Boston, one of the oldest cities in America, evokes a distinct European feel, which is evident in the city's culture. The city's role in the American Revolution has led to the nickname, the "Cradle of Liberty."
Once considered ultra-conservative, Boston has developed a progressive culture and attitude. It has become one of the most exciting places in New England, with excellent culinary hotspots and an abundance of attractions and sights. Historical buildings, parks and cemeteries are national landmarks, and the city boasts the birthplaces of many famous patriots, presidents and politicians. The city's architectural treasures include lovely brownstones and cobblestone streets, and gas-lamps light the way in many neighborhoods.
Each of Boston's neighborhoods has unique characteristics and reasons to be explored.
Near the Boston Harbor waterfront is
Brookline is a wealthy suburb just to the west of Boston. The bars, movie theaters, shops, Jewish delicatessens and restaurants attract families, students, and professionals who enjoy the area's friendly urbanity. The Coolidge Corner area, at the intersection of Harvard Avenue and Beacon Street, is the town's liveliest and most rewarding area to visit.
Somerville is located to the north of Cambridge and home to Tufts University. The lively bars and restaurants here are frequented by young, hard-working professionals who cannot afford to live downtown, as well as by older residents who enjoy Somerville's funky mix of urban sophistication with a suburban pace and attitude.
Cambridge is a city unto itself, located opposite Boston along the Charles River. It is best known as the home to Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, two of the most prestigious universities in the United States. The city is more colorful, liberal and funky than staid Boston, perhaps because of the large population of students and alumni. Central Square in Cambridge is a lively area with cheap ethnic cuisine and perhaps the highest concentration of music clubs and bars in the greater Boston area. Harvard Square is the area just outside of famed Harvard Yard. It is home to many fine restaurants that are beyond the budget of any college student, along with unique shops including several specialty bookstores and funky clothing stores. Another great attraction is the
Native Americans had been living on the Boston peninsula for more than 2,000 years when Captain John Smith, famous for helping lead the settlement of Virginia to the south, sailed into the harbor in 1614. Smith mapped the area between Cape Ann to the north and Cape Cod to the south and called it New England. He named the largest river in the area the Charles, after the British prince. In 1620, the Puritans, chased out of England for their religious beliefs, landed in nearby Plymouth, and founded the first permanent European settlement in the Boston area.
A few years later, William Blackstone, a scholar and clergyman from the Plymouth settlement, set out in search of solitude. He found himself, his bull and several hundred books at the foot of Beacon Hill. In 1630, Blackstone lured other Puritans to Boston with promises of ample fresh water. He soon was in the middle of a bustling community that included the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, John Winthrop.
The town was named Boston (Native Americans had called it Shawmut) after the town of the same name in England, which had been named after St. Botolph, the patron saint of fishing. From the beginning, the growing town used the Atlantic Ocean as its lifeline, and over the next 40 years, Bostonians built more than 730 ships. As Boston became a center for publishing, education and trade, the strict moral teachings of the Puritans clashed with the zeal of the emerging merchant class. By 1680, the once independent colony was firmly under British control. As Paul Revere's famous engraving of 1768 shows, British warships conveyed troops to the city in response to protests over the Stamp Act of 1765, which required tax stamps to be placed on any published materials. The act was later rescinded after protests by the "Sons of Liberty," who included Samuel Adams, John Hancock, John Adams, Patrick Henry and James Otis.
But the British Crown issued mandates that imposed additional taxes on the colony. By 1770, there was one British soldier in town for every four colonists. The powder keg exploded on March 5, 1770, with the Boston Massacre. The site where British troops fired into a crowd of colonists, killing five people, is marked today by a ring of cobblestones at Congress and State Streets.
On December 16, 1773, a mob led by Samuel Adams boarded three ships and dumped their cargoes of tea overboard in "The Boston Tea Party". The British parliament responded by sending even more troops to close off Dorchester Neck, the only land entrance to Boston. The "shot heard 'round the world" was fired in Lexington on April 19, 1775, when a group of colonial militiamen engaged in battle with British regulars. The American Revolution had begun.
The tide turned for the Bostonians with George Washington's first major victory on March 16, 1776. Using the cover of night, the rebel army moved much of their artillery to the top of Dorchester Heights. British troops awoke to find enough cannon staring down at them to destroy their fleet anchored in Boston Harbor. On March 17, Evacuation Day, they fled the city, and the date has been a city holiday ever since.
Post-Revolutionary Boston had a population less than a third of what it had been just prior to the war. But the early years of the 19th Century were boom times for Boston, which added thousands of new residents every 10 years, along with mills, tanneries and factories. Eventually annexed by the city were fast-growing suburbs: Roxbury, Jamaica Plain and Dorchester. Landfill was another way to meet the ever-increasing demands for more space: Mount Vernon gave up tons of dirt and gravel to form Charles Street at the base of Beacon Hill. The Back Bay, once a soggy bank along the Charles River, was built on top of landfill.
It was during these prosperous times that Frederick Law Olmsted, one of the nation's foremost landscape architects, designed the "Emerald Necklace." This is a series of green spaces that connects the Boston Common, Public Garden and Commonwealth Avenue Mall to parks of Olmsted's design like the Arnold Aboretum, Franklin Park and the Back Bay Fens.
The end of the Civil War signaled an end to Boston's booming economy. Newly constructed rail lines eliminated trade from Boston's waterfront. Factories around the country produced goods more cheaply than in Boston, and the shoe and textile industries vanished by the 1920s. With the arrival of the Great Depression of the 1930s, Boston's economy seemed doomed. The renovation of Boston finally came at the hands of Mayor John Collins, who undertook a massive restructuring of the city in the 1950s. Many old landmarks were destroyed, but he also created many jobs and helped pump dollars into the slowly reawakening economy.
The John Hancock Tower, designed by famed architect I.M. Pei, soared skyward in 1975 as Boston's tallest building. In 1978, renovated Quincy Market symbolized a new period of growth. The 1990s saw the beginning of the giant urban renovation program known as the Big Dig, designed to bury Interstate 93.
Boston, now one of the country's major centers of high-tech development and a popular tourist destination, has entered the new millennium with the energy, perseverance and heady spirit that have always been the city's trademarks.
Boston is not a city where you take a tour merely out of a sense of obligation. You may find yourself simply inspired to wander around this architectural theme park of cobblestone paths, antique brownstones and 18th century buildings. Explore quaint neighborhoods and discover quiet corners within the city.
Freedom Trail Visitors to Boston take a walk down Freedom Trail to explore 16 of the city's most important historical attractions and monuments. Among them are the Bunker Hill Monument, Boston Common, Granary Burying Ground and Copp's Hill Burial Ground. The West Street Grille is a welcoming place to stop for a meal at the end of the tour.
Museum of Fine Arts The Museum of Fine Arts opened in 1876 and is considered one of the best in the country. Behind the Museum, is a secluded park, Back Bay Fens, which is convenient for taking a stroll. Nearby Canestaro is a family-friendly Italian restaurant that is well-known for its quality. When you've finished your meal, walk over to Copley Place or the Shops at Prudential Center, two large malls that have hundreds of stores and restaurants to explore.
Boston Common Located in the historic neighborhood of Beacon Hill is Boston Common, the country's oldest park, which also contains a public garden and frog pond. Also in this area is the Old State House, Boston's oldest public building. Stop into the nearby Museum of Science, which contains hundreds of educational and interactive exhibits, or shop at the Faneuil Hall Marketplace, which also offers many unique dining options.
Back Bay Back Bay is a neighborhood filled with brownstones and tree-lined streets. The Boston Public Library can be found in this area. The nearby Fenway Park is home to the Boston Red Sox. The Brown Sugar Cafe is just a few blocks away as is the Boston University Observatory, where you can look through professional-grade telescopes and learn about the history of space.
Franklin Park Zoo With animals from all over the world, the Franklin Park Zoo is a popular attraction for families. The nearby Forest Hills Cemetery is filled with beautiful Gothic architecture. The Arnold Arboretum is just a few steps away, and contains hundreds of plant species. The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum contains many documents and artifacts from Kennedy's life and the Cold War era. The Fish Pier Restaurant & Market is just north of the Library.
North End The North End neighborhood is a largely Italian community that is filled with history. The Old North Church is the oldest religious building in Boston. Drop into Gelateria for some traditional, Italian gelato. Just up the road is Christopher Columbus Park, which features stunning views of the harbor. Lucca Restaurant & Bar is a nearby dining option where guests can enjoy some rustic Italian dishes.
Whether you travel by foot, trolley, bike or car, you are sure to bump into a museum, historic site or architectural gem at almost every turn in Boston and Cambridge. From Paul Revere's ride to John F. Kennedy's presidency, Boston has long been a place where history is made, and its popularity as a tourist destination attests to the ease with which you can explore it.
Self-Guided Tours Freedom Trail ( +1 617 242 5642 / +1 617 242 5689 / http://www.thefreedomtrail.org/ ) Beacon Hill Walking Tour ( +1 617 523 9490 / http://www.beaconhillonline.com/ )
Guided Tours Freedom Trail Players ( +1 617 357 8300 / http://www.thefreedomtrail.org/ ) Boston By Foot ( +1 617 367 2345 / http://www.bostonbyfoot.org/ ) Boston Duck Tours ( +1 617 267 3825 / http://www.bostonducktours.com/ ) Black Heritage Trail ( +1 617 742 5415 / http://www.nps.gov/boaf/ )
Culinary Tours North End Market Tour ( +1 617 523 6032 / http://www.northendmarkettours.com/ ) Boston Bike Tours ( +1 617 308 5902 / http://www.bostonbiketours.com/ )
Trolley Tours Discover Boston Multilingual Trolley Tours ( +1 617 742 1440 / http://www.discoverbostontours.com/ ) Old Town Trolley Tours ( +1 800 868 7482 / http://www.historictours.com/boston/ )
Boat Tours Boston Harbor Cruises ( +1 617 227 4321 / +1 877 733 9425 / http://www.bostonharborcruises.com/ ) The Charles Riverboat Company Tours ( +1 617 621 3001 / http://charlesriverboat.com/ )
Once considered ultra-conservative and boring, Boston has become a world-class metropolis with endless ways to educate, enthrall, entice and, of course, entertain. Vibrant nightlife and a surge of innovative restaurants have added options to an existing stable of world-class museums and theaters, making Boston an entertainment magnet in New England.
Museums and Galleries
Boston has a magnificent selection of art complexes—large to small, American to Asian, local to national. Many museums offer specials and discounts for students. Boston's enormous Museum of Fine Arts and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum are the best-known and most popular. Kids love the Children's Museum, and everyone loves the Museum of Science, with its theater and planetarium.
Newbury Street, South End and Brookline boast a diverse array of galleries, many of which showcase the region's up-and-coming artists.
Theater and Music
Boston has dozens of theaters, including outstanding regional theaters and venues for touring Broadway shows. The Wang Center for the Performing Arts, the American Repertory Theatre and the Charles Playhouse are among the better-known theaters.
There is also a lively and varied music scene, including the world-renowned Boston Symphony Orchestra, which performs at Symphony Hall. The free performance by the Boston Pops on the Charles River Esplanade every Fourth of July is not to be missed. Both ensembles have summer performances at Tanglewood Music Center, a beautiful outdoor concert hall in the Berkshire mountains.
For mainstream music, check out the TD Banknorth Garden, the city's largest musical and sporting venue. The Paradise and Avalon are other venues for pop music concerts. In warmer months, the Hatch Memorial Shell on the Charles River Esplanade is famous for its free classical, jazz and rock concerts. Jazz clubs range from sleek hotel venues such as Scullers and the Regattabar to lively, standing-room-only favorites like Wally's Cafe and Bob's Southern Bistro. Irish music is also very popular in Boston, with live Irish seisiuns occurring almost nightly at the Brendan Behan Pub, The Burren and the Grand Canal, to name a few.
Rollerbladers and runners flock to the Charles River Esplanade. The Public Garden and Boston Common fill with walkers and strollers in the spring, which is about the time that the famous Swan Boats reappear. The Commonwealth Mall, which runs parallel to Newbury and Marlborough Streets, overflows with walkers, many accompanied by their dogs. One little-known oasis is the Back Bay Fens with its gorgeous rose and community gardens. The Arnold Arboretum is a 256-acre horticultural treasure. From April to October, you can rent a sailboat on lovely Jamaica Pond. Many of these parks are part of Boston's so-called "Emerald Necklace," a series of green spaces preserved or designed by the famous landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed New York's Central Park.
In South Boston, on historic Castle Island, you can walk around old Fort Independence and watch planes take off from nearby Logan International Airport.
Watch the Celtics play basketball and the Bruins play hockey at the TD Banknorth Garden. You will never forget watching the storied Red Sox play baseball at historic Fenway Park, which many fans consider the finest stadium in the country. The Boston Marathon and the Head of the Charles Rowing Regatta are two annual events that attract thousands of spectators and top athletes from all over the world.
Boston has many options for the music lovers, young professionals and hipsters who enjoy the varied nightlife. A word to night owls: All establishments close promptly at 2a and the MBTA stops running at 12:45a, so be prepared to take a cab home.
Lansdowne Street, located next to Fenway Park, boasts various clubs, each with a different theme. Avalon, which is the largest, boasts an impressive list of visiting DJs and live acts. For a more polished atmosphere, consider the Leather District. Off the beaten path between South Station and Chinatown you will find numerous places catering to a cosmopolitan crowd.