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United States > Massachusetts > Boston > Boston travel guide

Boston Travel Guide



Low tide and fog - Powder Point Bridge

Boston is the perfect marriage of historic colonial preservation with economic modernization. The city features a spectacular skyline of imposing scrapers, which mixes well with the church steeples, old clock towers, and other historic structures dotted around town.[1] But Boston’s people are as diverse as its architecture. This “City on the Hill”[2] is known as one of America’s great melting pots. Only slightly over half the population, approximately 54%, is White. Within this subset, you’ll find people of Irish, British, and Italian descent. The other 46% of the population are African Americans, Asians, Hispanics and Latinos, Haitians, and West Indian.[3] Much of this diversity stems from its partial role as a college town and setting for dozens of fine universities. However, as sophisticated and cosmopolitan as Boston is on its own right, it seems to have a perennial inferiority complex, a bitter disdain so-to-speak for New Yorkers. This is perhaps epitomized by the longstanding rivalry between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees, which has brought much pain and sorrow to baseball fans in Boston for the last 90 years – a period in which Boston has managed only two World Series title to New York’s twenty-six. This feud between the two cities certainly adds an element of appeal to visiting Boston, a city that was once larger, wealthier, and indisputably better than New York during colonial times. Today, it still brims with color and vibrance as the capital of Massachusetts and the gateway to New England.

Places of Interest[4]

Back Bay
Back Bay is a fashionable and well-planned area of Boston, located west of downtown.

Attractions:
Boston Public Library
Christian Science Center
Copley Place
Copley Square
Fenway Park
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
John Hancock Tower
Museum of Fine Arts
Prudential Center
Trinity Church

Beacon Hill
Beacon Hill is a neighborhood developed by architect Charles Bulfinch and businessman Harrison Gray Otis, originally planed for large mansions on spacious lawns. Today, it is one of the finest and most charming residential neighborhoods in America, much less Boston.

Attractions:
African Meeting House
Athenaeum
Beacon Street
Cheers Tavern
Louisburg Square
Mount Vernon Street
Museum of Afro-American History
Nichols House Museum
Public Garden
Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities

Dorchester
Dorchester is the largest and most populated neighborhood in Boston.

Attractions:
John F. Kennedy Library and Museum

Freedom Trail
The Freedom Trail is a well-marked path that has made it easy for visitors to understand the history of democracy. The trail leads past monuments and buildings significant to the birth of the United States. A map of the 1.5 mile trail can be obtained at the Freedom Trail Information Center on the Tremont Street side of Boston Common.

Attractions:
Boston Common
Dock Square
Faneuil Hall
Haymarket Square
King’s Chapel
North End
Old Corner Bookstore
Old Granary Burying Ground
Old North Church
Old South Meeting House
Old State House
Park Street Church
Paul Revere’s Home
Quincy Market
State House

Government Center
The Government Center is the district at the heart of downtown Boston. It is dominated by skyscrapers and government building.

Attractions:
Center Plaza Building
John F. Kennedy Office Building
Old City Hall
Sears Crescent
State Service Center

Harborwalk
Harborwalk is a trail that loops around the city’s historic waterfront.

Attractions:
Boston Children’s Museum
Boston Tea Party Ship and Museum
Computer Museum
New England Aquarium

Science Park
Science Park is a small strip of land that is occupied by the Museum of Science and the Charles Hayden Planetarium.

Attractions:
Museum of Science
Charles Hayden Planetarium

North End
The North End is the city’s oldest neighborhood, located along the Freedom Trail.

Attractions:
Union Oyster House

History
Boston is forever linked as the site of the first British colony in America. The city was founded in 1630 by John Winthrop and his group of Puritans. Touting itself as the “Cradle of Liberty”, Boston continues to brag in spirit about its role in the struggle for American independence. Its narrow streets wind through historic neighborhoods – Beacon Hill, Back Bay, North End – that still whisper the voices of American Revolutionary leaders.[5]

Boston’s metropolitan population of 4.5 million people[6] makes up more than half the population of Massachusetts.[7] This group is a mix of blue collars and blue bloods, and includes sixth generation Irish, landed gentry, the wealthy, the poor, the homeless, etc.[8]

In the last 450 years, Boston has had its fair share of statesmen, academics, writers, and leaders who have profoundly influenced America. In fact, Boston has often been touted as a city whose history and people project the very classic elements of the nation’s heritage and future.[9]

Boston’s beginnings can be traced back to John Winthrop and his group of Puritans who took land in the Shawmut Peninsula from Reverend William Blackstone to establish a settlement. The city grew rapidly due to its deep water harbor, which fostered the development, by the 18th century, of the world’s largest fishing and merchant fleet in the western World.[10]

Increasingly, waves of settlers began pouring into Boston, transforming it into a trade hub for the English colonies. Soon, the city became the most prosperous of the British colonial empire in the New World. When the British Crown began imposing taxes and regulations on the colonies that were too “oppressive”, Boston led the revolutionary movement. It was speeches by Boston’s revolutionaries in the Massachusetts House of Representatives that called for an end to taxation of the colonies without representation. And it was in meetings in Boston where speeches were made to rally the Americans against the British.[11]

In March 1770, a group of Bostonians outside the Old State House protested British tax policies and were promptly fired upon by British soldiers. The death of five people became known as the “Boston Massacre”. News of this incident spread to the other colonies, triggering outrage among the colonists and nurturing the seeds of rebellion.[12]

The early 1770s saw more meetings at the Old Meeting House and Faneuil Hall where leaders such as Samuel Adams and Sam Otis spoke before crowds calling for independence. In 1773, one of these meetings inspired 90 colonists to board English ships docked at the Boston Harbor and dump over 300 chests of tea. The English retaliated by sending troops to close the harbor and occupy the city. Resentment continued to boil until in 1775 Paul Revere made his famous “Midnight Ride” to Lexington to warn other patriot leaders that the British were coming to confiscate weapons in Lexington and Concord. Bloody skirmishes ensued in both towns the following day, marking the start of the American Revolution.[13]

Boston was one of the first cities in the colonies to escape British control after the war broke out, thanks largely to the brilliant command of George Washington, a former colonel of the Virginia militia. The city remained free for the remainder of the war and also played a major role in the early affairs of the new nation.[14]

For much of the 19th century, Boston was the port for ships sailing around the world and bringing home great riches. Wealthy merchants coming home with their fortunes spent lavishly on building mansions and townhouses in the city’s Beacon Hill and Back Bay neighborhoods. Boston earned the nicknames “Athens of America” and “Boston Brahmin”, the latter reflecting the city’s attainment of the highest level in human culture and refinement.[15]

The second half of the 19th century saw a decline in Boston’s maritime prominence, but the city replaced this latter industry with a manufacturing economy, which was fueled by the arrival of thousands of European immigrants, including Poles, Irishmen, and Italians. They came to work the factories and, at the same time, segregated and clustered among themselves to create distinct ethnic enclaves and neighborhoods.[16]

At the turn of the 19th century, much of Boston and Massachusetts’ manufacturing base was lost to the southern states, where taxes were lower and labor was cheaper. The city’s decline continued into the 20th century until the 1960s when technology and R&D companies brought rejuvenation. High-tech and research companies were attracted to the “brain power” at MIT and Harvard. During this period of renewal, renowned architect and MIT-alumnus, I.M. Pei, helped the city regain its former splendor. Pei designed office complexes, skyscrapers, and government centers that integrated well with the city’s more historic buildings, giving Boston a “new” look of urban sophistication. Today, emerald parks and greenbelts enclose a city that is rich with ethnic neighborhoods, each with their own distinct appeal.[17]

Shopping
Boston is an excellent destination for shopping. The city’s most prominent shopping district is Back Bay, where Newbury Street has the same chic boutiques and luxury stores as New York’s Fifth Avenue. You’ll find galleries, clothiers and the latest fashions designed by the likes of Armani, Dolce, Versace, etc. Stroll down the street and check out Burberry, the makers of the British trench coat many Bostonians sport to keep warm during the cold winters.[18]

Another hot shopping spot is Copley Place, which is a shopping and dining palace where you’ll find a showcase of international fashions. Stores include Nieman-Marcus, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Tiffany & Co., among others. Down the block from Copley is the Prudential Center, which harbors Lord & Taylor, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Ann Taylor.[19]

If you are looking for designer items at bargain discounts, then Filene’s is a must. This famous fashion emporium dates back to the early 20th century and is famous for selling high-end goods that are regularly marked down and if unsold are donated to charity.[20]

The best place to do some recreational browsing may well be along Charles Street in Beacon Hill. Art galleries, coffee houses, and charming antique stores line this neighborhood commercial center.[21]

Music
There are many theaters and performance arts centers throughout town. The Boston Symphony Orchestra performs in Symphony Hall. Both the Boston Ballet Company and the Boston Pops perform on the Charles River Esplanade in the summers. In the winter, the Boston Pops puts on outdoor shows at the Hatch Memorial Shell.[22]

References:
Bond, Richard. The Insider’s Guide to New England. Edison: Hunter Publishing, Inc., 1992. ISBN: 1556504551.

“Boston.” <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boston>

Chase, Suzi Forbes, and Ann Lee. New England. New York: Macmillan General Reference, 1994. ISBN: 0671878999.

“Massachusetts.” <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massachusetts>

[1] Bond, 28
[2] Boston
[3] Chase, 131-32
[4] Id. 31-43
[5] Bond, 28
[6] Boston
[7] Massachusetts
[8] Bond, 28
[9] Id.
[10] Id.
[11] Id. at 28-29
[12] Id. at 29
[13] Id.
[14] Id.
[15] Id.
[16] Id.
[17] Id. at 29, 31
[18] Id. at 43
[19] Id.
[20] Id.
[21] Id.
[22] Id.







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