Over the Canada Day long weekend, my cousins and I went to Boston. Boston has been on my travel bucket list for years, so when we decided it was time for the three of us to take a trip together, I was thrilled to learn that they were also interested in visiting Beantown. The seafood! The accents! The serendipitous booking of our trip during Fleet Week! Suffice it to say, we had a great time.
Boston is a great 3 to 4 day destination. The people are friendly, it’s easy to get around and it’s just as family friendly as it is fun for adults.
My Boston travel tips:
- Even if you’re only going for a few days, get the 7-day ‘T’ pass. The ‘T’ is the subway/metro in Boston. It’s easy to navigate, and a 7 day pass is less than US$20 and well worth it. A word of warning: wait times for the ‘T’ can be a little long at night (10+ minutes for a train), but Boston is pretty small and you can pretty much walk everywhere or get a cheap(ish) cab if necessary. I also took the ‘T’ to the airport and it was quick and easy, with shuttle buses running regularly between the station and terminals.
- I highly recommend the Boston Duck Tour. It’s fun and informative and a great way to see a lot of the city in a short amount of time. It also goes in the water which is kind of kicky. The tours sell out quickly, so make sure to book in advance online. Tickets are about US$36 and worth every penny! Website: http://www.bostonducktours.com/
- I really enjoyed the Museum of Fine Arts. It’s a perfect escape for a few hours if you’re walking around in the blazing summer heat (like we were). Bonus: one general adult admission ticket is good for two visits to the museum. Website: http://www.mfa.org/
- Definitely go to Cambridge and stroll the Harvard University grounds. Boston is so small that even going to a different city nearby takes only 20 minutes on the ‘T’.
- A must-see is Faneuil Hall Marketplace/Quincy Market. The complex as a whole is officially called Faneuil Hall but Quincy Market is a smaller structure within it and the area is commonly referred to as Quincy Market. It’s definitely touristy (avoid the ‘Cheers’ – I did as I’d heard bad things), but there are some decent bars (especially a tequila one that is easy to spot and is popular in the late evening), a fun and busy nightlife (particularly during fleet week!), and some good shopping too. Despite it being super touristy, some of the city’s most famous seafood restaurants are here and there are usually good specials to be found (I particularly enjoyed the $1 beer special one afternoon). It’s a fun area to walk around and great for taking photos.
- Arguably Boston’s most popular to-do is the Freedom Trail. A line of red paint or red bricks in the centre of the sidewalk marks the 2.5 mile Freedom Trail that takes you on a tour of 16 historical sites related to the Revolution. The trail leads you through a couple of neighbourhoods and is easy to do in a few hours. There are also guided tours that leave from the Boston National Historical Park Visitor Centre on State Street.
- When it comes to shopping, Newbury Street is a huge draw for locals and visitors alike. It’s walkable in one afternoon. I did it pretty much top to bottom in less than 3 hours. There are lots of chain clothing stores if that’s your thing, but make sure to pop into some of the basement or below street level stores as there are a ton of tony boutiques and hidden gems to be explored. If you want to take your shopping indoors to a more ‘mall’ type setting, definitely pop into the Prudential Center. I only went through it to escape the 40 degree heat and enjoy some air conditioned bliss, but was pleasantly surprised at the variety of stores. It reminded me quite a bit of the Venetian in Las Vegas.
I’m a big foodie so I did a lot of research on where to eat (a combination of Chowhound, Yelp and the Frommers Boston 2012 guide) before our trip and was not disappointed. Here are my top 3 restaurant picks:
- The Beehive. If you’re going to be in Boston on a Saturday or Sunday, make a brunch reservation here. They do a jazz brunch with live music and the food is amazing. I’ve heard great things about their dinner too. The Beehive is located at 541 Tremont Street in the South End between Hanson and Milford Streets (near the Boston Centre for the Arts). Website: http://www.beehiveboston.com/
- The Border Cafe in Cambridge is the best Tex-Mex I’ve ever had. It’s cheap and cheerful and they make amazing margaritas. Located at 32 Church Street (at Palmer Street), it’s also near the Harvard Coop (pronounced “Coop”). After your meal, head to the Coop to give your wallet a workout and stock up on Harvard merchandise. I scored the softest hoodie in Harvard maroon, a mug, a shot glass and some magnets. Website: http://www.bordercafe.com/
- Picco Restaurant is hands down the best pizza I’ve had in my life. It’s a nice but not expensive pizza/pasta place that’s also famous for its ice cream. Picco is located in the South End at 513 Tremont Street between Clarendon and Berkeley Streets near the Boston Centre for the arts. Website: http://www.piccorestaurant.com/
Exploring Boston’s neighbourhoods:
- The North End is referred to as Little Italy (but locals don’t call it that – ever). It’s great for pastries (Mike’s Pastry at 300 Hanover Street is uber famous for their cannoli’s – it’s always packed but the line moves fast) and Italian food. There are lots of pretty churches and cute streets to explore.
- I stayed in the Back Bay neighbourhood which is great for shopping and restaurants. If you’re looking for a hotel I recommend the Midtown Hotel. Rooms are large, there’s an outdoor pool, parking is the cheapest amongst Boston hotels, and it’s a 2 minute walk to the ‘T’ line that goes everywhere good. Website: http://www.midtownhotel.com/
- The South End is also a popular neighbourhood. It’s a diverse neighbourhood with beautiful Victorian homes.
- You must must must go to Cambridge. Explore the Harvard grounds (so pretty) and enjoy the great shopping and food that Cambridge has to offer. Hop on the `T`and you can be there in less than 20 minutes.