Clare O'BrienWe all know how easy it is to fill one’s schedule with back-to-back meetings, sessions, and events during the NAFSA Annual Conference & Expo. But please don’t forget to leave time to explore the beautiful city of Boston during your stay in New England.

The list of things to do in Boston can be overwhelming, so I thought I would try to choose my top 10 favorite activities to share with you in my blog this week. If you can make this trip a family vacation, you will not be disappointed. All the things on my list are perfect for people of all ages!

  1. Walk the Freedom Trail
    This 2.5-mile walk takes you through downtown Boston and brings to life several famous sites where events leading up to the American Revolution took place. As you follow the red brick path in the sidewalk, you will pass several well-known locations, including Faneuil Hall, the Granary Burial Grounds, the site of the Boston Massacre, the Old North Church, and the Bunker Hill Monument. The trail finally winds up in Charlestown at the USS Constitution. There is a Visitor Center at the Boston Common with more information about walking this route with a guide (if you are so inclined), but it is easy to do on your own, at your own pace, and you really can’t get lost!
  2. Take in some culture and visit a museum
    There are several world-renowned museums throughout the city of Boston. These include the Museum of Fine Arts, the Museum of Science, the Museum of African American History, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Museum, the Children’s Museum, the New England Aquarium, the Harvard University Museum of Natural History, and the Institute of Contemporary Art, among others. My favorite is the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
  3. Get a bird’s eye view of the city
    Go to the top of the Prudential Center at the Skywalk Observatory and see a 360-degree view from the 50th floor of one of the tallest buildings in Boston.
  4. Shop until you drop
    So many shopping areas to choose from-Newbury Street (the Rodeo Drive of Boston), Downtown Crossing for more traditional shoppers, the Prudential Center Mall (or the Pru), which contains more than 70 stores, and let’s not forget Faneuil Hall/Quincy Market where you can visit a variety of specialty stores and watch street performers at the same time.
  5. Take a walk in the park
    The most well-known parks in Boston include the Boston Common and the Public Gardens, located right in the center of town. These are connected to several smaller parks that extend more than 7 miles throughout the city and are known as the Emerald Necklace. Recently, a major elevated highway was moved underground and the Rose F. Kennedy Greenway was created in its place. This series of parks and gardens, which connect many of Boston’s old neighborhoods, is also definitely worth seeing.
  6. Love that Muddy Water
    The Charles River is the main waterway in Boston and provides a lovely backdrop for a run or bike ride along the paths of the Esplanade. The Charles is also a fun place to go kayaking, canoeing, community sailing, or cruising on a Duck Boat Tour.
  7. Tour Fenway Park
    When I moved here 20 years ago, I quickly learned about how Fenway Park is one of the oldest and most historic baseball parks in Major League Baseball. Although the Red Sox will not have a home game during the conference, feel free to buy a ticket for a one-hour tour and enjoy this opportunity to sit atop the Green Monster.
  8. Theater
    Boston’s theater scene is alive and kicking. Venues range from the Colonial Theater to the Boston Opera House. Ongoing shows include the Blue Man Group and Boston Improv, and if you plan it right, you can even see the Boston Ballet perform.
  9. Visit Chinatown
    The third-largest Chinatown in the United States is located at the edge of the financial district in Boston and is rich with culture, history, tradition, and great food.
  10. Take a break in Copley Square
    Located at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, this area is home to the historical Trinity Church and the Boston Public Library, two examples of fine architecture. Sit by the outdoor fountain and enjoy watching the world go by.

Clare O'Brien is the Local Arrangements Team (LAT) communications chair for the NAFSA 2015 Annual Conference & Expo. Originally from Buffalo, New York, Clare has lived in the Boston area for more than 20 years. She spent close to 10 years overseeing international student advising and study abroad at Fitchburg State University in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, and worked as an international educator in Wisconsin, New York, and Massachusetts while she earned both her master's and doctorate degrees. Clare currently works part-time as an international education consultant where she has assisted several local universities and third-party providers. She is also coediting an anthology of short stories titled From Bangkok to Boston: Inspiring Stories of Travel and Adventure from International Educators.