Home to some of America’s most dramatic historical events, as well as much of its entrenched old money, Boston is a city that simply must experienced by any traveler visiting the United States for the first time. The monuments, buildings and the stories that surround them are the American story of struggle and success, spanning over 400 years of spilled blood and built fortunes.
After its establishment as a major American city following independence, it continued to draw in trade, investment and immigrants from all over the world, with arrivals from Ireland being one of the larger population subsets. This fact has given rise to Boston being one of the most boisterous cities in the world outside Ireland on the occasion of St. Patrick’s Day, a fact that draws in many folks of Irish ancestry (and plenty of those happy to fake it for a day), making for one of the best parties in the country during the calendar year.
If you can’t be here during this time or on Patriot’s Day, when the Boston Marathon is held, there is still plenty of attractions in Boston to hold your attention over three days at a minimum. If time is on your side, we recommend sticking around for a full week of solid exploration, as there is much to see in this seminal American metropolis.
Established a meeting place and market for residents of Boston in 1742, Faneuil Hall not only served as a place where one could socialize and pick up produce and meat for dinner, but as the winds of independence swirled in the 1760’s and 1770’s, it played host to a number of acts if sedition against the colonial authorities.
Luminaries gave oratory in favor of seceding from the British empire in the face of insulting tax policy that was killing business and imposing undue hardship on common citizens, the most famous of which were Samuel Adams and James Otis. Today, Fanueil Hall, with its restored meeting hall facilities, and Quincy Market, which continues its function as a purveyor of fine foods and location of excellent restaurateurs, is one of the top 5 most visited tourist sites in the United States, so arrive early in the day to avoid the hordes.
Being the place where the colony of Massachusetts was governed from 1713, and the original home of the state government, the Old State House was front and center for many of the political dramas that raged in the run up to the Revolutionary War. While James Otis had some spirited battles on the floor of the legislature in the 1760’s, the one act that has lived on in infamy since its commission was the Boston Massacre.
Out on the street in front of the Old State House, protesters demonstrated against the continued abuse of executive power by the Crown with regard to taxes, refusing to disperse at the order of British soldiers dispatched to quell chronic unrest. Eventually, some of the soldiers fired into the crowd, killing several of the demonstrators, and sowing the seeds of a Revolutionary War that was begin in a matter of a few years from this fateful act.
While the thirteen colonies were embroiled in this conflict, a patriot by the name of Paul Revere was heavily involved in anti-British activities in Boston. Find out more about the life of this man at Paul Revere House, which was the home from which he rode off at one point in 1775 to warn fellow revolutionary leaders of a mass movement of British troops meant to capture them. This structure also has the distinction of being the oldest house in Boston, as it was first constructed in 1680.
Another machination of the Revolutionary War that Revere had personal involvement in was the signals lit from the spire of the Old North Church, which is now the oldest church in the city. The saying “one if by land, two if by sea” is attributed to the patriot, which was in reference to a torch symbol meant to alert revolutionaries of British troop movements by night.
While the church is nice to look at in the present day, one unique aspect is an impressive bust of the lead general of the Americans and the nation’s first president, George Washington, which can be found inside the church’s hallowed grounds.
As this nation found its feet after a hard fought battle for its independence, it began the work of raising a grand army of the republic. This also included floating a navy capable of defending its lengthy coast, of which perhaps the finest ship was the USS Constitution. Still being essentially the original ship that was launched in 1797 (less innumerable retrofits over the centuries), it is a grand tall ship that is moored in the Boston suburb of Charlestown, located north of the downtown core.
A museum on site details her exploits over the years, while those fortunate enough to catch her when she isn’t representing the USA on the world stage or teaching wide eyed cadets how to sail can stroll aboard her ancient wood decks, seeing the multiple cannons below deck that fought numerous battles in conflicts such as the War of 1812, surviving to see the present day.
Most US cities of appreciable size have pro sports teams, but one facility, the baseball stadium of the Boston Red Sox, holds a special place in hearts of most Bostonians. Fenway Park, opened in 1912 with its characteristic dimensions seen nowhere else in Major League Baseball, have been home to many jubilant celebrations and bitter struggles over the years.
The biggest of the former occasions likely occurred in 2004, with a World Series Championship that ended 86 years of frustration, breaking The Curse of the Bambino once and for all. If you are a foreign traveler not well acquainted with the sport of baseball, this is one of a handful of places where you check out the game with a glass of beer in one hand and an extra-large hot dog in the other.
Finally, culturally attuned travelers that can’t muster up an iota of excitement for sports can split off from the other members of their group for the day and go check out the Museum of Fine Arts. This facility is one of the largest of it’s kind in the U.S., with over 450,000 pieces in its collection or on display. Egyptian artifacts, art from famed painters like Monet and Van Gogh, and the largest collection of Japanese pottery in the world outside of Japan await the hungry eyes of culture vultures everywhere.
If the above hasn’t got you panting from exhaustion, there is even more places to see and things to do if you have more time to explore. The Boston Common makes a great break from a busy day of sightseeing, as contains 50 acres of green space of green grass, abundant trees, and reflective water for your relaxation needs.
Honoring one of the great presidents of the modern era, the John F. Kennedy Library is a place to learn about one of America’s most noted leaders, from its progressive platitudes to his tragic end. This museum contains material unpublished during his administration, exhibits honoring the space race, and his brother RFK’s efforts to promote civil rights, among others. Fans of Ernest Hemingway will be pleased as well, as this Presidential Library contains a collection of his manuscripts and belongings.
In addition to its place in American history and being a hub of its economy, Boston has also long been a center of learning. Harvard University, America’s oldest, best known and most prestigious university, was founded in 1636, and is located north of Boston’s city center in Cambridge. While it can be pleasant to simply walk its shady campus, soaking in the atmosphere of its old structure that ekes out the spirit of academia, there are several museums on campus worth checking out, with art and natural history collections worth perusing.
In today’s modern age, MIT also stands out at the top of America’s academic class, being its foremost technical college.Also located in Cambridge, coming here to browse the MIT museum is the best way to link yourself up with the latest bleeding edge science that has been researched within its walls, as well as to learn about the triumphs of its past.