A Fall Cruise Along the Gorgeous Charles River
A leisurely afternoon cruise along the beautiful Charles River is the perfect laid-back way to take in all the historic architecture of both Boston and Cambridge. This 80 mile long river runs a 23 mile course, from Hopkinton (a small town just 30 min outside of the city most well-known for being the starting point of the Boston Marathon) to Boston Harbor.
The best cruise in Boston
The Charles Riverboat Company offers a number of picturesque cruise options during the summer and fall season. This is a great cruise if you are at all interested in history and/or architecture. Along the way, you will pass many historic sights of interest including Harvard University, Beacon Hill, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. While there are a number of tour companies in the Boston area, this one particularly stands out as you get to enjoy views of both Cambridge and Boston. Plus, the area is less congested, it’s easier to find parking, and cruise rates are much more affordable.
Fall foliage cruises
The fall foliage cruises are most popular as New England is well-known for seeing some of the best foliage in the world. The gorgeous historical architecture combined with the traditional hues of autumn really leads to some postcard worthy scenery. While peak season typically falls around the 2nd or 3rd week of October, foliage can be a hit or miss depending on the year. Although we didn’t see all that much in terms of fall colors, we did enjoy the beautiful river and skyline views.
About the only foliage we saw the entire trip although our visit fell during typical peak season!
For comparison, this is what the foliage typically looks like in this area (pics taken at the same time of year in 2013)
Fortunately the skyline views were gorgeous!
A beautiful way to take in the city sights
A cruise along the Charles River is one of the most relaxing options in a busy summer/fall destination city like Boston. As you kick back on the open air boat enjoying the lovely New England scenery and fresh breeze, you will also get to take in a bit of area history courtesy of your informative tour guide. Complimentary snacks and apple cider, as well as a cash bar are available.
Seeing all the locals out and about enjoying the beautiful Charles River makes for a fun & different way to take in the sights of a beautiful city. Rowing, sailing, paddleboarding, kayaking…you will see about every recreational water sport in action during your trip. After seeing all the fitness enthusiasts enjoying the Charles River Path, you will want to get out there yourself and enjoy the beautiful Boston weather, culture, and nature. The 23 mile long Charles River Path is beautiful, shady, and flat…the perfect conditions for any type of exercise.
Cambridge is just a quick drive or taxi ride from Downtown Boston. It’s worth the detour if you have already walked the Freedom Trail, strolled around the Common and Public Gardens, and are looking for something new to do. This cruise is entertaining, scenic, and relaxing all at the same time, which is hard to come by in a busy city. Taking in the historical sights & stunning Massachusetts architecture along the Charles River is the perfect way to spend a lazy afternoon in Boston. I love that you can park in the mall lot for under $5 bucks (really a steal compared to the pricey lots all over Boston).
More to do in Cambridge
While in the Cambridge area, I also recommend taking the fantastic, free tour of Harvard University. Not only will you get to take a walk around the school’s gorgeous grounds, but you will also learn a lot about the history of the school and local legends, and even get to enjoy a few interesting tidbits about campus life.
Where to dine
When you get back to Boston, there are of course tons of wonderful options for lunch. If you are up for Italian, check out La Famiglia, a friendly local Italian joint in the North End. Craving seafood? Check out Legal Sea Foods, which offers not only tasty seafood, but great views of the harbor. And if you are looking for something a bit more touristy and cultural, check out the Bell in Hand Tavern, the oldest pub in the country, located right in the middle of all The Freedom Trail action. They serve excellent seafood and offer great views looking out at the North End. Try the Fishermen’s Platter!
Also be sure to check out my full guide to the best affordable things to do in Boston.
Tickets and parking
Charles Riverboat Cruise options and booking
Parking is available at the Cambridge Side Galleria Mall at 100 Cambridgeside Pl, Cambridge, MA 02141
Tip: Check Groupon for specials deals!