Best of Boston
An insider’s guide for visitors
Posted on May 31, 2017
The idea of a week in Boston sounded wonderful, but as our departure date approached, I realized I didn’t have a clue what to do once we got there. I could have surfed myriad Web sites, but instead, I asked friends who live in Bean Town for advice. They delivered some great tips.
“Get out on the water and head to one of the harbor islands,” suggested a fellow travel journalist who writes for The Boston Globe.
I was lucky to get this recommendation, and even luckier that the sun sparkled on calm water the day my husband and I boarded a commuter ferry headed to Georges Island. We had barely pulled away from Long Wharf when we got a jaw-dropping panorama of the gorgeous Boston skyline. Almost 75 percent of the city is built on reclaimed land, and today a building sits on the site of the Boston Tea Party. During the 45-minute trip to Georges Island, we passed several lighthouses and two Civil War forts, and heard stories about pirates whose dirty deeds sent them to the gallows on Boston Common. Planes taking off from Logan Airport, built on infilled islands in the harbor, buzzed low overhead.
“Have a lobster roll at Quincy Market,” another colleague advised. That was easy because the marketplace next to Faneuil Hall is just a short walk from Long Wharf. We loved the flavorful Boston Chowda lobster salad on a fresh bread roll and lingered in the leafy setting to listen to local buskers’ music.
The Freedom Trail
The city’s famous 2.5-mile path winds around the downtown area and takes visitors to 16 significant American historic sites. An entertaining guide in colonial costume led our group tour. His stories made John Hancock, Paul Revere, and Ben Franklin come alive. We began the tour at Boston Common, visited the Granary Burying Ground (founded in 1660), walked past the Massachusetts Statehouse (site of the Boston Massacre), and finished up back at Faneuil Hall.
Modern buildings dwarf the historic ones, and our guide had to stop talking when emergency vehicles screamed past, but I still felt transported to the pages of the history books I once studied in school. The Freedom Trail can also be done self-guided using a paper map or a smartphone app. Colored bricks embedded in the path show the way.
Favorite Boston Hotel
I love the Hotel Commonwealth because it’s in Back Bay, between the Charles River and Fenway Park — a relatively low-key location. I also appreciate the spacious rooms with large windows and the incredibly helpful staff. At the hotel’s hip Island Creek Oyster Bar, we enjoyed lobster bisque, clam chowder, oyster sliders, and the classic New England buttermilk biscuits served with maple syrup.
“See a Red Sox game at Fenway,” said my friend Stan, but that wasn’t an option given our travel dates. Instead, we did the next best thing and toured the oldest and best-loved ballpark in the country with a great guide. Francisco explained (finally!) the “Curse of the Bambino,” pointed out the Green Monster (“Monsta”) wall, and took us to see Fenway Farms, the rooftop garden where fresh veggies are grown on the third base side of the park. You can see Fenway in movies like Field of Dreams, Moneyball, and Ted, but you need to actually sit in the stands, walk through the clubhouse, and listen to Francisco to absorb the history and significance of this very special place.
Boston Public Library
Founded in 1848, the library is beautiful both inside and out. A huge marble staircase, massive stone columns, high ceilings, and polished wooden floors establish its historical and architectural significance. But this is more than a repository of dusty tomes. State-of-the-art exhibits, lectures, and performing arts highlight thought-provoking topics. When we were there, one of these in the library’s Norman B. Leventhal Map Center included pairing Shakespeare’s writing with interactive maps.
“Have tea at the restaurant in the library,” a friend suggested. This sounded wonderful, but I only had time to stick my head in the door, note that it was charming, and sigh, as we needed to move on.
It turns out that a week isn’t nearly long enough to explore Boston, but now I’m happy that I have lots of “clues” for things to do when I return. Elizabeth Hansen
Photography courtesy of ADAMS/HANSEN STOCK PHOTOS