I’ve lived in New England my entire life, and let me tell you, I’ve never met a lobster roll or an oyster I didn’t like. Maybe I’m biased, but I believe there’s something uniquely special about New England food, especially in the summer. Warm sunny days that stretch far into the evening, a crisp breeze with a hint of salt as you sit oceanside slurping a briny oyster. This is the epitome of my happy place.
Growing up, summertime meant days on the beach and nights of a giant boiling pot with lobster, french fries, and corn on the cob. As I got older and explored Boston on my own, the food scene opened up wide. Boston is home to some of the best chefs, many of them women, who have honored the culinary specialties of Boston and New England but added their own flavor and style to the menu. I hope through this guide you get a small taste of all that Boston — and, more broadly, New England — has to offer. And I hope you keep coming back for more.
Check out our curated Boston foodie itinerary, then read on for more info on visiting Boston’s amazing restaurants and other fun local sites!
WHAT TO DO IN BOSTON
The beauty of eating your way through Boston is that there are SO many options all over the city (and beyond!). And no matter what else you’re doing while you’re in Boston — from museums to parks to sporting events to history tours — you’ll have no trouble finding great food nearby anytime hunger strikes. There is truly something for everyone, in every part of the city!
WHERE TO EAT IN BOSTON
Our downloadable itineraries share a number of great options for exploring Boston’s food scene!
Try the classic New England staple Anadama bread at The Friendly Toast in the Back Bay, an eclectic and family-friendly spot.
Don’t miss your chance to grab a Fenway Frank and Del’s Lemonade while you soak in a Sox game — it’s a quintessential taste of New England summer.
When you need an adult beverage with some green space for the kids to run around, stop in at Trillium Taproom. Also in the neighborhood is Sweet Cheeks Q, a southern-inspired affair by chef and owner Tiffani Faison, four-time James Beard Award finalist for best chef in the Northeast! Don’t miss the buttermilk biscuits and a side (or several) of mac and cheese.
For a quintessential Boston meal, try Union Oyster House, Boston’s oldest restaurant — established in 1826! Don’t forget the clam chowder and baked beans — yes, even on a hot summer day you can’t miss these New England staples!
Another local favorite you don’t want to miss? Seafood! Legal Seafood does it right, and their harborside location has a great vibe. Make your reservation for the first floor and ask to be seated next to the windows. On a warm evening, the windows will be wide open, overlooking Boston Harbor. With a bit of luck, you can catch a great sunset. Be sure to try the oysters — ask for the biggest and briniest they have. My favorites include Island Creek and Wellfleet oysters from Massachusetts and East Beach Blondes from Rhode Island. Be sure to order calamari for an appetizer and the half-pound Maine lobster roll. This lobster roll is my preferred version — warm butter over cold mayo, always.
There is no shortage of sweets in Boston, so save room for dessert! JP Licks is a local favorite (with locations all over the city!) for a scoop of ice cream. Jump start your morning with a few Kane’s Donuts. While Dunkin’ Donuts and New England are nearly synonymous, do not pass up the opportunity to visit a top-10 donut destination named by the Travel Channel and a Boston Mom’s favorite! Kane’s also has gluten-free donuts. While you’re there, get a true taste of New England with flavors like maple bacon, Maine blueberry, and apple cider. Another spot for amazing sweets is Flour Bakery by chef and owner Joanne Chang, winner of the James Beard Award for outstanding baker. You can’t go wrong with any treat on her menu, and the other food options are incredible as well!
HOW TO GET AROUND IN BOSTON
Boston is an incredibly walkable city with a relatively easy transit system. Take it from someone who grew up outside of New York City, I would take Boston’s MBTA any day of the week! Download the Transit app and select MBTA for Boston. Enable your location finding and the app will identify where you are, give you options for subway and/or bus, and tell you when the next bus or subway train is arriving. You can also plug in where you want to go, and the app will offer several options (including Uber/Lyft if you so choose).
HIDDEN GEMS IN BOSTON
For the cheapest lobster roll in Boston, head to Sullivan’s Castle Island in South Boston. Order a lobster roll or hotdog, a raspberry lime rickey, and Richie’s Italian ice for dessert. If you are driving, there’s plenty of parking. Summers are very busy, so plan on a bit of a wait to find parking if you are heading there on a weekend around lunchtime!
For a smooth experience, be sure to decide what your family wants to order before heading in. Then, send in a delegate and maybe someone to help you carry everything out. Leave strollers and small children outside with an adult. Once you order, move to the left! (This is known as the “Sully Shuffle.” The space is small, and the expectation is that you order quickly to help keep the line moving. The staff are true Bostonians — loud and direct. But don’t worry — it’s worth it!
Enjoy your food overlooking the water and then take a post-food-coma stroll around Castle Island. There’s a playground, a beach area, and lots of green grass for running around.
SOUVENIRS IN BOSTON
To bring a little of New England home with you, head to Boston Public Market. BPM is a year-round market filled to the brim with vendors from across New England, featuring local and seasonal produce, artwork, and other specialty items. Pick up some maple syrup, maple sugar candies, or sea salt to bring a little bit of Boston home with you — and to enjoy with your next meal!
For a true food immersion, plan to stay at the Omni Parker House, home to Parker House rolls — buttery soft, distinctly shaped rolls rumored to have been invented when an angry chef threw unfinished rolls into the oven in 1870. Plus, this spot is home to the original Boston cream pie! The Omni is right on the Freedom Trail and even offers a family suite complete with bunk beds.
Another great option in the heart of Boston’s Beacon Hill, the Wyndham Boston Beacon Hill includes a seasonal pool to cool off in after a day of exploring. It’s one block from the Charles River T stop, very close to the middle of Boston. It’s also located near a great access point to the Charles River. Just a note, the Wyndham is right next to Massachusetts General Hospital, so if loud noises (i.e., ambulance sirens) are stress-inducing, this might not be the location for you! On the other hand, if you have a kid who loves trucks with sirens this provides endless entertainment!
Finally, the Seaport area of Boston is a bit further away from downtown with slightly less access to public transportation, but it’s still relatively walkable (10 minutes to the biggest transit hub, South Station). For a newer, millennial-targeted vibe, Yotel puts you in the heart of the Seaport, and one of the most popular rooms comes with a bunk bed/queen combo.
Since the height of COVID, many restaurants have relied on reservations to manage density. Even with the lifting of many restrictions, most restaurants have maintained their reservation strategy in favor of hosting more walk-ins. Summertime is extremely busy in the city, so planning ahead and making a few reservations at restaurants you really want to visit is a good idea. Open Table is a great way to easily make and cancel reservations if your plans change — most restaurants in Boston are on Open Table, but not all. Restaurants will typically have a link to their reservation page on their website, but when in doubt, call!