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Boston, Massachusetts stands as one of America’s oldest and most vibrant tourist destinations, famous for its history, sports, beauty, and culture. From catching a Red Sox game at Fenway Park to walking the Freedom Trail in the old North End, there are many time honored traditions through which you can experience the very best of Boston, if you are willing to pay the price. Sporting tickets, restaurants, and tours of the city often carry hefty price tags, ranging from the hundreds all the way up to thousands of dollars. Last season, the Red Sox had the highest ticket prices in the league, the price of a duck boat tour of the city surged to fifty dollars per person at the science museum, and many popular restaurants significantly hiked their prices (if you could even get into them in the first place). Life as a tourist in Boston has never been more difficult. This article aims to provide under-the-radar yet still effective ways to plan your next trip to Boston.
While there are some affordable hotels along the waterfront in Boston, the best bang for your buck comes if you stay across the river from downtown in Cambridge or further inland in Back Bay. Boston is a relatively small city, and most attractions can be reached on foot or through the numerous public transit options in the city. Full of big office buildings, the waterfront can also feel somewhat deserted at night, especially on the weekends. Cambridge and Back Bay offer quick and easy access (within 15-20 minutes) of the waterfront anyway, and have their own appeals like Harvard and MIT in Cambridge and Beacon Hill, Boston Common and the Esplanade close to Back Bay. One area to steer clear of is the Seaport District directly south of downtown. While new and trendy, prices are sky high and most attractions are underwhelming and overpriced. The Seaport District waterfront does provide sweeping views of the harbor and downtown, the overall experience is simply not worth the trip.
When going into the city, Boston’s oldest and most famous neighborhood is the North End. Dotted with famous landmarks like Old North Church and the Paul Revere house, the North End also features several excellent restaurants, ranging from old reliable spots like Pizzeria Regina (a historic Italian restaurant opened in 1926) to newer restaurants like Table Boston. Mike’s Pastry Shop and Bova’s Bakery are two favorite dessert spots. While the North End is undoubtedly a great place to visit, it quickly spirals into a tourist trap on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The narrow streets, poor lighting and long lines detract from what, under the right circumstances, should be a great experience. If you want to experience the best of the North End, visit during the week and not during peak hours. There are numerous other interesting dining spots and trips to take on weekends in order to avoid a rush of tourists.
“While the North End is undoubtedly a great place to visit, it quickly spirals into a tourist trap on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays”
The first of those places is Cambridge. The areas around both MIT and Harvard are vibrant and full of restaurants, and both campuses provide an interesting setting to take in. Pinocchio’s Pizza and Felipe’s Taqueria in Harvard Square are both excellent spots just a stone’s throw away from historic Harvard Yard. MIT features a far more trendy and modern campus, with newly opened restaurants like A4 serving tremendous food. Even on weekends, neither campus is particularly overwhelmed with people, especially when college is not in session. Numerous green spaces and parks along the Charles River provide a great view of the Boston skyline and boaters on the river, making for a relaxing and stress free evening.
Another underrated spot, while a little harder to get to, is east Boston. Across the harbor from downtown, east Boston has been slower to gentrify than other parts of the city, meaning many of its restaurants have maintained an authentic, throwback Boston flavor all the way up to the present day. There are also numerous cultural foods from all different parts of the world. The Tawakal Cafe is known for its excellent Somalian food, while Santarpio’s possesses arguably the best pizza anywhere in the city.
Another great way to experience Boston and Massachusetts more generally is to leave the city entirely for a day trip. The state’s North Shore region possesses many charming small towns with wonderful seafood, and also numerous ways to get out on the water. Especially during the summer months, going out to sea in towns like Gloucester or Rockport is a great way to experience the beauty and tranquility of New England. While Boston has many charms, one can gain a true feel for Massachusetts living by visiting the North Shore. The North Shore is even accessible from Boston itself, as there are harbor cruises and ferries that can take you there without ever having to get into a car.
“The state’s North Shore region possesses many charming small towns with wonderful seafood”
Ultimately, Boston is a small city. If you visit for more than a couple of days, you will end up seeing most of the major urban sites, from Boston Common to the North End. By branching out from the heart of the city, however, you can make your experience more affordable and enjoyable. Eastern Massachusetts and specifically Boston possess a great transportation network that can take you almost anywhere you want to go, you just have to take advantage of it. And trust me, you will be glad you did.