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Boston, Massachusetts

Boston is one of America's oldest cities and first settled in 1630. The capital of Massachusetts, Boston is a city rich in history and tradition, yet vibrant and modern.

Logan International Airport and Airport Transportation

Located along the northeastern seaboard of the United States, Boston is about 200 miles northeast of New York City. Logan International Airport serves the area. Although only two miles north east of Boston, it will take you about 30 minutes by car or taxi to reach the city. Six bus companies provide non-stop service to and from the airport for about $6 each way, and they run every 15-30 minutes. The MBTA subway's Blue Line will take you into the city in about twenty minutes and costs less than $1. You can also take the Airport Water Shuttle. It takes about seven minutes and takes you to the Rowe Wharf on the Boston NE Waterfront. The shuttle operates every 15 minutes Monday-Friday, and every 30 minutes on Saturday and Sunday and costs $10 for adults, $5 for seniors. Children 12 and under ride free.

Climate

The summer months of July and August can be hot and humid in Boston. The average temperature in July is about 81 degrees F (28 degrees C). During the winter months of November to February, the weather can be wet and snowy. The average temperature in January is about 21 degrees F (-6 degrees C).

Getting Around

The easiest way to get around Boston is on foot and by subway. Although the streets do not follow any particular pattern, you'll find it easy to navigate. Wear comfortable walking shoes, especially for the granite paving stones you'll find in the Market place and the cobblestone streets of Beacon Hill. A note of caution: be careful when walking in the city and obey all traffic signals; Boston drivers are known for their aggressiveness.

Boston's subway system, also known as the T, has four major lines (red, blue, orange and green) that branch out from the center of the city. The "T" is efficient, safe, fast, and comfortable.

You'll find many information centers throughout the city that will provide you with helpful maps and brochures. A particularly good place is the Boston Common Information Kiosk. It's open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau, located at Prudential Plaza, provides multilingual maps.

Boston is a city of neighborhoods, colleges, and wonderful walking trails designed to help visitors learn about its glorious past.

Popular Walking Tours

The most popular tour is the Freedom Trail. It takes walkers along a 2-mile trail of popular sites from the American Revolution. The Freedom Trail begins at the Boston Common (the oldest public park in America) and ends at Bunker Hill in Charlestown. By following the well-marked red line, tourists will see 16 of Boston's most important historical sites including the Old Meeting House, Fanueil Hall, and Paul Revere's home. National Park rangers offer free-guided tours from April through November.

The Women's Heritage Trail traces the accomplishments of 80 renowned women on four self-guided tours. Maps are available for $5 at the Old State house and the National Park Service Visitor Center.

Black Heritage Trail takes tourists past 14 sites of historical significance from the 19th century. Along the 1-mile trail are the Robert Gould Shaw and 54th Regiment monument located in the Boston Common. The movie "Glory" was based on this young officer and his regiment comprised of the first black soldiers recruited for the North during the American Civil War. The Lewis and Harriet Hayden House, a stop on the Underground Railroad, provided a safe haven for runaway slaves on their way to Canada. The Abiel Smith School, the city's first public school for black children, now houses the museum of African-American history. Next door is the African Meeting House where abolitionist leaders such as Frederick Douglas spoke out against slavery. The oldest continuously operated black church in America, the Meeting House also offers historical and educational programs.

The Harborwalk is a self-guided tour that follows Boston's rich maritime history. You'll find maps for this walk at the information center on Boston Common.

Copley Square in Boston © Mike Leco / USATourist.com
Copley Square has various historic landmarks and serves as a farmers' market from April through November.

The Neighborhoods of Boston

Boston is made up of many charming neighborhoods with fine restaurants and antique stores.

Back Bay is a virtual open-air museum of various residential architectural styles including Victorian, Italianate, and Gothic Revival.

Beacon Hill harkens to another era with its gas lamps, shade trees, brick sidewalks and grand townhouses built between 1800 and 1850. You'll enjoy strolling along the prettiest streets in Beacon Hill -- Chestnut and Mt. Vernon -- that open out into Louisburg Square. There are wonderful antique shops along Chestnut Street. Along Pinckney and Beacon streets, you'll find many homes designed by Charles Bullfinch.

Across Boston Harbor is Charlestown, a predominantly Irish working neighborhood. You can reach Charlestown by trolley or a quick ferry trip from Long Wharf that costs $1. Charlestown is also home to the U.S.S. Constitution, a 44-gun frigate first commissioned in 1798. The Constitution is a living museum of Boston's shipbuilding past and is open Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Free tours from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Along Boston's Waterfront is the New England Aquarium filled with sharks, live sea creatures, wonderful exhibits, and an interactive and educational Kids' Space. Open 363 days a year, (9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends and holidays) the Aquarium also offers whale watching cruises and Science Sea cruises.

Museum of Fine Arts

The Museum of Fine Arts, at 465 Avenue of the Arts, is second only to New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art. A glorious grand staircase with colorful murals painted by John Singer Sargent welcomes visitors into the museum. Founded in 1870, the museum is divided into nine areas. It houses the finest and largest collection of Japanese art outside of Japan. There is also a large collection of impressionist paintings and major works by Homer Winslow, Edward Hopper, and over 60 paintings by John Singleton Copley. Other galleries feature art of Africa, sculptures and ceramics from the Ancient Americas, and a wonderful collection of tableware made by Revolutionary patriot and silversmith, Paul Revere.

Faneuil Hall in Boston © Michelle Leco / USATourist.com
One of Boston's most famous landmarks is Faneuil Hall. An historic market place and greeting place built in 1742, it houses an information desk on the first floor for visitors and tourists.

Shopping

One of Boston's most famous landmarks is FaneuiI Hall. An historic market place and greeting place built in 1742, it houses an information desk on the first floor for visitors and tourists. With its gourmet coffee shops and boutique store, it is a popular place for both locals and tourists. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Across from FaneuiI Hall is the Quincy Market/Faneuil Hall Market Place, a wonderful place for people watching and shopping. You'll find cafe's with international and specialty foods, popular chain clothing stores, unique gift shops, book stores, open air bars and restaurants. Street jugglers, magicians, and entertainers perform daily. Open Monday-Sunday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.

If you're in town on a Friday or Saturday, you'll want to check out the open-air Hay Market. From dusk to dawn, vendors with push carts sell everything from fresh fruits and vegetables to fish, meats and cheeses.

Outlet shopping is also very popular in the areas surrounding Boston. Fall River and New Bedford, about 45 minutes south of Boston, were once manufacturing centers for clothing. They now have more than 100 outlet stores where you'll find great buys on clothing, house wares, lingerie, and much more.

A Sports Town

The world's most prestigious race - the Boston Marathon -- takes place every third Monday in April on Patriot's Day. A local tradition for over 100 years, thousands of runners from around the world compete in the 26.2 mile race, while hundreds of thousands of spectators line the city streets to cheer them on their way.

Fenway Park is home to Boston's professional baseball team, the Red Sox. Built in 1912, Fenway is one of the oldest - and smallest -- ballparks in America. Its narrow wooden seats give the park a unique, old-fashioned charm. The Red Sox play April through September.

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The Boston Bruins, of the National Hockey League, have won the Stanley Cup five times. A ferocious, hard-hitting team, they play in FleetCenter. Their regular season is October through April.

FleetCenter is also home to Boston's professional basketball team, the Celtics. With their green and white jerseys, the Celtics have been a familiar team at the NBA finals, and in fact, have won 16 NBA Championship titles. Their season runs October through April.

The New England Patriots of the National Football League  play at Gillette Stadium from September through December. The stadium is in Foxboro, Massachusetts  located southwest of Boston and about halfway between Boston and Providence, Rhode Island.

Other Places to Explore

There are over 50 college campuses in the greater Boston area. Just across the Charles River is Cambridge, home of America's oldest university, Harvard. Harvard Square, a very popular spot for people watching, is also known for its street musicians performing on weekend nights and Sunday afternoons. Coffee shops, restaurants, and book stores are abundant in this town that caters to 30,000 students.

About 20 miles northwest of Boston are Lexington and Concord. Lexington is a quaint, quiet town of historic homes and taverns. Lexington is where Paul Revere made his historic ride to warn the townsfolk the British were coming. Concord, the home of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Walden Pond is about 22 miles northwest of Boston. You'll also find Sleepy Hollow Cemetery here. Both towns can be reached by subway.

Salem, where suspected witches and sorcerers faced interrogation and death, is 20 miles north east of Boston. The Salem Witch Museum is filled with interesting exhibits and the Witch Dungeon Museum historically recreates the witch trials. The Salem Trolley will take you to all the major points of interest. If you prefer walking, follow the Salem Heritage Trail. The red line will take you to the Peabody Essex Museum, the Salem Witch Museum, and the House of the Seven Gables.

You can go back in time to December 1627 when the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. Plimoth Plantation, located about 30 miles southeast of Boston in Plymouth, is staffed by interpreters dressed as native American Indians, pilgrims, and sailors. It offers visitors a realistic look at everyday life of these early settlers and includes preserved and restored 17th century homes. You can also board a full-scale replica of the Mayflower. The Plantation is open April through November, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily and until 7 p.m. in July and August. Admission for the Plantation and Mayflower Tour is $29.50; tour of the Mayflower only is $10.

Written by: Cathy Maxwell
Top Photo Credit: Nelson B.
Photo Description: Boston Harbor and skyline