Gas has gotten more and more expensive over this past year. I’m sure that we can all remember, even 6 months ago, our horror at the possibility of a gallon of gas hitting $4.00. As prices stand today, the average is currently $4.00 here on the East Coast and there is no end in sight. For those of us who love taking summer vacations with our friends, family, and loved ones, this is a depressing thought. It’s impacting not only the price of filling up our own personal gas tanks, but also the price of airfare, cruises, and all other forms of transportation to get us out of town on our vacations.
However, there is no need to worry! Here in Boston, we live in a world-class city, and in all of our travels around the country and world, we have really taken that fact for granted. Mayor Menino himself feels our pain and has created a campaign called “Visit the Pin” and he has chosen 10 attractions around the city at which to place giant, 12-foot, red “push pins”. The pins have been created to grab our attention and alert us to all the wonderful attractions that Boston has to offer. However, while the places he has chosen are pretty great, they are also very touristy and if you have lived here for a while, you have probably already been to them – maybe even several times.
I have created a list of some of the great, under appreciated spots in Boston that you should visit for the first time, or visit again! I’ve organized them into 10 can’t-miss “day” trips. This list is chock-full of ideas. You may find that each “day” trip contains more than you would be able to accomplish in one day, so you might have to choose the attraction(s) that appeal most to you. Be sure to visit the websites for each of the suggestions for more information. I have tried to choose cost-effective suggestions so that your week off won’t break the bank. All you need is your T pass (and not an ounce of gasoline) for a wonderful “Staycation” week in Boston!
1. Day Trip #1: Fine Arts and Culture
If you live here, you have probably spent time at the Museum of Fine Arts and Symphony Hall at some point, but there are MANY other ways to explore arts and culture in Boston. Stop by two or three of these lesser known spots for a very enriching day! I would suggest an art museum or two in the morning and afternoon and a performance in the evening. You could even head over to the waterfront to have lunch at the Channel Cafe (food and drink/art gallery). Be sure to click below and visit the various websites ahead of time for hours, special show and exhibit info.
* Take in some art at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
* Visit the new Institute of Contemporary Art now on the waterfront
* Get tickets to a show at or take a tour of the newly restored Boston Opera House
* See a show at Emerson College’s Cutler Majestic Theater…
* … or at Harvard’s American Repertory Theater
* … or at Boston University’s Huntington Theater
* … or at the exciting Boston Center for the Arts
* Watch some Shakespeare on the Common presented by Commonwealth Shakespeare Company
* Catch some amazing music at the Berkelee Berformance Center
* Support music of the 20th century through the Boston Modern Orchestra Project
2. Day Trip #2: Sports Appreciation
It seems that Boston is the center of the sports universe at the moment – the Red Sox moved into the All-Star break in first place after winning two World Championships in the past 4 years. The Patriots had an undefeated regular season this year after winning the Super Bowl in ’01, ’03, and ’04. This year, the Celtics won the NBA Finals in dramatic fashion. Even the Bruins and the Revolution made great showings in the playoffs. When thinking about what to see in Boston, sports appreciation is at the top of the list! While watching a major sports game might be out of your price range, there are countless ways to appreciate sports in this city. Check out a few of these options:
* Take a tour of historic Fenway Park and check out the famous Citgo Sign
* Run the Boston Marathon (or at least up Heartbreak Hill!)
* Visit the Sports Museum (in the TD Banknorth Garden)
* Attend a game at BC, BU or Northeastern (some are easier to get tickets to than others!)
* Visit the site at Northeastern that was once Huntington Avenue Grounds (original Red Sox home)
* Stop by the historic Boston Braves Field (Now BU’s Nickerson Field)
* Catch a horse race at Suffolk Downs
* Visit Harvard Stadium
* Watch a Boston Lobsters Tennis Match
* Visit the Science Museum’s current Exhibit: “Baseball as America”
I would suggest lunch/dinner at the Sports Depot, Game On, The Fours, or Boston Beer Works for the full Boston sports experience!
3. Day Trip #3: City of Learning
Above all else, when people think about Boston, they think of the rich academic culture that our city embodies. Boston has more colleges per square mile than any other city in the world. Naturally, we are a city that is overflowing with learning opportunities. Why not spend some time appreciating those opportunities? Here are some wonderful ways you can spend the day learning in Boston. Break for lunch at Novel, the Boston Public Library restaurant!
* Visit the historic and beautiful Boston Public Library
* Stop by the Boston Anthenaeum
* Take a free walking tour of Harvard University or MIT
* Spend an afternoon in one of many used book stores in Boston or Cambridge
* Take a class at the Boston Center for Adult Education
* Learn about how beer is made! Take a tour of the Samuel Adams Brewery
* Visit the Mary Baker Eddy Library and it’s famous Mappariam
After your intense day of learning, you’ll need to kick back – stop by the Thirsty Scholar Pub for some dinner and a drink and give your brain a break!
4. Day Trip #4: History
It can easily be argued that there is really no city in the United States that is more historically significant than Boston. The city wears this identity well while still looking toward the future, mixing centuries-old beautiful buildings with modern towering skyscrapers. If you work downtown, unless you walk slowly and read the signs you pass each day (and who does that around here?) you may not realize the significance of the buildings around you. I’m sure that if you grew up around here, you have walked the Freedom Trail once or twice, but there may be more obscure historical landmarks that you have never even noticed! Take a day to walk around a little more slowly, visit some of these interesting landmarks, and look up once in a while! While you are at it, stop by Boston’s oldest restaurant, the Union Oyster House, for dinner.
* Learn about the lives of a well-to-do family in historic Boston at the Gibson House Museum
* Visit the headquarters of Historic New England at the Otis House Museum
* Pay your respects to our forefathers and foremothers at Granary Burying Ground and King’s Chapel Burying Ground
* Visit the Museum of African American History and take the Black Heritage Trail
* Talk a walk along the Boston Women’s Heritage Trail
* Tour the historically and architecturally significant Trinity Church
5. Day Trip #5: Island Hopping
If you are anything like me, you have never taken full advantage of the fact that we have an amazing National Park right off the coast of Boston. The park is comprised of 34 small islands (11 of which are open to the public) just minutes away by boat. The islands vary as far as what you can do on each of them, so use this list as a guide to get you started. The National Park Service recommends picking no more than two islands to visit in one day, so take a look and choose one or two that look interesting to you. Concession stands are available at Georges and Spectacle Islands, but why not bring a picnic lunch for your visit to the islands! It’s a perfect excuse for a picnic!
* Camp overnight on Grape, Bumpkin or Lovells Island – Permits are required
* Visit Lovells Island for the day for trails that pass by dunes and woods, picnic areas, an unsupervised swimming beach, and the remains of Fort Standish
* Visit and explore Deer Island and learn about its fascinating history
* Visit popular Georges Island, the transportation hub for the system of islands, its open fields, paved walkways and gravel beach – be sure to tour historic Fort Warren while you are there
* Check out Little Brewster, home of Boston Light, the country’s oldest continuously running light house
* Experience a wide range of natural beauty and check out historic Fort Andrews at Peddocks Island
* Visit Spectacle Island, which features a marina, visitor center, cafe, a life-guarded swimming beach, and five miles of walking trails that lead to the crest of a 157 foot-high hill, offering panoramic views of the harbor and the city
* Take a tour and enjoy nature at Thompson Island, which is a particularly good choice if you have a large group (like a company or school)
* Picnic, fish and enjoy walking trails at Webb Memorial State Park
* Enjoy Hingham Bay, rocky beaches, ledges, cliffs, patches of salt marsh and an area of freshwater marsh at Worlds End Reservation
6. Day Trip #6: Beach Bum
If the only great vacation you can imagine is one in which you are lying on a beach for at least a day, there are many great options for you around here! You might assume that you have to drive down to the Cape or up to the North Shore for great beach experiences, and if so, you will be pleasantly surprised by the following recommendations. There are several great options easily reachable in or very near the city by subway or bus. A day at the beach requires beach food, in my opinion, and so I suggest a stop at Sullivan’s at Castle Island or Kelly’s Roast Beef in Revere. I’ve also suggested a few options that are outside the city, but easily accessible from the commuter rail, if you really want to get out of the city for the day.
* Take the Blue Line to America’s First Public Beach, Revere Beach
* Throw on your swim suit and take advantage of The Boston Harborwalk
* Take the Red Line to JFK and visit Carson Beach, L & M Street Beaches, Pleasure Bay and Castle Island, which are all connected
* Take the Commuter Rail north to Ipswich Station, then board the Ipswich-Essex Explorer Shuttle to Crane Beach
* Take the Commuter Rail north to Manchester-by-the-Sea and walk a short way to Singing Beach
* Take the Amtrak Downeaster to Old Orchard Beach in Maine
7. Day Trip #7: Appreciation of Unusual Things
If you are someone who enjoys exploring the unique and unusual aspects of a vacation destination, you have plenty of options to appreciate the quirky – right here in Boston! As you are exploring a few of the following unusual spots in Boston, a couple of well loved, but certainly unique, Boston restaurants worth your time during this day would be Fire & Ice Improvisational Grill for a fun, interactive experience and the Beehive, for some great food, atmosphere and live jazz.
* Visit America’s oldest car collection at the Larz Anderson Auto Museum
* Learn history from a unusual perspective on New England Ghost Tour!
* Experience Boston’s most interactive entertainment at Tomb by 5Witz
* Appreciate some art that’s too bad to be ignored! Visit the Museum of Bad Art
* Explore invention, ideas and innovation (including holograms!) at the MIT Museum
* Visit the Harvard Bridge and count how many Smoots long it is!
* Take a Duck Tour (come on… you know you want to!)
* Visit the spots where your favorite movies were filmed on one of the Boston Movie Tours
* Discover the secrets of Boston through an Urban Interactive sight-seeing adventure
* Find out what is so special about the Scarlett O’Hara House
8. Day Trip #8: Nature
If you are stuck in Boston, but prefer a more serene, natural vacation, there are many options for you, even within the city limits! There are many opportunities in the city that will allow you to spend time appreciating the nature around you. I recommend exploring some of the following recommendations. If you want a fully natural day, take a break and visit Grezzo Restaurant for lunch, Boston’s 100% organic, raw food restaurant.
* Take a ride on the Swan Boats while visiting the Boston Public Garden
* Hang out with the animals at the Franklin Park Zoo in the heart of Franklin Park
* Visit Arnold Arboretum, the oldest public arboretum in North America and one of the world’s leading centers for the study of plants
* Spend some time at the Harvard Museum of Natural History (especially great if your “nature” themed day turns out to be a rainy one!)
* Go for a peaceful and quiet run in the Fens nature trails
* Visit the Boston Nature Center and Wildlife Sanctuary
* Find a Boston area State Park near you for everything from hiking to mountain biking
* See “Day Trip #5” (Above) for info about the Boston Harbor Islands – spend a while at one!
9. Day Trip #9: On the Water
We are so lucky to be living right on the water here in Boston. As I mentioned above, this opens up many possibilities as far as enjoying wonderful beach days, as well as visiting the Boston Harbor Islands right off the coast. However, a huge benefit to having so much water nearby is the opportunity to get out on it for the day. Whether you are an accomplished sailor or have never stepped food in a boat, there are options here for you. Read through this list and choose an adventure or two just for you! During the day or evening, if you are hungry, stop by Tia’s On the Waterfront for a bite, a drink and a chance to enjoy the view of the water!
* Contact Community Boating, Inc. to find out how you can learn to sail – Use your vacation day to get started on the Charles River
* For a relatively inexpensive chance to spend time in a boat on the water, take an Inner Harbor Ferry or Commuter Boat or the Rowes Wharf Water Taxi
* Take a sunset or sightseeing cruise through the Charles Riverboat Company
* Take a Boston Light Tour and experience first-hand the oldest lighthouse site in the U.S.
* Join in on a sail aboard the 125′ Schooner Liberty Clipper
* If you can’t bear to actually get out on the water, you can enjoy WBZ’s Free Friday Flicks at the Hatch Shell – enjoy the breeze of the Charles from safely ashore, and watch a movie under the stars!
10. Day Trip #10: Festivals
Summer in Boston always reminds me of all the neighborhood parties and celebrations in the city. Every weekend throughout the summer, there is at least one festival somewhere in the city that is an excuse to enjoy Boston and its cultural diversity. A day at any of these festivals would be worth building into your “staycation” week schedule. I don’t need to recommend a restaurant for you, since the mark of a great festival is the amazing food it serves. Enjoy!
* Choose a weekend this summer and stop by the North End for the North End Festivals of Saints
* Stop by Government Center on August 2 from 4:00-8:00 for the Peace Hip Hop Festival
* Spend August 17 in Chinatown for the August Moon Festival
* Head to Dorchester on August 23rd for the Caribbean Carnival Parade & Festival
* Show off and add to your ink from September 12-14 at the Boston Tatoo Convention
* Settle in from September 12-18 for the Boston Film Festival
I hope that you enjoy all my suggestions and that they inspire you to rediscover our great city in these times of high gas prices! These are also great suggestions for you if you are visiting Boston from out of town. If you are stuck in another city, and these suggestions sound fun to you, look for similar ideas near your home. I bet you will be surprised by what you will find!
Please respond and let me know what you love to do when you are spending time in Boston – I am very interested to hear!