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.
Thousands of visitors visit Boston and the surrounding areas each year, especially in the spring and summer. Accommodations range from resort-like establishments to inexpensive hostels and motels. Business travelers can choose from locations near the heart of the Financial District or hotels in the high tech neighborhoods of Waltham and Lexington. An excellent public transportation system vastly increases your lodging options. Keep in mind that with many colleges and universities in the greater Boston area, room availability is tied to the academic calendar. If your travel plans require that you stay in Boston during the September or the May commencement seasons, book your room as early as possible.
You can reach downtown hotels by taking the water shuttle directly from the Logan Airport, an excellent alternative to sitting in traffic in the Sumner Tunnel. In addition to a great location, many downtown hotels offer fabulous views and beautiful rooms. Business travelers will be close to the Financial District, and tourists are within walking distance of Faneuil Hall Marketplace, the New England Aquarium, the quaint North End and the TD Banknorth Garden, previously known as the Fleet Center.
The Boston Harbor Hotel on Rowes Wharf is a beautiful and modern hotel with balconies and a rotunda overlooking the harbor. For a truly unique piece of Boston's history, be sure to check out the Omni Parker House, the country's oldest continuously-operating hotel. The Boston Marriott Hotel on Long Wharf is another splendid choice for both business and leisure travelers seeking modern accommodations and a great view. A little further inland is the Millennium Bostonian and Langham Hotel, both offering distinctive lodgings and impeccable service.
Back Bay lodgings tend to be pricey, but offer a location near downtown, Cambridge, the Theater District and exclusive Newbury Street. The deluxe Sheraton Boston Hotel on Dalton Street offers excellent service and amenities, along with the Hilton Boston Back Bay located across the street. For all-suite elegance, try The Eliot Hotel on the corner of Commonwealth and Massachusetts Avenues, with its marble bathrooms and polite doormen. The Back Bay is also home to such famous hotels as the Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons and Fairmont Copley Plaza.
The elegant Lenox Hotel is located on Exeter and Boylston Streets, parallel to Newbury Street and close to the Shops at Prudential Center. Also nearby is the more modern Colonnade Hotel.
Two mammoth hotels with slightly lower rates are the Westin Copley Place and the Boston Marriot Copley Place. They have fine dining on the premises, are adjacent to large shopping areas, and have comfortable rooms. There are also several brownstones in the Back Bay area that have been converted into modest bed & breakfast lodgings, which are available for long-term stays by both business persons and those on extended visits. One such place to try is 463 Beacon Street Guest House.
This area also has some good hotels that are typically lower in price than its Back Bay and downtown neighbors. However, this area is a little rougher around the edges as well, particularly in the wee hours of the morning. Bordering Chinatown, the Public Garden and the South End, you will find many good nightclubs, lounges and restaurants within easy walking distance. The Courtyard Boston Tremont Hotel is a classy hotel located next to the Wang Center for the Performing Arts. Around the corner is The Radisson, which offers good rates, even during the summer peak tourist season.
Cambridge is an excellent alternative to high-priced downtown. Many hotels cater to families visiting students at nearby Harvard University and MIT. The Inn at Harvard, the Charles Hotel in Harvard Square and the Harvard Square Hotel all put you close to the prestigious campus. Harvard Yard is a stone's throw away from any of these lodgings, and the MBTA Red Line will take you to downtown destinations.
Featuring personal attention and an intimate setting, A Cambridge House is a beautifully restored mansion on a quiet, tree-lined street. The Hyatt Regency Cambridge is on the banks of the Charles River and has breathtaking views of the Boston skyline. Close to the Museum of Science is the high tech-oriented Royal Sonesta Hotel, with modern amenities like Wi-Fi.
Despite the city's wealth of options, Boston has an extremely low hotel room vacancy rate, especially between the months of April and November. Be sure to book your room early and check your reservation often. The good news is that despite the lack of competition for guests, the lodging establishments here have sterling reputations, and you are almost guaranteed a good night's sleep, wherever you choose to stay.
Seafood is a Boston favorite, as is the traditional Yankee boiled supper, but this ethnic melting pot has an eclectic selection of menus.
Seafood rules the dining scene here, enticing visitors with clam chowder and lobster. Anthony's Pier 4 on Northern Avenue is a popular and well-established spot. Legal Sea Foods is a local chain that is popular with residents and tourists alike, and has served their clam chowder at several recent presidential inaugurations. The Barking Crab has beer and crab cakes galore, and the Daily Catch will entice you with its specialties from the sea.
You can find Yankee suppers, Irish fare, seafood and pub grub in this historic downtown marketplace. Durgin-Park has pot roast and boiled dinners. The Black Rose is a good spot for a pint of Guinness. There are also food courts for a quick bite.
This beautiful, old-fashioned neighborhood is known for its intimate and romantic places, including The Hungry I and Todd English's famous Figs Although there is often a wait for a table, the inviting cobblestone streets and gas-lit alleyways are perfect for a pre-dinner walk.
The North End is home to historic landmarks and the best Italian food in Boston and perhaps in all of New England. Hanover Street is packed with such popular establishments as Pomodoro, Mamma Maria, Mike's Pastry and Caffe Vittoria.
With the highest concentration of late-night dining options in the city, Chinatown eateries are crowded well into the night. Among the best are Chau Chow City and East Ocean City.
Fusion restaurants and countless cafes line this busy Back Bay street. Stephanie's on Newbury and Sonsie Bistro & Cafe are swank spots for the dining elite. Davio's has great Italian food and a cozy atmosphere. 29 Newbury is known for celebrity spotting and chic dining in a intimate setting. For special occasions, L'Espalier is a truly romantic French restaurant.
The South End, with its quaint row houses and manicured buildings, has a variety of dining options to choose from. On a walk along Columbus Avenue and Tremont Street in this neighborhood, you will encounter restaurants offering modern French and American food, Ethiopian cuisine and down-home southern cooking. Tremont 647 and Mistral are two hotspots in this area.
On the other side of the Charles River, Cambridge has many hidden jewels, many of which are priced out of the student budget range and offer a fine dining experience in this cosmopolitan little city. Casablanca is an obvious choice for Humphrey Bogart fans, and Chez Henri serves French cuisine with a South American twist. The Border Cafe is the place for margaritas and quesadillas.
Often the best way to find a good meal in Boston is by exploring on foot. Every neighborhood in Boston has interesting choices, from gourmet to pub grub.