A guide to some of the highlights of ‘the Hub’
First things first; forget what you may have heard or read. These days nobody refers to Boston, Massachusetts as ‘Beantown’. It’s true that way back in the city’s colonial history, baked beans slow cooked in molasses were something of a staple food in the region, but modern-day Boston has distanced itself so completely from those times that references to Boston beans are almost entirely irrelevant.
That’s not to say that Boston isn’t proud of its heritage. The oldest city in New England and the capital of Massachusetts, twenty-first century Boston is an engaging and eclectic mix of the traditional and the thoroughly modern. Recognition as the cultural and commercial centre of New England has earned Boston its popular nickname as ‘the hub’ and the city plays host to around twelve million visitors each year. Here’s our guide to just some of the attractions that make Boston such a popular destination.
- The Freedom Trail
Boston is a compact city that lends itself to discovery on foot. Following all or part of Boston’s Freedom Trail takes you on a journey through the city that spans 380 years of local history in a walk of just two-and-a-half miles. Red bricks in the pavement make the route easy to identify and follow, and the Freedom Trail takes in seventeen of Boston’s most important historic sites including Boston Common – the oldest municipal park in America which dates back to 1634, the Old South Meeting House in which the 1773 revolt (the infamous Boston ‘Tea Party’) against the British Government and the East India Tea Company was plotted and the Bunker Hill Monument, which stand on the site of an early battle in the American Revolutionary War.
- Boston Harbour Islands National ParkSpread over a fifty square mile area of Boston Harbour are more than thirty islands which comprise collectively the Boston Harbour Islands National Park. Away from the city, the islands can be reached by ferry. Each island has its own character and attractions, including from the impressive civil-war era Fort Warren on Georges Island, the contrasting natural beauty and detritus beaches of Spectacle Island and the famous Boston Light lighthouse on Little Brewster Island. Offering great opportunities to go fishing, boating, swimming, hiking, wildlife spotting or simply to relax on a shell beach and enjoy panoramic vistas of Boston city, the Boston Harbour Islands National Park make a great destination whether for a couple of hours or a couple of days.
- The Boston Museum of Fine ArtsA must-see for art lovers, founded in 1870 the Boston MFA is one of America’s largest museums and houses one of the most important art collections in the world. Within this imposing granite building in Huntingdon Avenue works by many of the great French Impressionists, including Renoir, Van Gogh, Degas, Cezanne, Manet and Monet may be admired. The museum also hosts extensive collections of Egyptian artefacts, Chinese art, Japanese ceramics and historic and contemporary America art within its fifty-three separate galleries. Whilst queuing may be a necessity thanks to the Boston MFA’s immense popularity, the wait is well rewarded and there is enough to see to sustain several hours of pleasurable browsing although guided tours are available for those on a tighter schedule.
- North EndOne of Boston’s earliest neighbourhoods, to day North End is known as ‘Little Italy’. A wander through North End’s narrow streets presents you with a fascinating slice of Boston’s history at every turn, with churches and houses dating from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Of particular note are the Old North Church and the Paul Revere House; now a free museum. Copp’s Hill Burying Ground is one of the oldest cemeteries in America and is the last resting place of many important and influential Bostonians from the city’s colonial era. The modern-day North End is a haven for lovers of good Italian food, coffee and boutique shopping. The Italian ambience of the neighbourhood is authentic, and there is plenty to explore among the farmer’s markets, gift shops, cafés and fine restaurants which fill the air with the delicious aromas of Italian cuisine.
- USS Constitution MuseumFor a real taste of America’s seafaring history don’t miss the opportunity to visit the USS Constitution Museum and step aboard the USS Constitution (known affectionately as ‘Old Ironsides’) herself. The oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world, the USS Constitution saw action against the British in 1812, and also participated in the North African Barbary Wars. Now docked at the Charlestown Navy Yard this historic ship can be explored on a guided tour which demonstrates the harsh and cramped conditions in which the crew of four hundred men had to work and live. The museum itself brings history to life via a host of interactive visits and a brief film charting the life of the ship. Entrance to the museum and (limited) self-guided tours of the ship are free, and the whole experience is both fun and educational for everyone.
These are just a few of Boston’s many attractions: there are beautiful public parks and gardens to explore, a host of museums and galleries and more historic neighbourhoods to discover. Both traditional and modern and a great destination at any time of year, Boston prides itself on the warm welcome it extends to its many visitors, and promises to be one of the most entertaining and enjoyable cities in America.