Boston Suggestions

Boston is a great destination for a short city break, particularly if you have been living in the US for a while and you’re feeling a little homesick, as it has a very British feel to it. This isn’t just due to the British history all around you but also the buildings, the streets and the general layout of the place (think narrow, winding streets rather than massive American boulevards) and most importantly, the drinking establishments! If you’ve been hankering after a proper ale in a proper pub, then Boston is the place to find it as it has a huge number of British and Irish watering holes.

But, first things first. If you fly into Logan Airport, make sure you call into the USO before you leave as they have a booklet on things to do in the city including a lot of discounted or free things for the military. Some of these things are freely advertised elsewhere, some are USO only, so it’s worth seeing what they have. At the time we called in they were doing free theatre tickets and $10 Redsox tickets.
If you don’t make it to the airport then there is also another, smaller, USO in the city itself.

Transport

There’s a free shuttle from the airport that takes you right into South Station, which is a major subway stop in the city centre. Note here, the shuttle bus is only free on the way in. You have to pay to get the shuttle back out to the airport, but hey, at only $2.50 per person it’s still exceptionally good value (and very fast). The subway is an excellent way to get around the city (although it’s such a small place that you can walk it easily); it costs $2.50 per trip or you can get daily or weekly passes which might work out better value if you’re going to use it a lot. It’s not recommended to drive around the city as the roads are crowded, winding and incredibly illogical. They are made for pottering around aimlessly, not for

zooming around at high speed, not to mention the parking costs (the cheapest is around $35 a day).

Top recommendations for things to do:

  • Walk the Freedom Trail – this is a 2 ½ mile walk across the city and a romp through 400 years of history. You can pick up one of many free self-guided tours, get a free tour from a Park Ranger or pay for a variety of different tours from costumed guides – just take your pick. Whatever you choose, it’s an excellent way to get your bearings and learn some history. Also it ends at Boston Navy Yard where you can visit the USS Constitution (the world’s oldest commissioned warship still afloat) for free with your military ID. If you’re feeling homesick the Navy Yard feels remarkably like Portsmouth Historic Dockyard!
  • Visit the Skywalk Observatory on the 50th floor of the Prudential Building. This is free with military ID. You get 360 degree views across the city accompanied by an audio tour which is actually
  • interesting. They offer an adults’ or a kids’ audio commentary, and the husband tells me that the kids’ one is way more entertaining. You can also go up two further floors and purchase an overpriced cocktail while enjoying the same view.
  • Visit Harvard – during most of the academic year you can get a free guided tour of the university campus from a student, or you can pick up a self-guided tour leaflet or pay another costumed guide for another themed tour. Harvard is actually across the Charles River in the town of Cambridge, which makes for a nice afternoon out.
  • Visit the Samuel Adams Brewery – it’s a 15 minute subway ride out of town, it’s free (although they suggest a donation of $2 which goes to local charities) and you get a souvenir glass and three bee ttastings (a total of about one English pint). And of course you get educated in the beermaking process and that is why we all really want to visit the brewery, isn’t it?
  • If you have kids (or immature adults) then in Boston Public Gardens you can visit the Make Way For Ducklings statue, which is from a famous children’s book. Also in Copley Square you can visit the Tortoise and Hare sculpture, which is a tribute to the Boston Marathon runners.
  • Boston Public Library is worth a look into. You’re free to wander round and marvel at the architecture, the rare books and manuscripts, and the hidden courtyard with fountain. It’s a nice little oasis in the middle of the city.
  • If you want to catch a show while you’re in town then there are two BosTix outlets which sell half-price same-day tickets for various plays/musicals etc. It’s worth dropping by to see what they have.
  • Have a few jars in the Cheers Bar – there are actually two Cheers Bars in Boston. The best one is at 84 Beacon Hill and was the bar that originally inspired the TV series. It is actually an original English pub that was transported over and rebuilt in Boston. If you’ve been missing a proper pub then this is a good substitute. They even serve the beer in proper old-fashioned mugs with handles. If you can tear yourself away, there is a themed gift shop upstairs that sells all the Cheers-related merchandise you could ever want. Oh and they have the original façade from the opening titles of the TV show.

All in all, Boston is well worth a visit if you have three days to spare – just leave the car at home!