Boston is the largest city in the New England region of America and is home to more than 4.5 million people. That said, the inner city and historic areas are all very small and compact making it great to explore on foot and to discover the hidden gems that this fascinating city, dating back to the 1630’s, has to offer.
Craig and I travelled to Boston by train, a pleasant 4 hour journey from New York. The train follows the coast some of the way, making it a very scenic trip, much better than a few hours in a plane.
The Freedom Trail
The key tourist attraction and a real “must do” when visiting Boston is the 2.5 mile Freedom Trail, that links 16 of the most significant historic colonial-era buildings, landmarks and monuments together, giving you a journey into Boston’s colourful past. Some of the places on the Freedom Trail include Paul Revere House, built in 1775 (Paul Revere played a major role in the American Revolution), Bunker Hill, Faneuil Hall built in 1742, the site of the Boston massacre, Benjamin Franklin Statue and the massive Boston Common, a 50 acre park located in the city centre.
Just outside of downtown Boston is the newly opened John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, dedicated to the life and times of JFK, one of the most popular presidents in American history. We spent a good 2 hours walking through the range of exhibits that span the turbulent times when JFK was coming to power and his time as president. Exhibits include the campaign trail, the Kennedy Family, the first lady Jacqueline Kennedy, the space program, the Cold War and Cuban Missile Crisis. There is also a full-sized replica of the Oval Office duplicating how it looked when JFK was in office. Both Craig and I really enjoyed the museum and found the exhibits and short films both interesting as well as very moving.
Cheers Bar – Craig & I out the front
Craig and I visited the bar that inspired the Cheers television comedy of the 80s and 90s. The outside building and inner bar look just like on the television show. It’s very touristy but a nice place to spend an evening. I liked the fact that they all kept referring to me as Norm and wanted to take my photo at the bar.
Another side of Boston
Boston is home to two of the most important learning institutions in America, Harvard University and MIT. Harvard University dates back to 1636 and has educated a large number of American presidents and world leaders, while MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) has been on the forefront of the technology industry over the last 30 years. Both institutes are located near each other, making the whole area a great place to visit due to its large student population, interesting boutique shops, coffee shops and independent bookstores.
The Boston Red Sox are like a religion in Boston, they are the local Baseball team and one of the most successful in America. They play at the historic Fenway Park, which celebrated its 100th year of operation in 2012. If you can manage to see a game, it will truly be a Boston experience you won’t forget.
The best place for shopping in Boston is the Faneuil Hall and adjacent Quincy Markets. Dating back to 1742, this historic landmark is home to over 100 different shops, many restaurants and outdoor cafés. We visited on a nice sunny afternoon and the whole place was bustling with people, buskers, outdoor entertainers, creating a wonderful, energetic and friend atmosphere, a great place to spend an afternoon of shopping and people watching.
Charlestown is one of Boston’s most historic neighbourhoods and is steeped in Irish history as most of the population are from Irish descent. Charlestown is a short water taxi ride from the centre of Boston.
Bunker Hill with its 221 foot tall monument is the centre of Charlestown and pays tribute to the battle of Bunker Hill in 1775 where 226 Americans were killed by the occupying British. Craig did climb the 300 or so steps to the top of the monument for an amazing vista of Charlestown and Boston (he did complain about having sore legs for the rest of the trip). Charlestown is a maze of winding cobble stone streets, interesting architecture and many historic taverns.
We enjoyed a few hours at the Warren Tavern, which was made famous in the 2010 film The Town starring Ben Affleck (one of Boston’s favourite sons).
All in all Boston was a real surprise. I was expecting another big city like New York, but was pleasantly surprised to find a city full of history, interesting places to explore and some of the friendliest people you could expect to meet. Boston gets the thumbs up from me!