|Boston is the largest city in New England, the capital of the state of Massachusetts, and one of the most historic, wealthy and influential cities in the United States of America. |
Although technically not part of Boston proper, the cities of Cambridge (just across the Charles River, home to Harvard and MIT), Newton, Brookline and Somerville are in many ways an integral part of the larger city and are an essential component to any visit to Boston.
When to visit
As many know, the weather is New England is very unpredictable and sees the some of the coldest winters and most uncomfortable summers in the country. Overall, the spring is nice, but it's hit or miss in terms of weather. Sometimes the warm weather starts late, sometimes it starts early, and sometimes it's off and on until late June. The early fall is most always very comfortable, and predictable. Though the days are shorter, the comfortably warm weather will often persist into the evenings, through September. Come October the days are cooler, but perfect for spending time outside and walking the city. November is hit or miss, but expect it to be cold.
While a day of snowfall in New England can be pretty, the winter is otherwise bitterly cold and generally a mess to get around in. Roads become unsafe the day of a storm, sidewalks covered in messy slush, ice, flight delays and cancellations, and all of the other unpleasantness that one associates with snow. Drivers can take solace, however, in knowing that the system of plows and road salting/sanding in Boston is very adept at clearing snow and ice and the roads will be passable as fast as possible. A sunny winter day, while it may be frigid (usually around -2C/30F, but as low as -13C/9F), can be absolutely beautiful. There are rare days where the weather will get downright balmy, but these are few and far between. Also note that the number on the thermometer will not be the temperature you are feeling. The combination of high humidity and wind off the Charles River will make it feel noticeably colder and sharper.
Early summer tends to be nice, but you don't know when that will be year to year. In that time however, the temperature will be perfect, and there will be no humidity. The remainder of summer tends to be very warm with uncomfortably high humidity. Walking around Boston in this weather can be very uncomfortable. You'll be best off taking a cab, bus, or The T.
• John F. Kennedy Library and Museum Columbia Point, Dorchester (JFK/UMass Station, Any Red Line).
• Institute of Contemporary Art 955 Boylston St (Hynes/ICA Station, Green B, C, or D line). 617-266-5152
• Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum 280 The Fenway (MFA Station, Green E Line). 617-566-1401
• Museum of Science Science Park (Science Park Station, Any Green Line), 617-723-2500.
• Boston Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Ave. (MFA Station, Green E Line), 617-267-9300. - (Free for high-school students practically all-year round; entrance fees are optional on Wednesdays.)
• Boston Children's Museum 300 Congress Street, Boston. (Downtown.) For directions and more info, see:
• New England Aquarium Central Wharf, Boston. (Blue Line to Aquarium) Great fun for kids of all ages. 617-973-5200
Boston is not known for its cheap hotels. Budget internet sites are almost essential for finding an affordable and comfortable hotel downtown.
• Hostelling International has locations at 12 Hemenway St, and 1105 Commonwealth Ave. Dorms $32-35/$35-38 members/non-members; Private doubles $70-$100 ($3 additional charge for non-members).
• Beantown Hostel 222 Friend Street (near North Station and the TD BankNorth Garden), this popular spot is near lots of night spots and not too far from the North End. Take the T because "Big Dig" diversions make driving in the area a veritable nightmare. Watch out for the 2AM curfew.
• Onyx Hotel, 155 Portland Street. +1 617 557 9955.
• Holiday Inn ] 5 Blossom St. 617 742 7630. Good location overlooking the Charles River. Fine restaurants and smart shops of central Boston surround the hotel at the foot of Beacon Hill.
• Wyndham Boston Hotel at Fanueil Hall 89 Broad St. Built in 1928 as Boston's first skyscraper.
• Braintree Hotel Indoor pool and whirlpool, exercise room, free wireless internet, and complimentary shuttle service within a 4 mile radius of hotel. Pets are also allowed. Kids stay free. Close proximity to Boston. Ideal with car rental.
• Doubletree Guest Suites, 400 Soldiers Field Road, 783-0090 (Fax: 783-0897) Free shuttle to Copley Square and the Back Bay (and Fenway Park) and about 20 minutes by public transport.
• Omni Parker House Hotel If you want to surround yourself in Boston history and opulence in the heart of Downtown Boston.
• Intercontinental Boston, 500 Atlantic Ave. (On the Waterfront), phone number (617) 747-1000). Opening Mid-2006. The Intercontinental Boston Hotel, a new symbol of elegance and luxury on the Boston Waterfront. The 424 guest rooms & suites of this 5 star hotel will be conveniently located close to the Boston Commons, Faneuil Hall, Quincy Market, North End, Logan Airport, Boston Convention Center and other downtown Boston attractions.
• Nine Zero Trendy boutique hotel. For a real splurge stay in the Cloud Nine Suite with views of Boston Common.
Boston and the Greater Boston area have at last count over 40 public and private universities and colleges including Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Crime and other hazards in Boston are low for a major American city. Some neighborhoods (Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan, and parts of Jamaica Plain & Charlestown - all of which are off the beaten tourist path) are more dangerous than average, and extra care should be taken. Avoid walking in these areas at night if possible. Also avoid public parks after dark (unless there's a special event), especially the Fens. Dial 911 from any telephone for emergency police, medical, and fire services.
Boston makes an excellent starting point for any tour of New England.
• Take a ferry from the harbor in the summer or one of several daily Cape Air flights from Logan year-round to Provincetown (aka P-town) to see some of the best entertainment and fun on the Cape (aka Cape Cod).
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State Capitol Building, Boston
March: St. Patrick's Day The Sunday after March 17th is the day of the parade. Despite the fact that Boston has one of the highest Irish populations outside of Ireland, March 17th is not celebrated as St. Patrick's Day publicly, but rather as Evacuation Day, a local holiday marking the expulsion of British troops from the city in 1776 coincidentally on March 17th.
April (3rd Monday): Boston Marathon The oldest marathon in the US, commemorating Paul Revere's ride in 1775. The surrounding Patriot's Day festivities celebrate the start of the American Revolution in that year with the battles of Lexington and Concord (suburbs of Boston). The race runs from Hopkinton to the finish line in Copley Square. Parts of Commonwealth Avenue outbound from there and surrounding streets are closed for the race.
June: Boston Pride The second-largest event in the city after the Fourth of July. Boston's LBGT community - and everyone else - comes out for a fabulous parade from Copley Square, through the South End, to Boston Common. Many other social events are scheduled around this weekend.
July 4th: Independence Day Boston's Independence Day celebration. Started by Arthur Fiedler and philanthropist David Mugar. The Boston Pops plays to standing-room-only crowds on the Charles River Esplanade, followed by fireworks just after dusk. Televised nationally. Get there a few hours before dark if you want a good seat (or any seat) on the Esplanade or on the Memorial Drive side in Cambridge. It's an excellent opportunity for a picnic. Parts of Storrow Drive in Boston, Memorial Drive in Cambridge, and Massachusetts Avenue on and near the Harvard Bridge are closed due to extremely heavy pedestrian traffic. Note that the roads and public transit are heavily congested after the fireworks display.
August (late): The Feast of St. Anthony. The biggest of several Feasts in the North End. This one includes lots of food vendors, games, music, and a parade on Hanover Street and environs. (If I'm not mistaken, they have also had fireworks on the waterfront in the past.)
December 31st: First Night Boston's New Year's Eve celebration, a city-wide arts and culture event. The events begin at about 4PM on New Year's Eve, and culminate in fireworks on the waterfront. Dress warmly.
Last Friday of every month: "Critical Mass." Join hundreds of Bostonians on a bike ride throughout Boston. The event begins at 5:30 pm, Copley Square.