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IntroductionBoston calls itself “America's Walking City,” and with good reason: driving can be a challenge. What better excuse to park your car and explore on foot? There's history around every corner.
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In DepthSumus primi, or “We are first,” is one proud, but well-suited, description of Greater Boston. The phrase—the motto of Boston Latin, the country’s oldest continuing public school—succinctly conveys 300-plus years of Boston-bred organizations, inventions and pioneering ideas. In a metropolis where firsts are commonplace, the expression fits like a well-insulated glove—the kind you’ll need when visiting New England during its frosty winter.
Even on chilly days, coffee-guzzling visitors roam the nation’s first public park, the Boston Common. Ice-skaters clad in scarves and knit caps welcome Jack Frost’s glacial touch, coasting across the frozen Frog Pond from November to mid-March. When sandal season arrives, picnickers recline beneath blue skies, their views of dawdling clouds interrupted occasionally by soaring Frisbees and colorful kites.
Perhaps the best (and most popular) way to get to know Boston is to traverse the Freedom Trail, a red line connecting 16 historic sites through downtown and the North End. Along the way, you can visit Charlestown Navy Yard, home to World War II-era destroyer the USS Cassin Young and the USS Constitution, a three-masted heavy frigate launched in 1797. Or, pay your respects at Faneuil Hall, where leaders like Samuel Adams and James Otis once garnered support for the American Revolution.
Many sightseers touring the Freedom Trail diverge at the Boston Common. Beckoning visiting fashionistas are the upscale retailers of the Back Bay, also prized for its Victorian brownstones and cultural landmarks such as Trinity Church. Near Beacon and Park streets, those marveling at the Augustus Saint-Gaudens bronze high relief honoring one of the Civil War's first African-American military units often cross over to the Black Heritage Trail, which meanders through adjacent Beacon Hill. In Boston's most prestigious neighborhood, gas lamps still light narrow passageways once traversed by Louisa May Alcott and Robert Frost.
Nature lovers continue along the Emerald Necklace—Boston's linear system of urban green space designed by Frederick Law Olmsted—to the majestic Public Garden. Near the Arlington Street entrance, artists with grass-stained jeans and furrowed brows busily sketch an equestrian statue of George Washington, one of the earliest depictions of the first president on horseback.
More green spaces were added upon the completion of the very pricey ($24.3 billion last time we checked) Big Dig engineering project. Filling the void left by the formerly above-ground Central Artery is the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, a pedestrian-only ribbon of parks and gardens.
Although you really must investigate “America's Walking City” on foot to fully appreciate the nuances of this multifaceted locale, another stress-free alternative to navigating Greater Boston's maze of narrow roads by car is the area's straightforward public transportation system, known locally as the “T.” The launching point for the nation's first subway line is near the gold-domed Massachusetts State House.
Ride the Green Line to the New England Conservatory of Music, the oldest independent school of music in the country. Or, if the crack of the bat is music to your ears, take the “T” to the oldest operating MLB stadium, Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox. In 1903, the team then known as the Boston Americans defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates during game 8 of the first modern World Series.
Whether it's your first trip here or your fifth, when you experience Boston's hometown treasures, you'll leave with a better understanding of both this enduring city's vast heritage and the nation's.
By CarThe spokes of major highways converging on Greater Boston from three sides make it seem that all roads lead to the Hub. Three interstate highways offer a direct approach to the city and its suburbs. From the north I-95 merges with SR 128 at Peabody before skirting the western edge of the metropolitan area; south of Boston I-95 branches southwest and heads toward Providence.
Also from the north I-93 angles down through Medford and Somerville, merges with US 1 at Charlestown, crosses the Charles River (via the cable-stayed Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge) and passes under downtown. I-93/US1 then proceeds through South Boston, parallels the western shore of Massachusetts Bay and passes through Quincy before turning west and running into I-95 near Norwood. SR 3, the route to Cape Cod, branches southeast off I-93 near Braintree.
The major east-west highway into Boston is the Massachusetts Turnpike (I-90), which runs into I-93/US1 just south of downtown. Paralleling this toll route to the south is SR 9, serving the suburbs of Wellesley, Newton and Brookline. Another east-west artery, SR 2, passes just south of Concord and then heads southeast into Cambridge.
Air TravelLogan International Airport (BOS) occupies a peninsula just south of East Boston, 3 miles east of downtown across Boston Inner Harbor. Logan functions as New England's hub airport and serves most major airlines. Drivers should depart by the main exit and take the Boston Expressway to the Sumner Tunnel (toll $3.50), which crosses the harbor into downtown. Drivers traveling south of the city via I-93 or west on I-90 should follow signs for the Ted Williams Tunnel (toll $3.50). Commercial vehicles, including taxis, pay a toll of $5.25.
As tunnel traffic jams are all too common, the quickest and easiest way to reach downtown is by subway or bus rapid-transit service. Free Massport shuttles run every 15-20 minutes daily from all five terminals to the Airport MBTA station on the Blue Line. From there it's about a 20-minute ride to downtown's State Street and Government Center stations; regular one-way subway fare to downtown is $2.65. Alternatively, you can take the Silver Line SL1 bus rapid-transit service, which also is available from all five airport terminals, to reach South Station on the Red Line. The Silver Line is free inbound from the airport to South Station and includes a free transfer to the Red Line. Both the Blue Line and the Silver Line Route SL1 run daily from approximately 5:30 a.m.-12:30 a.m., with extended service on Fridays and Saturdays.
Massport shuttles connecting Logan with two Back Bay locations—the Hynes Convention Center and the Copley MBTA station on Boylston Street—run every 20 minutes daily 6 a.m.-10 p.m. from Logan Airport and daily 5 a.m.-9 p.m. from the Back Bay. The fare is $5 (credit or debit cards only) or free for riders with a valid MBTA pass. Logan Express buses to the outer suburbs depart from Terminals A, B, C and E. Buses to Braintree, Framingham and Woburn generally leave the airport Mon.-Fri. 6:30 a.m.-midnight, Sat. 7 a.m.-11 p.m., Sun. 7 a.m.-midnight. Buses to Peabody leave the airport daily 4:15 a.m.-1:15 a.m. Schedules may vary. One-way fare is $12.
Water shuttles are another convenient way to cross the harbor, departing from the Logan dock and arriving 10 minutes later at Long Wharf in the Financial District. Shuttle bus 66 provides free, frequent service from airport terminals to the dock. Boat departures from Logan are Mon.-Fri. 7 a.m.-8 p.m., Sat.-Sun. 10-6 (weather permitting), except on holidays. Commuter boats also run to Quincy and Hingham from Long Wharf. Phone (617) 422-0392.
Taxi fares to downtown and to Cambridge run about $25-$45, depending on traffic congestion. Passengers pay all toll charges as well as a Massport taxi pool fee of $2.25. Flat-rate fares are in effect beyond a 12-mile radius of downtown; ask the cab driver or Logan dispatcher for the exact fare in advance. City buses will drop off passengers at downtown hotels; bus stop signs are located outside each terminal.
For additional Logan International Airport arrival and transportation information, phone Massport at (800) 235-6426.
Cruise PortsCruiseport Boston’s Black Falcon Cruise Terminal is at 1 Black Falcon Ave. in South Boston, about 4.5 miles south of Boston Logan International Airport. Cab fare from the airport is approximately $25. Parking is available at the BRA-EDIC garage located across from the terminal at 12 Drydock Ave. The daily rate for ticketed cruise passengers is $20; phone (617) 482-2487 for information about hourly rates. If you’ll be depending on public transportation, the closest MBTA station is the Silver Line Route SL2 Design Center stop just across the street from the cruise terminal.
Although you'll find restaurants, hotels and other commercial outfits nearby in the developing Waterfront district, much of the area immediately surrounding the terminal—a former World War I military warehouse—is pretty industrial. However, downtown Boston, less than 3 miles northwest, is easily accessible via public transportation. Or, if you have time for a leisurely stroll, follow the Harborwalk, which mostly runs along the waterfront, into downtown. Local trolley tour companies also serve the port of call and offer special sightseeing schedules to accommodate cruise passengers; tickets and information are available inside the terminal. Additionally, some cruise lines provide shuttle service to and from popular attractions for a fee.
The cruise season generally begins in May or April and runs through November. Boston-based ships include Norwegian Cruise Lines' Norwegian Dawn, Holland America’s Maasdam, Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas and Carnival Cruise Line's Carnival Splendor. Some vessels head north, sailing along the New England and Canadian coastlines, while others cruise south to the Caribbean. For additional information about the Black Falcon Cruise Terminal, phone the Massachusetts Port Authority at (617) 568-5000.
Street SystemRalph Waldo Emerson once observed, “We say the cows laid out Boston. Well, there are worse surveyors.” Emerson, of course, never had to drive through the city. Downtown—occupying a peninsula surrounded by the Charles River, Boston Inner Harbor and Fort Point Channel—is a challenging place for residents, let alone visitors, to negotiate by vehicle. Furthermore, Boston drivers are legendary for their aggressiveness. Those who must drive in the central part of the city should bring along a navigator and/or a recently updated GPS unit. Fortunately, public transportation options are plentiful and the bewildering tangle of streets is easily traversed on foot.
Boston Common, bordered by Charles, Beacon, Park, Tremont and Boylston streets, is a handy orientation landmark. Beacon Street, the Common's northern border and the southern base of Beacon Hill, extends east into downtown and west through the Back Bay into Brookline. Commonwealth Avenue runs parallel to Beacon Street as the Back Bay's main thoroughfare. The Back Bay's streets, in fact, do form a logical grid pattern between east-west Boylston Street and limited-access Storrow Memorial Drive, and between north-south Massachusetts Avenue and Arlington Street.
Both Beacon and Commonwealth intersect Massachusetts Avenue, which crosses the Charles River via Harvard Bridge into Cambridge. Harvard Bridge becomes Massachusetts Avenue again on the Cambridge side, passing right through the middle of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus on its way to Harvard and environs. Cambridge also can be reached from the West End via Cambridge Street, which becomes the Longfellow Bridge (SR 3) crossing the river. It changes to Main Street in Cambridge, running into Massachusetts Avenue several blocks northwest of MIT. The most direct way to get to Harvard from Boston is via the Anderson Memorial Bridge, which becomes John F. Kennedy Street on the Cambridge side.
Back in Boston, Tremont Street branches off Cambridge Street, skirts the southeast side of the Common and runs southwest toward the Roxbury neighborhood. Commercial Street serves as the perimeter of the North End waterfront, becoming Causeway Street on the West End side of the Central Artery and Atlantic Avenue as it turns south to pass the wharves along the waterfront. North Street takes eastbound commuters into the Callahan Tunnel, which crosses Boston Inner Harbor to the airport. Hanover and Salem streets are other major avenues bisecting the North End.
Congress Street is a major downtown and Financial District thoroughfare, crossing Fort Point Channel into South Boston. Washington Street runs north through Chinatown and downtown before it becomes the Charlestown Bridge crossing the river into Charlestown.
Visitors will save time and letters by adopting the local practice of dropping the ends of long street names. Massachusetts Avenue, for instance, is always “Mass Ave.” Likewise, Commonwealth Avenue and the Massachusetts Turnpike become “Comm Ave.” and “Mass Pike.” “JFK” is the appropriate shorthand for the city's several John F. Kennedy namesakes.
Unless otherwise posted, the speed limit on most streets is 30 mph. Right turns on red are permitted after a full stop, unless otherwise posted. Avoid rush-hour traffic—particularly in the tunnels and on the bridges—7-9 a.m. and 4-6:30 p.m. Be especially careful in outlying areas when crossing streetcar tracks.
ParkingOn-street city parking is very limited and highly regulated. Posted restrictions vary, from the resident-only parking in Beacon Hill and other city neighborhoods to specific hour restrictions throughout the downtown area. Meters also vary with regard to rates and hours, and the city's meter maids are vigilant.
Parking garages are more convenient, and although rates are not cheap (from $5 per hour to $35 per day) they are worth the expense to avoid meeting with a tow truck. Visitors may also want to inquire about attraction or restaurant validation discounts. Two centrally located garages are hidden underground. The Boston Common Garage is entered from Charles Street; round-trip bus service to the other side of the Common is included in the parking fee. The Prudential Center Garage, 800 Boylston St., has entrances on all sides of the Prudential Tower. Both garages are open daily 24 hours.
Other garages in the vicinity of the Prudential Center and Copley Square include Copley Place Parking, 100 Huntington Ave.; Pilgrim Garage, 50 Dalton St.; and John Hancock Garage, 100 Clarendon St.
The underground garage at Zero Post Office Square used to be above ground; now the square is a public park bounded by Milk, Pearl, Franklin and Congress streets. Garage entrances are on Pearl and Congress. Open 24 hours, it is within walking distance of the New England Aquarium and Faneuil Hall Marketplace. The Government Center Garage, 50 Sudbury St.; Dock Square at Faneuil Hall Marketplace; and Lafayette Place Garage on Chauncy Street offer additional parking near downtown attractions.
Public TransportationThe Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) operates the city's trolleys, buses, boats and subway—all of them efficient alternatives to driving. Known everywhere as the “T,” Boston's rapid transit system is the nation's oldest; the first stretch, running between Boylston and Park streets, began operating in 1897.
The Red, Blue, Orange and Green subway lines radiate from the four central downtown stations: Downtown Crossing, Park Street, State and Government Center. The Green Line uses trolleys that operate both above and below ground. It also splits into four branches designated by letters: Boston College (B), Cleveland Circle (C), Riverside (D) and Heath Street (E). In addition the Silver Line offers bus rapid-transit service from Dudley Square to downtown and from South Station to the South Boston waterfront and the airport.
“T” stations are designated by the letter T within a circle. An MBTA information booth is located on Park Street (on the Green Line outbound platform). Subway maps at each station show the lines in color. “Inbound” refers to trains heading toward downtown, “outbound” to trains heading away from downtown. Note: Silver Line routes SL1 and SL2 are part of the subway fare structure; SL4 and SL5 are part of the bus fare structure.
Subway fares are $2.25 per ride for passengers who use plastic CharlieCards, the MBTA's reusable and rechargeable fare passes. However, passengers who use CharlieTickets, reusable and rechargeable paper fare passes, pay a surcharge, with subway fares $2.75 per ride; under 12 ride free with a paying adult. Passes can be purchased from vending machines located at all subway stations, at Dudley Station and at Logan International Airport terminals. On-board fare boxes may charge a surcharge and only accept coins and $1, $5, $10 and $20 bills; change is dispensed as a stored-value on a CharlieTicket. Trains generally run between 5 a.m. and 12:30 a.m. in most areas, except on Friday and Saturday nights, when the last trains depart downtown stations at approximately 2:30 a.m. To avoid getting stranded, check the timetables posted at the Park Street station or on the MBTA's website.
LinkPasses providing unlimited travel for 1- or 7-day periods are $12 and $21.25, respectively; under 12 with a paying adult travel free. Passes can be purchased online as well as at in-station vending machines, the CharlieCard Store at the Downtown Crossing Station, the North and South train stations, the airport and various retail sales locations throughout the city.
Buses also offer service crosstown and to the suburbs. Local fares are $2.10 ($1.70 with a CharlieCard); express buses are $5 ($4 with a CharlieCard) and up. Commuter boat service operates Monday through Friday and holidays between Rowes Wharf on the downtown Boston waterfront and the Hingham Shipyard dock southeast of the city. One-way fare is $3.50-$18.50. Boats depart Rowes Wharf Mon.-Fri. beginning at 6:50 a.m. for the 35-minute trip; the last boat departs at 8:30 p.m. (no weekend service).
Inner Harbor Ferry boats travel between Boston's Long Wharf and the Charlestown Navy Yard. One-way fare is $3.50. Boats depart Long Wharf Mon.-Fri. every 15 minutes 6:30-9 a.m. and 3:30-6:30 p.m., every 30 minutes 9-3:30 and 6:30-8 p.m.; Sat.-Sun. every 30 minutes 10-6. For additional information phone Boston Harbor Cruises at (617) 227-4321 or (877) 733-9425. Note: These boat trips are not included in the Boston Visitor Pass package.
For additional MBTA route, schedule and fare information phone (617) 222-5000, (617) 222-3200 for recorded information, (800) 392-6100, or TTY (617) 222-5146.
About the City
Sales TaxThe state sales tax in Massachusetts is 6.25 percent. Combined city and state taxes on hotel occupancy in Boston is 14.45 percent.
Whom To Call
Police (non-emergency)(617) 343-4200
Fire (non-emergency)(617) 343-3550
Time and Temperature(617) 637-1234
HospitalsBeth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, (617) 667-7000; Boston Medical Center, (617) 638-8000; Massachusetts General Hospital, (617) 726-2000; Tufts Medical Center, (617) 636-5000.
Where To Look and Listen
NewspapersThe daily newspapers are the morning Boston Herald (www.bostonherald.com) and The Boston Globe (www.bostonglobe.com). The Christian Science Monitor (www.csmonitor.com) is published weekly.
RadioBoston radio station WBUR (90.9 FM) is a member of National Public Radio.
Visitor InformationGreater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau 2 Copley Place, Suite 105 BOSTON, MA 02116. Phone:(617)536-4100 or (888)733-2678
The National Park Service Faneuil Hall Visitor Center on the Freedom Trail and the Charlestown Navy Yard Visitor Center, in Building 5 at the Navy Yard, are open daily 9-5; phone (617) 242-5642 or (617) 242-5601.
Air TravelLogan International Airport (BOS) is just 3 miles east of downtown across Boston Inner Harbor.
Rental CarsBoston is served by most major rental car agencies. Hertz provides discounts to AAA members; phone (617) 569-7272 or (800) 654-3131.
Rail ServiceAmtrak offers service to and from New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., out of Boston's South Station at Atlantic Avenue and Summer Street. Connections to all points in the national Amtrak system can be made at the Back Bay Station, 145 Dartmouth St.; phone (800) 872-7245 for reservations and information. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) operates commuter rail service; phone (800) 392-6100.
BusesGreyhound Lines Inc., (800) 231-2222, and Peter Pan Bus Lines, (800) 343-9999, operate from South Station.
Cruise PortsCruiseport Boston’s Black Falcon Cruise Terminal is at 1 Black Falcon Ave. in South Boston.
TaxisCabs in Boston are metered, with the fare $2.60 for the first 1/7 mile or less and 40c for every 1/7 mile thereafter. Phoning for a pickup or going to a hotel taxi stand is easier than hailing a cab on the street. Local companies include the Independent Taxi Operators Association, (617) 268-1313. Limousine service is available throughout the Boston area for about $80 an hour, normally with a 4-hour minimum.
Public TransportationTransportation by trolley, bus, boat and subway is available in Boston.
Inspector 46 / AAA
EssentialsWalk the Freedom Trail. In less than 3 hours, you'll see 16 historically significant sites as you follow a 2.5-mile-long trail. Spend extra time taking in history at such landmarks as the Old North Church (193 Salem St.) and the Old State House (206 Washington St.). The Boston Massacre occurred in front of the latter, the city's oldest surviving public building, in 1770.
Photo submitted by Maria White / AAA
Stroll the Boston Common (139 Tremont St.). Dating from 1634, it is the nation's first public park. In the last century such imitable figures as Martin Luther King Jr., Pope John Paul II and Gloria Steinem inspired crowds gathered at this lush civic centerpiece.
Part ways with a few greenbacks in the Back Bay. A seemingly never-ending array of upscale shopping centers, fashionable chains (Armani, Burberry, Chanel) and trendy cafés is only one-upped by the neighborhood's range of architectural showstoppers. Rows of Victorian brownstone homes impress window-shoppers on Newbury Street, while Trinity Church (206 Clarendon St.) and 200 Clarendon Street (formerly called the John Hancock Tower) watch over dawdling natives in stimulating Copley Square .
Observe early morning rowers on the Charles River, the center of Boston sporting life. Sailing, bicycling, windsurfing, tennis and inline skating also are on the long list of active pursuits you can watch or engage in. In warm weather, free concerts at Hatch Memorial Shell (47 David G. Mugar Way) fill the air with music.
Photo submitted by Maria White / AAA
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Venture through the historic Beacon Hill neighborhood, home to politicians and celebrities as well as a mishmash of splendid old row houses and antique shops, posh boutiques and gourmet markets. To start your day, devour a stack of fluffy blueberry pancakes at The Paramount (44 Charles St.), open since 1937. As night falls, go where “everybody knows your name,” Cheers Beacon Hill (84 Beacon St.), the model for the long-running TV comedy series.
Photo submitted by Maria White / AAA
Ingfbruno / Wikimedia Commons
Top Picks for Kids
Under 13At the Boston Children's Museum (308 Congress St.), a three-story climbing structure leads to more interactive exhibits than a kid can handle. Wee ones can explore a giant maze in The Common, take a plane trip with the gang from PBS's “Arthur,” and build (or tear down) a mini-metropolis in the Big Dig-inspired Construction Zone.
Parents, if you're not well-versed in American history, sign up for a walking tour of the 2.5-mile-long Freedom Trail. Clad in breeches and buckled shoes, animated guides from The Freedom Trail Foundation will enlighten kids and grown-ups alike; tours depart from multiple locations.
Photo submitted by Maria White / AAA
The Boston Common (139 Tremont St.), the nation's oldest public park and the starting point of the Freedom Trail, features such attractions as the Frog Pond (a spray pool in summer and an ice-skating rink in winter), the TADpole Playground and an old-fashioned carousel.
Photo submitted by Maria White / AAA
Photo submitted by Maria White / AAA
On Newbury Street (the city's premier shopping destination, between “Mass Ave” and Arlington Street in the Back Bay), kids can snag a few videos of street performers (think gravity-defying hip-hop troupes) or hit up teen-magnet Urban Outfitters (361 Newbury St.). Newbury Comics (332 Newbury St.), a local chain, lures the alternative crowd with everything from Anti-Flag albums to tokidoki zipper pulls.
There are plenty of Boston Harbor sightseeing cruises, but for thrill-seekers, Codzilla (1 Long Wharf) is king. During the 40-minute adventure aboard a toothy speedboat with a 2,800-horsepower motor, riders zip across ocean waves at speeds of up to 40 mph.
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It's tough picking the No. 1 creature feature at the New England Aquarium (1 Central Wharf). Beady eyes and a bright green complexion make Bob the moray eel a standout. Outspoken seals attract a lot of attention. And the African, rockhopper and little blue penguins couldn't get any cuter. Of course, the aquarium's biggest star is Myrtle, a 560-pound sea turtle who moved into her Giant Ocean Tank digs back in 1970.
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Photo submitted by Maria White / AAA
ShoppingBoston carries on the tradition that great cities equal great shopping. Well-heeled couples peruse exclusive Newbury Street boutiques in the Back Bay, the same neighborhood where scruffy college kids are often seen toting bulging Newbury Comics bags. As scrupulous patrons maneuver around polished antiques crowding tiny Beacon Hill stores, tourists weave their way through the ever-hectic Quincy Market, sampling creamy desserts and fresh chowdah along the way.
Back BayCoveting the latest Prada clutch or a hip pair of Valentino shades? You'll have no trouble locating such luxuries in the Back Bay, the product of a massive 19th-century land reclamation project.
A number of major retail destinations are scattered about the upscale Back Bay neighborhood, but one markedly stands out above the rest. While Big Apple fashionistas haunt Fifth Avenue and Hollywood spenders turn up on Rodeo Drive, Boston’s own dally along Newbury Street (T: Copley or Hynes Convention Center).
When the weather is agreeable, suburban families, metropolitan socialites, photo-snapping tourists and budget-conscious students cram sidewalks lined by yellow daffodils and moss-covered Victorian brownstones. Well-dressed mannequins front elegant boutiques. Art galleries, like the family-run Vose Galleries (238 Newbury St.), in business since 1841, mesmerize both casual window-shoppers and serious collectors alike.
Another enduring Boston institution, Newbury Comics (332 Newbury St.), was instrumental in cultivating Newbury Street’s appeal in the late 1970s. For “a wicked good time” visit this New England chain inundated with hard-to-find vinyl and pop culture baubles (think talking Darth Vader action figures and zombie apocalypse survival kits). The fun-to-browse store is on the west end of Newbury Street, near the Hynes Convention Center.
Close to the Public Garden, Newbury Street mostly shelters high-end retailers such as Giorgio Armani (22 Newbury St.) and Brooks Brothers (46 Newbury St.). Across from Brooks Brothers, the flagship store of Restoration Hardware (234 Berkeley St.) occupies a parklike block on Berkeley Street between Newbury and Boylston streets. If the building looks more like a museum than a home furnishings gallery, that's because it used to be one. The stately neoclassical structure opened in 1863 as the New England Museum of Natural History, the predecessor of the Museum of Science.
Off Huntington Avenue in Copley Place (T: Back Bay or Copley), a Back Bay shopping center with more than 70 stores, manicured hands caress the extravagant purses and stilettos lining the walls of Jimmy Choo. Nearby, at sleek Barneys New York, bare feet nervously await a pair of knee-high boots while another stockinged set model ballerina flats before a full-length mirror. At the mall’s core, worn-out shoppers lounge beside a waterfall sculpture in the well-lit atrium, bags from Neiman Marcus, Tiffany & Co. and Tory Burch at their feet.
Enclosed bridges link Copley Place to Copley Square’s refined Marriott and Westin hotels as well as to The Shops at Prudential Center (T: Prudential), where such stores as Ann Taylor, Godiva Chocolatier and L'Occitane entice passersby strolling glass-roofed arcades. Prudential Tower, the second-tallest building in Boston, soars over the busy retail complex. For a break from the clothes racks, head up to the Skywalk Observatory at Prudential Center and survey the bustling ant-like creatures below. Or, kick back in the South Garden, a tranquil open-air retreat at the southwest corner of the mall, and take in views of the 749-foot-tall skyscraper mingling with the clouds.
Anchoring The Shops at Prudential Center are Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor. The latter also is accessible via an entrance on Boylston Street, a busy commercial thoroughfare that's home to a three-story, glass-fronted Apple Store, a dramatic interloper on a block of staid brick and concrete.
Another interesting Back Bay storefront is that of Bodega (6 Clearway St.), a high-end men's boutique best known for its secret entrance: a Snapple vending machine inside what appears to be a run-of-the-mill convenience store. Sweet kicks from brands like ASIF, Nike and Saucony are the main draw in the hidden back room, but if you've got the cash, you can put together an entire street-ready ensemble sure to put a little swag in your step.
Beacon HillAs with almost everything else in Boston, shopping has its ties to history. The Beacon Hill neighborhood is a true charmer with its gas-lit lamps, cobblestone passageways and whimsical door knockers. Connoisseurs stalking fine 18th-century furniture, silver tea sets and decorative porcelain pieces will not be disappointed with the treasures amassed on Charles Street (T: Charles/MGH).
Several businesses setting up shop along the lovely brick-faced lane offer everything from fine Oriental antiques to bric-a-brac. Keep your eyes peeled—you may manage to score a few bargain-priced goodies. Discover some surprisingly affordable items at Upstairs Downstairs (93 Charles St.), which has the air of a roadside country store, or tackle Eugene Galleries ' (76 Charles St.) multitude of old prints, photographs and etchings—many of which depict the near and dear “Hub of the Universe.”
Selling clothing, baubles and home items alongside the crème de la crème of Greater Boston’s vast antiquing empire are posh boutiques with short-and-sweet monikers like Black Ink (101 Charles St.), Dress (70 Charles St.), Good (133 Charles St.), Holiday (53 Charles St.) and Moxie (51 Charles St.).
DowntownMillennium Tower, a 685-foot luxury residential building, looms over Downtown Crossing (T: Downtown Crossing), where blue-collar workers scarfing down street food are a common sight. Idlers from the Boston Common (due west) and meticulously dressed professionals from the Financial District (due east) also are attracted to the longtime retail district, thanks to such national chains as Bath & Body Works, H&M and Macy's. Pedestrian malls, on Washington Street between Temple Place and Milk Street and on Winter Street between Tremont and Hawley streets, are home to the ubiquitous Boston pushcart, neatly plastered on all sides with the same array of keepsake T-shirts and hoodies you've seen elsewhere in the city.
Luring bargain-loving tourists off the Freedom Trail are the Downtown Crossing locations of T.J.Maxx and Marshalls, both founded in nearby Framingham. For a few sporty souvenirs, poke around the men's section—you could unearth a mother lode of gear emblazoned with New England team logos. More low prices can be found just around the corner on Summer Street. Irish discount retailer Primark opened its first U.S. store in the historic Burnham Building (formerly the flagship of the now-defunct Filene's department store chain) in 2015. Another bonus for bargain hunters is the absence of Massachusetts state sales taxes on single-item clothing purchases of less than $175.
For bibliophiles, there's Commonwealth Books (9 Spring Ln.), crammed with architectural prints, autobiographies, and research materials covering everything from World War II to Egyptian art. A few blocks away at Brattle Book Shop (9 West St.), rows of aging paperbacks and hardcovers whisk browsers away to far-off lands. Three stories of collectible postcards, delicate first editions, weathered maps and fanciful novels have tempted buyers since 1825. In the adjacent courtyard, a checkerboard mural depicts several Bay State authors, including Dr. Seuss and Nathaniel Hawthorne, who guard over throngs of discounted books.
Faneuil Hall & HaymarketTransformed into a festive commercial showplace in the mid-1970s, Faneuil Hall Marketplace (T: State) often is cited as Boston's foremost urban attraction. Young schoolchildren, some perplexed by the unusual spelling of the market’s name, gleefully skip about bench-studded pedestrian malls that regularly play host to dance troupes, magicians and other entertainers. Besotted pigeons peck at crumbs beneath umbrella-shaded tables, while another, much larger species of natives frequents this locale for more substantial gastronomic delights.
The centerpiece of this shopping extravaganza bounded by North, Congress and State streets is Faneuil Hall, Colonial Boston's town meeting place. Financed by wealthy merchant Peter Faneuil, the hall opened in 1742 and was modeled after London's mercantile structures. Open fish and produce stalls occupied the lower floor, and the upstairs meeting room soon became a forum for heated gatherings of patriots who had begun to chafe under British rule.
These days, a National Park Service information desk is at the center of the historic building; behind it, a small gift area is stocked with MBTA puzzles, apparel stamped with Benjamin Franklin’s “Join, or Die” political cartoon and photo books documenting Freedom Trail landmarks. Other small retail spaces line the walls of the hall, including Artists for Humanity—The Store, which sells products (tote bags, sweatshirts, water bottles) showcasing the graphic designs of teen artists. Proceeds support the mission of the non-profit AFH and the talented inner-city youth involved in the organization’s creative arts programs.
Opposite Faneuil Hall is Quincy Market—a long, narrow, multistoried structure added in the early 19th century. This copper-domed, Doric-colonnaded, glass-canopied edifice maintains a market-stall layout, although the offerings have expanded beyond basic meats and vegetables. Intoxicating aromas fill the bottom-floor colonnade, where you can savor international and specialty foods—from baklava to raw oysters. Troll the brick and cobblestone alleys along both sides of the building and you'll find pushcarts peddling scented candles, pens, magnets and more.
With the additional North Market and South Market buildings accommodating such nationwide stores as Coach and Nine West, shopping for yourself is a definite possibility; however, it’s easy to see Faneuil Hall Marketplace also is the ideal spot to buy gifts for your friends back home. Decide among such keepsakes as coffee mugs and hats embossed with “Boston Strong,” aprons adorned with cartoonish lobsters, and an array of sports-related collectibles celebrating this town’s many beloved teams.
Just north of Faneuil Hall Marketplace is the Haymarket , open every Friday and Saturday. The open-air food bazaar takes place along Blackstone Street, approximately between North and Hanover streets, in the same location it has operated in since the 1830s. Even if you're not planning a picnic in the Public Garden, the longtime produce and meat mart—where brazen pushcart vendors alternate between calling out rock-bottom prices on avocados to chiding “handsy” customers squeezing the life out of the merch—is a fun place to people watch.
While historic Haymarket remains the place for insane bargains on perishable goods, its trendy new neighbor, the Boston Public Market (100 Hanover St.), showcases stuff like handmade kitchenware and gourmet jams. Everything sold at the sleek indoor farmers market, which is open Wednesday through Sunday year-round, is either produced or originated in New England.
South EndCountless art galleries reside in the South End's aging industrial buildings—many old brick factories. The greatest concentration is found in the bohemian SoWa Arts District, a revitalized area south of Washington Street and north of Albany Street, between Massachusetts Avenue and East Berkeley Street. The SoWa Artists Guild hosts a free open house the first Friday of every month from mid-July to early December; the entrance to the building, which holds 15 galleries and more than 70 studios, is on pedestrian-only Thayer Street off Harrison Avenue.
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Many Bostonians spend their Sundays rummaging at the SoWa Vintage Market (450 Harrison Ave.), open year-round from 10 to 4. Vendors relentlessly tend to already well-staged merchandise, hoping to attract the eye of those hunting for a broken-in leather jacket or the perfect mid-century modern floor lamp. Not looking to buy a big-ticket item? For under $10 you can score a handful of vintage Boston postcards or a small toy just hankering to take a ride in your suitcase.
On Sundays from early May to late October, the SoWa Open Market , an outdoor craft fair and farmers market, takes place at the nearby Ink Block complex (300 Harrison Ave.), a multiuse development in the former home of the Boston Herald. White tents provide shelter to artisans hawking everything from handcrafted jewelry to chic doggie apparel. In the food truck food court, over 30 mobile kitchens keep the masses' bellies filled with grilled cheese sammies, fall-off-the-bone barbecue and decadent designer cupcakes.
Other AreasTrue sports fans will undoubtedly need to add a stop at the sprawling Red Sox Team Store (19 Yawkey Way), across from Fenway Park (T: Kenmore), to the itinerary. If red's not your color, try the Boston ProShop , in the TD Garden off Causeway Street (T: North Station), which carries Bruins and Celtics merchandise. For Tom Brady bobbleheads, jerseys and plenty of other official Patriots memorabilia, head over to the ProShop at Patriot Place, a 1.3 million-square-foot commercial complex next to Gillette Stadium, about an hour's drive from downtown Boston in Foxboro.
For even more shopping options, take the “T” to such hipster havens as Allston or Somerville, where thrift stores overflowing with one-of-a-kind finds are a dime a dozen.
You’re certain to stumble across a few used book sales while window-shopping in nearby Cambridge, the ideal hunting ground for those on the lookout for rare and out-of-print texts. Boston’s northerly neighbor also is chockablock with upmarket chains and fashion-forward boutiques.
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NightlifeEven if Boston isn’t exactly “the City that Never Sleeps,” don’t start fluffing your pillow once the sun sets over the John Hancock Tower. The “Hub of the Universe” still offers a variety of activities to keep you well-entertained after dark.
AllstonLive music venues thrive in Boston, long a haven for talented, creative souls. Everyone knows Aerosmith (aka “The Bad Boys from Boston”) and the big-haired band members of Boston hail from Beantown. And, try as some might, there's no forgetting the boy bands of the 1980s—New Edition and New Kids on the Block—first drove teenyboppers wild in their native Boston. But did you know new wave rockers The Cars, '60s folk singer Joan Baez and the punk-influenced Pixies also practiced their performance skills here before conquering national audiences?
One of the best places to catch rising talent in concert is Allston, a funky neighborhood whose music ties have earned it the nickname “Allston Rock City.” Located on the fringes of Allston near Boston University, The Paradise (967 Commonwealth Ave.) first rocked Boston more than 3 decades ago, but thanks to great acoustics and a friendly, professional staff, locals continue to line up outside the landmark theater. Great Scott (1222 Commonwealth Ave.) is just west of The Paradise, directly across from the Green Line's Harvard Avenue stop. Head for the bar's green and gold awning and you'll be downing Jägerbombs in no time. The club presents deafening live acts regularly, with shows generally costing $15 or less. Just keep in mind, like many area dives, this haven for the tattooed and pierced crowd only accepts cash. Phone (617) 562-8800 for The Paradise or (617) 566-9014 for Great Scott.
When the scene at Great Scott gets old, move the party to the Model Cafe (7 N. Beacon St.) or the Silhouette Lounge (200 Brighton Ave.), two other Allston holes-in-the-wall where the drinks are strong, the bathrooms are dirty and the jukebox selections are stellar. Phone (617) 254-9365 for Model Cafe or (617) 206-4565 for Silhouette Lounge.
Or, for a grunge-free experience, steer your posse in the direction of Deep Ellum (477 Cambridge St.). Named after an arts and entertainment district in Dallas, this casual saloon touts hearty bar food (deviled eggs, wurst and truffled Gorgonzola fries) as well as curiously named cocktails—from the Mexican Happy Meal to the Man With No Name; phone (617) 787-2337. Next-door at sister establishment Lone Star Taco Bar , you can pop pickled jalapeños while sipping a michelada, a blend of beer, spices and a tomato-lime juice, served up in a salt-rimmed glass; phone (617) 782-8226.
Back Bay & South EndTrendy wine bars and upscale restaurants are everywhere in the Back Bay, one of the city's priciest residential neighborhoods as well as a major shopping destination. When quitting time rolls around, young professionals pack Boylston Street mainstays like Atlantic Fish Co. , (617) 267-4000; McGreevy's , (617) 262-0911; and The Pour House , (617) 236-1767.
Many proprietors in this bustling commercial area bring in weekday after-work crowds with cheap eats, rather than drink specials, as happy hour is banned in Massachusetts. For banging late-night specials any day of the week, get over to Bukowski Tavern (50 Dalton St.). Tucked into the side of a parking garage just off Boylston Street, the cash-only dive serves up souped-up greasy spoon-type fare (poutine potato nuggets!) with an impish sense of humor (if this place had a swear jar, it would be the size of a steel drum). For such a tiny place, the hipster haunt can get surprisingly rowdy, but the long list of craft beers makes up for the deafeningly loud music and zoo-like atmosphere. Phone (617) 437-9999.
Established in 1947, Wally's Café is all that remains of a district once buzzing with the beats of several dynamic jazz halls. Originally located across the street (it moved into an unassuming red-bricked structure at 427 Massachusetts Ave. in 1979), this gritty South End club has evolved into a training ground for students of Berklee and Conservatory at Berklee and the New England Conservatory of Music. Jazz and blues jam sessions also are the norm at The Beehive Boston (541 Tremont St.), a bohemian supper club that's been attracting lovers of saxophone solos, bebop and champagne cocktails to the Boston Center for the Arts' Cyclorama building since 2007. Phone (617) 424-1408 for Wally's Café or (617) 423-0069 for The Beehive.
Beacon Hill & West EndWe get why it's on your to-do list. A round of drinks at Cheers is good for a few laughs, even if Sam, Carla, Woody and the rest of the gang from the bygone “Must See TV” comedy series aren't there to clink mugs with you. No matter who's doing the pouring, one thing's for certain: Nobody will know your name but everybody will know you're a tourist. While there is a Cheers at Faneuil Hall Marketplace ( Cheers Faneuil Hall , 1 N. Market St.) offering a replica of the “Cheers” set, the original bar is in the historic Beacon Hill neighborhood, across from the Public Garden. Founded in 1969 as the Bull & Finch Pub, Cheers Beacon Hill (84 Beacon St.) features the familiar exterior seen in the show's opening credits. Phone (617) 227-9605 for Cheers Beacon Hill or (617) 227-0150 for the Faneuil Hall location.
Old meets new in another storied Boston neighborhood, the West End, where the former “drunk tank” of the Charles Street Jail (now the ultra-chic The Liberty, a Starwood Luxury Collection Hotel, Boston ) has been transformed into the Alibi Lounge (215 Charles St.). Bring your “crew” and order a round from the cheeky cocktail menu, which lists beverages like the refreshing Cool Hand Cuke and the intoxicatingly sweet Vice Squad; phone (857) 241-1144.
If handcrafted lagers are more your thing, pop into Beer Works on Canal Street near the TD Garden, where both the Celtics and the Bruins play. The spacious two-level sports bar features championship billiard tables and plenty of flat-screen TVs tuned in to the must-see game of the moment; phone (617) 896-2337.
A number of other pubs in the West End's historic Bulfinch Triangle district cater to TD Garden spectators, with the most esteemed being The Fours Boston (166 Canal St.). The dizzying collection of New England team memorabilia covering the walls is sure to make any sports fanatic weak in the knees. The bar’s moniker is an homage to the legendary “Number 4, Bobby Orr,” who skated into NHL history when he made his regular season debut as a Boston Bruin in 1966. Even the house special (a tasty steak tip sandwich) is named after the record-breaking defenseman. Phone (617) 720-4455.
Downtown & Faneuil HallTwo magnets for out-of-towners are at Faneuil Hall Marketplace. The 16,000-square-foot Hard Rock Cafe (22-24 Clinton St.) attracts vacationing partygoers with live music and pool tables; phone (617) 424-7625. At the Frost Ice Loft (200 State St.), the gimmick is something most New Englanders try to avoid: frozen water. The temperature inside the club is a constant 21 F, but fortunately the cover charge includes the use of a parka and gloves; phone (617) 307-7331.
Also at the downtown marketplace is the Hong Kong (65 Chatham St.). Vacationers looking to make new friends will appreciate the two-story bar and dance club's meant-to-be-shared Scorpion Bowl, an intoxicating specialty drink loaded with extra-long straws; phone (617) 227-2226.
If you're hungry, open the stark red door to The Black Rose (160 State St.), a timeless wood-paneled Irish pub dishing up down-home eats and nightly entertainment. After your big bangers and mash dinner, peruse the beer selection at Hennessy's of Boston (25 Union St.), also on the fringes of Faneuil Hall Marketplace. Phone (617) 742-2286 for The Black Rose or (617) 742-2121 for Hennessy's of Boston.
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Fenway-KenmoreA massive guiding light for bah hoppahs is Boston's landmark CITGO sign. The red, white and blue icon overlooks Kenmore Square, home to classy Commonwealth Avenue joints like Island Creek Oyster Bar (the selection of wine and spirits is just as extensive as the food menu) and The Hawthorne (servers are big on mixology, not on ‘tude). Also here is brunch favorite Eastern Standard Kitchen and Drinks , a French brasserie-style restaurant that, with Fenway Park just around the corner, is a smart choice for pre- and post-Sox game drinks. Phone (617) 532-5300 for Island Creek Oyster Bar, (617) 532-9150 for The Hawthorne or (617) 532-9100 for Eastern Standard Kitchen and Drinks.
Running alongside Fenway Park is Lansdowne Street, long one of the city's most popular nightlife destinations. Saturated with jostling alpha males and body-hugging fashions exhibited by both sexes, the district is headlined by House of Blues , (888) 693-2583. Like its folk art-loving namesakes across the country, the music hall and restaurant offers varied musical talents most nights. (Fun fact: The very first HOB operated in a historic Colonial house in Cambridge 1992-2003.)
Obviously, Lansdowne Street's proximity to the Green Monster dictates a heavy presence of sports bars. But The Bleacher Bar offers something pretty special: free front-row seats inside Fenway Park. Occupying a space that formerly served as the away team's batting cage, this popular day and evening hangout boasts a large window that looks directly out over center field (a smaller, well-placed aperture also is in the men's restroom). There's never a cover charge, so you'll find it perpetually overflowing with jersey-clad Bostonians itching to cheer on their beloved eight-time World Series champs; phone (617) 262-2424.
For many diehard Sox fans, Cask'n Flagon (62 Brookline Ave.) is the only place to be on game day. Sit outside and watch the spectacle unfold outside Fenway's emerald-hued left field wall or grab an indoor table and scrutinize the Cask's impressive array of baseball memorabilia. Most Friday and Saturday nights, a DJ spins a diverse mix (everything from Top 40 hits to hip-hop anthems) at the Cask's nightclub, Olivers, a tribute to the bar's former existence as a live concert venue (1969-73), when the voices of many a future rock legend (Jimi Hendrix, Bruce Springsteen, Steven Tyler) thundered through the building. Phone (617) 536-4840.
Proud Red Sox Nation citizens also crowd Game On! , opposite Cask'n Flagon at 82 Lansdowne St. With more than 90 televisions and a state-of-the-art sound system, it's the next best thing to being at the game. Downstairs, heated table tennis battles ensue in front of an imitation Fenway Park scoreboard at Blazing Paddles, Game On's Ping-Pong palace. Phone (617) 351-7001.
South BostonMost longtime denizens of “Southie” would rather root for the Los Angeles Lakers (the Boston Celtics' hated rival) than set foot in the swank establishments springing up in the ever-evolving Waterfront district, a redeveloped section of historic South Boston. Still, the area's high-end chains (Morton's, Del Frisco's) stay crowded with suits thanks to the proximity of a federal courthouse and the Seaport World Trade Center.
Best known for its Harpoon IPA, Harpoon Brewery, founded in 1986, offers tours of its Northern Avenue facility and also has a beer hall with dramatic views of the city skyline. If you're not keen on beer, wet your whistle at Drink (348 Congress St.). The basement-level craft cocktail bar touts U-shaped drink stations staffed by expert mixologists. Of course, no menu and personalized service equates to long wait times, especially on weekends. Phone (617) 456-2322 for Harpoon Beer Hall or (617) 695-1806 for Drink.
On Saturday and Sunday nights you'll find a packed house at Lucky's Lounge (355 Congress St.), a subterranean watering hole that's big on nostalgia. Surrounded by black-and-white photos of Old Hollywood stars, live acts (including a Frank Sinatra tribute band) provide the perfect soundtrack for cocktail hour schmoozing. Adding to the chill atmosphere are barkeeps with heavy Bawstin accents (think DiCaprio and Damon in “The Departed”) who sling Jack and Cokes and upmarket pub grub. Phone (617) 357-5825.
Other AreasSurvey an undulating Charles River and a star-speckled city skyline as gifted vocalists, pianists and brass players wail at Scullers Jazz Club , in the DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Hotel Boston - Cambridge at 400 Soldiers Field Rd.; phone (617) 562-4111. Across the waterway in Cambridge, you'll see many an aspiring musician entertaining biology majors and Harvard dropouts in subway tunnels, on street corners and in such longtime lairs of cool as Club Passim, 47 Palmer St., (617) 492-7679, and The Nameless Coffeehouse, 3 Church St.
Or, dance the Irish jig to The Burren, at 247 Elm St. in Somerville, a diverse city just north of Cambridge with a happening nightlife scene of its own. Phone (617) 776-6896.
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Performing ArtsBoston's performing arts scene began in elaborately bedecked theaters, where the likes of Charles Dickens, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Oscar Wilde gave lively readings. Although lingering Puritan prejudice against artistic expression delayed the inception of splashier productions (one 19th-century hall was named the Boston Museum in hopes of camouflaging what went on inside), entertainment here has a long history. The nation's first orchestra, for example, was founded in Boston in the early 19th century; it performed the country's first oratorio in King's Chapel in 1815.
Boston's Theater District, centered along Tremont and Stuart streets just south of the Boston Common, was once well established as a stopover for productions en route to Broadway. Architect Clarence H. Blackall designed several of the extravagant movie palaces that remain standing in the area. Now lavishly restored, these historic theaters provide an elegant backdrop for 21st-century performances. Landmarks include the Cutler Majestic Theatre, 219 Tremont St., (617) 824-8000; the Boston Opera House, 539 Washington St., (617) 259-3400; and the Wilbur Theatre, 246 Tremont St., (617) 248-9700.
Citi Performing Arts Center encompasses The Shubert Theatre, 265 Tremont St., as well as one of the city's most versatile facilities, The Wang Theatre, 270 Tremont St., a 1920s motion picture house that now hosts large-scale operas, musicals and ballets; phone (617) 482-9393 or (866) 348-9738. The real news in Boston theater, though, is not the touring blockbusters but the proliferation of upstart repertory groups staging vibrant new works, with performing space provided by such facilities as the rehabilitated Boston Center for the Arts, 539 Tremont St.; phone (617) 426-5000.
BosTix is Boston's largest ticket agency and a center for entertainment information. Two kiosks—at Faneuil Hall Marketplace and at Copley Square near the corner of Boylston and Dartmouth streets—sell full-price advance tickets as well as half-price tickets for same-day performances (a “daily menu” of available events is posted at each). Both the Faneuil Hall and Copley Square booths are open Tues.-Sat. 10-6, Sun. 11-4; closed major holidays. Phone (617) 262-8632, ext. 229.
The Boston Globe carries listings of the city's cultural events. The Improper Bostonian comes out biweekly and also has information about the arts and entertainment.
DanceThe Boston Ballet Company, 19 Clarendon St., the city's premier dance company, presents a repertoire of classical and modern works at the Boston Opera House. Tickets are available online, as well as at the Boston Ballet box office, 19 Clarendon St., (617) 695-6955, and the Boston Opera House box office, 539 Washington St. José Mateo Ballet Theatre, 400 Harvard St. in Cambridge, is an up-and-coming troupe that stages innovative contemporary programs; phone (617) 354-7467.
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Non-mainstream films are shown at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 465 Huntington Ave.; phone (617) 369-3907. The Art Deco Coolidge Corner Theatre, 290 Harvard St. in Brookline, features retrospectives, foreign films, documentaries, kung fu action spectacles and more; phone (617) 734-2500 (recorded information) or (617) 734-2501 (box office).
In Cambridge, the Harvard Film Archive, in the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at 24 Quincy St., presents an excellent mix of classics, documentaries and little-seen curiosities; phone (617) 495-4700. Kendall Square Cinema, One Kendall Square, features low-budget independent films and art house fare; phone (617) 621-1202.
MusicLauded for its outstanding acoustics, Symphony Hall, 301 Massachusetts Ave., is home to both the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Pops Orchestra. The Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) presents more than 250 concerts each year, with world-class soloists appearing regularly. The season runs from October through April; in July and August, the orchestra appears at the Tanglewood Music Center in Lenox. Wednesday evening and Thursday morning rehearsal tickets are considerably less expensive and are sometimes available to the public; phone (617) 266-1200, or (888) 266-1200 for program and ticket information.
Under the direction of maestro Arthur Fiedler, the Boston Pops Orchestra is often credited with attracting a wider audience to classical music. Fiedler ended a 50-year reign as conductor in 1979, but the “Pops” is as popular as ever. Now conducted by Keith Lockhart, BSO members offer a “light” program of concerts featuring a mix of classical, show tunes and popular music at Symphony Hall from early May to early July. The Boston Pops also makes a week of appearances at the Hatch Memorial Shell on the Charles River Esplanade in conjunction with Fourth of July festivities. These free concerts are among Boston's most delightful summertime events; phone (617) 266-1492 for information about the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Another open-air venue is the Blue Hills Bank Pavilion, owned by Live Nation. The amphitheater, located on the Boston Harbor in the Waterfront district, seats about 5,000 spectators and attracts such big-name musical acts as The Decemberists, Lenny Kravitz and Willie Nelson; phone (617) 728-1600.
Two noted concert halls are located in museums. The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 280 The Fenway, features soloists and chamber music performances at Calderwood Hall Sundays at 1:30 throughout the spring and fall. A monthly jazz series also is offered. Phone (617) 278-5156 to purchase tickets. Concerts also take place at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; phone (617) 267-9300 for information.
The Boston Camerata presents vocal and instrumental concerts of medieval, baroque and Renaissance music, plus occasional 19th-century American folk music, at various locations around the city; phone (617) 262-2092.
The presence of the New England Conservatory of Music, Berklee and Conservatory at Berklee, and several highly acclaimed university music programs diversifies the Boston music menu. Restored Jordan Hall, 30 Gainsborough St. at the New England Conservatory (across the street from Symphony Hall), can accommodate a full orchestra but also is acoustically suited to intimate chamber music performances; phone (617) 585-1260. The hall is home to the Boston Philharmonic; phone (617) 236-0999. The Berklee Performance Center, 136 Massachusetts Ave., is well known for its jazz programs; phone (617) 747-2261.
Free chamber music and concert performances are given at Boston University Concert Hall, in the Tsai Performance Center at 685 Commonwealth Ave. on the Boston University campus; phone (617) 353-8725 for schedule information. In Cambridge MIT presents a chapel organ series, and Harvard and Radcliffe offer choral and band concerts.
Noontime concerts and recitals are given at King's Chapel, 58 Tremont St., and at Trinity Church in Copley Square; phone (617) 227-2155, ext. 345, and (617) 536-0944, respectively. The Celebrity Series presents a varied program of events, from orchestras and chamber groups to dance companies and recitals. Performances are given at venues throughout the city, including Symphony Hall, the Shubert Theatre and Jordan Hall; phone (617) 482-6661.
OperaThe Boston Lyric Opera Company presents three productions each season at The Shubert Theatre of the Citi Performing Arts Center. Both classic and 20th-century works are performed; phone (617) 542-4912 for performance and schedule information.
TheaterAlthough small in stature, Boston's Theater District brims with lavish period decor. In the 1920s the area around the intersection of Tremont and Stuart streets was a glamorous stopover for Broadway-bound plays testing the waters in the city's grand playhouses. By the 1970s the atmosphere was best described as seedy. Thanks to urban renewal and a resurgence of the performing arts, several of these palaces have found new life.
One of the most intimate is the Wilbur Theatre, which sat through a few dark years before reopening in 1995. The Cutler Majestic Theatre is another ornate reminder of the Theater District's heyday. The 1903 Beaux-Arts building endured a stint as a movie theater in the 1950s before undergoing a substantial renovation under the auspices of Emerson College. Drama, opera and dance productions, both student and professional, are staged here.
The renovated 1910 Shubert Theatre sparkles with brass railings and gold touches in the refurbished lobby. The venue draws major touring productions and is part of the Citi Performing Arts Center, which also encompasses the theater district's most visible landmark: The Wang Theatre. It opened in 1925 as a spectacular motion picture house in the style of Radio City Music Hall (a facility it predated). Also known as the Metropolitan Theater and the Music Hall, it was renamed in the early 1980s for a generous benefactor and renovated to accommodate large-scale performances. The enormous building has a particularly impressive succession of lobbies, all of them appointed in sumptuous style with columns of Italian marble, stained glass, gold leaf decoration and florid ceiling murals.
Smaller theaters and those associated with area colleges and universities also have made a name for themselves. The three stages at the Boston Center for the Arts are devoted to nurturing homegrown talent. The center is known for its often-provocative theater performed in a bare-bones setting. Offbeat productions also appear at the New Repertory Theatre, 321 Arsenal St. in Watertown; phone (617) 923-8487. Classics mix with regional premieres at the Lyric Stage, 140 Clarendon St. on the second floor of the YWCA building; phone (617) 585-5678.
The Huntington Theatre Company, 264 Huntington Ave., is affiliated with Boston University. This resident theater group stages classics as well as new plays; phone (617) 266-0800. The American Repertory Theatre, one of the East Coast's most respected repertory companies, performs during the school year at Harvard's Loeb Drama Center, 64 Brattle St. in Cambridge; phone (617) 547-8300. Experimental works are produced on the smaller of its two stages; the main stage offers new American plays and freewheeling adaptations of the classics. In Waltham Brandeis University's Spingold Theatre offers high-caliber productions during the winter theater season; phone (781) 736-3340.
Harvard University's Hasty Pudding Theatricals put on one production each spring in the New College Theatre, 12 Holyoke St. in Cambridge. The student-written musical comedy features an all-male cast whose female characters are played in drag. The troupe also picks the Hasty Pudding Man and Woman of the Year each February. Past honorees include Mel Gibson, Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts; phone (617) 495-5205.
The Charles Playhouse, 74 Warrenton St. (between Charles and Tremont streets), presents the Blue Man Group, (617) 426-6912, and “Shear Madness,” (617) 426-5225, a comic murder mystery that differs every time it is staged.
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Sports & RecThe religious zeal with which Boston was founded has been transformed into a modern-day fanaticism for sports. In few other cities do even the most rarefied academics follow their hometown teams with such enthusiasm. When one considers the city's bragging rights to a number of athletic firsts and bests, its sports obsession seems quite justifiable.
Also worthy of attention is the Charles River, which plays a central role in Boston's recreational life. Miles of jogging and bicycling trails follow the river's course through town. Anglers preserve the centuries-old tradition of fishing on the banks of the Charles. And one of the city's loveliest vistas is the early morning sight of a lone scull gliding on the water.
Similarly enticing is Boston Harbor. Winding through East Boston, Charlestown, downtown and the North End, South Boston and Dorchester, the nearly complete 47-mile Harborwalk—a pathway linking everything from parks and beaches to cultural and historical sites—allows for casual strolls and a bit of peddling along this seafaring city's vital waterfront.
BaseballThe first baseball glove was donned on a Boston field in 1875. A year later, a Harvard student caused a stir by wearing a catcher's mask, another first. The beloved Boston Red Sox (then the Boston Americans) won the first World Series in 1903 and captured their eighth championship in 2013. Fenway Franks, the Green Monster and “The Rocket” are all part of the enduring lore that surrounds the legendary team, which plays April to late September at Fenway Park (T: Kenmore). Fenway, one of the game's most historic stadiums, celebrated its centennial in 2012.
Although it's best to purchase tickets well in advance, same-day tickets are sometimes available at the Gate E ticket office on Lansdowne Street. Seats are sold on a first-come, first-served basis, beginning 90 minutes prior to the start of the game. Phone (877) 733-7699 for more information. Guided tours of the legendary park are available year-round.
Photo submitted by Maria White / AAA
Followers of college basketball root for the Atlantic Coast Conference Boston College Eagles, Boston University Terriers of the Patriot League and Northeastern University Huskies of the Colonial Athletic Association, as well as the Ivy League's Harvard University Crimson.
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Supporters of college football turn out for the Boston College Eagles, who play at Alumni Stadium, and the Harvard University Crimson, who play Ivy League ball at Harvard Stadium.
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BicyclingAs a Boston pastime, bicycling hails back to the time ladies gathered their bustles to ride sidesaddle around Boston Common. Although the city has never been overly conducive to two-wheeled travel, it does have several safe and extremely popular bicycle paths. Visitors can explore them after a stop at Community Bicycle Supply, 496 Tremont St., which has mountain bikes and other hybrid bicycles for rent spring through fall (weather permitting); phone (617) 542-8623.
Equipment rentals also are available through Urban AdvenTours , 103 Atlantic Ave. The company offers several different guided trips, including the 2.5-hour City View Bicycle Tour, which showcases the North End, South End and Back Bay neighborhoods as well as Fenway Park, Boston Common and other major points of interest; phone (617) 379-3590.
Another option is the Hubway, Boston's bicycle-sharing system. From spring through fall, two-wheelers may be rented and returned at any of 140 stations scattered throughout Boston, Brookline, Cambridge and Somerville. A 24-hour access pass costs $6. A 3-day access pass is $12. Both options allow renters unlimited rides, provided each individual trip lasts under 30 minutes; longer rides incur an hourly usage fee. Phone (855) 948-2929 for more information.
Biking is a popular activity within the Emerald Necklace, a linear chain of parks that originates at Boston Common and ends at Franklin Park. More than 7 miles long, it includes the Commonwealth Avenue Mall, the Back Bay Fens, The Riverway, Arborway, Jamaicaway and other sites. Bicycle maps are available from the Shattuck Visitor Center, at 125 The Fenway in the Back Bay Fens.
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The Minuteman Bikeway is an 11-mile path running along an old railroad bed; it begins at the Alewife “T” station (the northern terminus of the Red Line) in Cambridge and passes through the towns of Arlington, Lexington and Bedford.
For information about other area bicycle paths, contact the Department of Conservation and Recreation, which operates many public recreation facilities throughout the city; phone (617) 626-1250. Note: Bicycles are allowed on subway trains only during non-peak hours and are not permitted on the Green Line at any time.
FishingIn the 17th century, fishing sustained the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and a maritime foundation supported the Boston economy until well into the 1800s. Today's casual angler can take advantage of several freshwater locations in and around the city. The Charles River, although muddy, is home to catfish, sunfish and crappie. The fishing gets better farther upstream, particularly in the vicinity of Watertown. Jamaica Pond, on the Jamaicaway in Jamaica Plain, is stocked with trout and also is home to such fish as yellow perch and bass. Although numerous joggers trod around the pond, there are enough woodsy spots at the water's edge to make it a peaceful getaway.
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The Massachusetts Saltwater Recreational Fishing Guide can be obtained at area tackle shops as well as from the Division of Marine Fisheries; phone (617) 626-1520. A fishing license is required and may be purchased online or from authorized locations such as Division of Marine Fisheries offices, local town halls and retail outlets. A nonresident recreational saltwater fishing permit is $10; free (ages 60+). A special 3-day license for nonresident freshwater fishing is $23.50; $11.50 (ages 15-17).
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Jogging and WalkingWalking is, of course, the best way to see Boston. Perhaps the most popular route is the Freedom Trail, easily followed via a red line on the sidewalk. It conveniently links a number of historic sites. A byproduct of the Big Dig, the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway follows the former path of the elevated Central Artery. The string of urban parks connects several vibrant districts, including Chinatown and the North End.
The banks of the Charles River are the most popular spots for joggers; the Esplanade, on the Boston side of the waterway, is probably the most scenic and well-traveled running path. Storrow Drive in Boston and Memorial Drive in Cambridge are additional routes following the course of the Charles. Loop runs of varying distances can be tailored by taking advantage of the several bridges that cross the river.
Connecting waterfront neighborhoods, maritime industrial areas and a network of inland trails, the Harborwalk is another scenic option for runners (it's also open to cyclists).
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Athletic gear as well as changing rooms and showers are available at the Boston Marathon RunBase, located at 855 Boylston St., near the finish line of the prestigious footrace. The state-of-the-art running hub also features interactive exhibits related to the Boston Marathon.
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Water SportsBoston Harbor is good for more than dumping tea. The Boston Sailing Center on Lewis Wharf specializes in sailboat charters and also offers sailing classes and racing programs. The sailing season begins in May and ends in October; phone (617) 227-4198.
The Charles River—christened by Prince Charles of England (later the ruler Charles I) in 1615—has figured prominently in history; Paul Revere rowed across it before taking off on his midnight ride. Later the river was plied by tugboats and freight vessels, and a foul stench from stagnant tidal mud flats often hung in the air. In the early 20th century the Charles River Basin was created, stretching some 9 miles upstream from the harbor.
Today recreational craft rule the Charles, and boathouses and marinas line its banks. Community Boating, 21 David G. Mugar Way near the Boston side of the Longfellow Bridge and the Charles/MGH “T” station, offers a 1-day visitor pass with unlimited sailboat use April through October. Sailing lessons also are available; phone (617) 523-1038.
Harvard and other collegiate rowing crews routinely use the river basin for practice sessions. Charles River Canoe and Kayak Center has five Greater Boston rental locations, including one in Cambridge's Kendall Square at 500 Broad Canal Way. The company has canoes, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards and rowing shells available for rent from late April to mid-October. Guided kayaking tours also are offered; phone (617) 965-5110.
Winter SportsWhen the weather turns frosty, Bostonians head for the Boston Common's Frog Pond, which is transformed from a wading pool to an ice-skating playground mid-November to late March. A warming room and skate rentals are available. While ice-skating is most popular at the Frog Pond, you also can do a figure eight on the lagoon at the Public Garden. The Beacon Hill Skate Shop, 135 Charles St. S., has equipment rentals; phone (617) 482-7400. Other public ice-skating rinks are scattered throughout the city; phone (617) 626-1250 for information about locations and hours of operation.
Photo submitted by Maria White / AAA
Boat ToursBay State Cruise Co.
Bus and Trolley ToursTours encompassing both the city and its environs are available. Gray Line of Boston/Cape Cod, (617) 720-6342 or (800) 343-1328, provides a variety of excursions featuring Boston, Cambridge, Cape Cod, Concord, Lexington, Plymouth and Salem.
Food ToursBoston Foodie Tours
Industrial ToursHarpoon Brewery
Guided Walking ToursOne-hour tours of the Freedom Trail begin in the National Park Service's visitor center in Faneuil Hall. The ranger-led walking tour is limited to 30 people and departs daily on the hour 10-11 and 1-3, July-Sept.; tours are conducted on a reduced schedule in June and October. Phone (617) 242-5642 to confirm the current schedule.
The National Park Service offers tours of the Black Heritage Trail, which links the 14 locations comprising Boston African American National Historic Site. The 90-minute tour is limited to 15 people and begins at the Robert Gould Shaw and 54th Regiment Memorial on the corner of Park and Beacon streets. Departures are Mon.-Sat. at 10, noon and 2, Memorial Day-Labor Day; Mon.-Sat. at 2, day after Labor Day to mid-Oct. Phone (617) 742-5415 to confirm schedule.
The 90-minute Boston Movie Mile Walking Tour offered by On Location Tours takes visitors to filming locations used in movies and TV shows, including “Cheers,” “Good Will Hunting” and “Ted.” Tours depart from the Boston Common visitor information center (139 Tremont St.) Thurs. and Sun. at noon, Apr.-Oct.; phone (212) 683-2027 for reservations.
From May through October, the Emerald Necklace Conservancy offers free walking tours through the Back Bay Fens, a lush urban centerpiece that landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted fashioned out of polluted marshland around the turn of the 19th century. Olmsted protégé Arthur Shurcliff would later add such ornate features as the Kelleher Rose Garden. The guided walks depart from the Shattuck Visitor Center, housed in the historic H. H. Richardson building at 125 The Fenway; phone (617) 522-2700 for more information.
Self-guiding ToursA digital audio tour of the Freedom Trail, which leads visitors to 16 historic sites, is available for download from The Freedom Trail Foundation's website for $15; phone (617) 357-8300 for more information.
A free mobile app featuring GPS-enabled maps of Boston National Historical Park can be downloaded online or at the National Park Service Faneuil Hall Visitor Center; phone (617) 242-5642. The NPS Boston app also includes information about the Black Heritage Trail; printed walking tour maps of the 1.6-mile path, the focus of Boston African American National Historic Site, can be obtained at the Museum of African American History.
Showcasing Boston Harbor, the nearly complete 47-mile Harborwalk travels through East Boston, Charlestown, downtown and the North End, South Boston and Dorchester. Interpretive panels, telescopes and observation decks, and indoor retreats—from upscale restaurants to free exhibition spaces—break up the journey. The Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum Visitor Center, a glass-enclosed gazebo on the north side of the Fort Point Channel between Congress and Summer streets, provides information and ticketing for area attractions.
Self-guiding tours available from The Boston Women's Heritage Trail relate more than 3 centuries of women's contributions to the city. Points of interest include the Boston Ballet Company, 19 Clarendon St., founded by E. Virginia Williams in 1963; a monument dedicated to African-American abolitionist Harriet Tubman; and “Emancipation,” crafted by Harlem-Renaissance sculptor Meta Warrick Fuller. Both the monument and the sculpture are in Harriet Tubman Square at Columbus Avenue and W. Newton Street. For trail information phone (617) 945-5639.
Another famous female, Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, is the focus of Rose's Life—A Tour. Developed by the education department of the John. F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, the self-guiding walking tour weaves through the North End and includes parts of the mile-long Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, which encompasses public parks, fountains and outdoor art pieces. For more information, contact the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway Conservancy Mon.-Fri. 9-5 at (617) 292-0020.
Photo submitted by Maria White / AAA
Boston in 3 DaysThree days is barely enough time to get to know any major destination. But AAA travel editors suggest these activities to make the most of your time in Boston.
Day 1: MorningBegin at the visitor information center on Boston Common near Tremont Street and follow the Freedom Trail.
On this first section, you'll see the State House , Granary Burying Ground , King's Chapel , Old South Meeting House and Old State House .
Day 1: Afternoon
Photo submitted by Maria White / AAA
Photo submitted by Maria White / AAA
After you've grabbed lunch and a few souvenirs, continue along the Freedom Trail, passing the Paul Revere House , Old North Church and Copp's Hill Burying Ground in the North End.
Day 1: Evening
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Day 2: Morning
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Day 2: AfternoonExplore the cool wonders of the New England Aquarium on the waterfront at Central Wharf. Highlights include a colony of African and rockhopper penguins, a rare collection of Australian seadragons and an outdoor home for harbor seals. For a behind-the-scenes look, sign up for one of the animal encounter programs, which let you meet aquarium stars like Myrtle the green sea turtle and shadow members of the staff during feeding and training sessions.
Day 2: EveningIf you're visiting Boston during the summer (June to September), take a sunset sail aboard the 125-foot Liberty Clipper. This beautiful vessel from The Liberty Fleet of Tall Ships departs from Long Wharf for a cruise around the islands of Boston Harbor; weekend trips range from a Sunday brunch cruise to a re-creation of the Boston Tea Party.
If you prefer to stay on land, Long Wharf boasts two of the city's most popular seafood restaurants, both with beautiful views of the waterfront: Chart House and Legal Sea Foods .
Day 3: MorningTake the subway (the “T”) across the river and explore the hallowed ground of Old Cambridge , which includes the 1761 Christ Church, the 1759 Longfellow House and Harvard University , the oldest institution of higher learning in the country, founded in 1636. Among the university museums' many hidden treasures are the glass flowers at the Harvard Museum of Natural History .
Casual eateries such as John Harvard's Brewhouse and Spice Thai Cuisine surround Harvard Square, where you can rub elbows with the locals and watch a speed-chess game.
Day 3: AfternoonSpend the afternoon with Monet, Picasso and Whistler at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston . If you still have time (and energy), the Venetian-style palazzo of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is two blocks away. For an art alternative, take the kids to the Museum of Science , which is surprisingly fun for adults too.
Day 3: EveningTake in a game at Fenway Park , one of baseball's oldest and most venerable stadiums. If the Red Sox aren't playing, watch the sunset from the 50th-floor Skywalk Observatory at Prudential Center , and then head to Top of the Hub for dinner and a priceless view of the Boston skyline and the Charles River.
AttractionsIn a city with dozens of attractions, you may have trouble deciding where to spend your time. Here are the highlights for this destination, as chosen by AAA editors. GEMs are “Great Experiences for Members.”
With more than 550 playful exhibits, Boston's Museum of Science makes science not only palatable but fun for kids, science-phobes and even jaded adults. There's so much to do, this museum feels like a theme park. On the waterfront, the New England Aquarium is another perennial favorite. Highlights include the ever-popular penguin exhibit, a 200,000-gallon coral reef display and an outdoor tank for harbor seals.
On the Avenue of the Arts, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston , has all the Manets, Monets, Picassos, Rembrandts, Renoirs, Sargents and Whistlers you'd expect to find at one of the country's premier art venues. I.M. Pei designed the west wing. Nearby is the Venetian-style palazzo of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum with its private collection of paintings, sculptures, furniture and textiles.
The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum is another example of I.M. Pei's architectural vision. This dramatic glass and concrete structure at Columbia Point honors the Boston congressman who became the 35th president of the United States. Adams National Historical Park in Quincy preserves the birthplaces of presidents John and John Quincy Adams, along with their homes and the churchyard containing their graves.
Boston means history, and the 2.5-mile Freedom Trail will lead you past dozens of famous sites. The Boston Massacre occurred in front of the Old State House , where John Hancock was inaugurated as first governor of the commonwealth. Stirring speeches and passionate pleas echoed within the walls of Faneuil Hall , ultimately leading to revolution. Lanterns hung in the steeple of Old North Church signaled Paul Revere's celebrated midnight ride. Revere forged the original copper sheathing for the warship USS Constitution , nicknamed “Old Ironsides” during the War of 1812. Bunker Hill Monument marks the site of a critical battle during the British occupation. In the nearby town of Lexington , you can stand on the bridge where war began with “the shot heard 'round the world” in 1775.
With one of the highest concentrations of colleges and universities in the world, Boston is a college town of the highest order—and Harvard University is its most venerable symbol. The Ivy League campus in Cambridge exemplifies the history of American architecture, representing styles from Colonial to ultramodern. There are half a dozen art galleries surrounding Harvard Yard, and the Harvard Museum of Natural History displays an impressive collection of minerals, gemstones, fossils and botanical specimens.
Cambridge also is home to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology . This hotbed of high-tech innovation features a museum with holography displays and other technology-centered exhibits. Eero Saarinen designed the stark, windowless MIT chapel to represent “spiritual unworldliness.”
Spiritual enlightenment drew 19th-century intellectuals and writers to Boston, among them Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Nathaniel Hawthorne. The Concord Museum displays the contents of Emerson's 1882 study and a large collection of Thoreau's possessions, including his bed, desk and chair from Walden Pond. In Sudbury, Longfellow's Wayside Inn , made famous in his series of poems published in 1863, includes a 13-room museum, a chapel and formal gardens.
In Salem, you can visit The House of the Seven Gables , actually a collection of six historic buildings including Nathaniel Hawthorne's birthplace and the seven-gabled home that inspired his classic novel. The nearby Peabody Essex Museum , noted for its maritime art collection and 24 restored houses, boasts more than 2.4 million art objects. Five generations of the Phillips family filled the Historic New England's Phillips House with objects collected during their world travels, including Asian porcelain, rare Persian rugs and English furnishings.
If you have extra time for sightseeing, don't miss AAA GEM attractions in Gloucester, Lowell, Plymouth and Saugus, all within a 40-mile radius.
See all the AAA recommended attractions for this destination.
RestaurantsOur favorites include some of this destination's best restaurants—from fine dining to simple fare.
Located in the Back Bay adjacent to the Mandarin Oriental Boston , L'Espalier is one of the city's premier “special occasion” restaurants. The intimate atmosphere complements the exceptional culinary service and delivery of chef/proprietor Frank McClelland’s innovative New England-inspired French cuisine. Three-course prix fixe and seven-course degustation (chef's choice) menus change seasonally and showcase such regional ingredients as Wellfleet oysters and Maine lobster as well as heirloom veggies from farmer McClelland's Apple Street Farm in Essex.
At Meritage , it's all about the wine. For your main course, you'll first select a red or white before choosing an appropriate small or large plate to pair with your vino. Chef Daniel Bruce's food presentations are truly artistic; typical dishes include sumptuous roasted lamb, short ribs and braised rabbit. The knowledgeable staff provides attentive, unobtrusive service in a chic dining room boasting fantastic views of Boston Harbor.
Restaurants are plentiful in Boston’s historic North End, which is renowned for authentic Italian cuisine. Serving traditional favorites like caprese, risotto and parmigiana since 1931, Cantina Italiana is likely the oldest eatery in the neighborhood. Born in Italy, brothers Chuck and Fiore Colella currently operate the longtime gem, which garners repeat customers with savory dishes and a warm, casual atmosphere.
Set in a 19th-century North End row house, Mamma Maria features five private dining rooms and a nice selection of creative dishes with a focus on Italian cuisine. Order the carpaccio with shaved truffles or the braised rabbit with pappardelle pasta. The slow-roasted veal shank, served in classic osso buco style with saffron risotto, also is delightful.
With its modern nautical decor, chalkboard menus, and exposed wood beams and air ducts, Jasper White's Summer Shack looks like an urbanized version of a rustic seafood shanty. Inspired by traditional New England clambakes, the Back Bay location of this local chain attracts a lively crowd thanks to its proximity to Fenway Park and Kings bowling alley. If you're hankering for steamers, lobsters and corn on the cob in an über-casual setting, this is the place to go.
From Jasper White's, it's a short walk (or a short ride on the Green Line) to Kenmore Square, the location of two restaurant/bar establishments where mingling with locals is part of the fun. Sleek, bright and airy, Island Creek Oyster Bar serves up fresh regional oysters (natch) as well as a to-die-for clam chowder enhanced by buttermilk biscuits and house-cured bacon bits. At nearby Eastern Standard Kitchen and Drinks , raucous patrons toast classic cocktails (made with housemade vermouth and exotic bitters) and nibble on rich foodstuffs like roasted bone marrow, foie gras and bacon pâté. Although the space is large and open with high ceilings and a massive bar, with Fenway Park right around the corner, the trendy brasserie gets packed to the brim with faithful Red Sox fans during baseball season. In addition, brunch menus are offered at both Island Creek and Eastern Standard, bringing throngs of carefree—and ravenous—twenty- and thirtysomethings to Kenmore Square on Sundays.
Bistro. Wine bar. Delicatessen. The Butcher Shop , owned by James Beard Foundation Award-winning restaurateur Barbara Lynch, captures the essence of a European market. At the South End eatery, large picture windows overlook Tremont Street, while refrigerator cases at the back of the restaurant draw eyes to neat displays of sausages, cheeses and pâtés. Menu selections include steak tartare, porchetta, and a charcuterie platter so grand it costs $82 bucks.
Barbara Lynch owns several area establishments, but Menton is thus far her crowning achievement. Seasonal menus (diners choose between a four-course prix fixe menu and a seven-course chef’s tasting menu) showcase sophisticated fusion fare that effortlessly melds cooking techniques and ingredients from France and Italy. (Appropriately, the restaurant is named after a French seaside town near the Italian border.) Located in the Fort Point neighborhood, Menton is on the same block as two of the South Boston native's other businesses: Sportello , the Italian trattoria-meets-American diner, and Drink , a craft cocktail bar.
Celebrity chef Ming Tsai opened feng shui-inspired Blue Ginger, an East-West Bistro , in Wellesley, a suburb of Boston, in 1998. Working in an open kitchen, Tsai’s team of chefs creates such delicacies as shiitake-leek spring rolls accompanied by a three-chili dipping sauce; garlic-black pepper lobster; and Indonesian curry pasta, served with a choice of organic coconut shrimp or panko herb-crusted chicken breast. The elegant Asian fusion restaurant features three separate dining rooms as well as a chic lounge offering a variety of tapas, including delectable homemade dumplings filled with everything from savory roast duck to blue cheeseburger and bacon.
See all the AAA Diamond Rated restaurants for this destination.
EventsIn addition to its many cultural and historic landmarks, this destination hosts a number of outstanding festivals and events that may coincide with your visit.
Boston bases many of its annual celebrations on past events that shaped the character of the city as well as the nation. St. Patrick's Day on March 17 celebrates not only Boston's Irish heritage but also Evacuation Day, when the British troops left the city in 1776. Held the Sunday closest to the holiday, Boston's St. Patrick's Day Parade begins at the Broadway “T” station in South Boston. Patriots' Day in Boston , the third Monday in April, celebrates the American Revolution's beginning with the hanging of lanterns in Old North Church and a re-enactment of Paul Revere's midnight ride to Concord.
The Battle of Bunker Hill Day Parade is held in mid-June in Charlestown to honor the June 17, 1775, battle. Boston Harborfest , a weeklong Fourth of July celebration, commemorates the birth of the nation with more than 200 activities, including boat rides, concerts, re-enactments, tours and one of the nation's top fireworks displays. During the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular , a Boston Pops Orchestra concert at the Hatch Shell on the Charles River Esplanade is complemented by a rousing July 4 fireworks display. Other Independence Day Commemoration events around town include the opening ceremonies at Faneuil Hall Marketplace, an Independence Day oration and parade, and a chowder fest on City Hall Plaza. In mid-December, costumed patriots convene at the Old South Meeting House for the Boston Tea Party Reenactment .
Boston also is known for sports competition of impressive proportions. The Boston Marathon , the city's signature event, attracts top long-distance runners (and wheelchair participants) from around the world. Held the third Monday in April, the race begins in the town of Hopkinton and ends before thousands of spectators at Copley Square. Female runners pound the pavement around downtown Boston during the Tufts Health Plan 10K for Women on Columbus Day. Head of the Charles Regatta , an internationally contested sculling event in Cambridge, draws hundreds of thousands of spectators to the banks of the Charles River on the third weekend in October.
The Boston area salutes its ethnic heritage in June with the Boston Dragon Boat Festival , said to be the largest Asian-American celebration in New England. While races featuring Hong Kong-style dragon boats can be viewed from both sides of the Charles River, you'll find food, drum and martial arts performances, and arts and crafts demonstrations on the Cambridge side near Harvard Square.
Every weekend from June to mid-September a procession of Italian Feast Days takes place in the North End neighborhood. Sponsored by the St. Agrippina, St. Anthony, St. Rocco and St. Joseph societies, these lively fetes include solemn religious services but also high-stepping brass bands, dancing, games and plenty of Italian food.
The Boston Common Tree Lighting rings in the yuletide season in traditional style with the lighting of a Christmas tree in the heart of downtown. First Night Boston ushers in the new year with parades, ice sculpting, and indoor and outdoor concerts, capped off by a spectacular explosion of fireworks over the harbor at midnight.
See all the AAA recommended events for this destination.
Common GroundMuch of modern Boston was under water when the Massachusetts Bay Puritans arrived in 1630. The Shawmut peninsula was almost an island; high tide cut off the North End from the mainland. Three hills known as the Trimount—Beacon, Pemberton and Mount Vernon—rose above the tidal marshes. Beginning in the early 19th century, an ambitious series of landfills more than doubled the size of the seaport town, an engineering feat unrivaled in American history.
Boston's first public works project was the Long Wharf. Built from charred timbers after a city fire in 1711, the wharf extended a third of a mile into the bay. The 1,500-foot Charles River Bridge connected Charlestown with Boston in 1786. As the city grew, workers filled in the coves and ponds around the North End, carving earth from the prominent hilltops. Expansion continued in South Boston and the Dorchester Flats.
The biggest job, the 600-acre Back Bay, took almost 35 years. In 1857, Mill Dam stretched across Back Bay from Boston Commons to Brookline, following the course of today's Beacon Street. Built to harness the tides, the dam had created a brackish swamp instead. Filling in Back Bay posed a problem—no more hills to level—so gravel came by train from Needham. Builders paid for the enterprise by selling future lots; Back Bay would become one of the city's most fashionable districts. Waterfront was later added in Charlestown, Fenway and East Boston, culminating with the 2,400-acre landfill for Logan Airport.
After 3 centuries of dredging and dumping, Bostonians decided to dig. The Central Artery/Tunnel Project—otherwise known as the Big Dig—excavated 15 million cubic yards of dirt for a highway tunnel through downtown Boston. Along with new landfill material, the dig yielded an archeological windfall, not only in artifacts but in a physical timeline of the land reclaimed from the sea.
Part of the excavated clay and gravel went to Spectacle Island, transforming this city garbage dump into a showpiece of the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area . The island park, complete with a marina and visitors' center, walking and biking trails, and plenty of grassy spaces for Bostonians to enjoy, opened in 2006.
Boston NHPBoston National Historical Park consists of seven sites along the Freedom Trail as well as Dorchester Heights' monument in South Boston. Only two of these sites, Bunker Hill Monument and the Charlestown Navy Yard, are owned by the federal government. The others—Faneuil Hall, Old North Church, Old South Meeting House, Old State House and Paul Revere House—are owned privately or managed municipally.
The Faneuil Hall Visitor Center on the Freedom Trail gives an overview of Boston's Colonial history through audiovisual presentations, ranger-led guided tours and NPS Boston, a free mobile app. Information about the national historical park also is available from the information center at the Charlestown Navy Yard. Faneuil Hall Visitor Center on the Freedom Trail is open daily 9-6. Charlestown Navy Yard information center is open daily 9-5, Apr.-Nov.; Tues.-Sun. 9-5, rest of year. Closed Jan. 1, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Rangers conduct free walking tours, talks and programs throughout the park from mid-April through November 30; phone ahead for schedule. For more information phone (617) 242-5601, (617) 242-5642, or TTY (617) 242-5689.
Attraction PassesThe Boston CityPASS offers savings to those planning to visit multiple Boston attractions. The Boston CityPASS ticket booklet will save travelers 43 percent off the combined cost of purchasing individual tickets to all of the included attractions. The passes, which are valid for 9 consecutive days from the first date of use, include prepaid admission to the New England Aquarium, Museum of Science and Skywalk Observatory at Prudential Center as well as a choice of either the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, or Boston Harbor Cruises. Boston CityPASS is available online and from the attractions listed above. For customer service, phone (208) 787-4300 or (888) 330-5008.
The Go Boston Card is an all-access pass that saves up to 55 percent on admission to more than 40 Boston-area attractions, including the New England Aquarium, Fenway Park, trolley tours, cruises, walking tours and more! The card is purchased by the day (1, 2, 3, 5 or 7 consecutive calendar days) and is priced as low as $25 per day (based on a 7-day card). Go Boston Card is available at the visitor information center on the Boston Common; phone (866) 628-9027.
Travel TipsBoston's latitude leaves the city vulnerable to both polar and tropical air masses. Low-pressure storm systems frequently follow tracks that take them near Boston, while the Atlantic Ocean has a moderating influence on both summer and winter temperature extremes. The four seasons are quite distinct here.
New England winters are not for the faint-hearted. Boston experiences its fair share of snow, sleet and icy winds, and the Charles River normally freezes over. Coastal storms, or northeasters, can produce tremendous amounts of snow or rain. Summers are warm but not usually uncomfortable, although occasional heat waves send temperatures and humidity soaring.
Spring and early fall are pleasant times to visit. Although bitterly cold weather can last well into March, spring eventually arrives. May, when many of the spring flowers are in bloom, is a lovely month. Autumn visitors will be greeted with crisp, clear air and resplendent fall colors, starting in September and peaking by mid-October.
Boston's dress code ranges from the conservative attire of downtown's Old Guard establishments to the casual accoutrements worn at Cambridge's student enclaves. The most important thing to remember is that the city's variable weather requires a flexible wardrobe. In winter bring a heavy coat and a pair of sturdy boots or shoes for negotiating icy sidewalks. An umbrella will come in handy at almost any time of year.
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