Whether you want to learn about early American history, explore art museums, watch leaves change color or sip a pint, Boston does not disappoint.
The easiest way for someone unfamiliar with Boston to get around is probably on the “T”, which has several lines and can get you just about anywhere. If you’ll be riding the T, your best bet is to get a “Charlie Card.”
If you’re a history buff – or want to take a walk without getting lost – follow the (mostly) red brick road of the Freedom Trail through the older parts of Boston, past Bunker Hill Monument, through the North End and along the waterfront. It’s a good idea to wear comfortable shoes, though, or you will spend more time thinking about your growing blisters than courageous early Americans.
Jamaica Plain (call it “JP” unless you want everyone in earshot to know you are from out of town) has a worthwhile shopping area along Center Street and is the home of JP Lick’s, generally considered to be the best ice cream shop in Boston.
Across the Charles River, Cambridge is home to Harvard as well as several other universities. A great place to wander, watch talented street performers and shop.
Boston is known for its Irish population, but it also has a significant Italian population, most of whom lived in the North End. Parts of the Red Line cross through it, but your most important question on entering the neighborhood just might be Mike’s Pastry or Modern Pastry? The dueling houses of pastry are about a block from each other – and neither accept credit cards, so plan accordingly. Both are excellent, but Modern is considered slightly more authentic.
Boston is famous as well (and in one case infamous) for its museums. The Museum of Fine Art (MFA) is the largest and, like the Louvre, impossible to pack into just one visit. It’s also free on Wednesdays past 4 p.m. The Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) has a great location overlooking Boston Harbor and is free Thursday evenings.
The final major museum in Boston is the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the personal collection of one woman, housed inside a mansion whose interior is molded after Venetian palaces. Well worth a look, and (in)famous for the heist that cost the museum works of art that have yet to be located. A new wing opens in early 2012.
No trip to Boston is complete without stopping in an Irish bar. Any search engine will give you plenty of options, but Brendan Behan in Jamaica Plain and Druid in Cambridge are recognized as among the best in Boston.
In addition to the autumn change of colors, there’s also the Lantern Festival and the Head of the Charles Regatta in October. There are many other things to see and do in and around Boston – too many for just one trip.