This Thanksgiving, like most recent Thanksgivings, we spent in the home of the Pilgrims (and of course those who came before them), the Battle of Concord Bridge and Paul Revere, John Adams, John Q Adams, Ben Franklin, John Hancock, Sam Adams and JFK. The home of Henry David Thoreau, Walden Pond, Robert Frost and Louisa May Alcott, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Leonard Nimoy. And the home to the greatest baseball team ever and the greatest baseball stadium anywhere ever. Yes, I’m talking about the Boston Red Sox and the “cathedral of Boston” (no offense Catholics, this is a reference to “The Town”), Fenway Park. If you’re not familiar or not following yet, I’m talking about the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Visiting the state of my birth always brings back memories of many work and pleasure trips to the city of my birth: Boston, Mass.
So, if you have a few days or a weekend to spare and want to visit the aforementioned city, here’s what we would recommend as a starting point:
First, we’d choose summer, or perhaps fall, for a visit. The weather is better (though can be humid) and most of the following favorite activities are outdoor ones:
- We start with long walks in the mornings in the Public Garden, Boston Common and along the Charles River. We typically stay in the Back Bay area, so we head towards Commonwealth Avenue and its greenway and follow it to the Public Garden and the Boston Common at the foot of the state capitol. We wander around both for a while and then head north west towards the Charles River where you can wander west, choosing to cross the river into Cambridge or turning back towards your hotel. In the summer, when its hot, go early in the morning before it really heats up.
- Catch a baseball game at Fenway Park. When I was growing up, it was easier to get same-day tickets (for less than $10, I might add, but now I’m aging myself) but if the Sox are playing well (or even if they’re not) this usually requires a little advanced planning now (especially if they’re playing the New York Yankees, but at almost any time). I am ever thankful that the idea of building a new Fenway Park was scrapped as this place is a relic of my youth and is a classic. The roof is supported by old green metal pillars which obstruct your view in the “obstructed sections” and adorned with small-ish, no frills wooden seats which harken back to a time when you went to a baseball game to, well, watch the game. There’s the smell of freshly cut grass wafting up from the field and inside, the lingering beer smell in the hallways overcome only by the smell of fresh popcorn, sizzling sausages and fresh baseball souvenir balls. If you’re lucky, you’ll sit near a local who knows everything about the stats of every player on each team and will regale you with his or her opinion on every play which transpires. We were fortunate enough to have this exact experience the first time I brought Melissa to see a game here after which she turned to me and said “ok, I get it. I get what you mean about the difference between a game here and other places”. So, if you’ve not been and even remotely like America’s pastime make an effort to pay homage to an institution of baseball, whomever you root for (although be warned, my people are hecklers of those wearing the garb of the opposing side).
- The Freedom trail. The Freedom trail traces the history and key places along America’s path towards revolution against British rule. Running from the aforementioned Boston Common and the current state Capitol to the north end of Boston and ending at the Bunker Hill monument the trail stops include a visit to the gravesites of Sam Adams and other patriots (at the Granary Cemetery), Faneuil Hall, the site of the Boston Massacre, Paul Revere’s house and the old North Church (of one if by land, two if by sea fame). Follow the red line along the ground and stop and visit these key sites from the birth of America as an independent nation.
- Lunch at Legal Seafoods. There are lots of them around town. We sometimes have to await our return to Logan Airport (at which there are also a bunch of Legals). If you like shellfish, we like the lobster roll. The clam chowder (chowdah) is also great. The tuna burger, if its on the menu, is also a fave.
- The bar at the (now an Omni) Parker House. At the corner of Tremont and School Streets, the Last Hurrah Bar is one of our favorite stops in town. If you happen to be Freedom Trailing at the cocktail hour or making your way back, stop in for a martini and some nuts (or a quaffed beverage of your choice).
- Dinner in the North end. Hard to go wrong. Giacomo’s at 355 Hanover St. is one of our favorites but be prepared for a line. Get off Hanover for some more out-of-the-way and less trafficked but just as good spots. Wherever you go, skip dessert and grab some gelato on your way back down Hanover St. towards downtown.
- Irish music. After dinner in the north end, cross back over Cross and the JFK Surface Road to Faneuil Hall area and visit the Black Rose for Irish music and a Guiness.
- If you have a rental car (tip for out-of-towners: don’t bother, you’ll save yourself an initiation to Boston driving which is not for the meek and the snarl of downtown Boston’s poorly marked street signs, but if you do), we’d recommend a day trip up route 1 towards the north shore and a stop at Woodman’s of Essex. This is a classic New England corn-on-the-cob, lobster, fried claims joint not too far from the confines of Boston proper. You can hit up Salem and check out the witch trial museums on your way back.
- Oh, and if you happen to be in Boston around July 4th, this town knows how to put on a fireworks show and a party like none other. The Boston Pops puts on a concert at the esplanade followed by fireworks which you can catch from the Boston Common.
While there are many more sites: Harvard University, Old Ironsides, the Museum of Fine Arts and for kids the Science Museum and the New England Aquarium, if you have limited time the above list would be our top picks.
“Down by the river.
Down by the banks of the River Charles.
That’s where you’ll find me.
Along with lovers, muggers and thieves.
Well I love that dirty water
Oh, Boston you’re my home”.
— The Standells