I have been dying to share my trip to Boston with you! It is one of my most favorite American cities and now is the best time for me to reminisce as it was around this time three years ago when I was there.
This trip took place October 16-19, 2010.
Lodging: Boston Hostel
Arrived at Logan Airport via Sea-Tac Airport at 6:30AM.
Traveled to hostel via subway (the T) to drop off bags.
Took the T into Boston Commons.
Did the Freedom Trail all day.
Self-guided audio tour of Boston Harbor in the morning.
Afternoon trip to Cambridge.
Guided tour of Harvard University.
Took the T back to Boston; explored Charles St and Cheers Bar in the evening.
Window shopped in Back Bay.
Guided tour of Fenway Park
Made an architectural visit of Boston Museum of Fine Arts.
Guided tour of Boston Library
Explored Public Gardens and Beacon Hill.
Checked out of hostel.
Boarded Bolt Bus at 10:30 AM to next destination (Philadelphia, if you must know.)
The Freedom Trail
The very first thing I did when I arrived in Boston was The Freedom Trail. It is a self-guided tour of Boston’s historically significant sites following a red brick trail. The tourist office told me the tour usually takes the average person four hours to complete it, but I am not the average person! For me, the Freedom Trail turned into an EIGHT hour adventure! Partly due to my careless lack of attention, I veered off the beaten path multiple times.
After much meandering and following wherever my curiosity led me, I finally finished off the trail at Bunker Hill. The views would have been more fantastic if I weren’t looking through small panes of scratched up plexiglas. At the last step coming down, my legs began to wobble and feel like jelly. True signs of the fact that I did waaaaay too much walking in one day.
Boston Harbor and HarborWalk
The day that I visited Boston Harbor was absolutely gorgeous! Blue skies and warm temperature accompanied me in my outing. I couldn’t be anything but blissfully happy to explore the water’s edge. You can see one of the best views of Boston’s skyline from the Harbor.
I downloaded an audio guide onto my iPod Touch for the tour. It was actually really well done. There was so much information about all points of the Harbor and beyond, filled with interviews and sound effects. Plus, it’s free! You can find the same audio guide here.
Did you know that Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox, offers guided tours? I don’t normally care much for stadiums, but my husband LOOOOOOVES them! I only pay attention to the stadiums with major remarkable architecture or history, and Fenway Park fit the bill! The attractive points for me were:
- It’s the first baseball stadium in the U.S.
- Babe Ruth played here.
- And the architecture, of course.
Architecture or not, it wouldn’t have been at all appealing without the history. The guide told some great stories! It was where I first learned about the Green Monster – yes, it’s true, I’d never heard of it before. And those wood seats in the bottom right of the photo collage above, original to the stadium, are SUPER comfortable! I’m really glad I got to see the inside of Fenway. I highly recommend it!
Harvard University is located in Cambridge, which is a suburb of Boston. It is easily accessed by the T (the name for Boston’s subway). There are many walking tours available for Harvard, but I chose the Hahvahd Tour, a tour founded and run by the students of Harvard. I was in hopes that this tour would remind me of those free walking tours available in Europe, and it kind of did!
The campus was amazing. There is a continuity to all the architecture, at least on the facade. It was really fascinating to see this prestigious university first hand, where it has produced some of the brightest minds. (George W. Bush excluded.)
Because of its close vicinity to Boston, Harvard can easily be done on an afternoon trip, or a whole day trip, if you are keen to explore Harvard Square and Cambridge. It’s actually worth the time to wander outside the world of Harvard to walk along the river or take in some scenery.
MIT is also located in a suburb of Boston. I didn’t visit it on this trip, but it might be nice to do it another time.
Architecture and Design
Architecturally, this town resembles the best of London and New York. There’s brick EVERYWHERE! It makes you want to think that every brick building has some historical value. Couldn’t that Ramada be an old headquarter for Ben Franklin? It’s disappointing to find out it’s not.
New England Aquarium
I didn’t go inside the Aquarium. After having visited SeaWorld, you kinda get bored of looking at marine life through glass. Except sea otters. I can never get tired of watching sea otters.
Isn’t this structure simply marvelous? I always find architecture with very angular elements, especially in the case of the front facade here, to be very violent and menacing, but this one was just appealing to me. It may have been the offset of the brushed metal panels on the side of the building, laid out to look like scales of a fish. I do appreciate design with a really strong concept.
The New England Holocaust Memorial
I came upon this memorial quite accidentally. It was one of my beaten path moments from The Freedom Trail. Imagine if I had not ventured off the Trail! I never would have seen this intriguing design! This is why it’s always good to allow a bit of time for exploration and not be confined by schedules, people! When you visit this structure, do not forget to look up AND look down.
This bit of public art was located just adjacent to the Aquarium on the HarborWalk. I forget the cool factor of this installation, but I think it has to do with standing on one of the platforms and being able to talk to someone on the diagonal platform without any effort at all. Is there anyone who can verify this for me?
Boston Public Library
Yet another part of Boston where you can take a tour! This one is an Art and Architecture Tour and it’s free (both are perfect for me!), so you can’t miss it.
Who cares about some old, dusty library, right? I do, I do!! I love, love, love libraries. I just love gliding my fingertips along the gently worn spines and listening to the muffled voices of its visitors. I love the sounds of pencils scratching the surfaces of papers and pages flipping and wooden chair legs rubbing on hardwood floors. I’d visit all the libraries of the world if all of them offered free guided tours.
This particular tour was only supposed to be an hour long, but our tour guide was so thorough that it extended into 1.5 hours long! The guide showed us every little detail in the library. I got to see some amazing things in the library that I would’ve been too shy to venture into otherwise.
Museum of Fine Arts Boston
I didn’t actually go inside the MFA. I went there with the intention of spending a couple of hours looking at beautiful art in between tours, but then I found out the entry fee was $20 (now it’s $25). The small blurb of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism was tempting, but I decided I couldn’t shell out $20 for only two or three hours, so I settled on walking the perimeter of the museum, which is free and sometimes rewarding with outdoor sculptural art. There were only a few sculptures here.
It is unbelievable how many beautiful neighborhoods there are in Boston. They all made me curious to know what sort of interiors lurked behind those glossy black doors. Here are just a few that I encountered:
Beacon Hill and Charles Street
Charles Street can be found in Beacon Hill. There were quite a few charming little shops on Charles St that I didn’t get the chance to fully explore because I arrived just short of closing time. Nonetheless the atmosphere and beauty of the neighborhood absolutely lived up to its reputation. At the end of Charles St, I found the original Cheers bar (more on that later in this post).
The highlight of this area is Acorn St, which I only found while perusing postcards at a tourist shop. It’s a tiny, tiny cobblestoned lane, but don’t miss it.
North End and Haymarket
The North End and weekly Haymarket did a good job at diverting my attention while traveling The Freedom Trail. Firstly, I love markets so they can always persuade me to get off the path. Secondly, the North End is too too adorable to not explore! At first, I thought this was an Italian neighborhood as I noticed all the pasta restaurants on Hanover. This area is home to Mike’s Pastry, which I will also share with you later in this post – stay tuned!
Prince Street yielded some delightful boutiques. Take time to pop in all the shops for some retail therapy or design inspiration. It’s absolutely worth it!
I didn’t spend a lot of time in Charlestown. I only walked through it on The Freedom Trail to get to Bunker Hill, but what I saw I loved. It is just as charming as North End with patina bays on exterior facades.
Back Bay and Newbury Street
To be quite honest, I only knew about Back Bay because my hostel was located just a stone’s throw from there. Newbury Street is the more interesting thoroughfare between that and Boylston, just because Boylston is where all the buses run and it’s quite literally dotted with chain stores and fast food stops.
Newbury has a few chain shops (i.e Urban Outfitters, H&M), as well as boutiques, but they’re enclosed behind cool brownstone buildings. This is a long street, spanning two T stops. Just something to be mentally prepared for if you plan to go shopping here.
Other Tourist Sites
The Public Garden, not to be confused with the Boston Common, which is adjacent, is worth the stop just to check out the duck statues. You’ll see them on all the postcards, but they’re so cute! I love that people dress them up occasionally.
Quite possibly Boston’s most well-known tourist site of all tourist sites: Cheers, as in “where everybody knows your name.”
There are two locations, and yes, I went to both of them. The first one I went to was at Faneuil Hall, which was on The Freedom Trail, so you see, I couldn’t not stop in! The second one was in Beacon Hill, just at the end of Charles Street and across the way from the Public Garden. I really wanted to see the location in Beacon Hill because the exterior was used for the TV show.
If you know the popular 80’s sitcom, it’s worth the stop just to poke around. And it won’t cost you anything (if you don’t eat or drink or buy a souvenir there).
I can never leave a review of Boston without mentioning Mike’s Pastry. I would’ve missed it entirely if I hadn’t made a wrong turn on The Freedom Trail, which put me here instead of at Paul Revere’s House. What a lucky turn of events! (Or should I say, wrong turn of events? har har har)
Located in the North End, it was the bustle of people inside that caught my eye. Usually, I shy away from exploring shops when I know I’m on a tight budget, but this time I said, “It’s not gonna hurt to look.” So in I went. There were only about 6-7 bistro tables at the front window, but all the seats were occupied. Inside I saw the largest cannoli and cream puffs and cookie sandwiches known to man. And boy did they all look mm-mm good! The counter was crowded with customers. I had to get in the action. It’d been a long time since I sunk my teeth into a cannoli. A wiser decision I had never made.
Word to the wise: don’t be all West Coast, like I was, and just stand there expecting the staff would serve whoever was next in line. A) There is no line, B) Other people don’t give a crap. You’ll need to speak up and loud to be heard, lest you be stuck there all day.
Hope you enjoyed my visit to Boston! If you’ve ever been, I would love to hear what you enjoyed most and any suggestions where I should visit next time! I’m itching to go back, if only for Mike’s cannoli alone!
Read more of my travels here!
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