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Categories: Us Cities > Boston


One of the country's oldest cities, Boston remains also one of the most charming and inviting for visitors with its characteristic European feel. Boston is the largest city and the capitol of the state of Massachusetts. The jewel of New England, Boston proper has over 600,000 residents, while the greater Boston metropolitan area is home to nearly 5 million people, and hosts over 12 million visitors each year. The city is considered a cultural epicenter with its significant history, leading educational institutions, and popular sport teams and events.

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Situated on the Massachusetts Bay, the city is quite compact in its design with many of the main attractions easily within reach by foot or by the easy-to-use public transportation system, known as the T. A great way to trace the city's history is by following the pedestrian path and self-guided tour of the Freedom Trail, which carves through historic neighborhoods and offers many cultural landmarks such as Faneuil Hall and Bunker Hill Monument. Notable Boston neighborhoods include Newbury Street with its upscale shopping and dining that runs through the Back Bay and the Public Garden, the North End with its characteristic cobble-stone streets and famous Italian eateries, Beacon Hill with its elite residences, the South End's art galleries, and of course the picturesque Waterfront home to Faneuil Hall and the Quincy Marketplace that is always buzzing with tourists and is a great spot for photo ops and grabbing a bite of Boston's famous fare such as clam chowder, lobster rolls and even a decadent cannoli. This family-friendly city is known for its vast history dating back to the founding of the country and offers many important landmarks, interesting attractions and a rich culture making for an inviting city to discover.

Quick Facts

  • Climate:

    From June to September, temperatures range from 60-76° F; from October to December, temperatures range from 37-51° F; from January to March, temperatures range from 25-39° F and in April and May, temperatures range from 44-60° F

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Categories: Us Cities > Boston



Boston, Massachusetts, is inundated with visitors every year and for good reason: It's partly a walkable historic park (especially the Freedom Trail) and partly a modern waterfront metropolis (the "Hub of New England") with no lack of things to do once darkness descends. Fenway Park—one of the nation's most hallowed baseball stadiums—is a destination in itself.

Although the city has never stopped reaching for the future and now welcomes leading-edge financial services and tech companies, it has lovingly preserved the treasures of its past. Boston cherishes its patriotic connections with the Boston Tea Party and Bunker Hill. It is a living symbol of the melting pot early residents fought to create, including lively ethnic neighborhoods, sophisticated centers of academia and sedate sanctuaries of old wealth. Each seems a world unto itself, yet each is an integral part of Boston's urban identity.

Even with so much to do and so many doing it, the city is a relatively easy place to visit. Boston's attractions and historical sites are laid out in simple-to-follow walking tours, and its subway system efficiently whisks passengers around the city. You won't need a car, which is good: Driving in Boston is hair-raising, even for locals. The most difficult part of your visit may be opening your credit-card bill after you get home: Boston can be expensive, but you'll find a lot to enjoy for each dollar spent.

Must See or Do

Sights—The Freedom Trail, which passes 16 of the most famous sites from early U.S. history; Boston Common with its wonderful gardens, along with adjacent Boston Public Garden and the swan boats; Newbury Street for its boutiques, ethnic restaurants and art galleries; the North End for old-world, Italian ambience; Fenway Park; Harvard Yard in Cambridge.

Museums—The Museum of Fine Arts for impressionists and antiquities; the interactive Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum; the charming Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum with its stunning three-story garden atrium and important works of art; the Institute of Contemporary Art; the Harvard Museum of Natural History; Cambridge's Peabody Museum.

Memorable Meals—Giulia for fresh Italian at its finest; Mooo for mouthwatering local meats; Oleana for excellent organics in season; Flour Bakery for delectable sticky buns.

Late Night—Faneuil Hall Marketplace or Harvard Square (both are well-lit and populated, with bars and restaurants galore); dancing at Jillian's Boston and Lucky Strike on Landsdowne Street; Black Rose (across from Faneuil Hall) for Irish music; Middle East (in Cambridge) for alternative rock and hip-hop.

Walks—The Charles River Esplanade for a romantic stroll or a vigorous jog; Beacon Hill, with its old brick sidewalks and Federal bow-front architecture; Harvard Square; the Commonwealth Avenue Mall from the Public Garden to Kenmore Square; the walking paths through the Arnold Arboretum; the Rose Kennedy Greenway.

Especially for Kids—The New England Aquarium with its giant ocean tank, as well as a shark and ray touch tank; the lowland gorillas at the Franklin Park Zoo; the USS Constitution (better known as Old Ironsides) in Charlestown, the oldest actively commissioned ship in the world; the interactive exhibits of the Children's Museum; the displays, giant-screen Omni Theater and planetarium at the Museum of Science.

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Although its main attractions are in a relatively compact area compared to other large cities, Boston is made up of distinct districts. Knowing where the most popular ones lie will help you find your way.

The central city sits on a peninsula, surrounded by the Charles River, Boston Inner Harbor and Fort Point Channel. Downtown is roughly in the middle of the peninsula and encompasses many of the Freedom Trail's historic sites, as well as the Financial District and City Hall. Adjoining downtown to the west are Beacon Hill (also rich in history) and the green expanses of Boston Common and the Boston Public Garden. Farther west is Back Bay (a prime shopping, entertainment and dining district), and then the Fenway area.

Northeast of downtown—on the tip of the peninsula—is the North End, the atmospheric Italian neighborhood. South of downtown are Chinatown and the South End. Across the Charles River from downtown (directly north) is Charlestown, home to the Bunker Hill Monument and the USS Constitution.

Cambridge, across the river, is another popular area for visitors and home to Harvard and MIT. Boston and Cambridge may often be spoken of in one breath, but locals never fuse the two. If they were sisters, Boston would be the traditional, practical one and Cambridge the hip, liberal academic. But like any sisters, they have more in common than they will ever admit.

When getting an address for a Boston destination, be sure that you ask not only for the street address but also for the neighborhood, any nearby landmarks and the nearest T stop (subway station). For instance, a cabdriver may not recognize a Dalton Street address for your hotel, but if you mention "It's in Back Bay behind the Pru (the Prudential building)," he or she will find it.


The Boston area was inhabited by several Wampanoag tribes before the arrival of Europeans, who brought with them various diseases and an ambition for land that greatly reduced the Native Americans' numbers. The first permanent English colonists, led by separatist (from the Anglican church) John Winthrop, settled in 1630 and named their settlement after the city of Boston, England. Winthrop's ambition, as he said in his shipboard sermon "A Modell of Christian Charity" (1630), was to create a place of great virtue, "as a city upon a hill."

Boston prospered and soon became the capital of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. By the mid-1700s, it had become an important seaport and trading center, second only to Philadelphia and perhaps New York City in terms of influence and power. As the colonists grew more successful—and self-reliant—England became more controlling. Increased taxes on sugar, stamps and, finally, tea helped push the wheels of the American Revolution into motion.

During the 19th century, waves of immigrants were drawn to Boston for the manufacturing jobs generated by another revolution—the Industrial Revolution. The Irish who settled on the fringes of the city eventually put as strong a stamp on Boston's character as the patrician residents of Beacon Hill, who bolstered the city's status as a center of learning and culture. Charlestown and South Boston, which is known locally as "Southie," remain Irish enclaves. A large influx of Italian immigrants settled the area known as the North End, African Americans settled in Roxbury and Chinese established themselves in Chinatown.

After World War II, Boston's importance as an industrial hub faded. However, it grew in prominence as a center for education and technology, largely because of the presence of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University in nearby Cambridge, as well as Boston University, nearby Tufts and Brandeis universities, and Babson and Wellesley colleges. For its size, the metro Boston area has more colleges and universities than any other city in the Western Hemisphere.

The city's importance as a seaport has declined, but cruise-ship traffic has increased enormously, and Boston Harbor remains a defining presence.


Beacon Hill used to be one of three prominent peaks collectively called Trimountain. This is the origination of the name Tremont in Boston, such as Tremont Street. In the 1850s, two of the hills were leveled, and the dirt was used to fill in part of the Beacon Hill neighborhood.

Boston's Big Dig project used enough concrete to build a sidewalk from Boston to San Francisco and back four times. It was the largest and costliest public-works project in U.S. history, exceeding the Panama Canal in time and expense.

Some major Hollywood movies and several television shows have been filmed in Boston, such as The Departed, Gone Baby Gone, American Hustle, The Witches of Eastwick, Love Story, Mystic River, Good Will Hunting, the long-running Ally McBeal, Cheers and Spencer for Hire. The city keeps producing stars, too, many of whom have homes in the area, including Mark Wahlberg, members of the band Aerosmith, Maria Menounos, Jay Leno and Geena Davis.

Perhaps the narrowest house in the U.S., The Skinny House, located on Hull Street along the Freedom Trail, is a mere 10 ft/3 m wide.

Greater Boston is the site of many "oldests" in the U.S.—among others, the oldest public park (Boston Common, 1634), oldest telephone exchange (between Boston and Lowell, 1875), oldest historical society (Massachusetts Historical Society, 1792), oldest lighthouse station (Boston Light, 1716), oldest school (Boston Latin, 1635), oldest college (Harvard, 1636), oldest subway (1897), oldest marathon (Boston marathon, 1897) and oldest professional sports venue (Fenway Park, 1912).

The costliest art heist in history occurred in Boston in 1990. Thieves posing as Boston Police officers carried off 13 paintings from the Isabella Stewart Gardiner Museum, worth a collective US$500 million. While there have been promising leads over the years, the criminals have yet to be apprehended, and a US$10 million reward remains available for those with information leading to the artworks' recovery.

At 90 ft/27 m below the surface, Boston's Ted Williams Tunnel is the deepest in North America.


Cruise ships dock at the Black Falcon Cruise Terminal in South Boston, which is about 2 mi/3 km south of downtown. Originally a World War I military warehouse, the terminal has several berths and is the oldest port in the Western Hemisphere. More than 100 ships tie up to Boston's docks every year, and six make Boston their permanent home.

There's a covered parking garage across from the terminal in the Marine Industrial Park. Expect to pay about US$20 a day to park with a valid cruise ticket. (Reservations not required.)

The terminal is two blocks from the nearest Silver Line bus station (Black Falcon Avenue and Design Center Place), slightly more than 1 mi/2 km from the nearest subway station (South Station), and 3 mi/5 km from Logan International Airport.

The Seaport district provides an important link between the waterfront and downtown, with dozens of restaurants, shops and the Institute of Contemporary Art within a 2 mi/3 km radius from the terminal. You can also take a taxi downtown, or hop aboard the downtown shuttle operated by Beantown Trolley, which has regular departures based on vessel schedules. The shuttle's numerous stops include the Aquarium, Faneuil Hall, Copley Square and Newbury Street. Toll-free 800-343-1328.

If you do decide to hoof it, however, it's a fairly easy two blocks to the Silver Line stop at Black Falcon Avenue and Design Center Place or an easy trek to the South Station subway, where you can board the Red T Line. Along the way, stop off at the World Trade Center complex and enjoy a dinner of fresh seafood that probably was caught just hours earlier.

Kiosks with tourist brochures are set up in the cruise terminal, along with other amenities and concessions. The best sources of local information are at the Boston National Historical Park Visitor Center, across from the Old State House, or the Boston Common Visitors Information Center on Boston Common at the start of Freedom Trail where the red bricks begin.

Shore Excursions

Because Boston is a point of embarkation for some cruise-ship passengers, most cruise lines offer a limited number of shore excursions. Keep in mind that many of Boston's best sights have been incorporated into walking tours that you can do on your own. There are also a number of relatively inexpensive trolley tours available that can save you some walking and also provide information on the sights.

If you decide a fully guided tour is more to your liking, you may want to opt for one of the excursions offered by your ship. They may not be the least expensive way to see the city, but you won't have to waste your limited time making arrangements yourself—and you won't have to worry about missing the ship. Shore excursions—and their prices—vary from cruise line to cruise line.

Some typical ship-sponsored excursions are a trip to the John F. Kennedy Library and the home of John Adams, a walking tour of the Freedom Trail, a visit to Fenway Park and the Red Sox Hall of Fame, a Back Bay architectural tour, Harvard Yard tours or a tour of Boston's most famous landmarks. Check with your ship's shore-excursion staff or your travel agent for more information.

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