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Boston’s culture was characterized for a long time by its Anglo-Saxon roots, but since waves of Irish immigrants found a home in Boston during the 19th and 20th centuries, Boston has been much more associated with Irish Catholic culture. South Boston, a working-class, Irish-dominant neighborhood, is a living spectacle of this tradition. The once Irish stronghold...as well as Polish and Lithuanian...is now as much a Yuppie village - owing its new if not always graciously accepted cosmopolitanism- to the facts of the beaches and sea, as well as the nearness to the downtown for easy commutes to daily business.
Within Boston’s broad culture there exist a number of sub-cultures, a credit to the city’s diversity. Boston’s neighborhoods are often ethnic or tied to a group of people or a way of life—South Boston is Irish Catholic and working class; Roxbury is highly Dominican and black; the North End still retains its Italian heritage; the South End is bohemian and gay. But other sub-cultures also represent the many interests in the Boston communities, such as sports, the arts and theater and the large student population.
Those interested in sports will appreciate Boston’s five major professional sports teams—the Red Sox (baseball), New England Patriots (football), Celtics (basketball), Bruins (hockey) and New England Revolution (soccer). Year after year, Boston is voted among the country’s best sports towns—each team generates a different kind of interest from a slightly different section of the fan base, but it seems as though every Bostonian is passionate about one of the teams, and you will be hard-pressed to find one who doesn’t consider himself a Red Sox fan. The downside to widespread enthusiasm for sports is that tickets to events, especially for Red Sox and Patriots games, are expensive and difficult to come by. Call or order online as early as you can, and if you can’t land tickets, take a tour of Fenway Park, which will be well worth your time.
If you prefer the college flavor of sports, Boston, with more college students than any other city in America, has a number of good offerings. The Head of the Charles, the famous annual regatta, takes place each year in October, and the Beanpot, a hockey tournament that pits Boston University, Boston College, Northeastern University and Harvard against one another, is also popular year after year. Boston College has a competitive football team that plays in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC).
While some may say that no city stacks up to the likes of New York and London when it comes to the arts and entertainment scene, Boston manages to hold its own in this area. There's a museum for practically every interest, from the renowned Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), where you can routinely find impressive special exhibits, to the wonderfully fun, yet educational, Museum of Science (a favorite among local schools for field trips). There are musuems to satisfy history buffs such as the National Heritage Museum, places to brings the kids (Children's Museum), as well as a number of well-known art museums, such as the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and the Harvard University Art Museums. While you're in town, don't forget to stop by the JFK Library and Museum to get a glimpse into the life of one of America's most beloved presidents.
Besides the many museums in Boston, the theater district is another point of pride and interest in Boston. Here you can catch everything from Broadway shows to off-off-off Broadway performances in one of the many theaters around town. Get a half-priced ticket, day of show from one of the BosTix booths in Copley Square or Faneuil Hall to score a really good deal. Many theaters also offer special discounts to students with a valid ID.
Live music is another area where Boston culture stands apart from other cities. There are literally hundreds of venues around town where you can see and hear every kind of live band you could imagine. From bigger arenas such as the TD Garden, where acts like U2, the Rolling Stones and Madonna have performed, to smaller dives where you can hear up-and-coming bands, Boston is a music-lovers paradise. Grab a copy of the Boston Phoenix to get detailed listings of where you can catch your favorite (or perhaps soon-to-be favorite) band. Oddly enough, even the subway stations have a wealth of musical offerings. Boston is one of the few cities that allows just about anyone to perform, so the talent will run the gamut.
Boston has sometimes been called “the Athens of America,” a reference to the city’s more than 100 colleges and universities. Students make up a large and vibrant portion of the population here during the school year, and you will see them everywhere from Walden Pond to Fenway Park to the clubs on Lansdowne Street. Every August/September, you can expect the streets in every neighborhood to be clogged with a multitude of U-Hauls as the hordes of students return to school. Visitors in the teenage / twenty-something age range will be thrilled to find so many people to meet.