Before moving to Atlanta, I lived in Boston for seven years. Despite the harsh winters (and attitudes), I really, really love Beantown. Nowadays, I only get back there about once a year, so my expertise on the city is admittedly waning. Nonetheless, here are 10 of my favorite, tried-and-true things to do in this beautiful city. (Most of which can – and should! – be accomplished without a car.)
1. Stroll down Newbury Street. I always kick off my visits to Boston with a stop at my old stomping grounds, Boston University. As a B.U. Class of 2000 grad, I can’t resist the nostalgia. However, this gem probably isn’t for everyone – unless you are into Fenway Park, which is in Kenmore Square on the very eastern side of campus. Otherwise, kick off your Newbury Street stroll on Massachusetts Avenue and start with a bang by checking out one of my favorite stores ever, Sweet-N-Nasty. If you’re in the market for chocolate penises or vagina cakes, this is the place for you! Next, head around the corner and make your way down Newbury St. – aka Boston’s Rodeo Drive – to see how the other half lives. Buy nothing, except of course a cupcake from Georgetown Cupcake. There are also plenty of other eateries on Newbury St. if you get hungry.
2. Chill out in the park. If you walk all the way to the end of Newbury St., you’ll end up at one of the prettiest spots in town, the Boston Public Garden. Take some time to savor the gorgeous scene, and maybe even ride a swan boat if you’re feeling extra fancy-free. This park appears in many movies including Good Will Hunting and the iconic Ted 2. You’ll also find the original Cheers bar on Beacon Street – across from the north end of the park – if you want to go where everybody knows your name. Then, continue across the park to yet another park, the Boston Common. Check out the pond on the north side, where kids frolic in the water in the summer, and people skate in the winter. Either one is fun to watch – or participate in if you prefer.
3. Grab dim sum in Chinatown. If you keep walking East and head out of the park, you’ll want to take a right down Tremont Street to hit up Chinatown. My favorite place to get dim sum in Boston (and on earth) is at China Pearl on Tyler St. But don’t be afraid to explore beyond that. I have never had any bad food/drink in Boston’s Chinatown – it’s all good. Wander, drink some bubble tea, grab some Asian pastries and fun souvenirs, and of course take some awesome pics.
4. Visit a stall in Faneuil Hall. If you decided to take a left on Tremont Street instead of a right when you exited the park, you’ll be headed towards Government Center and Faneuil Hall. On the way, you’ll pass some really cool, astoundingly old cemeteries that look wildly out of place amidst the hustle-and-bustle of the city. When you get to Government Center, hang a right and go down the stairs to experience the magic and splendor of Faneuil Hall Marketplace. Even as a native New Englander, I can still spend hours in here eating and shopping for souvenirs. Don’t miss the endless row of food stalls that occupy the center of the marketplace – tempting hoards of passerby with options ranging from Chinese food to chowder, bagels to baklava, and fried dough to fudge. After stuffing your face, if you’re really looking for a good time, head to the Hong Kong bar to indulge in a “Scorpion Bowl” of alcohol. Warning! Do not consume alone.
5. Marvel at the waterfront. A quick jaunt from Faneuil Hall will reward you with stunning views of the Boston waterfront. Walk as far East as you can, take a seat, and watch the boats. As far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing better. Wait, why do I live in Atlanta where it’s landlocked??? Anyway, after sucking in all that sea air, you may be in the mood for seafood – of which there is plenty in this area. There are also numerous boat cruises and tours that leave from here if you want to get in on the action.
6. Climb Beacon Hill. You’ve pretty much reached the end of the road on our linear walking tour. But if you still have some energy left, you could check out the Beacon Hill neighborhood back towards the park. Beacon Hill is a very expensive neighborhood that is ultra historic to the point of being a little creepy in the evening hours. Wandering its narrow, brick-and-stone lined streets shows you a very different and cool side of Boston. Make sure you’re up for the challenge though because Beacon Hill is, well, very hilly. I might not recommend this activity if you’ve had a Scorpion Bowl! If you do go, be sure to find the old firehouse on Mt. Vernon Street that was home to MTV’s Real World cast.
7. Dine in the North End. Not too far from Beacon Hill and the Faneuil Hall/waterfront area is another historic district, the North End, or Boston’s answer to Little Italy. A meal here is highly recommended, as is a stroll along its cobblestone streets, a stop at a pastry shop for a cannoli, and some awesome comedy at the Improv Asylum. Make sure to get tickets in advance if you want to see a show!
8. Walk along the Esplanade. Another great place for walking in Boston is the scenic Charles River Esplanade. Greenery, tall buildings, water, bridges and boats all collide to provide amazing views. A good place to start on the Esplanade is at the “B.U. beach” – not a real beach disappointingly, but a nice patch of grass on the B.U. campus with easy access to the Esplanade. If you make it to the end of the Esplanade, you’ll find yourself at one of the coolest museums I’ve ever been to – the Boston Museum of Science. While I haven’t been there in years, I have thoroughly enjoyed visits to this museum as both an adult and child. Trust me, it’s more fun than it sounds!
9. Paaak the Caaaa in Haaavaaad Yaaaad. Okay, you don’t really need to take a car there, but from the Museum of Science you can easily hop a train over to Cambridge on the Red Line if you want to check out where all the smaaahhht kids go to school. Honestly, there’s not much to do on the Harvard campus once you snap an obligatory pic or two, but luckily the area is also chock-full of interesting shops and restaurants. Both Fire + Ice (make-your-own stir fry) and Border Café (Mexican) are great choices.
10. Go to the Beach!!!!! And I’ve saved the best for last. By far my favorite thing to do in Boston is hit up a beach. If you don’t have a car, you can take the subway (Blue Line) right to Revere Beach. And for the love of God, please stop by Kelly’s for the best fried shrimp and hot dogs in town! Make sure you ask for that good ol’ tartar sauce for your skrimps! If you have a car and prefer a more serene beach, Winthrop Beach is just as close to the city but practically secluded. I went there on my most recent trip and it was blissful to share the sand with just the seagulls and hermit crabs, both of which are very plentiful in the area. But still go to Kelly’s to feast on some shrimp after, which is just a short drive away!
Well, there you have it – Boston in a nutshell. If you need overnight accommodations there, I would recommend planning ahead and searching for deals. I recently booked a hotel there just a few weeks in advance and was not impressed with the price. And unless you are planning to head out to the ‘burbs or other surrounding areas, I’d recommend losing the car. Between the traffic and high costs for parking, it’s really just easier to walk and take the train. Even if you’re not big on walking, the train pretty much goes everywhere. Hopefully with these tips in hand, your trip to Bahhhstan will be ahhhsome and not a wicked pissah!Tags: Boston, Boston Common, Chinatown, Faneuil Hall, New England, Newbury Street, Revere Beach, Travel