Cool, Hidden, and Unusual Things to Do in Boston


An enormous, inside-out glass globe built in 1935.

The Mapparium gives you a rare chance to see the world in a way that doesn’t distort the surface of the Earth.

Even when looking at an accurate globe, the relative sizes of the continents are distorted by perspective, as the spherical shape causes different regions to appear at different distances from the eye.

But with a view from the very center of a globe, looking out, the eye is the same distance from every point on the map.

Forest Hills Cemetery

A beautiful Victorian-era cemetery, complete with a miniature village.

Photo: Elizabeth Evans

IN BOSTON’S JAMAICA PLAIN NEIGHBORHOOD, the Victorian-era Forest Hills Cemetery lies on 275 acres of green space. Centered around a peaceful lake, the cemetery showcases both natural and human-made beauty.

Many of the graves are adorned with beautiful sculptures, and the mausoleums that dot the hillsides display attractive architectural details.

Several contemporary sculptures add a sense of playfulness—look for the family of dressed-up trees and the miniature village.


This upscale streetwear store is hidden behind a fake Snapple machine in the back of a deli.

LOCATED BEHIND A SECRET DOOR in a seemingly innocuous corner store, Bodega is a high end clothing store for the freshest kids in the city, the cred of which is probably going down just by being written about.

From the outside, Bodega appears to be simply another of the interchangeable convenience stores found on nearly every block of every major city. The windows are completely packed by dusty non-perishables, and the interior is not much better with every inch of space selling snacks or household basics in a visually deafening assault of brand names.

However, those in the know simply stroll past all this noise and head for the old Snapple machine in the back of the shop.

Brattle Book Shop

One of the oldest used bookstores in the U.S. has been selling antiquarian treasures since 1825.

WEDGED BETWEEN RED BRICK BUILDINGS and hidden from the hustle and bustle of Downtown Boston is an antiquarian bookshop that has been selling used books since 1825.

Located a couple of steps away from the Boston Common is the family-owned Brattle Book Shop. It offers more than 250,000 books, postcards, maps, and prints spanning across multiple genres and decades. It attracts an eclectic crowd, ranging from JD Salinger to a patron with a penchant for eating Bibles.

Caffe Vittoria

The oldest Italian café in Boston, this spot also serves as a veritable museum of vintage coffee ephemera.

THE SHEEN OF SHINY SILVER and copper metal is the first thing you notice when you step into Caffe Vittoria.

The cafe displays dozens of vintage espresso machines and coffee makers, along with other types of coffee mugs and posters. They make a killer espresso, martini, or fresh cannoli. The shop opened in 1929 and has been packed with happy customers ever since - come in and test your knowledge of antique brew technology.

World's Largest Air-Insulated Van de Graaff Generator

The massive machine creates cracking displays of indoor lightning.

A FASCINATING FEATURE AT THE Boston Museum of Science gives audiences an up-close look at energy in action.

Two pillars topped with enormous, hollow aluminium orbs flash an almost sinister glow, making them seem better suited to a mad scientist’s lair.

Lightning sizzles as it streaks from the massive machine.

Hood Milk Bottle

Ice cream stand, snack bar, and time capsule of milk conveyance

Photo: cdevers/flickr

STANDING 40 FEET TALL, THIS giant milk bottle sits next to the Boston Children’s Museum, just across the Fort Point Channel.

In 1930, Arthur Gagner built the milk bottle next to his store to sell his homemade ice cream.

Gagner built the structure entirely of wood, and while these days people are now quite used to this kind of novelty architecture, at that time it was one of the first.

Polcari's Coffee

Shelves covered in dozens of coffee bean varieties fill this North End institution.

IT’S HARD NOT TO GET excited by all the bins and jars of colorful ingredients at Polcari’s Coffee on Salem Street.

They’ve been vending spices and coffee beans since 1932, when Ralph Polcari saved up enough money to put his dream of owning a coffee shop into action.

The shop also has a wide assortment of other fun things like bulk herbs, pasta, nuts – plus walls full of vintage copper coffee pots, family photos, and other eye candy that makes this shop a bit of a museum of the family business.

Boston Tea Kettle

This massive tea kettle was once a promotional stunt for the Oriental Teashop.

Photo: Monas Fave

WHERE CAN YOU FIT EIGHT boys and one full grown man? In the world’s largest tea kettle, of course.

In 1875, the Oriental Teashop held a contest to brew up attention for their company, asking the public to guess the capacity of the massive kettle that was cast in 1873 and hung outside their storefront.

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