Last month I talked about how I booked a trip to Boston for free!! You can read about that here. But I wanted to go into more detail about some of my Boston travel tips. Boston is one of the oldest cities in the United States so the history and the architecture are nothing short of amazing!
Chad and I had both been to Boston separately before, but neither of us had been all over the city. So on our first day in Boston we booked a sightseeing bus tour through Old Town Trolley Tours. It was awesome, and we highly recommend it! You can purchase your tickets ahead of time or the day of. Basically you hop on the trolley bus at the first stop and then your trolley driver acts as a tour guide and drives you through the city, narrating along the way. There are nineteen different stops the bus makes, and you can hop on and off whenever you want. Or you can stay on the bus for the entire route. I think this is the best way to see all the major sites (i.e. Faneuil Hall, Quincy Market, the North End, Boston Public Garden, Cheers, Fenway Park, M.I.T., Beacon Hill, Boston Harbor, and more!) and travel all over the city in the shortest amount of time. AND it helped us decide where we wanted to spend more time the rest of our trip. You can purchase tickets for less than $40 per adult (kids are cheaper). They also have other options like two-day passes. And depending on the season, a few extras are included with your pass. Included in our passes was a Boston Harbor boat cruise and tickets to the Old State House Museum, where the Declaration of Independence was read. For more details, check out their website at www.trolleytours.com/boston. This picture below is a view of the city from our Boston Harbor boat cruise.
Another popular tourist attraction that I love in Boston is the Freedom Trail, a 2.5 mile walking trail that takes you to 16 historically significant sites from the time of the Revolution, sites such as museums, churches, meetinghouses, and burying grounds. Even if you’re not a history buff, I think most people will find it very interesting. The Old Town Trolley Tour route passes by some of the Freedom Trail sites, but I think it is definitely worth walking. You can walk it on your own (there’s a red-brick path to follow), or you can purchase tickets to be taken by a tour guide (dressed in a costume reminiscent of the Revolution) with very detailed narrations. There are also audio tours you can purchase if you want the narration but prefer to walk the trail at your own pace.
This picture on the right is the Old North Church. This is where the sexton Robert Newman hung two lanterns in the steeple as a signal from Paul Revere to warn the patriots that the British soldiers were coming towards them over the Charles River.
The picture on the left is the Bunker Hill Monument. It was built to commemorate the Revolution’s first major battle. It is 221-feet tall and has a narrow spiral stairway of 294 stairs that leads to the top. You better believe we climbed all the way to the top!!
One of the main reasons we planned a trip to Boston was to go to Fenway Park, and it was amazing! Chad had been to Fenway before, but I hadn’t. We watched a three-game series between the Red Sox and the Rays, so we spent a lot of time at the ballpark! Even if you’re not a huge baseball fan, I strongly encourage you to catch a game at Fenway–the atmosphere is incredible and so much fun! Fenway Park is the oldest ballpark in baseball, so there’s a lot of history there too. You can take tours of the stadium at various times. We took the last tour of the day on one of the game days, so we got to watch batting practice from right on the field as well as from the Green Monster! Chad even caught a few home run balls during BP! 🙂
There is so much history at Fenway Park, it’s hard to put into words. It’s something you feel when you enter America’s Most Beloved Ballpark. It’s magical. Chad often says that you can “feel the spirit” there. So if you are looking to catch one game or the whole series, where you sit becomes all the more important. A general tip to finding better seats for a much cheaper price is to wait until the day of the game to purchase them from sites such as StubHub, SeatGeek, or VividSeats. (Keep in mind that for games where a sellout is expected or if you have a large group, this tip may not work and you probably need to purchase tickets in advance.) These sites make purchasing tickets easy, and the game ticket downloads electronically to your phone. Chad learned this tip from Karli’s husband (Jud), as he’s traveled all over the country and has visited all 30 ballparks. As an example, for the Sunday-day game that we went to, we purchased our incredible tickets for $50.00 each (normally $200.00 per ticket). We actually purchased them while we were riding the subway to the game! These specific seats were 8 rows up, directly behind the Boston Red Sox dugout, on the first base line. The view from these seats was breathtaking. If you look straight ahead, the Green Monster is staring right back at you. It was incredible to be so close in proximity to the game. Being that close to the field allows the baseball fan a unique experience to hear the sounds of the game and to see or be a part of some pretty neat interaction with the players. This specific game was on Mother’s Day, so the players were particularly generous with the fans. It is pretty normal for the players to toss a game ball into the stands after coming off the field each inning. Fortunately for those fans sitting directly behind the Red Sox dugout (us), the players threw the majority of the balls into this section. Boston’s Designated Hitter (DH), Hanley Ramirez, even gave a young fan his pink batting gloves as he walked to the dugout after whiffing at strike 3 (Hanley was terrible at the plate this series). Whether you seek the sound of the baseball hitting the catcher’s mitt, the crack of the wooden bat, or hearing the players or manager argue balls and strikes, these seats had it all. The best advice when purchasing tickets is to hurry up and wait.
Being a Professor, I couldn’t go to Boston and not visit Harvard! So we spent a little bit of time walking the campus. You can purchase tickets to take a guided tour, but we just walked around on our own. It’s a beautiful campus! It’s not located right in downtown Boston but is actually in Cambridge, which is a city that is part of the Boston metropolitan area. We didn’t spend a lot of time in Cambridge but there are lots of neat shops and homes. It would be a fun area to explore more. This picture on the left is the Widener Library (and me standing at the top of the steps!). 🙂
I love finding new restaurants to try, but in a city like Boston, it can be a bit overwhelming. There are SO many restaurants to choose from, and I found so many different recommendations online, that we just decided to wing it. Plus we knew we would be spending a lot of time at the ballpark eating a lot of ballpark food. So this wasn’t really a trip where the food was a major focus. So I’m just going to highlight the restaurants that we tried.
The Barking Crab: This a lively seafood restaurant right on the Harbor that features picnic-table style seating, and the atmosphere is pretty fun. I’m admittedly not a big seafood fan, so I can’t say this was my favorite. But if you like seafood, most of the reviews are really good. Chad had eaten here before and loves their clam chowder and would highly recommend it.
The Bleacher Bar: This bar and restaurant is situated under the outfield bleachers at Fenway Park and gives you a view of centerfield! The section that allows you to view the field is covered with glass windows that allow one-way viewing onto the field, but prevent players on the field from seeing inside the restaurant.
The food I would say is average but the experience is unique! After these dudes finished their meal, we stole their table for front-row seats!
Game On!: This restaurant is right outside Fenway Park, so once again the atmosphere is fun. There are several TVs and there is a downstairs area where they have a second bar area, more TVs, and ping pong tables. I can’t say the food was amazing, but it was good. We had the pulled pork nachos, which I would definitely recommend, and pizza. I think the pizza would have been really good, but unfortunately it was burnt. I don’t have any pictures to show you because we went here right after the baseball game where it had been raining the whole time! So we were really just focused on getting warm and dry!
Faneuil Hall Marketplace/Quincy Market: This is a major tourist attraction. It is a marketplace area with several shops and food options. There are over 36 different food vendors in this large market area with cafeteria-style seating. Sometimes it’s nice to have so much variety all in one place, especially if you happen to be with a larger group. You’ll also find street performers in this area, so it’s a happening place with lots of energy. Chad said this Philly Cheese Steak sandwich was pretty amazing–but it was gone before I even had a chance to try it!
Rina’s Pizzeria & Cafe: There are several pizza joints all over the city that have good reviews. We happened upon this one as we were walking the Freedom Trail. It looked delicious from the window, so we decided to stop. And we’re glad we did; it was super yummy! The next morning Chad had the TV on at our hotel, and a program came on that was reviewing good restaurants in Boston. Well, guess what? Rina’s made the list!
We decided to stay in two different areas of Boston to see if we had a preference. Our first hotel was the Winthrop Beach Inn & Suites. It is just seven miles from the city. It is located right in the middle of a residential area and is within walking distance to a nice beachy area with walkways and views of the Boston skyline. Unfortunately, it was chilly while we were in Boston so we didn’t spend any time at the beach. The hotel itself has more of a small apartment complex look from the outside than a hotel. There are just 30 newly renovated suites, so the feel of the hotel was very intimate. And the staff was super friendly. You can’t park on the city streets without a permit, but there is a small parking area beneath the complex. The rooms have a small kitchenette area, which is nice. The hotel also offers complimentary continental breakfast, as well as access to refreshments throughout the day in the guest lounge. There aren’t other amenities like a pool or fitness center, but if you’re looking for something smaller near the beach, I would definitely recommend staying here.
The second hotel we stayed at was Homewood Suites by Hilton in Billerica, which is 20 miles outside of Boston, so about a half hour drive. I enjoyed getting out of the city and seeing the beautiful surrounding area, so I didn’t mind the drive at all. We drove our rental car to the train station each day and parked it, and then rode the subway in to Boston (more on that below). We didn’t spend a lot of time at the hotel, but it had a small fitness center and a swimming pool. And they offered a really nice complimentary continental breakfast. I always look for the complimentary breakfasts when I book hotels because the savings can really add up. The staff was also very friendly. It was a nice, family-friendly hotel, and I would highly recommend it.
We rented a car for our stay in Boston, but if you plan to stay in the city during your trip, you may not actually need a rental car at all. Parking is very limited in the city and can be very expensive. On the other hand, the public transportation system is easy to use and very affordable. We primarily used our rental car to get to and from the airport, to do a little exploring in the outskirts of Boston, and to drive to and from the train station each day where we parked and took the subway into Downtown Boston. From there, anywhere we went in the city we either walked or rode the bus or subway. If you’ve never used a subway as a mode of transportation, there is a slight learning curve. But you get the hang of it quickly, and you’ll find that it’s pretty convenient. And you don’t have to worry about traffic, driving directions, and parking. I have some experience with subways, and I think I prefer them in cities like Boston. They really are affordable and convenient. You can find more information about Boston’s public transportation system here.
Whew!! That’s A LOT of info, and I could easily go on. Let me know if you want more detail on anything in particular! And if you’ve traveled to Boston, I would love to hear your personal Boston travel tips! So comment away!!