Faneuil Hall/Quincy Market is touted as one of the most, if not the most, popular tourist site in the United States. This area combines culture, history, dining and local ambiance for visitors and Bostonians. If you want to fit in, be sure to say 'Quin-zee.'
Every year, performers audition to perform during the spring/summer tourist season. Only a fraction win a gig as a juggler, musician, artist, etc., so you can always count on interesting entertainment for families.
The shops have mostly made way to large, national chains like Banana Republic, Gap and Ann Taylor. However, there are still several 'local' shops wedged in between and the pushcarts sell a variety of local goods from clothing to crafts to food. In fact, you can buy almost everything you can think of in the two Market buildings.
The actual Faneuil Hall is a major historic site in Boston where many famous orators from our country's history incited the public. There are some shops in the underground, including one that sells reprints of significant moments in sports. Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig, Michael Jordan and Larry Bird -- you can buy prints of these kinds of athletes for a reasonable price. You can also get prints of black and white photos from Boston's early days like ice skaters on the Boston Common. Great souvenir.
Just to the side of Faneuil Hall is Bostix -- one of the day-of theatre ticket purchasing kiosks. The bulletin board lists all the performances for which Bostix is selling half-price tickets for shows that day. Definitely worth scheduling this stop in if there's something you want to see.
Faneuil Hall has a variety of restaurants selling everything from Italian, nouveau cuisine, burgers and seafood. For nightlife, there are several Irish pubs, Lily's Piano Bar, and the Rathskellar for pool. The Comedy Connection is the best comedy club in Boston with the most history. You name the comedian, they've performed here.
Be sure to get a look at the area just outside of Quincy Market. The Rack was named by Boston Magazine as the best place to play pool but this is also a see and be seen kind of place with lots of live music. A film crew and Jules Asner from E!'s Wild on... show was just here to get the lowdown on Boston's wild side.
If you're thinner than any of the waitresses at the Rack, be sure to eat! There are lots of take away places in Quincy Market but few places to sit, especially in inclement weather. Some of the restaurants in the Market are tourist traps. I recommend heading to one of the places on Union Street or Marshall Street. The Green Dragon and the Purple Shamrock both offer lobster dinners for $9.95. The Marshall House has great burgers and a good selection of seafood. Many menu items come with your own little pot of Boston baked beans.
The Bell in Hand, established in 1795, is billed as the oldest tavern in the United States. Some of the pubs in the Washington DC area might give them a run for their money at that claim, but it is a fun bar that often has live bands in the front and/or back rooms. All of the bars along here are at full capacity when there is a concert at City Hall Plaza. Various radio stations sponsor a variety of shows, recently folk singer Dar Williams performed and Mighty Mighty Bosstones. Check out the Calendar section in the Thursday edition of the Boston Globe (www.boston.com) for all things entertainment.
Also along Union Street is the holocaust memorial -- six glass towers etched with the numbers of all the camp prisoners. This is a really interesting and effective memorial.
Every Friday afternoon and Saturday Haymarket is held -- produce and seafood is sold at great prices. It's crowded and you should be careful of your pockets and belongings but you can get great buys if you are in the market. The seafood is good too -- in the past few years I've only gotten one batch of bad scallops but no problems with salmon, shrimp or swordfish. This is a messy, smelly area on Saturday nights, however.