Whether you decide to take in a Boston Tea Party re-enactment, go for a ride on the country's first subway system, pay a visit to the nation's first college, take a stroll through the first public park in the U.S or watch a game in the nation's oldest ballpark, you'll soon be singing Boston's praises too.
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If Boston's reputation as a "walking city" is daunting, don't let it stop you. The city's excellent public transportation system is wheelchair-accessible and deeply discounted for seniors, as are the majority of major attractions. People age 65 and older pay just 25 cents to ride the bus and 35 cents to ride the subway with a Senior Citizen Pass (apply in person at the Back Bay station -- all you need is proof of age and 50 cents, and you'll get your pass in just a few minutes). If you're not able to get around via public transportation, you can make arrangements to use "The Ride", a shared van service that provides door-to-door transportation for $1.50 or $3.00 depending on your destination. You must be ADA certified in your own area to access The Ride.
Amazing Freebies Worth Pursuing: Walking the Freedom Trail; feeding the swans in the Public Garden; summer festivals in the North End; oldies concerts during the summer at the Hatch shell; guided tours of the galleries at the Boston Public Library; admission to the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University before noon on Saturdays.
Home Away From Home
Tip: For low rates at quality hotels, consider staying near Logan Airport. A taxi to the sights will cost you -- about $20 each way -- but your hotel may offer a free shuttle to the airport, where you can pick up the Blue Line and take the quick ride into the city.
Not only is the Omni Parker House located steps away from some of Boston's most popular attractions (the Freedom Trail, Faneuil Hall, Quincy Market and the Boston Common), and conveniently located to the Government Center "T" stop; it is also home to Parker's Restaurant, where Boston cream pie was created and John Kennedy proposed to Jacqueline Bouvier at table 10. Tip: Sign up for Omni's Select Guest program and you'll receive a coupon for 50 percent off your first stay (weekends only).
The Dublin-based Jurys Boston Hotel is housed in the former Boston Police Headquarters and prides itself on its Irish charms. The location is perfectly situated to Back Bay and the Theatre District and is an excellent value offering competitive prices, unexpected luxuries and a high level of service.
The utmost in luxury on the Boston waterfront, the Boston Harbor Hotel boasts staff that prides itself on catering to your every need, from delivery of your favorite newspaper to a personalized menu. If your stay coincides with the Harbor Festival, you'll be breathing in the sea air and listening to live jazz. The hotel also offers 12 rooms designated for the physically challenged, with seats in the shower and extra-wide doors for easy wheelchair access.
Kick off your visit to Boston with a general survey of the city. Boston DUCK Tours provide an informative and entertaining 90-minute overview of the city. The tour allows you to see the city by land and by sea -- the DUCK is actually a renovated World War II amphibious landing vehicle able to navigate not only the tricky Boston streets but also the Charles River. On the tour you'll get your bearings and figure out what attractions you'll want to visit in more depth later. The DUCK is wheelchair-accessible and can accommodate up to two wheelchair passengers at a time.
If you prefer an on-and-off tour, check out Old Town Trolley Tours and City View Trolley Tours. Both hit all the Boston hot spots, but the most notable difference is that Old Town Trolley stops at hotels while City View doesn't. Take into consideration whether or not your hotel is along the route. If you opt for this type of on-and-off tour, you'll be busy all day checking out sites like Faneuil Hall, the U.S.S. Constitution and upper Newbury Street.
For lunch today, dine at the Union Oyster House, located along the Freedom Trail very close to Faneuil Hall. The Union Oyster House is a National Historic Landmark and the oldest continuously operated restaurant and oyster bar in the United States. Try the lobster stew, one of President Kennedy's favorites.
After lunch, get back on your tour bus, or, if you chose the DUCK tour, spend the afternoon revisiting some of the sights. You're within a short walking distance of Faneuil Hall, the Old State House, the New England Aquarium and the North End.
When hunger strikes again, it's time to head to Durgin Park for dinner, whose motto is "Established before you were born." Here you'll find basic Yankee grub complete with checkered tablecloths and surly waitresses. Try the Yankee Pot Roast, the New England clam chowder or the Boston Scrod to feel really authentic. For dessert? What else -- the Boston cream pie, the official state dessert of Massachusetts.
Head to the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum. A visit to the museum starts with a film on the 35th president's youth. From there, you'll pass through a series of chronologically ordered rooms detailing the 1960 National Convention, the campaign trail and the White House with authentic artifacts used to create exhibits. You'll see a video of President Kennedy's inauguration speech, a room of Jackie Kennedy's personal effects and a replica of the Oval Office highlighting events such as the civil rights movement and the Bay of Pigs.
Take the (nearby) subway's Red Line to Harvard Square for lunch and sightseeing. If you're in the mood for something casual, try Mr. Bartley's Burger Cottage, famous for having almost any burger/topping combination you can think of and then some. For something more upscale, head to Upstairs on the Square and ask for a table in the sunny veranda room overlooking Winthrop Park. While offering decidedly different dining experiences, both are Harvard Square institutions.
After lunch, head over to Harvard's Fogg Art Museum and take time to browse the eclectic shops and notice the incredibly diverse student population that makes up Harvard Square. The Fogg offers a small but excellent collection of European and American art including Boston's most important collection of Picasso's work. General tours are included with admission to the museum, free before noon on Saturdays and $5 for seniors all other times.
Head back over the Charles (Red Line to Park Street station) and make your way along winding paths among the meticulously manicured lawns and flowerbeds of the Public Garden. Make sure to stop for a rest on one of the iron benches, feed the ducks and soak up the tranquility of this urban oasis. Want to get a look at one of those gorgeous townhouses that line the outskirts of the park? Only one is open to the public; Nichols House Museum is a glimpse into the life of Boston Brahmins in the late 19th century.
Dinner tonight is all about seafood -- either upscale or down and dirty. For casual outdoor dining, head to the Barking Crab for reasonably priced, basic seafood served under a tent on the waterfront of Boston's Fort Point Channel. The restaurant doesn't have a full liquor license, but offers beer and wine. Get there early to enjoy the views and avoid the party crowd that shows up when the sun goes down. Another option is Kingfish Hall, the gimmicky but delightful brainchild of celebrity chef Todd English, located in Faneuil Hall. The menu is a far cry from the broiled, baked or fried basics found at many Boston seafood haunts, but the clam chowder is pure New England and often cited as the best in the city.
Tonight, head over to Symphony Hall where you can take in a performance by the Boston Symphony Orchestra or the Boston Pops (keep in mind the BSO and Pops are out of town in July and August). Even if there is no concert scheduled, you might be able to catch a rehearsal and great seats for the discount price of $16.
If you're more interested in seeing Manny Ramirez swing a bat then Keith Lockhart wave a baton, head to Fenway Park. It's the oldest park in Major League Baseball and among the smallest, so there really is no bad seat if you're inclined to take in a game. "Sawx" fans are feeling pretty proud of their 2004 World Champions status, but don't worry -- there's still plenty of bawdy behavior and Yankee-bashing going on at Fenway Park.
If you didn't make it to Fenway Park last night for a ballgame, you can still experience this temple of baseball. Tours operate hourly seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. or until three hours before game time ($11 for seniors).
If you think you've covered all the bases in the city, why not spend the day in Salem, just a short trip north of Boston. Salem is about a half-hour by car and train, and about one hour by bus. Trains leave from Boston's North Station on the Newburyport/Rockport Commuter Rail frequently, and the Salem Visitor Center is about a five-minute walk from the train.
After you've explored the Visitor Center and have an idea of how you'd like to spend the day, get on the Salem Trolley for a one-hour narrated tour of the town and its history -- not just as the home of the famous witch trials but also as an important historical port. The Salem Trolley leaves from the Visitor Center all day from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. April though October ($9 for seniors).
Once the narrated tour is over, you can use the trolley all day as a shuttle between sights. When hunger strikes, head to Red's for inexpensive and delicious breakfast and lunch staples like omelettes and open-faced sandwiches; it's conveniently located to the city's most popular attractions. After lunch, be sure to stop by the Salem Witch Museum, It chronicles the hysteria of the summer of 1692 when hundreds of people were imprisoned at the accusations of a group of adolescent girls. Nineteen of those people were hanged and one man was crushed to death. The museum also educates visitors on the truth about witches versus the common misconceptions.
Head back to Boston and end your visit with a big splurge -- a relaxing, lingering dinner in the Oak Room at the Copley Plaza Hotel. The dark wood paneling, heavy draperies and club-like dining make for an elegant and private steakhouse experience. End the evening with a drink in the Oak Bar; sip a martini from the lengthy list and take in the live entertainment before heading to bed.
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Photos appear courtesy of the Massachusetts Office of Tourism.