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Welcome to Boston

Boston

As one of the oldest settlements in the USA and the largest city in New England, Boston has plenty of historic culture. Yet with over 50 colleges and universities situated in the greater Boston area there is a youthful vibrancy that adds a totally different dimension to the historic charm of the city.

Cambridge lies across the Charles River and is the largest college town in the world, synonymous with Harvard University, founded in 1638. The neat ivy-covered brick buildings of the university grounds, as well as the labyrinth of twisting streets in Boston centre and the historical buildings in the old-world neighbourhoods are best explored on foot. Boston refers to itself as the 'Walking City' and is a remarkably compact city that is centred on the country's oldest public park, Boston Common. The Information Centre in Boston Common is the starting point for two of the city's main attractions, which are in fact walking tours. The Freedom Trail explores the city's revolutionary past and the birth of the modern American Republic, while the Black Heritage Trail highlights Boston's place in black American history and its role in anti-slavery.

Boston is an easy blend of historic charm and modern conveniences, with a busy street life and beautiful architecture, green parks and gardens, skyscrapers and modern freeways, museums, galleries and colonial churches. Boston is home to the first public library, the first public school and the first subway system in the US; it is the site of the Boston Tea Party that started the Revolutionary War, and is the location of the Cheers bar, made famous by the popular TV sitcom Cheers. Boston is also the city from whence both planes that crashed into the World Trade Centre on 11 September 2001 originated, and many of those who died were local residents, a tragedy that thus hit the city particularly hard.


Information & Facts

Climate

Boston has a continental climate with very changeable weather patterns such as wide temperature swings in a matter of days, and unseasonal snowfalls. Summers are usually sunny, hot and humid, the temperature in July averaging 82°F (28°C). Winters, by contrast, are bitterly cold, windy, wet and snowy. Boston averages 42 inches (108cm) of snowfall annually, much of it deposited in north-easterly storms. The best time to travel to Boston is in late spring or early autumn, when the weather is warm and pleasant. Autumn is particularly lovely when New England's trees wear their colourful fall foliage.

Eating Out

Due to its shared cultural roots with greater New England, the very freshest in local seafood dominates Boston's regional cuisine, along with a large emphasis on rum, salt and dairy products. Tourists eating our in Boston will want to try a cannoli before leaving: a traditional Italian pastry consisting a a tube of fried dough filled with a mousse, cream, or ricotta filling. The best are found at Mike's Pastry and Modern Pastry.

Ideal for a takeaway lunch by the harbour or a quick bite to eat, Faneuil Hall still comes out tops with a fantastic cross-section of the city's cosmopolitan cuisine and manages to be a wonderful tourist attraction simultaneously.

The North End is a firm favourite with locals and features wonderfully intimate cafés, bakeries and eateries with enough gastronomic treats to get just about everybody's mouth watering, and Hanover Street has many good choices. The South End boasts some of the most elegant restaurants in Boston's dining scene, and those hoping to eat dinner there are strongly advised to make a booking.

Most restaurants in Boston close by 10 or 11pm, however some Chinatown eateriesstay open as late as 2am.

Getting Around

Boston's transport consists of the country's oldest subway system, buses, trolley buses, ferries around the harbour and the commuter rail. For getting around the Boston-Cambridge area the subway, or the 'T' as it is known, is the best as it is easy to use, cheap, fast and safe. It serves most of the city and on the whole visitors will have little use for the bus network, which is cheaper but more confusing for newcomers. Both operate from about 5am to 12.30am, but a 'Night Owl' bus service has been introduced to provide transport along main bus routes and parallel to subway lines on Friday and Saturday nights until 2.30am. Different types of transport require different tokens, but various passes are available for unlimited travel on buses and the 'T'. Taxis are plentiful but expensive, although water taxis are a novel way to explore the city. Licensed cabs are best found at cabstands usually near hotels or can be reserved by phone; they are metered and provide receipts. Boston is a motorist's nightmare and there is no need to rent a car while in the city, unless planning excursions. Rental agencies require drivers to be 21 years old with additional surcharges for under-25s.

Kids Attractions

Children on holiday in Boston will be beside themselves with the exciting attractions and activities that abound in this buzzing city. With museums, kids' theatres, parks, playground and everything in between, deciding where to start will be the difficult part!

Head to the stadium and watch a local Red Sox game at Fenway Park if you can, or for a more leisurely activity, enjoy seeing Boston by foot along the Freedom Trail. Little ones would be better suited to the less exhausting option of the 'Boston by Little Feet' tour, giving kids the opportunity to enjoy the highlights of the Heritage Trail, come rain or shine. Monster Golf or the Good Time Emporium are both great pastimes for those days when activities for kids out of doors are not an option.

In the evenings, why not take the kids out to see Shear Madness, a hilariously funny and constantly changing play where the whole family can be involved, along with the rest of the audience, in solving the mystery. With so much to see and do, parents will find Boston to be one of the most child-friendly and accommodating cities in the United States.

Language

English is the most common language but Spanish is often spoken in south-western states.

Money

The US Dollar (USD) is the unit of currency and is divided into 100 cents. Only major banks exchange foreign currency. ATMs are widespread and credit cards and travellers cheques are widely accepted. Travellers cheques should be taken in US Dollars to avoid hassles. Banking hours are Monday to Friday 9am to 3pm.

Nightlife

Bostonians don't take their nightlife too seriously, especially since most clubs close at 2am and Massachusetts state law forbids smoking in all bars, nightclubs and restaurants. That said, Boston's entertainment and nightlife scene is still thriving with live bands, comedy acts and shows taking centre stage in the Theater District.

Contrary to popular belief, not everybody knows your name in Boston's bar scene, but a beer at the 'Cheers' bar on 84 Beacon Street is a must for fans of the 80s TV show. Don't be disappointed though if you don't find your friends here, they're probably hitting some of Boston's hipper nightspots, such as one of the classiest spots in Boston, the Museum of Fine Arts, which features music and a cash bar every Friday evening in summer from 5:30pm onwards. Here crowds of 20- to 30-somethings mingle and socialise round the galleries while sipping on cocktails and wine. Many Bostonians prefer to start off an evening with drinks in hotel lounges and bars, as they're much more civilised than many clubs and bars and patrons are able to converse easily. Once they're warmed up, the clubs are the place to be and Bostonians can party hard.

Pool and bowling are popular pastimes in Boston and visitors will be spoilt for choice with the amount of bowling alleys and pool halls to choose from. Couple these activities with a few beers and you've got yourself a recipe for a more relaxed evening out - the choice of many Bostonians.

Those looking for a cultural experience won't come away disappointed either, as the renowned Boston Pops Orchestra has regular performances at Symphony Hall. The Boston Symphony Orchestra also performs there, and the New England Conservatory is nearby offering top-notch student performances for with no admission charge.

Shopping

One look at the city's boutiques, department stores, malls and outlets and it's no secret why thousands flock to Boston to stock up on clothes, jewellery and books. Take a walk down to the Downtown Crossing near Boston Common; a browser's paradise, while just around the corner Boston's Chinatown offers herbal remedies, silk slippers and other traditional goods.

Faneuil Hall Marketplace, also known as Quincy Market, is a firm favourite with over 100 of Boston's finest shops and carts touting a variety of merchandise. It is also home to the Bull Market, a fleet of 43 unique pushcarts featuring New England's artisans and their wonderful wares and features an amazing food court where tired shoppers can stop and refuel.

Big spenders can give their flexible friends a good work out at one of the many designer boutiques on the renowned eight-block stretch on Newbury Street, boasting names such Cartier, Armani and Max Mara to name a few. History buffs will fall in love with the cobblestone streets of Charles Street on Beacon Hill where they can browse through the cramped stores of this early Boston neighbourhood for historic photos, furniture, antique china, and intriguing architectural objects.

Shops open from 10am to 7pm from Monday to Saturday with most large stores open on Sundays but with shorter opening hours. Sales tax varies by city and state and while there is no tax on clothing in Boston, there is 5% tax on other goods. Since federal government has no system for refunding sales tax to non-US visitors, it is advisable to ask at the point of purchase for tax exemption through direct shipping.

Sightseeing

Visitors keen on viewing a number of the city's greatest sights would be wise to get a Go Boston Card which grants travellers admission to over 70 of the best activities, tours and attractions in Boston. Find out more at www.gobostoncard.com

The city is full of fascinating sites crucial to America's history. Following a line of mostly red bricks and linking 17 of Boston's top attractions, from Paul Revere's house and the statue of Benjamin Franklin to the Bunker Hill Monument and Boston Common, the 2.5-mile (4km) Freedom Trail is a must for history buffs and anyone sightseeing in Boston.

Head to the New England Aquarium featuring more than 70 exhibits with aquatic animals from around the world, marvel at the Bengal and white tigers at the Franklin Zoo, visit the Museum of Fine Arts and get away from the buzz of the city by wandering through the first botanical garden in the United States, the Boston Public Garden.

After a long day of exploring the city, what could be better than appreciating Boston from a distance aboard a sunset cruise on one of the many boats that leave the harbour. Enjoy sipping on a glass of wine, a magnificently prepared seafood dinner and breathtaking views while the sun dips below the horizon.

Today Beacon Hill brings to mind images of affluence and luxurious living, yet until the end of the 19th century it contained a community of free blacks and escaped slaves from the southern states who owned businesses, built houses and schools, and worshipped together in the churches. Although the black community has since shifted to other parts of Boston, the Black Heritage Trail covers 14 sites that are part of the local black history. Massachusetts was the first state to abolish slavery in 1783 due in part to the black participation in the Revolution. Beginning at the Boston Common there is a memorial to slave abolitionist Robert Shaw who led the first black regiment recruited during the Civil War. Various sites on Beacon Hill include homes of famous citizens, the city's first racially integrated public school with exhibits portraying the struggle for equal school rights, and a house that was part of the famous 'Underground Railroad', sheltering runaway slaves from their pursuers. The African Meeting House, part of the Museum of Afro-American History, is one of the most interesting sights and was the first black church in the United States, known as 'Black Faneuil Hall' during the anti-slavery campaign. It was here that famous abolitionist speeches were made and black people were called to take up arms in the Civil War. There is an informative audiovisual presentation in the gallery. Although this is a complete self-guided trail with brochures and maps provided by the Museum of Afro-American History, park rangers also give free daily two-hour tours, which start at the National Park Service Visitor Center.

The first botanical garden in the United States, the Boston Public Garden provides a tranquil escape from the fast pace of the city centre. Maintained by the Boston Parks and Recreation Department and the Friends of the Public Garden, the botanical garden is a must-see on any exploration of Boston. With over 600 varieties of trees and colourful displays of well-ordered decorative flowers, visitors can go for a relaxing swan boat ride on the three acre lagoon, enjoy the attractive vista of the city's sardined skyscrapers through the trees, or take pleasure in the numerous public works of art that border the meandering paths.

Moored to the bridge is the Beaver II, known as the Boston Tea Party Ship and Museum, and one of the three ships stormed by patriots in 1773 as an act of rebellion against British rule and in particular against the new tax laws imposed on tea. A group of revolutionaries disguised as Mohawk Indians burst from the South Meeting House and boarded the ships that were loaded with tea. They emptied the crate contents into the harbour, an event that became known as the Boston Tea Party. The Beaver II is an exact replica of the original Beaver I and visitors can learn about the event on board the ship. ** Note: The Boston Tea Party Ship and Museum is currently closed for renovations and plans to open again in spring 2012.**

Just across the Charles River from Boston, Cambridge is actually a city in its own right although the two cities are so closely associated that many people believe them to be one and the same. Cambridge is home to two of the most prestigious centres for education in the country, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and has a young and vibrant atmosphere due to the 30,000 university students from around the world that reside and study here. The city is centred on Harvard Square, which is a gathering spot that reflects the international culture of its learning community as well as the influence of its students, residents and business owners. Surrounding the square and lining the streets that spread out from Harvard Square are dozens of bookstores and music shops, cafes and coffee houses and restaurants. Harvard Square is a lively mixture of students and professors, buskers, the homeless, evangelists and political campaigners, and is a great place to have a cup of coffee, watch the activity and soak up the atmosphere. Harvard University occupies one side of the square.

The bar 'where everybody knows your name' is well-known itself. The Bull and Finch Pub in the Beacon Hill district of Boston is instantly recognisable as the setting of the long-running sitcom Cheers. While the exterior of the bar is familiar, visitors may be disappointed to learn that the series was not filmed in the bar, but in a studio in Hollywood. The bar is small and usually full of tourists, but has interesting memorabilia from the series.

Codzilla takes passengers on a high-speed cruise around Boston's harbour. People on board will scream in pure delight as the boat curves, spins and rips through the harbour for 40 minutes, with music such as Bobby Darin and ACDC blaring, you'll be travelling at around 40 miles (70km) per hour. Reservations are recommended.

A great Boston daytrip and shopping destination, Faneuil Hill Marketplace offers superb shopping with all your familiar designer stores as well as great restaurants and sidewalk cafés. Four places in one, Faneuil Hall Market place encompasses Faneuil Hall, Quincy Market, North Market and South Market. Set around a cobblestone promenade, the market is a haven for the performing arts with jugglers, mimes, musicians and magicians entertaining passers-by. Centrally located and operating for over 250 years, the Faneuil Hill Marketplace is the hub of Boston city life. Drawing large crowds excited by the electric energy, visitors can shop, stroll, eat and wonder.

The Boston Red Sox are a much-beloved part of life in New England. The 'curse of the Babe' and their infamous near 100-year losing streak only made their supporters more fanatical. Fenway Park is the oldest Major League Baseball stadium still in use, and has quirky features like The Triangle, Pesky's Pole, and the famous Green Monster left-field wall. Visitors will notice a lone red seat in the right field bleachers, which is where Ted Williams hit the longest home run at Fenway, measuring 502 feet (153m). A baseball game at Fenway Park is a must for any summertime visit to Boston, hot dog, crackerjacks and all.

The 2.5-mile (4km) Freedom Trail follows a line of red bricks or a painted red line on the pavement linking 16 historic sights associated with the early struggle for freedom from British control and the events leading up to the revolution. Markers identify the stops and provide information from downtown to the North End to Charlestown and Bunker Hill Monument. Sights along the way include the Paul Revere House, Boston's oldest surviving house that was home to the famous revolutionary, and the nearby Old North Church where two lanterns were hung in the belfry to warn the revolutionaries of the British movements while Revere went on his famous horse ride to warn of imminent British attack.

The elegant Old State House was the seat of British colonial government and where the Declaration of Independence was read in 1776. There is a museum of Boston history inside. At the Old South Meeting House Samuel Adams addressed the revolutionaries in the significant meeting prior to the Boston Tea Party and a circle of cobblestones marks the site of the Boston Massacre. In Charlestown the USS Constitution, known as 'Old Ironsides' is the oldest warship still afloat and was named after the sinking of the British frigate, HMS Guerriere during the war of 1812. Bunker Hill Monument is the site of the first formal battle of the America Revolution that was fought in 1775.

Also along the trail is the beautiful white steeple of Park Street Church, the site of several important anti-slavery speeches, the Old Granary Burying Ground where a number of revolutionaries are buried, and the Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall that once was the meeting place for revolutionaries as well as a bustling marketplace. Although a complete self-guided trail, the National Park Service also conducts free tours with guides in historic costumes that cover some of the trail's highlights.

Established in 1636, Harvard University is the oldest in the country and one of the most prestigious institutions of higher learning in the USA. It is famous for its brilliant faculties that have produced economists, biologists, prize-winning poets, and famous graduates like President John F. Kennedy. It is also as well known for its famous dropouts such as actor Matt Damon who left in second year to write the Oscar-winning film 'Good Will Hunting', and businessman Bill Gates who left to start up a small software business, also dropping out in his second year.

The focal point of the university is Harvard Yard, a courtyard surrounded by ivy-covered colonial buildings from the 18th century until the present that was named for John Harvard, a graduate of Cambridge University in Britain, who died leaving the college half his estate and his entire library. The shoe of his statue is rubbed for good luck. Harvard also has four outstanding museums, including the Harvard Art Museums and the Museum of Natural History. The Fogg Art Museum is the most famous art museum with a huge collection covering works from the European Renaissance period to the modern day, including works by Renoir, Monet, Van Gogh and Klee. The Bush-Reisinger and Arthur Sackler Museums are included in the same ticket. The Natural History Museum is renowned for its display of hand-blown glass flowers.

An artwork in itself the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston houses some of the most famous European paintings, including Gauguin's Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?Boston's oldest, largest and best-known art institution, the MFA also houses one of the world's most comprehensive art collections, with 22,000 artworks including masterpieces by some of the finest artists in history. With a striking collection of Impressionist paintings by artists like Monet, Egyptian sculpture, and a moving exhibition of Japanese and other Asian artworks, visitors should make sure they have ample time to explore the exhibition rooms of the MFA. Have a break and enjoy a coffee or lunch at one the three gallery restaurants or browse the outstanding museum bookstore and shop.

Home to Simons IMAX Theatre the New England Aquarium Whale Watch, which runs from April through October, the New England Aquarium features a plethora of some of the world's most amazing marine species, such as the impressive giant pacific octopus, sand tiger shark, green sea turtles and North Atlantic Right whales, and is an absolute must for children of all ages. Basic admission includes the aquarium, while the IMAX and Whale Watch charge additional fees.

Located in the Prudential Tower, the Skywalk Observatory is a must for children of all ages. Enjoy the spectacular panoramic views over the city and beyond. Visitors can also enjoy an exclusive state-of-the-art Antenna Audio Tour, which touches on points of interest in Boston.

Take the kids to one of the oldest continuously operating puppet theatres in the United States to watch one of their favourite stories, such as Sleeping Beauty, Jack and the Beanstalk or Little Red Riding Hood, told through the medium of puppetry. These award-winning shows captivate the audience and it's not long before even the adults forget they are watching puppets. Reservations are strongly recommended.

Come to see one of the longest running non-musical plays in the United States. The play is an interactive comedy where the plot revolves around the characters at a unisex hair salon. The landlady gets murdered and the audience gets involved in questioning the actors in an attempt to find out 'whodunnit'. Shear Madness is a great experience for families and children of all ages.

Comfort Inn North Shore

Comfort Inn North Shore

Boston
Mon, 14-Apr-14 for 7 nights
Room Only
fr €300

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