From the Prudential Skywalk Observatory, you'll see all the famous Boston sites in a 360 degree panorama view almost 750 feet above the city.
The Prudential Observatory occupies the 50th floor of Prudential Center.
Without a doubt, seeing and photographing the city from the Skywalk is one of the most popular of all Boston tourism activities. You'll usually find plenty of Boston locals there as well.
But did you know, even though the Prudential Skywalk is the only true public observatory in New England, it is not the only observation deck where you can view Boston attractions?
Here's a quick overview of three popular up-in-the-sky Boston observation venues.
The Prudential Center Skywalk is Boston's best known observatory. Soaring 749 feet high, Pru Center is the 2nd tallest skyscraper in the city. Although the 790 foot high John Hancock Tower is taller, its observation deck has been closed since September 11, 2001.
Located in Boston's fashionable Back Bay neighborhood, Prudential Center features a popular high-end shopping mall on its "ground" floor - actually 1 floor up from street level.
You can purchase Skywalk Observatory tickets there every day between 10am - 6pm. At other hours, tickets are available at the Skywalk's entrance.
If you want to save money, another option is to visit the Skywalk Observatory for free by purchasing a Boston CityPASS card or a GoBoston card. Both give you free admission to lots of other top Boston attractions as well.
From the Arcade area, take the "Skywalk" elevator up to the 50th floor. If there is a line and if you're using a Go Boston or Boston CityPASS discount card, just give your ticket booklet to the Skywalk employee handing out audio tours at the front desk to skip the line.
The panoramic views are spectacular!
Don't worry about not knowing where all the different Boston sites and attractions are located. You can use headphones to listen to a free audio tour about sights as well as Boston history and culture as you walk around. In addition, you'll see signs, displays, and telescopes to enhance your Boston sightseeing experience.
Naturally, a visit to the Prudential Skywalk is best on a clear day. It's also the perfect way to begin your visit to Boston . . . or if you already live here, to this gorgeous city from a new perspective.
Especially if you're visiting Boston during the summer months - especially July and August - keep in mind that the city can be steamy. The sky gets hazy . . . especially in the afternoon. Although the close views from the Observatory are still wonderful (you can look almost straight down at Boylston street, or a bit to the west toward Fenway, or other directions to see Back Bay, Beacon Hill, and the South End), distant views won't be as crisp.
To avoid the haze effect, try to arrive in late afternoon and catch the sunset views. Or opt instead for jazz in Top of the Hub's lounge on the 52nd floor, and enjoy the city's night lights.
During other times of the year, seasonal effects - thunder and lightening storms in the spring, occasional fog in the fall, snow in the winter - may give you the best photo opportunities of all.
Location: 800 Boylston Street (but you can also enter from Huntington Avenue), Back Bay, Boston
Hours: Open 7 days/week; 10am - 10pm between March 1 and October 31; 10am - 8pm between November 1 and February 28; Be sure to call first to confirm that the Skywalk is open to the public on the day/time that you plan to come
Cost: Adults - $14, Children under 12 - $9, Seniors - $12, Students with College ID - $12
Discounts: Get a Boston discount pass to get in free (and skip the line)
Nearest T station: Green Line - E/Prudential Center, Orange Line/Back Bay
More information: 617-859-0648; website
Parking: Fee-based underground parking garage (city's largest) beneath Pru Center
Let's say you just want to enjoy spectacular views but you don't want to listen to an audiotape pointing out various Boston sights nor do you want to peer through telescopes.
Let's also say that the idea of a specialty cocktail, or even a glass of nice wine or a beer sounds really, really appealing. Or maybe even an elegant lunch or dinner.
Go up 2 more floors to the Prudential Center's famed Top of the Hub Restaurant and Lounge, and this is exactly what you'll find - with no entrance fee. That's right . . . for roughly the same cost as the Prudential Skywalk admission fee (well, perhaps more if you order a pricier martini or single malt Scotch), you can enjoy a drink along with one of the best views in Boston.
If you opt for a meal in the acclaimed restaurant, reservations are almost always necessary, especially if you want a window table with unobstructed Boston skyline views. Although Top of the Hub is one of Boston's pricier restaurants at dinner, the prix-fixe lunch at around $20 is a relative bargain.
If you prefer to just have a drink and perhaps a bite in the Lounge, you can sit either at the bar or at a table in the lounge area. Jazz ensembles perform in the Lounge every evening, starting around 8pm - 9pm.
Location, T station, parking: Same as Prudential Skywalk, above
Hours: Open 7 days/week from 11:30am until midnight - 1am (depending on the day); reservations strongly advised for restaurant
Cost: No entrance fee; just the cost of whatever you eat or drink (plus tax and tip. After 8pm (or 8:30 - 9pm on some nights), jazz ensembles perform in the Lounge and a minimum charge (currently $24) applies if you sit at the lounge tables rather than at the bar.
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You can find a much less-well-known free observation deck at 470 Atlantic Avenue, the parking garage next to the InterContinental Hotel Boston on the waterfront across from the Financial District and Rose Kennedy Greenway.
In addition, you can soak up some history - this site, now part of the coastal Harborwalk, is next to Griffin's Wharf where many historians believe the Boston Tea Party occurred.
Go into the lobby (where you'll also find public restrooms in case you need them). You can watch a quite good video presentation about the site's history.
After you sign in with the security guard, take the elevator to the 14th floor, where you'll find an outdoor observation deck with binoculars as well as an inside viewing area. I've never encountered any other visitors here - this observation deck must be one of Boston's best kept secrets!
True, being 14 floors high does not give quite the same effect as the 50th or 52nd floor at Pru Center, but you'll still have fairly sweeping views of Boston Harbor, Logan Airport, the surrounding city and coastline, the Harbor Islands, and even the Blue Hills Reservation to the south.
Because you're outside (unlike Prudential Skywalk, where you're inside), this is an especially good spot for taking photos.
Address: 470 Atlantic Ave, Downtown Boston Waterfront (next to InterContinental Hotel Boston - which also has wonderful views!)
Nearest T station: Red Line - South Station
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