34 Fun Facts About Boston You Probably Don’t Know

With a history going back nearly 400 years, you can imagine how many fun facts about Boston have emerged over that time!

Some of these fun facts about Boston are so obscure that many Bostonians aren’t even aware of them.

For example, did you know the colors representing the subway lines in Boston have their own meanings? Or is Boston the only place in the world where a boat can sail under a train that’s going under a vehicle while driving under a plane? (an important distinction, for sure)

And that’s only the beginning…Boston still has many weird laws that date back to when the Puritans governed Massachusetts. Plus, it’s where many “firsts” occurred in the United States.

Fun facts about Boston

Here are some of the more interesting, unusual, and strange facts about Boston:

The Red Sox have a patent on the color Fenway Green

Fenway Park in Boston

It’s used as the color of the stadium and the Green Monster.

For two decades, it was against the law for Bostonians to celebrate Christmas

A Christmas nativity scene
Adoration of the Shepherds by Gerard van Honthorst

The Pilgrims believed it to be a corrupt holiday, so they banned it from 1659 to 1681.

Much of modern-day Boston used to be underwater

An Old map of Boston - a fun fact about Boston is that much of it used to be underwater
Photo credit:  tm / Creative Commons

One fun fact about Boston is that before the early 1800s, much of the city of Boston today was fully underwater. It wasn’t until the early 1800s that the city started filling in land along the coast, and the modern city started to take form.

The Boston Marathon is the oldest known marathon in the world

Runners at the Boston Marathon

Started in 1897, the Boston Marathon is the oldest known marathon to still take place today. It happens on Patriots’ Day, the third Monday in April.

Boston has one of the highest percentages of college students in the United States

College students in Boston MA

There are 35 colleges and universities in the metropolitan area with more than 150,000 students.

The Cheers Bar, made famous by the popular TV show, is based on a real bar called the Bull & Finch Pub in Boston

And visitors can visit the replica of Cheers at 84 Beacon Street.

Fig Newton cookies are named after a Boston suburb

A fig newton cookie

The Fig Newton, named after the city of Newton, was first invented by the Boston-based Kennedy Biscuit Company, which frequently named its cookies after local municipalities.

Bostonians play candlepin bowling, not the more common tenpin bowling

Candlepin bowling - among the fun facts in Boston MA
Photo credit: Rene Schwietzke / Creative Commons

The pins in candlepin bowling are narrower, and the balls are smaller than in tenpin bowling. Otherwise, the sports are generally the same. Candlepin bowling was invented in Boston in 1880.

One of the greatest art heists of all time happened in Boston

The courtyard in the Isabella Steward Gardner Museum in Boston

In 1990, thieves walked away with $100 million in paintings from the Isabella Stewart Gardiner Museum located in Boston.

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Fun facts about Boston’s name

Boston’s name isn’t original. And the city has several nicknames.

Boston is named after a town in England

The town of Boston in England
Boston, England. Photo credit: Mike McBey / Flickr

A fun fact about Boston is that when The Massachusetts Bay Company settled the city, its most prominent members were originally from Boston, in Lincolnshire, England. So, they named their new city after the one they left.

Boston is nicknamed “Beantown” because of the city’s historical association with baked beans

A bowl of baked beans - a fun fact about Boston is that its named Beantown

While the exact origin of the nickname Beantown is a little unclear, it’s believed to have been derived from the popularity of baked beans among Boston’s early residents. A publicity stunt in 1907 with the slogan “You don’t know beans until you come to Boston” also contributed to the nickname being recognized nationally.

Boston is known as the “Cradle of Liberty” because of its prominence in the Revolutionary War.

A statue of Paul Revere

The Boston Tea Party happened here (see below). Paul Revere warned that the Red Coats were coming as he rode into the night from Boston. And the first shot heard “around the world” was fired in the nearby suburb of Concord, which began the Revolutionary War.

Interesting historical facts about Boston

Boston has a long and deep history as one of the oldest cities in the United States.

Boston’s North End once experienced a deadly molasses flood

In 1919, a storage tank collapsed, and more than 2 million gallons of molasses flooded the streets. The damage was extensive, and 21 people were killed.

Boston is home to the famous Boston Tea Party

The Boston Tea Party Museum
The Boston Tea Party Ship & Museum

Colonists protested British taxes by throwing tea into the Boston harbor in 1773.

Paul Revere’s house in Boston’s North End is the oldest surviving structure in the city

Paul Revere's House
Paul Revere’s house as it appears today.

It was built in 1680 and came under the protection of the Paul Revere Memorial Association in 1907.

Boston had its own witch trials

Most people have heard of the Salem Witch Trials which happened just north of Boston. But Boston had its own trials during the 1600s. Three women were hanged in the city for being accused of being witches.

Fascinating transportation facts about Boston

Boston has some of the most complex and historical infrastructure in the United States.

The colors of the city’s MBTA subway lines have meaning

The green line on Boston's MBTA - the colors of the lines are a fun fact about Boston

The Blue Line runs under Boston’s Harbor and along the ocean, the Green Line travels alongside the city’s Emerald Necklace parks, the Red Line travels by crimson-colored Harvard, and the Orange Line runs down Washington Street, formerly named Orange Street.

Bostonians didn’t have to take a driving test to receive a license until 1920

People in a car in the early 20th century
Suffragists in a car in Copley Square, 1910.

The state started issuing driver’s licenses and registration plates in 1903, but it wasn’t until 1920 that the city began requiring a test before issuing licenses.

Boston’s Ted Williams Tunnel is the deepest in North America

A photo of a tunnel with a truck - a fun fact about Boston is that the Ted Williams Tunnel is the deepest in North America

It runs nearly 90 feet underneath the earth’s surface.

The Zakim Bridge is the widest cable-stayed bridge in the world

The Zakim Bridge in Boston MA

The bridge stands at 745 feet over the Charles River. Construction began in 1997 and was completed in 2003. The project cost $115 million.

Boston is the only place in the world where a boat can sail under a train that’s going under a vehicle while driving under a plane.

The Boston University Bridge - among the fun facts about Boston
The Boston University (BU) Bridge. Photo credit: Chris Rycroft / Flickr

The Boston University Bridge is where this phenomenon takes place.

“Firsts” that occurred in Boston

As one of the oldest cities in the United States, it’s not surprising Boston is home to many “firsts” in the country. Here are a few:

The first subway system in the United States was built in Boston

Building the MBTA subway in Boston - among the fun facts about Boston is that the T was the first subway built in the United States
Construction of the Tremont Street Subway in November 1896. Photo credit: Boston Transit Commission / Creative Commons

The system, known as the “T,” is short for the MBTA, was built in 1897.

Fenway Park is the oldest Major League Baseball stadium

The stadium was built in 1912, substantially rebuilt in 1934, and is still used today. It’s home to the Boston Red Sox.

Boston’s Public Library was the first large free municipal library in the United States

The outside of the Boston Public Library

It was established in 1848, and the original building still stands on Boylston Street.

Boston Common is the oldest public park in the U.S.

The Boston Common - among the fun facts about Boston is that the Common is the oldest public park in the U.S.

It was established in 1634. Boston Common and the neighboring Boston Public Gardens are the most visited outdoor spaces in the city.

The Boston Latin School was the first public school in the country

The outside of the Boston Latin School
Photo credit: Daderot

Founded in 1635, Boston Latin School still serves over 2,400 students in 7th through 12th grade.

The first lighthouse in the U.S. was built in Boston Harbor

It was built in 1716 on Little Brewster Island.

Kathrine Switzer was the first female marathon runner when she ran the Boston Marathon in 1967

Kathrine Switzer trying to run in the Boston Marathon

Switzer was not allowed to run the race that year and was harassed as she persisted. It took five more years for women to be allowed to run the race officially.

Weird laws in Boston

With a history of nearly 400 years, Boston has some laws that are undoubtedly unusual in our modern times. Here are a few:

“Happy Hours” are against the law

A sign that says Happy Hour

Bars can still sell alcohol during this time. Just don’t call it “Happy Hour”.

Selling alcohol before 10 AM on Sunday is against the law

Wine on shelves in a store - laws about alcohol sales are among the fun facts about Boston that many outsiders don't know

Stores typically post signs on Sunday mornings reminding customers they cannot purchase beer, wine, or spirits until 10 AM.

It’s illegal to snore at night with your windows open

A man snoring

But it’s perfectly fine if your windows are closed.

You can be fined $50 if you yell profanities or curse at a player or professional during a sports event

People watching a baseball game

Needless to say, this law isn’t typically enforced.

You may need a special license to have a goatee

A man with a goatee

And pay a fee!

It’s technically illegal to take a bath without a doctor’s prescription

Someone reading a book in a bathtube

But a shower is no problem.

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See related:

22 Boston Slang Words You Need to Know Before You Visit

What Food is Boston Known for?

The Best (and Most Unique!) Stores on Newbury Street

21 Free Museums in Boston and Cambridge Worth a Visit

31 Fun Things to Do in Boston in the Spring

A photo of Kerry Flatley leaning against a wall

About Kerry Flatley

Kerry Flatley has lived in New England for the past 26 years. She has roots in Maine & Massachusetts, family in New Hampshire, and grew up close to the Connecticut border. She loves all that this region has to offer – the ocean, mountains, islands, history, villages, and cities. When she’s not writing about New England, she’s relaxing at home in the Boston suburbs with her two teenage daughters and husband.

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