Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Boston City Guide

While I have been using Tumblr more often, I find its pace a bit too hectic for non-picture entries. I went to Boston for a few days and wanted to jot down some ideas for future visits and reference.

Sorted by area near subway stations for easy trip planning.

North Station Area:
Bulfinch Hotel: We stayed here, very convenient location since it’s close to several subway stations and walking distance to Boston Commons. Ethernet cable available in the room. Across the street from TD Garden for games and concerts. Close to Rite Aid/CVS/Whole Foods/Quiznos/Dunkin Donuts if you need to grab supplies/snacks/fruit/drinks.
Beer Works: Several locations around town. We went to the Canal St location. Great selection beer and big screens for sports fans. I had the Amber Hefeweizen and the 9 Alarm wings (tasty, not too spicy though). The jalapeno poppers weren’t too spicy but they were decent.

Park Street Area:
Cheers: Made popular by the show. Also a nice spot for a drink and a burger near the park. If you go, take a look at their souvenir shop which has many good items. I got a classy postcard there.
Public garden: Small but pretty garden near the park. When I went I saw a lot of roses blooming.
Esplanade: After dinner at Cheers, you can take a leisure stroll along the esplanade. During the summer they also have outdoor concerts.
Freedom Trail: It starts at Boston Commons, just follow the red line on the sidewalk to visit the different sites. I didn’t complete it but saw most of the sites near the beginning. If you don’t want to walk there are other tours in the area via trolley or duck tour etc.
Finangle a Bagel: Yes, I know I’m crazy. I tried a bagel outside the NYC area. I didn’t want burger king and the pubs were not open until noon on Sunday so I just grabbed a breakfast egg on bagel from here. Around town you will find many Dunkin Donuts (literately two on each street corner or more), Au Bon Pain (yay for soups?), and this bagel place (more than just bagels). I would recommend it for breakfast or lunch.    

Aquarium Area:
Quincy market/Faneuil Hall: A lot of food choices. I had a lobster roll/chowder combo from Walrus the Carpenter Oyster Bar (booth). Pretty tasty. Apparently there are many famous seafood booths there. Next time when I have more time I will do some more investigation. J. tried some Mac and Cheese from a booth and thought it was decent. Comfort food, I guess.
Emack & Bolio’s Ice Cream: There are tons of ice cream places near the harbor but this one caught my attention. I liked their “Deep Purple Cow” (raspberry with white chocolate and dark chocolate chips and blueberries) and “Heaven” (vanilla with marshmallows and white chocolate chips)
Aquarium: If you take the subway you’ll notice a lot of ads for the aquarium. Check out the penguins and jellyfish and giant fish tank in the middle. I listened to one of the aquarium talks near the tank which was really good. They spoke about the different fish in the tank and how they rescue various sea turtles in the area.
Harbor boat tour: Order your tickets by phone (no surcharge) if you plan to go. The first day we tried to get tickets they were sold out. We took the sunset tour which started at 7pm. Natural lighting near the harbor is great for photos. You get to see the islands, a little bit of Boston skyline, and the U.S.S. Constitution fire a cannon. Boston doesn’t have too many tall buildings though (unlike NYC or Chicago boat tour) but it’s good to enjoy the view and some wind after a hot day running around town.

Copley Area:
Public library: Gorgeous building, open air courtyard, and fun exhibits. I caught an exhibit on vintage travelling posters. Great stuff.
Copley Shops: If you like to browse a mall and cool off, this is a good one before taking the train back home.
Duck tours: Your car turns into a boat for the water portion of the tour! I took this tour last year when I was in Boston. Definitely touristy but fun for at least one time. The water portion was somewhat disappointing (not much to see around the river) but the land portion gives you a sense of the town architecture and history. You can also take the tour at several locations.

Outside downtown:
Revere beach (Revere Beach Stop): Around 15-20 min by subway from downtown. I caught a sand castle/sculpture contest which was tons of fun. They have many pavilions with benches set up around the beach so you can enjoy some shade and sea breeze.  
Fenway Park (Kenmore Stop): Take the stadium tour since Red Sox tickets are hard to get! Smaller stadium means sold out shows all the time! Alternatively, you can probably just visit a bar near there on game day and soak up the baseball air.
Hahvahd Tour (Harvard Stop): I found them on a brochure in the hotel lobby. Pretty funny tour with energetic student guides. Not for high school students looking at colleges but more for travelers looking for a fun way to get around Harvard campus and soak up some history and anecdotes.
Harvard Coop Bookstore: Beautiful bookstore with spiral staircase and gorgeous lobby, just outside the subway stop. Rest of Harvard Square is great for walking around, too. Lots of shops, food, and fun.

Travel Reference
Acela Express is actually affordable (not too much more than regular train, you can use AAA discount on weekend trains) and has Wi-Fi. If you take the Acela from New York, you can get off at Back Bay Station (near Copley and Back Bay subway stations) or South Station (closer to downtown). Sometimes trying different combinations (Newark/NY Penn and Back Bay/South Station) will give you different schedules and fare prices.
MTBA for all your local travel needs. The subway (or T) is easy to navigate around and most trips don’t take very long. Watch out for weekend station closures and you should be fine.
If you fly, Logan Airport is close to downtown as well, via subway.
There are also several buses but since I haven’t taken them I don’t have any recommendations.

Boston Globe: Local news. You can also follow their twitter to receive news while you’re visiting.
Calendar of Events: Check out fun ideas.
Also check out various magazines/brochures/maps in the hotel area or tourism offices. You never know what you’ll find! That’s how I heard about the Harbor tour, the Hahvahd tour, and the Sand Castle Contest at Revere Beach. My hotel room had a copy of the Where magazine for Boston. Nice listings.  

If you have a smartphone or Ipad look for many free Wi-Fi hotspots around the city. On top of my head, some locations include Copley Mall area, Harvard Square, Public Library, Faneuil. This was my first trip using a smartphone so I found it incredibly useful. Google maps overlay with transit lines was a lifesaver. After you get around town for a few hours, you’ll notice that many downtown stations are actually very close together. That doesn’t mean getting the subway card is a bad deal though. I got the weekly unlimited card for $15, definitely worth it since I used many trips during my stay there ($2 if you pay per ride, one day unlimited is $9).

Previous Blog entries on Boston here.

No comments: