Introducing one of the first places you should visit on your trip to Greater Boston, the Charles River. Nestled among the treasures of Boston and Cambridge, this gem leisurely winds its way through the cities, providing a natural oasis for everyone to explore. 

No matter the season, here's our list of the top nine things to do along the Charles River in the Greater Boston area!


Rent a Kayak, Canoe, or Stand-Up Paddleboard

Whether you're in it for the views, the sport, or in search of a sense of tranquility, there's no better way to experience the Charles River than on the water. Rent a kayak, canoe, or paddleboard from Paddle Boston and navigate its calm waters as you enjoy serene views of arguably the best city in the universe (We promise we're not biased!). With locations in Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, Newton, Waltham, and Medford, the best part is you'll get to pick the distance of your journey.

Hop On a Boston Duck Tour or Charles Riverboat Tour

If you're looking for a less active (And entertaining!) way to explore the waters of the Charles, consider embarking on a Duck Tour. These transformed WWII-era amphibious vehicles take you on a journey through the city's historic streets before splashing into the Charles River for a breathtaking view of the Boston and Cambridge skyline. If the "leisure" part of a river cruise is more your speed, then consider taking a sightseeing, cocktail, or sunset cruise from the Charles Riverboat Company.

Revel in the Beauty of the Charles River Esplanade

Introducing one of Boston's most Instagrammable spots, the Charles River Esplanade. Stretching three miles on the Boston side of the river, the Esplanade provides the most picturesque views of Boston and Cambridge and is the perfect place for your next walk, bike, run, or fitness class. Make sure to stick around, because the sunsets here are breathtaking.

Traveling with kids? The Esplanade has three playgrounds for hours of fun!

Boston Pops Fireworks over the Hatch Shell

Attend a Concert at the Hatch Shell

The Esplanade's crown jewel, the Hatch Shell, is a must-visit for an unforgettable music experience. This iconic Boston landmark, known for its distinct half-dome design, overlooks the Charles River and has hosted some of the world's greatest composers. Each summer, the Hatch Shell comes alive with a full lineup of concerts under the stars, free movies, and events for the whole family. If you're lucky enough to be in Boston during the Fourth of July, you won't want to miss the Boston Pops Orchestra's annual performance at the Hatch Shell, followed by almost 30 minutes of fireworks!

Visit the Museum of Science

Located near the Charles River Basin, the Museum of Science is a beloved Boston institution. Featuring interactive exhibits on everything from dinosaurs and space travel to human biology, you'll feel like the smartest person in the city after this stop. Take that Harvard!

Have a Picnic in a Park

Let's set the scene - you've got a white and red checkered blanket, a basket full of goodies, a panoramic view of your favorite city, and your closest family and friends. If this sounded like music to your ears, then a picnic along the Charles is for you! You'll have plenty of parks to choose from, but our top picks are Herter Park, Magazine Park, or the Esplanade. 

Sunset over buildings that make up Harvard Square

Explore Harvard Square

Just steps away from the Charles River is Harvard Square in Cambridge. Home to the world-renowned Harvard University, unique shops, amazing restaurants, and nostalgic vibes, Harvard Square is a must-visit on any trip to Greater Boston. Whether you visit the storied Harvard Bookstore, tour Harvard University, eat your way through a Harvard Square Food Tour, or just enjoy people-watching at a cafe, you won't regret this stop! Check out our guide to exploring Harvard Square.

Attend the Head of the Charles Regatta

For a uniquely Boston experience, make sure to check out the Head of the Charles Regatta. Held annually in October, this regatta attracts more than 11,000 athletes, making it the world's largest 3-day regatta. Whether you’re a first-timer or a seasoned veteran, there's fun for everyone!

Join a Sailing or Rowing Class

What's better than witnessing the Head of the Charles Regatta? Learning to sail or row yourself! The Charles River is home to Community Boating, Inc., and Community Rowing, Inc. Offering adult, junior, and para classes, finding your way on the water is accessible to all. Even if you're not up for a class, watching the sails on the river at sunset is a sight to behold!