What to see
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.
The trail connects points of historical significance to the history of blacks in Boston, from the African Meeting House (home of the oldest still existing black church in America) to the St. Gaudens frieze commemorating the 54th Massachusetts - the first all-black regiment to fight for the Union in the Civil War.More... "Black Heritage Trail"
Small when compared to Chinatowns in New York and San Francisco, and threatened by yuppification, Boston's Chinatown still offers a break from the ordinary.More... "Chinatown"
The Ether Dome at Massachusetts General Hospital is one of Boston's more unusual destinations. Located at one of the world's most renowned hospitals, the Ether Dome is where Thomas W. G. Morton administered ether while Dr. John Collins Warren cut a tumor out of the neck of patient Gilbert Abbott on October 16, 1846.More... "Ether Dome"
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. At night, it's one of Boston's key locations for serious drinking - pubs and bars abound (it's also home to the Comedy Connection, Boston's largest comedy venue). But many of the unique local stores have been driven out by national chains.
Less than a block away from Quincy Market is Haymarket. This unique outdoor food market, open every Friday and Saturday from roughly dawn to dusk, is as much street theater as a place to get fresh vegetables, fruit and fish.
Boston played a critical role in the Revolution, from the Boston Massacre to the Boston Tea Party to Paul Revere's ride [More Boston history info]. The Freedom Trail is a 2.5-mile red line in the sidewalk that links 18 historic sites downtown and in Charlestown, from Revolutionary graveyards and Old Ironsides to the shops of Quincy Market, the State Houses (both old and new) and Boston Common.
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 (the Park Service also has a desk in the Faneuil Hall building).
- Freedom Trail Foundation - lists all the attractions and offers historical background and photos.
Boston started as a seaport. Although the city turned its back on the harbor in the 20th century, the past decade or so has seen renewed interest in the harbor - as evidenced by all the new condos and office buildings going up on former wharves (as well as the HarborWalk of public walkways along the water).
Harbor cruises offer a way to learn more about Boston's maritime history, as well as a way to cool off on a hot summer day. There are numerous cruises on everything from modern ships to sailing craft. Most leave from either Long Wharf or Rowes Wharf, both a short walk from Quincy Market. Many also offer dinner cruises; there are even some Sunday-brunch and comedy cruises.
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.
Museums - Boston has more museums than you can shake a stick at, from art (several) to the Children's Museum.
Guidebooks - Sure, online guides are great, but you can't really lug 'em around Beacon Hill...
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
it (in the U.S. or Canada) at (800) 227-6277.
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).
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
Boston's chic, tree-lined shopping street, lined with expensive boutiques and galleries (although the Massachusetts Avenue end gets a little funkier, with shops such as (such as Newbury Comics). There are 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.
One block over is Boylston Street, which also has a lot of stores and restaurants. And a couple blocks over from that is Copley Place, which is the place to go if you want to pretend you're in a Dallas mall while in Boston - it's a large indoor mall anchored by Neimann-Marcus (and is connected by human hamster tubes to the Prudential Center, anchored by Lord & Taylor and Saks Fifth Avenue).
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. The North End is also steeped in Revolutionary history (think Paul Revere and "one if by land, two if by sea"). A couple of blocks away from the Haymarket stop on the Green and Orange lines - just ask anybody to point you toward the North End.More... "North End"