By Samantha DiMauro
August 06, 2014
Top 5 Museums in Boston
Credit: Nic Lehoux

The mark of a good museum is when it can turn a seemingly mundane textbook topic into a mind-blowing epiphany—and Boston has no shortage of these. As the home to some of the nation’s most significant historical sites, preeminent academic institutions, and flourishing tech startups, the high value placed on American history, culture, art, and science is evident in the very infrastructure and institutions of Boston. The city’s museums show off its affinity for legend, intrigue, and intellectual prowess. Masterful art collections and rare artifacts reveal stories of great heroes, revolutionary events, and scientific successes—and most museums are quick to take advantage of experts in the neighborhood to design cutting-edge learning technology to combine with their exhibits. Regularly updated exhibits and affordable memberships are an example of Boston’s efforts to develop a cultured and informed public.

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

The Gardner house holds intimate gallery rooms filled with masterpieces collected from around the world by the legendary Isabella herself. Per the eccentric socialite’s last will and testament, they remain as they were when the museum opened in 1903. In the Dutch Room, you will find the frames of stolen artworks exactly where they stood after the infamous, unsolved Gardner heist in 1990 left them empty.

The Institute of Contemporary Art

Before the ICA relocated to Fan Pier in 2006, no new art museums had been built on Boston soil in nearly a century. An obvious fusion of architecture and visual art, the glass and metal façade suggests a seamless merging of exhibition space with the adjacent waterfront. Prominent artists, including Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Anish Kapoor, and Mark Bradford, have displayed their work in the ICA’s ultra-modern, flexible exhibition spaces.

Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum

The cast and crew at this blast-from-the-past experience do a phenomenal job bringing the revolutionary events of 1773 to life. During the museum’s interactive tour, you’ll have the opportunity to throw bags of tea into the Fort Point Channel while on the deck of an authentically restored tall ship. Samuel Adams may shout “Huzzah!” in your ear, while you experience the rebellion in its original location. This is American history at its peak.

Museum of Fine Arts

The sheer majesty of this world-renowned arts institution would be overwhelming if it weren’t so enchanting. I’ve been delightfully lost many times, wandering through labyrinthine halls and unexpectedly happening upon discreet exhibits and artifacts like the quiet and tranquil Buddhist Temple Room, hidden on the second floor. Don’t miss Dale Chihuly’s 42-foot-tall monumental Lime Green Icicle Tower in the Shapiro Family Courtyard.

Harvard Museum of Natural History

This museum is the most visited attraction at Harvard, boasting rarities such as the world’s only mounted Kronosaurus—a 42-foot-long prehistoric marine reptile. Go here to see The Glass Flowers collection and Sea Creatures in Glass, two exhibits showcasing true to life models of plants, flowers, and sea creatures meticulously sculpted out of glass.