Boston - Tourist in My Own City

I live in Boston but had yet to experience it from a tourist's point of view, until my parents came to visit me one weekend.


Boston - Tourist in My Own City

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by notso62 on September 17, 2005

Boston is one of the northeastern United State's most historically significant cities. The Boston Tea Party, Paul Revere's midnight ride, and The Battle of Bunker Hill all happened here. It is hard to escape the cultural significance of places as one is just walking down a cobblestone street in the North End. Boston is an American History Buff's dream destination. There are many tours and reenactments that centralize on this theme and almost any of them are worth the few dollars to take one.

Boston also has plenty to do for those of us that aren't so interested in events that happened 375 years ago. From the upscale shops on Newbury Street (Boston's answer to New York City's Madison Avenue), to the breathtaking views that can be seen from the top floor of the Prudential Building (the highest public observation deck in Boston); there is certainly something for everyone.

Boston is the home of two recent championship sports teams (the Red Sox and the NE Patriots), so it is also the optimal place to bring any avid sportsfan. Tickets to events at the historic Fenway Park (built in 1901) are often sold out, but there is a daily tour available for about $10/person of the ballpark if one would like to go inside without paying exhorberant scalper's fees.

Boston's maritime history is also prevalent here, since it rests on the Harbor. Cruises of the Harbor Islands and other day trips are often a nice thing to do, even if you live in the city and are just looking for a day escape.${QuickSuggestions} A plethora of discount coupons and local event listings is available at the Visitor's Center located on Tremont Street on the edge of Boston Common. The Boston Historical Society (located next to the Old South Meeting House on State Street) also has coupons and event listings, but also offers a free walking tour for the first 50 people to show up at the given times (which vary by season). ${BestWay} The MBTA public transportation system can be confusing for a first-timer in Boston, but is definitely the cheapest and easiest way to get around. The T costs $1.25 per token per ride, but stops running at 1:00 am every night so make sure you schedule your activities accordingly. Also, keep in mind that the T becomes impossibly crowded at rush hours or Red Sox home game times.

Driving in Boston is confusing (at best) with almost a million construction projects going on simultaneously and changing traffic flows all the time. Even if you have driving directions, do not assume that they are right since things can change overnight. On-street parking is difficult if not impossible to find, and garage parking in the city can be very expensive ($30+ a day).

There are several tour companies that stop and pick up at the popular attractions. Most of these start from either the Prudential Center next to the Aquarium on the Waterfront.

Boston is not a very large city, so most attractions are in walking distance from one another. From the North End to Copley Square is about a two mile scenic walk. Walking might be your best bet for nice days.


Holiday Inn- Brookline

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by notso62 on September 24, 2005

The Holiday Inn on Beacon Street in Brookline has very nice accommodations for the price they charge. Though the rooms are a steal at $125 per night in this area, the good service has not been compromised as a result.

There is an indoor pool in this hotel, which is perfect for a dip after seeing the sights without worrying about ever-changing Boston weather. The rooms are pretty standard for a Holiday Inn in terms of cleanliness and amenities, but they are a bit cramped with furniture due to their small size. Boston is famous for the high cost of living per square foot, so it makes sense that this hotel would try to maximize its profits by squeezing in some extra rooms. This was the only negative thing that I noticed during my stay.

The concierge was very helpful and pleasant. Checking in and out went smoothly and they were more than happy to validate parking and give directions to area sights.

This hotel is conveniently located near Fenway Park and Kenmore Square. Though it is in Brookline, the T stops nearby and connects you quickly to the downtown Boston area attractions. Restaurants and coffee shops are numerous on Beacon Street by the hotel, so visitors shouldn't have problem finding a good place to eat.

Holiday Inn Boston Brookline
1200 Beacon Street
Brookline, Massachusetts
(617) 277-1200

Casa Romero

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by notso62 on November 21, 2005

Tucked away in an ally off Gloucester Street in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood is one of the best authentic Mexican restaurants in New England. Casa Romero may be understated by its "blink-and-you’ll-miss-it" storefront, but the cuisine inside packs a punch that makes patrons wish they had found this secret dining destination on previous occasions.

Casa Romero is not the place to go if you would like to dine with a view or people-watch. The tables are situated so that diners don’t compete with each other for attention, and there are no windows in its subterranean dining room. Sound claustrophobic? It’s really not. Casa Romero is decorated with warm touches and Mexican folk art that somehow transform this basement into a cozy dining room.

The food at Casa Romero is the main draw. Authentic Mexican gourmet dishes are an excellent way to warm up from the typically chilly Boston weather. Atypical to standard American Mexican restaurants, Casa Romero includes ingredients like Cactus and mole (savory chocolate-based) sauce that you don’t always see on menus. Everything is prepared freshly, and they even have items marked on the menu that are prepared healthfully, so you need not worry about scheduling a bypass surgery after eating there.

The service at Casa Romero is very friendly, and they are good at making suggestions to help patrons navigate the menu with its unusual fare. Drinks like the sangria at Casa Romero are also excellently prepared, and the hostess has advised us wisely in the past to get a pitcher and split it amongst the table. They are also very attentive to making sure that all the food is alright and that everyone has enough to drink.

The prices at Casa Romero are low when you think of this on the par with typical gourmet restaurants in the area. Every dollar you spend here will be well worth it.

Casa Romero
30 Gloucester St
Boston, Massachusetts, 02115
+1 617 536 4341

Elephant Walk

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by notso62 on November 22, 2005

The Elephant Walk's Boston outpost is located just steps from Kenmore Square and Fenway Park. This is a great place to go if you're craving an elegant and well-thought-out meal, as opposed to the more casual ballpark fare associated with the area. The Elephant Walk has other locations in Cambridge and Waltham that are under the same management and creative teams.

The Elephant Walk specializes in French-Cambodian cuisine and boasts one of the best gourmet menus in all of Boston. Food critics often rave about the chef's original creations, which draw from her Cambodian roots and French-culinary training. The diverse menu offers many options for vegans, vegetarians, and carnivores alike; the dishes are also updated seasonally to give even more options to people that don't like to eat the same meal twice.

The Elephant Walk is open for lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch, though I personally have only been there for dinner. The dinner menu includes dishes like Organic Tofu Citronelle and Filet Mingon a la Roquefort. As you can probably tell, there is something for everyone. The menu is split into parts so that patrons can choose if they would like to eat a la Francaise or a la Cambodienne. The Cambodian side of the menu tends to be a bit spicier, but has the best choices if you are vegetarian or vegan.

The interior of The Elephant Walk in Boston is very elegant, with minimal Cambodian decor and white tablecloths with traditional settings. There is a small bar as you enter where you can enjoy a drink if you have to wait for your table. The service here is very friendly and can accomodate large parties with ease- setting aside smaller dining rooms so that groups do not compete for attention. The waitstaff is excellent, with great care given to each dining party.

For a free extra, be sure to pick up some of the chef's printed recipe cards that are left by the front register. The last time I was there, I came home with a splendid recipe for mango-mint sorbet.

Elephant Walk
900 Beacon St
Boston, Massachusetts, 02215
+1 617 247 1500 (Bro

Laurel

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by notso62 on May 12, 2006

With all the expensive and most times over-priced restaurants in Boston, what is a tourist on a budget to do when he or she wants a good quality sit-down meal? The answer to that question is the Laurel Bar and Grill in the South End. This restaurant has remained under-the-radar for a few years since opening, but is as excellent as it is inexpensive.

The first time my friend and I dined at Laurel, I had to convince him that it was a great place for a sit-down meal. We had looked at the menu online, and upon seeing the prices (which are extremely low), he had incorrectly assumed this place would be a dive. Upon seeing the restaurant, he exclaimed that he was pleasantly surprised. Contrary to the budget menu pricing, the interior of Laurel is quite nice and upscale (think white table cloths, elegant dining room, well-dressed service). My friend didn't know such a place existed within the Boston city-limits.

Aside from the posh decor, the budget menu of Laurel is unexpectedly splendid as well. They have a wide variety of foods that are all well-prepared with gourmet touches. For an appetizer we ordered the tuna tartare salad which came elegantly presented with Asian touches on a bed of mixed greens. This would have been at least $12-$15 at other comparable restaurants, but at Laurel all the appetizers are between $4 and $8.

My friend ordered the crispy duck platter for his entree and I ordered the polenta casserole. The duck was $12, the polenta $10. Both arrived at our table on huge plates with finishing garnishes and the works. These easily could have costed $20-$30 at other area restaurants, but not at Laurel. Both of us were very happy with the presentation and the preparation of our meals. The taste, while not too sophisticated, was very good nonetheless. All ingredients were fresh and the flavors melded well-together.

Also worth a mention at Laurel is the discounted martini menu. The concoction selections include key lime pie, mango, apple, chocolate, and many other delicious flavors. All are mixed well and the bartender is generous with the spirits. For $6-$8 a piece, these are a bargain when you consider other area restaurants are charging up to $14 per drink.

The service at Laurel is top notch as well. The waitress took our order expediently and checked on us several times to take drink orders etcetera. The wait at Laurel for a table can be a little bit of time on their busier nights, but they do take care to turn their tables over efficiently to seat the maximum number of diners possible. The efficient service with a smile was a nice touch to cap off the pleasant evening we spent dining here.

Laurel
142 Berkeley St
Boston, Massachusetts, 02116
+1 617 424 6711

Cottonwood Cafe

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by notso62 on December 17, 2006

Settled in the well-to-do section of Boston between the South End and Back Bay, the Cottonwood Cafe attracts a lot of area local-20 to 30-somethings for casual meals or after-work drinks. The atmosphere is nice, but decidedly unstuffy.

I arrived at 7:55pm on Friday and the restaurant was completely packed; so I inquired with the maitre'd as to if my party had arrived yet since we were meeting there instead of beforehand. Unlike other Boston restaurants that may not be so cordial, the host at the Cottonwood told me that my party was running 15 minutes late and that they would happily come get me at the bar once the rest arrived. I thought this was so nice because a) in Boston if you're late at some restaurants you forfeit your reservation; and b) though the restaurant was busy, the host was still more than pleasant to me and my tardy friends.

At the bar I ordered an Asian pear mojito- supposedly a specialty drink here. Unfortunately, it was not what I had in mind at all. It did not have muddled mint like a typical mojito, and tasted a lot like a cosmopolitan with a slice of pear as a garnish. The person seated next to me even asked what I had ordered and was confused when I said it was a mojito.... Mojitos do not come in martini glasses! Someone should change this drink name or recipe here. But anyways, the bartender was nice and very quick to serve the area.

Once my ever-late friends arrived, we were immediately seated at a nice large table in the corner of the restaurant. Our party had 10 people and our table was a little cramped once we all had our ordered food, but overall the setting was nice and the restaurant's southwestern theme made for a warm ambience.

Our server was the one sour-note of the evening. She practically threw our food at us, did not re-take drink orders after we were seated, and generally acted put-out when we asked for anything. She seemed to be an anomaly for this restaurant though as other servers seemed to happily buzz around the establishment.

The Cottonwood's southwestern food has a focus on traditional ingredients like spicy peppers, black beans, and corn. There was plenty on the menu to satisfy all the members of our party - even a picky vegetarian like myself. The vegetarian enchiladas I ordered were very good and flavorful. Appetizers of chips and different dips were also tasty.

Prices at the Cottonwood Cafe are pretty reasonable. Even the martinis are only about $8 (some Boston restaurants get up to $15-$20/drink), making it not an expensive evening out. Aside from our lackluster server, it was easy to see why this restaurant is so popular.

Cottonwood Restaurant & Cafe
222 Berkeley Street
Boston, Massachusetts, 02116
(617) 247-2225

Boston Duck Tours

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by notso62 on September 22, 2005

The Boston Duck Tours that leave every day from the Prudential Center and the Museum of Science are a great way to see the city. The "ducks" are amphibious bus-type vehicles that drive the streets as well as go in the water. Since Boston is a city with its borders pretty much defined by water, it makes sense that a good tour would use this to its advantage.

The tour includes all the major sites in Boston, including the Prudential Center, Public Garden, Boston Common, State House, and Faneuil Hall. It also covers parts of neighboring Charlestown, including the Bunker Hill Monument and USS Constitution. The conductors are knowledgeable and very entertaining to boot. They point out the major sights as you're driving by, as well as add little tidbits about the city that even natives may not know.

The best part of the tour by far is the "Splashdown" in the Charles River, which occurs by the dam next to the Museum of Science. The tour bus literally becomes a boat and paddles down the river, giving the patrons an excellent view of both the Boston skyline and Cambridge side of the river. It was very enjoyable to see the city from this vantage point. Even though I live here, it's not a view you see every day.

Boston Duck Tours
3 Copley Place
Boston, Massachusetts, 02116
(617) 723 3825

Public Garden

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by notso62 on September 24, 2005

The Boston Public Garden lies right in the middle of the Back Bay neighborhood. The streets and buildings that surround this garden are always busy with motorists, patrons, and upscale proprieters, but the garden remains a place to go to escape the hustle and bustle.

The ornate iron gate entrance surrounded by roses and other manicured plants makes visitors feel as though they are entering an enchanted part of the city. Once inside, these expectations are not spoiled, but rather confirmed. The beautiful lawns, trees, plantings, fountains and statues line well paved pathways. Artists line the banks of the pond, sketching the popular "swan boats" that paddle customers around the water. The pathway over the pond crosses a small suspension bridge--remarkably the smallest suspension bridge in the world.

My favorite thing in the park is a statue of the "Make Way for Ducklings" ducks, commemorating the famous Robert McKlosky tale of the mother duck who walked her ducklings acrossed Charles Street to get to the pond in the Public Garden. Charles Street is the busy road that seperates the Public Garden from Boston Common. This book can make the perfect souvenir of a Boston trip for anyone- both young and old.

The garden and all its whimsy attract many people looking for a special place to take special occasion photographs. Multiple wedding parties make a stop here on the summer weekends.

Tourists and native Bostonians alike can all enjoy the beauty of the Public Garden everyday. To walk through is admission-free anytime of the year. It is such a refreshing pick-me-up from the day at the office, or a tourist's day full of bustling sights.

Surrounding the Public Garden are many other popular sights, so stopping by could easily be implemented into most tourist itineraries. The Prudential Building, State House, and Boston Common are all within a short walking distance. The garden is close to the Arlington T stop, which makes getting there very easy.

Boston Public Garden
Adjacent to Boston Common
Boston, Massachusetts
(617) 522-1966

Prudential Center

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by notso62 on September 24, 2005

The view from the Pru (what Bostonian's call the Prudential Center) is simply spectacular. Boston's second tallest building has the city's highest public observation deck. An accelerated elevator whisks visitors to the top where they enter the "Skywalk". Here they pay approximately $10 to walk around floor and gaze out the unobstructed picture windows. There is also a plethora of information on the guideboards on the inside walls to help explain to visitors what exactly they are seeing in their birds-eye view.

For an extra nominal fee, you can get a recorded personal tour set up to guide you around as you look at the views. This is highly recommended and worth the extra $4--the tour was both imformative and entertaining.

If you're not the type entertained souly by an excellent view, you can head up to the bar/restaurant one floor up called "The Top of the Hub". Views from this restaurant are spectacular, but unfortunately you cannot reserve window seats. Still, for a good martini and a great view; it cannot be beat!

There's lots to see hundreds of feet above the rest of Boston. For an unforgetable experience definitely put this on the "must-do" list.

Prudential Center Skywalk
800 Boylston St
Boston, Massachusetts
617/236-3100

Fenway Park

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by notso62 on October 17, 2005

Take me out to the ball game! As long as you're in Boston for a stint in the spring, summer, or fall, why not try to grab tickets to see the Red Sox in Fenway Park? This historic ballpark is a one-of-a-kind national treasure.

Fenway seats approximately 35,000 people, which is tiny in comparison to every other stadium and ballpark these days. That means that there are no real "bad" or "nosebleed" seats. You can see the details of the field from almost anywhere you sit! You'll feel like you can reach out and touch the players, even from the top of the rightfield roof deck.

Because Fenway is so small, the tickets to the home games sell out almost immediately. To get tickets ahead of time for your planned trip go to www.redsox.com. If there aren't any available for the games you want to see, you may want to try www.ebay.com or www.acetickets.com. If you buy them anywhere, but through the box office, expect to pay exorbitant scalper's fees.

On game day, sometimes remaining tickets go up for sale at 2pm before the game at the Park's ticket sales office. If you aren't lucky enough to score these tickets at face value, there are always people selling tickets outside the stadium around game time. Keep in mind that a pair of good seats for a key game (like against the NY Yankees) could set you back for over $500. Seats on top of the "green monster" or field boxes could be expected to top $1000. Don't say you weren't warned!

If you can't score tickets anywhere or don't feel like spending quite that much money, there are tours of Fenway available on a daily basis. These take you through the only manual scoreboard in all of major league baseball, as well as other historic landmarks within the park. Check redsox.com for seasonal tour schedules.

Food and beer within the ballpark are a bit pricey, but excellent cheaper fare can be had at the surrounding neighborhood sports bars like the Cask n'Flagon. Look for the best ballpark food at the "Sausage Guy" stand on Yawkey Way.

On game day, don't pay for parking by Fenway. Instead take the Green line of the T subway system to Kenmore square for a fraction of the price!

Seeing a game at Fenway is a life experience that should be had by any fan of the Red Sox or fan of baseball in general. The fans here are passionate, the seats are great, the aptmosphere is euphoric, and sights and sounds are amongst the most memorable of Boston's landmarks.

Fenway Park
4 Yawkey Way
Boston, Massachusetts
(617) 482-4769

Boston Common

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by notso62 on November 3, 2005

Boston Common is the beautiful piece of parkland that is framed by Charles, Tremont, Beacon, and Boylston Streets in the middle of the city. Its 50 acres are beautifully kept and well preserved - especially since this is thought to be one of the oldest public parks in the United States.

Boston Common has served different purposes throughout the centuries. In the beginning of the Revolutionary War, it was used by the British as a campground. In the early 1800s, it was used as the place for mob scenes and hangings. With all the historical turmoil that took place here, it's no wonder that the popular rumor nowadays is that the Common is haunted.

The Common these days is more of a place for a quiet picnic as opposed to a revolution. Walkers and casual lunchers flood the area during sunny afternoons. In the summer, there is a theatre company that puts on "Shakespeare on the Common" shows every evening in the rotunda in the southeast corner. The shows are free and offer an excellent low-budget cultural escape from the everyday.

Those that are athletically inclined are also drawn to the Common to participate in sporting events - both organized and not. The southwest corner is home to a well-lit ballfield for area teams. Some people bring their frisbees to play with their friends or toss to their dogs (which are allowed in the park).

Boston Common lies at the beginning of Beacon Hill, so is set at a higher altitude than the surrounding neighborhoods to the south. This offers an excellent view of the Back Bay area of Boston peeking through the trees on the well-kept paths.

To get to the Common, you can take the red or green subway lines to Park Street. The Common is also the first stop on the Freedom Trail, which is extremely popular for most tourist tours. The Common is a sight in itself, though, so plan to spend some time on a nice day poking around.

Boston Common
Charles, Beacon And Tremont Streets
Boston, Massachusetts, 02116

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