The Boston Duck Boat Tour was recommended to me by my brother, who said it was surprisingly fun and a worthwhile thing to do on a visit. He was right. The Duck Tour turned out to be a tremendously fun way to learn a little bit about a lot of the historic Colonial city.

We were lucky enough to have Harvey Heartbreak leading our tour. He’s a native of Boston, the youngest of 18!!, and has completed MULTIPLE Boston Marathons. He’s funny with a quick wit on top of being tremendously personable and knowledgeable on all things Boston.

As the tour departed from Copley square, Harvey started off by telling us a bit about Colonial painter and Boston native John Singleton Copley, for whom the square is named. One of Copley’s well-known works today is a portrait of Paul Revere holding a silver teapot, painted in 1768. The two men were acquainted well before Revere’s famous midnight ride.

As and did a little good-nature heckling of people wandering away from that day’s Hemp Fest in the Boston Common, he went on to talk about the hydrology of Boston. The Pilgrims settled there on the Shawmut Peninsula was the Great Spring with fresh, clean water, and Boston’s history is just as intertwined with water as it is with Colonial history.

Trinity Church

We passed Boston’s Trinity Church as we set out from Copley Square. Harvey pointed it out as being the first and best example of the influential Richardson Romanesque style of architecture. Here’s a photo of hundred and fifty year old building against the gleaming modern Hancock Tower.

Trinity Church Boston

Lavender windows

As we passed a row of stately Federal-style Brownstone buildings, Harvey pointed out the occasional lavender window. These purple windows are famous and prized now, but the color was a mistake. It’s a result of excess manganese oxide in the glass reacting to sunlight. Initially, building owners were upset and refused to use anymore of what was considered defective imported glass, which is why the lavender windows appear randomly on brownstones around the Back Bay and Beacon Hill.

Boston's purple windows


Other notable highlights: the stature of famous abolitionist Charles Sumner in the Boston Common. The last standing tenement house standing alone, an outlier surrounded by a highway ramp and an office building and other modern city infrastructure that sprung up around it. The public skatepark. The bridge with the widest cable stays in the world. All the Boston Firsts in the country: the first park, the first college, the first public library, and the the first police force. And finally, especially, watching the sun set on the Charles River.

Sailboat at sunset on the Charles River

I know my local Boston friends never went on this tour, but if you are visiting the city, the Boston Duck Tour is a truly enjoyable way to lean into being a tourist and learn a little bit about a lot of Boston. The Boston Duck Tour is a truly enjoyable way to lean into being a tourist and learn a little bit about a lot of Boston. It’s only 80 minutes long includes a short Charles River cruise. It’s a great tourist activity for families, groups, couples, or singles.

A few details: check-in was very organized; the coordinator had a list of reservations and had assigned us all seats on the amphibious vehicle. Don’t argue about your seat. Be prepared to pose for a photographer on your way to board; you’ll have the option of purchasing a set of 4 photos for $25 (the price after our tour 9/2021) after the tour. Bring some money to top your tour guide – they will have earned it.

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