- For other places with the same name, see Boston (disambiguation).
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A city of history and tradition, Boston offers a proud legacy of culture, education, and numerous sporting championships. Boston's independent spirit has been displayed to the world ever since colonists angry over a British tax on their beloved tea dumped shiploads of it into the harbor in protest.
No American city has made more of an effort to preserve its history, and you'll find buildings that pre-date the republic dotted throughout the region. But Boston isn't a city to dwell on the past: it has renovated and revitalized, in the process shedding its once deservedly parochial reputation. And its culture is refreshed every fall by an influx of freshmen pouring into its constellation of powerful universities, which attract great minds from around the globe.
Visiting will reveal a distinct mix of puritanical ideals and liberal politics — the former responsible for the first public school in the Americas, the latter spurring Massachusetts to become the first U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriage. Don't believe everything you've heard about the gruff demeanor of locals. Bostonians are often friendlier than the unacquainted might expect... just don't call it "Beantown" to their face.
New England's love of towns (Massachusetts alone has 351) and town governance has created hundreds of small communities that are closer knit than is common elsewhere in the United States. Even a large city like Boston found it difficult to annex surrounding areas as it grew. When independent towns were absorbed, they retained their unique culture, which modern residents remain fiercely proud of today. What does this mean for the traveller? You'll find most every district goes by more than one name, with a full count exceeding 110 distinct squares, circles, and points. Don't worry about remembering all the names, just remember Boston is a very compact city. When you're ready to move on, the next block is bound to engage.
|Central (Downtown, North End, West End, Chinatown, Bay Village)
The center of the city in so many ways, Downtown Boston is where it all begins. Perennial tourist favorites Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market are here, while most Freedom Trail sights are found nearby.
|Back Bay-Beacon Hill
Classic Federalist architecture, The State House, America's oldest city park, and one of its most photographed streets are waiting. Later, eat at some of the city's finest restaurants to recharge your tired legs.
Perhaps most recognized as the home of Fenway Park and the Boston Red Sox; Fenway also boasts many top cultural institutions, including the Museum of Fine Arts.
A high-end shopping, dining and art scene has coalesced around the South End and SoWa Market. Its renowned Victorian brownstone buildings and gas-lit cobblestone streets can charm at any time of year.
Don't let the movies fool you, South Boston is a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood still holding on to its Irish Catholic working class roots. The changing times are clearest in the Seaport district, home to the Institute of Contemporary Art.
Found between the Charles and Mystic rivers, Charlestown is home to significant landmarks such as the U.S.S. Constitution and the Bunker Hill Monument. The oldest neighborhood in Boston, Charlestown also has its oldest tavern.
Originally a center of shipbuilding, East Boston has always been a neighborhood of immigrants. Today its population is made up largely of Italian-Americans and immigrants from Central and South America and Southeast Asia. If you arrive by air, this is the first neighborhood you'll visit.
Ever-changing Allston is best known for its student population, and the shops and restaurants that cater to them. The landscape becomes more residential as you move west into Brighton.
|Jamaica Plain-Mission Hill
Jamaica Plain is home to the Arnold Arboretum and the Sam Adams Brewery, while Mission Hill includes a healthy collection of students and medical professionals from the many nearby colleges and hospitals.
Dorchester, Boston's largest neighborhood, is also one of its most diverse. Long-time residents mingle with newer immigrants from Ireland, Vietnam, and Cape Verde. A big draw is the powerful JFK Presidential Library and Museum. While the oldest house in the city, the James Blake House can also be found here.
Once a farming community, Roxbury is the heart of Black culture in Boston. It's also home to the historic Shirley Eustis House, built by a British royal colonial governor. Franklin Park is here as well, considered the "crown jewel" of Frederick Law Olmsted's Emerald Necklace park system.
|Outer Neighborhoods (Roslindale, Mattapan, West Roxbury, Hyde Park)
Once considered a "garden suburb" of Boston, today's residents of Roslindale are still attracted to the neighborhood's natural beauty. Mattapan's population is largely made up of African Americans and immigrants from the Caribbean. West Roxbury, located in Boston's southwest corner, is known for its civic activism and youth programming. As Boston's southernmost neighborhood, Hyde Park offers the intangibles of city life as well as the open space more commonly associated with the suburbs.
A quick overview of costs
All cities on the East Coast are pricey and Boston is no different. You'll find most costs to be on the higher side, but within expectations for a city. This does not apply to hotel rooms however, see the sleep section for more.
Many sights visitors expect to see are not actually within the city limits. Politically distinct from Boston, these three cities are bound together by their shared borders, transit options, and cultural values. The mayors meet often to plan and discuss long-term developments, and citizens travel between them daily. Casual visitors may not realize they are leaving Boston at all.
- Cambridge: "The People's Republic of Cambridge" is most famous for the prestigious Harvard University and MIT. Many stunning museums, architecture, and events belonging to these schools are well worth a visit. Cambridge also has The Longfellow House among other colonial sites.
- Somerville: Though this is a mostly residential neighborhood, you may find yourself here nonetheless exploring the many restaurants and quirky shops in Davis Square. In the warmer months, independent musicians and artists hold festivals, overtaking Union Square and beyond.
- Brookline: The greenest neighborhood by far, Brookline is home to Frederick Law Olmsted's Fairsted, the first landscape design office. The Larz Anderson Park and Auto Museum is also nearby. Additionally many shopping and dining options can be found in Coolidge Corner and Washington Square.
The first people to arrive here discovered an archipelago of islands and isthmuses, filled with fruits of the land and sea. They called the land Shawmut, and would use fishweirs and tidal flows to catch their dinners. Calling themselves Massachusett, meaning "people of the great hills" they chased the seasons, heading inland to hunker down in winter hunting camps, while fishing and foraging by the coast during summer. These eponymous great hills are today known as the Blue Hills, located in nearby Milton.
The first European immigrant to appear was William Blaxton, an English priest who began living alone atop Beacon Hill in 1629. The following year the flagship Arbella and her fleet sailed from England, bringing hundreds of Puritan families across the Atlantic. Designated governor by the Massachusetts Bay Colony, John Winthrop quickly acquired Blaxton's land. He dubbed the area Boston after his boyhood home. Winthrop then delivered a powerful speech to his fellow settlers—one of the first examples of American Exceptionalism—proclaiming Boston to be "as a city upon a hill". This sermon would inspire those seeking to live life as "a model of Christian charity", and over the next decade close to 10,000 additional Puritans would reach the colony.
Differing somewhat from the English, the new Puritan arrivals to Boston placed an extreme value on literacy. Legislation was drafted during town meetings, requiring residents to be able to read and understand the Bible and the laws of the land. Boston Latin School and Harvard College were established early on as means to that end. This early commitment to education and system of small town governance are values that continue to endure throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts today.
While forward thinking in some ways, Puritans were exceedingly intolerant in other aspects of life. Anne Hutchinson, a charismatic Puritan, was banished and excommunicated in 1637 for her strong anti-establishment religious convictions. Mary Dyer was less fortunate, and in 1660 was hanged in Boston Common for the "crime" of being a Quaker. And yes, Christmas celebrations really were banned in Boston from 1659-1681 for being "satanical" and "sacrilegious".
Over the following 100 years, the New England colonists would war with remaining native Indian tribes, suffer deadly bouts of smallpox, and choose to rebuild after devastating fires and earthquakes. When in 1691 the colony expanded into the Province of Massachusetts Bay, Boston remained the capital of the region. Its position as the closest American city to England coupled with a high birth rate ushered in a boom time for the population and the economy.
In direct competition with New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, Boston spent years improving its infrastructure. Investing in wharves, storage, and lighthouses helped Boston to become one of the world's wealthiest port cities. The trade in slaves, rum, salted cod, and tobacco were particularly important over the years. When, in the mid 1760s, taxes were levied on items Bostonians held most dear, the colonists' shared experiences and common religious background fostered a resistance unexpected to the far-off British Parliament.
Resistance came to a boiling point on March 5, 1770, when Redcoats out on patrol shot Crispus Attucks dead on the steps of the Old State House. An illustration by Paul Revere of what would become known as The Boston Massacre called American colonists up and down the coast to throw off the yoke of colonial oppression. On the night of April 18, 1775, Revere rode out of Boston famously yelling: "The British are coming, the British are coming!", helping to raise the alarm of British attack throughout the countryside. After victories at Lexington and Concord, General George Washington arrived on the scene to help the Continental Army break the siege of Boston. The British were finally expelled in 1776, when after an overnight flurry of activity, cannons were fortified atop a hill and trained on the Crown's ships. For these pivotal events in American history Boston is often referred to as The Cradle of Liberty.
Now unencumbered by a foreign power and boasting a successful economy, Boston grew quickly, becoming a city in 1822. An elite class of community leaders developed, calling themselves Boston Brahmins. Families with the names Delano, Revere, and Adams would prize the arts; and became widely known for their rarefied literary culture and lavish patronage. Other contemporary Bostonians, no less privileged but with an alternative outlook on life, called themselves Transcendentalists. They belived in the inherent goodness of people and nature.
These groups would work together with Abolitionists to shape American liberal thought throughout the century. Calling Boston "The Athens of America", they helped drive unprecedented scientific, educational and social change that would soon sweep the country. Bostonians still think of the city as Brahmin Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. once put it, "The Hub of the Universe". This half-serious term is all you need to know to understand Boston's complicated self-image.
One of the most visible historical events to shape the city of Boston was the Irish potato famine during the late 1840s. A massive number of Irish escaped their homeland and found quarters in a new city. "The Boston Irish" would go on to reshape the city, building Catholic Boston College and giving birth to a powerful political dynasty, the Kennedys. Even the local basketball team is named "The Celtics". Today, imagining the city of Boston without the Irish is an impossible task.
Immigrants kept on arriving throughout the 1800s, not only from Ireland, but from Italy, eastern Europe, and beyond. The city needed space to put them all, so it began annexing nearby towns and undertaking land reclamation projects. Boston would eventually grow to become over 40 times its original size! Boston's economy would continue to expand along with its landmass, but not as quickly, and profits would not be distributed evenly.
By the close of World War II, Boston was on the decline. Poorly though out urban renewal policies demolished hundreds of acres of ethnic neighborhoods. Factories were closing, no large buildings were under construction, and anti-Jewish and anti-black violence was on the rise. A court order forced Boston Public Schools to integrate, flaring racial tensions throughout the city. White flight was in full swing, as wealthier white Bostonians fled the city. A widely circulated photograph, The Soiling of Old Glory, depicted a young white student thrusting a flagpole at a restrained black man, reinforcing Boston's reputation for discrimination. But there were seeds of hope planted during the 1970s as well.
As the market began to open up in the 1970s, Boston did well in the mutual fund and financial industries. The healthcare sector grew, and many hospitals in Boston began to lead the nation in medical innovation and patient care. Higher education also became more expensive, and the best and brightest were attracted to Boston's powerful universities. Graduates from MIT in particular founded many profitable high-tech and bio-tech companies.
After the Big Dig was completed in 2007, Boston began to step back into the spotlight on the national stage. Racial tensions have eased dramatically, and city streets once again echo with the sounds of activity and construction not seen for decades. Other cities look to Boston for how they handle health care, police violence, and civil rights issues. In the new millennium Boston is once again becoming a "hub" of intellectual, technological, and political thought.
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Almost any time of the year is a good time to visit Boston. The springtime offers a window into renewal. Especially during May, blooms and blossoms are out and colors are at their brightest. Summer is summer of course, and June to September is the height of the tourist season. Every corner of the city takes advantage of the warm weather and is packed with festivals and special events. During fall, Mother Nature is on full display. She puts on such a show during October and November, many visitors choose this time to holiday over all others. If you are a snow lover, winter could be the season for you. Most residents, however, dread the cold temps and scant daylight hours found from December through March, sometimes extending into April.
Although far north for an American city, the nearby Atlantic Ocean offers a moderating effect. Winters are slow to take hold, while conversely, spring is slow to take root. One thing about the North Atlantic, it never really gets warm. Never. No matter how hot it is at the beach, you can bet that ocean water will be cold! The Atlantic also has the unlikely potential to create a Nor'easter, kind of a less powerful hurricane. Nor'easter's generally happen from September to April, when the cold Arctic air meets with warmer air over the Atlantic. Boston might get anywhere from 0-2 of these events a year, and is well prepared for them. So just hunker down for the day while the windy deluge passes by.
When the snow comes, and it will come, it alters the rhythm of life in the city. Sidewalks become slippery and narrow. The sun sets at 4PM. The mercury drops below freezing and can stay there for months. It can dip even lower to 0°F (-18°C) for weeks at a time. For a few days each winter, however, warm Caribbean air pushes up into the Bay State, bringing with it a much welcomed respite from the cold. This helps keep the snow from piling up, so seeing more than a foot of accumulation is rare. The 2014-15 winter was an incredible exception, when over 110 in (2,800 mm) of snow fell on Boston that year. The city dumped it in piles as high as 75 ft (23 m), and had to wait until July 14th for the last of it to finally melt away. Boston is not equipped to handle snowfall to that degree, so expect similar extensive transit disruptions if that amount drops again.
- Good Will Hunting (Gus Van Sant, 1996). If you're only watching one movie about Boston, make it this one. While the tale of Romeo & Juliet has been told many times, this telling of star crossed "blue collar" and "ivory tower" lovers could only happen in Boston. Powerful Academy Award winning performances and quotable dialogue make this a standout film. Good Will Hunting was a breakout success for Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, and you'll hear some great accents and see the city as it was before the current building boom.
- The Departed (Martin Scorsese, 2006). Loosely based on the exploits of Irish mobster Whitey Bulger and corrupt FBI agent John Connolly. This star studded tale of murder and deception won four Oscars including best picture. For a more biographical take on the mobster, don't miss Black Mass directed by Scott Cooper in 2015.
- Glory (Edward Zwick, 1989). Among other sources, Glory is based on the personal letters of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, commander of the first all-black regiment during the Civil War. OK, so there's a bit of a White savior thing going on, and it's not set in Boston; but still it's a great film and accurately depicts the feelings many Bostonians had about slavery during this time.
- Mystic River (Clint Eastwood, 2003). This critically acclaimed film deals with the horrific fallout of child abuse, rampant in Boston during the 1970's. Exploring where people's loyalties really lie, and asking how far you would go to protect what is yours. Principal photography took place on location in Boston.
- Ted (Seth MacFarlane, 2012). On the lighter side, this hilarious buddy comedy features all the toilet humor and Boston accents you can shake a stick at. Fenway Park of course gets involved somehow, along with a few original (off-color) songs.
- Spotlight (Tom McCarthy, 2015). Following The Boston Globe's "Spotlight" team, this film pursues the investigation into cases of widespread and systemic child sex abuse in the Boston area by numerous Roman Catholic priests. Based on a series of stories that earned The Globe a Pulitzer Prize in 2003.
- Patriots Day (Peter Berg, 2016). Shot in Boston and Quincy, Patriot's Day deals with the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the subsequent terrorist manhunt. While the film was well received, it was criticized in Boston for being made too soon and glamorizing the events it was based upon.
Often, Boston isn't at the center of a novel, but repeatedly makes memorable cameo appearances. Perhaps owing to the academic magnet effect that attracts bright minds here for a few short years. See David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest or Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury for examples. Another masterwork, The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, is also set in Boston.
- The Scarlet Letter (Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1850). Exploring themes of legalism, sin, and guilt; the book tells the tale of Hester Prynne, who conceives a daughter through an affair and struggles to create a new life in 17th century Boston.
- The Bell Jar (Sylvia Plath, 1963). Esther Greenwood a young woman from the suburbs of Boston experiences a series of setbacks and struggles with depression as she struggles to choose between doing what's expected or what is in her heart. Semi-autobiographical.
- Common Ground (J. Anthony Lukas, 1985). Winning the Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction, this novel follows the lives of three families as they experience race relations in Boston during the 1960s and 70s. It briefly recounts how each family came to live in their neighborhood before narrowing in on racial and class conflicts.
- The Rascal King (Jack Beatty, 2000). Hero or hooligan? Boston mayor James Michael Curley (1874-1958) could certainly be either. During his four terms he built schools, playgrounds and beaches; even while imprisoned under a fraud conviction.
- Dark Tide (Stephen Puleo, 2003). In this book Puelo seeks to uncover the structural reasons for the occurrence of the great Boston molasses flood of 1919. See this infobox for more.
- A Short History of Boston (Robert Allison, 2004). The chair of Suffolk University’s history department brings Boston's history alive in 128 pages. Covering everything from the Puritan theocracy to the Big Dig and beyond.
- Another Bullshit Night in Suck City (Nick Flynn, 2004). A memoir by playwright and poet Nick Flynn, describing his reunion with his estranged father, Jonathan, an alcoholic resident of the homeless shelter where Nick was a social worker in the late 1980s.
- The Given Day (Dennis Lehane, 2008). A historical novel set in Boston during the turn of the last century. One of the story's main characters is Aiden "Danny" Coughlin, an ethnic Irish Boston Police patrolman. Lehane is also the author of other Boston based books frequently turned into films. You may have heard of Shutter Island, Gone, Baby, Gone, Mystic River, and many others.
- The Gardner Heist (Ulrich Boser, 2009). On the night of March 18, 1990 two men committed the largest art theft in history. A dozen masterpieces worth over $500 million went missing, and remain at large today. See this infobox for more.
Smoking is not permitted in any restaurant or bar in the metro Boston area.
Often used in film and television as shorthand for "blue-collar" or "working-class" stereotypes, the Boston accent remains alive and well in the region. Notable for its lack of the letter "R", the accent is believed to be a continuation of the English accent imported by the first colonists. Today it's on life support within the city itself, as long time residents move out and younger (accentless) transplants from around the world move in. Listen in to conversations of police, fire or construction workers for your best chance to hear it in the city. If you have time, pay a visit to the north or south shore where you're much more likely to hear it in action.
The word "wicked" is still strongly in use, it functions as an amplifier in place of "very". You'll also hear "packie" for a liquor (package) store and "blinkers" for the turn signals on your car. And some of our English friends might recognize a "rotary" as a roundabout. There are many others, but these are the most commonly used today. Feel free to try out "wicked" as often as you like, it's a fun way to get in on the culture. Try not to go overboard, saying stuff like "Pahk tha cah in Hahvid yahd" is a dead giveaway for tourists. Avoid saying "pisser", you'll see it printed on t-shirts but no one really says it anymore.
- Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau, ☎ , toll-free: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. The Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau maintains two visitor centers in the city. This is a great place to book tours, get brochures and other information. This could sound pretty crazy, but it's even possible to buy souvenirs here.
- National Park Service, ☎ . The National Park Service also maintains two visitor centers here, as many of Boston's historic sites are considered part of the NPS. Get up to date information about the status of Freedom Trail buildings and events. If you have a mobile phone, try out their Freedom Trail app. It's filled with historical anecdotes and helpful information.
- See also: Air travel in the United States
Boston Logan International Airport, +1 800 23-LOGAN (56426), (IATA: BOS) is modern, clean, easy to navigate, and the primary gateway to Boston and New England. Logan has a bevy of dining options scattered throughout its terminals, some of them are even good! Nowadays it's possible to find local farm-to-table fare and a wide selection of organic microbrews on tap. Of course this is America after all, so you can bet a McDonald's or Sbarro will never be out of sight. For shopping, you'll easily be able to find a new book or magazine once past security. You could also buy fancy new shoes, headphones, or a hundred other things.
As the major airport for New England, Logan provides frequent non-stop service to most major cities in the United States and almost all major European airports. Logan airport serves as a focus city for JetBlue and as a hub for Delta Air Lines, while American Airlines is another major carrier. The regional airline Cape Air and commuter airline PenAir also make Logan their base of operations. Flights tend to be on time, but you never know with that wild New England weather. Try not to plan your connections too tightly. Security is typically tight, like at most major American airports, and you can expect the TSA to be thorough, efficient, and quick.
|A||Delta (all departures), Southwest, WestJet|
|B||Air Canada, American Airlines (all departures), Pen Air, Spirit, United, Virgin America|
|C||Aer Lingus, Alaska Airlines, Cape Air, JetBlue (all departures), Sun Country Airlines, TAP Portugal (international departures), Virgin America|
|E||Aeromexico, Air Berlin, Air Europa, Air France, Alitalia, American Airlines (international arrivals), Avianca, Azores Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Copa Airlines, Delta (international arrivals), El Al, Emirates, Hainan Airlines, Iberia, Icelandair, Japan Airlines, JetBlue (international arrivals), Lufthansa, Norwegian, Porter, Qatar Airways, Scandinavian Airlines, Swiss, TAP Portugal (international arrivals), Thomas Cook Airlines, Turkish Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, WOW Air|
All terminals in Logan are directly connected to the central parking garage like spokes on a hub. Terminals A and B are fairly close together, and it's possible to walk from C to E. Above-ground enclosed walkways connect all terminals, while free MassPort shuttle buses connect all airport services. Shuttle #11 loops around and quickly connects the four terminals together. Shuttle #22 and #33 connect the subway and rental car center, with terminals A&B and C&E respectively. Shuttle #55 runs during off-peak hours and connects everything, and the #66 shuttle adds the water transportation dock into the mix as well. Finally, shuttle #88 connects all terminals to the economy parking garage. If you're renting a car, take one of the shuttles and don't wait for a branded company van.
The aforementioned MassPort shuttles will connect you to Airport Station, where you can switch to the Blue line. For most travellers, however, the best option is to board the Silver line for free at Logan and transfer for free to the Red line. The Silver line whisks you straight from your terminal to South Station downtown. Transfers to other lines will also be gratis, but try to pick up a Charliecard at South Station if you plan on riding the T again. Service stops around 12:30AM, so if your flight arrives after this you'll be taking a cab.
Taxis are more expensive in Boston than in many other cities. Fortunately though, the airport is quite close to downtown. Costs could range from $25-50, depending on your final destination. There is no one livery for Boston taxis, although they are predominantly white (hence the local name "White Cabs"). Cab models will also vary, with Ford Crown Victorias and Toyota Camry hybrids being the most common. Since April 2017, ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft can pick up and drop off at Logan. Legislation can change however, so make sure this is still the case before you depart!
Check with your hotel about airport shuttle service, it's an amenity offered by many. Other shuttle services that visit the airport include:
- Logan Express. Offers direct bus service from Braintree, Framingham, Woburn, and Peabody. Buses leave every hour or so and trips take around 30-45 minutes. Conveniently, express buses also run to the airport from Copley square and Hynes Convention Center in the Back Bay. $7.50 one way.
- Axis Coach, ☎ . Airport limos to and from Logan airport or Manchester airports. from $79 one way.
If you're driving to Logan, routes are well marked, but the airport road system is complex. Read the signs carefully and be sure you're in the correct lane. If an unexpected off-ramp sneaks up on you, don't panic, you can just drive around the airport loop again.
A few small airports in New England add "Boston" to their name, even if they're located in another state or have little means of reaching the city on public transportation. Flights to other New England airports such as Portland, Maine (IATA: PWM) and Hartford (IATA: BDL) occasionally appear in searches online, but are nearly 100 mi (160 km) from Boston! Not only are these airports impractical, they are usually more expensive due to economies of scale. Only use them if you're headed to the countryside in the first place.
- Manchester-Boston Regional Airport (IATA: MHT) (50 mi (80 km) north of Boston, accessible via Interstate 93). Main service is offered by Southwest Airlines, along with a few flights operated by American, Delta, and United.
- T.F. Green Airport (IATA: PVD) (60 mi (97 km) south of Boston, accessible via Interstate 93 then Interstate 95) - 15 domestic flights depart daily from T.F. Green. It's also a stop on MBTA's Providence/ Stoughton commuter rail line, although only a handful of rush-hour trains stop at this station each day. Otherwise you'll need to take a bus or cab to the train station downtown to catch the commuter rail to Boston.
- Worcester-Boston Regional Airport (IATA: ORH), 40 mi (64 km) west of Boston. Served by JetBlue, with daily service only to Orlando and Fort Lauderdale in Florida.
If you're coming from outside the US, it may be cheaper to fly into one of the New York City airports (IATA: JFK or IATA: EWR) and reach Boston via bus or rail (see below). Carefully consider the unlisted time and costs of this journey, however, as you'll have to organize everything yourself. Once you add up fares for Skytrain, subway, bus, and cabs; you'll quickly see your airfare savings evaporate. It can take over 8 hours to get from EWR to Boston for example, so consider a stopover in NYC if you're doing this.
- See also: Rail travel in the United States
Boston is served by Amtrak ☎ +1-800 872-7245, the national passenger rail service, as well as suburban commuter trains. The most important station is South Station, where all long-distance Amtrak routes and most commuter rail routes terminate. The other main station is North Station, which handles all northbound commuter rail traffic as well as the Amtrak route to Maine. It takes about 15-30 stressful minutes to transfer between the two stations.
All heavy gauge Commuter Rail trains (called the T, or purple line) terminate in either North or South Station. Once in town, you will find a variety of stations where switching to the light rail (or T) is quick and easy. They run as far as Worcester, Lowell, and Providence, RI, and are significantly cheaper than Amtrak trains. The furthest you can get down the Cape, is Hyannis aboard the Cape Flyer. This service is provided only during summer and in cooperation with the MBTA and the Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority.
- Acela Express the fastest train in America (and slowest "high speed" train in the world) runs multiple times a day to: New Haven (2hr), New York City (3hr45min), Philadelphia (5hr), and Washington D.C. (6hr). Expensive yes, but trains are luxurious, with great wi-fi and power outlets. You also won't have to go through airport security, or worry about traffic delays affecting your schedule.
- Northeast Regional a cheaper train running multiples times daily along the eastern seaboard. Similar to the Acela, but with local stops including: New Haven (3hr), New York (5hr), Philadelphia (7hr), Washington D.C. (9hr), Richmond, Virginia (12hr).
- Downeaster runs multiple times daily to Brunswick, Maine (3h20min) via Portland, Maine (2h30min).
- Lake Shore Limited runs daily to Chicago via Albany (5hr), and scores of other stops throughout upstate New York and Ohio. The full trip is about 19 hours, so bring a book!
- Cape Flyer a summer weekend passenger train that runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day from South Station to Hyannis (2h20min), with stops in Braintree, Brockton, Middleborough/Lakeville, Wareham Village and Buzzards Bay.
Almost every bus departing or arriving to Boston does so at South Station. The bus terminal is just a few hundred feet south of the train terminal. If you're arriving by T, walk upstairs and outside. Then keep the trains on your left, and follow the signs to get to the bus station. You should arrive 30 minutes before your scheduled departure, especially if your carrier doesn't assign seats. If you need food, try to arrive a little earlier to buy it near the trains. The train station has a variety of food options, while only the most basic facilities will be available near the busses.
Many bus fares can be fairly reasonable if you book at least a week or two in advance (since pricing is demand based), although routes served by Greyhound/ Peter Pan can range from pricey to outright extortion. Some companies offer teaser fares as low as $1, but you'd need to book almost a year in advance and get lucky to boot. The New York City route is very popular, taking about 5 hours on average. However, it could take less than 4 if you leave in the dead of night, or over 8 hours if you get unlucky with traffic. If you're going anywhere other than NYC, typically only a single bus company serves the route. If you're facing bus rides of 10 hours or more, it's probably worth looking into the cost of flying, plane tickets may be comparable or even cheaper than traveling by bus.
- BoltBus, South Station, toll-free: . Another option connecting Boston with New York City, Newark, and Philadelphia. This was one of the first companies to offer passengers Wi-Fi and power outlets on board. Today you will find these amenities on almost every intercity bus.
- C & J, South Station and Logan Airport, ☎ , toll-free: . Connecting Boston to Newburyport, MA, Portsmouth, NH, and Dover, NH.
- Concord Coach Lines, South Station and Logan Airport, ☎ , toll-free: . Serving Maine with Portland, Augusta, Bangor, and many smaller communities along ocean and highway routes. Also serving New Hampshire with Manchester and Concord, before branching into two routes. Each branch serves little villages along the way to Littleton, NH and Berlin, NH.
- Go Bus, 11 Cambridgepark West, Cambridge (Alewife Station). Not actually in Boston, this newer company connects Cambridge (Alewife Station) and Newton (Riverside Station) with New York City.
- Greyhound Bus Lines, South Station, ☎ . If you can find it on a map, Greyhound probably runs a bus there. Not always the best option, but sometimes the only one. For example, this is the only carrier connecting Boston with Montréal.
- LimoLiner, 39 Dalton Street, Sheraton Back Bay, ☎ . A luxury bus transportation offering professionals business services between New York City and Boston. They may offer hot meals, waitstaff and wood paneling, but you'll have to sit in traffic like everyone else. $99 one way.
- Lucky Star Bus, South Station, ☎ . Between Boston's South Station and New York's Chinatown. Buses are nice and run every 30 minutes. You can buy tickets 24-1 hours before departure only. $25 one way.
- Megabus, South Station, toll-free: . Connecting Boston with the larger cities in the region. New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. Also serving Secaucus, NJ, Portland, ME, Burlington, VT, New Haven and Hartford, CT.
- Peter Pan Bus Lines, South Station, toll-free: . Kind of like Greyhound, but for New England. Serves almost every town in the region, as well as the big boys: New York, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C.
- Plymouth & Brockton (Street Railway Co), South Station and Logan Airport and 200 Stuart St., ☎ . This bus company serves Cape Cod. Going from Boston to Rockland, Plymouth, Sagamore, Barnstable and Hyannis. The route then continues from Hyannis up the Cape, makng several stops on the way to Provincetown.
- See also: Driving in the United States
I-90 is how most motorists will enter the city. Officially called The Massachusetts Turnpike, locals call it "The Mass Pike", or simply "The Pike". Running east/west, the road is over 3,000 miles long and can take you as far as Seattle, if you've got time. I-90 ends (or does it begin?) with the Ted Williams Tunnel. Built during the Big Dig, it burrows under Boston Harbor to connect East Boston and Logan Airport with the rest of the city. The Pike is a toll road without toll booths, so cash transactions are not allowed. The tolls are paid automatically by E-ZPass (car mounted transponders) that communicate with sensors installed along the road. If you're missing a transponder, don't worry. Overhead cameras will snap a picture of your license plate and mail you a bill. In general, tolls are inexpensive. Less than 2 bucks to get out of the city, and $1.50 for the Ted Williams Tunnel.
I-93 is the other major highway in Boston. This north/south road is toll free, and like everything else in Boston it has several names no one quite seems to agree on. The Expressway is most common, usually referring to the section of I-93 within the Boston metro area. Another name for the road is "The Central Artery", or "The "Tip" O'Neill Tunnel", referring to the bit which runs beneath the core of the city. This stretch was built during the Big Dig and connects I-93 with I-90, and US-1. Crossing the mouth of the Charles River, you will drive over The Zakim, or Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge. Visually striking, it was designed to echo the Bunker Hill Monument next door.
US-1 is another major road heading north/south. It connects with I-93 just north of the Zakim, taking you across the Mystic River over the Tobin Bridge. This is a toll bridge, operating with the same E-ZPass system installed on the Pike. In downtown Boston, along Route 1A, you will find two more tunnels sunk beneath the harbor, The Callahan Tunnel and The Sumner Tunnel. These tunnels are smaller and poorly located, and you still need to pay a toll to use them. Only use them if you are in the area anyway, or there is a problem with the Ted Williams Tunnel.
Other notable roads include Route 2, sweeping in from the northeastern suburbs and dumping you into Cambridge. While Route 9 parallels the Pike and is toll free. With all the stop lights and traffic, however, I-90 is always the better bet for distance travel. Finally I-95 rings the metro area, tying all the above roads together into a satisfying half moon. Old timers may still refer to it as "Route 128", just smile and nod.
For a city on the ocean, there are surprisingly few options to arrive by ship. For in-state voyages, head to Long Wharf, located downtown next to the aquarium. From here MBTA ferries depart to Provincetown, Lynn, and Salem seasonally; while Hingham and Hull are served year round. If you're looking to spend a little more time at sea, head to Black Falcon Cruise Terminal (☎ +1 617 330-1500). From here cruise ships depart to Ft. Lauderdale, Montréal, and Quebec City. Some ships travel as far as Bermuda, the Netherlands, or even San Diego via the Panama Canal!
Unlike other large American cities, Boston is not laid out on a grid. Folklore says modern streets were designed by wandering cows, which is surely a myth. What's more likely is that existing Native American trails were reused and extended over the years. New paths were cut around hills and streams, and shallow marshes were hastily filled in wherever the force of commerce demanded. Even the most recent burning of the city—in 1872—wasn't widespread enough to trigger a comprehensive urban update.
With a compact and walkable central core, Boston is more similar to a European city than to its American counterparts. The narrow, winding streets can sometimes make getting around a bit of a challenge, but with a good map and a sense of adventure anyone can find their way. Most streets are clearly labeled, especially in the more touristic areas. Don't be surprised by streets' frequent name changes and name reuse. Many Boston neighborhoods were independent cities 100 years ago, and as they were annexed, so were their naming conventions. It's why a road might have a different name at every stop light, and why Tremont St. intersects with a different Tremont St. Keep your eyes peeled for more of these quirks while you're in town.
By public transit
The best way to get around Boston is the MBTA, or T for short. Bostonians complain about it endlessly, but its convenience, affordable cost and extensive coverage are undeniable. As the fourth largest transit system in the US, the T conducts a daily symphony of every conveyance imaginable to move over 1.3 million people to their destinations. Use your favorite mapping application, or the official MBTA transit app to help plan your route.
Ticket can be purchased from kiosks at virtually every entrance to every station systemwide; and all accept cash, credit and debit cards. Without a reloadable card your options will be limited, so try (hard) to get a CharlieCard before approaching a kiosk. Tap your card and follow on screen instructions to add value. Train rides cost $2.25, weather you're traversing the city or just going one stop. Rather than paying per ride, you could instead buy something called a "LinkPass". With this option you'll get unlimited rides for $12/day or $21.25 for 7 days. It's not a crazy deal, but could save you some money if you're riding the train a lot. Changing between train lines is free wherever they connect. Once you have exited the turnstiles, boarding a bus is a free transfer, but you'll have to pay again if you decide to get back on the train or change to a third bus.
Couldn't get a CharlieCard? Really? All the big stations downtown have them. They're also carried by many convenience stores and maybe your hotel. Did you try the CharlieCard store by the Roche Bros entrance of Downtown Crossing Station? Well, looks like you'll be stuck with a CharlieTicket then. Printed on cheap paper with a flimsy magnetic strip, holding this ticket makes fares cost more and free transfers are not allowed. It's fine if you're only riding the train once or twice.
The CharlieCards/Tickets are valid for all travel on the subway, trolley, and local busses. If you're travelling on the commuter rail or boats you'll have to switch to mTickets to pay your fare. You could buy paper tickets the old fashioned way, from a ticket window at North Station, Back Bay, or South Station. Finally, you can always just use cash and buy your tickets onboard, although you'll pay a $3 surcharge for doing that.
The Red, Orange, and Blue lines comprise Boston's traditional subway service. One thing Boston does a little differently, is that any transit running into the center is labeled as "inbound" and everything running away as "outbound". There are always signs for the last stop in your direction, in case you find that method more familiar. Train service starts around 5:30AM and ends around 12:30AM, so make your travel plans accordingly. You can bring your bike on any subway, just not during rush hours.
The Red line is the busiest and one of the most helpful for visitors to Boston. The fastest subway in the system, trains arrive every 4-7 minutes. South of JFK/UMass station, the Red line splits into two branches. One terminates in Ashmont Station in Dorchester, while the other heads way out of the city and into Braintree.
The Orange line with its drab 70s chic vibe runs every 6-10 minutes. The cars on this line are due to be replaced in the early 2020s, and for many Bostonians this can't come soon enough. It connects downtown with Roslindale and Malden, and is a great way to access the Arboretum and Franklin Park. The much more modern Blue line runs every 5-9 minutes, taking you from downtown to Wonderland on the North Shore. Outside of the airport connection, it's not of much use to tourists, although you can find some great getaways along this route.
Most people would consider the Green line a trolley, though it does use a subway tunnel in the city center. When running above ground, the Green line serves many neighborhoods by splitting into four branches: B, C, D, and E. Each branch runs trolleys about every 6–11 minutes or so, it can depend on traffic. The B, C, and D lines converge at Kenmore Station. The E branch is a little wacky, running on the street through Mission Hill and Fenway before joining up with the pack at Copley Station. All trolleys will go to Government Center, but only some continue on to Lechmere. You'll just have to get off and wait for the next one.
Serving Allston/Brighton, the ironically named B line is the slowest of the bunch. If you're going less than four stops on the B, it's probably faster to walk. The C line follows Beacon Street through Brookline. The C has to wait for stoplights like the B, but it's faster due to a direct route and fewer stops. The D line cuts a more southerly path through Brookline, ending up in Newton. With its own dedicated right of way, the D line is a (comparative) rocket ship.
Off the radar of most Bostonians, the Mattapan High Speed Line is an extension of the Red line. Departing every 5–12 minutes from Ashmont, it connects Dorchester with Mattapan via Milton. These cute little cars are from the late 1940s, and could almost be considered a tourist attraction in themselves for train aficionados.
While the MBTA classifies the Silver line as rapid transit, it is clearly a bus. Silver line buses run on natural gas, and electricity from overhead wires, on different parts of the route. There is a small delay while the bus changes from gas to electric, and the engine must be shut off. Don't worry, you're not going to be murdered. Riders pay subway fares to board SL1 and SL2 branches, while bus fares are charged to board SL4 and SL5 branches. If you have a CharlieCard, just tap and go to remove all doubt.
Regular bus service is cheaper than the train and usually takes you closer to your final destination, but can take longer. Express buses are more expensive and travel over longer distances. CharlieCard users will enjoy free transfers from the subway and pay $1.70 for regular bus, $4.00 for Inner Express, and $5.25 for Outer Express buses. (You will almost certainly be on a regular bus.) Those poor souls who haven't secured CharlieCards will be dinked an extra 20-30% on fares and lose the free transfer perk.
Commuter rail in Boston is primarily used by office workers traveling back and forth to their homes in the suburbs. Twelve rail lines fan out in all directions, and service is most frequent during rush hours. Fares range from $2.25 to $12.50 one way. You can purchase tickets once onboard, but you'll pay an extra $3 for the convenience. The official way to buy tickets is with the mTicket app, it's free to download and you don't need an account. If you prefer to do things the old fashioned way, wait in line to buy tickets at North Station, South Station, or Back Bay Station. One rarely helpful fact, you can ride commuter rail trains for free from Back Bay to South Station only.
Trains heading north of the city leave from North Station, while those heading south or west leave from South Station. Both stations have good connections to the subway. North Station is on the Green and Orange lines, and South Station is on the Red and Silver lines. The two stations are not directly connected, and it can take 15-30 minutes to connect between the two depending how you do it. North Station trains reach tourist favorites like Salem, Gloucester, and Concord. South Station trains connect to Providence, Plymouth, Framingham, Worcester, and occasionally Gillette Stadium in Foxboro. Make sure you have your return train picked out! Trains become more and more infrequent as the night wears on, and accommodations can be scarce in the suburban communities.
The MBTA runs a number of water shuttles year round. The most useful for tourists is the Inner Harbor Ferry (F4) from Long Wharf to Navy Yard for $3.50. This provides a convenient connection between the USS Constitution and the New England Aquarium. There's also a shuttle from Long Wharf to Logan Airport, the F2H, but it runs relatively infrequently. Plan ahead if you want to make good use of it. Commuter ferries also visit Hull and Hingham to the tune of $9.25 a pop. It's a bit further so you pay more.
There are also non-MBTA public ferries available from several docks, notably the Aquarium and Rowes Wharf, as well as a water taxi service. These make scores of stops all along Boston's waterfront. You can just wait for it to show up in the summer, or call 15 minutes ahead if you're on a rigid schedule. It's $12 per ticket, and kids are free. The same company that runs the water taxis also runs harbor island ferries out to Georges Island; several other smaller islands are accessible from there.
A paratransit service for those who cannot use the regular transit system due to their disabilities. You will have to book the RIDE way, way in advance. Call ☎ +1 617 337-2727 ideally a week or more before your trip. Make sure you have "certification of ADA paratransit eligibility", or plenty of time to burn on the phone going over your particulars with service staff. Everyone is frustrated with these dilapidated vans, but at least they exist.
Wear a comfortable pair of shoes, because you're going to be doing a lot of walking while you're here. There's really no other way to properly investigate the tucked away side streets and historical plaques. Downtown and the Back Bay in particular are compact and easily walkable. To give you an idea, walking the two miles between the State House and Fenway Park should only take about 45 minutes.
While here, it's almost impossible not to notice the sheer amount of jaywalking Bostonians do on a daily basis. For historical reasons there may not be a well placed crosswalk, while the streets are narrow and traffic crawls. When you need to cross the road, do what the locals do and just walk out into the street! Use common sense of course, don't walk out from behind a truck or try to cross a multi-lane highway.
Who will be first to "Storrow" their truck?
While "Storrowing" can occur year round, it often coincides with Allston Christmas in September. As tens of thousands of college freshmen arrive for the first time, many are unaware just how low some bridges in Boston can be. You've officially storrowed if you try to drive a 12 foot truck under an 11 foot bridge. The maneuver is named after Storrow Drive, an older thoroughfare featuring razor thin height clearances.
Usually people stop before they hit a bridge, or police will flag drivers down. Regardless, every year plenty of moving trucks are ripped open like a can of sardines. Local radio stations and workplaces sometimes arrange betting pools; often gambling on the first bridge to be hit, time of day accident will occur, and which university the student is attending.
As the slowest and most expensive way to get around, driving in Boston is strongly discouraged. Traffic is a mess, drivers are aggressive, and construction is a way of life. The jaywalkers alone will give you a heart attack. But if you insist, here are a few helpful tips. Local drivers frequently run yellow (even red!) lights, so be careful accelerating when your light changes to green. Be prepared to change lanes at any time. Some travel lanes become right turn only lanes, or parking lanes, or simply cease to exist. Drivers double park wherever they please, so prepare to stop at any time. Do not try to squeeze past a bus or cut off a trolley, they are much bigger than you and you will lose. If you encounter a rotary you should yield, remember the right of way belongs to traffic in the rotary. Don't stop in a rotary! Some streets are two ways, but are only wide enough for one car. Don't panic, just pull into the parking lane while the other guy passes by.
Garage parking is expensive, around $12-15/hour and $40-50/day, assuming spaces are available. Garages are located near Quincy Market, the Aquarium, State Street Financial Center, the Theater District and Boston Common. Remember to factor in the 30 minutes or so it will take to get the half a mile from the highway to one of these garages. On-street parking is usually resident only, which requires a special sticker. Time limits on parking meters are zealously enforced for the precious few spaces that remain. The city is rolling out high tech solutions and even experimenting with "surge pricing" in some neighborhoods. Many meters are digital kiosks that print a receipt for you to display on your windshield, while a few remain the old school quarter gobblers. As a rule, if you think you are parked illegally, you probably are. Parking fines range from $25-120 depending on the infraction.
If you're heading into Boston for a day trip, consider dropping your car at a lot and taking the "T" in. Parking at MBTA locations is cheaper than parking in the city, and you don't have to deal with driving there. These stations do have large parking lots, but on weekdays they'll fill up by 9:30 AM.
- Alewife ($7/day, $8 overnight)
- Braintree ($7/day, $8 overnight)
- Riverside($6/day, $7 overnight)
- Quincy Adams ($7/day, $8 overnight)
- Wellington ($6/day, $7 overnight)
Although there is no one official livery, taxis in Boston are predominantly white in color (hence called "white cabs" by locals). Including a tip for the driver and any highway tolls you might need to pay, expect to spend at least $15 and possibly up to $40 for an in town ride. Cabs are more expensive in Boston than you might expect, so be judicious using cabs if money is a concern. For example an $80 taxi fare from the airport to the nearby suburb of Wellesley, would not be unreasonable. Uber X and Lyft are both available and may be cheaper than taking a white cab, especially for longer trips. Be careful during major events, as "surge pricing" could actually make these options more expensive than a traditional taxi.
Many Boston residents use bicycling as their primary mode of transit all year round. Boston's small size and relative flatness make biking an effective and appealing way to get around. Efforts under the Menino administration increased city investment in bicycling and the bad old days of "worst cycling city in America" are long gone. Cambridge does tend to have more bicycle lanes and racks than Boston, although Boston is catching up.
Most bicycle traffic is going to and from Cambridge, so you'll often see the Longfellow and Mass Ave bridges festooned with spandex. Comm Ave is a busy east/west corridor, as students and commuters make their way across Allston and into downtown. Another popular route is the Southwest Corridor Bike Path, running parallel to the Orange line. It connects JP and Roxbury to the Back Bay. This is an excellent means of transit if you intend on visiting some of the cities southern parks.
Since 2011 Boston—along with neighboring cities—have been running a bike sharing service, Hubway. Similar to many other urban bike sharing services, riders pick up a bicycle at any station and return it to any station. The system is optimized for commuting and not for leisure. Your pass grants unlimited 30 minute rides, but fees are charged for long rides in order to to keep bike stations full. If you're going to be doing some distance riding, consider renting your own bike for a day or two.
- Hubway, toll-free: , e-mail: email@example.com. 24 hours daily. Bike sharing service that offers use of 1,600 bikes from 185 stations covering 4 municipalities. Unlimited 30 minute trips, any longer and you'll pay an additional $3 every 30 minutes. $8/one day, $15/three days, $20/month.
- Cambridge Bicycle, 259 Massachusetts Ave (T: Central), ☎ . Renting out Linus Dutchi and Roadster Sport 3-speeds. Set up with flat resistant tubes and tires plus a cute little basket to store whatever you've got. $35/day.
- Urban AdvenTours, 103 Atlantic Ave (T: Aquarium), ☎ . Provides all types of bike rentals: mountain, road, hybrid, even "e-bikes" with pedal assist. Rentals include helmet and lock. Delivery available. $40-100/day.
- Individual listings can be found in Boston's district articles
For some of the best discounts on popular tourist attractions check out 50 Under 50. Run by the official Massachusetts Tourism organization, they offer deals on a few of the most popular options in town. Also look into the Boston CityPASS, which for $56 allows you 9 days to visit up to four famous sights. Alternatively, the GoBoston Card allows more flexibility by offering passes purchased by number of days or attractions visited. Ranging in price anywhere from $39-175, this could be a deal if you're really going to be doing a lot of sightseeing.
Many notable buildings in town can be found within the Back Bay and Beacon Hill neighborhoods. The facade and gold dome of the Massachusetts State House are well proportioned; while both the modern and classical halves of the Boston Public Library are distinguished in their own right. The many churches nearby are also extraordinarily picturesque. Trinity Church spawned a style of architecture all its own, the Old South Church graces many a postcard, and the grounds of the Christian Science Center make for a pleasant stroll year-round. Finally no tourist visit is complete without a stop at venerable Quincy Market.
Possibly the best example of modern architecture in the city is Boston City Hall. While this brutalist structure is mainly notable for how disliked it is, don't give up on evocative modernism just yet. Head over to Cambridge and explore the campuses of Harvard and (especially) MIT. There, you'll see some fantastic "starchitecture" by the likes of Le Corbusier, Eero Saarinen, and Frank Gehry to name but a few. If you're into it, poke around online to find out when universities have the next tour scheduled.
A main feature on many itineraries will be touring colonial era Boston. One of the oldest public buildings in the country, the Old State House is striking and draped in historical significance. Faneuil Hall is conveniently located and always a favorite, while the Old South Meeting House was a hotbed of patriot activity in its day. Closer to the waterfront, Boston's North End is no slouch either when it comes to historical sites. Visit the Old North Church, where Paul Revere began his famous ride. Then follow that up with a stop at his nearby home, the Paul Revere House.
While not actually in Boston, the Longfellow House is a National Historic Site, and sits just across the Charles river in Cambridge. It's where Washington's Headquarters were located in 1776, and what's a good tour of colonial America without George Washington, right?
Additional interesting 18th century sites can by found way off the beaten path in Roxbury. If you make it out this way, don't miss the Shirley-Eustis House, one of the last remaining royal governors mansions. Once the town center, Roxbury Heritage State Park holds the Dillaway-Thomas House as well as the First Church of Roxbury. All are fantastic examples of 18th century life in Boston.
If you're near the water, you can't help but notice Fort Independence on South Boston's shoreline. If you're a sucker for civil war forts, also check out Fort Warren on George's Island. Ostensibly commissioned to provide for the defense of the city, in reality these forts were outdated by the time they were built. Also on the harbor, Charlestown has the Bunker Hill Monument which can be seen for miles around. Don't forget the iconic U.S.S. Constitution, oldest commissioned naval vessel in the world. Save your American Theseus conjectures for the classroom, professor!
Boston has some fantastic museums covering a wide variety of topics and interests. The Museum of Fine Arts in the Fenway is the city's premiere, offering a great range of artifacts in a more traditional museum format. Highlights include works by popular French impressionists, ancient Egyptian artifacts, and a comprehensive collection of early American art. The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum by contrast is an imaginative and eclectic space, an Italian palazzo in America featuring art curated by Isabella's discerning eye.
For modern art instead, visit the Institute of Contemporary Art in South Boston. The exhibitions here have featured artists like Anish Kapoor, Tara Donovan and Shepard Fairey. They also feature lesser know artists working with glass, textiles, or sound. If you doubt that will hold the attention of your children, take them to the Boston Children's Museum. Very interactive and engaging, look for the oversize milk bottle out front. If the "kids" are a little older, try the Museum of Science in the West End. They have an enormous Van de Graaff generator (the world's largest!), and some exhibits were designed by Charles and Ray Eames.
Right in the thick of it all downtown, you'll find the New England Aquarium. Walk around the giant cylinder simulating a coral reef, or just chill and watch the penguins doing their thing. While small, the Museum of African American History in Beacon Hill tells a big story about an often overlooked narrative in Boston's history. Finally, if you're into modern history, do not miss the JFK Presidential Library and Museum in northern Dorchester.
Just across the river, Cambridge can more than hold its own in terms of museums. Harvard University holds very impressive collections at both the Harvard Museum of Natural History and the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology. The "glass flowers" exhibit alone has been on tourists to-do lists for over a hundred years. For strictly visual arts, explore The Fogg and The Sackler, among other museums scattered around campus. Don't forget the engaging MIT Museum! It's got a variety of great interactive exhibits and is well worth your time.
Like any respectable American city, Boston has a series of parks designed by none other than Frederick Law Olmsted. Called The Emerald Necklace, these parks comprise almost half the green space in town. The oldest and most loved of these parks is Boston Common. In the center of it all, this park is always in use. Right next door you'll find the Public Garden. Although smaller, its many plantings and formal design give this park a more genteel feeling. Coming right up to the waters edge, the gorgeous Charles River Esplanade makes relaxing easy and provides a fantastic escape from city life.
If you're downtown, it's almost impossible to miss the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway. This wonderful green ribbon replaced a noxious and congested expressway with art, food, and life. Its construction restored connections to neighborhoods that for decades were cut off from the rest of the city.
Further afield, the Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plain is officially all about the science. Although that would come as news to the crowds soaking in the grandeur of this immaculately landscaped park. No picnics please, this is serious fun. Keep exploring in Roxbury and pay a visit to Franklin Park, the biggest link in Olmsted's Emerald Necklace. Despite needing some maintenance, Franklin Park has miles of great hiking and biking trails. Not to mention a zoo and an 18-hole municipal golf course.
There are also a great many parks in East Boston. Being across the harbor, these parks and beaches are much less visited than the others in town. If you go, take the opportunity to mingle with locals as you watch the jets coming in for a landing at Logan airport.
- The Freedom Trail — A major tourist draw of significant historical sites in Boston. These 17 locations spread over 2.5 mi (4.0 km) are crucial to understanding revolutionary era America.
- Black Heritage Trail — This less touristed trail covers ten sites important in American black history scattered throughout Beacon Hill.
- Individual listings can be found in Boston's district articles
For up to date listings have a look at The Boston Calendar, a filterable list of almost everything going on in town. Also check out the city of Boston's event page. It's a mix of things that appeal to residents as well as visitors. Another good resource for event listings of all shapes and sizes can be found in the free DigBoston publication. Grab a copy (or a competitor) from any newspaper box often found at busy intersections.
If you're a lover of music, you'll find yourself right at home in Boston. With an array of venues, there is bound to be someone playing in town that will suit your tastes. The large student population helps to draw a wide variety of acts year round. For mega stars and headline performers, check out TD Garden or Fenway Park. Yeah these are normally sports arenas; but they'll also hold musical events for the right artists (think Janet Jackson, Tom Petty or Lady Gaga). Another enormous musical attraction is Boston Calling, a multi-day festival put on at the end of May. Crowd into a field in Allston with 20,000 friends to see whichever established and up and coming artists the kids are into these days.
Speaking of Allston, you can find some of the best music venues in the city here. There's a variety of options, but if you're looking for the next Indy sensation or band that's just starting to blow up, try either the Paradise Rock Club or Great Scott. Each place commonly selects good artists, but tickets can sell out almost instantly when bigger names come to play.
There are many more great music spots across the Charles in Cambridge. Check out the Middle East (upstairs or down) for a variety of national acts. The Phoenix Landing is a soccer forward restaurant, until nighttime when it transforms itself into a dance club. For a full on nightclub experience try the nearby Middlesex Lounge or head to The Plough & Stars instead for a solid bar with live rock acts. For a week in May, Together Boston is an electronic festival where performances incorporate elements of art and technology.
Head downtown to find the best nightclubs the city has to offer. The popular ones are always changing, but try Royale or Tunnel, or any of the others mixed in around the Theatre District. They're also packed around Faneuil Hall (like the Hong Kong) or found down Boylston Place, a tiny gated alley off Boylston Street. Hosting music less often than you might think, the House of Blues on Lansdowne Street usually books very talented acts whose popularity isn't as "red hot" as it once was.
For tiny venues that offer unique experiences, your best bet will be Wally's Cafe in the South End. This Jazz club was once one of dozens in the area, and is the last one remaining today. Still family owned and operated, you're likely to see gifted and passionate Berklee students gracing the stage. Shamble down the road to the Berklee Performance Center, another great spot for the adventurous traveller to hear accomplished yet unknown musicians.
Intrepid explorers of melody could also check out the Midway Café in Jamaica Plain. You never know what you're going to find, but there is often a Queer or Punk edge to the sound here. During the summertime, head into the neighborhoods and wander around a Porchfest or two. Homeowners allow their porches to become impromptu performance spaces for local and offbeat bands. Neighbors and visitors alike wander through city streets stopping at whatever piques their interest. The original in Somerville featuring hundreds of performers is the best, but JP has a good one too and Roslindale is also a contender.
Head to the Theater District to find unusual cultural and entertainment programs to attend all year-round. The center of Boston's theatre scene can be found among the dozens of 19th century buildings scattered between Washington and Tremont streets. Even if the theatre isn't for you, just taking a stroll around this historic district can be a performance in itself. If you are buying tickets; however, look into performances happening at the Emerson owned Cutler Majestic Theatre or Paramount Theatre. Many great performers have graced the stage of the Wang Theatre over the years, another historic building with landmark status.
Using ornate Symphony Hall as their base, the world-renowned Boston Symphony Orchestra performs notable classical music during the fall, winter and spring. During summertime, they morph into the Boston Pops Orchestra to perform programs of light classical and popular music, consistently pleasing audiences. The first professional ballet company in New England, the Boston Ballet performs exclusively at the Boston Opera House. Their performance of The Nutcracker is particularly popular, running annually for 40+ years.
The New England Conservatory is a world-famous music school right around the corner from Symphony Hall. It's well-known among musicians, but often overlooked by everyone else. The performances, recitals, and chamber group concerts found here are usually free and unticketed. Don't miss the Berklee Performance Center, yet another great spot in town to see talented performers (usually) on the cheap.
At the end of July a number of family friendly performers come to Copley Square to put on the Boston Summer Arts Weekend. It's supported by WGBH—the local Public Broadcasting Station—and the Boston Globe. Outside The Box is another huge performing arts festival taking place on the Common in mid-July. It's pretty corporate, but there are still a few fun, free things to do for the whole family.
Boston is a sports town, and its teams are as dearly loved by New Englanders as much as they are loathed by the rest of the country. Winning (or at least competing) in almost every championship game since 2002 will have that effect on people. Seeing almost any game here could be a trip highlight, you'll be crammed in with thousands of the most passionate sports fans in the country. Tickets will be hard to come by, however, so do your research and plan ahead.
One of the most prolific victors (and most likely to irritate football fans outside New England) are the New England Patriots. They play during wintertime at Gillette Stadium, located southwest of the city in Foxborough Massachusetts. For a surefire argument starter, simply mention anything (positive or negative) about quarterback Tom Brady or the "deflategate" scandal to any jersey-wearing native. Bring up brothers Eli and Peyton Manning to elicit a similar reaction. Eli and his Giants have denied the Pats two Super Bowl victories, whereas Peyton holds "best quarterback" status in the eyes of many football fans. Make sure you have a full drink before you broach these subjects, as you're going to get an earful. Also calling Gillette Stadium home is the New England Revolution, the region's soccer team. While not as popular as football, soccer fans are always very passionate as well. Both teams are owned by Robert Kraft, another lightning rod for passionate debate due to his controversial politics and personality.
Two of Boston's oldest teams play at TD Garden, called Boston Garden by everyone who doesn't own a bank. As one of the original NBA teams, the Boston Celtics have been shooting hoops since 1946. They've got a great rivalry going with the L.A. Lakers, which hit its zenith during the 80s when Larry Bird and Magic Johnson would duke it out on the parquet. The other half the year, the Boston Bruins head to the West End and call the Garden home. The Bruins have been playing hockey since 1924, and are the oldest NHL team in the US. They too have a great rivalry, this time with the Montreal Canadiens to the north. The "Habs", as they're affectionately known, have shut the Bruins down during Stanley Cup finals several times over the years. Something which Boston fans just can't forgive.
Last but certainly not least, the Boston Red Sox are perhaps the team most closely linked with Boston's identity. The iconic Red Sox "B" logo can be seen gracing ball caps everywhere you look. For 86 years the Sox would start each season strong, only to see hopes of victory dashed by one unfortunate event or another. A bad play, a blown call, and the "there's always next year" mentality would kick back in. That all changed in 2004 when the drought was broken and the city rejoiced. The Red Sox have called Fenway Park home for over a hundred years, and "the Cathedral of Baseball" is well worth a visit even for the baseball averse. Jump at the opportunity if you can score tickets. It can be all but impossible to get into the park during a Red Sox / Yankees game. This is one of the fiercest rivalries in sport, strongly consider leaving your NY paraphernalia at home on game day.
College athletics isn't a thing in Boston the way it can be in other regions of the country, but there are still some good Division I games to be found. Specifically, fans of college hockey shouldn't miss the Beanpot. This tournament is held during the first two Mondays of February and features teams from the four schools listed below.
- Boston College Eagles: The teams representing Boston College compete in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). The ice hockey teams for both men and women compete in Hockey East. The football team plays in the 45,000 seat Alumni Stadium located in Brighton. The basketball and hockey teams play in the adjacent smaller arena.
- Boston University Terriers: Play at Nickerson Field in Allston.
- Harvard Crimson: The Crimson have played at Jordan Field (in Allston as well) since 1903. It's also home to the area's newest professional team, the Boston Breakers of the National Women's Soccer League.
- Northeastern Huskies: The hockey team at Northeastern plays in Matthews Arena. Opened in the South End in 1910 it's the original home of the Boston Bruins.
Name any conveyance, and you can probably tour Boston on one, with the widest selection of tours departing from downtown, near the Aquarium. The fact that Duck Tours navigate the city by land and sea probably make them the most popular tour, but their competitors are no slouches either. A variety of companies offer harbor cruises, a popular and relaxing way to see the city. There is also a whale watch on offer, affiliated with the Aquarium.
You can always visit choice historical sights by bicycle, foot, or Segway tours; although it's more fun when the weather is nice. Don't forget some of the more popular tour companies also offer departures from the Back Bay.
- First Night: 31 December - 1 January annually . Boston's New Year's Eve celebration is the oldest public New Year's Eve party in America, and has been copied by cities around the world. It's a city-wide, family-friendly arts and culture festival which starts in the late morning with child-centric events and continues with dozens of music, dance, poetry and other exhibitions through midnight, culminating in fireworks on the waterfront. Dress appropriately!
- Evacuation Day (St. Patrick's Day): 17 March annually . What the rest of America calls St. Patrick's Day, Boston calls Evacuation Day; a local holiday marking the expulsion of occupying British forces from the city. Remember to wear green, drink a beer, and wear something that says "Kiss Me I'm Irish!". Join the celebration at the huge parade held in Southie the closest Sunday.
- Patriot's Day (The Boston Marathon): 17 April 2017 . The third Monday in April, or "Marathon Monday" as locals call it, is the oldest marathon in the world. The race started in 1897 and is run on the holiday commemorating Paul Revere's famous ride in 1775. Running from Hopkinton 26.2 miles to the finish line in Copley Square, the race draws crowds of over half a million spectators. Huge parts of the city are closed for the race, so don't plan on moving around too much. The Red Sox also play a home game on Patriot's Day; ensuring every bar, pub, and watering hole is filled to capacity by noon. (date needs updating)
- Boston Pride Parade: 10 June 2017 . The second largest event in the city after the Fourth of July. Boston's LBGT community—and everyone else—comes out for a fabulous parade from Copley Square, through the South End, to Boston Common. Many other social events are scheduled around this weekend. (date needs updating)
- Harborfest: 30 June - 04 July 2017 . A family friendly oceanfront festival during the runup to Independence Day. Check out presentations on musket technology, 18th century chocolate making, or even argue the Stamp Act! OK, but there are pub crawls too and it's cooler than it sounds. Several specialized historical, architectural, wildlife and sightseeing tours also available by land and sea. (date needs updating)
- Independence Day: 4 July annually . A host of events occur throughout the day culminating in fireworks and a Boston Pops concert on the Esplanade. Many roads close and trains are packed to bursting, as close to a million spectators try to squeeze along the banks of the Charles River. For a "Boston" take on this national holiday, head over to the Old State House during the day. Here you can listen as the Declaration of Independence is read in its entirety from the main balcony, just as it has been every year since 1776.
- St. Anthony's Feast: 24-27 August 2017 . A religious festival taking place in the Italian North End neighborhood. Patron Saint of the poor, St Anthony is also known as the "Saint of Miracles" and the finder of lost articles. This feast includes plenty of food, games, music, and of course a parade down Hanover Street.
- Allston Christmas: 31 August - 1 September annually . This very unofficial holiday commemorates the annual "changing of the leases", as students across the city switch apartments. Picture tens of thousands of young people simultaneously renting moving trucks, and carting everything they own a half mile down the road. Whatever didn't fit in the truck goes on the street. Check out the curbs in densely populated student neighborhoods to find everything from furniture and kitchenware, to clothing or even food! The city's DPW works all day and night to keep up with the chaos.
- Head of the Charles Regatta: 21-22 October 2017 . Thousands of rowers come together from around the globe for two days of competition in one of the world's largest regattas. Get there before 8AM to see the first sculls run. The course is on the Charles River between Cambridge and Allston, it can take about an hour to walk the three mile course. Take the T to Harvard, Central, or any Boston University stop.
Thinking of going to school in Boston? Join the club. Metropolitan Boston alone has some 54 institutions of higher learning, including many world-renowned colleges, universities, conservatories, and seminaries. With around a quarter-million students in town at any given time, expect to bump into someone affiliated with education while you're here. Learning is ingrained in Boston's culture, and overhearing conversations about the Planck constant or Context theory while grabbing your morning coffee is not uncommon.
Undoubtedly the most prestigious is Harvard University, where eight US presidents were educated. While the school's core is in Cambridge, many academic buildings are actually located in Boston. Barely two miles away, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is another one of the world's most prestigious universities. Not only do these two schools hold billions of dollars in endowments; they also churn out Nobel laureates, Rhodes Scholars, new companies, and patents by the wagonload. These are some of the most selective schools on earth, so if you're applying here, good luck!
There are of course other top tier research universities in Boston. Boston University is 65,000 strong and sprawls across an urban campus throughout Fenway and Allston. BU was attended by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who earned his PhD here in 1955. Boston College has a more suburban feeling, being located in Brighton and Newton. BC is a highly regarded private Jesuit Catholic research university. Over 40,000 students attend Northeastern University another widely respected liberal arts college in Fenway. Yet another great school is Tufts University, just north of the city in Medford.
Located in the Fens next to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Simmons College focuses almost entirely on women and offers a wide range of liberal arts degrees. Focusing on technical design and engineering, Wentworth Institute of Technology also calls Fenway home. While it's located just outside of Boston in Waltham, Brandeis University is very selective and known for its small class sizes.
You'll find the fine arts are also well represented in Boston. Emerson College is dedicated exclusively to communication and the arts, and it has a great radio station to boot. Berklee College of Music is the largest independent college of contemporary music in the world. It's often confused with the completely unrelated Berkeley in California. One of the oldest art schools, Massachusetts College of Art and Design is the only publicly funded art school in the United States.
Remember, the above is just an overview. If you're interested in pursuing higher education in the Boston area, keep digging to uncover plenty more offerings in Art, Architecture, Language, Law, Medicine, Music, Research, and Science. Don't forget about more affordable places like UMass Boston, or one of the many community colleges in town. The density of educational opportunities here work in your favor to provide big educations on small budgets.
The Great Boston Molasses Flood
In one of Boston's oddest disasters, the North End was once inundated by millions of pounds of gooey brown molasses. Although you may think of the stuff as just another baking ingredient, back in the day molasses had a variety of uses, including being refined into alcohol. Booze was big business, and many enormous molasses tanks stood lining Boston's harbors and wharves.
Just after noon on January 15, 1919, a massive storage tank holding over two million gallons of molasses exploded. How? A front of Caribbean air blew in, rapidly warming up frigid overnight temperatures. As the molasses started to expand, a shoddily constructed storage tank began to buckle. Rivets holding the plates of steel together shot out, sounding like machine gun fire to those unfortunates within earshot.
A tidal wave of molasses 25 feet high thundered out in all directions, moving at speeds up to 35 mph. Buildings were washed off their foundations, and steel girders holding up elevated trains were badly damaged. The flood would ultimately take 21 lives and injure 150 more.
Some people claim that during humid summer days you can still smell a faint waft of molasses every so often. It certainly makes for a good story; however, a century of construction and weather has surely eliminated all traces of the sticky stuff by now. Look for a small plaque commemorating the disaster in Langone Park, next to the Bocce courts.
Boston—along with New England in general—transitioned away from a manufacturing based economy to service based a long time ago. Many jobs in Boston require advanced degrees and years of specialized training. Those trying to join the workforce here will find themselves facing stiff competition for high-paying jobs. Many applicants for senior level positions will hold advanced degrees; you may find a masters degree, MBA, or even a PhD might be necessary for you to stand out. Even if you don't hold these qualifications, don't lose hope. Degrees are not universally required, and you'll find many professors and executives hiring a large support staff to assist them. Construction is also a booming business, but you'll have to somehow worm your way into a union to avail yourself of those jobs.
Higher education is unsurprisingly a major employer here, with healthcare being another of the biggest industries. See the learn section for universities that are always hiring, or look at Longwood Medical Area in the Fenway, where many of the most distinguished hospitals are found. Longwood in particular employs tens of thousands of people at dozens of hospitals including: Beth Israel Deaconess, Brigham and Women's, Dana-Farber, Children's Hospital, and Harvard Medical School. Don't forget about Mass General Hospital in the West End, often ranked as the best in the country.
Often spinning out of academia; startups, high tech and bio-tech have been big business in Boston for decades. There is a huge amount of venture capital here, the most outside the Bay Area. Companies like Formlabs, Runkeeper, and Hopper are but a few of the hundreds of startups active in the city. The highest concentration of incubators can be found within South Boston's Innovation District and Cambridge's Kendall Square. Established companies like Boston Dynamics, the Broad Institute, and Akamai are a few examples of successful "startups" from years past.
As folks return to cities, multinational companies are seemingly no different. Gillette (or Procter & Gamble) has been here for years, and in 2016 they welcomed their new neighbor General Electric. Financial services like Bain Capital, Liberty Mutual, Fidelity, along with several hedge fund firms are located downtown. For unknown reasons, sneaker companies seem to love Boston. Converse, New Balance, and Reebok all have headquarters within city limits. It's also likely your favorite fortune 500 corporation has at least an outpost in Boston.
- Individual listings can be found in Boston's district articles
If it exists in New England (and you can buy it), it exists in Boston. Sure, you can find the multinational staples you've come to expect across America, but many areas work to maintain an independent spirit that endures. Increasing real estate prices have put pressure on owners to "sell out", yet plenty of entrepreneurs have found a way to make their business work.
One of the first locations folks might visit is Quincy Market downtown. The shops here are pretty clearly oriented towards the tour bus crowd. It's not all snow globes, shot glasses, and post cards; however, there are a few novel trinkets here too. And don't forget about Boston Public Market in your quest either, it's just a block or so north. Alternatively, head over to Downtown Crossing, where many locals go for fast fashion and other affordable items.
Perhaps the most visited shopping location is Newbury Street in the Back Bay. A dense avenue colored by historic brownstones, the shops and restaurants here are some of the finest in town. If price tags seem to contain a few zeros too many, it could be because you're near the Public Garden. Try walking west. You'll see your sticker shock gradually decrease the further you go. While you're over here, don't miss Boylston Street a few steps to the south. Many shops are proud to call this street home, and two gigantic high end shopping malls can be accessed from Boylston as well.
One of the more quaint shopping neighborhoods in Boston, Charles Street in Beacon Hill begins just north of the Common. The mix of storefronts here lends itself equally well to window shopping, as it does to picking up life's essentials. Multiple options for meals or just coffee, make this a pleasant and scenic stroll. If you are in town on a weekend, head over to the SoWa Open Market in the South End. This is a great chance to pick up some one of a kind handmade goods and take in some local color.
If you're shopping in Cambridge, make Harvard Square your first stop. Yeah, it's a little more corporate than you want it to be, but it's Harvard, and there are more than a few interesting shops remaining. If you find yourself in Brookline, head for Coolidge Corner. This area has the densest concentration of shops, restaurants, and entertainment in Brookline.
- Individual listings can be found in Boston's district articles
While the first thing on most visitors minds is the excellent seafood, Boston does have other high quality options. Many travellers find sitting down to a fine Italian meal in the charming North End neighborhood an unforgettable experience. While others may prefer to explore classic dining options littered throughout the Back Bay and South End. For an evening easier on the wallet, check out the wide variety of Asian restaurants found in either Chinatown or Allston. And if you're accustomed to taking meals late, make sure you account for the fact that many restaurants here can close by 10 or 11PM.
Examples of fine Boston cuisine often pull double duty as well known New England dishes. These are often thought of as traditional Thanksgiving foods, which makes sense considering the origins of the holiday. While the varieties of these foods served in the city may be more "elevated", examples found in the countryside are no less flavorful. Also, Boston baked beans are not really a thing anymore. If you are dead set on trying them, however, inspect the menus at some of the more touristic restaurants downtown.
- Atlantic Codfish: This foodstuff, prized by early colonists, is closely associated with dining in Boston. Cherished for its flavor, ability to be salted, and marketable value; the cod was unfortunately overfished and stocks collapsed during the 1990s. Today you may be offered scrod instead, which could be haddock or some other white fleshed fish. They all honestly taste about the same (as long as they're fresh!), and by choosing to eat this "trash fish" you're helping to give this vulnerable animal time to recover.
- Clam Chowder: Kind of like the New England version of Pho in that every bowl is similar, yet each shop strives to put its own little spin on this traditional dish. No matter where you get it, you'll certainly find clams swimming in a thick creme broth, diced potatoes, onions, and celery. You might also see colorful garnishes, different kinds of crackers, or even whole clams in your bowl. You can be confident you're getting the best as long as tomatoes are never added, as they blasphemously do in a certain large city to the south.
- Fried Clams: Another iconic regional dish, here the clams have been removed from their shells, dipped in batter and deep fried. Not particularly healthy, but always quite delicious. These are pretty ubiquitous as well, but they're purported to taste best when eaten outdoors at a picnic table of questionable cleanliness. See if you can hold out until you find one.
- Lobster Roll: Ah, the eternal argument of who has the best lobster roll. A very popular way of eating lobster, because all the work is done for you. Preferred examples will have diced lobster meat soaked in butter, and are just kissed with mayonnaise and various seasonings. They must also be served on a toasted New England style bun, split along the top, not the side. Lobster rolls are usually served cold, so don't be surprised by that. If you see a roll piled with toppings and dripping with mayo, it's likely an inferior product.
- Oysters: Bostonians love their oysters, and they're often offered after work for cheap, especially during happy hours. These bivalves can have different flavors and textures depending on the specific bay or inlet they're from. Oysters from Duxbury and Wellfleet are often the first on the list to run out. Garnishes tend to be a variety of choices, but cocktail sauce and lemons are always present. You'll usually see a few additional toppings, often with a spicier edge.
- Steamers: These are clams that have been steamed, unsurprisingly, in their own shells. Diners then scoop the meat out with a small fork and dip it briefly in butter before sucking them down. They'll also come with an array of other garnishes depending on where you find them.
- Boston Cream Pie: A true Boston original, and the official dessert of Massachusetts. Invented at the Parker House Hotel in 1856, you can still order a slice of this custard-filled yellow cake (not pie!) here today. If fine dining is a little rich for your tastes, try a version made by one of the nicer doughnut shops in town. It's the same idea. You could also go for the ubiquitous Dunkin' Donuts version, if you really don't want to expend any effort whatsoever.
- Fluff: This confection is basically marshmallows liquified into a spreadable paste. Artificial and sickly sweet, it's often combined with peanut butter to make a "Fluffernutter" sandwich that is enjoyed by children of all ages throughout the Commonwealth. So beloved is this sweet treat, that Somerville—birthplace of Fluff—dedicates an entire weekend festival to celebrating the stuff in late September. Grab a jar in any grocery store, or just keep a sharp eye on your menus. The Gallows in the South End uses it in their brulée for example.
- Ice Cream: New Englanders are some of the most prolific consumers of ice cream anywhere on earth, and Boston plays no small role in boosting those statistics. Not just a summertime treat, you'll see folks gobbling down artisanal varieties from across the region even in cold winter months. A few of the more notable local dairy slingers are: J.P. Licks, Emack and Bolio's, Toscanini's (Cambridge), The Ice Cream Smith, Picco, Ron's Gourmet Ice Cream... and that's just to start. There are scores more locations around Boston, with some also offering custard or gelato options.
- Frappe: A milkshake in New England is mostly milk, and not the drinkable ice cream you're looking for. Here that's still called a frappe, pushing back against a globalistic trend toward convergence. They're delicious whether you pronounce it "frap" or "frap-PAY", or even—ugh—milkshake. Some of the best are made at Lizzie's in Harvard Square, or try one of several UBurger locations. Many of the ice cream shops in town may make a good frappe as well.
- New England IPA: Is this truly its own distinct style of beer, or not? The jury is still out on that one. If you can get a hold of this popular elixir, however, note its unpasteurized, cloudy and hazy appearance. You'll find traditional IPA bitterness muted in NEIPAs, as brewers work to bring out the smoother floral and fruity characteristics of the hops. Trillium is your best bet in the city to find it, but get in line early.
- Raspberry Lime Rickey: Traditionally made with raspberry syrup, club soda and fresh limes. Some modern versions will use sickly sweet Sprite and cheap artificial lime flavor instead, accept no substitutes! For a quality RLR try Bartley's Gourmet Burgers in Harvard Square, Sullavan's in Southie, or one of the various Tasty Burger locations around town. In general if you find yourself in a place that serves burgers and isn't overly fancy, they may serve one even if it's not on the menu.
Some of the best food available in Boston can be bought from a truck. Owing to sky high real estate prices, it can be cheaper and easier to get a food truck business started than a full on brick and mortar restaurant. Many entrepreneurs use trucks as a stepping stone to opening their own restaurant, so you'll see that some of these trucks also have permanent locations. Hundreds of trucks orbit the city, serving every style of cuisine imaginable. While many focus on lunch, more than a handful offer breakfast and dinner options as well.
You can find food trucks in many neighborhoods, with the highest concentrations being found along the Greenway and other hotspots downtown. Copley Square in the Back Bay is another place to look, and trucks will also appear at popular spots like SoWa market in the South End and Lawn on D in Southie. Trucks rotate locations annually, so check out this filterable list, kept up to date by the city of Boston. If you find yourself overwhelmed by all the options just put your faith in the locals and queue up in whichever line is longest.
- Bon Me: The most prolific trucks in the city. Good selection of Vietnamese staples that can be eaten on the go. Also has several stationary locations.
- Chicken & Rice Guys: Take a wild guess what they offer here. Middle Eastern inspired; so don't sleep on the lamb, it's great too! Pairs nicely with several of their flavorful sauces, especially the mint. Has a few permanent restaurants.
- Clover: Technology infused American fast food. Everything is fresh and always changing; it has to be since they don't use freezers. Digital menus tell you exactly how long you'll wait for your order. Started by MIT alumni, they now have several locations now throughout the region.
- Jamaica Mi Hungry: Fantastic truck offering the requisite spicy jerks, along with rice and peas, coconut milk and red beans, and other Jamaican specialties. Trucks only for now.
- Mei Mei: Siblings turn out this stellar Chinese-American food that changes with the seasons; winning multiple awards since 2012. One brick and mortar location near BU.
- Tenoch: The trucks are tiny, but the Mexican flavors are not. Top notch tacos, tortas, and burritos, but cash only. Has one other location in the North End. Yes, there is good Mexican in the North End.
- Individual listings can be found in Boston's district articles
Boston has a thriving nightlife and is known to be a drinking town. It's easy to hop from bar to bar, and you'll find venues catering to college students, businesspeople, and sports fanatics alike. There is no "happy hour" in Massachusetts, you can thank the Puritans (or maybe the politicians?) for that. Since after work discounted drinks are off the table, look for businesses to get creative with their incentives. You'll often see discounts on food instead; dollar oysters are particularly common.
One drawback to going out in Boston is how early everything closes. Most places need to shut down by 1AM, with only a few dozen locations in the city holding grandfathered 2AM closing licenses. This can work to your advantage if you're taking the T, since it stops running at 12:30AM anyway. All venues will be 21+, with one or two rare exceptions for the 18+ crowd.
If you're on the look out for an authentic Irish pub, prepare to hoof it or prepare to be disappointed. Most bars and pubs throughout downtown and the Back Bay are a bit too polished and corporate to have that warm historic feeling. The closest thing you'll find downtown is Mr. Dooley's, everything else in the Faneiul Hall area is overtly touristic. J.J. Foleys is another decent option, found nearby in the South End neighborhood. If you're dedicated, head out to Jamaica Plain and visit Doyle's Cafe or really go for the gusto and hit up The Eire Pub in Dorchester. You'll certainly come away with a great story to tell if you make it all the way out to the Eire.
Sports bars? Look into either Canal Street in the West End near Boston Garden, or Landsdowne Street in the Fenway area. Looking for a trendy new spot with glass walls, roof decks and views? Why, the Seaport district of course. Boylston Street in the Back Bay will also scratch that itch. Want cheap places to drink? Lots of options? Head to intersection of Harvard and Brighton Ave in Allston Village. Both Central and Harvard Squares in Cambridge are similarly dense with bars.
Breweries and distilleries
Undoubtably the largest, the Samuel Adams Brewery in J.P. and Harpoon Brewery in South Boston both offer tours and tastings. Trillium is also in Southie and brews some of the most acclaimed suds in the states. If you're gluten-free (or just love apples!) try out Downeast Cider House in East Boston. Heading south into Dorchester you'll find two more breweries. The Dorchester Brewing Company has 20 taps serving fresh house beer and regional partner brews. Deadwood is a respectable little brewery making their own in house beer for thirsty bowlers. The cities newest brewer, Turtle Swamp opened spring 2017 in JP.
To the north you'll find the excellent Lamplighter brewery in Cambridge. While Somerville offers Aeronaut, Slumbrew, Winter Hill Brewing Company, and Bantam Cider Company to whet your whistle. For the adventurous, some of the best beer can be found to the north of the city. Real estate is a bit cheaper, so folks can afford to take a little more risk up there. For great examples, check out Idle Hands in Malden or Mystic Brewery in Chelsea. Finally, Everett has several great options with Night Shift, Bone Up, and Down the Road breweries all making their mark.
If you're looking for something a little harder, Boston's got options. GrandTen Distilling in South Boston and Bully Boy Distillers in Roxbury offer tours and tastings. Short Path Distillery, also in Everett, focuses specifically on rum and gin.
Few people whack down as many daily cups of coffee as Bostonians. In fact a 2015 study estimated that 15% of toddlers in Boston drink a little java alongside their parents. Needless to say, expect to find a lot of options in town. With an almost Orwellian presence Dunkin' Donuts—founded in nearby Quincy—dominates. You should be able to see at least two locations from anywhere your little legs can take you. More utilitarian coffee can also be found at Starbucks and other chains, although nothing is more popular than "Dunks". Order it "regular" for cream and sugar, and "black" for without.
Looking for something a little more inspired? If you're downtown check out Gracenote or Ogawa; while Pavement Coffeehouse, Boston Common Coffee, Barrington Coffee Roasting, and Thinking Cup are great options in the Back Bay area and nearby neighborhoods. Almost every coffee shop in the North End is filled with ambiance and probably what you're expecting.
The Biggest, Boldest Art Theft in History
In the early hours following St. Patrick's Day, 1990 two men posing as police officers entered The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and stole thirteen works of art valued around $500 million. The case remains unsolved today and is thought to be the largest theft of private property in history. The museum is still offering a reward of $5 million for information leading to the recovery of the stolen artworks.
The subterfuge of police uniforms worked well enough for the thieves to trick the guards, allowing them access to the building. The guards were then promptly placed "under arrest", duct taping their mouths and handcuffing them to pipes in the basement. The thieves then had unfettered access to the museum for almost an hour and a half, enough time to make two trips and take anything they wanted. Some of the works stolen were artifacts by Dutch masters Vermeer and Rembrandt, as well as French Impressionists Degas and Manet. Because of limited surviving output by the artist, the Vermeer alone is valued at over $200 million.
Quickly turning the case over to the FBI, they conducted hundreds of interviews; requesting information and cooperating with scores of international authorities, museums, and art dealers. Investigators now believe the thieves were amateur criminals, not experts; due to the fact more famous and valuable paintings were not stolen during the escapades that night in the museum. Every decade or so, some new lead surfaces about the location of the missing artworks. These generate great excitement, but are always fake (or hoaxes) and have never amounted to anything.
The stipulations of Ms. Gardner's will state that works displayed within the museum are to be left as she placed them, but there were no provisions for stolen artifacts! Without such guidance, the empty frames continue to hang in the museum. They function both as a reminder of what was lost, and a hopeful placeholder for the day they are finally returned.
- Individual listings can be found in Boston's district articles
Boston offers a wide range of accommodations, from budget options to mid-range hotels to luxurious penthouses in the sky. Most hotels are concentrated in the Back Bay, with many more options available in neighboring districts like the South End, the Seaport and Cambridge. If you're primarily focused on the Freedom Trail, aim for as central a location as you can afford. Otherwise look for any place near a T station, once you're behind the gate you can be pretty much anywhere in a half an hour.
If anything will blow your budget it will be the accommodations. Boston has some of the most expensive real estate in the country, behind only the Bay Area and NYC. In 2016 the average room in town cost $254 a night! The city is aware of the problem and more hotels are either planned or under construction. Your best bet is to book far in advance and keep popular dates in mind. It can be especially bad during May graduations and around back-to-school in early September. Prices drop in winter, although shoulder season is probably the better compromise.
There are a few hostels in town, and you can sometimes find more affordable accommodations in student focused areas like Allston and the Fenway. Alternatively, get creative. Look up an old friend, crash someone's couch or browse your favorite room rental application. If you're staying a bit longer, a summer sublet might make a good option. Students returning home often have an extra 2-3 months on their lease that you could take over with a little paperwork.
Greater Boston uses 10-digit dialing. This means you need to include the area code whenever you are making a call. The standard area code is 617, but some phone numbers, especially cell phones, use the new 857 overlay.
In Boston, like the rest of the country dial 911 if there is an emergency. This free call will summon police, medical, and fire services to assist you.
Violent crime and other hazards are low for a major American city and incidents have been declining for years. Still, Boston is a big city so take normal precautions. Big tourist attractions draw crowds, and the crowds draw thieves. So keep your eye on more than just that entertaining street performer! The same rules apply if you plan on enjoying Boston's nightlife. Watch out late at night when bars and clubs are emptying of drunken revelers.
As of 2017 the only area that should be avoided by tourists can be found in the extreme southeast corner of the South End. Known as The Methadone Mile, or Boston Medical Center; this area is right next to the Route 93 ramps. New England is experiencing something of an opiate epidemic, and all the services that exist to assist these people are densely packed into a small area. There are a mixture of addicts trying to recover, dealers trying to sell, and police trying to keep order.
Dangers related to alcohol consumption are not uncommon, such as fights and drunk driving. Be especially careful when there is a Red Sox and New York Yankees baseball game in progress. Wearing Yankees gear in any part of town, especially in the Fenway area, is invitation to be verbally harassed by the locals. Although generally harmless and in good fun, as the night wears on and inhibitions are lowered, these encounters could become physical.
On the train know your stop. Try not to get too absorbed by your personal device, and look around. Take your headphones off. Use extra caution when exiting the train at night. Boston doesn't have too much of a problem with busking on the trains themselves, yet. Most T stations are staffed while open, so ask an attendant for help if you feel uncomfortable. As a very general rule of thumb, any place within a half a mile of a train station is likely to have undergone renovations in the past 10 years, and is probably fine.
The area a few blocks to the north and to the east of Franklin Park in Roxbury should be avoided, there is some lingering gang activity in that area. There are a few sporadic incidents of gang violence dotted around the city, but it is usually retaliatory in nature and tourists are not targeted.
- The Boston Globe. The Boston Globe is the biggest daily publication around. It is the most respectable of the daily broadsheets.
- The Boston Herald. The Herald is tabloid publication.
- The Boston Metro. Published in many cities, The Boston Metro is free, filled with ads and designed to be read on the train in about 10-15 minutes.
- DigBoston. Free alternative weekly publication.
- Bay State Banner. The Banner is an independent newspaper geared toward the African-American community.
- Bay Windows. Bay Windows is an LGBT-oriented newspaper, published weekly.
- Sampan Newspaper. Pick up a copy of The Sampan to learn more about the history of Chinatown.
- Spare Change. This biweekly paper contains alternative news, arts features, interviews, fiction and poetry that are written by staff writers and journalists, as well as by people who are homeless. Copies of Spare Change are purchased by the homeless, who sell them to passerby for $2.
Here is the quick rundown of consular services in Boston and Cambridge. This list isn't definitive, there are some consulates just a bit outside of the city.
Boston is uniquely located at the northern tip of the most densely populated area in the United States. From here it's easy to explore picturesque New England towns, charming seaside villages, and historic and natural parks galore.
- Mostly, but not entirely within the city, visiting the Boston Harbor Islands offers a completely different take on life in the city if you have the time.
- You didn't miss Cambridge, right? Not technically part of Boston; its museums, architecture, history, restaurants and shopping are not to be missed.
- Hop the Red line to Adams National Historical Park in neighboring Quincy. This was the family home of John Adams and John Quincy Adams, the 2nd and 6th Presidents of the United States.
- Plenty of hiking and biking opportunities can be found near the city. To the north you'll find Middlesex Fells Reservation in Stoneham, while the Blue Hills Reservation is located to the south in Milton.
- Speaking of cycling, pick up the Minuteman Bike Trail—a converted railroad track—and follow it out to Bedford. Once you arrive, let your legs decide if you should keep going or turn back to Cambridge.
- Head west to Concord to find Walden Pond, a kettle pond once owned by Ralph Waldo Emerson. Here his friend and author, Henry David Thoreau penned his book Walden; or, Life in the Woods.
- Next, visit the site where "the shot heard 'round the world" was fired from the North Bridge in the Minute Man National Historical Park. It's located in Lexington, where travellers will find a wealth of historical sites and small town charm.
- Right next door in Lincoln, you'll find the DeCordova Museum. It showcases modern art, with a focus on its many large outdoor sculptures. The nearby Gropius House was designed by Walter Gropius, father of the iconic Bauhaus art movement.
- Site of the famous Salem Witch Trials, Salem has done a fantastic job holding on to its historical roots. Walking through the historic district it's easy to imagine how a life controlled by the tides might have been lived. It's also a very modern city, bursting with many new shops and restaurants. Salem gets bonkers during October, and is a complete madhouse on Halloween.
- The North Shore is always a fantastic little getaway. Seaside villages like Glouster and Rockport (among several others) are well known for their charm, art, and fresh seafood.
- If you're driving south, stop by Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth; an hour by car. A living museum featuring a replica of the Mayflower, and dedicated to showcasing the manner in which the first Pilgrim colonists would have lived.
- Bring the kids out to Old Sturbridge Village in Sturbridge. Another living museum, this time re-creating life in rural New England as it was lived after the revolutionary war. One hour fifteen minutes from Boston by car.
- Head south to New Bedford for a sort of less touristed version of Salem. Learn about how the lucrative whaling industry forged the area's strong Portuguese and Cape Verdean connections. Filled with great museums and history, it's also famous as the location of Melville's classic novel, Moby Dick. 1h 30m drive.
- Follow the crowd over the Sagamore bridge and "Escape to the Cape". Take as much time as you need to soak up the breathtaking Cape Cod National Seashore.
- King of the Cape, Provincetown is achingly beautiful, easily accessible from Boston, and the perfect jump off for the rest of your Cape Cod explorations.
- If life on the ocean is more your style, don't miss Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. The former is closer to the mainland, flashier and more built up. The latter is slightly smaller and more remote, often making for a more peaceful stay.
- During the summer months, the Boston Symphony Orchestra makes its home in Lenox at Tanglewood, which hosts classical music as well as some contemporary acts. Two and a half hours by car.
- If you're in the Berkshires any time of year do not miss the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. Called Mass MoCA for short, there are always fresh exhibits rotating through their colossal gallery spaces. Three hours away by car in North Adams, the museum's presence is slowly dragging this old factory town back to life, with new restaurants, shops and breweries opening.
- Drive or take the train to Providence, RI. Home to its own share of art and culture, excellent Italian food, and a charming downtown area.
- Get a load of the jaw-dropping mansions in Newport, RI. Walk by the beach to see estates so grand, they're basically why Americans have to pay income tax now.
- Another ocean town, Portsmouth, NH is a historic seaport bursting at the seams with charm, restaurants and shopping.
- Keep heading north to find Portland. The largest city in Maine also offers some of its best options for dining, drinking, and dancing.
- Feeling a little more active? Hike the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The 8.9 mile "Franconia Ridge Traverse" takes all day and is one of the areas most popular treks. About 4 hours by car, Mount Washington State Park is another great option.
- Vermont is filled with covered bridges and charming towns like Woodstock. But really, any rustic town makes the perfect base to take in the dramatic fall foliage as seasons change.
- During winter, Ski the East at a over a dozen mountains including Killington VT, Bretton Woods NH, and Sunday River ME.
- Sample some of the finest brews in America in Burlington, Vermont's largest town. Many other fine brewers are located in the countryside nearby. 3h 30m by car.
- Spend a day or a week at Acadia National Park. This superlative park boasts some of the most spectacular coastal landscapes in all New England. A 5 hour drive from Boston without traffic.
- Travel by bus, plane, or train to arrive at the greatest American city, New York.
- If you're instead looking for towers of green, just a three hour drive from Boston will place you within the Hudson Valley and Catskills.
- Drive north into Canadian province Quebec. The province's biggest city, Montreal is 5 hours away by car, while the regions capital Quebec City is only 6.5 hours distant.
- If you prefer to travel the slow way, start (or finish) hiking the Appalachian Trail in Baxter State Park, Maine.
|Routes through Boston (by long-distance rail)|
|New York City ← Westwood ←||SW NE||→ END|
|Portland ← Woburn ←||N S||→ END|
|Albany (Rensselaer) ← Framingham ←||W E||→ END|
|Providence ← Westwood ←||SW NE||→ END|
|Routes through Boston (by car)|
|Worcester ← Newton ←||W E||→ END|
|Manchester ← Somerville ←||N S||→ Milton → Canton|
|Newburyport ← Chelsea ←||N S||→ Milton → Providence|
|Worcester ← Watertown ←||W E||→ END|
|Concord ← Cambridge ←||W E||→ END|
|Lowell via ← Cambridge ←||N S||→ Milton → Plymouth|
|Worcester ← Brookline ←||W E||→ END|
|Lawrence ← Cambridge ←||N S||→ Milton → Wareham|
|Routes through Boston (by commuter/regional rail)|
|END ←||N S||→ Braintree → Hyannis|
|Fitchburg ← Cambridge ←||NW SE||→ END|
|Worcester ← Newton ←||W E||→ END|
|Franklin ← Dedham ←||SW NE||→ END|
|END ←||NW SE||→ Quincy → Scituate|
|Reading ← Malden ←||N S||→ END|
|Wilmington ← Medford ←||N S||→ END|
|END ←||NW SE||→ Quincy → Lakeville|
|END ←||SW NE||→ Chelsea → Beverly|
|END ←||NW SE||→ Quincy → Halifax|