2. Recommended Itinerary
The Back Bay – A Stunning View of Boston
[Note: Every place included on this list has been personally vetted for wheelchair accessibility. When we use the term “accessible”, we account for things like stepless entry, sufficient space to maneuver a wheelchair, accessible restrooms, etc.]
Offering up a wonderful blend of old and new architecture, beautiful window shopping strolls, and great restaurants, the Back Bay is sure to provide enough activity for an afternoon or day adventure. While it is upscale and a bit expensive, this area is gorgeous and has plenty to do even if you are watching your budget. It costs nothing to stroll along Newbury Street and marvel at the Victorian brownstones and classy boutique shops, nor is it expensive to tour the Skywalk Observatory or the famous Trinity Church.
Beyond being home to a number of Boston’s most essential activities, the Back Bay is a particularly compact and accessible destination – most of the best sights and restaurants are situated within a 1/4-mile radius. It is worth visiting rain or shine given the impressive assortment of activities that are indoors and the plethora of street stores that are easy to duck into, contributing to the top-notch accessibility of the area.
The Back Bay is an especially accessible destination. The area is very level, and sidewalks are smooth pavement on either side of the two-way streets. Crosswalks and curb cuts at virtually every intersection coupled with slow street traffic to accommodate pedestrians makes for a comfortable are to maneuver. Additionally, nearby public transportation and parking options make for convenient access to the area.
Street Parking: Paid street parking with a 2-hour limit is available throughout the area, although it can be difficult to find a vacant spot depending on when you visit. Unfortunately, there are not many accessible-designated street parking spots, although there are a few scattered throughout the area.
Parking Garages: The area has numerous lots and garages to support the high number of visitors. Below, we have selected three of the most convenient lots in the area (all three within 3-4 minute walk of Copley Square).
- The Back Bay Garage:
o Address: 119 Clarendon Street, Boston
o Varying Rates, $38/$16 for 2 hours (weekday/weekend)
o Note: sometimes runs specials if you go on website and follow instructions
- Prudential Center Garage:
o Address: 800 Boylston Street, Boston
o Varying Rates, $30 for 2 hours
- 149 Newbury Street Parking:
o Address: 149 Newbury Street, Boston
o Varying Rates, 30$ for 1.5 hours
o Note: can purchase ticket and reserve spot in advance online
- Copley T Stop: To access the Back Bay via public transportation, ride the T (Boston subway system) to the Copley T stop with the Green Line. The Copley T stop, which is fully accessible thanks to elevator installments, is directly across the street from Copley Square and adjacent to the Boston Public Library.
- Car Rental: Accessible Vans of America, a company that specializes in renting out accessible equipment, offers services in Boston and can be a convenient way to access the North End.
o Phone: (781) 222-0020
- Uber/Lyft: Both Uber and Lyft operate in Boston and are convenient ways of arriving at the Back Bay.
TravelEZ’s Recommended Itinerary
Total Time: 4 hours 45 minutes
Total Distance: 1 mile
1. Arrive via T at Copley T stop or Park at the Back Bay Garage.
2. Tour the Trinity Church at Copley Square for a stunning walkthrough of one of the country’s most famous architectural feats! [30 min]
3. Head over to the Courtyard Café (inside the Boston Public Library) to enjoy some pastries or coffee overlooking the gorgeous courtyard before getting up to tour around again [15 min]
4. Continue through the Boston Public Library to explore amazing galleries and beautiful design in America’s most historic library (make sure to grab a free pamphlet for a map and a guide to many of the building’s famous exhibits). [45 min]
5. Head on over to Abe & Louie’s, a very short walk or roll from the library and one of the best eateries in the entire area. [1 hour 15 min]
6. After a beautiful lunch, continue to the Prudential Tower and head up to the 50th floor to experience the incredible views from the Skywalk Observatory as you also learn about the city’s extensive history! [1 hour 30 min]
7. Head one street over to Newbury Street and window shop your way past the boutiques as you head back to the Back Bay Garage. [30 min]
8. Arrive at the Copley T stop or the Back Bay Garage to return home after a beautiful and rewarding day in the Back Bay!
The Back Bay is home to some of the best high-end restaurants in Boston. A variety of menus and a wide selection of exquisitely decorated restaurants make for a phenomenal dining experience. Additionally, many of the best restaurants are accessible and centrally located with respect to the area’s best activities. Below, we have selected some of the location’s top restaurants).
L’Espalier ($$$, 4 Stars on Yelp, 4½ Stars on TripAdvisor)
Considered one of the city’s best elegant dining options (Zagat, TripAdvisor), this restaurant also presents virtually no accessibility difficulties. Although the prices are very high, a top-notch French menu coupled with a beautiful and spacious interior make L’Espalier worth considering!
Phone: (617) 262-3023
Luke’s Lobster ($$, 4½ Stars on Yelp, 4½ Stars on TripAdvisor)
Luke’s Lobster offers a flavorful seafood menu and has a great selection of fresh New England classics and rich soups. It is also a convenient and accessible restaurant. It is worth noting that you have to stand in line to order food rather than order with a waiter, so we recommend eating here during less-busy hours.
Phone: (857) 350-4626
Overpriced, mouthwatering New England classics. Note - difficult to access when crowded, but fully accessible during non-peak hours
The Capital Grille ($$$, 4½ Stars on Yelp, 4½ Stars on TripAdvisor)
This elegant and very accessible restaurant offers an amazing American menu along with a comfortable environment that is easy on the eyes (to say the least). High prices match with superb quality cuisine.
Phone: (617) 262-8900
Abe & Louie’s ($$$, 4 Stars on Yelp, 4½ Stars on TripAdvisor)
A gorgeous, classy steakhouse that prepares some of the best steak-cuts in town, Abe & Louie’s is one of the best restaurants in Boston (Zagat, TripAdvisor). The décor is elegant, and there is an outdoor dining patio in case you prefer to catch some fresh air and observe the bustle along Boylston Street. The restaurant is also entirely accessible.
Phone: (617) 536-6300
Top of the Hub ($$$, 3½ Stars on Yelp, 4 Stars on TripAdvisor)
This famous location has one of the best views in Boston (if not the best) thanks to the 360-degree view of the city from its location on the Prudential Tower’s top floor. While most patrons agree the food itself is not worth the pricier costs, the exquisite view more than compensates for them.
The restaurant is totally accessible as well. To arrive at the restaurant, you only have to walk or stroll for about two minutes through the main floor of the Prudential Tower, following signs indicating where the elevators to the restaurant are. There are operators to signal you to the elevator, which takes you directly to the restaurant on the 52nd floor. The Top of the Hub is especially convenient to eat or grab drinks at if you are shopping at the Prudential Tower or touring the Skywalk Observatory (located on the Prudential Tower’s 50th floor).
Phone: (617) 536-1775
Top of the Hub
Witness all of Boston with stunning views with no hassle
Courtyard Restaurant and Café ($$$, 4 Stars on Yelp, 4½ Stars on TripAdvisor)
Located immediately beyond the main entrance of the Boston Public Library, the Courtyard Café has a great High Tea menu. The restaurant is nicely-decorated, and the menu makes it a great option if you are looking for a light lunch or for a convenient meal before or after exploring the famed Library. The restaurant is 100% accessible as well.
Phone: (617) 859-2251
Attractions/Things to Do
While many of the Back Bay’s best restaurants are quite expensive, the same is not true for the best activities and sights. An extensive list of some of Boston’s best things to do are located within the confines of the Back Bay area. The best part? Almost all of them are accessible and inexpensive (or even free)!
Named one of the country’s top ten building by American Institute of Architects, the Church is both historic and current as it is still used for service and worship on a daily basis. The Church was built in 1870’s and houses amazing stained glass windows and stunning murals. The building, which sits on top of Copley Square directly across from the Copley T stop, also represents an extensive line of history. Be sure to notice the reflection of the Church in the adjacent John Hancock Building’s reflection, depicting a stark juxtaposition between old and new.
Self-guided tours and formal tours are both available (check website for formal tour times on day you are considering visiting). A ramp entrance and one-floor layout make the self-guided tour completely accessible. People usually take about 20-30 minutes to tour the Church. Unfortunately, viewing the altar is only possible by climbing a short set of stairs. Additionally, during the formal tour, the guide takes visitors downstairs (with no elevator access) to an area for a short segment of the walkthrough. However, this only accounts for a short portion of the tour and is not even available for people doing the self-guided tour. Both self-guided and formal tours cost $7.
Phone: (617) 536-0944
Copley Square is a beautiful square that includes pretty lawns and surrounded by stunning architecture (Trinity Church, Boston Public Library, Fairmont Copley Plaza hotel, and skyscrapers). The square, which marks the finish line of the famous Boston Marathon, is a great place to take a seat on a bench, enjoy some sunshine and a breath of fresh air, and marvel at the diverse and scenic views.
Copley Square sits directly across from the Copley T stop and has wide and smooth paths, tons of benches to sit, and does not have too much pedestrian traffic.
Boston Public Library
The Boston Public Library was the first free municipal library in the world. Built in 1852, the library is one of Boston’s most historic and exquisite buildings. Decorated by a breathtaking façade and endless art inside, the library is much more than a place to rent and return books. The library also hosts authors’ speaking events, musical performances, and other educational and entertaining events. Free self-guided tours, with the help of a brochure, are a great opportunity to learn about the library and focus on what interests you the most. Free guided tours are also available (leave at varying times). Additionally, the library houses two cafes and the Courtyard Restaurant (see in “Restaurants” section).
The library benefits from a spacious interior, clear signs indicating location and accessible features, elevators, lifts, ramps, accessible restrooms and water fountains, and virtually every other accessible feature you can think of. The tours are completely accessible too.
Phone: (617) 536-5400
Boston Public Library
One of the nation's most historic and completely accessible libraries
High end boutiques, galleries, and eateries along both sides of the famous street make for great window shopping just a minute walk or roll from Copley Square. Beautiful brownstones and a happy, bustling atmosphere contribute to the allure of strolling along Newbury Street. Unfortunately, a significant number to the stores and cafes are difficult to access (especially closer to the Prudential Tower), usually requiring climbing a flight of eight or so stairs to enter the store. Otherwise, the area is very pedestrian-friendly with benches scattered throughout as well as slow traffic.
Stroll through elegant brownstones at your own pace
The Shops at Prudential Center
One of Boston’s skyline’s most famous buildings, the Prudential Center is home to the city’s nicest mall along with an opportunity for incredible views of Boston (see “Top of the Hub” and “Skywalk Observatory”). The roster of stores (e.g. Gucci, Ralph Lauren, Vineyard Vines) and restaurants (e.g. Cheesecake Factory, Wagamama) is both extensive and high end. The mall, which is all on one level, also includes a pretty outdoor courtyard with plenty of benches if you want to catch a breath of fresh air.
The Prudential Center is very accessible with an easy drop-off area immediately outside the primary entrance and a parking garage below the basement with elevators directly to the mall’s interior. Additionally, the mall’s spacious interior has accessible restrooms, water fountains, benches throughout, and stores with spacious interiors themselves.
Phone: (617) 236-3100
Skywalk Observatory (inside Prudential Center)
The Skywalk Observatory, which is located on the 50th floor of the Prudential Tower, is the best view of Boston (along with the Top of the Hub restaurant) and is completely accessible! Admission includes a 360-degree view of the city along with an interactive audio tour guide. Tours typically spend between 1-1.5 hours appreciating the views while learning from the audio tour and theater that explains various historically significant areas and events observable from the skywalk.
Accessible restrooms, water fountains, numerous places to sit and rest, and a spacious layout make the Skywalk completely accessible.
Phone: (617) 859-0648
Charles River Esplanade
The Charles River Esplanade is a 3-mile long pathway along the picturesque Charles River, located about half a mile from Copley Square. The place offers a great opportunity to enjoy fresh air on the Charles as well as appreciate public art scattered along the way.
The area is a little bit removed from the rest of Back Bay’s main attractions, but it is accessible given the benches scattered along the path along with the smooth and wide pavements to traverse.
Phone: (617) 635-4505
Mapparium (inside Mary Baker Eddy Library)
The Mapparium is an interesting guided tour of the globe whereby visitors move along a glass bridge as they look at a room-sized globe of the world in 1935 (when the Mapparium was founded) made of stained glass. The Mapparium is only viewable by a 20-minute guided tour (costing $6 and leaving every 20 minutes). The library itself contains some interesting collections relating to the Betterment of Humanity (which is included in the library’s official title).
The Mapparium tour is fully accessible with no steps required to participate. Additionally, the location has accessible restrooms and, although the tour offers no places to sit down, there is a wheelchair kept on hand if you prefer to use that.
Phone: (617) 450-7000
An enormous, fully accessible glass globe built in 1935
Fairmont Copley Plaza (4½ Stars on TripAdvisor)
This hotel is as classy and convenient as it gets. While it is expensive, the hotel is exquisite and sits on top of Copley Square directly across from the Copley T stop.
The hotel is completely accessible with rooms with roll-in showers and other adjusted rooms as well. We recommend calling as far in advance as possible, as the hotel tends to become booked very fast.
Phone: (866) 540-4417
Fairmont Copley Plaza
The best of the best hotels in Boston, this is as elegant as they come
Lenox (4½ Stars on TripAdvisor)
The Lenox is an attractive hotel, appealing for its location and known for its green initiatives. The hotel is less than a three-minute walk or roll from the Copley T stop and is directly behind the Boston Public Library.
The hotel is entirely accessible and offers three ADA accessible rooms as well as one room with a roll-in shower. The hotel includes an accessible bar (City Bar) and an accessible restaurant (Solas restaurant). Automatic doors, a spacious and comfortable layout, 24-hour room service, valet parking ($50 per night), and a particularly helpful staff contribute to the hotel’s accessibility.
Phone: (617) 536-5300
The Lenox Hotel
Completely accessible, and environmentally friendly to boot
Mandarin Oriental, Boston (4½ Stars on TripAdvisor)
The Mandarin Hotel, which is a five-minute walk or roll from the Copley T stop and is attached to the Prudential Center, is completely accessible. It offers between 10-15 rooms with accessible features (e.g. roll-in showers, seats inside the shower, adjusted beds), valet parking, 24-hour room service, and is attached to a restaurant (Bar Bould) and a spa.
Phone: (617) 535-8888