Government Center, Boston

With dominant, towering buildings and a large expansive gathering space, Government Center has long been a misunderstood district of Boston. Many people live and work every day in the area, but it’s no nonsense design and serious atmosphere leaves more to be in awe of then to relax and enjoy. Plenty of visitors will come here to see some of the city’s great history from the 1960s and beyond as business started to boom and innovative architecture was created. However, Government Center is undergoing major renovations and will be completely re-designed by 2016 with a super modern MBTA station and upgraded plaza.

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Government Center History

The area now known as Government Center began as a residential and commercial hub called Cornhill that was mapped out in the late 1700s. During its redesign in 1817, famous Boston resident John Quincy Adams commended the district for its improvements in architecture, layout and comfort of its locals. At about the same time and in following decades, Cornhill was known as the center for book selling and trading, welcoming writers as well to live and market their novels.

About a century later, the larger more prominent buildings started to take over. Boston City Hall was built in the 1960s and still stands today. Next to city hall is the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Federal Building, flanked by 11 acres of City Hall Plaza.

Government Center Highlights

As the buildings are mostly used for government and corporate purposes in this part of Boston, the main thing attracting tourists are the events held in City Hall Plaza. There’s often screenings in favorable weather of large sporting events, like the World Cup. Bands will set up in front of City Hall, and skateboarders will offer demonstrations on the large stretches of concrete.

Make a stop at the symbolic and impactful Holocaust Memorial, which lies on the corner of Government Center. Surrounded by a park, the glass towers represent smokestacks and are covered in names and information about the historic event.

Although it is pleasant to stroll through Government Center, many people will gravitate toward the large stairway that leads to Faneuil Hall. There are more tourist shopping and dining options only a few steps away.

Government Center Annual Events

Ice cream lovers flock to Government Center in June for the famous Scooper Bowl. It’s held in City Hall Plaza and helps raise money for the Jimmy Fund. People can indulge in sweet samples all day from vendors throughout the state and nationwide. This same plaza also hosts several concerts and food truck gatherings throughout the year.

In August, the city hosts the Boston GreenFest. For three days festival goers learn about sustainability efforts in and around the area through fun demonstrations, games and even a fashion show. Tons of vendors show off the latest innovations in recycling, healthy snacks and more.

Two historic parades, one in April for Patriot’s Day and one in July for Independence Day, begin in this spot. The Boston Gay Pride Parade also starts in City Hall Plaza on the second Saturday in June every year.