Things to do on your first trip to ‘the Athens of America’. It always baffled me how the average American could be so stubbornly patriotic. I spent a decent amount of time there in my twenties, and sure there was always a lot of neat stuff on offer, but I could never really understand what all the fuss was about. It was only on a recent visit to Boston, one of the oldest cities in the USA and one I had never visited before, that I finally understood what they’re all on about. This compact, clean and energetic little city with its art, its history, and its super-educated populace opened my eyes to a face of America I would definitely be proud of.
Squirrels are common and extremely relaxed in Boston Common Park.
What can I do in Boston?
There is no shortage of city trails and guided tours for first-time visitors to Boston, but for those who prefer to explore on their own, picking up a map at one of the many tourist information booths and following your own itinerary works just as well. There are a few things you really oughtn’t miss out on though, so here are a few suggestions for what to see on your first visit to Boston:
• Head North
If you’ve only got limited time, North End is a great place to get the most out of Boston’s contradictory hip yet historic feel. One moment you can be lost in the 1700s, wandering through the home of Paul Revere and the old State House Museum, and around the corner you’ll be transported back to the present and the lively vibe of Boston’s little Italy and Faneuil Hall marketplace.
The Prudential is the tallest building in Boston and offers a great view over the city.
• Cruise along the Charles
In a town as saturated in history as Boston, it’s impossible to absorb it all in one short trip. A boat trip up the Charles is a nicely condensed hour-and-a-half of some of the most interesting and entertaining past and present facts presented in a charming and humorous manner.
The Charles River Esplanade is jam-packed with joggers every afternoon.
• Beware of joggers
The Charles River Esplanade, a 4.5 km leafy path along the river, separates the city of Boston from Cambridge, and is a favourite jogging route for locals. Even if you’re not up for running, it’s a beautiful route and well worth slipping on some comfy shoes and ambling west from the Museum of Science towards Boston University Bridge.
In many ways, Harvard Campus looks a lot like Stellenbosch.
• Absorb some education
There is definitely no shortage of universities around Boston, but perhaps the most famous of these is Harvard. Just a few stops on the metro will take you to Harvard Square, the trendy centre of this scholarly-haven. Perhaps wandering Harvard’s vast campus isn’t enough to absorb the erudition, but the grounds are well-groomed and lovely, and really it’s worth it just to say you’ve been.
Spectacular autumn colours near Harvard Square.
• A toast with a view
It’s not on the list of tallest buildings in the world, but the view from the top of the Prudential in the centre of Boston is still spectacular. Treat yourself to dinner or just a drink at the 52nd-floor bar for a magical view of Boston from above.
Colourful trees lining the Charles River in October.
And so much more…
Boston is incredible, and the list of things to see and do there is far from exhaustive, but even with only a short amount of time to explore it’s immediately clear that it’s a city to be proud of. And it certainly wouldn’t take much to persuade me to go back.
A typical city view from a boat cruise on the Charles River.
Boston is a beautiful city with an array of striking buildings and riverside landscapes to photograph. It’s at its most picturesque in October when splashes of yellow, orange and red line the banks of the Charles River. It’s a small city and therefore quite easy to explore on foot, so travel light. Instead of lugging our SLR’s and heavy lenses along, we decided to take with a compact digital camera and were extremely impressed with the Canon Powershot SX280 HS. Not only did it produce high quality, colourful images during the day, but it also took surprisingly good photos at night, especially when placed on a small tripod. If you get the chance, make sure you get some height and photograph the city from above after sunset.
Boston is most colourful in October when the leaves turn yellow, orange and red.
If I want to go:
Where: On the east coast of the United States of America in the state of Massachusetts.
When? Boston is most scenic during the autumn months (or ‘fall’). October is particularly beautiful – try to break away from the city one day and take a daytrip north into New Hampshire or Vermont to see and photograph autumn colours as far as the eye can see.
Cost? Boston is one of the more expensive cities in the USA so make sure you take a little extra spending money. Budget on at least $50/person/day for food/drinks if you’re eating out.
Accommodation: You should be able to get a hotel room for two adults for between $150 and $200/night if you keep a close eye on the specials. We suggest you visit www.hotwire.com for the best deals.
A night-time scene overlooking Massachussetts Avenue.