What to do in Boston?
May 24, 2016 8:45 PM   Subscribe

I am going to Boston this weekend. I have been there a billion times but have never really done any Bostony things. What should I plan to do? Things I like: seafood, New Englandyness, American history, public transportation, and roast beef but I think I've got that covered.
posted by this, of course, alludes to sex to Travel & Transportation around Boston, MA (18 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
The Freedom Trail, phone in hand!

(Paul Revere's house, the old North End, Bunker Hill, the USS Constitution. If you aren't east coast or live somewhere that lacks a Little Italy, plan on eating, and eating, in the North End.

Locals, shoutouts for tourist traps worthwhile and worth skipping along the route please.)

Get Red Sox tix off CL if they're in town!

JFK Birthplace, for a deep cut. Around the corner, Irving's, if Ethel is still around.

(I attended first grade in Brookline and try to visit every other decade.)
posted by mwhybark at 9:18 PM on May 24, 2016 [3 favorites]

Go to the Mapparium, a three-story stained glass globe which you walk through. It shows the world as it was c. 1935, with a light show that depicts changes in country boundaries since, and has absolutely amazing internal acoustics. It's at the Christian Science Library, but I've been there many times and never felt particularly proselytized at, and I've never seen anything else that even resembles the globe. Incredibly neat way to spend an hour.

If the weather's nice enough, taking a swan boat on Boston Common is about as Boston as it gets. Other suggestions: the New England Aquarium; the Harvard Museum of Natural History, with its exhibit of more than four thousand scientifically accurate nineteenth-century glass models of plants (and a few sea creatures); the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum, which is not like other museums in that basically she collected a lot of really amazing art from everywhere and then furnished the place as if it were her house.

Food recs: one of the branches of Flour bakery; Toscanini's ice cream in Central Square (you can't get more Boston than ice cream, especially if it's technically too cold out); Kelly's Roast Beef; the food court at Faneuil Hall is always crowded as hell but it's a nice setting, especially if you grab something to go and sit outside.
posted by Rush-That-Speaks at 12:26 AM on May 25, 2016 [7 favorites]

It's been quite a few years since I visited Boston and my friend who lives there gave us a tourist-y tour of it and these are what I remember most from the trip:
- The Freedom Trail
- Dinner at the Union Oyster House. I believe it's quite touristy but it was my first experience with oysters and now I love them.
- The Boston Science Museum
- Taking a Duck Tour
- We also took a day trip out to Ogunquit where I had a very yummy lobster roll
posted by like_neon at 1:22 AM on May 25, 2016

We did the Freedom Trail with a historical re-enactor guide and LOVED IT.
posted by lakeroon at 2:02 AM on May 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

The MA Historical Society and the Athenaeum.
posted by brujita at 2:38 AM on May 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

The MIT Museum featuring the kinetic sculptures of Arthur Ganson was one of the highlights for me.
posted by fairmettle at 2:43 AM on May 25, 2016 [5 favorites]

The weather is supposed to be super nice and warm on Saturday and then kind of rainy the rest of the long weekend. I'd take Saturday and head up to the North Shore for some classic New England. Salem is much more than witches - go to Fort Pickering park and Salem Willows for some arcade games and ice cream in addition to some of the more typical tourist destinations there (if you want to go inside, the Peabody Essex Museum is having a Rodin exhibit right now). Further up the coast, you can go to Gloucester and check out its storied fishing history or even as far as Ipswich to hang out on Crane Beach or see the Crane Estate followed by some fried seafood. All of those towns are accessible by the commuter rail.

With the possibility of rain the rest of the weekend, I'd honestly try some of the locals' spots - a lot of people will be out of town, and a light rain will probably keep more people away. Start at Castle Island, watch the planes landing over your head as they're on final approach to Logan. Grab a hot dog from Sullivan's. Head to SoWa Sundays for some vintage/art shopping (Thayer St.). Or, head up towards Seaport Blvd. and go to the Harpoon taproom and follow the Harborwalk (or cut over to the Rose Kennedy Greenway and check out some of the public art installations). On your way, you can stop at Row 34 for some amazing (and pricey!) seafood.

I'd probably avoid areas around the universities this week/end because there are quite a few commencements happening and there are going to be a ton of students and their families around.
posted by backseatpilot at 5:36 AM on May 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

Great suggestions above (you can't get more Boston than the Freedom Trail), but thought I'd add if the weather's nice and you like walking, hit up the Esplanade and stroll along the Charles River. There are places to rent kayaks and paddle boats along the river.

Salem is a cool little town, but I can't recommend the Salem Witch Museum at all. It's mostly gift shop and has two "galleries" (using the term lightly) of cheesy narrated dioramas telling you what you probably already learned about the trials from The Crucible. The Peabody Essex Museum, on the other hand, is well worth the visit!
posted by smirkette at 6:04 AM on May 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you like American history, you will enjoy both the JFK library and the Adams National Historical Park, both accessible by public transportation.
posted by timestep at 6:41 AM on May 25, 2016

I'd probably avoid areas around the universities this week/end because there are quite a few commencements happening and there are going to be a ton of students and their families around.

Tons of great ideas; there are no commencements planned over Memorial Day weekend; don't let that stop you from going to Harvard Square or wherever else.

( A lot of us who live here check commencement calendars like it's our job.)
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 6:43 AM on May 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Start at Castle Island, watch the planes landing over your head as they're on final approach to Logan.

This is really one of the wonderful little places within the city that is just great to go to. And has free parking! If you do the freedom trail, you might want to stop in at the renovated Boston Public Library as a place to just chill, hang out in the amazing courtyard and check a map or email as you plan your next thing. Also seconding Swan Boats and Harbor Islands and you might want to go to the top of John Hancock just to get a view of everything. The Boston Athenaeum has events sometimes and the first floor is open to visitors and I'd highly recommend stopping in.
posted by jessamyn at 7:16 AM on May 25, 2016

It is also the Boston Calling Festival at City Hall Plaza; if you're into music.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 7:24 AM on May 25, 2016

Cocktails in Boston are very nice. Have you been to Drink?
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 7:38 AM on May 25, 2016

The main reason to go to Salem is to tour The House of Seven Gables. But if you weren't forced to read the book in 8th grade English, it might not have the same meaning.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 7:57 AM on May 25, 2016

Definitely the Freedom Trail - one of the few guided tours I've done where I really enjoyed it and stayed engaged. Our tour guide was an actor wearing historical dress and he was really funny (in addition to sharing info about the different stops along the trail).

Also highly recommend hitting the Top of the Hub after dark, for cocktails (or a non-alcoholic drink if that's your thing). They are not the best cocktails in the city, but you'll get one of the coolest views in the city while you sip your (very strong) drink. I don't recommend them for dinner because I think the food is overpriced for what you get (and there are just better restaurants in the Boston area), but I'll totally trade an overpriced cocktail for that view. They also sometimes have live music in the lounge/cocktail area.

North End is awesome. If you Google "North End walking tour" a bunch of options for doing your own self-guided walking tour will pop up (this is one where I wouldn't pay for a guided tour). It's nice because there's so much history in a very small area, plus awesome food everywhere you turn whenever you get hungry. If you care to, you can also attend church at Old North church on Sunday morning -- they have these amazing old pew boxes and it's a pretty cool experience. (It's now an Episcopalean church, the service itself is modern/not historically based.)
posted by rainbowbrite at 8:09 AM on May 25, 2016

Neptune Oyster
posted by brand-gnu at 9:31 AM on May 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Most of my recommendations have been covered, but I wanted to add that recently (even though I'm a local) I decided to drop in on a North End Tour run by Free Tours by Foot. It's free, but the idea is you pay what you want as a tip at the end. It was pretty good - I learned a few things and got some excellent food tips. History was about 95% accurate, a couple of myths sneaking in there about the Paul Revere House. For the price, it was an excellent value - good for orientation and seeing major sights/hearing basic stories of the place.
posted by Miko at 11:03 AM on May 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Since you mentioned public transportation, you might be interested in the MBTA (and other transit) memorabilia at WardMaps.
posted by redlines at 1:01 PM on May 25, 2016

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