Ah, Beantown. If history was shoe sizes, Boston would be wearing clown shoes. In all seriousness, Boston has played a central role in American history from its very beginnings. From 1630 when Puritan colonists founded the town, to the Boston Tea Party, and even the Battle of Bunker Hill, Boston is rife with culture. Now a modern city with a thriving economy, a vibrant nightlife, and a bevy of daytime activities to interest visitors, Boston remains an American city of prominence.
Where to Stay
Boston is a big city and from the Back Bay to Downtown to the North End, there are plenty of places to stay, each with its own distinctive character and charm. Where you stay determines what immediately surrounds you, but fret not: everything is still easily accessible. Back Bay is a fashionable stretch along the Charles River, full of boutique hotels, quirky galleries and upmarket shopping, while the 50-acre Boston Common (the oldest park in the United States) is the gateway to Boston’s Freedom Trail, close to the State House, Frog Pond, and affluent Beacon Hill. The North End has Little Italy, more of a café culture, and is close to Cambridge, which, as you may know, is home to MIT and Harvard Yard. Staying here is a great option for those who like to be right in the middle of things, though the area can get quite busy this can lend to a crowded feeling with difficulty parking.
What to Do In Boston
If you’re in Boston looking for the insider’s tip on what to do and see, take it from me: ask a hundred people, get a hundred answers. What you’re into depends on what you’ll likely want to do, but whatever it is, Boston can accommodate. While the Back Bay is delightful for strolling, wining and dining, and seeing some of the finer things in life, the North End has some of the best Italian around, and is great for visiting Harvard Yard.
Aside from these pleasantries, every visitor must do, at least in some part, the Freedom Trail. Situated in downtown Boston, the Freedom Trail takes you on a historic walk through the city of Boston and lets you get a glimpse of the finer aspects of the city while learning all about the deep historical and cultural origins of the city. On a Freedom Trail tour you’ll see Quincy Market, Faneuil Hall, Boston Common, The North End, Paul Revere’s house, the USS Constitution, and many more exciting stops, as well as giving you a good bearing on the city – an invaluable way to orient yourself if you’re new to the city.
Fenway Park is the oldest Major League baseball park in the United States and if you’re a baseball fan at all, you must catch a game here. Grab a beer and a hotdog, and hope to watch the Red Sox hit a homer over the Green Monster – there’s nothing like the intimate experience at Fenway and many don’t know that the stadium offers tours of its grounds which highlight its iconic history.
Eating and Drinking
Where you’re going to head to grab a bite and maybe a few cocktails depends on where you find yourself in this magnificent city. The North End has the best Italian, and you can enter into an Old World ambiance at any corner Trattoria or delicatessen. Clio, over on the Boston boardwalk has got some sweet butter based Main Lobster which is to die for, while over in Union Square the Taqueria/Cantina La Mexicana has some otherworldly Chile Rellenos. Or, if you’re looking for a nice place to grab some wine and nibbles during happy hour, head on over to Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar over in the Back Bay. The steaks are the best in the land and they always get points for good service. Also, if you’re nice to them, word is you might be slipped a complimentary taste or two of some of their open bottles of wine.
Tips for First Timers and Getting Around
If this is your first trip to Boston, don’t let the size of the city daunt you. Though public transport is widely available, like many American cities, the best transportation still available is by car. If you’re staying downtown, it’s possible to get around mainly by taking “The T,” otherwise known as the Commuter Rail/Subway, but another great option that’s only recently come of age is the Zipcar phenomenon. Zipcar works by having automobiles places strategically around the city and then you signup online and can rent these cars by the hour or day. Pretty nifty if you want to minimize your time spent looking for parking.
If You Only Have One Day
If you only have one day to see Boston, don’t be concerned or spend your time running around like a chicken with its head cut-off. If you plan it well, you can experience some of the cities highlights in one fell swoop. I’d plan ahead and book a ride on one of the city’s famous Duck Tours. People argue that this is a bit “touristy,” but take it from a local, it’s actually quite fun, relatively quick, and a good way to see the city. Spend lunch with killer seafood or Italian in the North End, then walk it off by exploring this deeply cultural part of town on foot before heading over to Faneuil Hall Marketplace to grab a cocktail or espresso. Lots of T stops around here, so don’t worry about bringing the car. Consider wrapping up the day by experiencing a part of the Freedom Trail. If you wanted to, there’s always the Museum of Fine Art and the Museum of Science to explore as well, and the latter is a great museum to bring kids to.
In this way you see some of the cultural icons of the city, sample some of Boston’s best food, and grab some history of the town to boot. Not bad for one day, eh?
Editor’s Note: Viator recently held a contest to “Win Your Dream Travel Job” where we selected 4 finalists to travel the world shooting video. For 60 days, these teams traveled and filmed in some of the world’s top destinations, documenting their experiences along the way. Go here to read more about their Boston adventures!