Boston is not just the home of one of the strangest American accents you’re likely to hear, but also myriad historical, cultural and architectural attractions. The famous Harvard Universityhas long-coloured the mid-size city with lofty dreams of innovation, and Boston’s reputation, both past and present, is a progressive one. Since the civil war, Boston has been a key player in the drive for abolition, feminism and, more recently, issues like gay marriage and healthcare.
Yet Boston is not just for the literati and the academic set. There is a strong blue-collar tradition in ol’ Beantown (so-nicknamed for its love of baked beans in molasses during slave times) and an Irish immigrant history that gives the population real heart and guts. Happily, the Irish influence extends to Boston’s many, many pubs and bars, in which you can happily while away the hours listening to locals wax lyrical about the old days in their strangely hypnotic accents.
Outside the city, you can take a tour to beautiful Cape Cod, take in the famed Kennedy Compound or head North to Hampton Beach, New Hampshire and experience the unique New England landscape and traditions.
Boston is what you get when you shake up an English respect for higher education and knowledge with a generous shot of American idealism, then finish it off with a free-pour of Irish fighting spirit. It’s a heady cocktail, and the city is drunk on it.
Well that, and a helluva lot of Samuel Adams, which is brewed locally at the Boston Beer Company.
Boston's Top 10
10. Skywalk Observatory 360-degree views of the city. Bring a camera!
5. Boston Museum of Fine Arts The city’s largest art museum has one of the best collections in the country.
9. MIT Museum A cool science and tech museum with over 400 exhibits. It’s worth being surrounded by science geeks and sugar-fuelled kids.
4. Newbury Street Very fancy stores filled with very fancy people. Grab a coffee and watch how the other half lives.
8. Harvard University Catch a bus and tour this world-renowned Ivy League institution.
3. Boston Common and Public Garden This historical and beautiful park is a must-see for visitors.
7. Theater District Forget Broadway, this is where shows start their tours. Yep, you can see the biggest and the best before they hit NYC. In your face, Yankees!
2. Fenway Park A Boston institution! The oldest Major League Baseball stadium still in use. Go and watch the Red Sox and witness the fierce passion of the Boston fans (especially if the NY Yankees are the opposition). The fans are guaranteed to be more fun to watch than the baseball itself.
6. Faneuil Hall/Quincy Market: Two of Boston’s oldest (and busiest) marketplaces will see you eating well and shopping up a storm.
1. Freedom Trail Explore Boston’s history of with this walking tour that takes you around the key sites. An absolute must.
- Adams National Historic Site – Recounts the history of the Adams family, including the two family members who became presidents: John Adams and John Quincy Adams.
- Boston African-American National Historic Site – Home to the biggest structure owned by blacks before the Civil War.
- Boston Tea Party Ship and Museum – Recounts the historical event that transpired in Boston more than 200 years ago.
- Paul Revere House – Dedicated to the memory of Paul Revere, who made history by his famous ride to warn of the arrival of British troops.
- Freedom Trail – An approximately two-mile trail that runs along 16 historic sites.
Boston Art & Culture
- John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum – Dedicated to the memory of President John F Kennedy.
- Museum of Fine Arts – Famous for its collection of impressionist paintings and home to the biggest Monet collection outside of Paris.
- Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments – Has a collection of more than 20,000 artefacts from the 1400s until today.
- Harvard Museum of Natural History – Its most famous exhibit, “Glass Flowers”, has been a major attraction for almost a century.
- MIT Museum – A place that investigates ideas, inventions and innovation.
- Newbury Street – An area of eight blocks with boutiques, galleries and hair salons.
- Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market – Features some of the oldest markets in Boston, with many stores and restaurants.
- Copley Place and Prudential Centre – These two large shopping areas are connected by a walkway.
- Cambridge Galleria – This mall has a great mix of well-known shops, clothing stores, bookstores and more.
- Harvard Square – This historic area attracts many visitors who come to look around, shop, eat or sit and enjoy the atmosphere.
Gay & Lesbian Boston
- Boston Pride – This is officially the second-biggest city event held in June of each year.
- Jacques Cabaret – In the theatre area and draws in all walks of life.
- Fritz Lounge – A great place to hang out until the wee hours of the morning.
- Chaps – One of the oldest of its kind in Boston and a popular spot.
- Jillian’s Boston – Offers a bit of everything with drinks, food, entertainment and sports.
- Independence Day – Festivities include parades, outdoor concerts, fireworks and more.
- Feast of St Anthony – This big feast is held in Boston toward the end of August and includes games, food vendors, music and a parade.
- First Night – A public New Year’s Eve celebration with citywide events.
- Boston Harbour Islands State Park – You can participate in many activities, such as swimming, camping or fishing.
- Boston Common and Public Garden – The oldest park in the country and a wonderful place to visit during the warmer months.
- The oldest marathon in the world, the Boston Marathon, is held on the third Monday of April.
- In October every year, the Head of the Charles Regatta is held on the Charles River.
- The Boston Celtics basketball team plays in the TD Garden.
- Check out Fenway Park to catch a game with the Boston Red Sox baseball team.
- The Gillette Stadium is home to the New England Patriots football team.
Boston LocalBeacon Hill
One of Boston’s most historic districts as well as one of the most beautiful. It’s also played host to some VIP residents, including Louise May Alcott (who wrote Little Women), Carly Simon (who wrote You’re So Vain), Edward Kennedy and Uma Thurman, most of whom lived in or around Louisburg Square, so named for the Battle of Louisburg that took place there in 1745. Take a walk along the tree-lined streets and come face to face with the oldest buildings in the city, as well as a bevy of bars and restaurants.
Check out Massachusetts State House for another dose of history and then kick back in the stunning Public Garden, which spans across a few of the city’s neighbourhoods and is home to lush greens, colourful, sprouting flora, many bird species and swan boats that cruise the lake-like pond.Back Bay
Another high-end area that boasts some of the most exclusive real estate in Boston. Shop (or window-shop) at the expensive stores on Newbury St, Boston’s (classier) answer to Rodeo Drive. Once night falls, head over to Boylston St, where you’ll find bars and eateries as well as swankier stores at Copley Square and the Prudential Center. Right by Copley Square you’ll find The Old South Church, an Italian Gothic-style church that’s one of the most prominent and beautiful landmarks in the area.
Boston’s Chinatown is one of the biggest in the United States and hosts an assortment of great Asian restaurants, herbalists, markets and bargain shopping. Take a picture next to The Chinatown Gate and then get your caboose to Edward Wong Square, the hub of the area and the place where you’ll find all the previously mentioned goodies. If you want a little navigational guidance, join the Chinatown Walking Tour, which will take you to all the important sites and, most importantly, best restaurants and shops.
The heart of the city has a bit of a Euro-vibe going on, as well as being saturated in history. Start your day on a relaxing note in Boston Common, one of the oldest parks in the US, then move on to some shopping at Downtown Crossing and Fanueil Hall Marketplace, one of the most popular malls in the city. End your day on the Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile (4km) walk that educates visitors on Boston’s rich history and takes them to 16 of the most historic sites in the city, including the Granary Burying Ground.
Boston Eat & Drink
Union Oyster House Munch on rustic-style New England seafood at this cosy place. Don’t worry if you’re not an oyster fan – they have plenty of other underwater treats on the menu.
Napkin Burger This place has plenty of other options on the menu but its pride and joy is the selection of big, juicy burgers. Get into one.
Cheers/Bull and Finch Pub This place was the inspiration for the show ‘Cheers’, so it’s kind of a must.
Legal Seafood Relaxed atmosphere paired with some of the best seafood in town (in spite of the name, which suggests that Boston is full of ‘illegal’ seafood vendors hocking stolen lobsters.) Order the ‘Clam Chowdah’.
Saus Classic Americana meets traditional Belgian. Make sure you try the famous pomme frites (fries).
No. 9 Park You’ll find refined European fare and a very long wine list at this beautiful venue.
The Greatest Bar This place is comprised of four levels (including a club and sports bar), so you know there’s no sobriety behind its doors.
Gypsy Bar It’s won awards like ‘Sexiest Venue in Boston’ and ‘Best Pickup Bar’, so you’d best pull out your A game at this bar.
Top of the Hub What a view! The panorama alone is amazing, but with the addition of contemporary, award-winning cuisine and live jazz, this place is well worth the cash.
The Paramount This place isn’t fancy but it serves up delicious, hearty meals that have won a host of awards.
March’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade is huge. The parade is paired with a lot of drunken good times and it’s a fun time to be in Boston. The day is also recognised as ‘Evacuation Day’, celebrating the expulsion of British forces after the Siege of Boston. Slap on a green shirt and get your Guinness on for a double celebration (and reason to mock the English).
Come and cheer on (or join in) fitness freaks at the Boston Marathon in April. The marathon is the oldest annual marathon in the world and always reels in massive crowds (over half a million!).
April to October is the season of Major League Baseball and therefore, Sox season. Cheer/cry along with the ever-passionate Bostonians at Fenway Park.
Celebrate Independence Day on 4 July with the Boston Pops Concert and Fireworks Display. The Boston Pops orchestra performs a combo of classical and popular music and finishes things off with church bells, the firing of cannons and a spectacular fireworks display. It’s one of the most attended classical music events in the country (we’re talking thousands of people here), so make sure you arrive early.
October sees the unique Massachusetts Cranberry Harvest Festival. This is more county fair than festival, but it’s definitely worth a look. Not only will there be market stalls, food and entertainment, but you’ll also get to see/tour a cranberry bog – which is a lot more fun than it sounds.
When To Go
Boston weather changes every day, so it can be a little tough deciding on the best time to go. In general, the winter tends to be pretty brittle on the East Coast, with an average of just 2°C (36°F), so try to avoid visiting from December to March.
Spring is a great time to be in the city as the air is crisp and the city is starting to get into the celebratory swing of things. Average temperature is 16°C (61°F).
Autumn in New England is a sight to behold – leaves in every hue of red, yellow, gold and brown pattern the streets and trees, and the weather is cool (12°C – 54°F), but bright and sunny.
While Boston’s summer is a lot of fun, remember that many students go back home for their break, and there’s something to be said for the city when it’s humming with the vibrancy of university life. Still, if frat boys and sorority sisters make you squirm, summer’s your best bet, with an average temperature of 21°C (70°F).
What To Miss
Gang-infested areas like Roxbury, Mattapan and Dorchester (especially along Dorchester Ave) should be completely avoided, especially after dark. Chinatown can get a little sketchy after dark, too.
Don’t make fun of the accent, no matter how much you want to. Bostonians have a pretty heavy accent matched only by their heavy right hooks. You’ve been warned.
Avoid criticising the Sox at any cost. In fact, if you find yourself in a bar during a baseball game, it’s best to cheer and whoop along with the rest of them to avoid attracting suspicion that you may be a Yankee fan or, worse, not care about baseball.
Boston has a fine public transport system that includes buses, trains, boats and the T subway. Fares are reasonable and travel passes and ‘Charlie Cards’ are available.
Cabs in Boston are relatively inexpensive and reliable, and if you’re lucky and get a true Boston-Irish cabbie, expect to be spun a yarn or two.
Boston is a handsome and complete city, with a full spectrum of attractions for the whole family. Beantown is equally comfortable as an intellectual university town, blue-collar plebeian hub, financial center, cradle of culture and historical city.
The foremost urban center in the state of Massachusetts and the entire New England area is a popular destination. The city is incredibly suitable for tourism, with world class museums, parks, restaurants, sports teams and landmarks within easy access of each other. Today the former 17th century Puritan colony and site of infamous American Revolution activity welcomes over 16 million visitors a year.
One of the last, great original ballparks left in America, Fenway Park is a popular draw even when baseball is not in season. The legendary Green Monster in left field is a must when you come to the city.Emerald Necklace
The Emerald Necklace refers to a 1,100 acre span of public parks that line many attractions of note in the city. From the Boston Common to the Arnold Arboretum, Boston Public Garden to the Riverway, the Emerald Necklace comprises a vast array of green space that makes for a wonderful 11 km walk or bicycle ride.Newbury Street
The premier place in Beantown to shop until you drop, Newbury Street not only contains the best upmarket and bohemian boutiques but a beautiful assortment of brownstones.Faneuil Hall
Faneuil Hall is a historic landmark that has been both political demonstration site and marketplace since the 18th century. As such, it offers splendid architecture from the era and houses myriad shops and food stalls.Harvard
A tour of Harvard University campus is obligatory when in Boston. The premier academic institution provides a first class respite from the city, as well as some exceptional museums. The Fogg Art Museum offers a vast collection of Western art, while the Busch-Reisinger specializes in art from Central and Northern Europe. For notable works from Asia and the Muslim Diaspora, check out the Arthur M. Sackler Museum.Black Heritage Trail
The Black Heritage Trail is a tribute to the rich African-American legacy of Boston. The historic path snakes around the city and serves as a reminder of what Boston was like as a haven for former slaves who left the South in search of a better life.
Between the months of May and October, Boston is in total Red Sox mode. The predominant city team sells out every game at Fenway Park and the capacity crowds provide an electric atmosphere, especially if the archrival Yankees are in town.Sports Scene
Other than the Red Sox, the Boston Celtics of the NBA, Boston Bruins of the NHL and New England Patriots of the NFL provide Beantown residents with an embarrassment of championship hardware riches.Boston Marathon
The third Monday of April is Boston Marathon time. The most important road race in the world draws over 20,000 participants, with countless more on the sidelines.Boston Pops
The Boston Pops Orchestra is one of the best in North America and plays at the open-air Hatch Shell throughout the summer.
The city of Boston has a typical continental climate for New England, with four distinct seasons. Average winter snowfall endures from December to March.
- Winter (December to March) -6-7°C
- Spring (April to May) -1-13°C
- Summer (June to September) 14-28°C
- Fall (October to November) 3-17°C
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