BOSTON: A GRAND BEGINNING

 

 

A Printable, Downloadable, PDF version of this itinerary is available for purchase.  Includes Places to Stay in proximity.

ITINERARY AS EXCERPTED FROM KAREN BROWN’S E-BOOK:

Boston, the economic and intellectual center of New England and, historically, America’s cradle of liberty, is the stage on which much of the drama of the earliest years of our country took place. It is here that the Colonies, which evolved into the present United States, were first established. The capital city of Massachusetts, Boston was first settled in the 17th century, but it was the 18th century that saw the growing rift between the English Parliament and the colonists in what was referred to as the Bay Colony. Many of the historic sites and buildings in Boston, and the towns surrounding it, are associated with this period of separation from the Crown.

Recommended Pacing: Plan to spend at least three nights and four full days in Boston, and you will be able to pick and choose among the many things to do and come up with a program tailored to your interests. Touring Boston is not only desirable, but really a necessary element to fully experience New England. In fact, if you want to see in depth everything there in the way of historical, cultural, and educational importance, you may never leave Boston at all!

Getting Around: Boston has a good public transportation system, so the best way to explore the city is by subway. Visit Park Street station (one of the main downtown stations) to obtain a map of the color-coded subway lines and information on Boston Passports, which provide unlimited subway travel for 1, 3, 5, and 7 days. If you are planning on taking day trips to Lexington or Marblehead, you can do so from North Station (on the subway system). For further information, log on to www.mbta.com. Do not pick up a rental car until you leave the city.

In Boston, you should not miss walking along the Freedom Trail in the heart of the city, marked by a red brick path in the pavement (this takes at least two hours). The trail leads to the sites where many of the history-making events that created the new country took place-be sure to include the Old South Meeting House, the Old State House, Faneuil Hall, and Quincy Market. A detour onto Beacon Hill, an area where early merchants built homes and where the Capitol Building is located, is well worth the time. If you would like to do some shopping as a break from all the history, just walk across the Boston Common and proceed, with credit card in hand, down Newbury Street, where you find the city’s finest boutiques, art galleries, antique shops, and some of the best restaurants.

Charles Bullfinch, one of the principal architects of many of Boston’s historic buildings, completed the State House, with its golden dome, in 1786. Nearby, another example of his talent, the Harrison Gray Otis House, today serves as the headquarters of SPNEA (Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities). Throughout New England, there are 37 houses and gardens owned by SPNEA, displaying the furnishings and decorative arts of the region’s past. Telephone 617-227-3956 or visit their website at www.spnea.org for information on these historic properties.

Back Bay, with its commercial and shopping areas, begins at the Boston Common, a 50-acre park in the center of the city. The adjacent Public Garden (the first public botanical garden in the country), with its guide-pedaled swan boats and wonderful duck statues found along its network of paths, is a treat for children who have read and loved Make Way for Ducklings. Not to be missed in Back Bay are Copley Square, Trinity Church, and the John Hancock Tower, from whose 60th-floor observatory you get splendid views in all directions. Commonwealth Avenue retains much of the grandeur of a residential street with its center mall lined with elm trees.

In the colorful part of Boston known as the North End, there are many Italian bakeries, restaurants, and street markets. The Paul Revere House, downtown Boston’s only 17th-century house (now a museum), was the starting point for his famous ride to Lexington and Concord to warn the patriots of the coming of the British.

Boston’s Financial District is centered around one of its major transportation hubs, South Station. Within a few blocks’ walk are the Aquarium, Chinatown, the theater district, and many shopping opportunities in the larger department stores.

Boston, home since the early years to some of our nation’s most prominent educational, medical, and research institutions, is equally famous for its cultural activities. Here you find important international museums including the Museum of Fine Arts and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. While each is very different from the other, they both have world-renowned art comparable to the best museums anywhere. In the Museum of Fine Arts, our favorite galleries would include those devoted to American and European art; but major collections of Asiatic, Egyptian, Nubian, and Near-Eastern artworks, as well as sculpture and photography, are there to enjoy. At the neighboring Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the art objects collected by Mrs. Gardner are displayed exactly as they were in her lifetime, making a tour of this museum a very intimate experience. At the heart of the museum, you find a renowned courtyard with plantings changed throughout the seasons, and concerts are held regularly in the Tapestry Room. Just south of the city, reachable via public transportation, is the Museum at the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library, which houses the archives of the former president.

For children, there are two museums of particular note: The Boston Museum of Science, located by the Charles River, offers an array of educational exhibits that invite active participation in the world of science and technology. (This museum is fascinating and I urge you to make time for it in your program.) The Children’s Museum at Museum Wharf is a wonderful, interactive, educational museum that will delight adults as well as children, and also has an area for toddlers and preschoolers.

The Boston Symphony Orchestra, one of the world’s most famous, performs throughout the fall, winter, and spring seasons in Symphony Hall and during the summer at Tanglewood in the Berkshires. The Boston Pops, with its programs of lighter music, performs in summer at Symphony Hall and in free concerts on the Charles River Esplanade. There’s nothing like a summer night under the stars listening to music with a picnic supper. (I suggest that you bring a blanket and enjoy this very special treat.) Boston has a Theater District just south of Boston Common and not far from the financial district-most of the theaters are on Tremont and Boylston Streets. Here you can find many pre-Broadway and current Broadway shows, as well as a ballet company, which performs seasonally.

Across the river, neighboring Cambridge is home to Harvard University, Radcliffe College, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Around these academic communities has developed a maze of commercial and residential neighborhoods, artists’ studios, and theaters. On the Harvard campus, sites worth visiting include Harvard Yard with its student residential buildings, The Memorial Church, Harvard Museums of Cultural and Natural History, and the Botanical Museum, which houses the world-renowned collection of Blashka glass flowers. These pieces were created between 1877 and 1936, and represent more than 780 species of flowering plants-an absolute must for garden enthusiasts. To this day no one has been able to recreate the processes used in producing these magnificent examples of floral beauty.

For adults and children alike, the New England Aquarium is a special place to visit. Its center exhibit is a four-story 187,000-gallon ocean tank re-creating a Caribbean reef, and there are also exhibits encouraging children to handle crabs, sea urchins, and starfish.

The USS Constitution, the oldest commissioned warship afloat, which participated in a number of sea battles in disputes between the American colonies and the British, is berthed in Charlestown, and reached using public transportation unless you are up for a very long walk.

There are many other varied attractions for the visitor to Boston. More information can be obtained from the Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau located at 2 Copley Place, Suite 105, at the intersection of Tremont and West Streets (1-888-SEE BOSTON, www.bostonusa.com).

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