A sports fan's guide to Boston: how to catch a game in the City of Champions
Boston’s rich history extends to its sporting pedigree, too, being home to some of the most prestigious sides in the US. From baseball to basketball, here’s everything you need to know about catching a game in the Massachusetts capital.
Boston is one of North America’s most historic cities, but it’s also regarded as one of the greatest sporting cities in the US. In fact, Boston’s sports fans have been spoiled, their teams have claimed 12 titles since 2001, with at least one championship in each of the four major US sports (American football, baseball, basketball and ice hockey).
Massachusetts is home to all the New England’s major professional league teams, too: the Boston Red Sox baseball, Boston Celtics basketball, Boston Bruins ice hockey, New England Patriots American football and Revolution soccer. But fans throughout New England follow the teams as their own.
The college athletics scene also contributes to the city’s sports life. Harvard University and Boston College have sports programmes and have no trouble filling their stadiums, especially for football and basketball. College ticket prices are generally low and offer great value.
Baseball is a national pastime and as far as fanbases go, the Red Sox Nation is as passionate as they come. Built in 1912, Fenway Park is the oldest stadium in major league baseball and the storied home of the Boston Red Sox. To fully understand the city’s culture is to join the Fenway Faithful and root for the hometown team; come early on game days to roam Jersey Street, which brings the party to Sox ticket holders with live music and vendors selling beer, pizza and chowder. The Sausage Guy Cart is legendary.
You’ll find the souvenir store at number 19 Jersey Street — also the departure point for Fenway Park Tours, with stops on the field and atop the Green Monster, the iconic, 37ft-high left-field wall, with its hand-operated scoreboard.
You can even watch the game without a ticket at Bleacher Bar, located in the underbelly of Fenway, which has windows overlooking centre field. Across from Fenway, dive bar Cask ‘n Flagon has been a favourite pre- and post-game pit-stop for decades.
Top tip: Red Sox tickets are hard to come by, but unsold same-day tickets are released 90 minutes before the game starts at Gate E.
TD Garden is located directly above North Station, in the heart of Downtown, and is home to the Boston Celtics. Its iconic parquet floor is a replica of the one used during the team’s inaugural season in 1946. Before you head in, however, walk over to City Hall Plaza to see the bronze statue of Celtic great Bill Russell, who helped bring 11 championships to Boston as a player, and went on to become the first Black NBA head coach during the racially charged 1960s.
When it’s game time, stop by lively hole-in-the wall Sullivan’s Tap for cheap beer or go upscale at A&B bar-restaurant or views of the Zakim Bridge plus top-notch pub food.
Top tip: The Boston Sports Museum, located within TD Garden, showcases the history of Boston’s sports franchises as well as regional sports events like the Boston Marathon, ‘The Game’ (the annual football match between Harvard and Yale) and the Head of the Charles Regatta.
The TD Garden is also home to the Boston Bruins, and it’s hard to beat the enthusiasm of the Garden crowd and the sounds of live organ music.
Places to check out before the puck drops include neighbourhood stalwart Porters Bar & Grill for burgers, celebrity chef Guy Fieri’s Tequila Cocina for Mexican eats or the Smoke Shop for some of the city’s best barbecue with all the sides.
Top tip: This is hockey, and that ice needs to stay frozen. The Garden will be surprisingly chilly inside, so dress accordingly, especially if you have rink side seats
The New England Patriots are perennial Super Bowl contenders, having won six NFL championships since 2002. Hoping to catch the Pats make another playoff run? You’ll need to head south 25 miles to Gillette Stadium in Foxborough.
Arrive early. Gillette’s car parks open four hours before kickoff for ‘tailgating’, the uniquely American football tradition of drinking beer and serious grilling next to your car. Or check out adjacent Patriot Place, an open-air shopping, dining and entertainment complex. Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse is stylish and spacious featuring prime cuts, or go local with Wormtown Brewery for their signature Be Hoppy IPA.
Top tip: The Patriots have sold out every home game since 1994. Your best bet to see the team may be to attend an open-to-the-public training camp session or catch one of their pre-season home games.
Gillette Stadium is an iconic football venue, but it’s also home turf for the New England Revolution, Boston’s professional soccer club. The Fort, the field seats behind the north goal, is where you’ll find the team’s hardcore super fans, amplifying the crowd noise all game long.
Boston will be a host city for World Cup 2026, and Gillette is getting ready for its close-up with major renovations, as well as the country’s largest outdoor HD video screen. Professional league soccer is still considered niche in the US, and Revolution tickets are generally easy to get. Another plus: Gillette stadium parking for Revolution games is free.
Top tip: If a road trip to Foxborough is too far, Boston has no shortage of soccer bars. The Banshee, in Dorchester, is an Irish sports bar with a solid pub menu and enough TVs to show multiple games at once — not only the Revs, but European football, too.
Published in the March 2023 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)
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