The hot tourist spots, from Paul Revere’s house to the swan boats, are as familiar to visitors from Japan as they are to denizens of Beantown. But there is more to Boston than colonial history, boat rides and ducklings. Step away from the pack with these insider tips, brought to you in collaboration with Expedia.com, to get a unique perspective on this very walkable city.
Spend a day on the Greenway.
The Rose Kennedy Greenway is a linked series of parks outlining the former path of the Southeast Expressway, which is now tucked underground (thanks Big Dig!). The Greenway connects some of the waterfront’s most popular attractions, but it’s worth a visit in its own right. Have dim sum in an elegant former Chinatown theater at Empire Garden then start your walk in the Asian-inspired gardens at the gate to Chinatown. Follow the paths past public art installations, some of the city’s best food trucks and several refreshing spray parks. Veer off at the New England Aquarium to say hello to the harbor seals – their tank is outside the building, so no admission is required. Don’t miss the show-stopping Greenway Carousel a couple of blocks north–instead of classic painted ponies, riders bob and circle aboard a menagerie including a peregrine falcon and a lobster. Finish your walk with a visit to Boston Public Market (bostonpublicmarket.org) for ice cream at Crescent Ridge, locally roasted coffee at George Howell or a sweet treat at Union Square Donuts. The Greenway ends at the famous North End, where popular pastry shops Modern and Mike’s have long lines for a reason, but locals know the treats are equally good at Bova’s. This 24-hour-spot is family owned and operated since 1932, offering a full array of Italian pastries, from ricotta cannoli to sfogliatelle. They also have fresh-baked bread, delicious calzones, Sicilian pizza and over-sized subs, without the lines.
Visit Fenway Park, no ticket required.
Scoring seats to a Red Sox game isn’t easy, but there are a few ways to soak up the ambience of the storied ballpark without losing your shirt to scalpers. Like a one-hour walking tour, taking in Pesky’s Pole and the view from atop the Green Monster. Tours, led by experienced guides, take place year-round, in all weather, but if you find yourself in Boston when the Red Sox are playing at home, take advantage of the special Pre-Game Tour. Entering the park three hours before the first pitch, participants walk the warning track, visit the oldest seats in the park then catch batting practice from atop the Green Monster. Tickets are only sold at the ballpark, on game days.
Closer to game time, stop by The Bleacher Bar, tucked beneath the center field bleachers with a garage-door-turned-window that opens directly onto the field. They don’t take reservations, so if you want one of the three premium tables, right in front of the window, show up around 5 p.m. to put your name on the list – but be aware that there’s no dawdling. To be fair to everyone, those seats come with a 45-minute time limit. Or stop by for a drink and check out the most unusual restroom in town – the men’s room also has a window overlooking the field. When there’s no game on, stroll in for a drink and a peek at the groundskeepers caring for the field.
Experience a legendary jazz club.
To most people, Boston is better known for revolutionary history than music history, but one of the oldest family-owned and operated jazz clubs around is found right in the Hub. You’ll find mostly locals packing the tables at Wally’s Café, which offers live music 365 days a year. Joseph L. “Wally” Walcott, originally from Barbados, opened the club in 1947 – the first owned by an African-American in New England. At the time, the area was teeming with jazz clubs, but only Wally’s has endured, thanks in part to its continuing tradition of mixing seasoned professionals with aspiring young musicians from top music schools like Berklee College of Music, the Boston Conservatory, and the New England Conservatory of Music.
Enjoy great art and a picnic at the library.
The historic Boston Public Library offers a lot more than books. Its serene Italianate courtyard is a hidden gem – the perfect spot to recharge with a cup of coffee or a picnic lunch. The space is open year-round during library hours, and in the summers hosts concerts and story hours. Bring your own food, grab a bite from the Map Room Café, or enjoy high tea in the Courtyard Restaurant, overlooking the center fountain.
Feeling refreshed? Join one of the BPL’s free tours to learn about the highlights of the stately building, from Bates Hall, considered to be one of the most architecturally significant rooms in the world, with a soaring barrel-arched ceiling and ornate limestone balcony, to art works by Daniel Chester French and John Singer Sargent. Sargent considered his murals on the third floor, depicting the development of world religions, some of his most important work.