Seeking a Plan B post-Thanksgiving family activity after the theater performance we had tickets for got COVID-ed out, we made last-minute plans to visit the top of the Prudential Center building in downtown Boston via the newish View Boston attraction. You may remember the Prudential Center’s Top of the Hub restaurant and Skywalk Observatory, which was closed in 2020 due to the pandemic. Fast forward to summer 2023, when View Boston in all its fanciness opened on the top three floors of the Pru. In this new iteration of taking in the Boston skyline, the 52nd floor is an enclosed observation deck and gift shop. The 51st floor has a bar and an al fresco observation deck with tables, chairs, and some couches. And there’s a 50th floor bistro that requires reservations.
As with pretty much every attraction these days, you’ll be peppered with “experience” upgrades—we went with the most basic Standard/General Admission offering, which at $30, seemed pricey enough. For another $10 or $20 you get extra stuff, such as gift or drink vouchers, and streamlined access. Whether museum passes from libraries will emerge for this is worth watching. View Boston is open 10am-10pm every day of the week.
Access to the Pru via Copley Place is a zippy 30-minute drive or a pretty direct shot via the commuter rail or green line train. If you drive and park at the Pru garage, be sure to get your parking ticket validated—otherwise the garage will kill you with its rates, which scale to $45 after just 2 hours.
Once at the entrance you’ll go through security scanners (somehow my empty glasses case set off the buzzer) and then into a speedy and ear-popping elevator ride to the 52nd floor.
If you live the open floor plan lifestyle in Wellesley, you’ll be right at home on the top story of the Pru, a cavernous and sleek space with massive windows allowing a 360-degree look all around Boston and beyond. We went at night, so whether it was possible to see Wellesley, we don’t know (maybe so after the Hunnewell field lights go up?).
But we could easily spot Fenway Park & the Citgo sign, the MIT Dome, the new MGM Music Hall (whose billboard might be the brightest light of all), a nearby apartment or condo or office complex with windows way too undraped, and many more landmarks.
The observatory space was uncrowded when we went, but if you happen to go when it is packed, know that there are elevated and accessible platforms that ensure everyone can get a good view outside. Going window by window and spotting the sites can chew up a fair amount of time. There are benches situated to give you a breather.
Futuristic touchscreens were scattered about to allow you to zoom in and learn more about certain areas, though we didn’t find these particularly useful. Metallic models of various landmarks such as Fenway Park and the Museum of Fine Arts also dotted the top floor and were fun to examine.
Going down a floor to the 51st you’ll find a bar dubbed “Stratus” that offers open-air seating, though not on the cold late fall night we went. The bar is paired with the “Beacon Bistro,” which offers dining packages that include View Boston. The online menu shows no prices, never a good sign for budget-conscious visitors.
There could be something to be said for hitting this attraction when the weather is nice, and maybe even going at dusk so that you can catch views both in daylight and once everything is lit up.
We kept going down to the 50th floor, where interactive screen displays and a huge 3D model highlight Boston’s neighborhoods and sites. The multimedia show behind and over the model showcases everything from the seasons to the arts to sports, and a separate immersive movie theatre takes you through some of Boston’s top tourist attractions.
Speaking of tourists, View Boston is a great place to take out-of-town guests. Between the observatory, all the high-end shopping you could ask for at the Prudential Center mall, along with mall dining options from fast-casual (Anna’s Taqueria, Shake Shack) to dine-in (Del Frisco’s, California Pizza Kitchen), and more, you could easily kill an entire afternoon here. If you prefer to avoid the winter weather, you can conceivably get into your car in Wellesley, park in the Pru garage, and enjoy hours of activities without ever stepping onto the streets of Boston. Don’t judge. Not everyone can navigate icy sidewalks. It’s nice to have an option that allows the whole family to get out of the house and enjoy a good time in the city, no matter the weather.