12 Boston museums everyone should visit at least once

Visitors can experience fine art, hands-on experiments, historical reenactments, and more.

The Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA). Robert S. Davis / The Boston Globe

Boston is full of inspiring museums where guests experience fine art, African American history, hands-on science, educational activities, historical reenactments, and more.

This guide will help you plan your next museum outing in the city by providing information about the museums, as well as the hours, cost, and best way to get there on the MBTA.

Boston Children’s Museum

308 Congress St.

Founded in 1913, the Boston Children’s Museum is one of America’s first children’s museums. The property is known for the giant milk bottle structure outside. Inside, the museum focuses on hands-on activities, beginning with a 3-story climbing sculpture in the lobby. Families will find exhibits and programs focused on arts, culture, environmental awareness, health, fitness, and science. The museum boasts a collection of more than 50,000 items that range from rare dolls to Japanese artifacts to natural history samples. 

Hours: Wednesdays to Sundays from 9 a.m. to noon and 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Admission: Tickets must be purchased online and reservations are required: $18 for adults and children age 1-15; free admission for children under 12 months old.


How to get there: Take the Red Line to South Station or the Silver Line to Courthouse station. Find out more.

Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum

306 Congress St.

Historical interpreters transport guests back in time to the December 16, 1773, Boston Tea Party at this interactive museum. Visitors can toss tea from a fully-restored 18th century ship, get up close to the Robinson Half Chest (one of two surviving Boston Tea Party tea chests), and watch the award-winning film “Let It Begin Here.” Historic tea tastings are offered at Abigail’s Tea Room & Terrace.

Hours: Thursdays to Mondays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Admission: $29.95 for adults; $21.95 for children ages 5-12.

How to get there: Take the Red Line to South Station or the Silver Line to Courthouse station. Find out more.

Harvard Museum of Natural History

26 Oxford St.

This museum’s historical collections, temporary exhibitions, and permanent galleries make it a popular stop in Cambridge. It was established in 1998 as the public-facing side of three research museums: the Museum of Comparative Zoology, the Harvard University Herbaria, and the Mineralogical & Geological Museum. Don’t forget to check out the internationally acclaimed Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants, known as “Glass Flowers.”

Hours: Daily 9 a.m to 5 p.m.

Admission: $15 for adults; $13 for seniors (65+); $10 for ages 3-18; free admission for kids under 3. Your admission allows access to the Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology, which is adjacent to the museum.


How to get there: Take the Red Line to the Harvard Square stop or take Fitchburg Line to Porter Square on the MBTA commuter rail. Find out more.

Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA)

25 Harbor Shore Drive

Founded as the Boston Museum of Modern Art in 1936, this museum moved to its current waterfront building in 2006 and features contemporary art in the form of film, music, video, literature, and performance. Artists whose work has been introduced to America by the ICA include Georges Braque, Oskar Kokoschka, and Edvard Munch. The Seaport Studio includes a Teen Gallery featuring artwork by Boston-area youth. The seasonal ICA Watershed at 256 Marginal St., added in 2018, is a 15,000-square-foot space where visitors can experience large-scale art. Guests can take a water shuttle (free with museum admission) between the two buildings.

Hours: Tues., Wed., Sat., and Sun. from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thu. and Fri. from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Admission: $15 for adults; $13 for seniors (60+); free admission for children age 18 and under. Up to two adults enjoy free admission when accompanied by kids age 12 and under on the last Saturday of every month, except in December.

How to get there: Take the Red Line to South Station and transfer to the Silver Line Waterfront. Find out more.

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, courtyard. – (David L Ryan/Globe Staff )

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

25 Evans Way


Named after founder and legendary arts patron Isabella Stewart Gardner, this museum is modeled after a Venetian palazzo and features a lush courtyard. The museum offers more than 7,500 paintings, sculptures, furniture, textiles, and ceramics, 1,500 rare books, and 7,000 archival objects from around the world. After Gardner died in 1924, her will stipulated that nothing in the house change and so guests view the museum’s contents as she arranged them.

Hours: Mon., Wed., Fri. from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thu. from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sat. and Sun. from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Admission: $20 for adults; $18 for seniors; $13 for students.

How to get there: Take the Green Line E train to the Museum of Fine Arts Boston stop, or the Orange Line to the Ruggles stop. Find out more.

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

Columbia Point (GPS address: 220 Morrissey Boulevard, Boston)

This museum brings Massachusetts native and 35th president of the United States John F. Kennedy’s 1,000 days in office to life using interactive displays, original artifacts, large-screen projections, and re-mastered films. Visitors can also view Kennedy’s personal items such as his collections of scrimshaw and ship models and learn about Jacqueline Kennedy’s early life and achievements as First Lady.

Hours: Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m to 2 p.m.

Admission: $18 for adults; $12 for seniors (62+); $10 for children age 13-17. Children 12 and under free.

How to get there: Take the Red Line to the JFK/UMASS stop and then take the Paul Revere Route 1 shuttle bus, provided free of charge by the University of Massachusetts Boston to the Kennedy/Archives stop located at the end of the JFK Library and Museum’s parking lot. 

MassArt Art Museum

621 Huntington Ave.


Boston’s only free contemporary art museum first opened in 2020 at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. The 15,000-square-foot, contemporary art museum is located within an original 1906 campus building that formerly housed the school’s Bakalar & Paine Galleries. It is a non-collecting museum with temporary exhibitions. There is special programming, an education studio, and an outdoor plaza where guests can relax on benches.

Hours: Wednesdays from noon to 6 p.m.; Thursdays from noon to 8 p.m.; Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from noon to 6 p.m.

Admission: Free.

How to get there: Take the Green Line (E) to Longwood Medical stop or the Orange Line to Ruggles Station. Find out more.

Museum of African American History

46 Joy St.

The largest African American history and culture museum in New England, the Museum of African American History offers exhibits in two neighboring, restored buildings: The African Meeting House, a registered National Historic Landmark and the oldest Black church building in the country, and the Abiel Smith School, the oldest public school in America built for educating African American children. The museum also has a Nantucket location.

Hours: Tues. to Sun. from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Admission: $10 for adults; $8 for children ages 13-17; free admission for children 12 and under.

How to get there: Take the Red or Green Line to Park Street or the Blue Line to Bowdoin Street. Find out more.

Lane Turner/Globe Staff
The Museum of Fine Arts. – Lane Turner/Globe Staff

Museum of Fine Arts Boston (MFA)

465 Huntington Ave.

Founded in 1870, this 616,937 square-foot museum is one of the most comprehensive art museums in the world with a collection of nearly 500,000 works of art. At its current location since 1909, more than one million visitors per year view works spanning from ancient Egyptian to contemporary art. The museum also offers special exhibitions, educational programs, and studio art classes throughout the year. Hungry visitors can eat at several restaurants located inside the museum.


Hours: Thursdays to Mondays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Admission: $25 for adults; $10 for kids age 7-17.

How to get there: Take the Green Line E train to the Museum of Fine Arts stop, or the Orange Line train to the Ruggles stop. Find out more.

Museum of Science

1 Science Park

Visitors have access to more than 700 interactive exhibits, daily presentations, and design challenges at this museum, which is one of the world’s largest science centers, as well as a Planetarium and an IMAX movie theater. More than 125 live animals are featured at the museum as well, as it was the first science and technology center in the nation to earn accreditation as a member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Hours: Daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Admission: $29 for adults; $25 for seniors (60+); $24 for ages 3 to 11; free admission for children under age 3.

How to get there: Take the Green line to the Science Park stop. That station is currently being served by MBTA shuttle buses. Find out more.

The Paul Revere House

19 North Square

Take a self-guided tour of the home of silversmith Paul Revere, a Revolutionary War patriot famous for his April 18, 1775, ride from Boston to Lexington and Concord to warn the Patriot leaders that the British were coming. The house was built around 1680, and Revere owned it from 1770 to 1800. Inside the Elizabethan Tudor-style home, guests can view period furnishings as well as pieces that belonged to the Revere family. The North End structure is a National Historic Landmark and also a stop on the The Freedom Trail.


Hours: Daily 10 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. Closed Mondays in January, February, and March.

Admission: $6 for adults; $5.50 for seniors; $1 for children ages 5-17. Free admission for children under age 5.

How to get there: Take the Green Line to Haymarket or Government Center, the Blue Line to Aquarium or Government Center or the Orange Line to Haymarket. Find out more.

USS Constitution Museum

Building 22, Charlestown Navy Yard (GPS: 88 Constitution Road, Boston)

This hands-on museum along The Freedom Trail honoring the USS Constitution, the world’s oldest commissioned warship still afloat, was named among the 5 best history museums in America by USA Today in 2021. The museum brings the ship’s history alive with programs, artifacts, and interactive exhibitions. Guests can then climb aboard the USS Constitution, or “Old Ironsides,” to learn about life on the ship. The ship is owned by the United States Navy and operated separately from the museum.

Hours: Daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Ship open Wed. to Sun. from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Admission: Suggested for museum is $10-$15 adults; $5-$10 children. The ship is free to visit on a first-come, first-served basis.

How to get there: Take the Green or Orange line to North Station. Walk east on Causeway Street toward the Zakim Bridge/North End. Turn left at N. Washington Street and cross the Charlestown Bridge. Follow the Freedom Trail Red Line to the Charlestown Navy Yard. Find out more.


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