Boston Online home
Search:
Wicked Good Conference
  Talk about
  Boston
Wicked Good Guides

  Boston English

  Bizarro Boston

  Public restrooms

Boston Links
  Hundreds of
  Web sites

Tourism info

Boston for residents

Boston bookstore

Site map

How to advertise

    Boston FAQ
This page sponsored by:

Click for info from our sponsor

Here at Boston Online, there are certain questions that keep coming up. Here are the answers. Have other questions (or answers)? Post them in the Wicked Good Conference.

Q. I'm coming to Boston...
...for the first time. What should I see?
... and want to get some tourist brochures mailed to me
... and want to know what plays are showing and who's playing in the clubs while I'm there
... with a camper and want to find a campground.
... and want to take a Duck Tour.

Q. How do I get an entry form for the next Boston Marathon?
Q. How did Boston get its name?
Q. Why is Boston called Beantown?
Q. Was there really a killer molasses flood?
Q. What's the significance of 1918 in Boston history?
Q. Who was the first man to die in the Boston Massacre?
Q. What's the rhyme for deciphering the weather lights on the old Hancock Building?
Q. What was the name of Rex Trailer's horse?
Q. What's the name of that statue with the skinny horses on the Common?
Q. Where can I take English-language lessons in Boston?
Q. How do I get a resident parking permit?
Q. Who has the right of way in a rotary?
Q. I've just moved in. When is trash day? And what about recycling?


I'm visiting Boston for the first time. What should I see?

Exactly what depends on what your interests are, but what follows is a basic two-day Boston Experience. All of the locations listed are easily accessible by subway (known around here as the T). Taking the T to get around the city is an excellent idea - it's reliable, safe and inexpensive ($1 a trip, or you can get a visitor's pass for unlimited travel). Boston roads and drivers, in contrast, really are as bad as the natives will tell you. Keep your car in the hotel garage.

The Freedom Trail
Boston played a critical role in the Revolution, from the Boston Massacre to the Boston Tea Party to Paul Revere's ride [More history info] The Freedom Trail is a 2.5-mile red line in the sidewalk that links 18 historic sites downtown and in Charlestown.

A good place to start is the visitor center for the Boston National Historic Park, where you'll find brochures to help you understand what you're seeing (free guided tours are also available) - along with the all important restrooms. You can also get information on the numerous bus and "trolly" tours of the city - some of which let you get on and off as particular sites catch your fancy. The center is next to the Old State House and the State Street T stop on the Blue and Orange lines (the exits are actually in the Old State House); a couple of blocks from Quincy Market.

Faneuil Hall/Quincy Market
This is one of the "stops" on the Freedom Trail, but is today better known as a large "festival market." Faneuil (generally pronounced "Fan-yule," but some residents do call it "Fannel") Hall is the squarish building with the grasshopper weathervane on top.

You go to the marketplace because, well, that's just what you do as a tourist in Boston. To be sure, it's a fun place, with street comedians and musicians, a gazillion types of food to try and the like. But many of the unique local stores have been driven out by national chains - nothing against Warner Brothers, but is the point of a visit to Boston really just to buy more Bugs Bunny sweatshirts? You can get to the market from the State Street stop on the Blue and Orange lines; the Haymarket stop on the Green and Orange lines and the Government Center stop on the Green and Blue lines.

Harvard Square
The place in the Boston area for serious people watching - from skate punks to tweedy profs. More bookstores than you'll find in some states. The Chessmaster (play him for $2; if you win, you get your money back). Some unique shops, but, like Quincy Market, increasingly home to national chains. See if you can spot the offices of Dewey, Cheetham and Howe (really home to the Car Talk guys). Oh, yeah, and Harvard University (and no, you can't pahk ya cah in Harvihd Yahd). Get off at the Harvard Square stop on the Red Line.

Newbury Street
Boston's chic shopping street. Expensive boutiques at one end, funkier shops (such as Newbury Comics) at the other. Numerous outdoor cafes for watching the world go by. One block away from the Arlington Street and Copley and Hynes/ICA stops on the Green Line.

The North End
The most European neighborhood in the most European of American cities. Narrow streets, old men talking in Italian on benches, restaurants representing every type of Italian cooking and, during the summer, weekend festivals. A couple of blocks away from the Haymarket stop on the Green and Orange lines - walk toward (and then under) the hideous green elevated highway.

Beacon Hill
Elegant brownstones, gaslights, cobblestones, home of the Brahmins who once ran the town. If you must, "Cheers" is at 84 Beacon Street (be aware that the lines are long and the bar doesn't actually look like the one on TV). It's across from the Public Garden, where you can take a ride on a person-powered Swan Boat and pet the statues of Mrs. Mallard and her ducklings.

I want to visit Boston. How can I get some tourist brochures mailed to me?

Visit the state tourism office at www.mass-vacation.com or call them (in the U.S. or Canada) at (800) 227-6277.

I'm coming to Boston soon. Where can I find out what plays are showing and who's playing in the clubs?

TheaterMirror has listings for current and opening plays in Boston. Dick and Bert's Boston Music Home Page has a clubs listing that describes local clubs and provides links to their Web sites for booking info. The Boston Phoenix's Listings page lets you search by club or band. Unfortunately, it's only for the current week.

We have a camper and we want to see Boston. Where are the campgrounds?

Boston has many attractions, but campgrounds aren't among them. The nearest ones are 30 to 45 minutes away, in such places as Plymouth, Scituate, Wrentham and Gloucester.

Plymouth (south of the city on I-93) and Gloucester (north of the city at the end of Rte. 128) are tourist attractions in their own right; Scituate and Wrentham are mainly places to stay to get to someplace else (if you come in the fall and decide to stay in Wrenthm, check first to make sure the Patriots aren't playing at home; else you might get stuck in some horrendous traffic jams on Sunday). Here's a listing of Massachusetts campgrounds (as noted above, look for Plymouth, Scituate, Wrentham and Gloucester).

I want to take a Duck Tour.

You'll get all the info you need on these unusual tours (in which you're driven around the city for a tour and then into the Charles River for a cruise) at their Web site.

How do I get an entry form for the next Boston Marathon?

Try the Boston Athletic Association's Web site

How did Boston get its name?

It's named for Boston, England, which had a sizeable population of Puritans - the people who settled the place. "Boston" itself is a shortening of "St. Botolph's Town." Also, the original name for Boston was Tremontaine, in honor of the three hills that were the first thing you would see on the Shawmut Peninsula. Two of the hills no longer exist (they were flattened in part to supply fill for the Back Bay); the third is Beacon Hill, which itself was shortened. The original name survives in Tremont Street. You can read more about the original Boston on the U.K. version of Boston Online.

Why is Boston called Beantown?

Back in colonial days, a favorite Boston food was beans baked in molasses for several hours. Back then, Boston was sort of awash in molasses - it was part of the "triangular trade" in which slaves in the Caribbean grew sugar cane to be shipped to Boston to be made into rum to be sent to West Africa to buy more slaves to send to the West Indies. Even after the end of this practice, Boston continued as big rum producing city - the Great Molasses Flood of 1919 (which killed 21), ocurred when a tank holding molasses for rum production exploded.

Today, Boston baked beans are something of a rarity - there are no companies in the city making it and only a few restaurants serve it. If you want to try it yourself, here's a Boston baked beans recipe

Was there really a killer molasses flood?

Yes. On Jan. 21, 1919, 21 people died when a large molasses tank exploded in the North End. See The Wicked Good Guide to Bizarro Boston for more details.

What's the significance of 1918 in Boston history?

It was the last time the Red Sox won the World Series - before 2004, that is (Yankees suck). A year later, Sox owner Harry Frazee sold Babe Ruth's contract to the Damnyankees (so he could finance a play on Broadway, of all things). This started the Curse of the Bambino, under which the Sox supposedly could never again win the World Series. Hah!

Who was the first man to die in the Boston Massacre?

That would be Crispus Attucks, a freed slave living in Framingham. Read more about the Massacre.

What's the rhyme for deciphering the weather lights on the old Hancock Building?

Steady blue, clear view.
Flashing blue, clouds due.
Steady red, rain ahead.
Flashing red, snow instead.
(except during baseball season, when it means the Sox game has been called off).

What was the name of Rex Trailer's horse?

Goldrush (thanks to GF for the answer). For what it's worth, Pablo's donkey's name was Chiquita Marquita Lolita Pappita Rosita Juanita Lopez (from ''Rex Trailer: The Boomtown Years'' by Shirley Kawa-Jump; Covered Bridge Press).

What's the name of that statue with the skinny horses on the Common?

It's called "The Partisans" and was scultped by Andrzei Pitynski in 1979. It's a tribute to guerilla freedom fighters.

Q. Where can I take English-language lessons in Boston?

There are a number of schools and institutes that teach English in Boston, many with residential programs. Here's a list.

How do I get a resident parking permit?

By applying at the parking-permit window at City Hall.

They're free, but you'll need to supply proof of residency, which the city defines as a recent credit-card or utility bill (nope, they won't accept driver's licenses or car registrations!). Yes, this can present a problem if you've just moved in. Fortunately, the city issues temporary permits. You'll also have to pay off any outstanding Boston parking tickets. And you have to apply in person at City Hall.

Get more details or call (617) 635-4410. Note: A permit doesn't guarantee you a space. All it guarantees is that if you park on a street with resident-only signs, you won't get a ticket. It's a good idea to brush the snow off your windshield so that the sticker is showing; meter maids have been known to ticket cars if they can't see the permit; no, they won't wipe off the snow to check.

Who has the right of way in a rotary?

Legally, the person already in the rotary. Longtime residents will tell you that, in practical terms, the person in the oldest car with the most dents has the right of way.

I've just moved in. When is trash day? And what about recycling?

Trash day varies from neighborhood to neighborhood (and even street to street), so ask a neighbor. The city runs a fairly extensive curbside recycling program - you can recycle newspapers, aerosol cans, plastics of various kinds, glass bottles, cardboard, etc. (but not stuff like paint). Get more recycling details

Wicked New!

Keep up with what's new on Boston Online and around Boston - free! Enter your e-mail address:


Get more details first

Ask a Boston question | Contact Boston Online | The World
Copyright 1995-2001 Adam Gaffin.