Interested in Boston?
We'll send you updates with the latest deals, reviews and articles for Boston each week.
A week of ideas for travelers in the Boston are during the Christmas holiday week and New Year's Eve.
The Radisson is a great choice for families visiting Boston -- they have an indoor pool, fitness room with glassed wall looking into the pool area (great for a workout if you have older kids who don't need you in the pool with them, but still able to supervise a few feet away), very spacious rooms with balconies overlooking the city skyline and Boston Common a few blocks away. The hotel is on the edge of Chinatown and in the Theatre District, but also proximately located to the Newbury Street shopping, Freedom Trail, and even a reasonable longer walk on a nicer evening to North End or Charlestown. Two T stops are within a couple blocks from the hotel. The dining choices are plentiful within just a few block radius. We had tickets to the Nutcracker at the Opera House and were able to easily walk to pre-theater dinner at Teatro and then another couple blocks to the Opera House, and back to the hotel again after the performance. If you need to rent a car while in Boston, Hertz has a rental office just a block or two from the Radisson, so we could avoid the $40/day parking fee, and just rent a car 2 separate days when we did area day trips. The hotel was quiet on an upper floor, although sirens and louder traffic sound could travel up, but not to the point of disturbing, in our opinion. And if you are staying for First Night activities, the location of the Radisson is great for taking advantage of the performances, ice sculptures, grand procession and fireworks. The hallways were quiet, the staff pleasant and responsive. We would stay here again.
The Freedom Trail is a great introduction to the history and higlights of downtown Boston and Charlestown. Recommended to spread the highlights over 2 days so as not to rush. Combine it with the Old Town Trolley Tour (see next item), and give yourself a break from walking, especially if the weather turns cold or wet. The Freedom Trail is not a looped walk, but over a 2.5 mile red painted or bricked line, you are led to classic Boston highlights, historical markers and the naval shipyards. Wander through the Granary Burying Ground and appreciate the beauty of the old headstones, as well as visiting Adams, Hancock and Revere's graves. Visit the classic historic buildings of the Revolutionary War era, including the Old State House, Old South Meeting House, and Paul Revere's home, as well as Old North Church. And make time for a below-deck tour of "Old Ironsides", the U.S.S. Constitution, with a nearby climb of 294 steps to the top of the Bunker Hill monument. For a somewhat pricey, but historic, lunch just off the Freedom Trail, stop at the Olde Union Oyster House where Daniel Webster and others regularly dined. Or have a burger or lobster roll at the Warren Tavern in Charlestown, down the hill from Bunker Hill.
While Old North Church is one of the sites along the Freedom Trail, I separate it out from the other attracation to mention the "Behind the Scenes" Tour, that is offered during classic tourist season on a daily basis, but also offered during the week between Christmas and New Year's. Tickets can be puirchased online for a reasonable sum. This approximately hour-long tour takes you to the bell-ringing chamber in the steeple, where Paul Revere rang the bells still hanging in the church today, as well as down into the crypts below the church. The additional personalized history the guide provides as part of the tour is fascinating, and one appreciates the significance of Old North Church all the more by the time the tour is done. It was one of the favorite things we did while in Boston. Old North Church has a very nice gift shop, with quality souvenirs, books, gifts, and prints.
Buy tickets online to save a few dollars, and redeem them whenever is convenient once you're in Boston -- the tickets are not for a specific date, and can be presented to the trolley driver at whichever trolley stop you start at. Sit and enjoy the entire tour for an overview of the history of the downtown area, including Fenway park, or hop on and off throughout the day, using it to break up visits to other attractions and sites. While we were there for Christmas week, they had a special offer allowing you to ride a consecutive day for free.
Either as part of your Freedom Trail exploration or as an evening outing, spend some time exploring this Italian neighborhood. The shops, the excellent restaurants found every other door, and the winding, narrow roads are worth more than a quick glance. We ate dinner one evening at Al Dente on Salem Street and rated it as our best dinner while in Boston -- the homemade gnocchi and homemade pasta noodles were perfect, and my husband is still trying to recreate the sauce on his lobster ravioli. Perfect small and cozy ambiance, while still friendly enough for a family. Then after dinner walk down to the end of Salem Street to Bova's 24-hour bakery for some classic cannoli -- and no need to stand in line as elsewhere, but no sacrifice in taste!
While we did not have enough time to do this museum justice, I also would add it to the "must see" list while in Boston. They are building a new wing so many of the impressionist or American art pieces I had hoped to see were in storage until later this year, when the expanded museum opens. Seeing Paul Revere's silvermithed bowl, classic Renois, Monet and Degas works, all made the brief visit worthwhile to this beautiful building. Easily accessed on the green T line. On Wednesday's after 4:45 or so, admission is free, donation suggested.
If you are interested in a day trip to Salem, take the train from North Station, which cost $5.25 one way. In the off-season, be warned that many of the shops and sites are closed for the season, but you can still soak up the ambience of the historic shipping town, as well as visit the Salem Witch Museum. We learned that the Peabody-Essex Museum was closed on Mondays except for holiday Mondays, which apparently do NOT include the Monday of the week between Christmas and New Year. The Salem Witch Museum was an interesting presentation on the history of the Salem witch trials, but is not a museum in the sense of historical displays and exhibits of artifacts -- rather it is more a guided tour, and worth an hour or so of your time. In the off-season, if you want to tour the Friendship Ship through the National Park Service, there may be only one guided tour a day, so call ahead for times to plan accordingly. The free NPS visitor center on the waterfront has an interesting brief movie on the history of the shipping industry in Salem, as well as the significance of some of the buildings you see along Derby Street. Take a walk along the historic street, be sure to stop in the candy shop and enjoy the fudge and other candies! We did not tour the House of the Seven Gables, but that is another guided tour opportunity for your day trip there. For lunch, we enjoyed Captain's Waterfront Grill, where I had some great freshly made crabcakes, and my son enjoyed their haddock.
A day trip to Lexington and Concord is a "must do" while in the Boston area. You cannot fully appreciate the historical sites in Boston without having explored the Lexington and Concord sites, as well. Again, if visiting in the off-season though, do your research ahead of time in terms of which attractions and sites are closed for the winter months. There is still plenty to see for a day trip, though, even in December. Start with Lexington, by stopping at the Visitor Center by Lexington Green, and picking up a map of Minuteman Nat'l Historic Park. Walk through Lexington Green and past Buckman Tavern and soak in the significance of those sites.
A visit to Concord must include a stop at the North Bridge. The monuments on either side of the bridge gives a person pause as you reflect on the events that took place there. The wonderful aspect of visiting during the off season is being able to enjoy these moments of reflection often in isolation or with only a handful of others nearby. Next to the North Bridge is the "Old Manse" which is open for tours, although we did not have time for one while visiting. While in Concord, make time for a visit to the Concord Museum, and watch the movie concerning the start of the Revolutionary War and the history of the residents of Concord, including figures such as Emerson and Thoreau. I recommend starting your visit to Concord with a visit to the museum. And, before you leave Concord, make a stop at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, and locate Author's Ridge (signs and maps help direct you to the spot). Visit graves of the Alcotts, Thoreau, Hawthorne and Emerson. A beautiful setting.
Enjoy New Year's Eve in Boston with activities throughout the afternoon and evening -- catering to families and adults with a variety of concerts, attractions, ice sculptures, performances, and fireworks twice -- once at 7 PM over Boston Common and then at midnight over the Harbor. And don't miss the Grand Procession down Boylston Street through Boston Common -- my family enjoyed the festive atmosphere throughout the Boston Common and Back Bay areas throughout the afternoon. With the First Night buttons we purchased we enjoyed some food/coffee discounts, admission to the Old South Meeting House, 2 for 1 admission to Paul Revere House, and admission to the various First Night activities. We chose to take one of the Boston Public Library tours and were glad we made time for it -- it is a phenomenal piece of architecture with priceless art panels/murals inside, and a fascinating history which is illustrated by the tour guide as you move through the building, including the rare books room. The ice sculptures in Boston Common and Copley Square added to the celebratory atmosphere, and we capped off the afternoon with a drink at the Oak Room in the Fairmont -- a classic setting for martinis (Mom and Dad) and hot chocolate (our teens).
Instead, we chose to tour the "Orchard House" down the road, which was the home of the Alcotts, including Louisa May Alcott. For fans of "Little Women" and Louisa May Alcott's writing, this house is a "must" see. But even for those not familiar with her work, the fact that 80% of the furnishings in the house belonged to the Alcotts and the Alcotts were friends with Emerson and Thoreau makes for an interesting guided tour of the house, as the tour guide paints a picture of what life was like during the late 1800's and turn of the century, and provides insight into the Transcendentalists living in the Concord area, who were critical to the development of public education in this country. I highly recommend a visit to this house for the guided tour.