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Frommer's Boston day by day

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Frommer's Boston Day-by-Day Guide is the complete up-to-date reference for visitors who want to maximize their stay in the smartest, most time-efficient way. This invaluable guide offers reviews on a wide array of sightseeing, lodging, shopping, dining and entertainment options in all price ranges, and also includes thematic and walking tours of the city's best-loved neighborhoods with Frommer's trademark candid and accessible expertise.

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14 Favorite Moments

ePub

Once in a while, just for a moment, I get a new perspective on my adopted hometown. The sun emerges from behind a cloud and makes the harbor seem to glow. I can’t take my eyes off the lush green of the Fenway Park outfield or the sapphire blue of the Charles River. In the Public Garden, a delighted child’s laughter rings out. The familiar feels new, and I realize yet again what an endlessly fascinating city Boston is. I’d love to help you find some serendipitous moments of your own. Let’s look around.

 

Treading in the footsteps of the Founding Fathers. Only a handful of American cities have histories as rich and varied as Boston’s. A walk along the Freedom Trail covers the highlights. Map.

Feeling like a kid again at Fenway Park. Whether you’re a lifelong baseball fan or you’ve never been to a game, the oldest park in the major leagues (it opened in 1912) will capture your heart and stay in your memory. Take in a game, or save some time and money and take a tour. Go to page.

 

1. The Best Full-Day, Two and Three Day Tours

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With just 1 day to spend in Boston, focus on the compact downtown area. You’ll follow part of the Freedom Trail, which presents an opportunity to explore three-plus centuries of history. My best advice is twofold. Don’t concentrate so hard on the trail that you forget to look around. And wear comfortable shoes. START: Red or Green Line T to Park Street   Boston Common. The oldest public park in the country (bought in 1634, set aside in 1640) is a welcome splash of green in red-brick Boston. As a boy, philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson herded his mother’s cows here on the way to school. 5 min. Bordered by Beacon, Park, Tremont, Boylston, and Charles sts. Free admission. Daily 24 hr. T: Red or Green Line to Park Street. Robert Gould Shaw Memorial. The literal and figurative high point of the Common is this magnificent bronze sculpture by Augustus Saint-Gaudens. It honors the first American army unit made up of free black soldiers, the Union Army’s 54th Massachusetts Colored Regiment, which fought in the Civil War under the command of Col. Robert Gould Shaw (1837–1863). Read the plaque on the back before or after taking in the incredible artistry of the front, a relief that took 14 years to design and execute. Unveiled in 1897, the sculpture is one of the finest public memorials in the country. 10 min. Beacon St. at Park St. Free admission. Daily 24 hr. T: Red or Green Line to Park Street.  

2. The Best Special-Interest Tours: Boston with Kids, The Fenway, Copely Square, Newbury Street, Hidden Cambridge, Romantic Boston and The Freedom Trail

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Every day in the summer, children shuffle along the Freedom Trail like prisoners on a chain gang, looking hot, tired, and seriously bored. Unless your kids are old enough to express an interest, spare them the history lesson. Boston offers so much else to see and do that you’ll never miss the Freedom Trail. Before you plunge in, note that I suggest you visit either stop 4 or stop 5 (not both) depending on how old your kids are. START: Green Line T to Science Park   Museum of Science. This is the best indoor family destination in the Boston area. It can be a bit overwhelming, with some 500 exhibits—engaging hands-on activities and experiments, interactive displays, and fascinating demonstrations—but it’s both educational and entertaining. I suggest that you pick a few subjects you find interesting and build your visit around them. For example, I especially like the sections that focus on the human body, dinosaurs, maps, and nanotechnology. Use the website before you leave home to rough out a route through the enormous museum, leaving room for inspiration to strike; the temporary exhibits are always worth a look. Also check the schedules for the on-premises butterfly garden, Omni theater, and planetarium, which can help you decide whether to budget the time and money for a longer stay—or a return visit. 3 hr. Buy tickets online in advance and arrive at 9am sharp to avoid the largest crowds. Science Park, off O’Brien Hwy. (Rte. 28). 617/723-2500. www.mos.org. Museum admission $23 adults, $21 seniors, $20 kids 3–11, free for kids 2 and under. Butterfly garden (with museum admission only) $5 adults, $4.50 seniors, $4 kids. Omni theater or planetarium $10 adults, $9 seniors, $8 kid. Discounted combination tickets available. Sat–Thurs 9am–5pm (until 7pm July 5 to Labor Day), Fri 9am–9pm; theater and planetarium close later. T: Green Line to Science Park.  

3. The Best Neighborhood Tours: Beacon Hill, The North End, The Waterfront, Charlestown, Harvard Square, The South End and Back Bay

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The views are better from the waterfront and the real estate is more expensive in the Back Bay, but the most prestigious addresses in Boston are on beautiful Beacon Hill, as they have been for most of the past 2 centuries. Post-Revolution prosperity created Boston’s most prominent (in all senses of the word) neighborhood, which is a visual treat from every angle. Wear comfortable shoes. START: Red or Green Line to Park Street   Massachusetts State House. The construction of the state capitol, which opened in 1798, coincided with the emergence of Beacon Hill as a fashionable neighborhood. Before the Revolution, most Bostonians lived in the area around what are now Faneuil Hall Marketplace and the North End; with peace and increasing prosperity, the population ballooned and construction boomed. The prototypical Boston building, of red brick with white marble trim, owes its iconic status to one man: Charles Bulfinch. The best-known architect of the Federal era (1780–1820), Bulfinch designed the golden-domed central building of the State House as well as many of the graceful residences you’ll see on this tour. Go to page, bullet .  

4. The Best Shopping

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Shopping Best Bets

 

Most Fun Gifts

Joie de Vivre, 1792 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge (Go to page)

Most Socially Conscious Gifts

Ten Thousand Villages, 252 Washington St. and branches (Go to page)

Most Unusual Souvenirs

Lannan Ship Model Gallery, 99 High St. (Go to page)

Best Sweet Spot

Beacon Hill Chocolates, 91 Charles St. (Go to page)

Best Fancy Jewelry

John Lewis, Inc., 97 Newbury St. (Go to page)

Best Antiques

Upstairs Downstairs Antiques, 93 Charles St. (Go to page)

Best Craft Supplies

Paper Source, 338 Boylston St. and branches (Go to page)

Most Unexpected

International Poster Gallery, 205 Newbury St. (Go to page)

 

5. The Best of the Outdoors

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Asked to explain the difference between the Public Garden and the Common, I usually go for the easy analogy. The Public Garden is Boston’s front yard, where anyone passing by can see how beautiful this year’s flowers are; Boston Common is the backyard, where the kids play ball and that one dusty patch just won’t go away. START: Green Line to Arlington

 

Public Garden. The 19th century left an indelible mark on Boston, and nowhere is that mark more permanent or more pleasant than in the Public Garden. The city set aside this land in the 1820s, the institution was formally established in 1837, and creating the nation’s first public botanical garden out of a marshy riverbank and tons of landfill took over 2 decades. By the late 1850s, the Public Garden had assumed roughly the form you see today—but there’s nothing rough about it. These 24 acres (10 ha) crisscrossed with walkways hold hundreds of formally arranged trees and shrubs, five fountains, and dozens of statues and memorials. The gardens of Versailles inspired the original plan. The exquisite flowerbeds change regularly, complementing the perennial plantings and giving the staid design a dynamic component. Besides walking and resting, the actual activities here—other than taking a ride on a Swan Boat—aren’t much. Let the low-tech atmosphere set the pace, and before long you’ll realize that you can’t remember why you were feeling so stressed when you arrived. Was that really half an hour ago? We just sat down for a minute. . . Go to page, bullet .

 

6. The Best Dining

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Dining Best Bets

 

Best Seafood

Legal Sea Foods $$$ 255 State St. and branches (Go to page)

Best Raw Bar

Union Oyster House $$$ 41 Union St. (Go to page)

Best Clam Shack

Jasper White’s Summer Shack $$$ 50 Dalton St. (Go to page)

Best Pizza

Pizzeria Regina $ 111?2 Thacher St. (Go to page)

Best for Business

Sultan’s Kitchen $–$$ 116 State St. (Go to page)

Most Romantic

UpStairs on the Square $$$$ 91 Winthrop St., Cambridge (Go to page)

Best Fancy Italian

Mamma Maria $$$$ 3 North Square (Go to page)

 

7. The Best Nightlife

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Nightlife Best Bets

 

Best Views

Top of the Hub, Prudential Center, 800 Boylston St. (Go to page)

Best Alfresco Pickup Joint

Tia’s, 200 Atlantic Ave. (Go to page)

Best Martinis

The Bar at Taj Boston, 15 Arlington St. (Go to page)

Best Upscale Pool Hall

Flat Top Johnny’s, 1 Kendall Sq., Cambridge (Go to page)

Best Irish Pub

Mr. Dooley’s Boston Tavern, 77 Broad St. (Go to page)

Best Gay Scene

Club Café, 209 Columbus Ave. (Go to page)

Best Deal

Toad, 1912 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge (Go to page)

 

8. The Best Arts & Entertainment

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Arts & Entertainment Best Bets

 

Best Concert Hall

Symphony Hall, 301 Massachusetts Ave. (Go to page)

Best 18th-Century Flashback

Handel & Haydn Society, various locations (Go to page)

Best Concert Venue with a View

Bank of America Pavilion, 290 Northern Ave. (Go to page)

Most Beautiful Indoor Venue

Boston Opera House, 539 Washington St. (Go to page)

Most Beautiful Outdoor Venues

Boston Landmarks Orchestra, various locations (Go to page)

Best Dinner & a Show

Boston Pops, Symphony Hall, 301 Massachusetts Ave. (Go to page)

Best Theater Deal

Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, Boston Common (Go to page)

Best Music Deals

 

9. The Best Lodging

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Lodging Best Bets

 

Best in Boston

Boston Harbor Hotel $$$$ Rowes Wharf (Go to page)

Best in Cambridge

The Charles Hotel $$$$ 1 Bennett St. (Go to page)

Best Views

The Westin Copley Place Boston $$$ 10 Huntington Ave. (Go to page)

Most Romantic

Eliot Hotel $$$$ 370 Commonwealth Ave. (Go to page)

Best for Business

The Langham, Boston $$$ 250 Franklin St. (Go to page)

Best for Families

DoubleTree Suites by Hilton $$–$$$ 400 Soldiers Field Rd. (Go to page)

Best Place to See Celebrities

Four Seasons Hotel $$$$ 200 Boylston St. (Go to page)

Best Historic Hotel

The Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel $$$$ 138 St. James Ave. (Go to page)

 

10. The Best Day Trips & Excursions

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Over the course of three-plus centuries, Concord (say “conquered”) has grown from a country village to a prosperous suburb of about 18,000. The first official battle of the Revolutionary War took place at the North Bridge on April 19, 1775. By the mid-19th century, an impressive constellation of literary stars—Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Henry David Thoreau, and Louisa May Alcott—called the town home. Present-day Concord preserves and honors that rich history. START: Jump in the car and follow Route 2 from Cambridge until you see signs for Lincoln; where the road takes a sharp left, go straight, following signs for historic Concord. If it’s not rush hour, the trip from Boston takes 30 to 40 minutes.

 

Concord Museum The museum tells the story of the town in informative exhibits that incorporate intriguing artifacts, murals, films, maps, and documents. A onetime Native American settlement, Concord is best known as a Revolutionary War battleground. In the 19th century, it was a literary and intellectual center with a thriving clock-making industry. The town was also an important player in the 20th-century historic preservation movement. Many museum displays focus on the big names: You’ll see one of the lanterns Longfellow immortalized in “Paul Revere’s Ride” (“one if by land, and two if by sea”), the contents of Emerson’s study, and a large collection of Thoreau’s belongings. The period furniture, silver, clocks, and (my favorites) embroidery samplers offer an engaging look at the lives of regular people. If you’re traveling with kids, check ahead for info on family activities. 1–1½ hrs. 53 Cambridge Turnpike (Lexington Rd.). 978/369-9609 (recorded info) or 978/369-9763. www.concordmuseum.org. Admission $10 adults, $8 seniors and students, $5 kids 6–18, free for kids under 6. June–Aug daily 9am–5pm; Apr–May & Sept–Dec Mon–Sat 9am–5pm, Sun noon–5pm; Jan–Mar Mon–Sat 11am–4pm, Sun 1–4pm.

 

The Savvy Traveler

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Before You Go

Tourist Offices

Contact the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau, 2 Copley Place, Suite 105, Boston, MA 02116 ( 888/SEE-BOSTON or 617/536-4100; www.bostonusa.com), for tons of information online, over the phone, and by mail. Other good resources are the Cambridge Office for Tourism, 4 Brattle Street, Suite 208, Cambridge, MA 02138 ( 800/862-5678 or 617/441-2884; www.cambridgeusa.org), and the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism, 10 Park Plaza, Suite 4510, Boston, MA 02116 ( 800/227-MASS or 617/973-8500; www.massvacation.com).

Apps

Before leaving home, you can download countless iOS and Android apps for (among many other things) events, attractions, businesses, municipalities, universities, and the MBTA—but don’t get carried away. You’re here to see Boston, not your mobile device. The time you spend picking just a few apps that meet your needs can save you hours when you’re on the road. Good starting points include the National Park Service and the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau (search “BostonUSA”).

 

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