Holidays to Boston are different to your standard US city break. You can expect European-style architecture, historic walking trails, and a coastline that’s crammed with beaches.
Boston feels like someone’s scooped up a European city and dropped it right on American soil. It’s got a charm that you won’t find in the likes of New York or Los Angeles, thanks to its Continental flair and pretty seafront parks. Plus, it’s filled with twisting and turning streets, unlike its grid-like compatriots. Add a hatful of museums and a couple of peaceful beaches to the picture, and you’ve got a good idea of what to expect during a trip to Boston.
Beaches and bays
If you fancy a day beside the water, Boston delivers in spades. You can stroll along the shady banks of the Charles River, relax on sandy Carson Beach, or leave the harbour behind on a ferry trip to Georges Island. In the Boston Public Garden, swan boats drift over the lake in summer, and ice skaters pirouette across the surface when it freezes in winter. Cross the bridge into Cambridge, and you can visit a couple of America’s top universities – Harvard and MIT.
The Freedom Trail
Boston city breaks open the door to this cultural calling card. Follow the pavement markings, and you’ll check off all of Boston’s historic big-hitters. The Paul Revere House dates back to 1680, column-fronted Quincy Market looks like a Greek temple, and the Old State House is dressed in Georgian, redbrick style. Other sites on the trail include a ship from the 1700s, America’s oldest city park, and a National Historic Landmark – the Bunker Hill Monument.
Shopping and entertainment venues blend seamlessly into Boston’s classic street scene. Trendy boutiques and cafés fill the brownstone townhouses on Newbury Street, and the cobbled promenades of Faneuil Hall Marketplace are brimming with stores and restaurants. Head to South Boston – better known as Southie – and you’ll see the city’s cluster of glistening skyscrapers, and the super-modern Institute of Contemporary Art.
Things to See and Do in Boston
Sand in the city
Boston and beach holidays aren’t always bandied together, despite the city’s bumper crop of sunbathing spots. Head away from the culture-stuffed centre, and you’ll find smooth strips of sand dotted all along the harbourside and coastline. Some tourists take the two-hour drive to Cape Cod for a beach day, when actually there are a bunch of picturesque options right on your doorstep.
The big beach
Hop in a cab, and you can reach Boston’s longest stretch of sand in around 20 minutes. Revere Beach sprawls out for three and a half miles, with a nature reserve over its shoulder and the Atlantic Ocean at its feet. It’s been a sun-seeking staple for more than a century, and holds the title of America’s oldest public beach.
The secret beach
Constitution Beach comes with views you might not expect – it’s just across the water from Logan International Airport, so you’ve got front-row seats for incoming and outgoing planes. Even if plane-spotting’s not your thing, this lesser-known pocket of sand is well set up for sunbathing. There’s bags of room to throw down a towel, and yacht clubs bookend each side of the beach, so swimmers share the bay with the occasional bobbing mast.
On Fridays and Saturdays, you’ll find the liveliest shopping scene at Haymarket. This open-air collection of fruit and veg stalls is like a step back in time. Prices are lower, and the redbrick streets surrounding it feel more like London than the USA. They’re peppered with English-style taverns and quirky bars, and there’s a big indoor market just across the road.
For the best high street-style shopping, head to Faneuil Hall Marketplace – also known as Quincy Market. This three-pronged promenade lines up stores like Urban Outfitters, Coach and Sunglass Hut, and the middle stretch is loaded with restaurants and cafés. Elsewhere, the Downtown Crossing district boasts stores like Macy’s, Gap and Forever 21.
There’s a boutique feel to Newbury Street, with top-end stores tastefully tucked away in traditional buildings. It’s regarded as one of the most stylish streets in the city, and stores like Jack Wills, Barbour and Giorgio Armani line up along each side. Retro comic book shops and laidback cafés add a certain charm, as well.
In the Waterfront district, the bar scene’s got a contemporary feel. It’s less beer and more cocktails, with rooftop terraces and harbour-view places popping up among the skyscrapers.
For an up-tempo night on the town, head to the Faneuil Hall neighbourhood. It’s flush with cocktail joints and Irish pubs, and there’s even a Cheers bar where you can pop in for a drink. Later on, there’s a good selection of nightclubs to pick from.
This hearty dish is a New England favourite, and Boston has a good handle on how to do it right. A creamy soup’s ladled into big bowls, with clams, potatoes and onions piled beneath the surface. Herbs and black pepper add punch, and some places include diced bacon or pork for a hit of saltiness.
Boston baked beans
One of Boston’s best-known nicknames is Beantown, thanks mostly to the locals’ love of this dish. It first reared its head in the 18th century, when baked beans were mixed with molasses or maple syrup, before a handful of salt pork was stirred in. It’s still a culinary staple to this day, using the same age-old recipe.
You wouldn’t expect a sports stadium to have much clout in the food industry, but Fenway Park’s a different beast. As one of the oldest baseball stadiums in America, it’s had plenty of time to perfect its legendary hot dog recipe. The finished product, the Fenway Frank, has cemented its spot as one of Boston’s most iconic snacks.
Boston cream pie
It’s a pie, but not as you know it. Forget the pastry – this pie sandwiches custard or cream between two sponge cakes, with a glossy layer of chocolate glazed across the top. It’s so popular, it was named the state dessert of Massachusetts in the 90s, and there’s even a spin-off doughnut version.
When in Boston, drink like a local. That means a frosty bottle of the local beer, Samuel Adams. It’s the Boston Beer Company’s number-one brew, and is named after the American Founding Father who was born here in 1722. Taste-wise, this caramel-coloured drop is like a malty mix of lager and ale.
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