Boston USA Vacations
Other cities may quibble, but Boston fairly claims its position as the birthplace of America. The Freedom Trail incorporates many of the sites that played a crucial role in American independence, from the Boston Tea Party to the Old North Church. While Boston treasures its history, it is a city of diverse interests, ranging from a passion for the Red Sox to a love of shopping, museums and the fine arts. One thing that remains constant? Its enthusiasm for a good plate of seafood.
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The original Boston settlers, clustered around what are now the Old State House and the North End, considered Beacon Hill far distant. Today the distance is a matter of atmosphere; climbing "the Hill" is like traveling back in time. Lace up your walking shoes (the brick sidewalks gnaw at anything fancier, and driving is next to impossible), wander the narrow streets, and admire the brick and brownstone architecture.
At Beacon and Park streets is a figurative high point (literally, it's the high point): Charles Bulfinch's magnificent State House. The 60-foot monument at the rear illustrates the hill's original height, before the top was shorn off to use in 19th-century landfill projects. Beacon and Mount Vernon streets run downhill to commercially dense Charles Street, but if ever there was an area where there's no need to head in a straight line, it's this one. Your travels might take you past the former homes of Louisa May Alcott (10 Louisburg Sq.), Henry Kissinger (1 Chestnut St.), Julia Ward Howe (13 Chestnut St.), Edwin Booth (29A Chestnut St.), and Robert Frost (88 Mount Vernon St.). One of the oldest standing black churches in the country, the African Meeting House, is at 8 Smith Court.
The North End
The Paul Revere House and the Old North Church are the best-known buildings in the North End, Boston's "Little Italy" (although locals never call it that). Home to natives of Italy and their assimilated children, numerous Italian restaurants and private social clubs, and many historic sites, this is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city. It was home in the 17th century to the Mather family of Puritan ministers, who certainly would be shocked to see the merry goings-on at the festivals and street fairs that take over different areas of the North End on weekends in July and August.
The South End
One of Boston's most diverse neighborhoods is also one of its largest, but fans of Victorian architecture won't mind the sore feet they'll have after trekking around the South End.
The neighborhood was laid out in the mid-19th century, before the Back Bay. While the newer area's grid echoes the boulevards of Paris, the South End tips its hat to London. The main streets are broad, and pocket parks dot the side streets. Late-20th-century gentrification saw many South End brownstones reclaimed from squalor and converted into luxury condominiums, driving out many longtime residents and making construction materials as widespread as falling leaves. Even on the few remaining run-down buildings, you'll see wonderful details.
You can combine a visit to the Arnold Arboretum with a stroll around Jamaica Pond or along Centre Street. Culturally diverse Jamaica Plain abounds with interesting architecture and open space. The pond is especially pleasant in good weather, when people walk, run, skate, fish, picnic, and sunbathe. Many of the 19th-century mansions overlooking the pond date to the days when families fled the oppressive heat downtown and moved to the "country" for the summer.
Boston and Cambridge are so closely associated that many people believe they're the same place -- a notion that both cities' residents and politicians are happy to dispel. Cantabrigians are often considered more liberal and better educated than Bostonians, which is another idea that's sure to get you involved in a lively discussion. Take the Red Line across the river and see for yourself.
Whatever you do, spend some time in Harvard Square. It's a hodgepodge of college and high school students, professors and instructors, commuters, street performers, and sightseers. Stores and restaurants line all three streets that spread out from the center of the square and the streets that intersect them. If you follow Brattle Street to the residential area just outside the square, you'll arrive at a part of town known as "Tory Row" because the residents were loyal to King George during the Revolution.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
The public is welcome at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus, a mile or so from Harvard Square, across the Charles River from Beacon Hill and the Back Bay.
MIT's campus is known for its art and architecture. The excellent outdoor sculpture collection includes works by Picasso and Alexander Calder, and notable modern buildings include designs by Frank Gehry, Eero Saarinen, and I. M. Pei. Gehry designed the Stata Center a curvilinear landmark that opened on Vassar Street off Main Street in 2004.
Engaging holography displays and robots are the hallmarks of the MIT Museum, 265 Massachusetts Ave., where you'll also find works in more conventional media, such as kinetic sculpture. This is a good place to participate in activities and programs that explore the role of science and technology in society.