As a prominent port on America’s east coast, Boston is a popular point of departure for Caribbean cruises and also for itineraries which explore New England and Canada. The capital of Massachusetts, it’s one of the USA’s oldest cities and as a result, there’s plenty of history and culture to explore during your time there.
Boston traces its roots back to 1630, when a group of English Puritan colonists settled on the Shawmut Peninsula. It is indeed named after Boston in Lincolnshire, where a number of the settlers originated from, though started off life as the slightly more exotic-sounding ‘Trimountaine’ named so because of its three mountains, of which there are only traces left today. The city was the location of many key events of the American Revolution, such as the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party, the Siege of Boston and Bunker Hill. Come 1820, the city’s population really began to grow, bolstered by the first wave of European immigrants, many fleeing Ireland following the Irish Potato Famine. Large numbers of Irish, Italian and Russian Jews subsequently formed distinct neighbourhoods in the city which contribute to the contrasting cultural appeal it enjoys today.
A great introduction to the city’s key sites and its history, the Freedom Trail is a tourist must and a great way to explore Boston. There are numerous tours running or you can strike out on your own with the help of a good guidebook. If there’s something Boston’s got no shortage of its museums, something which isn’t surprising considering its history. The Museum of Fine Arts is the most well-known, and one of America’s largest and continues to attract over a million visitors each year. The collection of impressionist paintings here is one of the world’s finest and the exhibits change regularly, so there’s always something new to see. The JFK Presidential Museum and Library offers the perfect look at the life of one of the city’s most famous sons and a captivating snapshot of his political era. The Boston Public Library, meanwhile was America’s first municipally-funded library, so is in itself a piece of history. As well as its huge research section, the library also boasts an attractive courtyard, which is a convenient quiet spot in the heart of the city.
The city’s distinct districts are another aspect of what makes it so fascinating to explore. North End is the Italian Neigbourhood and the city’s oldest district. It’s a pleasure to walk the cobbled streets and soak up the atmosphere and key historical sites here include the house of famous patriot Paul Revere and the Old North Church. It’s also a great place to eat and there are plenty of restaurants to choose from. Beacon Hill is Boston’s upscale Brahmin neighbourhood and oozes New England charm. Leafy, hilly and architecturally attractive, it’s a great place to spend time. Star attraction in the area is the Massachusetts State House, with its distinctive gold dome.
None other than America’s oldest public garden, Boston Public Garden is one of the city’s best-loved attractions. As well as its famous swan boats and duck sculptures, it boasts over 600 varieties of trees and the flower arrangements are changed regularly, too. Whenever you visit, It’s great (and free) place in which to relax. There’s a bit of a theme occurring with Boston’s green spaces and indeed, Arnold Arboretum is America’s oldest, boasting 265 acres of greenery. Clearly-marked paths mean you won’t get lost and can choose the best route suitable for your walking ability and for the duration of your visit. For a little greenery further afield, head over to Boston Harbour Islands National Park. This ‘park’ actually comprises 34 different islands which offer a host of outdoor experiences, such as kayaks, camping ferry rides and swimming.
Shopping and fun
It’s hard to mention Boston without thinking of its iconic baseball team. Fenway Park is the home of the Boston Redsox and yes, you’ve guessed it, is the oldest baseball park in America. Perhaps because of this, it’s no sprawling modern mega-complex and offers an exciting and intimate atmosphere. It’s one of the city’s most popular attractions and because it’s located in downtown Boston, it’s easy to get to and you can enjoy a game even if you’re only in the city for a short time. Make sure you book tickets in advance though.
For a chic shopping experience, be sure to head over to Newbury Street, where a host of exclusive boutiques await. It’s the city’s most famous shopping district and though you’ll need to have perhaps saved up a little more money than normal to really splash out, it’s enough of an enjoyable pastime to people-watch and browse the galleries.
By Simon Brotherton