Boston, one of the country's most historic cities, comes alive with museums, restaurants, tours and sports. Watch the Bruins or Celtics at the TD Garden, or check out the Red Sox at historic Fenway Park. Or head over to the Boston Public Garden for a spectacular walk in the summertime, and ice skating at the Frog Pond in the winter. The Boston Symphony Orchestra, The Boston Ballet, and the Institute of Contemporary Art are only a few of Boston's many cultural and artistic hotspots.
For the history buff, there's the Freedom Trail, a 2.5 mile self-guided or guided tour steeped in Boston history. One of the stops is Faneuil Hall, where visitors can stop to shop, eat, or catch a street performance. The Duck Tours are a perfect way to spend the day exploring Boston.
Perhaps Boston can best be described as a welcome contradiction: Hip alongside historic. Skyscrapers surround parks. Gourmet meets pizza. Boston is a wonderful blend of stylish sophistication and historic New England charm. You can easily uncover the city's past while enjoying its distinctively modern edge. Year round, Boston's calendar is brimming with exceptional musical and theatrical productions and annual performances, new exhibitions and timeless favorites, walking tours or trolley tours, ethnic festivals and festivals of food and wine.
A walk through the Public Garden, the Boston Harbor, and Boston's many shops and galleries are great for any time of year. It's a big city, but you can cover the center on foot in just a couple of hours. There are annual events which need no further introduction: Boston Marathon, 4th of July or First Night. And there are many seasonal specialities near and dear to Bostonians which visitors should try to take advantage of: Lilac Sunday or the Ducklings Day Parade in springtime. Boston Pride Festival for an entire week every June. The Head of the Charles Regatta in fall or a Nutcracker performance to get you into the holiday spirit. Boston's calendar is brimming with things to do, places to go, people to see.
Just across the river from Boston, Cambridge offers an exciting multicultural setting where visitors from around the world mingle in the shadow of two of the world's premier educational institutions: Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Teeming with cafes, bookstores, and shops of all kinds, Cambridge is often referred to as "Boston's Left Bank." Home to five distinct neighborhoods, Cambridge is an eclectic mix of boutiques, restaurants, and nightlife.
Central and Harvard Square offer cuisine, music, and entertainment close to Harvard University and MIT. Inman Square is home to many immigrant populations, and the Portuguese community permeates this neighborhood. Kendall Square, home to MIT, the Cambridgeside Galleria, and the Museum of Science offers guests numerous things to explore. Porter Square, boasting the region's largest concentration of Japanese eateries, offers guests antiques shops, gift stores, and sidewalk cafes.
College students and those in their twenties tend to flock to where there are others their age; and can you blame them? We all want to meet new people in comfortable, relaxed atmospheres where we can be ourselves.
Young people interested in music will want to check out Massachusetts Avenue – on the Boston side, you'll find clubs and venues where performers from nearby Berklee College of Music, the Boston Conservatory and the New England Conservatory play everything from classical to bluegrass to jazz, pop, funk and hip hop. A short distance walk is Landsdowne Street adjacent to Fenway Park, where the club scene continues into the night. Closer to Boston University, head down Commonwealth Avenue from Kenmore Square towards BU's main campus and follow the crowds into the neighborhood of Allston.
For the Cambridge scene, follow Massachusetts Avenue over the Charles River and into Cambridge. Central Square is the music and nightlife mecca of Cambridge, with venues showcasing indie rock, jazz, blues, Latin, funk and more.
The area around Faneuil Hall in downtown Boston is still a fun place for people young and old to hang out on weekend nights. Irish pubs and local bars often have live music or DJ's spinning well into the early morning.
Keep in mind, although some bars stay open until 2:00 a.m., the MBTA stops running at 1:00 a.m. Don't miss the train, or you might get stranded! But there are usually plenty of cabs near the bars at closing time.
Be forewarned: Some music clubs do require you to be 21 years old to enter.
Check out the Neighborhoods section to learn more about the college scene in various neighborhoods.
Boston has a little bit of everything when it comes to dining. Not an upscale city to speak of, you can find fine dining just as easily as you can find good pub food. Looking for local, fresh caught seafood? Outstanding Korean, Thai or Ethiopian cuisine? Gourmet pasta and pizza? Vegetarian and vegan? Food truck fare? You can find it all in Boston and Cambridge, in diverse varieties.
The Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism has launched an "Ask a Local" mobile app for iPhones that offers commentary from local residents on where the best places are to eat. It's a free download on iTunes. Locals also use Zagat, Yelp, Trip Advisor and Google to search for restaurant reviews. Also, pick up a free Boston Phoenix newspaper for the latest news on grub in Boston neighborhoods.
Check out the Neighborhoods section to learn more about cuisine in various neighborhoods.
As for nightlife, remember that Boston was founded by Puritan dissenters. Many of the Blue Laws that were on the books in 1630 came back in the early 20th Century. Bars close between 11:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m. (check the websites for hours). And bartenders and bouncers adhere to strict state laws checking identification to ward off underage drinking.
"Quack quack!" your way through the city on the famous Boston Duck Tours in Back Bay, where an amphibious bus-boat drives you through Boston streets and waterways. Or take a stroll through Boston Common along the Freedom Trail to see first-hand how "Massachusetts invented America." The Public Garden is in full bloom, adding to the romance of the legendary Swan Boats in the park's lagoon. Stop by the Cheers bar, where the burgers are hot and "everybody knows your name." Learn the riveting story of Massachusetts' 1783 ban on slavery as told along the Black Heritage Trail.
Shop for high-end couture on Newbury Street or indoors at Copley Place. The shopping and restaurants at the Prudential Center will certainly lure you in and keep you there until dinner upstairs, at the Top of the Hub, will awe you with the breathtaking views and scrumptious dinners served nightly.
Use the Charlie Card on the MBTA (the U.S.'s first subway system) to get around while you're here. Faneuil Hall, often referred to as the "Cradle of Liberty," comes alive in the summer. Festive street performers wow you with magic, acrobatics, and feats of balloon-twisting among lots of other entertainment. All the incredible shopping at the adjacent Faneuil Hall Marketplace will certainly work up an appetite, although you'll have a hard time choosing just one place to eat, as the marketplace has an unrivalled number of delicious restaurants and cuisines from which to choose.
Eat freshly shucked shellfish at the Union Oyster House, the oldest continuously operating restaurant in the country. Believe it or not, the Chart House on the harbor once served as the office of John Hancock himself. In the adjacent North End, Boston's Little Italy, grab a cappuccino, gelato, or pastry along Hanover Street.
But don't forget Boston classics new and old: the Boston Ballet, Blue Man Group, the Boston Pops, the New England Aquarium, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Institute of Contemporary Art, the newly renovated Boston Children's Museum, the vast Museum of Science, the outlying gems of Boston Harbor, the Boston Harbor Islands, and the quintessential summertime seafaring adventure: whale watching.
Across the Charles River is Cambridge, home of academic havens Harvard University and MIT. Stroll through real Boston-ivy-covered Harvard Yard and see the famous "Statue of Three Lies." Nearby is the Longfellow National Historical Site, which served as George Washington's headquarters during the American Revolution. Visit the Mount Auburn Cemetery, where Bernard Malamud, Winslow Homer, and Oliver Wendell Holmes lie in rest.
Along Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge comes alive in "squares." Central Square is home to delicious diverse food offerings - Indian, Mexican, Ethiopian, and Mediterranean, to name a few. Harvard Square is home to Harvard University's comprehensive Art Museum, shopping, and famous street performers. Porter Square, Inman Square, and Davis Square all further illustrate Cantabrigians' diverse culture as "Mass Ave" approaches Somerville.
Listen to live jazz at Regattabar or Ryles Jazz Club. Take in a performance at the American Repertory Theater, too, to add a little drama to your stay.
Go to www.massvacation.com/greaterboston to discover more.