back Bay Neighborhood.

Besides Beacon Hill, this is an area that really exudes classic Boston architecture. Every building has bay windows and what is Boston know for more than that? This is more so an area of shops, restaurants, and apartments so it’s a lot more chill than Beacon Hill as well.

Graveyard Tour

I love a good ghost story. In searching for things to do in Boston I knew I had to do a ghost tour! There weren’t too many options but one definitely had better reviews and descriptions than the others. Ghost and Gravestones was the name of the tour I went on and while it is a tad pricey, I would still recommend it if you’re looking for some spooky entertainment!

Central Burying Ground in Boston Common
Central Burying Ground in Boston Common. *Not shown on the tour*

I booked a night tour to get the full effect and I’m so glad I did. They drive you around on a trolley with two tour guys in characters. You get special access to two graveyards and they also take you into Boston Common as well.

And now it’s time to go home and leave Boston. *sad face*

I enjoyed Boston so much that I considered moving there actually. And not in an “oh my gosh!! I would loooove to live there!” kind of way. No. Like an “I actually looked up jobs and apartments there” kind of way.

You’ll love Boston if you enjoy history, love autumn excursions, enjoy brick buildings, or like the idea and feeling of a big city but find them too overwhelming.

Have you ever been to Boston?

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