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Travel Story

Boston’s top picks

The Boston Tea Party might have upset the tea leaves, but Boston is still pretty English in style and ambience. Stretch your imagination and you’ll find images of London, England around every brick corner. And like London, you’ll best enjoy Boston by foot or with someone else behind the wheel. Here are some top picks to help make the most of your stay.

1. The Trollies

Any one of the motorized trolly busses offer fun and safe adventure as they continually circuit the city, picking up and dropping off passengers. The brightly coloured trams rattle along the streets and newsy off-the-cuff commentary keeps your head turning from one side of the bus to the other through three centuries of remarkable history. Hug your seat and the tour’s about 90 minutes. Hop and off to explore and you could take all day.

2. Faneuil Hall

Set in the busy ambience of this Covent Garden-styled marketplace, the original hall was built in 1742 and has been used as a meeting site ever since. Revolutionary speeches were all the rage back then (hence the hall’s nickname, the Cradle of Liberty) and, sitting amid the tall colonial pillars which frame expansive windows and ornamental wood panels, you easily imagine yourself hearing those fiery words of independence. Below the hall, on ground level, lies Quincy Market, a thriving metropolis of clothes and assorted market goods alongside street entertainers who have long since replaced the revolutionaries.

3. Feline’s

One of the world’s most famous bargain basements that for some savvy shoppers is reason enough to visit Boston. Designer labels proliferate on everything from underwear to fur coats, shoes and housewares. And the longer the item remains on sale, the greater the discount. It’s trench warfare shopping (appropriately described since Feline’s lies at the edge of "the Combat Zone‚" Boston’s red light district) but armed with a credit card, the winnings are substantial.

4. Boston Common

Reminiscent of London’s Hyde Park, a walk through the oldest public park in the United States is a 48-acre pastoral interlude to Boston’s busy downtown core. Here was where the British troops were once quartered, the colonials mustered for Quebec and civil war regiments assembled. And, if you absolutely insist on driving, it’s under the common where you can leave your car although parking in Boston, like in London, is a touchy subject.

5. Beacon Hill

Originally 60 feet higher than it stands today, Beacon Hill derives its name from a bucket of flaming tar which was hoisted high atop a mast to warn of enemy approaching. Today, it is Boston’s most exclusive residential neighbourhood and a delightful maze of red bricked sidewalks, gas lights and cobblestone streets, federalist mansions and townhouses. Watch for the leaded panes of glass brought over by early settlers from Holland. Their unusual reaction to the sun has tinted them a forget-me-not blue, making them priceless and irreplaceable.

6. Bull & Finch Pub

Better known as Cheers and a must-do pit-stop for those who are on the been-there-done-it circuit. Unlike the roomy pub you see on the television series, this Cheers is a small tavern made up of cosy backrooms crammed with dining room tables covered in gingham table clothes. The menu offers great steak pies, toad-in-the-hole, hamburgers, beans and chips. Cheers paraphernalia for sale includes sweats, key rings, glasses and more.

7. The Waterfront

Ever since the tall ships off-loaded their ballast of bricks in exchange for tea, Boston’s waterfront has teamed with activity. Today, the piers have been transformed in an upbeat business district, shopping and entertainment area. If it’s the real McCoy you’re after, head for the No Name Fish Cafe – a local haunt where fish and chips rival the best in Britain and the lobster feast is to die for. Not a place for the savoury dressed – just good honest food at no-consequence prices in an atmosphere of dock brine, shellfish and salt air. End the night by visiting some of the rollicking Irish pubs nearby.

8. Christian Science Church

Tucked in behind the towering Prudential Centre complex (with the best views in town) and within earshot of the Symphony Hall (home of the Boston Pops) lies The Mother Church. Tours are free and well worth the visit. May Hubbard’s presence still guides her flock to her still-reserved and revered favourite pew. The Mapparium is the highlight – a 30-foot stained glass globe which gives you the uncanny experience of walking through the world on a glass bridge.

9. Newbury Street

Combine New York’s 5th Avenue with London’s Beauchamp Place and you’ll understand the appeal of Newbury Street. Tall brownstones house specialty stores, restaurants and galleries proliferate while punk rockers, matrons, students and artists create delicious moments in people watching. Street names still herald the pomp and forgotten circumstance of British dukes while the gothic architecture of Trinity Church, the Trafalgar Square look-alike lions outside the library (a destination within itself) are more throw backs to the old country.

10. Isabella Stewart Garner Museum

In a city where modern America is juxtaposed with the colonial styles of over 200 years ago, the discovery of this opulent out of the way museum is an anachronism. But as home of one of Boston’s greatest eccentrics, the grandeur of the four-storey Venetian palace fits right in. It’s a trove of Manets, Rembrandts, Titians and year round you can enjoy concerts, lectures and exhibitions.

11. Harvard

Grab a subway beneath the Charles River to Harvard Square. The campus stands as it did over 100 years ago and is impressive, made more so with the realization that you are surrounded by North America’s best and brightest, all 190,000 of them. And each drawing oracles of wisdom from the largest university library in the world, with almost 11 million volumes. Pick up Harvard mementoes from the Coop (not to be pronounced co-op) before exploring the rest of Paul Revere country, including George Washington’s residence and the Passim coffee bar where Joan Baez got her start.

12. Freedom Trail

Exercise your runners on the two-mile Freedom Trail which weaves past numerous historic sites including Bunker Hill, the surprisingly modest site of the Boston Tea Party and The Constitution. Affectionately called "Old Ironsides," she sits in state as the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world. Visit on July 4 to enjoy the annual Turnabout ceremonies that ensure her old ironsides don’t get too washed or weathered. She’ll fire her salute in chorus to the 1812 Overture that’s usually being played down river as part of the Independence Day celebrations.

For more information:

Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau, Two Copley Place, Suite 105, Boston, MA 02116-6501

Tel: 1-888-SEE BOSTON, Web site:

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