Over MLK weekend, I traveled out to San Francisco for my friend Jenna’s wedding to a great guy she’s been with for ten years. I met Jenna back in first grade, and I freaked out a bit when I realized that was TWENTY-TWO YEARS AGO. My friendship with Jenna is as old as a college graduate! Anyway, the wedding was lovely, and it was great to see Jenna and her family. I didn’t know many people there besides Jenna and her parents and sister, but everyone I met was awesome!
I only had a couple of days in San Francisco, a city I’d only been to once before (on my first business trip, when I was twenty-three, had spent the entirety of the previous year in Massachusetts, and so completely broke that I was over the moon at the idea of my company paying me to travel). Jenna and her new husband Mike had put up a Google Map with all their favorite places in SF on their wedding website, so I used that as my guide when figuring out what to do!
Also, I found the flower shop from The Room (or what it used to be- now it’s a coffee shop) and took a picture. I HAVE NO SHAME.
Anyway, that combined with conversations with some people at the wedding about their own visits to Boston got me thinking- if I were giving people ideas for what to do on a visit to Boston, what would they be? When I went to New York over Memorial Day weekend last year, I used this post from Nugs for ideas on what to do. Here’s my post on what to do when you’re a tourist in Boston!
Public Garden and Boston Common: Two parks across the street from each other, both lovely. The Public Garden has the Make Way for Ducklings statues as well as the Swan Boats when the weather permits. Boston Common has athletic fields and Frog Pond, which is good for skating in winter or wading in summer.
Freedom Trail: For all the history buffs. It starts at Boston Common and takes you through historical sites like the Old North Church, the Paul Revere House, the burying ground with John Hancock’s phallic-symbol tombstone, and the Bunker Hill Monument, which is a great exercise in stair-climbing.
Museum of Science: For all the science buffs. There’s always some cool exhibit here- I saw one last year on Pompeii- and there’s also the Omni Theater and the Planetarium, plus all the regular exhibits.
Faneuil Hall Marketplace: Faneuil Hall is a historical marketplace and meeting hall, and the area surrounding it is full of stores, restaurants, bars, and street performers.
Cheers Bar: I actually never watched Cheers and I’ve only been here once, but people seem to love going here! Just make sure you’re going to the real Bull and Finch pub on Beacon St. rather than the knockoff bar in Faneuil Hall.
Newbury St.: You have to at least walk down Newbury St., even if you don’t buy anything. It’s so lovely and old-Boston. And although many of the stores are too expensive for the likes of me, there are some cheaper ones, too.
Fenway Park: Hopefully you can go to a game, but if not, see if you can take a tour. I love this park.
The North End
The North End is the Italian neighborhood of Boston, full of restaurants, bakeries, and coffee shops. I’m actually not that crazy about Italian food and therefore not the best person to ask about which restaurants to go to, but I have developed some favorites.
Fiore: I tend to forget the names of nice restaurants I go to in the North End, but this one I remember solely because of the awesome roof deck. If it’s summer, go up there at least for a drink!
Pizzeria Regina: Best pizza in Boston, in my opinion. It’s a franchise now, but the original restaurant is in the North End- go there!
Mike’s Pastry/Bova Bakery: Mike’s Pastries is very popular, with good reason. You always see people walking around with cannolis in Mike’s Pastry boxes tied with string. However, because it’s so popular, the lines can get a little nuts, so if you don’t want to wait, head one block over to Bova Bakery, which is just as good.
Abe and Louie’s: If you want something on the fancier side, this is my favorite steakhouse in Boston. Definitely not cheap, though.
Legal Harborside: There are a lot of Legal Sea Foods restaurants around, and they’re all good, but this one, which is fairly new, is my favorite. It overlooks Boston Harbor and if it takes you a long time to get a table (which it will, if you don't have a reservation), go up to the top deck and order a drink and sushi while you watch the boats.
Paris Creperie: It’s not exactly an authentic French creperie, but even so, I love this place. Aside from great crepes, their Nutella hot chocolate and frozen hot chocolate are orgasmic.
Fire and Ice: This is a cool concept for a restaurant. You put as much raw meat and vegetables as you’d like into a bowl, select the sauce you’d like, and then give it to the cook in the center of the room, who throws it onto a big Mongolian grill and cooks it right in front of you. It’s a lot of fun!
Anna’s Taqueria: Cheap, cheap, cheap Mexican food. I’m a big fan, although my West Coast friends don’t seem impressed by it.
Grendel’s Den: Speaking of cheap, from 5-7:30 on weeknights, this restaurant in Harvard Square has food at half-price if you order a drink!
KO Pies: This Australian food hole-in-the-wall is right down the street from my office. Yeah, I know, Australian food? But this place has amazing meat pies, chicken schnitzel burgers, potato wedges, and Lamingtons.
Drink: This is such a cool bar. While you can order your standard wine and beer, there’s no menu--rather, you have a conversation with the bartender so that they’ll mix you something you’d like. “Let’s have a conversation about your alcoholic needs!” It looks kind of like a science lab, with long tables, and the bartenders will grind up ingredients or squeeze the juice out of fruit.
Scholars: This is a fairly new bar that has a little bit of everything- great beer list, great cocktail list, dancing, pool tables, private rooms. Also, it’s HUGE- I can’t stand bars that are cramped.
Common Ground: Most of the time, this place isn’t quite so special. But Friday night is “My So-Called 90s Night,” and dancing to all this nostalgic music is so much fun I don’t even care what I drink.
Boston Harbor Islands: If it’s summer, take a boat out here. They’re beautiful and a lot of people forget about them.
Arnold Arboretum: This is in Jamaica Plain, but you forget you’re still in the city when you’re here. Great for hiking or just sitting by yourself.
Other Good Things to Know
As much as I complain about the T, you should take it in Boston. Cabs are more expensive here than in any other city I’ve visited. Don’t take the cab unless you’re taking an early flight or are at a bar until later than 1:00 AM.
For some reason, a lot of people from out of town mispronounce “Copley” as in “Copley Square.” The first syllable is “cop,” not “cope.”
If you like seafood, you should eat it. Actually, even if you're not crazy about seafood, you should eat it in Boston. I’m convinced that you can’t get good seafood outside of New England.
We really do say “wicked.”