Massachusetts Museums and Galleries
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
25 Evans Way, Fenway
The Gardner museum offers art with a side of scandal. In 1990, thirteen works, including a rare Vermeer and Rembrandts valued at $500 million, were stolen by thieves posing as police. They’ve never been recovered, and the empty frames still hang in their original spots in memory of the lost works. Heist aside, this is probably the most beautiful museum in New England. Modeled on the Venetian palazzi adored by nineteenth-century socialite and philanthropist Isabella Gardner, it’s an immersive experience, with pencils and sheaves of paper nestled into corners and stacked on surfaces to encourage sketching. Although she was a Boston resident, Gardner spent most of her time exploring Europe and the Far East with her husband, accruing a collection of paintings, books, sculptures, and textiles—nearly 16,000 items in all. Sketches by Manet, Michelangelo, and John Singer Sargent, gothic tapestries, paintings by Velázquez and Titian, as well as an extensive furniture and rare books collection fill the galleries. Wander through the rooms of the palazzo and wind up in the courtyard, a cloistered space filled with sculptures, trees, tiles, and a proper Roman-style pond, all of which adds up…
Museum of Science
1 Science Park, West End
You’ll find the city’s epic science museum located on the stretch of Boston that connects Cambridge to the West End. Permanent, family-friendly exhibits include a tropical world butterfly garden; a hands-on discovery center (complete with an engineering-focused experiment station); a park simulation setup that lets kids move while teaching them about motion, mechanics, and math; and an Apollo module that you can climb inside—and then watch the first moon landing from the cockpit seats.
USS Constitution Museum
Charlestown Navy Yard, Building 22, Charlestown
The USS Constitution was commissioned and named by George Washington back in 1797; at the time, it was a capital ship (aka one of the navy’s most important warships). The Constitution gained her nickname, Old Ironsides, during the War of 1812, when the ship defeated more than five British warships. After that victory, she became a darling of the public, who fought hard to save her from scrapping and devoted a museum to her history. Today, the ship, which is technically still fully commissioned by the navy, is actually being restored in dry docks, which are open to the public. When it’s not being restored, its permanent home is at Pier 1 at Charlestown Navy Yard, where it can be boarded and explored by visitors to the museum. If you must see ships in the water before Old Ironsides’ makeover is finished, check out the Boston Tea Party Museum’s ingenious replicas at the seaport.
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