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Brilliant Boston; what to see and do in this historical city

by Lady Charlotte Lynham
Boston

Boston, we have all heard of it, but this city offers so much more than its historical past, from music to food and drink, modern art to architecture, it is a city that offers so much to see and do! Easily accessible from the UK via numerous airlines, and often overlooked by its more famous neighbour New York, Boston is a cleaner, more cultured and less crowded option when visiting the East Coast of the USA. My visit totally changed my perception of this city, and I have since advised people Boston is a must-visit for anyone looking for a hub of culture, old and new, with great food and fun experiences for the young and old.

Where is Boston?

Boston is the capital and most populous city in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the United States. The city serves as the cultural and financial centre of the New England region of the Northeastern United States. Accessible via international flights from the UK from numerous airports or domestic flights from many airports in the USA into Boston Logan International Airport as part of a dual centre trip.

Boston is one of the United States’ oldest cities. It was founded on the Shawmut Peninsula in 1630 by Puritan settlers with the city being named after Boston, Lincolnshire, England. During the American Revolution, Boston was home to several key events. These included the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party, the hanging of Paul Revere’s lantern signal in Old North Church, the Battle of Bunker Hill, and the siege of Boston.

Where to stay in Boston

I stayed in the Omni Boston Hotel at the Seaport, located in the Seaport District, a redeveloped stretch of the South Boston waterfront lined with large, sleek restaurants, bars and hotels. Literally less than 10 minutes ride from Boston Logan International Airport, this hotel is a sleek modern glass building with great views over the surrounding area and Boston Harbour.

Omni Boston Hotel at the Seaport

The AAA Four Diamond-rated hotel is conveniently located near South Station, Boston Harbor, and the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. This hotel has 1,054 (yep you read that right, 1,054!) well-appointed and stylish guest rooms that boast floor-to-ceiling windows with unrivalled city and harbour views. There are two towers in the hotel, the Artist Tower and the Patron Tower, each with its own style and design, I stayed in a Premier View Studio in the Artist Tower. 

My cosy studio was located on a premium high floor in the Artist Tower and had spectacular views of the Massachusetts Bay or Seaport skyline. Rather non-traditional as king rooms go, all open plan minus the smokey glass doors to hide your privacy in the toilet and shower, the room had a sort of industrial feel with black iron bars, exposed marble tops and brass fittings. The bed was super comfy and the room has access to a water and coffee machine in the corridor outside, the only issue, while the room was very stylish, there was a distinct lack of storage, with only one small hanging rail and under-bed storage draws. However, the hotel makes up for this with six distinct dining experiences, a fifth-floor heated rooftop pool and a hot tub and accessibility to many Boston highlights and experiences by foot.

What to do in Boston

If you are staying at Omni Boston Hotel at the Seaport then there is a lot to do straight from your doorstep, including the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), Fan Pier Park and Seaport Common Waterfront Park however if you venture out further Boston offers so much, from culture to history and art to fun activities for all ages.

Historical Sightseeing

Freedom Trail

Waking this 2.5-mile tour you will experience more than 250 years of history on Boston’s iconic Freedom Trail. The trail leads to 16 nationally significant historic sites, each one an authentic treasure. Preserved and dedicated by the citizens of Boston in 1951, the Freedom Trail is a unique collection of museums, churches, meeting houses, burying grounds, parks, a ship, and historic markers that tell the story of the American Revolution and beyond.  Today the Freedom Trail is a world-renowned, signature tourist experience attracting over 4 million people annually to visit Boston’s precious 17th-, 18th-, and 19th-century sites. The trail is free, and completely doable by any fitness level, you can pick up a guide to follow to take in all the sites and there are handy street markings for you to follow so you will not get lost. This is a great thing to do on day one in Boston to familiarise yourself with the history of the city and get your bearings.

Freedom Trail

Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum

The Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum allows visitors to be a part of the famous event that forever changed the course of American history through a multi-sensory experience that includes live actors, interactive exhibits, and full-scale replica 18th-century sailing vessels. You have to shake off your reserved British exterior and get stuck in with the interactive nature of this attraction, with actors playing famous characters in the story of The Boston Tea Party, you become part of the story, with jeering and booing; “Huzzah”. This experience is perfect for adults and children alike as it is good fun as you move from exhibit to exhibit to learn what led up to that fateful night and how it was a catalyst for the revolution. After the experience, you can finish in the tea shop and try an array of teas, which are all available in the gift shop of course.

Boston Tea Party Ships Museum

Harvard University Tour

Harvard University is a private Ivy League research university in Cambridge, just a 10 minute drive from Boston centre. Founded in 1636 as Harvard College and named for its first benefactor, the Puritan clergyman John Harvard, it is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. While in Boston it is certainly worth visiting for a tour as these free, student-led public walking tours through Harvard Yard provide a history of the University, general information, and a unique view of the student’s individual experience. All tours are 45 to 60 minutes long and registration is required in advance. We were lucky enough to visit just after graduation so the university was adorned in banners and flags making it look beautiful in the Spring sunshine.

Harvard University

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

Maybe a little-known fact to us British but each president gets a “library” named after them dedicated to their life and service in the city of their origin, so Boston, as the hometown of John F. Kennedy, is the home of The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. This presidential library and museum of John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1917–1963), is in honour of the 35th president of the United States (1961–1963).

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

The library features a museum containing video monitors, family photographs, and political memorabilia. Visitors to the museum begin their visit by watching a film narrated by President Kennedy in one of two cinemas that show an orientation film, and a third shows a documentary on the Cuban Missile Crisis. I really enjoyed visiting this museum, it was insightful to learn more about JFK as well as world politics during his term, the museum itself is also a sight to behold in glass with incredible views across the river.

Leisure Sightseeing

Institute of Contemporary Art

Founded in 1936 as the Boston Museum of Modern Ara as a sister institution to New York’s MoMA, the museum was conceived as a laboratory where innovative approaches to art could be championed. The gallery changed its name to the Institute of Contemporary Art in 1948 and has since presented contemporary art in all media including visual arts, performance, film, video, and literature. It was lovely to wander around here and see the permanent and visiting exhibitions in a very cool and contemporary space, perfectly located for a pre or post-visit lunch or shopping spree as it is located in the Seaport area with lots of local eateries and shops.

Institute of Contemporary Art

The New England Aquarium

The New England Aquarium is a nonprofit research and conservation organization that has protected and cared for the ocean and marine animals for more than 50 years. The species exhibited include harbour and northern fur seals, California sea lions, African and southern rockhopper penguins, giant Pacific octopuses, weedy seadragons, and thousands of saltwater and freshwater fishes. I always love visiting aquariums, they are just so fascinating, and this one has an incredible central tank that is awe-inspiring as you curve your way up to the top to look in. This attraction is also great for families as there are lots of interactive experiences for children. Again this is located in the harbour area so easy to walk to and find somewhere for lunch afterwards.

The New England Aquarium

Cycleboat Boston

Now for something completely different, and a lot of fun. Boston is a marine city, so one of the best ways to appreciate this city is from the water, and what better way than on a Cycleboat. Cycleboat Boston is a family-run business headed up by Captain Ed, who is a lot of fun and very knowledgeable about the sites as you cruise around the river. Each boat has a center table that contains coolers with ice and comfortable bike seats are stationed around the table allowing passengers to pedal and propel the boat.

Cycleboat Boston

The captain can raise or lower the paddle wheel to reduce the resistance, making the pedalling easier (just like lowering the gear on a bicycle). Bluetooth speakers and lights are available to set the mood and on our adventure, we voted in songs to the dedicated DJ to get the vibe going. This was a hilarious and fun activity that also allows you to see Boston from a different perspective.

Markets

There are loads of markets in Boston, from bric-a-brac to vintage fashion to food, but ones worth checking out include SoWa, a flea market with hundreds of vendors selling everything from art to jewellery, and the iconic Quincy Market, a huge food hall in a historic building with 50+ eateries, vendors and kiosks with diverse offerings. Both are easily accessible on foot while walking around Boston, check opening times before you visit.

Quincy Market

Music

Boston Calling

While we were in Boston we were lucky enough that the Boston Calling Music Festival was in town. This event is a 3 day, 4 stage, outdoor festival featuring the biggest and best acts in live music. With visual arts and a 100-foot Ferris wheel, there was so much to explore and see including during our visit the Foo Fighters and Alanis Morrisette plus chillout areas, food vendors, and places to buy memorabilia. This year’s festival sees headline acts including Ed Sheeran and The Killers so certainly worth the visit if you are an avid music fan and festival goer. One thing I really liked about the vibe at Boston Calling was it was a lot more chilled than the UK festivals and there were a lot fewer opportunities to be crushed. Winning combo.

Boston Calling

Where to eat and drink in Boston

Firstly, if you are staying in the Omni Boston Hotel at the Seaport there are several options only an elevator ride away. We ate at The Sporting Club on our first night in Boston and it was a very fun welcome experience to the culture of Boston with sport playing on the screens and locals congregating to cheer on their team while drinking craft beer and eating an array of small and shareable plates. I enjoyed a Bespoke Black Boom stable, the Espresso Martini, which was much needed after a 4 am start that day to get from San Antonio Texas to Boston, and an array of plates and bites, including Skillet Cornbread, Crispy Brussel Sprouts and crispy chicken wings with buttermilk ranch. Perfect for relaxed dining with friends and the atmosphere is electric on game nights.

The Crescendo Bar at Omni Boston Hotel at the Seaport is also a great spot for an aperitif before going out for dinner or even a nightcap on your way back from a night out in Boston. They make a mean Margarita but also have a stellar wine and beer selection.

For a chilled lunch check out High Street Place Food Hall, a collection of multiple cuisines and vendors all under one roof. Perfect for a quick lunch on the go there are lots of options from which to choose, I had what might have been the hottest fried chicken I have ever eaten! I love spicy food, to the point I am somewhat immune to chills, but this crispy chicken packed an almighty punch and I loved it! I also tried some sweet potato fries that went down well with my fellow companions when I couldn’t eat them all, the hot sauce however they did not appreciate. Amateurs.

High Street Place Food Hall

A great location for brunch is The Beehive, a wildly popular Bohemian eatery and bar located in The Boston Center for the Arts complex in Boston’s South End. Amongst the backdrop of an eclectic, funky, yet elegant art space, you can enjoy delicious food, sumptuous cocktails, and world-class live music. Our group enjoyed an array of items from eggs Shakshuka to Backed French Toast, all washed down with Mimosas and coffee whilst listening to easy jazz from the live band. A fun place to hang out with friends and pretty reasonable value for money as the portions are decent.

The Beehive

Another fun location for lunch is the world-famous Cheers, more than just an eatery, this location is something to see and do whilst also serving American classics pub style. This is the Boston pub that inspired the location for the TV program Cheers, located on Beacon Hill it is a mecca for TV fans and tourists alike. Ironically, only the facade was used in the program, whilst the interior was shot elsewhere, but this does not stop this pub from being a very popular location for those visiting Boston. Serving pub grub, pints and nostalgia it is a great spot for lunch, but make sure to book as this is a very popular location. We tried an array of classics, from Pastrami Reubens to Cheeseburgers and I really enjoyed my Cheers Root Beer, a true American classic!

A great restaurant for dinner, that is also somewhat of a tourist favourite due to its illustrious history, is Union Oyster House. Boston’s oldest restaurant, Union Oyster House serves seafood and New England specialities in a historic setting on the Freedom Trail. The building has stood on Union Street as a major local landmark for more than 250 years and the Kennedy Clan has patronized the Union Oyster House for years. J.F.K. loved to feast in privacy in the upstairs dining room, and his favourite booth “The Kennedy Booth” has since been dedicated to his memory. Now, ironically, I do not like oysters, long story after overdoing them in LA, but I had the pleasure to try other seafood including Crispy Calamari, Homemade Lump Crab Cakes and Broiled Sea Scallops. Totally worth the visit to eat within living history, and see the memorabilia dotted around the various rooms.

Union Oyster 1 1

Finally, and probably my favourite place we ate in while in Boston, the now world-renowned Smith & Wollensky. Steeped in history with breathtaking views of Boston Harbor, this restaurant offers a classic steakhouse experience with modern flair. The lush interior has accents of wood and leather with a European-style exposition kitchen whilst the tables are dressed in signature white and green table linens, a great location for a date, family dinner or a catch-up with friends.

Smith Wollensky Boston

We shared as a group the seared scallops and seafood tower then for the main I had what might be in my Top 5 steaks of all time, the Coffee and Cocoa rubbed Fillet with Ancho chilli butter and onions, absolutely epic that completely did me in so there was no room for dessert. Smith & Wollensky also have a wonderful wine menu with varieties from around the globe, we tasted an incredible Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley that matched the steaks perfectly.

For further information on Boston, visit https://www.meetboston.com

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