Boston is one of the premier cities in the United States for history and museums. But it’s far from a stuffy place. With more than 50 colleges and universities in the metropolitan area, it is a vibrant, young, and happening city.
Central Boston is compact and easy to navigate by foot (although don’t discount the subway system, the “T,” among the most efficient and far-reaching in the country). Boston is a history buff’s delight. A good place to start your tour of the city is Boston Common, one of America’s oldest public parks. Founded in 1634, it has hosted everything from British encampments in the Revolutionary War period to antiwar protests in the 1960s. A popular feature of the Common is Frog Pond. In the summer, you can wade, and in the winter, ice skate.
Follow the Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile brick-road route throughout historic Boston to Durgin-Park, a restaurant in Quincy Market that is part of the Faneuil Hall Marketplace. At this Boston institution (serving New Englanders since the 18th century) enjoy wholesome New England fare, such as cherrystone clams, prime rib, and lobster. Hankering for a more upscale, less touristy seafood experience? Try the buzzing Island Creek Oyster Bar, on Commonwealth Avenue near Kenmore Square.
In recent years, downtown Boston has thrown aside its conservative fashion reputation and become a shopping mecca. Start with Newbury Street, which rivals New York’s Fifth and Madison Avenues. Located in Back Bay—the home of Boston Brahmins and other, more recently affluent residents, Newberry Street is also a photo destination, as many of the businesses are housed in historic brownstones.
If you’re more of a populist, the Washington Street at Winter Street area, known as Downtown Crossing, is worth a visit. Much of the area is closed to vehicle traffic. Downtown Crossing has many anchor department stores as well as unique offerings. On a warm afternoon, it’s bustling with street vendors, souvenir stands, and Bostonians sneaking away from work.
For many Americans, Boston is known as the center of Irish American culture—and the home of the Red Sox baseball team. Enjoy both in the Fenway neighborhood, at McGreevy’s Boston Irish Pub and Sports Bar. Home of the Irish rock band Dropkick Murphys, McGreevy’s is the unofficial bar of the Red Sox. If you can’t watch a game at Fenway Park, you can enjoy a pint of local favorite Samuel Adams Brick Red Irish ale. The experience is almost as grand.
Not far from Fenway Park is one of the most unusual museums in the United States, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. How unusual? Start with this—you will be admitted for free if your name is Isabella. The museum is in the former villa of a famous Boston art collector and eccentric.
Most famously, Isabella had society painter John Singer Sargent immortalize her in a black, low-cut dress, attire considered scandalously risqué among respectable women in 19th-century America. The museum features an eclectic collection of European, Asian, and American art, objects, and floral displays—and is infamous for a $500 million heist in 1990, the largest art theft in U.S. history.DW