Tuesday, 30 January 2018

When English settlers founded Boston in 1630, they couldn't possibly have known it would become the staging ground for some of the most important events of the American Revolution.

Today, the city's historic legacy as a hub of culture, democracy, and trade is still on full display, but Boston also enjoys a modern, diverse population and bustling university scene. Though the city has one of the highest costs of living in the nation, there are ample opportunities to enjoy it on the cheap.

1. Tour Sam Adams Brewery

Tour the brewery that kicked off the craft-beer movement. You don't need a reservation, and tours are free (but a $2 donation will benefit charity). Specialty tours are available by reservation and cost $10 and up. When you're done, take a turn at the Tap Room to savor a cold one. Guests must be 21 or older with a valid ID.

2. Refuel at Picco

With two of the most important food groups represented here, there's something for everyone. Go basic or try a special twist: broccoli and salami pizza, chased by sesame swirl ice cream, anyone? Pizzas run from $12.50-$24 and ice cream costs $4.25-$5.25. Or opt for the special sampler deal: any three flavors of ice cream or sorbet for $6.50.

3. Experience a James Hook & Co. lobster roll 

It's practically a law that when you visit New England you have to try a lobster roll. And what better place to go than a third-generation joint that's been in business since 1925? Here, luscious lobster meat on a white bun with special sauce runs $19-$25.

4. Star gaze at Boston University's Coit Observatory

The Observatory's telescopes and binoculars give you a front-row seat to the stars. The outdoor Open Nights are free on Wednesdays, weather permitting. Call 617-353-2630 ahead of time to make sure it's on, and then reserve your spot online.

5. See Isabella Stewart Gardner's treasures

Inspired by a 15th-century Venetian palace, Gardner created the museum to house her art collection of more than 15,000 objects, including pieces from ancient Rome, Medieval Europe, and 19th-century France and America. Empty frames hang where stolen works (including a Vermeer) once hung. Admission is $15 for adults, $12 seniors, $5 students. Admission is free if your name is Isabella and if it is your birthday (valid ID required). Folks wearing Red Sox paraphernalia get $2 off admission.

6. Take a bike ride

You can start at the Esplanade T station and cruise the three miles along the Esplanade and the Charles River, or start at the Rowes Wharf T station and tour around the historic Boston Harbor. A 24-hour pass on a Hubway bike will cost $8 and includes unlimited 30-minute rides. Ride longer than 30 minutes and you'll pay $3 for each additional half hour.

7. Walk the Freedom Trail

There are 16 official historic sites along the 2.5-mile route, and only three of them charge an entrance fee. See where freedom was born as you explore Boston Common, King's Chapel and Burying Ground, the Ben Franklin statue and Boston Latin School, the USS Constitution, the Bunker Hill Monument, and more. The walk is free and can be done year-round. Guided walking tours cost $12, an audio tour for self-guided walk is $17, and an mp3 version can be downloaded for $15.

8. Board the USS Constitution

Poke around “Old Ironsides," the world's oldest commissioned navy ship still afloat. The ship has a long, storied history, but is well known for its actions during the War of 1812 when it defeated five British war ships. You can tour the 220-year-old ship for free, Tuesdays through Sundays, without a reservation. The adjacent museum's suggested donations range from $3-$25.

grand central station

9. Stroll the Boston Common 

Founded in 1634, Boston Common is the nation's oldest park. In the winter, the ice rink is the place to be, but in summer, The Common's Frog Pond with its carousel/spray pool is the hot spot. You can also check out numerous historic sites and walk across Charles Street to the Public Garden where you can take a Swan Boat ride from mid-April to mid-September. Tickets are $3.50 for adults, $2 for children 2 and older.

10. Tour Fenway Park

The 60-minute guided tour ($14-$20) explores Fenway's history since it opened in 1912, while the less extensive tour, the Fenway in Fifteen, is, of course, $15. You'll walk around the stadium, see the famous “Green Monster" outfield wall, and browse memorabilia at the Fenway Park Living Museum.

11. Ride a ferry in Boston Harbor

From spring through fall, you can take a ferry to the Boston Harbor Islands National and State Park and check out a Civil War-era fort, America's oldest lighthouse, and other treasures. Tickets cost $17 for adults, $13 children 3-11.

12. Eat in The North End

Little Italy is the go-to place for locals when they feel the need to feed. There are so many great choices, but you can't go wrong at Regina Pizzeria, Ernesto's (known for its huge slices), and Galleria Umberto Sicilian-style pizza. Leave room for a cannoli from Mike's Pastry or Modern Pastry.

13. Explore Paul Revere's House and the Old North Church

Paul Revere lived in this 1860 house from 1770-1800. Tours are self-guided. The house admission is $5 for adults, and $1 for children 5-17. There's a $3 suggested donation to visit the Old North Church where Revere started his famous ride.

14. Peruse the Boston Central Library

Founded in 1848, Boston Central Library was one of the first large public libraries in the United States. Today, it remains one of the largest and most important libraries in the country. You can, of course, sit and read, but you're also welcome to roam around the architecturally significant Bates Hall, the Abbey Room, Chavannes Gallery, and the Sargent Gallery. There is at least one guided public tour each day. The guided tour is free and lasts about an hour.

nyc high line

15. Kayak the Charles River

In the warmer months, you can check out Boston from the Charles River. Rent a kayak, canoe, or paddleboard from Paddle Boston at one of two launch sites: Kendall Square in Cambridge and Allston/Brighton in Boston, or Blessing of the Bay ship site in Somerville. Rates range from $15-$20 per person per hour.

16. Explore the Mount Auburn Cemetery

This National Historic Landmark was founded in 1831. Today, it's not only a place of rest, but is also deemed significant for bird populations by the Massachusetts Audubon Society. If you climb to the top of Washington Tower you can take in the panoramic view of Boston and Cambridge.

17. Check out the printing office of Edes & Gill

Experience Boston's early history of colonial printing when you interact with “preRevolutionary" historians. It's open April through October; suggested donation is $1-$3. Afterward, stop by the Captain Jackson's Historic Chocolate Shop next door to see how confections were made way back when.

18. Cringe through the Museum of Bad Art

What began in the 1990s as a small home collection of cringeworthy works dubbed “too bad to be ignored" has grown to a bona-fide museum in the basement of the Somerville Theatre. The museum is free with a movie ticket, which run $7-$10. If you don't want to buy a movie ticket, you can request a free museum pass from Info@MuseumOfBadArt.org.

19. Visit the public garden

Touted as the first public botanical garden in America, the public site is decorative and filled with decadent floral patterns. While there, admire the rich and unusual plants, the lagoon, the monuments and fountains, and the swan boats they were created and operated for over 100 years by the Paget family.  There are more than 80 species of plants cultivated at the garden for future plantings in more than 50 other locations around the city.

20. Take an Irish heritage walking tour

The Boston Irish Tourism Association created a 90-minute, 20-stop tour that stretches from Fenway Park to Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park downtown. Covering 300 years of history, you'll explore the Boston Irish Famine Memorial, Rose Kennedy Garden and Greenway, and the Soldiers & Sailors Memorial. Occasionally there are guided tours, which cost $15 for adults and are free for children 12 and younger.

21. Visit Castle Island

Originally the site of Fort Independence, the area was previously an island but became connected with Boston in the 1920s. Today, the 22-acre park is a playground for hikers, bikers, and bladers. While there, stop at Sullivan's for a snack. Free tours are done typically on weekends during the summer months.

22. Tour Harvard

Free, student-led tours allow you to explore the campus and learn the history of one of the most respected universities in the world. No reservations are needed for parties of 15 or smaller. There are also self-guided walking tours and maps are available for a small fee. Check the website for schedules.

23. Stroll through the Institute of Contemporary Art

Housed in an decade-old architecturally stunning building on the South Boston waterfront, you'll find art, music, film, theater, dance and a roster of provocative work. The permanent collection celebrates contemporary women artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Nan Goldin, and Cindy Sherman. Adult admission is $15; free for ages 17 and younger

24. See Faneuil Hall marketplace & Quincy Market

One of the city's major marketplaces has been around since 1742, through good times and bad, and is now home to about 100 places to shop and eat. While you're there, make sure you duck into Durgin Park, the oldest existing restaurant in Faneuil Hall Marketplace, having opened its doors in 1826.

25. See Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology

Founded in 1866, one of the oldest anthropology museums in the world houses more than 1.2 million objects, with 3,000 on display at any given time. Points of pride include one of the largest photographic archives of indigenous peoples, Mayan and Mesoamerican artifacts, and Peruvian textiles. Admission is $12 for adults, $8 for ages 3-18 and includes same-day admission to the adjacent Harvard Museum of Natural History. 

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