11 reasons to visit Boston
For first-time visitors, Boston, Massachusetts, surprises on many fronts. It is a key city in US history, has fantastic shopping, is draped around Boston Harbour, has beautiful parklands, a host of harbour islands and a swag of tours – both historic and otherwise. Here are 10 things first-time visitors need to do in Boston.
1. Explore Boston Common
Boston Common evolved from a utilitarian common ground for grazing, militia formations and public hangings. Its peaks were levelled, cows were banned and 19th century Bostonians added trees, fountains and statuary to create the green space we know today. The park includes ball fields, a tot lot and frog pond, is used for skating in winter and as a spray pool for kids in summer. It’s also where the colonial militia mustered for the Revolution; in 1768, the hated British Redcoats began an eight-year encampment. George Washington, John Adams and General Lafayette also came here to celebrate the nation’s independence.
2. Visit Boston Public Gardens
Boston Public Gardens was the first public botanical garden in America – established in 1837. It is really beautiful with squirrels everywhere, a lake where you ride its famous swan boats, playgrounds, sports fields and cafes. It even has a statue of Tadeusz Kozciusko – the Polish hero that Australia’s highest peak is named after. There is also a statue of him in Washington DC. He got around that man.
3. Follow the Freedom Trail
Do the Freedom Trail tour to get an overview of Boston’s colourful history and then revisit points that spark your interest. The Walk Into History Tour features 11 of the 16 Freedom Trail sites. It starts in the Boston Public Garden and covers five kilometres, ending at Faneuil Hall.
4. Go to the Granary
The Granary is a cemetery dating back to 1660 and it’s where visitors will find the graves of Paul Revere and three men who signed the Declaration of Independence on 4 July, 1776: Samuel Adams, John Hancock and Robert Treat Paine. The Declaration legally separated the 13 colonies from Great Britain and created the United States of America.
5. Faneuil Hall Marketplace
When you have finished the Freedom Trail, browse the shops and eateries at Faneuil Hall, which was built as a gift to the city in 1742 by Boston’s richest merchant, Peter Faneuil. The hall was home to merchants, fishermen, and produce sellers, and provided a platform for orators such as Ted Kennedy, Oliver Wendall Holmes and the aforementioned Samuel Adams, who rallied Bostonians here to gain independence from Great Britain.
6. Call into Quincy Market
Quincy Market at Faneuil Hall is a highlight of any visit to Boston, with great places to eat and drink and shop in the two-storey Greek revival-style building. Grab your fill of clam chowder or lobster rolls at Boston Chowda, and do not miss stopping by Wicked Good Cupcakes. The owners took their idea to the US version of Shark Tank, and have since gone on to be one of its most successful companies, shipping their cupcakes, pies and brownies all around the US.
7. Do a tour of Fenway Park
For baseball fans or even just fans of sport, do a tour of Fenway Park – the home of the mighty Red Sox. It is 106 years old – opening in 1912, five days after the Titanic sank, and is the oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball. Here, on its hallowed grass, stars such as Babe Ruth and Di Maggio played – also David Ortiz, who’s number – 34 – was retired in 2017. I loved the green monster wall, originally built to keep people outside the ground from seeing in, but now is prime seating for fans the world over. There is one red seat in the ground, signifying the longest home run ever hit at Fenway.
8. Do a cruise of Boston Harbour
There are 34 islands in Boston Harbor – all national park now – and if time is tight you can do a tour of some of them on a Boston Harbor Cruises’ History tour. The vessel departs from Long Wharf – built in 1711 – and you pootle past several islands that are great for walking, swimming and other recreational uses. Georges Island has a fort on it from the Civil War days, said to be haunted by ‘the lady in black’, and one of the islands, Peddocks, was used for shooting several scenes in Leonardo di Caprio’s Shutter Island. You can camp on the island if you’re brave enough.
9. Get thee to the Greenway
The Rose Kennedy Greenway is another must. A major freeway was tunnelled underground and the city had the foresight to build this park on top of it. It is six hectares of parkland with magnificent gardens, artworks, food trucks and 400 free events a year. Such a great idea. A highlight is a huge mural called Spaces of Hope by an Iranian artist and the Meeting House, a yellow house half buried in the ground – they are quite beautiful.
10. Boston Public Market
Everything sold at Boston Public Marketis produced or originates in New England. I loved the cheeses from Appleton Farms, which was founded in 1636, all the products from Boston Honey Company, the maple bacon pecans from Q’s Nuts, and Red’s Best Seafood – they only sell fish caught by fishermen who have one boat, and each catch has a label so you can see where it was caught, when it was caught and even the name of the fisherman who caught it.
11. Walk up an appetite
Everything is within easy reach and there is so much to look at you won’t even think to check your step count. There’s the beautiful tenement houses, the fantastic architecture and the history everywhere you look. Shop up a storm along Newbury Street, one of the premier shopping streets anywhere and visit the Boston Public Library in Copley Square – the oldest public library in the USA. Stroll down to the harbour area before you do your history cruise (up above) and visit the Boston Tea Party Museum, the New England Aquarium,
Stay: We stayed at the historic Lenox Hotel – built in 1903 – and we could walk everywhere without difficulty. If you even look lost, locals will approach you to see if you need help; they are so friendly.
Eat: Boston has a huge range of restaurants and bars to satisfy any craving, and most of it is produced from the riches of New England. Try Saltie Girl, Doretta Taverna, Island Creek Oyster Park, Cultivar and Neptune Oyster.
Fly to Dallas-Fort Worth with Qantas and then direct to Boston Logan Airport. Or, if you want to visit New York, Philadelphia or Washington DC as well, do it all on Amtrak’s Acela Train. Visit Boston: Bostonusa.com