What do you picture when you think of Boston? The Independence Trail, or Faneuil Hall maybe? Perhaps a visit to Harvard, or maybe the Sam Adams Brewery? Unsurprisingly for a city so rich in historical importance there are many hidden treasures rich for exploration, even for someone who has visited on many occasions. Here are a few options for the discerning visitor…
There are a huge number of these mini treks through the lovely streets, hosted by companies such as WalkBoston and Freetoursbyfoot. Initially designed to inspire people to eschew public transport for using their own two feet, these walks have included titles such as Boston Chinatown Tour and the Historic Tavern and Boston Bar Tour, through to “Cambridge street for Foodies with Rep Tim Toomey” and “A Far-out suburb Walk in Walpole.” Yes, these might be bespoke tours, but it’s always worth seeing what’s going on, and many of these sites have their own maps for download.
Museums – Good and Bad
Harvard and MIT are world-renowned; Boston Children’s museum and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum are more niche; but to appreciate the good we also must be aware of the bad, and nowhere does things worse than The Museum of Bad Art – ‘art too bad to be ignored’. The website describes it as ‘the work of talented artists that have gone awry to works of exuberant, although crude, execution by artists barely in control of the brush. What they all have in common is a special quality that sets them apart in one way or another from the merely incompetent’.
Up on the Roof
For a short distraction from the hubbub of America’s 23rd biggest city, take a journey up to the Cambridge Center Roof Garden which gives fantastic views. Find Kendall Square and take it from there – apparently Google even hosts secret parties there sometimes…
On the Waterfront
Boston’s waterfront is beautiful and brash – keep an eye out for gigantic yachts of entrepreneurs such as John Henry. If you don’t actually want to hit the waves, then a stroll along the front will take up a day (a Segway tour, perfect for beginners, will take three hours) while exploration of the Boston Harbour Islands will take you to Georges or Spectacle Island. Then you’ll move on to smaller treats such as the scenic Bumpkin Island, once home of American Indians and polio patients, and enjoy hiking and biking in Peddocks Island.
Rent a Car and Visit New England
To the north is Salem and Manchester-by-the-Sea – somebody should make a film about that place – and from there, Maine, the White Mountain National Forest and even Canada. To the south are Rhode Island and Cape Cod. Boston might not be renowned for ease of driving, but in reality on a good day one can be out and free within 45 minutes. If this is something you fancy doing, book yourself a hotel in Greater Boston so you’re close enough to the center but also able to drive out of the city easily.
There’s also a host of lovely, smaller towns with character such as Concord – home of Sleepy Hollow. This year 2017 sees the anniversary of the bicentenary of the birth of thinker and writer Henry David Thoreau, with a series of special exhibitions, workshops and gallery talks at Concord museum. Another option is Quincy and Tony’s Clam Shop; top of the list in TripAdvisor, but if clams don’t take your fancy why not go for lobster, scallop, or even some of the middle eastern specialties?
Brattle Brook Shop
Established in 1825, Brattle Brook Shop is a treasure trove of antiquities and the unusual; there are two floors of more ‘normal’, generalized books and a third floor of rarities and curiosities. You can also take a look at some of the books on market stalls outside, in one of the more pleasant parts of the city in West Street. Current proprietor Ken Gloss – part of the Gloss family that has run the store since 1949 – appraises books and libraries for Harvard, Boston University, Boston College, Northeastern, Simmons, Suffolk, Tufts, Babson, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, the FBI and others.
Sound like reason enough to visit Boston this year? See you there.