Boston in a Nutshell - History and so much more

Boston, a city of great history and culture is also a fun tourist destination. The history of the US is on display in Boston, with many important sites from the founding of the country. It's also a high tech modern city. In Boston, you'll see historic buildings surrounded in stark contrast by glass and steel skyscrapers. Old meets new, in a fascinating city with something for everyone.

Walking through history in Boston

Boston blends the old and the new Architecture from different eras in Boston

The premier tour of Boston is a self-paced walking tour along the Freedom Trail. This is a brick-lined route that takes you past important sites from the American Revolution, as it winds 2.5 miles through the city. It's a great education for adults and kids alike, and will bring a lot of old history lessons to life.

You can join a group tour, but the Freedom Trail is easy to do on your own. There is a lot of information provided at the stops along the way. A few of the 16 sites along this history-steeped trail are:

  • Boston Common - America's oldest public park, this dates to 1634. It's a pleasant park today with shady trees and paths.
  • Boston Massacre Site - A deadly confrontation here in 1770 raised tensions and inflamed anger against the British, part of the escalation leading up to the American Revolution.
  • Old North Church - This church is where the lanterns were hung "One if by land, two if by sea", alerting people to British troop movements during Paul Revere's famous ride in 1775. Paul Revere's home is another stop on the Freedom Trail.
  • Faneuil Hall - Nicknamed "the Cradle of Liberty", the meeting hall upstairs was the scene of many town meetings and protests against the British.
  • USS Constitution - This historic sailing ship is the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world. Thanks to some special construction, cannonballs fired at her bounced off, earning the nickname "Old Ironsides".

Doing the whole trail is quite a bit of walking, especially since you'll also want to walk around at individual sites along the way. You don't have to do it all at once, though. Another alternative is to take one of the trolley tours that cover sights along the Freedom Trail.

Cannons lined up belowdeck on the USS Constition Cannons aboard the historic sailing warship USS Constitution

Other fun things to do in Boston

Sea turtle at the Boston Aquarium Kids like the sea creatures at the Aquarium

There's a lot more to Boston than history. On a rainy day, the museums and indoor attractions are a good bet. Art lovers can head to the Museum of Fine Arts or the Institute of Contemporary Art. If you're traveling with the family, children enjoy the underwater creatures at the New England Aquarium, and the hands-on exhibits at the Museum of Science.

Strolling along the waterfront is always interesting, with boats of every description moving through the harbor. You can get out on the water on a harbor cruise, for a different view of the city. One unusual option is the Duck boat, an amphibious vehicle that starts on land, then drives right into the water for the rest of the tour.

Pubs in Boston

Boston has a sizable Irish community, and is known for its authentic Irish pubs. You'll pass several as you walk the Freedom Trail, so you can stop for lunch or to quench your thirst.

If you remember the old Cheers TV show, a special treat is to stop by the Bull and Finch “Cheers” bar across from Boston Common. The outside stairs and entrance were featured on the TV show, and the TV show’s bar is on the second floor. The casual food is good, and they offer an excellent selection of beer, including the local Boston beer Sam Adams. You can even sit in Frasier's spot at the bar.

Fraser's spot at the bar from Cheers Sit where the regulars did, at the famous bar from Cheers

Unique food options in Boston

In the morning, Dunkin' Donuts is the place to go for great coffee and fresh donuts. Sure, they have Starbucks here too, but Dunkin' Donuts is a New England institution that originated in nearby Quincy, in 1950. They're practically ubiquitous here, so you're bound to find one near your hotel.

Quincy Market is right next to Faneuil Hall (on the Freedom Trail). The market has dozens of food stalls that sell New England specialties like lobster rolls and whoopee pies, as well as pizza, seafood and ethnic foods from around the world. This makes a great stop for lunch as you're touring the town.

Quincy Market in Boston has a great food selection For a break from sightseeing, Quincy Market makes a good lunch stop

For drinks or dinner with the best view in town, try a romantic evening at Boston's Prudential Center. Take an elevator all the way to the "Top of the Pru". You can watch the city lights below as you wine and dine, with a live jazz band playing in the background.

Trivia:  Boston has a unique weather forecast display. Look at the lights on top of the old John Hancock building, and remember the poem:
Steady blue, clear view / Flashing blue, clouds due /
Steady red, rain ahead / Flashing red, snow instead.
If you see flashing red in the summer, don't worry - a freak snow storm isn't on the way. In summer, it means the Red Sox game is canceled.

Boston travel tips

  • Where it is - Boston is in Massachusetts, on the east coast of the United States.
  • How to get there - Logan Airport in Boston (airport code BOS) is a major international airport, with many flights arriving from near and far.
    If you're traveling the eastern seaboard of the US, and want something a bit different, you could also take the train. The Acela Express provides high speed service between Boston and New York, Washington DC and a few other cities.
  • Getting around Boston - Ditch the car. Parking is very expensive and the town is pedestrian friendly. The subway and public transportation is very extensive.
    If you are flying in or out of Boston’s Logan airport, you can take the water taxi across Boston Harbor into town. It's a quick and very scenic boat ride. If the weather is bad take the T (subway) or a taxi.
  • Weather - Weather here can be capricious, and the local saying is "If you don't like the weather, wait 10 minutes." It's useful to look at the weather averages, but always take these with a grain of salt - you could find something very different. See Boston weather averages
  • When to go - If you want to do outdoor activities like walking the Freedom Trail, then May to Oct typically have the best weather. Fall foliage season (Sept to Nov) can be pretty but busy. If you don't mind a bit of cold and rain (or snow), you'll find attractions less crowded Dec through March.
  • Where to stay - Boston has hundreds of hotels and lodging options. One notable possibility is the Marriott Long Wharf. This hotel has an ideal location on the waterfront next to the Aquarium and IMAX theatre. It is also near the Freedom Trail and just a few blocks from Faneuil Hall.
  • What to take - Layered clothing is best in all seasons, with a waterproof rain jacket. Weather here is unpredictable and changeable. You could find balmy days in March, blustery days in August, or even a day with both.

Comments? Questions?

Have you been to the Boston, or would you like to check out this historic city? Join the conversation, and leave any comments or questions below. Thanks! 🙂
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PHOTO CREDITS:  Aquarium - Brian Cook, Remaining photos - Deanna Keahey

4 Comments

  1. Brian

    Great article, you truly captured the high points of Boston. one of my favorite cities. So much history and culture with a beautiful waterfront. The extensive mass transit makes it easy to get around and see everything. The seafood is excellent, home of the original New England clam chowder!

    • Thanks, Brian! Boston is definitely a unique city with a lot to offer. I really enjoyed it myself, and you're right about the seafood, too! 🙂

  2. One day I hope to visit or even live in Boston. When my dream comes true! xxx

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