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Vacation Boston

Tourist Guide

Tearing Up Tea Town
Old World Appeal, New World Flair

Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox
A Red Sox game at Fenway Park


Newbury Street offers upscale shopping in Boston
Newbury Street

Now that you've encountered the city's rich storied past, it's time to move onto the vibrant urbanity of present-day Boston. Having largely been built on a European model in a shipping-dependent, pre-automobile era, and since shaped by centuries of immigrants and waves of students (about whom you’ll read more below), it is very much a collection of small neighborhoods. Pick up where you left off last night, in swanky Back Bay, aptly named because the area used to be a swamp. Those days are long gone. Today, this is the chicest place to shop, sip, dine, see and be seen. Trident Booksellers & Café, serving up not only myriad teas and smoothies alongside all-day breakfast, makes for a fine point of departure. The bookstore also carries a striking array of arty international glossies that should awaken your appetite for the visual feast awaiting you on the rest of Newbury Street. The local equivalent of Fifth Avenue (think Chanel, Ralph Lauren and Longchamp) is all of nine blocks long, its shops tucked into quaint converted brownstones. Amid the big-name designers are sprinkled a few homegrown houses, including Emerson for high-end women's fashion. The high-end clothier, Louis Boston, once a Newbury mainstay, has moved to Northern Avenue between the Moakley Federal Courthouse and the ICA Museum.

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Balance commerce with culture by taking the Green "E" MBTA Line (known to locals as "The T") to the Museum of Fine Arts stop — as notable as the eponymous museum, with its remarkable Art of the Americas wing (comprised of 53 galleries of amazing collections up to the 20th century). You mustn’t overlook the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum just down the road. This Venetian-style palazzo was home to a Boston socialite whose will mandates that everything be left just as it was upon her death. The atrium is in bloom year-round, and, once you’ve lunched in the lovely outdoor garden adjacent to the Gardner Museum Café, you could easily spend an afternoon sitting here and reading. But there’s also a small collection of masterpieces by Botticelli, Sargent, Whistler and others to take in, interspersed among the antique furniture and fascinating objets d’art. Be sure to check out the newly opened wing set behind the main building where you will find special exhibit galleries and artist-in-residence apartments.

If you're planning on being in town from spring to fall, you would be remiss not to spend a day at the ballpark. Fenway Park (which celebrates 100 years in 2012) is home to the Boston Red Sox, a team that boasts some of the most loyal fans — known, of course, as Red Sox Nation — in the country. They won the very first World Series in 1918 and, after 86 years of not making it to the championship finals, won again in 2004 (despite the Curse of the Bambino the team allegedly brought on itself when it traded Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees). Victory was theirs once more in 2007. Ticket information is available on

The Charles River separates Boston from Cambridge and Charlestown
Charles River

Another option for this afternoon is exploring the Charles River, which separates Boston from Cambridge and Charlestown. Take a 75-minute sunset river cruise that passes through Boston and Cambridge with the Charles Riverboat Company. Developed along a 17-mile stretch of the river, the Charles River Esplanade offers park and recreational opportunities aplenty. Reach it via the Arthur Fiedler Footbridge, near the corner of Beacon and Arlington streets in Back Bay. Or you can take the pedestrian bridge near the Charles/MGH Red Line T station at the edge of Beacon Hill. During summer, you can attend one of numerous concerts held at the Hatch Shell, but by far the most popular concert is held July 4 when the Boston Pops plays. The river is also a site for rowing, sculling, canoeing, sailing and more. Or, in the Lower Basin section, you can just sit on a seawall and take in the panoramic views of the city skyline. For more information, contact the Department of Conservation and Recreation.

Or revel in retail once again with a promenade through the South End. This area was originally laid out by aforementioned architect Charles Bulfinch as a Beacon Hill alternative. It then spent over a century in a state of disrepair. But in the past couple of decades it has seen its star rise, as first bohemians and then young professionals (both straight and gay) began moving in. Along and between a succession of major thoroughfares — the long-established Tremont Street, trendy Washington Street and up-and-coming, gallery-centric Harrison Avenue — you’ll pass clusters of boutiques selling small-label designers and house wares, such as pretty little Laura Preshong, stark 'n' sleek Vessel Inc, and the cute Turtle. End your day at one of the many wine bars and bistros whose patios overflow with chic locals and their equally well-groomed pooches. The Butcher Shop and B&G Oysters Ltd. are true to their names, respectively delighting charcuterie-eaters and shellfish-slurpers (at least the ones who take tight squeezes in stride). Nearby, The Beehive, a sumptuous bohemian eatery and gallery space inside the Boston Center for the Arts, offers live music.

Continue to Day 3


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* Photos from the Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau. Isabella Stewart Garder Museum photo from the museum.

(Updated: 10/09/12 NW)

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