Boston recommendations!

Hopefully this is the right forum for this kind of question…

I am traveling to Boston at the end of this month! I will fly in on Wednesday, March 30th, and will fly out EARLY (too early to do anything) on April 4th. I am there primarily for the World’s Figure Skating Championships, of which I will attend 3 events at the TD Garden Stadium, but other than that I am completely open!

I noticed a thread posted earlier about the Museum of Bad Art in that area, and that is the kind of stuff I like – however this is my first time in Boston, and I am open to all the regular touristy stuff as well. I am looking for recommendations for anything: entertainment, restaurants, book stores, live music, etc.

Any and all recommendation are appreciated!

Where does one begin? Just about anything can go in here.

Do you have a car, or will you be relying on public transportation/cabs?
With public transportation you can get to the Museum of Bad Art (Davis Square stop on the Red Line).

You can also get to:
Museum of Fine Arts
Museum of Science
New England Aquarium
Boston Freedom Trail
Harvard Museums
MIT Museum
Black Heritage Trail
If you’ve got a car, or are willing to take bus rides, you can get to:

Concord MA (lots of Museums and historical sites)
Salem MA (Peabody-Essex Museum, LOTS of Witch houses and the like, pretty neat shopping)
Books: Sadly, since the Fall of the Bookstore, Boston – which used to be FILLED with new and used bookstores – has been much depleted. But there’s still:

Brattle Street Used Books
Trident Bookseller Cafe
Harvard Book Store in Harvard Square
The Harvard Coop bookstore
Commonwealth used Books
MIT Press Bookstore
Barnes and Noble at the Prudential Center.
Stores and Boutiques:

Newbury St. in Back Bay Boston
Harvard Square
Concord, MA
Salem, MA
Rockport MA and Bear’s Neck
Portsmouth NH
Franklin Park Zoo
Stone Zoo
Southwick Zoo in Mendon MA

Tons more stuff elsewhere (I’m partial to the North Shore)

I did not plan on getting a car, though I could be convinced to rent one for a day trip or so if that would be worth it.

I definitely plan on getting an MBTA pass, so I was planning on just staying within range of that, but again my options are open if it would be worth it.

I will be staying at the Royal Sonesta in Cambridge, by the way. Not that I would be limited to that area, but for reference.

Thanks for the recommendations so far!

Also, I forgot to mention: I have had some luck with those CityPass things in the past, so I picked up one for me trip there. It enables me to go to the New England Aquarium, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Museum of Science, and either the Harvard Museum of Natural History OR the Skywalk Observatory. Which should be my choice among those last two?

Also, I know it is still a couple weeks away, but what kind of weather should I expect? I have been conditioned to New Orleans weather for about 6 years now, and I have had my windows open this past week. I know it won’t be like that, but am I going to be looking at snow or just colder weather?

The Royal Sonesta isn’t directly on any of the subways, but you’re only a short walk from the Lechmere and Science Park stops on the Green Line. You’re also (obviously) very close to the Boston Museum of Science (with its Hayden Planetarium and Mugar Omni Theater). You’re also just across the street from the Cambridgeside Galleria shopping mall. And you’re right on the Charles River Esplanade – you can walk along the river for miles. Depending upon how much you like walking, you’re not that far from Kendall Square (some shops and bars, and the Red Line subway) and MIT itself.

The saying in Boston is “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute.”
We have experienced below-freezing temperatures and record highs over 70 degrees in the past week. Who knows what we’ll get in two weeks? I’d bet on warmer, but below that 70 degree high. This is likely to be much colder than the NOLA norm.

Typical Temperatures are 1/3 the way down this page:

That time of year can be all over the place, weather-wise. It could be nice and Spring-like or wintery and snowing. Plan for variability.

The subway is easy to use and to get around on in Boston. I’d second the recommendation to pop over to Cambridge and hang out in Harvard Square. Always something fun going on there. If you’re looking for a one-day getaway w/ a car, I’d head south to Newport, RI rather than north to NH. But that’s just me… NH is nice, too!

If you’ve never driven in Boston before, beware these pitfalls…
(In order of annoyance, most to least)
1; ma****les; driving in Boston is for all intents and purposes a contact sport, do not make eye contact with other drivers, that is a sign of weakness, drive like you are the only road user and do in fact own the road, you’ll blend right in…

2; street layouts designed by an epileptic blind man with severe Parkinson’s disease, road layouts make no logical sense in the days of modern automotive transport, barely made sense in the horse drawn cart days they were laid down in.

3; Ma***oles; to blend in, open your skull and remove your brain, not needed for driving in Boston

4; panhandlers; fix them with a psychotic stare and they’ll give you a wide berth (hopefully)

And finally, watch out for Ma*****es, not sure if I mentioned them…

Yeah, you can ignore most of MacTech’s advice. If you’ve only got 4 days and have some events already scheduled, there’s no real reason to get a car anyway. You can get a ton of good places via public transportation from where you’re staying. Yes, the roads were laid out by cows 350 years ago, but the drivers are no worse than any other major city. Ditto on the panhandlers.

I beg to differ. Boston drivers are the worst in the US.
1.) Watch both ways when crossing a one-way street.

2.) Boston drivers will drive where the lines indicate they shouldn’t go. They will frequently drive where there is no actual road.

3,.) Boston drivers either don’t know the rules for traffic circles/rotaries/roundabouts, or else are willfully ignorant of them.

4.) even California drivers will allow you to enter or exit , and will stop for pedestrians. Don’t count on this is Boston.

Of course, Boston signs and conventions are enough to drive anyone insane.

1.) They usually only mark one street at an intersection – generally the minor street you are crossing. They figure you should already know which street you’re on.

2.) Boston has a blinking green light that is NOT an advance green. Virtually no one knows what it means.

3.) Boston traffic circles/rotaries/roundabouts come in different sizes. They ought to have the same rules, but for practical purposes, they really don’t.

Looking at the schedule, how much time will you be in the Garden? BTW, just call it The Garden; few people use TD and no one uses Stadium. The programs run from noon to 11:00 at night. On weeknights, not much will be going on that late. Boston isn’t like NYC where you can find stuff at all hours of the day or night. And the T (don’t bother calling it the MBTA, everyone calls it The T) shuts down starting at 12:15 AM on weekdays, a bit later on the weekend (for now).

Are you going to be free for any dinners? I would definitely schedule a night in the North End for a fine Italian meal, followed by pastries (go with Modern Bakery or Maria’s over Mike’s Pastries which is the most popular) and an espresso. You can’t really go wrong with restaurants in the North End, but venture off of Hanover St to find some less crowded places.

If you’re really going to be at the Garden most days I don’t think it pays to rent a car. I’d add the Isabelle Stewart Gardner Museum to your list, probably higher than most of the others. It’s definitely a quirkly place that you won’t find elsewhere. A walk along the Charles is a must, especially staying at the Sonesta. If you run, a morning run along the Esplanade is required - make sure you cross on the Harvard Bridge (which is at MIT, don’t ask) and count the Smoots.

Harvard Sq is worth a trip, but Central and Kendall have fun stuff too and they’re not as overdone as Harvard Sq is these days.

Weather is a complete crap shoot, ask again in 10 days.

Thanks everyone…keep em coming, especially food and other entertainment options!

The times are approximate right now, but I am there one day from about noon to 6pm, one night from 7pm to 11pm (too late for much after that unless since that is Saturday anything would be going on after), and then one afternoon from about 2 to 5pm…definitely some large chunks of time, but since they are at different times I figure I can make things work.

To clarify: my schedule leaves me open on Wednesday after I get arrived and checked in to the hotel (probably early afternoon by getting all that done), Thursday morning and evening, all day and night Friday, Saturday morning and afternoon, and Sunday morning and evening. Plenty of time to do a lot of things, I would think.

I don’t think anyone’s answered this: go to the Harvard Museum. The glass flowers are well worth the time.

On the rare times I go into Boston, I typically will take either the train (Amtrak Downeaster) or the C&J Trailways bus and leave my car parked in the Dover NH station, as it should be plainly obvious, I have…issues with mass. drivers, and trust them about as far as I could pick up their car and throw it, I like my sheet metal undamaged…

The New England Aquarium and Museum of Science are worth the bus/train trip, I don’t hate Boston, per se, I just don’t like driving in it, causes me no shortage of stress, so I simply avoid driving…

I enjoyed visiting the USS Constitution.

In terms of restaurants, I figure Legal Seafoods is probably regarded as a tourist trap by locals but I like it.

The glass flower exhibit was closed for refurb a few weeks ago. I’d call to see if it’s open yet before counting on it.

Looks like it reopens May 21st. Oh well.

This will give you a great overall sense of Boston and I think there’s a law that says all tourists must go to Fanuel Hall.

I am a Beverly girl, currently living in Somerville. Peabody Essex museum is excellent, as are all of the other Salem attractions. In Somerville, take note that you need to buy a ticket to an event (movie/concert) at the Somerville theater to get access to the Museum of Bad Art. Another good thing in the 'ville is the tour of the Taza Chocolate Factory. Interesting, educational, and they stuff you full of organic stone ground Mexican chocolate. Have fun, and welcome!

Make a reservation, though, or you could find yourself waiting 90 minutes for a table.

The Sam Adams Brewery tour is popular and it’s right off the Orange Line. You can have supper down the street at Doyles which is one of the older pubs in Boston. Food is just ok, though.

I’d recommend the New England Aquarium over the Science Museum. The NEA is one of the best in the country while the SM is so-so. The Museum of Fine Arts is very good.

If the weather is nice definitely walk around the Boston Commons/Public Garden. You can do some of the Freedom Trail at the same time. Just off the Common is JM Curley which has the best burger in Boston. Check their website because they are repairing water damage and haven’t reopened yet.

If you go to Harvard Square get some tea at Tealux. It’s a little worn these days but they still serve great tea and it’s a local spot. Sit in the window and watch the people go by. Look for Dewey Cheetham & Howe.

If you’re looking for something later at night you can catch a movie at the Art Deco Coolidge Corner Theater. The main auditorium is a gorgeous over-the-top Art Deco monument. A block away is Zaftigs, Boston’s best Jewish deli. There’s a good independent bookstore across the street.

There are no games but if you want to walk around Fenway Park there are a ton of sports bars. Tastyburger is the best casual burger and Sweet Cheeks has good but pricey BBQ.