One of America’s oldest cities, Boston is filled with history and is a hub for college students as it is home to several colleges and universities. I took a survey of some of my friends who are students in or residents of the Boston area, and they gave high marks to a few restaurants, sites, and places to go out. They also thought that walking is the best way around the city, but agree that the T, Boston’s subway system is good too–if you use the subways a lot, definitely get a Charlie Card instead of a single ticket because it saves you money with every fare. Growing up about forty minutes outside of Boston, I’ve also used the commuter rail to get into the city, but the train makes a lot of stops and it can be a hassle keeping track of the schedule.
1.) North End—Boston’s famous Italian quarter, the North End is fun for visitors and a thorn in my Italian professors’ side (for perpetuating Italian stereotypes). There are tons of restaurants and famous cannoli shops: Mike’s Pastry draws hoards of visitors who line around the block to get a massive cannoli. While they’re great, Modern Pastry is also a good choice, also with a line, and their cannoli are customizable and a lot more manageable. Overall, the North End is a nice little neighborhood to explore, and it’s fun to eavesdrop on some of the actual Italian speakers. For some good food, head to Mamma Maria for a modern spin on classic Italian flavors in a small but open setting.
2.) Fenway–Probably one of the most iconic baseball parks in the country, Fenway is home to the Boston Red Sox and one of the most spirited and beautiful parks in the country. Going to a Red Sox game is almost a Massachusetts must in the summer. Although tickets may be expensive, they are worth buying to watch a game and join the fans in a round of Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline and eating a Fenway Frank for dinner. If going to a game is out of the question, seeing the surrounding area before a game might give a good sampling.
3.) Boston College Hockey (and other sports)–If rooting Boston’s professional teams is out of the question on your budget, BC sports are a good alternative. Their hockey team has ben national champions multiple times in the last few years, and both students and alumni have a lot of spirit and Eagle pride.
4.) Public Garden–A beautiful area open to the public and home to the famous swan boats, Boston Public Garden really comes to life in the spring when all of the flowers are in bloom. It’s a good place to bring a picnic (maybe a pizza from the Upper Crust). The Walk for Hunger, a great 24 mile charity walk that goes through Boston and its suburbs, ends with a walk through the garden as well, and it’s a gorgeous place to be inside of the city (especially after all of that walking).
5.) Picco–I went here once for pizza with my dad and sister before a Boston College hockey game, and this place knows pizza. They place their perfectly charred pizzas on old tin cans on your table in this dark and warm restaurant. Unfortunately, I haven’t been back since, but the pizza here was warm, hearty, and perfect on a really windy and cold night.
Here are some of my other Boston picks:
- Henrietta’s Table (Cambridge)–good, locally grown flavors and nice atmosphere
- Union Oyster House–really historic restaurant
- Border Cafe (Cambridge)–good Mexican place in Cambridge, nice atmosphere but tight inside
- Upstairs on the Square (Cambridge)–whimsical and upscale and serves up great food.
- Thinking Cup–good coffee shop on Boston Commons serving Stumptown!
- Clear Flour Bread (Brookline)–small neighborhood bakery with well made pastries
- Copley Square Farmers Market–Great place to grab a cheap, wholesome bite in the summer
- J.P Licks–Bostonians’ favorite ice cream shop
- Boston Burger Co.–Crazy burgers in nice Davis Square
- Piadina Cafe and Coffee Shop–Not the best place, but makes piadine that are fairly good
- Ristorante Saraceno (North End)–good Italian place with cheap lunch specials. Run by friendly Neapolitans
- Cuppacoffee–Australian coffee place. Get a flat white and the lamington
- Gracenote Coffee (Chinatown/South Station)–shop staffed by friendly baristas. No tables, but there’s a counter to stand at if you’d like. Good cortados
- Figaro’s Delicatessen (Chinatown/South Station–popular sandwich spot. Sonny Corleone grilled wrap great!
- New Dong Khanh–great bubble tea spot in Chinatown
- Caffè Nero–good coffee shop in Chinatown area where a lot of people hole up to study
- Winsor Dim Sum Cafe–dim sum place open later into the afternoon
- Fuel America (Brighton)–great coffee shop near BC with good coffee and lots of tables to study at
- Union Street Restaurant, Bar & Patio–nice restaurant in Newton Center with good salads. Fun to sit on patio on a summer day
- Boston Common–nice park to walk around
- Newbury Street–a nice neighborhood to walk around and home to the original Newbury Comics, though the one near Faneuil Hall is more impressive
- Harvard Square (Cambridge)– a fun, active neighborhood to walk around
- Head of the Charles– a huge regatta which is cool to see at least once
- Boston Museum of Science–a classic elementary school field trip and good museum
- Freedom Trail–worth doing at least once to walk around, get outside, and see Boston’s history
- Newbury Comics–the one near Faneuil Hall is better than the original on Newbury Street
- Trident Booksellers–Down the street from the original Newbury Comics. Great bookstore with a good cafe both down and upstairs
- Brattle Bookshop–Bookshop near the Commons with outdoor racks of bookshelves and rare books inside. A sight in and of itself
- Longfellow House (Cambridge)–Historic home of Longfellow. Tours led by national park rangers
- Bobby from Boston (South End)–vintage clothing store
- Thayer Street Galleries (South End)–a bunch of galleries, next to Bobby’s, that are fun to poke around
- More than Words (South End)–good bookstore
- Polcari’s Coffee (North End)–good Italian food store
- FROST Ice Bar–kind of cool, but nothing fantastic. They play a lot of music by Pitbull and are expensive/toursity
- Faneuil Hall–has some good info on Boston’s history (as well as a Red Barn, for the win!), so it can make for a neat place to see.
- Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
- Get a Charlie Card instead of just a Charlie Ticket to get around if you’ll be using the T (the subway) a lot so you save money on every fare
- Logan Airport–a great, international airport right in Boston
- MBTA Commuter Rail–this is my least favorite way to get into Boston. There are a couple of different lines to get into the city (the Worcester line is “convenient” for Central MA and the Providence/Stoughton line for RI), but it’s expensive, slow, and has too many stops, and the schedule isn’t that great. If you’re strapped for a way to get into Boston, take it, but otherwise I’d avoid it.
- Quincy Market–While it may be cool to see this historic area once, I’d say that you should definitely avoid Quincy Market and maybe visit Faneuil Hall. Quincy Market is just home to a bunch of chain restaurants that are way overpriced.