The Hub of the Universe: Boston

· What to do in Boston, Massachusetts ·

Boston, Cambridge and the Charles River featuring “The Pru,” John Hancock Building, the BU Bridge (foreground) and the Mass Ave Bridge.

“Boston is the greatest city in the world!”

This is what 30 Rock’s Jack Donaghy yelled at Liz Lemon as they fought over whose hometown was better (Liz being from Philly). He’s not wrong. Boston is an irresistibly charming city that boasts history, intelligence, and an intense love of sports.

A relatively small city, this simply means that it’s accessible. As Logan Airport repeats over and over, “Boston is a walking city” (a phrase and intonation that still gets stuck in my head even though it’s been three years since I’ve been there) and while there’s the (tragically slow) T subway system, much of Boston is accessible on foot. With a history dating back to 1630, the skinny cobblestone streets are charmingly winding – and a nightmare to drive, so best to stick to walking and public transport.

A poignant New Balance ad from the 2013 Boston Marathon

Of course, as one of America’s first cities, it played an important role in the American Revolution. You can still see the Old North Church of Paul Revere fame, the Old State House where the Boston Massacre took place, and a recreation of the Boston Tea Party ship. If you like history, you’ll love Boston. Here’s our list of must-dos!

Where to go: Beacon Hill

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The Massachusetts State House on Beacon Hill

You’ve no doubt seen picturesque images of Boston’s brick row houses and cobbled streets. If this is what you’re expecting, head to Beacon Hill. This hits two birds with one stone as the gold-domed Massachusetts State House lives in the neighbourhood and it’s bordered by Boston Common. The row houses date back to the early 1800s and the area has always been a symbol of Boston’s elite. Be sure to check out Acorn Street – it’s the most picturesque one of the area!

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Acorn Street

What to do: The Freedom Trail

Fanueil Hall/Quincy Market, one of the sights on the Freedom Trail

Looking to see all the aforementioned sights? Then you’re in luck because Boston has handily painted a red trail through the entire city to lead you to all of the sights associated with the American Revolution: the Freedom Trail. Parts of it are actually made of special bricks in the pavement and it takes you about 2.5 miles through the entire city – to Faneuil Hall where Samuel Adams made speeches and meetinghouses, the USS Constitution and Bunker Hill, it hits it all.

When you’ve exhausted yourself walking, be sure to find a bar or restaurant that serves Sam Adams Boston Brick Red. This beer by the craft brewery that calls Boston home is only sold on draught in Boston, so it’s the perfect end to a day following those red bricks! If you happen to be in Boston during the run-up to the Boston Marathon, be sure to grab a Sam Adams 26.2 – a special beer they release every year to celebrate the marathon.

Sam Adams’ 26.2 Brew, available every year in the weeks before the Boston Marathon (third Monday in April – or, Patriot’s Day, honoring the first victory in the Revolutionary War, the Battle of Lexington and Concord)

Alternatively, if you like art museums, head to the Isabella Stewart Garnder Museum. One of the most incredible museums in the world, it was built by Isabella Gardner, a nineteenth-century socialite and art collector, as her home. Friends with John Singer Sargent, you can see many of his works, including one of Isabella herself. She intended that it would later become a museum and the centerpiece is the beautiful Italian style courtyard that has different plants installed each season. Keep an eye out for the empty frames on the wall – this is from one of the biggest unsolved art thefts that took place in the 1990s. The museum has left some of the frames where these art pieces lived empty in the year since.

The courtyard at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Where to eat: Border Café in Cambridge

border cafe

So, when you visit Boston, you’ll inevitably hop the Charles River and find yourself in Cambridge. Home to Harvard and MIT, it’s definitely worth hitting as part of your trip to Boston. And while you’re exploring Harvard Square, head to Border Café. This Tex-Mex restaurant has been a favorite among locals since 1987. With strong margaritas on hand, you really can’t go wrong and as it’s right in the heart of Harvard Square, it’s got a fun, student vibe and you’ll feel smarter just for being there.

Harvard Rowers on the Cambridge side of the Charles River Esplanade

Where to drink: Allston

The mural in Allston’s Model Café

If you want to experience Boston like a student does – there are 52 universities in the Boston area, making it one of the most densely university-ed cities in the country – then head out in Allston. This is Boston University’s grungy little neighbourhood where sports bars and dive bars live side-by-side. If you want a pop-y experience, Tavern in the Square (or TITS as it’s so lovingly called) and White Horse (“White Ho”) are your spots.

If you’re more into dives, the best places to hit are Model Café and The Silhouette (The Sil). Get to Model right around 10 or risk standing in a line outside. Once in, enjoy skull and crossbones, taxidermy fish, and a huge mural of a skull on the wall (plus some creepy dolls in the corner to boot). PBR’s are $2.50 and there’s dancing to the DJ. Once you’ve danced your heart out, cross the street to the Sil where you can enjoy $8 pitchers of ‘Gansett, free popcorn, and darts in the back. It’s dive-y but wonderful.

The juxtaposition of old and new in Copley Square

Despite being a small city, Boston has so much to offer. Beautiful, historical, with a young, student crowd and passionate sports fans, there’s always something fun to do. There’s something about the city that makes it so lovable – you won’t be disappointed.

Oh, and go Sox!

Wondering what to wear? Check out our suggestions here!

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