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