Goin' to Boston! What shall I see and eat?

My husband and I are off to Boston in the middle of May. Neither of us has ever been, and we should be there for 5 or so days.

Lemme know what’s a must. I like doing just about everything, whether outdoors or in; and history is intriguing, not boring.

Mind, I’m (mostly) from Texas and have never been in the New England area.

Wait, I lie. Once to New York when I was 5 and once, shortly, to Delaware for scholarly teambuilding when I was 16. (Didn’t see a thing.)

Oh - and sorry, boys. The Sox are out of town that week, so my husband’s dyin’. Can you at least tour Fenway?


Note: Good food (and drink) is highly important!

Clearly, you’ll need some good seafood. Most of my favorite places for a lobstah dinner are down on the Cape but the Summer Shack is a reasonable alternative, it’s in the Back Bay or out at Alewife Station if you get out to the end of the Red Line. There are plenty of other good seafood places, like Legals, as well.

You can also visit Durgin Park, right next to Faneuil is a great place for traditional NE seafood with traditional NE surly waitresses. Really, it’s part of the charm.

You must go to the North End for Italian, probably several times. Too many restaurants to mention, I’ll let other chime in with their favorites.

Top of the Hub, atop the Prudential building is a nice atmosphere for dinner. The food isn’t absolutely fantastic, but sunset makes up for it with the view.

A walk along the Freedom Trail, while touristy, is well worth it. Time spend in Faneuil Hall/Quincy Market, also touristy, isn’t.

If you can, a trip to the Harbor Islands National Park is a great way to see another side of Boston.

More ideas to follow.

Baked stuffed lobster @ Jimmy’s Harborside
My employer’s corporate offices used to be in Cambridge and we were in Boston for meetings quite often.
North End for Italian is also a can’t miss. We used to go to a small place near Revere’s house called Florence’s. Nothing special for atmosphere, but the food was fantastic.

mmmmm, I need a bowl of clam chowder & an order of mussels right now

Best bowl of clam chow-dah I ever had was at the Purple Shamrock.

Also, the Sam Adam’s Brewery tour. Best part is, it’s free. Well, basically free. They will ask for a donation for charity, but you give what you can, $2, $5, $10…

Fenway tours

As previously mentioned, there’s the Freedom Trail,

Old Ironsides, and various National Park services. It would be a good idea to take a tourist trolley on the first day to familiarize yourself with the layout of the city. The Boston Harbor Islands might be worth a look, too. Check out the local papers: Boston Globe (Calendar section ), the [url=http://www.bostonherald.com]Boston Herald, and the Boston Phoenix.

If you’ll be renting a car, there’s still time to order The Boston Driver’s Handbook: Wild in the Streets–The Almost Post Big Dig Edition. If you’re not driving - Car-Free in Boston: A Guide for Locals and Visitors

Oh, come on! NOBODY is going to advise the OP to go and get scrod???

Besides the things listed above:

  1. Take a Duck Tour of Boston

  2. Go to the top of the Prudential (if they still let you do it) and see Boston from the top. Sadly, the Hancock closed its observation tower. (Don’t do this at night, at least not your first time)

  3. See Boston Common and the Public Garden. Look at the weird and interesting statues, especially the Make Way for Ducklings statues.

  4. See Copley Square. Trinity Church alone is worth the view, but in this square you can see also the Hancock Tower and the old facade of the Boston Public Library. There are the bronze states of the Tortoise and the Hare, commemmorating the Boston Marathon. (Not all that far away is the Giant Bronze Teddy Bear for the now-departed FAO Schwarz). Go into the Library and take their tour of the Sargent murals.

  5. Go to the Christian Science Mother Church and look at the architecture. DO NOT MISS the Mappareum, a giant stained-glass globe you can walk through (the countries are several decades out of date by now).

  6. The Museum of Fine Arts and the nearby Isabella Stewart Gardner museum down in the Fens. Look at thew spots where they stole Rembrandts and Verneers, still missing.

  7. Go see MIT and Harvard in Cambridge. It’s really close by, accessible by subway, and both have unique museums.

The Pru deck is open, but it’s not a great view, not with the Hancock blocking it.

I’d start with the Duck Tour just to get your touristical bearings, then plan on walking around areas that interest you. That’s the biggest jolt to people from the wide open spaces, that the best way to get around is on foot. Boston is more like most European cities than American ones in that way. In another way that’s true, you’ll stumble across something historical or quaint almost anywhere you wander.

Most of the places you’d want to see in the town itself are in a fairly small area, so walking is practical. Look for the Freedom Trail, a red line on the sidewalks that connects the standard visitors’ sites.

Without knowing more detail about what interests you, I’ll stop there, but with 5 days you can pretty much find it out.

What-ever-you-do, you will want to avoid Bickford’s Pancake Houses from Hell. Imagine a Shoney’s that has lost its charter due to bad service. Then cross it with a Really Bad Stephen King minseries. All with “People are Strange” playing on the Muzak.

Unsettling Comments I’ve Actually Heard: “Why is Every waitress in this restaurant Pregnant…?”

Unusual Trivia: I have never seen a place setting there set with just one knife, one fork and one spoon put in their proper places (fork on left, spoon & knife together on right with spoon on the outside).

Bickford’s Pancake Houses from Hell are, unintentionally, one of the Scariest places to eat in all of New England.

Psst… New York and Delaware aren’t part of New England. They are on the Eastern seaboard yes but, New England is more North. If you’re looking at a political map, we’re the all blue upper right hand corner of the nation. :smiley:

I would also suggest trying to take in some music. Check out the BSO or any of the Broadway shows in Boston. If you like opera, Boston Lyric Opera is always fabu. Or if plays are more your speed, check out the A.R.T. in Cambridge or the Huntington Theater (which is down the street from the BSO and the MFA).

I like “Legal Seafoods” it’s a chain, and a little pricey, but the seafood is terrific. If you are adventurous try a selection of raw shellfish. Don’t miss the onion threads. be aware that really good chowder does not have the consistency of library paste and should taste of clams, cream, butter, and salt pork.

Try a stroll up Newbury street (it starts near the Boston Public Gardens) just to window shop. Go to Terrel’s for exotic flavored ice cream. I really miss Brighams; its a chain of ice cream and sandwich shops. Order a frappe (shake) or an ice cream cone with Jimmies (sprinkles) to sound like a native. Keep in mind that a “coffee regular” means with cream and sugar.

Pizza is really good in Boston if you avoid Pizza Hut and other chains. It has a thin crust and less glop on top than you may be used to. You might like to try out candle pin bowling. This is unique to New England and uses balls the size of softballs and pins that look like long, diamonds truncated on both ends.

The ferry to Provicetown would be a hoot. It’s at the tip of Cape Cod and has lots of touristy stuff to do and great seafood. Imagine a little San Franciso on Cape Cod. RT is $58 for adults, $38 for kids.

And I’ll put in another vote for the Freedom Trail.

Some precautionary advice on Legal just in case this is the place I remember (This was many years ago - we were staying at Marriott Long Wharf and didn’t travel that far). We had a bit of a crisis after finding out they did not accept credit cards. Maybe someone else can verify, I checked their website but wasn’t able to get a current payment type status. They may have changed their rules by now.

Try the Common Ground in Dorchester (located at 2243 Dorchester Avenue, is open Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., and on Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Call (617) 298-1020).

It’s run by a Messianic group, and they have religious stuff here and there, but they never mention it to you, so you can just ignore it if you are so inclined. The place feels just like a hobbit hole.

All the bread/muffins/butter, etc. are made fresh every day, and they have great sandwiches. If you go for dinner, they might have a salmon special. Everything is organic, but still tastes great (I’m not an organic eater in general). There is no red meat on the menu.

Try the house iced tea, made with peppermint and spearmint tea, honey, and lemon. The deli rose sandwich is a fresh roll with tons of mozzerella cheese, horseradish mayo, and tomato. Yum.

The Common Ground is written about here. Everybody that I have ever brought there loves it, and it’s cheap! One note: I would go before dark, as it abuts a rather unsavory part of Boston.

I’ve been a few years ago, and had no problems. As a big chain they have to.

Bostonians: How is Union Oyster House these days. (Assuming that it is still around.) It has the benefit of being old. Legal probably has better food, but less atmosphere. (My parents took me there for my college graduation.)

If you go to MIT, just don’t go to the museu, but walk down the infinite corridor, (entrance on 77 Mass Ave, Building 7, just over the river in Cambridge.) Walk in the courtyard also. Hahvahd Square is worth a visit.

Boston has good public transportation, and the T to the airport, so don’t drive unless you absolutely have to. However it can be fun if you are driving a junker or a rental car with really, really, good insurance.

Also, the Museum of Science in Cambridge is fun. They have laser shows set to rock music. They also have a scale model of the solar system that spreads over Boston, but starts at the museum.

The New England Aquarium is fun, and they have an Omni Theater that you might be interested in.

You could catch a Red Sox game, and find out how obnoxious Boston sports fans are. It’s something to marvel at. Before the game, you could wander though the Fens. It’s part of the Emerald Necklace, part of a system of parks designed by Frederick Law Olmstead. Lilac Sunday is held in May. It’s supposed to be a fun time.

If you want to shop or people watch, I recommend Harvard Square over Fanueil Hall. But if you’re going to the North End (the Italian district - ooh, try Pizzeria Regina for me. People rave about it, but I never made it there), you’ll be practically at Fanueil Hall, anyway, so check it out. Especially the Ben Franklin impersonator if he is there. I’ve heard he’s unstumpable.

Jillian’s used to be a cool nighttime place to go. There was a floor of pool tables and one of video games, with a lot of old classics. The video games have been taken out and replaced with a bowling alley. Remember that if somebody recommends Jillian’s to you.

If you’re thinking about renting a car, you could definitely get buy with only renting for a day or two. Almost everything is T accessible, and without Boston driving experience, you might never get where you are going if you take a car (parking sucks, too). The whole green line is generally safe, as is the blue line as far as I know. (FYI, There are four branches of the green line. Each train will have a letter - B, C, D, or E. E with a red line through it doesn’ t mean ‘not E’. It means that the train doesn’t go all the way to the end of the line. It will most likely go far enough for your purposes, though.) You should probably avoid the orange line if you don’t know where you are going (the green line parallels it through most of the interesting orange line stuff, anyway). The red line is great from Alewife Station to the JFK/Umass stop. I wouldn’t go farther than that on the Ashmont branch of the red line, and I don’t know anything about the Braintree branch neighborhoods.

Somebody above me mentioned Provincetown (P-town to New Englanders). It’s a lot of fun there, but some places there don’t open up until after Memorial Day. You might want to check ahead. And only go there if nobody in your party in homophobic. I once went when an extremely homophobic ex-navy guy was in the group, and it was mortifying. He was spewing hate speech in a place where a lot of gays and lesbians go because it’s very accepting.

sigh I miss living in Boston. All this makes me want to spend a weekend just wandering around there again.

The Orange Line is not nearly as scary as it used to be - take it if it goes where you want.

Personally, I don’t really care for Legal’s. Kingfish in Quincy Market is good, though, as is the Boston Sail Loft. The Elephant Walk is a really different and tasty place (French and Asian food) - go hungry, so you can order appetizers and desserts.

The MIT Museum is cheap and fun, particularly the gallery of hacks (practical jokes). While you’re in the area, go to Toscanini’s for excellent ice cream in weird flavors. I definitely recommend a Duck Tour - get to the kiosk to buy tickets early; they sell fast.

Don’t try to drive - you’ll regret it.

Oh, and for a day trip, try going to Salem. The Witch Museum is hokey but fun, and the Peabody Essex museum is a very interesting collection of artifacts brought back by whalers from all over the world. You can get there on the commuter train from North Station.

I haven’t lived in Boston since 2000, and with the expansion of student areas, this may very well be true. But I can’t recall anything really great at either end of the orange line as being very touristy. Is there anything towards Forest Hills or Oak Grove worth visiting?

I second the Freedom trail; especially since you like history. Giev yourself a day for it, and take your time. It will take you some of the way through the North End, which is great. And while you’re in the North End, stop at Mike’s Pastry: it’s crowded, maybe a little touristy, and probably overrated… but it’s classic!.. you have to go to mikes; get a cookie or a canoli or something.

If you go down to newbury street then stop in at this really cool used bookstore called the Avenue Victor Hugo bookshop. It’s my favorite place, just because it has soooo many books and it’s very authentic. Another cool book place is called (i think) the Brattle bookstore, its address is 9 West St and it’s in between the Common and the Downtown crossing. They have this outdoor section where you can get old books for a buck.

Yeah, enough about books… as for parks, definitely the common and the public gardens… but another cool one to visit is down on the waterfront, it’s called the Christopher Columbus Park, and it’s small, but a beautiful place for a picnic.

And I would also suggest that you not drive. May is a good month for walking, since the city is pretty small anyways… and taking the T for longer distances. One token now costs 1.25, so buy a few at one time so you dont have to keep digging for quarters whenever you want to ride.

Maybe I’ll see you around without realizing it! :wink: