Boston is a city that’s well worth a visit. It is a town of colonialism; of “No taxation without representation!”; of famous Tea Parties and acts of patriotism; of American Revolution; a liberal town at the forefront of Abolition. It is the capital of Massachusetts. The Bay State was the first of America’s 50 Stars to legalize gay marriage in 2004 and two years later began to benefit from universal healthcare thanks to then governor Mitt Romney. Boston is a sporting town, and a successful one at that – home to The Bruins, The Red Sox and The Celtics. A stone’s throw across the Charles River in Cambridge are two of the world’s finest universities – M.I.T. and Harvard.
Natives of “Beantown” have arguably the best accent of any city in the United States – just think of the Wahlberg and Affleck brothers! It the birthplace of revolutionaries Samuel Adams and Paul Revere. It was home to the Kennedy family and whilst JFK was governor of the state he would often eat at the Union Oyster House, the oldest restaurant in America, established in 1826, where there now is a booth in his honour.
This should be enough to whet your appetite but read on for 10 Must-Sees in this wonderful east coast city.
1. Fenway Park: For all sports fans out there we are going to start with the oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball and one of the most famous sporting venues in the world. Fenway Park has been home to the Boston Red Sox since 1912 and was named after the neighbourhood of the same name in which it sits. Upon its centennial, the stadium was entered into the (American) National Register of Historic Places. Visitors can drink in the rich history of the stadium with hour-long tours. Sit on the old wooden seats of the Grandstand section or on the exclusive places atop the Green Monster, spot the Lone Red Seat in the right field which marks the longest ever home run hit by Ted Williams in 1946, and learn of how the infamous Pesky and Fisk foul poles earned their names. Fenway is a must for any visitor to Boston.
2. A short drive along the Charles River from Fenway Park is Boston’s other major sporting arena. TD Garden or “The Garden” (pronounced Gah-dan) is home to the Boston Bruins of the NHL and the NBA’s Boston Celtics. Whilst The Bruins may divide opinion among neutrals, their fans are some of the most passionate and loyal of any in the league and the electric atmosphere of an Eastern Conference home game would be a once in a lifetime experience for any out-of-town hockey fan. With the ice cleared and boards laid, the opportunity to see the Celtics play would be equally as exciting for any basketball fans out there. All in all, Boston has you covered if you want to see world-class sporting events.
3. Duck Boats – Now for something completely different. DUKW (or “duck”) boats were originally used by the U.S. military in World War II to transport servicemen and supplies across land and water. In 1946, an ingenious man named Mel Flath, who lived in Wisconsin, had the quacking idea (sorry) to turn these vehicles into craft that could show off the waterways of his home town Wisconsin Dells to visitors and the tourist industry has used them ever since. There is no better, or more unique, way to tour Boston. A fun and interesting experience awaits you as knowledgeable guides first drive around the city and then take to the Charles River for great views from the water, all the while providing insight into the history of Boston. Another one-off that should not be missed.
4. The Freedom Trail – Having seen the city from the river, when back on dry land you can discover Boston by foot. Thankfully, it is relatively small so you will not be exhausted by the end of the day. Including the Freedom Trail in a “Top 10” list of things to see and do in Boston is cheating a little given the 16 historical stops along the 2.5 miles of trail, but I ask that you forgive me this. Marked by a continual red line on the brick pavement, the trail begins on Boston Common, winds its way through the city’s very European mess of streets and alleyways and arrives at the Bunker Hill Monument on the other side of the river. Along the way you will discover some of the most important sites of one the New World’s oldest cities. With innumerable eateries and pubs en route you could easily commit a whole day to this tour. There is a lot to see and it’s best to do so at your own leisure.
5. Black Heritage Trail – It is not just modern-day Massachusetts that has broken ground in terms of liberal, groundbreaking legislation. In 1783 it was the first state to declare slavery illegal. As a result of this, many free blacks and escaped slaves chose Boston as their new home. In particular the Beacon Hill district, to the north of Boston Common. Whilst the Freedom Trail deals predominantly with colonialism and the American Revolution, the Black Heritage Trail tells of an equally important side to the history of this city. It includes the Museum of African American History, the African Meeting House – the first African-America Church in the United States, and the Hayden House which was a vital stop on the Underground Railroad which helped to provide safe passage to the free states and Canada for slaves fleeing the South.
6. Faneuil Hall – Although the magnificent Faneuil Hall is on the Freedom Trail this historic site is worth a place of its own on our Top 10 list. One of the world’s most famous marketplaces, it has served as such since 1742 and continues to do so today. All manner of shops and quality dining will tempt you to part with your hard-earned greenbacks. Named after the man who funded its construction, Peter Faneuil, it was also the venue for impassioned speeches by Samuel Adams, and others, who initiated the American Revolution and battled for independence from Great Britain. A good place to stop for lunch and watch the world go by as you take a break from touring the city streets.
7. Cheers! Bar – Everyone knows the bar. Everyone knows the hit TV show. And everyone wants to go where everybody knows your name. Follow in the footsteps of Ted Danson, Woody Harrelson and John Ratzenburger. Pull up a stool, order a Sam Adams (the revolutionary man was also a brewer) and enjoy the atmosphere of one of the most famous watering holes in the world. You’ll deserve it after so much walking around the city!
8. John F. Kennedy Presidential Museum and Library – America, and the world, was forever changed by the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Did Lee Harvey Oswald act alone on that fateful day in November 1963 or was there a bigger plot? The truth will likely never be known. His death and the conspiracy theories which surround it should not overshadow the life and political work of a truly great man. According to their mission statement, ‘The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum is dedicated to the memory of our nation’s thirty-fifth president and to all those who through the art of politics seek a new and better world.’ More than 50 years since his tragic passing, people continue to mourn Kennedy but many lessons can still be learned from the life and times of the visionary President. This institution will ensure that these lessons never be forgotten.
9. MIT and Harvard – The London Times World University Rankings place Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology at second and fifth respectively – out of a list of 400. The two centres for learning are situated a stone’s throw from one another to the north of the Charles River. The former, established in 1636 and named after the minister of Charleston, John Harvard, who donated his library and half of his estate to the institution of higher education, claims to be the oldest of its kind in the United States. The latter is a centre for science and technology students who work ‘wisely, creatively, and effectively for the betterment of humankind.’ Alumni from each university have changed the world, and the man who currently sits in the White House graduated with a law degree from Harvard in 1991. Do you need any more reasons to go? Marvel at the history of its former students and dream of the groundbreaking discoveries which will change the course of the future.
10. Back Bay – If a dose of retail therapy is required at some point amongst all the history and culture, shopaholics need not despair. Boston has what you need. The Back Bay neighborhood is one of Boston’s oldest and best-preserved nineteenth century urban areas, well known for its Victoria brownstone homes, expensive real estate and plethora of high-end shops. Admire the beautiful architecture and either window shop or venture inside, if your pockets are deep enough!