What to see and do when you have a long layover in Boston

All you really need is a plan.

A birds-eye view of the Rose Kennedy Fitzgerald Greenway.
A bird's-eye view of the Rose Kennedy Fitzgerald Greenway. –Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff

Do you have several hours to kill while waiting for your connecting flight at Boston’s Logan International Airport? You could hang around the airport and grab a meal, or you could venture out into Boston, armed with a sure plan and a mindful eye on the time.

Directly from Logan, you can take the MBTA’s Blue Line subway or Silver Line bus to several downtown spots. Here are five Boston layover excursions you can plan when your itinerary allows it.

Something very ‘Boston’ to do: Visit the Freedom Trail

Boston’s Freedom Trail. —John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

If you’re a Boston tourist, walking the Freedom Trail — a collection of historic sites that tell the story of the American Revolution and more — is about as Boston tourist as it gets. You may not have time to walk all 2.5 miles of the trail during your layover, but taking the Blue Line to State Street will put you right in the middle of the action — the train station is beneath the Old State House, one of 16 sites featured on the trail. You can wander through the 1713 building where the Declaration of Independence was first read from the balcony in 1776. You’ll visit period rooms and view items such as John Hancock’s red velvet coat, ammunition from Revolutionary War battles, and tea from the Boston Tea Party. Other nearby trail sites include Faneuil Hall and the Old South Meeting House.


When hunger strikes, you can walk across the street to the iconic Faneuil Hall Marketplace, which is full of restaurants, retail stores, and the massive Quincy Market food colonnade with dozens of eating options that range from seafood to Indian to Greek. For more of a local’s experience, though, walk an extra couple of minutes to the Boston Public Market, filled with fresh, locally-sourced food.

Something to do with the kids: Mingle with sea life at the aquarium

Myrtle the turtle at the New England Aquarium. —New England Aquarium

Another family-friendly option is to wile away your layover hours by peering into the faces of thousands of sea creatures at the New England Aquarium. Just take the Blue Line to the Aquarium stop, which drops you only 100 yards from the place. Once there, you’ll spend time at a four-story, 200,000 gallon Giant Ocean Tank, full of hundreds of Caribbean reef animals such as sea turtles, stingrays, and eels. The aquarium also boasts the largest shark and ray touch tank on the East Coast and is home to seals, sea lions, and penguins.

If your brood is hungry, it’s a five-minute walk to Granary Tavern on Milk Street, housed in a former grain mill and with a children’s menu that offers pizza, macaroni and cheese, and a grilled hamburger on a brioche bun. If you’re traveling on the weekend and enjoy brunch with the family, this spot serves it until 2 p.m.

Something artsy to do: Visit the Institute of Contemporary Art

The art installation “Love Is Calling” by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama is coming to the ICA this fall. —ICA

Fill your limited time in Boston by brushing up on modern art. Take the Silver Line to either the Courthouse or World Trade Center stops, both around a 10-minute walk from the Institute of Contemporary Art on the Boston Harbor in the Seaport. The museum, founded in 1936, features contemporary art, performances, and educational programs. It also recently acquired the psychedelic art installation “Love Is Calling” by contemporary Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. You’ll find it beginning Sept. 24 in the museum’s Barbara Lee Collection of Art by Women, which currently includes 68 major works of 20th- and 21st-century art. If your layover is on a Thursday night, you’re in luck: Museum admission is free between 5 and 9 p.m.

If time allows, there are many nearby restaurants, including The Barking Crab and Yankee Lobster Co.,where you can satisfy your post-museum hunger with a New England seafood staple.

Something outdoorsy to do: Take in Boston from a scenic park

A view of the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway. —Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

If you’re searching for fresh air following hours of recycled plane air, take the Blue Line to the Aquarium stop, which will drop you off near the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway and the Instagram-friendly Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park. The former is a mile-and-a-half stretch of contemporary parks located in the heart of Boston where you can grab a meal from a food truck, ride a carousel, and stop by a beer garden. If you keep walking north, just past the Boston Marriott Long Wharf, you’ll find Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park, where you can take photos beneath the park’s iconic trellis (which lights up at night), watch the boats coming and going in Boston Harbor, and smell the roses at the Rose Kennedy Rose Garden.


When hunger strikes, it’s a short walk to Boston’s North End, which is chock-full of historical charm, restaurants such as The Daily Catch and Neptune Oyster, and quick and famous pizza places like the original Regina Pizzeria, Ernesto’s Pizza, and Galleria Umberto. Don’t forget to grab a cannoli from Bova’s Bakery, Mike’s Pastry, or Modern Pastry.

Something like the locals do: Grab a beer at Trillium Brewing Co.

The house pastrami sandwich at Trillium Fort Point. —Trillium Brewing Company

If you want to go where locals get one of the highest-rated beers brewed in the area, head to Trillium Brewing Co. in Fort Point. You can get there by taking the Silver Line to the Courthouse stop, then spend time in the first-floor taproom, the second-floor dining area featuring New England farmhouse-inspired food created by chef Michael Morway, or on the third-floor roof terrace. The company’s Twitter account keeps track of daily beer availability; recent offerings have included Gay Head Lighthouse double IPA, which “celebrates Martha’s Vineyard’s westernmost point with notes of sweet tangerine and candied grapefruit,” and Galaxy Dry Hopped Fort Point Pale Ale.

If you’d rather grab your beer here and your grub somewhere else, you can head to the nearby Flour Bakery + Cafe in Fort Point, one of the local spot’s several outposts. Try something sweet — owner Joanne Chang won a James Beard Award in 2016 for Outstanding Baker.