So here it is (finally!) – my first travel blog post! This summer my beloved Mr. B and I decided to explore parts of USA that are new to us. Since none of us has been to Boston before and because we also happened to have a few of our great friends living there, our choice fell on Massachusetts without much hesitation. With this post I want to share our story and give you as much practical information based on my personal travel experience as possible. So without much further ado, let’s get to it!
Why should you include Boston on your USA travel bucketlist? As I discovered myself the reasons are endless: it’s cozy yet vibrant, offers plethora of historic sights and astounding architecture, has rich culinary world (think of seafood paradise!), boasts with great nightlife and entertainment, is a hub for sports lovers (any baseball fans out there?). Wondering what is a best way to plan your vacation when in Boston? Or, what specifically is worth seeing? I’ll cover it all for you, so keep on reading!
Where To Stay
No matter where you decide to stay, the key is to be near a Metro Station, or what Bostonians refer to as a T Station. This time around we were hosted by our dear friends who lived by Davis Square in Cambridge and we had no problem commuting every day to the sights we wanted to check out in the neighboring Boston. Boston is a very compact city and all the locations you will want to visit are in fact within a walking distance from each other. Whether you stay in Cambridge, Downtown Boston, Back Bay or Beacon Hill, as long as you are close to a T Station you will be able to get anywhere you need fast and effortlessly.
Little More on Driving and Public Transit
Public transit in Boston is convenient and relatively inexpensive, and can take you directly to almost everything. The T consists of several components: subway, bus, water shuttles, and commuter rail. The subway is composed of four color-coded rail lines, the Red Line, Orange Line, Green Line, and Blue Line. A 7-day pass will cost you $19, which compared to Washington DC is a great offer! As for driving, I’d discourage you from renting a car. Driving is to be avoided if possible, due to traffic congestion, poor parking options, the complexity of navigation, notoriously aggressive drivers, difficult-to-follow city rules and signage (wait till you get to that infamous Davis Square intersection on the photo above!), and police that will gladly write you a ticket for even the most minor traffic violations. T is your safe bet, and then that large Uber population is never to be forgotten if you are in a particular hurry an don’t mind spending extra cash.
Take with You
- Comfortable shoes, there is a lot to explore!
- A light sweater/cardigan, it can get chilly out of nowhere even in summer.
- SPF to keep those sun rays at bay.
Now on to a really interesting stuff. What specifically is there to see and do in Boston, you ask me? Let’s start with a must-see touristy stuff:
Freedom Trail – pick what you want to see on the Freedom Trail or if you are particularly curious like me, cover it all. It is a spread of 16 historic sites that begins at Boston Common, goes through downtown Boston, the North End and Charlestown, ending at the USS Constitution.
We decided to start from the North End with Copp’s Hill Burying Ground. It is Boston’s second oldest burying ground. It was first founded in 1659. Among thousands of artisans, craftspeople, and merchants that are buried on the Hill you will find graves of Robert Newman, best know for placing the signal lanterns in the steeple of the “Old North” Church on the eve of the Battle of Lexington and Concord; and Shem Drowne, the weathervane maker who crafted the grasshopper atop Faneuil Hall.
After that we followed the narrow streets down the hill to Old North Church, the oldest standing church building in Boston. It is the location from which the famous “One if by land, and two if by sea” signal is said to have been sent. This phrase is related to Paul Revere’s midnight ride, of April 18, 1775, which preceded the Battles of Lexington and Concord during the American Revolution.
After that we headed to Paul Revere’s House. I would highly encourage you to take a tour inside the house. It was very interesting to see how he and his family actually lived during that era. The house is very small so the tour won’t take too much of your time. The cost is $5.
By this time you might be getting hungry for some LUNCH and here is what you can do: follow the map to the Blackstone Block, a tiny block of redbrick houses that date back to the 18th and 19th centuries. Here you can opt for a steamy Clam Chowder at the historic Ye Olde Union Oyster House, which has been open to diners since 1826 and is amongst the oldest restaurants in the USA. Alternatively, you can head into Bell In Hand Tavern (next door) for a good meal and cold beer. The Tavern has been around since 1795 which makes it one of the oldest taverns in America.
Another option is to keep on walking to the vibrant and historic Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall. The former is a historic market complex inside which you will find dozens of small eateries offering a wide variety of food (chowder, lobster roll, Boston Cream Pie, etc.) in great prices. Walk around the area for some shopping or an entertainment provided by street performers.
Once you are full and have a need to walk off that heavy chowder you just consumed, head to the old State House. Both Mr. B and I were astounded by the juxtaposition of this small historic building in the midst of modern skyscrapers. The weirdest thing is that there is a T Station right underneath it! Not sure how I feel about that….
You can also visit the Old South Meeting House which is located very close to the sigh above. While at it, don’t forget to check out Irish Femine Memorial as well.
Also of interest is Old Corner Bookstore Building.
After that, you can walk up the street to King’s Chapel. Make sure you look to your left for Omni Parker House, the oldest hotel in USA. Last, but not least spot on the Freedom Trail is Park Street Church, which is conveniently located to a beautiful park Public Garden, the oldest Public Park in America, where you can kick off your shoes and take a lengthy rest on a soft green grass, or ride the famous Swan Boats. If you are lucky, you might also listen to a summer open-air concert that is often organized at the park. On the opposite side of the park you will find Cheers on Beacon Hill. The bar is best remembered internationally as the exterior of the bar seen in the hit NBC sitcom Cheers, which ran between 1982 and 1993.
There is one more stop on the Freedom Trail – USS constitution, a wooden-hulled, three-masted heavy frigate of the United States Navy which was first launched in 1797. Unfortunately, in my opinion it was the most disappointing of all the sights. While they allow you on-board the ship, you are restricted to the upper deck only. So we found ourselves wondering what it would look like on the lower deck inside the ship. Alas, we had to leave without satisfying our curiosity.
Boston Off The Beaten Track
Here is what impressed me most during our visit and I would highly recommend to anyone:
Whale Watching Tour. I don’t think I have to write a lot about how spectacular and out-of-this-world experience it was, but this is as close as you can get to the nature so if you have time you must go and see these massive yet adorable creatures up close. You will need to allocate 4 hours to this trip and the price is ~$50 per person. We were so lucky to bump into a male who was just lounging on the surface the entire time we were there, just splashing his flippers and tail onto the water, feeling playful and happy. I do not regret the second of it!
Mapparium at The Mary Baker Eddy Library. This is something you will not see anywhere else in the world. It is a three-story, stained-glass globe which provides three-dimensional perspective of the world of 1935. Mind-blowing and a must-see!
The Liberty Hotel, a luxury downtown hotel set in a renovated prison. The jail theme is maintained in the hotel interior design and decor. Make sure you visit their bar for a sip of refreshing cocktail. Seriously, one of the best Sangria I have ever had! Walk along (or rent a bike and cycle!) the Charles River Esplanade to take in the beauty of the city’s riverside.
Book a sunset cruise for an evening of a joyous ride with a gorgeous views of the city’s skyline along the Charles River.
Walk around the beautiful Beacon Hill, a historic neighborhood with its centuries-old narrow, gaslit streets and brick sidewalks. I couldn’t admire enough those colonial brick row houses with beautiful doors and decorative iron work. Don’t miss Acorn Street, often mentioned as the most frequently photographed street in the United States. It is a narrow lane paved with cobblestones that was home to coachmen employed by families in Mt. Vernon and Chestnut Street mansions.
Tour Cambridge. Although not technically in Boston, the neighboring city of Cambridge is functionally integrated with Boston by mass transit and effectively a part of the city. Cambridge, just across the Charles River, is home to Harvard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), local galleries, restaurants, and bars and is an essential addition to any visit to Boston. Walk around MIT and Harvard University grounds, time permitting visit their museums, hang out at lively Harvard Square, shop for books and university paraphernalia in The Harvard Coop. Really, there is tons to cover. Here is a great reference for The Harvard University written by a student that I found very useful.
Other Sightseeing Options
If you have more time on your hands I’d consider the following places to visit:
- If you are into beer take a tour of Sam Adams Brewery or Harpoon Brewery or both and enjoy some free sampling they offer at the end of the tours.
- For baseball fans – Fenway is your #1 destination. The home of the Boston Red Sox. The oldest baseball stadium still in use by the major leagues, this brick and stone structure is named after and located in the Fenway neighborhood of Boston, which itself takes its name from the fens, or marshes along the nearby Muddy River.
- If you want to see a bird’s view of Boston climb up Prudential Center Skywalk Observatory, the second tallest skyscraper in the city. Tickets cost $11 per person. Our local friends taught us a trick: instead of paying for the observatory, take in the city and skyline view while enjoying a cocktail from the Top of the Hub, restaurant and lounge located on the 52nd floor of the Prudential Tower. You get the same view, plus a drink!
- Afterwards, you can head to a vibrant Copley Square to people watch by the fountain or go shopping along Newbury Street.
- For museum lovers Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum might be a unique place to visit. This villa-turned-museum of an eccentric Bostonian features an eclectic collection of European objects and beautiful floral displays.
- For a relaxing getaway drive to Cape Cod and from there take a ferry to a gorgeous island Martha’s Vineyard.
As you can see there is lots to cover and explore, however keep in mind that Boston is very small and everything listed above took us a week to visit and we usually had plenty of time to relax at home in the afternoon and hang out with friends after they were done with work. I hope you find this post useful. Make sure to leave me a comment, I’d love to hear from you, whoever you are. :)
Until next time,