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Boston is the largest city in New England, the capital of the state of Massachusetts, and one of the most historic, wealthy and influential cities in the United States of America. Its plethora of museums, historical sights, and wealth of live performances, all explain why the city gets 16.3 million visitors a year, making it one of the ten most popular tourist locations in the country. Although not part of Boston, the neighboring cities of Cambridge, Brookline, Somerville, Quincy, Milton, Malden, Newton, Medford, and Revere are somewhat connected to Boston via frequent rail-based mass transit, or the T. Cambridge, just across the Charles River, is home to the world-renowned universities Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or MIT, local galleries, restaurants, and bars and is an essential addition to any visit to Boston. Somerville, northwest of Cambridge, has a diverse and interesting dining and shopping scene, and also contains Tufts University. Brookline is almost entirely surrounded by Boston and has some of its own dining and shopping options. Quincy has some nightlife, dining, and shopping, but it is mostly local and in most cases doesn't justify the visit. Milton, Malden, Medford, Newton, and Revere are all much more residential. However, Revere is known for its beach, Revere Beach, which is right next to a T station, Medford is the home to part of Tufts' campus and some dining and shopping options, and Newton has a town centre with some restaurants and stores. However, none of them are destinations or receive much tourism in their own right, with the possible exception of Revere, due to the previously mentioned Revere Beach. (less...) (more...)
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Points of Interest in Boston
There are several visitor pass programs that offer discounted or free admission to a number of the sites listed below, among them the GoBoston Card and the Boston CityPASS. Depending on the length of your stay and what you want to see, either program could potentially save you quite a bit of money.
- Boston Children's Museum, 300 Congress St, ☎ +1 617 426-7336. 10AM-5PM daily (F until 9PM). The Boston Children's Museum is a large, modern museum recently built out of an industrial building along the Boston waterfront and relatively close to the Tea Party museum and the ICA. The quickest way to get there using mass transit is probably by walking from South Station, which is a large station on the Red Line. It has a variety of interactive exhibits about a considerable number of topics, as well as a reproduction of a traditionally Japanese house called the Kyoto House. It is also regularly host to a travelling exhibit from somewhere else in the country, which does not incur an additional admissions charge. It's suitable for children of ages ranging from newborn to about 9. One of the most interesting things about the museum, particularly for children, is a 3-story climbing structure that lets the kids climb up from the ground floor to the third floor, in lieu of elevator or stairs. They support fitness and environmental sustainability programs, and they even have a green roof. It's worthwhile if you're bringing young children to Boston. $12, Ages 2–15 $12, Age 1 free.
- Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Ave (Museum of Fine Arts Station, Green Line, E Train or Ruggles Station, Orange Line), ☎ +1 617 267-9300. Boston's largest and most comprehensive art museum, and also one of the pricier museums in the US. Having recently completed a well-known expansion of the American wing with the architect Norman Foster, it is also known for its impressive assortment of French Impressionist paintings, among other things. The MFA also has one of the largest collections of Japanese art outside of Japan, an extraordinary collection of Egyptian, ancient Greek, and Roman art, one of the most comprehensive collections of American art, and a considerable print collection in the United States. It contains sculpture, prints, photography, and painting, although the vast majority of its collection was created before the 20th century. That said, they sometimes have exhibits of contemporary art, and parts of the building have permanent contemporary pieces. The MFA building consists of several wings showcasing both newer and older styles of architecture, and, from the right angle, it can be very attractive from the outside. For those interested in art, it's the foremost museum in Boston. $22, Free for ages 7–17 after 3PM weekdays, all weekend, and public school holidays; entrance fees are optional on W from 4PM-9:45PM.
- The Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments, 1 Oxford St, Cambridge (T stop: Red Line to "Harvard Square"), ☎ +1 617 495-2779. M-Th 11AM-4PM, F 11AM-3PM. Closed on university holidays. Has over 20,000 objects dating from 1400 to present day. Free and open to the public (despite at least one Web page that can be misread to indicate that it is by appointment only).
- Harvard Art Museums, 32 Quincy St, Cambridge (Harvard Square Station, Red Line), ☎ +1 617 495-9400. T-Sa 10AM-5PM. The Harvard Art Museums, commonly known as "the Fogg" due to the name of one of its constituent galleries, is a group of art museums with a diverse and interesting collection. Unfortunately, it is currently closed for renovations. Check the website of the Harvard Art Museums for updates. $9, $6 students.
- Harvard Museum of Natural History, 26 Oxford St, Cambridge (Harvard Square Station, Red Line), ☎ +1 617 495-3045. 9AM-5PM daily. Its amazing "Glass Flowers" collection has been a major tourist attraction for nearly 100 years. It also has a very large collection of rocks and minerals. Although fairly compact, its collection is fascinating and makes it well worth a visit. $9, students $7.
- Institute of Contemporary Art, 100 Northern Ave (Courthouse Station, Silver Line or South Station, Red Line), ☎ +1 617 478-3100. 10AM-5PM Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday, 10AM-9PM Thursday-Friday, closed Monday. The much-anticipated new building designed by starchitects Diller+Scofidio, the ICA is on Fan Pier on the South Boston Waterfront. The ICA is a very new museum of contemporary art with an interesting, if small collection. The building is large on the outside, but in fact has only one floor of gallery space. They regularly have one to two medium-sized temporary exhibitions and then a longer-term exhibition comprised of items from the collection, but the space is constantly in flux. The ICA also regularly has social events and screenings in the theatre room. It's not worth transferring from the Red to the Silver line in order to get here, it's much better to simply walk from South Station. $15, free for those 17 and under.
- Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 280 The Fenway (MFA Station, Green Line, E Branch or Ruggles Station, Orange Line), ☎ +1 617 566-1401. Tu-Su 11AM-5PM. The villa-turned-museum of an eccentric Bostonian, the Gardner features an eclectic collection of European objects, beautiful floral displays, and was the site of a spectacular painting heist in 1990. It's an exotic villa beladen with valuable art. However, they recently completed a glassy I.M. Pei designed expansion, and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum now has a courtyard cafe and more temporary exhibition space. $15, Students $5, free on your birthday or if you're named "Isabella".
- MIT Museum, 265 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge (Red Line to either "Central Square Station" or "Kendall Square/MIT"), ☎ +1 617 253-5927. 10AM-5PM, closed major holidays. The MIT Museum is a place that explores invention, ideas, and innovation. Home to renowned collections in science and technology, holography, architecture and design, nautical engineering and history, the Museum features changing and ongoing exhibitions, unique hands-on activities, and engaging public programs. It's a fairly small museum, and the collection doesn't change much, but even if you've been once or twice before, let alone never, it's well wort a visit. That said, it's much less "interactive" than most modern American science museums, such as Boston's large but much more crowded Museum of Science. One of the best things about the MIT museum is that it offers visitors air-conditioned serenity in a not-very-crowded museum directly next to what the New York Times called "the best ice cream in the world."
- Museum of African American History, 46 Joy St, Beacon Hill (Red Line or Green Line to "Park. St."), ☎ +1 617 725-0022. Mondays-Saturdays 10AM-4PM, closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day. The Museum of African American History is dedicated to preserving, conserving and accurately interpreting the contributions of African Americans in New England from the colonial period through the 19th century.
- Museum of Science, Science Park (Science Park Station, Lechmere-bound Green Line trains. You can also just walk from North Station), ☎ +1 617 723-2500. 9AM-5PM daily (Summer until 7PM). The Museum of Science is colossal - easily one of the biggest in North America. It has IMAX theatres, separate 3D theatres, a separate planetarium, and what seems like an endless row of opportunities for wallet gouging. Unlike most science museums it has not one restaurant but 3. It has not one theatre/planetarium but 6. It has not one gift shop but at least 4, depending on the temporary exhibition currently there. The Museum of Science not only has an enormous permanent collection spanning several stories, but it has the largest Van de Graff generator in the world, which produces frequent electricity shows, a weather generator, many multimedia presentation areas, and at least 2 temporary exhibitions at any given time. It's magnificent, but expensive, loud, crowded despite the gargantuan size, and spectacularly headache inducing. The theatres are excellent, as are the many daily events going on concurrently in the museum. The roster of events changes daily, and is distributed upon entry. It's worth a visit as long as you are all right with the possibility of getting a migraine. That said, it's quite something. $21 plus à la carte menu of attractions.
- New England Aquarium, Central Wharf (Blue Line to Aquarium), ☎ +1 617 973-5200. M-F 9AM-5PM, Sa Su 9AM-6PM. Home of what was until recently the world's largest fish tank, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, the New England Aquarium offers a riveting museum experience which showcases an incredible variety of fish and other types of animals. After recent expansions, it now also has a humongous IMAX theatre, whale-watching tours operating from its pier, and a marine mammal arena out back. It also is known for its penguins, which are a fascinating experience even on their own. It's well worth a visit. $20.95, Students $18.95, Senior 60+ $18.95, Ages 3–11 $12.95.
- Mapparium, 175 Huntington Ave (Green Line to the Prudential, Symphony, or Hynes/ICA stop), ☎ +1 888 222-3711. Tu-Su 10AM-4PM. The Mary Baker Eddy Library at the world headquarters of the Christian Science Church houses a three story globe room where visitors can view a stained-glass map of the world from inside the center. The effect is made particularly interesting by the fact the gigantic glass globe hasn't changed since it was built; the Soviet Union may be no more, but the Church of Christian Science is alive and well. Unfortunately for visitors hostile to proselytization, outside the breathtaking globe is a series of propagandae explaining the virtue of Mary Baker Eddy and her church. $6.
- Peabody Museum of Archeology and Ethnology, 11 Divinity Ave, Cambridge (Red Line to "Harvard Square"), ☎ +1 617 496-1027. Daily 9AM-5PM. One of the oldest museums in the world devoted to anthropology and houses one of the most comprehensive records of human cultural history in the Western Hemisphere.
- Semitic Museum, 6 Divinity Ave, Cambridge (T stop: Red Line to "Harvard Square"), ☎ +1 617 495-4631. M-F 10AM-4PM, Su 1PM-4PM. See a collection of over 40,000 artifacts from the Near East across multiple ancient civilizations.
- USS Constitution Museum, Charlestown Navy Yard, ☎ +1 617 426-1812. Apr-Oct Tu-Su 10AM-6PM, Nov-Mar Th-Su 10AM-3:50PM. Tour famous Old Ironsides, enjoy all-ages hands-on exhibits on sailing skills and crafts. Freewill donation.
- Warren Anatomical Museum, 10 Shattuck St (T stop: "Brigham Circle" on Green E line), ☎ +1 617 432-6196. M-F 9AM-5PM, except Harvard University holidays. See an extensive collection of distinct and pathological examples in anatomy including the actual skull of Phineas Gage.
- Panopticon Gallery, inside the Hotel Commonwealth, 502c Commonwealth Ave (T stop: Green Line to "Kenmore Square"), ☎ +1 617 267-8929. M-F 10AM-6PM, Sa 11AM-5PM. Founded in 1971, Panopticon Gallery is one of the oldest galleries in the United States dedicated solely to photography. The gallery specializes in 20th Century American Photography and emerging contemporary photography.
- Axelle Fine Arts Galerie, 91 Newbury St (T stop: Green Line to "Arlington St."), ☎ +1 617 450-0700. Everyday 10AM-6PM. First established in Soho, New York, it offers the best selection of contemporary European painters to its clients. Axelle Fine Arts Galerie has an ever-evolving selection of new, museum-quality paintings and is the exclusive representative of artists such as Patrick Pietropoli, Goxwa, Albert Hadjiganev, Jivko, Philippe Jacquet, Fabienne Delacroix, André Bourrié, Jean-Daniel Bouvard, Laurent Dauptain, Philippe Vasseur, Michel Delacroix, Brian Stephens and Hollis Dunlap.
- March: St. Patrick's Day. March 17 is not celebrated officially as St. Patrick's Day, but rather as Evacuation Day, a local holiday marking the expulsion of British troops from the city on 17 March 1776. But Boston has one of the highest Irish populations outside of Ireland, and Irish pride reigns on this day. Don't forget to wear green, drink a beer, and buy something that says "Kiss Me I'm Irish!" (regardless of your ethnicity). If possible, catch the local band Dropkick Murphys (think punk rock with bagpipes) at their infamous St. Patrick's Day show.
- Third Monday in April: Patriot's Day/Boston Marathon. The oldest marathon in the world, the race started in 1897 and is always run on the holiday that commemorates Paul Revere's ride in 1775 and the ensuing battles at Lexington and Concord (suburbs of Boston) that started the Revolution. The race runs from Hopkinton to the finish line in Copley Square. The halfway point is the wealthy suburb of Wellesley, where students from Wellesley College (America's leading institute for all-women's education) form the "Scream Tunnel" to cheer on runners (who are in turn encouraged to "Kiss a Wellesley Girl for good luck!"). Parts of Commonwealth Avenue outbound from there and surrounding streets are closed for the race. Elsewhere, Paul Revere's ride and the battles are re-enacted each year in front of thousands of people. Arrive early to get a good spot. Finally, the Red Sox always have a home game on this date, which starts at 11AM to accommodate the crowds who watch the Marathon as it goes by Fenway Park. This is the only Major League baseball game that starts before noon local time during the season. Other than St. Patrick's/Evacuation Day this is the only time that you will find huge crowds at bars early in the morning.
- June: Boston Pride. The second-largest event in the city after the Fourth of July. Boston's LBGT community - and everyone else - comes out for a fabulous parade from Copley Square, through the South End, to Boston Common. Many other social events are scheduled around this weekend.
- The Fourth of July: Independence Day. A host of events occur throughout the day that culminate with the Boston Pops concert on the Esplanade along the Charles river - the oldest and largest public celebration of the Fourth in the country. The concerts were started in 1929 by conductor Arthur Fiedler and were enhanced with fireworks by philanthropist David Mugar during the bicentennial celebrations in 1976. Sometimes sparsely attended in the beginning, it is televised nationally and has become the country's premier 4 July event with hundreds of thousands squeezing along both sides of the Charles each year. This event also holds the world record for the largest crowd to ever attend a classical concert. Seats closest to the stage go to folks who show up before dawn to wait in line but there are speakers and huge TV screens posted all along the river so everybody can see the show. Parts of Storrow Drive in Boston, Memorial Drive in Cambridge, and Massachusetts Avenue on and near the Mass. Ave. bridge are closed due to extremely heavy pedestrian traffic. Note that the roads and public transit are heavily congested after the fireworks display. There are other celebrations during the day, starting with a flag-raising ceremony at City hall at 9AM. This is followed by a parade to the Granary Burial Ground which is led by the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company, Boston's militia, which is the 3rd-oldest military unit in the world. Honors are given at the graves of each of the signers of the Declaration of Independence who are interred there, as well as the victims of the Boston Massacre and Peter Faneuil. The parade then moves on to the Old State House where the Declaration is read in its entirety from the main balcony (which overlooks the site of the Massacre) to the crowd, just as it has been every year since 1776.
- Late August: The Feast of St. Anthony. The biggest of several Feasts in the North End. This one includes lots of food vendors, games, music, and a parade on Hanover Street and environs.
- October: The Head of the Charles Regatta. Over 8,000 rowers from around the globe compete in this regatta, one of the world's largest two-day rowing events. It often attracts up to 300,000 spectators along the banks of the Charles River.
- 31 December/1 January: First Night. Boston's New Year's Eve celebration, it is the oldest public New Year's Eve party in America and has been copied by cities all around the world. It is a city-wide, family-friendly arts and culture festival which starts in the late morning with child-centric events and continues with dozens of music, dance, poetry and other exhibitions through midnight, culminating in fireworks on the waterfront. Dress warmly.
Massachusetts' first governor, John Winthrop, famously called Boston a "shining city on the hill," a reference to Jerusalem and a declaration of the original settlers' intent to build a utopian Christian colony. From the very beginning, the people who lived there declared their home to be one of the most important cities in the world. Considering that the American Revolution and modern democracy got their start thanks to Bostonians, and that Winthrop’s quote is still used in modern political speech, one could argue that they were right!
The father of American jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes) once called the Boston statehouse "the hub of the solar system," but common usage has expanded to the now-current Hub of the Universe. This half-serious term is all you need to know to understand Boston's complicated self-image. Vastly important in American history, and for centuries the seat of the USA's social elite, Boston lost prominence in the early twentieth century, largely to the cities of New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Over the past two decades, Boston has regained political, cultural, and economic importance.
In 1629, Reverend William Blackstone was the first English immigrant to arrive in the city. A year later, John Winthrop and the Massachusetts Bay Colony had followed. The Massachusetts Bay Colony were Puritan religious dissidents who had fled England to find freedom in the New World. At the time the city was called Shawmut, a name coined by Native American settlers, however now a new settlement, Winthrop had decided to rename the city Boston after his hometown in England. Because of its easily-defended harbor and the fact that it is the closest port to Europe it rapidly assumed a leading role in the fledging New England region, with a booming economy based on trade with the Caribbean and Europe. The devastating Fire of 1760 destroyed much of the town, but within a few years the city had bounced back.
Boston was also a city of great intellectual potential. Many statesmen had emerged in Boston along with prestigious Schools such as Harvard and the first public school in America, Boston Latin. With the founding of these schools as well as the first printing press in New England, Boston was becoming more of a colonial society.
Bostonians were the instigators of the independence movement in the 18th century and the city was the center of America's revolutionary activity during the Colonial period. Several of the first Revolutionary War skirmishes were fought there, including the Boston Massacre, The Boston Tea Party, and the battles of Lexington and Concord -which were fought nearby. Boston's direct involvement in the Revolution ended after the Battle of Bunker Hill and, soon afterwards, the ending of the Siege of Boston by George Washington. For some time afterwards the city's political leaders continued to have a leading role in developing of the new country's system of government. The residents' ardent support of independence earned the city the nickname The Cradle of Liberty.
Throughout the 19th century, Boston continued to grow rapidly, assimilating outlying towns into the metropolitan core. Its importance in American culture was inestimable, and its economic and literary elite, the so-called Boston Brahmins assumed the mantle of aristocracy in the United States. Their patronage of the arts and progressive social ideals was unprecedented in the New World, and often conflicted with the city's Puritan foundations. They helped drive unprecedented scientific, educational and social change that would soon sweep the country. The Abolitionist movement, anesthesia and the telephone are a few examples of this.
At the same time, the city's working class swelled with immigrants from Europe. The huge Irish influx made Boston one of the most important Irish cities in the world, in or out of Ireland. Gradually the Irish laborer population climbed into city's upper class, evidenced no better than by the continued importance of the Kennedy family in national politics.
From the early twentieth century until the 1970s, Boston's importance on the national stage waned. Cities in what was once the frontier, like Chicago, San Francisco, and later Los Angeles, shifted the nation's center of gravity away from liberty's cradle. In the past two decades, Boston's importance and influence has increased, due to growth in higher education, health care, high technology, and financial services. It remains America's higher educational center; during the school year, one in five Bostonians are university students. There are more college students per square foot in Boston than any other city in the Western Hemisphere.
Boston's nicknames include "Beantown", "The Hub" (shortened from Oliver Wendell Holmes' phrase 'The Hub of the Universe'), "The City of Higher Learning" (due to the plethora of universities and colleges in the Boston area) and - particularly in the 19th century - "The Athens of America," on account of its great cultural and intellectual influence. If you don't want to stand out as a tourist, don't refer to Boston by any of these nicknames. Locals generally don't use any of them, except the heavy use of "Hub" in journalism (Boston takes up more headline space).
Like much of New England, Boston's weather is unpredictable. It's prone to bouts of humidity and some surprisingly high temperatures considering the region, often topping out in the 90s, in the summer. Boston summers are warm and humid, with sunshine 60-65% of the time and typical highs in the mid 70s to high 80s °F (mid to upper 20s °C). Winters tend to be cold and bitter, with several days of heavy snowfall expected every winter, and temperatures sometimes known to fall below 0°F (-18°C).
When the heat does start, there are some beaches within the city, and many beaches outside of it, for swimming. Beware that no matter how hot it is outside, the ocean water will not be warm, with the exception of some beaches on nearby Cape Cod.
Early and late summer tends to be nice, but this varies by year. In that time, the temperature will be perfect, and there will be no humidity. The city does have unpredictable stretches of heat between late June and early August when low 90s and high humidity are expected. All public transit options, including cabs, buses, and the public transit system (both formally and informally called the T) are air-conditioned, with the exception of some older cars on the heavy rail T lines such as the Orange Line, Blue Line, and Red Line.
Boston's fall foliage is at or near its peak beauty in mid-October, which also normally offers the advantage of many crisp sunny days (outside the city itself, peak foliage timing depends on how far north or south you venture from Boston.)
If you visit during the wintertime, the Atlantic Ocean has a large moderating effect on temperatures. The average low in January is 22°F (-5°C), so there may be snow, freezing rain, or hail. However, it doesn't snow anywhere near as much as many other cities due to the effect of the ocean. There is only snowfall on 10 days or so per year, at the absolute maximum.
A good resource for daily and nightly event listings of all sizes and interests can be found by picking up a free Weekly Dig or The Phoenix newspaper from one of the many free newspaper vending boxes located at most major busy intersections.
- Arnold Arboretum, ☎ +1 617 524-1718. 125 Arborway. T stop: Orange Line or Needham commuter rail to "Forest Hills" (last stop on the Orange Line). Come see the oldest public arboretum in North America and one of the world's leading centers for the study of plants. A park with beautiful landscaping and specimens.
- Boston Whale Watch, ☎ +1 800 877-5110. Whale Watching in Boston, Massachusetts was voted one of the "Top 5 Whale Watching Destinations in the World" by the World Wildlife Fund. Cape Ann Whale Watch is one of the best whale watching tours in Boston, Massachusetts sailing from historic Gloucester, Massachusetts twice daily. Gloucester has recently been made famous from the 1991 movie "The Perfect Storm" starring George Clooney and Boston native, Mark Wahlberg. Climb aboard "The Hurricane II", the largest, fastest and most luxurious whale watching vessel north of Boston. The Hurricane II has been utilized and featured in several Hollywood movies including Martin Scorsese's "Shutter Island" starring Leonardo DiCaprio and many other full length feature films.
- Boston Harbor Islands State Park, ☎ +1 617 727-5290. Take a ferry (Long Wharf: Blue line to Aquarium) out to Georges Island and tour Fort Warren. See why Boston was the most defensible city in the New World. Shuttles leave from there to other islands in Boston Harbor—insect repellent is recommended. Ranger-led activities, events, narrations, or just swim, picnic, camp or fish. This is a hidden jewel that is off the beaten path. Plan to bring sunscreen, water, and a snack. Also note that depending on conditions in the harbor the return schedule can be delayed. If you're tight on time, err on the side of an earlier ferry to ensure arrival.
- Newbury Street. Eight blocks of high-end boutiques, hair salons, and galleries. Makes for a fabulous day of shopping and dining. The shops and restaurants tend to be expensive, but one needn't spend money to enjoy the area; one of Newbury's main attractions is simply people-watching. College students, urban professionals, tourists, and street performers all mix here. Newbury Street is accessible on the Green Line from the Arlington, Copley, and Hynes stations.
- Boston Common and Public Garden. A must-see for all visitors during the warmer months. The oldest public park in America. Ride the famous Swan Boats, walk across the world's shortest suspension bridge and generally enjoy the park with its shady trees, fountains, statues, sidewalk vendors, and greenery. Visit the "Cheers" bar across Beacon St, but be forewarned: only tourists go here. A great starting point for visitors interested in local historical sights, or on your way to Downtown Crossing or the Back Bay. Very nice foliage in the fall. The area east of Charles St is the Common, which is more open and less manicured. The area west of Charles St. is the Public Garden, which consists of many walking paths amid an impressive variety of well-maintained folliage. Accessible on the Green Line from Park Street, Boylston and Arlington stations, on the Red Line from Park Street station, and a short walk from any other downtown station.
- Community Boating. For kids between ages 10 and 18, membership is only $1 for the entire summer. Membership includes all sorts of sailing lessons (sailing, windsurfing, kayaking, etc.) along with other benefits. Each class takes a couple of days. 2-day membership is $100; 60-day membership is $159. Accessible on the Red Line from Charles/MGH station.
- Freedom Trail. A 2.5 mi (4 km) walking tour of 16 historic sites that begins at Boston Common, goes through downtown Boston, the North End and Charlestown, ending at the USS Constitution. Sites include the old State House, Faneuil Hall, Paul Revere's House, and the Old North Church. The Freedom Trail connects to the Boston Harbor Walk. The Freedom Trail is marked by a line of red paint or red brick in the sidewalk. The beginning of the trail is accessible on the Green Line or the Red Line from Park St station. However, all the lines are convenient at various points along the way, via several downtown stations.
- Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market, downtown Boston. Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market, two of Boston's oldest marketplaces, contain a great set of mainly tourist-oriented shops and eateries. Since Faneuil Hall Marketplace is private property, the street performers must audition and thus are consistently entertaining. Faneuil Hall also has a historic meeting hall in its upper levels, and is just down the street from the Old State House. Quincy Market has a number of food stalls from local (delectable) providers - coffee, pastries, candy, popcorn, sushi, Italian, lobster and lobster rolls, Chinese, sandwiches, etc. No farmers' market, all food is prepared. Great place to eat a wide variety of foods for cheap, especially with kids. Tables available in covered outdoor area immediately outside. Accessible on the Blue Line at State St., Government Center, and Aquarium stations, on the Orange Line at State St. station, and on the Green Line at Government Center station.
- Copley Square. Take a Duck Tour, +1 617-267-DUCK, enjoy the fountains, visit the top of the nearby Prudential building, see the Boston Public Library, visit the beautiful Trinity Church, or go shopping along Newbury Street. Accessible on the Green Line at Copley station, or on the Orange Line at Back Bay station.
- Boston Symphony Orchestra, Symphony Hall, 301 Massachusetts Av. During the fall, winter and spring, the world-renowned Boston Symphony Orchestra performs classical music. Tickets are available online or in the box office; they can be pricey at $29–115. For a cheaper alternative, Tuesday and Thursday concerts have rush tickets (last-minute availability, no seat choice) which are sold starting at 5PM on the day of the concert for $9; Friday concerts start rush ticket availability at 10AM. Be sure to line up in advance for rush tickets. Weekend concerts do not sell rush tickets.
- Boston Pops Orchestra, e-mail: CustomerService@bso.org.. Symphony Hall, 301 Massachusetts Av, +1 617-266-1492, During the summer, the Pops perform programs of both classical and popular music, consistently pleasing audiences. Tickets can be had inexpensively and can be purchased either online or in the box office. Accessible on the E branch of the Green Line at Symphony station.
- New England Conservatory. This world-famous top-notch music school and also right around the corner from the Boston Symphony, is often overlooked by tourists in Boston but well-known among local musicians. Their performances, recitals, and chamber group concerts are usually free and unticketed. See the calendar for more information.
- Theater District, Washington St, Tremont St. Broadway is the undisputed center of the theater world, but Boston's Theater District is where most Broadway shows will preview and is usually the first stop on a show's touring run. Resident shows also run.
- Bicycling, 20 Park Plaza (Suite 528), +1 617-542-2453. The Minuteman Bikeway is one of the most heavily used rail trails in the United States. This eleven mile paved path is popular with walkers, cyclists, and in-line skaters. The route closely follows that taken at the beginning of the Revolutionary War. Accessible on the Red Line at Davis and Alewife stations.
- Prudential Center Skywalk Observatory, Prudential Center, +1 617-859-0648. Tickets: Adults $11, Seniors $9, Children under 12 $7.50, Student with college ID $9, Military with DoD ID Free. Look around Boston from the second tallest skyscraper. Open daily. Winter (Nov thru Feb) 10AM-8PM; Summer (Mar thru Oct) 10AM-10PM.
- Sam Adams Brewery Tour., ☎ +1 617 368-5080. 30 Germania St. (Orange line to "Stonybrook"). Take a tour of the Sam Adams brewery located in Jamaica Plan. Free samples of beer at the end.
- Harpoon Brewery Tour Phone +1 888-HARPOON. (Silver line Waterfront, fourth stop from South Station) "After taking countless Brewery tours from around the world, we decided to focus our tours on what we feel is the best part of any brewery tour - the sampling." Free sampling after tour.
- Counter-Productions Theatre Company. "We are a collaborative group of imaginative and driven people passionate about Theatre. We create high-quality, thought-provoking productions in the greater Boston area and throughout New England.
- Mystery Cafe, Boston, ☎ +1 781-784-7496. Dinner. America's Original Murder Mystery Dinner Theater. Its doors opened in 1987 to a packed house in Cambridge, MA and have been selling out the house ever since! It is a great combination of mystery, music, audience participation, food and fun. Different shows and locations for a memorable evening in Boston. $150.
- The Mary Baker Eddy Library-Mapparium, 200 Massachusetts Avenue Boston, MA 02115, ☎ +1-617-450-7000. 10AM-4PM Tuesday-Sunday. Since 1935, more than 10 million people have traversed the thirty-foot glass bridge that spans the Mapparium, taking visitors to a unique spot: the middle of the world. This world-famous, three-story, painted-glass globe is one of the key attractions at the Library. General Admission -$6.00.
- Boston's HarborWalk is an inviting public walkway along the waterfront, with parks, public art, seating areas, cafes, exhibit areas, interpretive signage, water transportation facilities, and a wide range of other amenities.
Boston is a sports town, and its professional teams are much-loved. These include the Red Sox (baseball), Celtics (basketball), Bruins (hockey), New England Patriots (football), and New England Revolution (soccer). Another professional team, the Boston Breakers (women's soccer), is less well established.
- Fenway Park, 4 Yawkey Way. The home of the Boston Red Sox. The oldest baseball stadium still in use by the major leagues, this brick and stone structure is named after and located in the Fenway neighborhood of Boston, which itself takes its name from the fens, or marshes along the nearby Muddy River. Accessible on the B, C, and D branches of the Green Line at Kenmore station, or on the D branch of the Green Line at Fenway station. Visitors arriving via the T will need to walk a short distance from the station to the ballpark, but the crowds on a game day will serve to lead the way. Its worth taking the T to the game because parking is very limited (and expensive) and you get to experience the excitement of a crowded train car full of fans heading to the game. Yawkey Way is now closed off during games, and those in the stadium can walk outside to enjoy the additional refreshment stands and open area, and then return to the game. Tickets are very difficult to attain; see the Fenway article for details.
- Gillette Stadium. The home of the New England Patriots football team and the New England Revolution soccer team is in the town of Foxborough, about 25 miles southwest of Boston. The Revolution play from spring to fall, and the Patriots from fall through winter. Patriots games are always sold out and getting tickets will probably be impossible. Revolution tickets will be easier to come by. Starting in 2012, Gillette Stadium will also become the football home of the UMass Minutemen—the team of the University of Massachusetts Amherst—as they make their move to the top tier of NCAA college football.
- TD Garden, Causeway St. The home of the Boston Celtics basketball team and Boston Bruins hockey team. The site was previously occupied by the Boston Garden, a smaller venue, and the existing structure was previously called the FleetCenter and later the TD Banknorth Garden. The arena may be called by any of these names, or simply The Garden. Accessible on the Green Line or Orange Line at North Station, which is underneath the Garden.The TD Banknorth Garden is home to two of Boston’s most historic sports team the Boston Celtics and the 2011 Stanley Cup Champions the Boston Bruins. If you’re a sports buff visiting Boston and one of these two teams is playing it is a must that you stop by a catch a game. Whether you're sitting up high or down low finding a bad seat in the Garden is pretty hard for any sport even in last row you will still be able to see an exciting game in a very exciting atmosphere where history is made. Another notable annual sports event is the Beanpot college hockey tournament, held on the first two Mondays of February and featuring the men's teams of Boston College (see below), Boston University, Harvard University, and Northeastern University.
- Boston College Eagles. Brighton/Newton Border in the neighborhood of Chestnut Hill. The teams representing Boston College compete in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) in most sports alongside 11 other schools along the East Coast. The ice hockey teams for both men and women compete in Hockey East. The football team plays in the 45,000-seat Alumni Stadium. The basketball and hockey teams play in the adjacent Conte Forum (known as Kelley Rink for hockey games), which seats between 8 and 9 thousand fans. College hockey is very popular in New England, and in recent years BC has had one of the best programs in the nation. See also the hockey programs of Boston University and Northeastern University in the city proper, and rival schools in the suburbs and neighboring states.
- Harvard Stadium, 95 N. Harvard St. Allston. Home to the Harvard Crimson (Harvard University) football team since 1903, it is also home to the area's newest professional team, the Boston Breakers of Women's Professional Soccer. The Breakers, like the Revolution, play from spring to fall.
Boston has excellent seafood from the nearby New England coast. Local specialties include baked beans, cod, lobster rolls, and clam chowder. For dessert you'll have no trouble finding good ice cream. Boston (and New England as a whole) are one of the top per-capita ice cream consuming regions.
A variety of excellent ethnic restaurants can be found in neighborhoods such as the North End, Chinatown, Allston, or Coolidge Corner.
The best sit-down restaurants can be quite crowded in the evenings on weekends. Unless you have a reservation, be prepared to wait anywhere from a few minutes to an hour, depending on how refined your tastes are.
The North End is full of Italian eateries, and it's certain that you'll find something here to your liking. Take the Green or Orange Lines to the Haymarket station, cross the Greenway park(what used to be Interstate 93 pre-Big Dig), and then follow the signs to Hanover Street, the main commercial thoroughfare. Most of the good restaurants are on this street or on side streets. If you visit the North End on the weekend in the summer you may encounter one of many saint's festivals. Streets are closed off and there are music, food, and parades of the saint's statues.
The Bull & Finch Pub in Beacon Hill was the inspiration for the hit television show "Cheers." Very pricey for bar fare, but an essential part of the Boston tourist experience. The Beacon Street address is the original and does not look much like the set of the show. There is another Cheers at Faneuil Hall which is more of a replica of the TV set. If you ask a local for directions to Cheers, you may be directed to Faneuil Hall. The Beacon Street bar is referred to by its original name. Both locations are very touristy complete with souvenir shops.
Legal Sea Foods is a Boston original - well, technically Cambridge, since it started as a fish market in Inman Square, Cambridge. Legal Seafood is known for its New England Clam Chowder. Expect to pay between $25–30/person at dinner at one of their multiple locations.
Despite having a huge student population, the political clout of residential neighborhood associations who value late-night peace and quiet has historically kept Boston from offering many options for late-night dining. Most restaurants close by 10 or 11PM, even in college neighborhoods such as Allston and Brookline. Bars stay open till 2AM for drinking but their kitchens usually close at midnight or earlier. Exceptions are found in Chinatown, where several eateries serve their full menu till 2AM or later, and in the South End, where dining until midnight is possible even early in the week. If you're planning a long night, though, it's probably best to plan ahead and buy some snacks in advance.
Boston has a thriving nightlife and is known to be a 'drinking' town. There are many venues that cater to college students, businesspeople, sports fanatics, and many others. There is NO happy hour in Massachusetts. Bar Hopping is very easy and commonly done.
That said, if you're taking the subway or buses back to your hotel, you may have to call it a night early lest you miss the last train by mistake. And if you have people under 21 with you, you're going to have trouble finding a place that will let your group in; pretty much every bar/club in and around town is 21+.
With a large Irish population, Boston has a number of very good Irish pubs. Many tourists look for an authentic "Boston Irish Pub". A good rule of thumb is if the establishment has a neon shamrock in the window, it is not an authentic Irish pub. For nightlife and club listings look for "Stuff @ Night" or "The Weekly Dig" in the free boxes on the street. The annual "Best of Boston" issue of the free Improper Bostonian is always a good bet for finding the kind of establishment that you are in the mood for.
Places densest in bars include:
- Canal Street (just south of TD BankNorth Garden)
- Bolyston Street
- Landsdowne Street and Fenway area
- Harvard Ave/Brighton Ave in Allston
- Central Square in Cambridge and Harvard Square in Cambridge
- Seaport/Waterfront - specifically Northern Ave, where there are now several popular new bars with roof decks and patios that are packed in good weather
- Faneuil Hall
There are many dive bars in Boston.
If you are in the North End or near the Banknorth Garden, go to Sullivan's Tap. Ask for the Brubaker - a $2 beer in a recycled bottle (sadly, Brubaker's is no longer manufactured, try a Naragansett tall boy for $3). ESPN's Sports Guy, Bill Simmons, rated it "The most depressing bar in Boston."
In Davis Square, Somerville you can find Sligo's Pub, a similar hole in the wall serving cheap beer in plastic cups.
The Cantab Lounge near the Central Square subway station in Cambridge features local music.
If you're off the beaten path in the neighborhoods outside downtown (Dorchester, South Boston, East Boston, Hyde Park, etc.) in search of some real Bostonians, look for any tavern with a cheesy old lamp light out front. Be ready for an in-depth conversation about the "Red Sawx" or the Bruins back when Bobby Orr played.
Samuel Adams Brewery in Jamaica Plain and Harpoon Brewery in South Boston both offer tours and tastings.
GrandTen Distilling in South Boston and "Bully Boy Distillers" offer tours and tastings.
You should be able to stand on any corner in the city and see at least two Dunkin' Donuts stores. The commercials should really be "Boston runs on Dunkin." Every Bostonian knows that "Dunks" is for coffee, not donuts - trust us. Dunkins is very popular, but coffee aficionados will consider it little more than coffee flavored sugar water, and will want to look elsewhere. Quality and service at a Dunkin' Donuts is really hit or miss depending on the location. Au Bon Pain's 200 stores began in Boston and are also common. Starbucks are, of course, plentiful.
Boston does, however, have some outstanding independent coffee shops as well, including the Boston Common Coffee Co. with multiple locations including one near Boston Common. Also, Pavement Cafe.
The biggest shopping areas in the inner Metro are the Back Bay and Downtown Crossing. In addition, there are two large malls in and near the center of the city.
- The Cambridgeside Galleria.This boilerplate shopping mall includes department stores, a Best Buy, clothing stores, bookstores, a food court, and a Cheesecake Factory restaurant, all at mainstream retail prices. Accessible on the Green Line at Lechmere station, or the Red Line at Kendall/MIT station via a free shuttle van ("The Wave").
- Copley Place and Prudential Center. These malls are connected via pedestrian walkway over Huntington Av. They house department stores, clothing stores, bookstores, upscale shopping, a food court, many restaurants, and connect to several large hotels. Accessible on the Green Line at Copley, Hynes/ICA, and Prudential stations, and on the Orange Line at Back Bay station. `Visitors and locals alike use the mall to go between the South End and Newbury/Boylston Street areas, either to take advantage of the air conditioning during the summer or the warmth during the winter.
More local color can be experienced outdoors at any of several popular commercial areas:
- Newbury Street. This shopping street runs the length of the Back Bay neighborhood. Often called "the Rodeo Drive of the East," Newbury St is a wonderfully dense avenue colored by historic brownstones and lots of shops and restaurants. Extremely expensive near Boston Common, but gradually becoming more affordable as you move toward Massachusetts Avenue. One block north from Boylston St, which is similar but less so. Vehicular traffic can be very slow on Newbury St itself; take parallel streets unless you have time to see the sights from your car. Accessible on the Green Line from Arlington, Copley, and Hynes stations.
- Downtown Crossing(or "DTX"), Washington St. at Winter St. area. This shopping district is in Downtown Boston, just steps from Boston Common. The building, which once housed the now-closed Filene's Department store, was knocked down and there were plans for a 38-story tower which was to include a hotel and condos to be built. However, the development has since stalled due to financial problems of the developer. To date there has been no date for redevelopment set, so the location is now most infamous as the "Filenes Basement Hole." The rest of Downtown Crossing features large Macy's and Borders, music stores, souvenirs, general retail, and lots of street vendors and quick food. Accessible on the Red and Orange Lines at Downtown Crossing station, and with a brief walk, from the Red and Green Lines at Park St. station. Be advised: During weekdays this area is a very popular hangout for inner-city youth.
- Harvard Square. This historic and always-active square is located across the river in the city of Cambridge. Take a tour of Harvard University and the Yard, visit the historic cemetery, shop around. Several excellent bookstores, with plenty of restaurants and cafes to sit down and read a novel. See the famous chess tables outside Au Bon Pain where a scene in Good Will Hunting was filmed. Walk past the offices of Dewey, Cheatem & Howe, and say hello to the punks. Take a short walk down to the scenic Charles River. Street musicians often play near the famous Out of Town News. For a good burger, stop in a Bartley's, a Harvard landmark. For a fantastic margarita and cheap Mexican food, be sure to hit up the Border Cafe. The nonprofit Brattle theater shows classic and independent films. Accessible on the Red Line at Harvard station.
- Coolidge Corner, Harvard St. at Beacon St, Brookline. This shopping area is in the neighboring town of Brookline. A little less urban, more like your local village shops and restaurants. The Coolidge Corner Theater is known for showing interesting independent and art house films. Beacon Street has interesting shops along much of its length, generally concentrated near areas such as St. Mary's, Washington Sq., etc. One can also walk north from Coolidge Corner along Harvard St. (which becomes Harvard Av.) towards Allston-Brighton (and the B branch of the Green Line) for additional shopping and dining. Accessible on the C branch of the Green Line at the Coolidge Corner stop.
- Charles St.From Beacon St. to Cambridge St. One of the more quaint shopping neighborhoods in Boston, starting just north of Boston Common. The mix of shops lends itself to window-shopping as well as ticking items off a shopping list. Multiple options for lunch or coffee make this a pleasant place to stroll for a couple hours. Accessible from the Charles St./Mass. General Hospital station on the Red Line.
This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Boston on Wikivoyage.