Boston Not-so-Dynamics

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Boston Not-so-Dynamics

Postby Stu » Fri Feb 16, 2018 8:41 am

As an aside to Uncle Al's posting about Boston Dynamics, I was wondering if any contributors on here live in or near Boston, or know the city particularly well.

I'm going there soon on a short holiday, my first time across the pond, and would appreciate tips on travelling, eating out and sightseeing.

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Re: Boston Not-so-Dynamics

Postby kingfish » Fri Feb 16, 2018 2:17 pm

Having grown up just outside of Boston, and having attended university there, I do admit to hating the traffic (etc). I did spend a bit of time (a couple decades ago) hanging out there with my friends during my college years and soon after graduation. Recently, though, I have tended to avoid it.

My question(s) become what you like for entertainment. Museums? History? Architecture? Food? Shopping? Night life? Sports? [no gambling casino...yet] The other thing to note is that the nodal region that kind of makes up what people think of as Boston also includes the likes of Cambridge (etc).
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Re: Boston Not-so-Dynamics

Postby Stu » Fri Feb 16, 2018 2:52 pm

Hi Kingfish

Thanks for your reply. I am definitely into "Museums? History? Architecture? Food? Shopping?" Good pubs, especially where they serve good food that's not too expensive, would be great. Any culture like opera, theatre or ballet. I am not interested in nighlife or gambling. I wouldn't mind a visit to Harvard or MIT if that's possible.
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Re: Boston Not-so-Dynamics

Postby kingfish » Fri Feb 16, 2018 6:16 pm

For the museums, three come to mind immediately: There's the Museum of Fine Arts which was very nice. (http://www.mfa.org/) , The Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum I've heard as being equally good (https://www.gardnermuseum.org/). The Museum of Science is pretty good (https://www.mos.org/)

The historical heritage, particularly surrounding the founding of the USA is notably rich. The two activities that first come to mind are The Freedom trail (which is a walking tour around various sites related to the American revolution), and the USS Constitution.

I don't have particulars on ballet & opera: The schedule for it is at https://www.bostonoperahouse.com/upcoming-events/ Symphony Hall's website is at https://www.bso.org/
There's also a schedule for the historic Wang Theater at http://www.bochcenter.org

A visit to Harvard Square in Cambridge is entertaining. I've gone there to people-watch. There's a rich assortment of restaurants and pubs, not to mention probably the highest concentration of bookstores on the planet. MIT is practically next door, and together Harvard and MIT sprawl over a pretty big chunk of Cambridge bordering Boston, right along the Charles River.
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Re: Boston Not-so-Dynamics

Postby crfriend » Fri Feb 16, 2018 6:20 pm

Stu wrote:I am definitely into "Museums? History? Architecture? Food? Shopping?" Good pubs, especially where they serve good food that's not too expensive, would be great. Any culture like opera, theatre or ballet. I am not interested in nighlife or gambling. I wouldn't mind a visit to Harvard or MIT if that's possible.

That's a problem with Boston -- it's chock-full of interesting stuff that's sometimes rather transparent -- or at least semi-unseen -- to the residents. I worked in Boston for well over a decade, but working in a city is usually not the best way to actually see or experience one.

You're interested in culture? Boston has the Boston Symphony Orchestra, many smaller ensembles, and quite a vibrant theatre district.

Museums? More than you can shake a stick at, including the Museum of Fine Arts, the Science Museum, several at Harvard (across the Charles River in Cambridge), and a couple at MIT (also in Cambridge).

History? Boston was one of the hotbeds that resulted in what would become the United States separating from its colonial parents; many things in the city proper celebrate this, mainly around the "Freedom Trail" which is easily followed on foot and for which guides can be had.

Architecture? There's quite a bit of it, much of it very very good and -- like any other city -- some of it appallingly bad. Depending on your tastes, you'll be able to find examples within walking distance of down-town. Sometimes the best features lurk in out-of-the-way and otherwise shielded places, so keep your eyes peeled when you're here.
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Re: Boston Not-so-Dynamics

Postby Stu » Sat Feb 17, 2018 7:44 am

Thanks for the info kingfish and crfriend. That's given me some ideas.
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Re: Boston Not-so-Dynamics

Postby FranTastic444 » Thu Aug 02, 2018 3:12 am

Just catching up on some old posts that predate me joining the forum. How did your visit to Boston go, Stu?

"but working in a city is usually not the best way to actually see or experience one."

So true. I worked in central London a lot but my itinerary was always train from the West Mids > Client site > pub / restaurant > return on train or go to hotel and repeat the next day. I'd walked past St Paul's, Tower of London, Monument etc. so may times, but never got to go inside these places as a tourist. Finally managed to put that right when my employer leased an apartment (in Bermondsey) that I was able to make weekend use of as a base for the wife and I to do a number of the London tourist attractions.

Realise that my post is most likely too late for the original poster, I'll nevertheless add my thoughts here in case anyone does a search on this topic in the future.

Although I work in downtown Boston, I've only done a few of the tourist things. Boston is often touted as a 'walking city', but it can sometimes be fun to get chauffeured around. When we have friends in town we either do a trolley bus tour OR a duck tour, but not both. You may be put off by the latter based upon the recent incident in Missouri, but the Boston operation appears to be well run. There are a number of options for boat tours - we have been out to Georges Island and found that to be an enjoyable few hours.

As Carl has stated, MFA and MoS are popular choices (but IMHO they aren't quite up there with the equivalent offerings in Chicago - Field Institute and the Art Institute). I've heard good things about the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum, but we haven't made it there yet. The MIT museum is meant to be very disappointing and I've been told it should be avoided. Worth popping into the Boston Public Library (the wife uses the cafe there to meet her friend - it is one of their favourite 'hang out' places').

The public open spaces are good when the weather is nice - the Common, Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, Copley Square, Charlestown Navy Yard, harbour walk area (North End / Rose Wharf), the Esplanade. You may pass the Holocaust memorial (it is on or very near the red-brick Freedom Trail) - I'd walked past it many times before the significance of its location dawned upon me (I was full of beer at the time, wobbling back from a corporate event - when the penny dropped, it was quite sobering!) There is quite a wide selection of food trucks along the Greenway - one of my colleagues has tried pretty much all of them and he tells me that they quality is pretty good (though queues can get long around noon).

Eating out and drinking out is going to be costly - I feel that Boston is, on average, more expensive than London or NYC when comparing like-for-like. Regardless of age, expect to get ID checked if you want alcohol. Some places will only accept US driving licenses and overseas passports - I've been declined entry to places on my UK driving license. MA, Boston in particular, has some crazy alcohol laws that are sometimes followed to the letter. Drink promotions are banned, as are double measures (but, amusingly, there is no stipulation of what a 'single' is). I've been told by a waiter that he cannot bring out the bottle of wine we ordered with our meal until we have completed the beer that we ordered when we came into the restaurant. Thank the Puritans.

As a European, you may not be accustomed to paying 20-25% more than the figures on the menu (tax plus tipping at the suggested 18-20%). Watch for places that have already added the tip to 'help you along'. This is particularly common at hotels.

Visiting hotel bars can be fun. Clink / Liberty Hotel (out by Mass General Hospital) is a great venue, as is the Last Hurrah (Omni Parker House) and the Oak Long Bar (Fairmont).

There are two Cheers bars - the one by the Common (which they used for the outside shots in the tv series) is a great experience (though often very busy). The one by Faneuil Hall is a bit of a tourist trap, but the food was actually pretty good when I ate there a few years back.

Worth getting out of central Boston and visiting Harvard Square. A bit further out you get the historic towns of Concord and Lexington - not worth the trip out if you are only in Boston for 2-3 days, but if you are over for longer you may enjoy the visit - particularly if you can tie it up with one of the re-enactment events. You would probably need a hire car for this - public transport isn't great out in this neck of the woods (it is near to where I now live). Having a car would allow you to stop off on the Minuteman Park / visitor center / North Bridge.

Boston is sports mad and with some luck / planning you may get to see a game at TD Garden or Fenway Park. Most ticket prices range from crazy to totally insane - particularly for the ice hockey. You can sometimes drop lucky on baseball or basketball tickets, depending upon how well the home team is playing, who they are up against and the day / time of the game. I've got into the bleachers at Fenway before now for about $20, but you won't get that sort of deal this season with the Red Sox sitting at the top of the table. I hate to recommend such a site, but something like Stub Hub would be the place to look for tickets - I think the advice is to avoid Craigslist. To be honest, I have more fun going to a sportsbar to watch a game rather than seeing it 'live'. Somewhere like the Yard House is great, but being right by Fenway it is costly and you will need to get in there early.

Sam Adams brewery tour is good (and is free). There is a good Irish bar down the road to visit for food and drink afterwards. I've heard that the Harpoon brewery also do a tour, but I've not been on that one (yet).
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