See This, Skip That: Boston

PHOTO: Keith Lockhart speaks to the audience during the opening night of Holiday Pops in Boston on December 4, 2013.

Boston is one of the country's hottest tourist destinations for good reason: History lives and breathes here, attractions are family-friendly, and the food scene is thriving. And even if you've been here before, new things to do abound. Read on for some of our favorites.

Skip the Streets, Take to the Skies Boston is one of the country's most walk-friendly cities. But the visuals from high above will give you an even better take on this historic town's beauty. Noble AirVentures is the only company to hold an FAA license to operate tours directly over Boston. That means a special birds'-eve view of attractions like Fenway Park, the Hancock Building and Boston Harbor; scenic flights, in fact, can be tailored to spots you want to see. Noble also offers introductory flight lessons – basic training is done aboard classic Cessna 172 aircraft – and runs a shop that carries all the pilot essentials, from charts to headphones.

Skip the Restaurant, Eat on Deck Taking sail aboard the Odyssey takes a sit-down meal to a new level. The culinary cruises on this deluxe vessel -- with a newly revamped third deck and swanky new sky lounge with outdoor bar – offer multiple gourmet courses for lunch, brunch and dinner. Lobster bisque, grilled salmon and short ribs are regulars on the menu; desserts can range from seasonal fruit cobblers to chocolate truffle tortes. But even sweeter might be the views: sweeping sights of the Boston skyline that are unlike most anything you can capture on land. Weddings take place onboard regularly. And the annual New Year's Eve cruise, which sets sail at 9pm, features a three-course dinner, live DJ and dancing, a midnight toast with bubbly and prime fireworks viewing.

READ: Lonely Planet Releases Top US Destinations for 2014

Skip the Mainland, Explore the Islands A 15-minute ferry will sweep you away to the 34 islands – they range from just one to more than 250 acres – that are nestled within Boston Harbor. Twelve of these are open to visitors, and family-friendly discoveries abound. Fort Warren, a national historic landmark, is on Georges Island and once served as a training camp for Union troops (and a prison for their Confederate counterparts). And the oldest lighthouse station in the country is on the shores of Little Brewster Island. Islets like Nut and Thompson offer beautiful spots for hiking, biking or kayaking, and campers are bound to find the perfect spot to pitch a tent on Grape, Bumpkin, Lovells or Peddocks. If you jump off on Spectacle Island, don't miss an authentic New England clambake.

Skip the Freedom Trail, Stroll the Black Heritage Trail Yes, the Freedom Trail is a must – a two-mile yellow brick road for history buffs that includes 17 sites, from Faneuil Hall to Bunker Hill. But the Black Heritage Trail is also well worth the trek, as it takes you to pre-Civil War sites that feature prominently in African-American history. Meandering mainly through Beacon Hill, more than a dozen stops are featured, like the home of abolitionist John Coburn, Phillips School (one of the city's first to embrace desegregation) and the monument to the 54th Regiment, one of the first black military units during the Civil War. For some historical perspective: the Underground Railroad – the clandestine escape route for Southern slaves – led to Boston, and Massachusetts was the first state to outlaw slavery, in 1783.

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