Monday, September 24, 2012

What to do in Boston

When we moved to Boston in 2006, Travis and I thought we might only be here for two years (while he got his Masters in Music Composition from the New England Conservatory).  We wanted to make sure we didn’t leave this awesome city before we had done EVERYTHING exciting, so we sat down and made a “Boston Bucket List”. 

This list consisted of everything from Walden Pond, to watching fireworks on the 4th of July from the Esplanade, to riding the end of each green line…and every time we heard of something else interesting to do here, we’d add it to our list.  Every time we had a free weekend, we’d pull out our list, pick an attraction, and go!

6 years later…still living in Boston…we’ve done almost everything there is to do (sometimes 5 or 6 times), and it doesn’t get old!  A lot of people ask us what our favorite things to do are when they are coming into town – here are a few!

Where to stay:

Since we live in Boston, I haven’t stayed here myself, but have had friends/family say these places are wonderful!

350 Main Street
Cambridge, MA

This was my parents’ favorite place to stay when they came into town (before we had a spare bedroom).  The Kendall is just over the river in Cambridge, but right next to the T, so it will only take you about 5-10 minutes to get into the heart of the city.  Originally built in the 19th century, The Kendall was a firehouse and designed to accommodate stables, coal bunkers and sleeping quarters for the firemen.  Now every room has its own, individual design (by a local artist) and is decorated with antiques!  

Marriott - Brookline
40 Webster Street
Brookline, MA 02446

Another place that is pretty reasonably priced is the Marriott in Brookline, which is about a mile from Fenway  I've never stayed here, but I know the staff well and they are FANTASTIC (I park in their garage every day for work).  The hotel is right on the T (the subway), so getting into the city is easy.  Fun fact: Terry Francona stayed in the hotel for about 6 months after the Sox debacle last year and almost ran me over a handful of times.  :)

Where to eat:

There are SO many delicious places to eat in Boston – here are a few of our favorites that tourists should not miss!

286 Hanover Street
Boston, MA 02113

Ristorante Saraceno on Urbanspoon

The “North End” is Boston’s “Little Italy”…and man is it delicious!  Our favorite restaurant in the North End is Ristorante Saranceno.  You won’t go wrong with anything here, but some of the favorite dishes are the lasagna (it’s HUGE), Linguini with Seafood, Rigatoni all arrabbiata (spicy)…or just the spaghetti with meatballs!  One thing to note – refills on soda are NOT free…so order a water too.  We have no idea how their dessert is, because we always skip it here and head next-door to…

300 Hanover Street
Boston, MA 02113

Mike's Pastry on Urbanspoon

There is an ongoing battle in Boston about which is better – Mike’s Pastry or Modern Pastry.  We’ve sided with Mike’s, but you can certainly visit both and pick for yourself!  (Modern Pastry is a few buildings down from Mike’s.)  On a normal evening, there’s a line out the door and the store is packed with customers waiting to place their orders.  You won’t really get a chance to see all the pastries, so you should just know what you want…and trust me…you want a cannoli (there are 17 varieties of cannolis).  Travis’ mom also loves the lobster claw.  There won’t be room to sit and eat your snacks inside, so they’ll box your treats up for you to take with you and eat later. 

41 Union Street
Boston, MA

Union Oyster House on Urbanspoon

Ye Old Union Oyster House opened its doors in 1826, making it the oldest restaurant in continuous service in the country  The history of the Union Oyster House is a mile long and includes things like being the residence of a future king of France, the first place the toothpick was used in the US, and a favorite stop for JFK.  Located in Government Center, there are plenty of things to do while you wait for a table, and food is just as delicious as the history is impressive.  This is also home to my favorite clam chowder, (hands down) the best cornbread, and where Travis had his first Boston “lobstah”!

84 Beacon Street
Boston, MA 02108

Cheers on Urbanspoon

Where everybody knows your name!  Please, please…if you eat at Cheers in Boston…make sure you go to the original!  You’ll recognize the front of the building from the TV show, but the real name of the restaurant is The Bull & Finch Pub.  The inside doesn’t look like what you saw on the show (they used a set in Hollywood for this), but it’s a fun (you guessed it…) pub that has great bar food named after the characters in the show.  If you’re a beer fan, ask for Boston Brick Red – it’s a Sam Adam’s brew that’s only available on tap a few places throughout Boston!  Also, make sure they seat you downstairs (the upstairs looks like a bad Howard Johnson’s). 

Going Fancy?  Try Top of the Hub or L’Espalier

Top of the Hub                                           L’Espalier
800 Boylston Street                                    774 Boylston Street
Boston, MA 02199                                    Boston, MA 02199

These are two of our favorite (really) nice restaurants in Boston.  Top of the Hub is located at the top of the Prudential tower – 52 floors above Boston’s Back Bay – and the views are what make this restaurant so spectacular!  In addition to dinner, they offer a Prix-Fixe Lunch menu Monday – Saturday that’s reasonably priced.  If you want the views without the cost of the restaurant, check out the SkywalkObservatory.  L’Espalier is a few steps down Boylston street and has some of the most amazing food I’ve ever tasted.  If you can plan far enough in advance to attend one of their Cheese Tuesdays, by all means…sign up!

What to do:

I could go on and on about things to do for hours.  Here’s the short list of some of our favorites and “must-dos”.

There’s a 2.5 mile red line that meanders through most of Boston called the Freedom Trail.  Stop by the Visitor’s Center (located at Boston Common) and purchase a $10 self-guided tour book to follow along with as you go, and you’ll be able to see 16 historic landmarks at your own pace.  (Several of the restaurants I mentioned above (Union Oyster House and Saraceno) are located on the trail and would make nice stopping points for lunch or dinner.)  If you do not want to walk the whole trail, check out one of Boston’s Trolly Tours that will let you on and off at each stop, or a Duck Tour which travels on both land AND sea (well, really the Charles River).

Fenway Park, “America’s Most Beloved Ballpark,” is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, and the behind the scenes tour is really neat – even if you’re not a baseball fanatic.  The tour, led by one of their experienced guides, is about 50 minutes long and will lead you through the park, where you’ll see Pesky’s Pole, sit on the Green Monster, and even spend a little time in the press box.

There are lots of really great museums in Boston (MFA, ICA, Museum of Science), but one of the most unique I’ve ever been to is the Isabella Stewart Gardner.  Isabella Steward Gardner was one of the foremost female patrons of the arts in the late 19th century, and her home – a 15th-century Venetian-style building filled with paintings, sculptures, tapestries, furniture, manuscripts, and rare books – shows it!  At her death she willed that her home remain just as she had arranged it, so much so that if any one piece changes, the entire estate is to be sold at auction.  It truly is a one-of-a-kind sight you won’t find anywhere but Boston.

A few other favorite attractions/places are:

NewburyStreet - Boston’s 5th Avenue
Sam AdamsFactory Tour - Includes a tasting.  I like it because there's root beer if you're not a beer fan.  :)

What are some of your "Boston must-sees"?


  1. Other foods (because that's my favorite topic) that we like:

    Charlie's Kitchen in Harvard Square - $6 for a jalapeno double cheeseburger and fries plate!

    Mr. Bartley's Burger Cottage, also in Harvard Square - hands-down, best (and biggest!!) burgers around. Yum.

    John Harvard's Brewery (Harvard Square and Framingham) - wonderful micro-brew and restaurant. Awesome bread, apps, sandwiches, burgers (noticing a trend?), entrees and more!

    Antico forno (North End) - I've never actually eaten in the restaurant, but my summer "Italian marching band" plays several of the North End feasts, and this place sometimes gives us pizza. It is THE best pizza I've ever tasted. I mean, I can't even describe it. Now I'm hungry...

    Jacob Wirth Restaurant (Theater District) - This is a German restaurant, with many traditional Deutschland fares, as well as burgers, etc. The bratwurst, snitzel, potato salad, and sauerkraut (yep!) are all to-die-for.

    Black Seed Cafe and Grill (Beacon Hill) - This is a great little cafe across from our church (Park Street), and we tend to jump at any excuse to grab a sandwich here for lunch. Our favorite is the chicken pesto - heavenly.

    Man, I could go on forever...I should stop here. I think I'm gaining weight just thinking about all these places.

  2. I never travel and I am going to Boston in a couple of weeks and could not be more excited! So far people have only told me places to shop in Boston, nothing else. I appreciate all the advice, I want to visit everything!

  3. So funny, I live in Brookline a block from the Marriot! Got to love fenway! I also love Faneuil Hall and walking around the waterfront! Plus who can beat the 4th of July concert!

    1. I love Brookline! My office overlooks Beacon/Harvard so I get some great people watching in. :)

  4. Oh man, I just moved from Boston to be with my fiancé, and I miss it EVERY MINUTE. We just celebrated my bachelorette party there last weekend (snow and all!) and I did not want to leave. We live in southern Maryland now, and I hate it. Def not Boston. Thanks for posting!

  5. No place is like Boston!! IMO, the most fantastic city in the US--maybe in the world! We asked a cab driver to take us to Ye Olde Union House, and he said it was a dump, would show us where it was, and then take us to Durgan Park! He was soooo right! We lived there twice, but a long time ago, so I don't know what is still there! I still miss it! If DP is still going, and I can't imagine it's not, be sure and get the Indian Pudding!

    1. We like Durgan Park too! Such a fun place - they have great Shepard's pie...I'll have to try the Indian Pudding next time! Thanks for the recommendation!

  6. Is there like a Boston events calendar or something to find out what will be going on when we visit? We've never been and want to fit as much into our schedule as possible!