The best of Boston

Small, friendly and good to look at with an appealing mix of old buildings and youthful energy, why not make Boston your next mini-break?

WHY GO
One of the US’s oldest cities, Boston – the capital of Massachusetts and the main city of New England – is home to Harvard University, Fanueil Hall market and famed for Cheers and its tea parties. Boston also boasts the shortest flight time to the States and with the fall foliage in full bloom, there’s no better time to head to the city where “everybody knows your name.”

MUST SEE AND DO
Clearly you must start with the Freedom Trail – a walk taking in 16 colonial and revolutionary era sites including the Old State House (once the seat of the British colonial government), the Park Street Church (built in 1810 and a bulwark of the anti slavery movement), the Old South Meeting House (where rousing speeches led to the Boston Tea Party), Paul Revere’s House (where Revere began his legendary horseback ride) and the lovely 18th century Old North Church – where two lanterns hung in 1775 to warn colonists of British troop movement. You can follow the red brick Freedom Trail independently (see www.TheFreedomTrail.org) but I recommend forking out $13 ($11 seniors/students; $7 children) for the 90 minute ‘Walk Into History Tour’ – the 18th century costume guides are excellent and really help bring the historic sites to life.
Finished with the Freedom Trail? Tempting tho it might be to stay in the hustle ad bustle of downtown boston, Cambridge is worth crossing the Charles River for. The beating heart of Cambridge is Harvard Square: a warren of historic red brick walkways leading to Harvard, the oldest university in America whose alumnus include Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, and US PresidentBarack Obama. Don’t forget to stop by the statue of John Harvard – Harvard’s most famous benefactor – and rub his foot for good luck!

BEST BITES
Boston has a thriving local gastronomic scene and new bars and restaurants are mushrooming. The Ritz Carlton’s new restaurant, Artisan Bistro, has only been open a couple of months but has already become a hot spot for stylish dining. And rightly so: I am not normally one for sticking to the safe parameters of a hotel bar/restaurant but the Artisan, offering an American interpretation of French bistro cuisine along with a wine list as long as the bible, is sensational. (See www.ritzcarlton.com/en/Properties/BostonCommon/Dining/Artisan_Bistro/Default.htm).

For fabulous Italian fare make for Artu Trattoria (www.artuboston.com) in Boston’s oldest neighborhood North End, aka Little Italy. Don’t miss the marinated eggplant and generous portions of delicate handmade pasta, served up in an authentic Italian atmosphere.

Craving some quick fare? Boston cream pie – layers of some cake sandwiched with egg custard and topped with chocolate icing – is another quintessential New England eat. Elsewhere North End’s cafes sell cannoli, cappuccino and a cornucopia of sweet Italian style treats that are definitelt worth ditching the pre Christmas diet for.

AFTER DARK
Boston’s nightlife flies under the radar in part because it’s shadowed by its bigger, bolder and better known East Coast cousin, New York. But the Big Apple can’t compete with Boston when it comes to sport: Boston has had a team in every major professional league for many years.While away an evening watching the Boston Red Sox in action at Fenway Park – America’s oldest stadium which will be celebrating its centenary next year. If the arts are more your bag than baseball, catch an intimate drama or a Broadway bound musical in Boston’s buzzing Theatre District.

TOP SHOPS
Selling everything from hi fis to high fashion, the shops at Prudential Centre won’t disappoint. However Boston’s shops aren’t all for the masses – thrifty vintage fashionistas should seek out Second Time Around (www.secondtimearound.net) on trendy Newbury Street. The two floor store sells everything from Channel to Louboutin and Prada for the price of a pizza, so sharpen your elbows! After antiques? Make a beeline for Beacon Hill whose charming narrow brick streets, with working gas lamps, are lined with elegant antique shops.

BEST KEPT SECRET
Not to many tourists make it to the soaring white concrete and glass building that is the John F Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum (www.jfklibrary.org). More fool them: the striking white and black building, designed by celebrated architect IM Pei, is only four subway stops from downtown Boston (take the Red Line to the JFK/UMass stop) and the perfect place to become better acquainted with the first politician to properly realise the power of the media.
Smaller but equally impressive is the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (www.gardnermuseum.org). Go to marvel at the 2,500 strong collection of masterpieces of international art or for the oasis that is the courtyard garden, but do go.Planning on visiting both? Invest in a Go Boston Card (www.SmartDestinations.com) which grants you admission to more than 70 attractions in Boston and beyond and works out much, much cheaper than buying separate tickets.

SLEEPOVER
Now somewhere to stay … enter The Ritz-Carlton, Boston Common (www.ritz-carlton.com). The location gives it a head start: the Ritz-Carlton, Boston Common is situated on Avery Street, steps away from both Boston Common and Theatre Land. Despite its enviable location, leaving the salubrious surroundings of the Ritz isn’t easy: expect luxurious rooms, a multi screen cinema and a multitude of fine dining options.

GETTING AROUND
Exploring is easy as Boston is compact enough to walk around – not for nothing is it known as America’s ‘Walking City’. It’s probably possible to cover all of the above on foot in a couple of days, but that goes against the chilled out nature of the place. Don’t fancy pounding the pavements? Boston’s subway system is the fastest and safest way to get around the city. It’s cheap too, at only $2 per ride.
If kids are in tow, board a Boston Duck Tour (www.bostonducktours.com). These guys provide fun, fully narrated historical tours in WW11-style amphibious vehicles, through the streets of Boston and into the Charles River.

For more information on Boston, visit www.boston.com

This article was first posted on the CD-Traveller website on November 30.