Boston has all the makings of a big city — pro sports, beautiful skyline, outdoor recreation and countless activities — while still remaining clean, warm and inviting. Read on for my all-time favorite Boston activities.
Growing up, Boston was my dream city. I was a fan of the Red Sox and Dawson’s Creek, and constantly whined to my parents about my absolute, undying need to move there.
And then I did.
In 2011, I started graduate school at Boston University. This year-long program was more than just a Master’s degree — it was the chance to explore Boston inside and out.
I lived in Boston U’s graduate apartment building right near Kenmore Square, and just a couple blocks from Fenway Park.
Yes. You heard that right.
I lived a couple blocks from Fenway Park.
Like all good things, though, my time in Boston came to an end too soon when I opted to finish my Master’s degree abroad in London. But the charming, colonial and quaint city of Boston left a wicked-big imprint on my Wanderlost heart. (As you can tell, my Boston vernacular is still a bit lacking…)
For Boston Red Sox fans, Fenway Park is a 100-year-old fantasy that will never, ever lose its magic. Just walking through those gates and into the park’s small, rickety seats — camera in one hand, $10 beer in the other — gives Sox fans a heart-pounding case of the butterflies.
And non-Sox fans can enjoy Fenway, too. (Although, how could you not be a Sox fan …?). With the stadium’s more than 100 years of history, it’s part baseball field and part historical landmark.
Fenway has a couple of experiences for visitors, ranging from a quick view of the stadium to a full-fledged, nine-inning game.
If you’re going the game route, take note that Sox ticket prices are steep. I’m talking $75 to $100 for bleacher seats. Sometimes you can get a deal, but when just visiting for a couple of days, it may be easier for option two …
Bleacher Bar! Located actually inside the stadium — but accessible to non-ticket holders on the infamous, always rockin’ Landsdowne Street — Bleacher Bar provides inside views of the games or just the stadium, without the steep ticket price. The bar has a screened-in view of center field as its back wall, and a little birdy told me that a trip to the men’s restroom actually has game views from the urinal. Brilliant. Now if only they could figure that out for women…
Charles River Path
The Charles River is Boston’s iconic river for a reason: It runs along almost every top sight in the city. Starting down by the West End’s Museum of Science, the path takes runners, bikers and walkers into Cambridge for spectacular views of downtown Boston, before reaching MIT, Harvard then, once back across into Boston, past Boston U through the Charles River Esplanade and on back to the West End.
During the downtown Boston miles, you can take a pedestrian walkway from the bike path over to the interior of the city to get up close and personal with some of the city’s best sights like Beacon Street, the Boston Gardens or, of course, my alma mater Boston U!
Boston Common and Public Gardens
The Boston Common is the city’s central public green space, and its inception in 1634 makes it the oldest public park in the nation. Located between the Theater District and Beacon Hill, the Commons is within easy reach for residents and visitors.
The adjacent Public Garden — directly across Charles Street — rounds out this serene, natural space with bright, cheery flowers and a continuation of the Commons’ beloved landmarks.
The Commons and Gardens boast prominent statues – ranging from George Washington to adorable ducklings – as well as paddle boats, ornate bridges, Frog Pond and plenty of green space for relaxing under the sun.
The Commons juts up right against the towering Massachusetts State House, which stands tall as a historical beacon for all who visit the area.
Back Bay is by far Boston’s most expensive neighborhood. With exquisite townhouses and former residents like heartthrob Tom Brady, it’s the type of place paupers like me can only dream of.
But it’s also home to something all residents and visitors can enjoy, even without Tom Brady’s salary: Newbury Street.
This quaint little tree-lined street is filled with auburn-colored brownstones, bright seasonal flowers, delicious outdoor dining and unique, local shops. It’s a great place to grab your Boston souvenirs, get your shopping fix, or just to sit outside and watch the passersby.
Newbury Street starts just beyond Mass Ave, and ends at the Boston Public Gardens. It’s easily accessible by foot and subway, and was one of my favorite spots for a Sunday morning stroll.
After I moved from Boston to London, Harpoon Brewery — one of my favorite breweries around — went under serious renovations. In fact, on my first return trip to sample its latest creations, I barely recognized the facilities.
While I will always cherish my Harpoon Brewery of old (they used to have free tastings at 2 and 4 p.m. on weekdays!), I understand and respect their decision to upgrade. The brewery now has a large tasting room with brews and bar food, as well as beer sampling paddles and brewery tours.
Harpoon Brewery is located in Boston’s Seaport District, an area few tourists actually visit. If you’re headed out for an afternoon at Harpoon, grab an authentic Boston lunch at the Barking Crab, and make sure to hit up the Whiskey Priest on your way back home.
Each of my seven Harpoon visits during grad school ended with a nightcap or two at Whiskey Priest, and while I regretted it the next day, this ritual was a fun Boston memory I’ll cherish (well, what I can remember of it) for years to come.
Know before you go
If you’re planning to visit Boston during April, keep Patriot’s Day in mind. The Boston Marathon takes over the entire city on Patriot’s Day Monday. I’m not kidding – businesses are closed, schools are shut down and all of Boston is out along the marathon course cheering on the runners (and hitting up the bars in between).
This tradition is so important to the Boston community, and it was one I’ll never forget. If you’d like to partake in the festivities, definitely plan your trip around Marathon Monday! If you’d prefer to see as many sites as you can without street and business closures, pick another week for your trip.
Also on an unrelated note is the T, Boston’s subway system. This system is so, so easy to figure out and use. I had it down in less than one week. That means most normal, directionally savvy travelers will have it down in one day. A Charlie Card, the card that gets you on the subway, is relatively inexpensive and can take you just about anywhere you need to go in the big, beautiful city of Boston.