Summer Escapes: Stick Around
The Reluctant Excursionist’s Survival Guide
Making the Best of Boston’s Tourist Traps
New England Aquarium
Why Youâ€™ve Avoided It: Because even by the standards of a compact city filled with elbow-to-elbow tourist attractions, this place gets packed. If You Must: Go early. The aquarium teems with visitors from late morning to mid-afternoon. â€śIf youâ€™re in here from 9 to 10:30 a.m., youâ€™re golden,â€ť says spokesman Tony LaCasse. Alternative Itinerary: The Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary is only 25 miles off the coast, and Boston Harbor Cruises guarantees a whale sighting or theyâ€™ll spring for another ticket ($39.95).
Top of the Hub
Why Youâ€™ve Avoided It: Because itâ€™s in the Pru. Enough said. If You Must: The skyscraper itself may resemble a computer chip, but the view from its 52nd-floor restaurant is impossible to beat. Catch a stunning sunset on the cheap by ordering a cocktail from the bar and then nursing it in the west-facing Fenway Room. Alternative Itinerary: The rooftop at the Colonnade Hotel offers great city vistas with the bonus of a pool. A day pass is $40.
Old State House
Why Youâ€™ve Avoided It: Because itâ€™s the Old State House, and there are so many other old things around here. If You Must: The museumâ€™s got a new tour about the Boston Massacre, that deadly brawl that helped spark the American Revolution. Avoid an altercation of your own by visiting between 9 and 10 a.m. or 4 and 6 p.m., when the crowds are sparse. Alternative Itinerary: The new State House. Okay, itâ€™s not that new (built in 1798), but it does have that kind-of-weird, kind-of-cool Sacred Cod sculpture hanging in the House of Representatives.
Why Youâ€™ve Avoided It: It actually makes you physically ill to think of enduring 50 minutes with a gaggle of pink hats who took the tour only so they could see for themselves the precise spot where Jimmy proposed to Shauna on Sox Appeal. If you Must: Take the tour on the morning of a game day, which will give you the best chance of seeing batting practice, and maybe even getting on the field. Alternative Itinerary: Look, itâ€™s Fenway. There is no alternative.
Why Youâ€™ve Avoided It: Because all that wacka-wacka-wackiness is just a little contrived, no? If You Must: Take the last tour of the day, at 7 p.m., so youâ€™re on the river for sunset. Also, the extra $3.50 to buy a ticket online and guarantee yourself a spot is a worthy splurge. Alternative Itinerary: The 90-minute Boston Harbor Sunset Cruise hits all the highlights with minimal wackiness.
Why Youâ€™ve Avoided It: In some ways, itâ€™s because the Bull & Finch Pub officially changed its name to Cheers in 2001, thereby cementing its status as a tourist trap. But mostly itâ€™s because you harbor a lingering hatred of Diane. If You Must: Go early in the week when the tourists have thinned out â€” but donâ€™t expect anyone to know your name. Alternative Itinerary: It may take a few visits, but the bartenders at Jamaica Plain favorite Brendan Behan Pub will eventually know you by name â€” and theyâ€™ll pour you a proper Guinness.
Why Youâ€™ve Avoided It: Actually, you probably havenâ€™t been able to. Itâ€™s everywhere. If You Must: Take one of the â€śreverse toursâ€ť from Faneuil Hall â€” or check out our Freedom Trail pub crawl. Alternative Itinerary: The Black Heritage Trail offers tours of the West End and Beacon Hill neighborhoods, where most of the cityâ€™s African-American residents lived in the 19th century. This fall, the African Meeting House will reopen after a $4 million renovation.
Why Youâ€™ve Avoided Them: The Swan Boats have been looping through the Public Gardenâ€™s lagoon since 1877. Riding one can feel like youâ€™ve been stuck there just as long.Â If You Must: Catch the first boat at 10 a.m., when the city is still quiet. â€śPeople are walking their dogs in the Garden; itâ€™s more local than tourist,â€ť says Lyn Paget, who runs the boats. (By the way, at $2.75 a pop, itâ€™s one of the cityâ€™s cheapest touristy fixes for the in-laws.)Â Alternative Itinerary: Rent a rowboat at Jamaica Pond for 10 bucks an hour.
Boston Pops Fourth of July concert
Why Youâ€™ve Avoided It: Arthur Fiedler added howitzers and fireworks so â€śall hell could break loose.â€ť Which is exactly what has happened to anyone whoâ€™s ever tried to jostle for a seat at this thing. If you Must: Stick to the Mass. Ave. Bridge area, where youâ€™ll see the fireworks and hear the Pops over speakers. Alternative Itinerary: Museum of Science members can pay $26 for a spot at the Fourth of July party thatâ€™s held on the museumâ€™s roof.
Why Youâ€™ve Avoided It: Old Ironsides used to brave cannonballs bouncing off her sides. These days, visitors brave schoolkids whose joyful screams bounce around in their heads. If You Must: Actually, just go. There will be aggravations no matter when you show up, but youâ€™ll enjoy yourself anyway. Alternative Itinerary: To see boats that still move, check out the Extreme Sailing Seriesâ€™ daily races at Fan Pier during Boston Harborfest, June 30 to July 4.
â€” Margaret Loftus
Free! Museums on the Very Cheap
The Museum of Bad Art
Free: Always!Â Must-See Exhibit: â€śBlue Peopleâ€ť â€” like Smurfs, only angstier. >> 781-444-6757, museumofbadart.org.Â
Museum of Fine Arts
Free: Wednesdays, 4 to 9:45 p.m. Must-See Exhibit: â€śViolet Isle,â€ť the stunning â€” nay, poetic â€” images of Cuban life by husband-and-wife photography team Alex and Rebecca Norris Webb. >> 617-267-9300, mfa.org.
Free: Sundays, 10 a.m. to noon.Â Must-See Exhibit: Arthur Gansonâ€™s â€śGestural Engineering.â€ť Possibly the most wistful collection of mechanical sculptures ever created. >> 617-253-5927, web.mit.edu/museum.
Warren Anatomical Museum at Harvard
Free: Always! Must-See Exhibit: The fractured skull of Phineas Gage, the classic trauma patient in every psych majorâ€™s intro textbook. >> 617-432-6196, countway.harvard.edu/warren.
DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum
Free: Always free to bicyclists. It gets complicated from there, so consult the website. Must-See Exhibit: â€śSnowâ€ť by Andy Goldsworthy â€” the artistic warmup to his upcoming Snow House, a granite structure built for a 9-foot snowball. >> 781-259-8355, decordova.org.Â
Free: Always! Must-See Exhibit: Itâ€™s tough to choose from the literal forest of specimens, but if you must, then donâ€™t miss the collection of more than 40 different species of oak. One word: breathtaking.Â >> 617-524-1718, arboretum.harvard.edu.Â
The Harvard Museum of Natural History
Free: Sundays, 9 a.m. to noon (for Massachusetts residents). Must-See Exhibit: When youâ€™re rained out of the Arboretum, visit the HMNHâ€™s just-installed â€śNew England Forestsâ€ť exhibit, a multisensory immersion into our native ecosystem (moose and all). >> 617-495-3045, hmnh.harvard.edu.Â
Fuller Craft Museum
Free: Wednesdays, 5 to 9 p.m.Â Must-See Exhibit: â€śFurniture Divasâ€ť: a celebration of contemporary studio furniture crafted by â€” you guessed it â€” divas. >> 508-588-6000, fullercraft.org.
The Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology
Free: Sundays, 9 a.m. to noon (for Massachusetts residents). Must-See Exhibit: The â€śWiyohpiyataâ€ť collection of Lakota tribe imagery, enhanced with sounds, scents, and visual animations. >> 617-496-1027, peabody.harvard.edu.
Make Way for Ducklings
As the delightful childrenâ€™s book on which theyâ€™re based turns 75 this year, we look back at how the duck statues became one of our most popular tourist attractions.
1941Â Â Make Way for Ducklings, written by Robert McCloskey, is first published.
1942Â Â The book wins the Caldecott Medal.
1978Â Â The city of Boston begins hosting a Duckling Day Parade.
1987Â Â The Nancy ShĂ¶nâ€“designed statues are installed on the Common.
1987Â Â Quack is stolen; Mack is stolen a year later.
1992Â Â Quack is taken again from the Commonâ€”resulting in the â€śBring Quack Backâ€ť campaign. (He is never found.) Jack is stolen in 1999 and eventually found in the Boston College library.
2006Â Â Make Way for Ducklings is named the official childrenâ€™s book of Massachusetts.
2011Â Â The Mallard family celebrates its 75th anniversary.
The Freedom Trail Pub Crawl
ONEÂ Piccolo Panini Â
Though she hides beneath an ill-fitting baseball cap, the sandwich-maker here is a star. After deftly arranging tender slices of grilled chicken, prosciutto, and portobello mushrooms on a baguette for the saltimbocca panini ($8.55), this wiz firmly smooshes the concoction between two griddles, resulting in a warm, toasty, and evenly flavored bite.
TWOÂ The Dog House
If we were to judge this hot dog stand on its kielbasa ($7) alone, the Dog House would win awards. This masterpiece features a juicy, tender center peppered with fennel seeds, and skin that gives just so. Skip the bun, though â€” it can be rather stale.
THREEÂ The Monkey Bar
This decorative booth whips up fine tiki-style juices and smoothies. A mango-papaya juice ($7) topped with a pineapple slice takes you away (for a moment) to a beachside bar.
FOURÂ Ueno Sushi
Thereâ€™s no fresh fish display (minus), but they do roll sushi to order (plus). Pleasant surprises await, like a spider roll ($9.50) of deep-fried soft-shell crab finished with avocado.
FIVEÂ MMMac & Cheese
Macaroni and cheese at a counter stand? Ech. But the army of short-order cooks here put pasta to skillet and add a creamy, gently seasoned cheese sauce, plus a fistful of extras (bacon is a fine choice, $7.50).
SIXÂ Walrus & Carpenter Oyster Bar
This 10-seat counter spot shucks and steams right before your eyes, but alas, the oysters are from Long Island (is there no better Bay State option?). Stick with the steamed clams (market price), which are bathed in a silky sake-and-scallion broth, or the excellent lobster roll ($15.75).
â€” Erin Byers Murray
Off-the-beaten-path outings kids will love.
At the Water Works Museum, children can learn about the underground world of pipes and pumps that transport water from the seashore to your homeâ€™s sinks, showers, and porcelain thrones â€” helpful when itâ€™s time to explain where Nemo will end up after youâ€™ve had to flush him. >> 2450 Beacon St., Chestnut Hill, 617-277-0065, waterworksmuseum.org.
The brand-new 25,000-gallon Shark & Ray Touch Tank at the New England Aquarium has viewing windows that encourage close encounters with sea creatures. The aquariumâ€™s a madhouse, but come on, you know you want to pet a shark, too. >> One Central Wharf, Boston, 617-973-5200, neaq.org.Â Â
At the Larz Anderson Auto Museum, which houses Americaâ€™s oldest car collection, your little ones can glimpse the inner workings of automobiles and run wild among the mini models. You can enjoy â€śCurve Appeal,â€ť the exhibit of American and European cars from the â€™30s and â€™40s. >> 15 Newton St.,
Brookline, 617-522-6547, larzanderson.org.Â
Tykes can explore the life cycle of a chip â€” from the farmersâ€™ fields to the fryolator â€” at the Cape Cod Potato Chip Factory. A chip trip, by the way, translates in a childâ€™s mind to â€śawesome parent.â€ť >> 100 Breedâ€™s Hill Rd., Hyannis, 888-881-2447, capecodchips.com.Â
The Hull Lifesaving Museum offers workshops in which the kids can check out a surfboat, try on lifesaving equipment, and learn about heroic rescues. >> 1117 Nantasket Ave., Hull, 781-925-5433, lifesavingmuseum.org.
â€” Alexa Cleary & Lindsay Tucker
My Day as a Tourist
A local goes undercover with the visiting hordes.
Tourism is Bostonâ€™s fourth-largest industry, and you could easily fill a week with nonstop sightseeing. But I donâ€™t have a week. So in order to hit as many tourist attractions as possible in a 24-hour period, I awake at dawn.
I have some trepidations about the Boston Gliders Segway tour [$60, bostongliders.com]: the weather, the cobblestones, that thing with the Segway company owner Segwaying off a cliff to his death. No one else seems worried, though, and we start with an interminable (okay, seven-minute) instructional video in which everybody speaks with an overblown Boston accent and says â€świcked,â€ť â€śawesome,â€ť and â€śpissah.â€ť Hilarious.
Itâ€™s an odd concept, floating on a platform mere inches off the ground while moving at about 10 miles per hour. But seconds into the trip, I have the thing mastered, and realize that the main problem with a Segway tour is that you wind up ignoring the tour and instead focusing on how awesome the Segway is. I do pick up one fact, though: Relatively speaking, the Big Dig wasnâ€™t all that big. In 1630 the city was only 783 acres, about a square mile. Three centuries later, weâ€™ve tripled in size by â€ścutting down hills (Beacon Hill, for one) to fill the coves.â€ť
The Segway tour survived, I climb aboard one of Boston Duck Toursâ€™ 28 amphibious DUKWs [$32, bostonducktours.com]. I quickly discover that half the passengers onboard arenâ€™t even tourists. They, like me, are locals touring their own city. Which, thankfully, means I have people to commiserate with over the mediocre factoids we keep getting: John Wilkes Booth stayed in the Parker House Hotel a week before he assassinated Lincoln; the topcoat Lincoln wore that night was made by Brooks Brothers on Newbury; and the long ramp extending from the TD Garden is inclined 33 degrees to accommodate circus elephants, who are incapable of walking up anything steeper.
Before long, we get to the moment everyoneâ€™s waiting for: the splash into the river. Our guide,â€śThe Joker,â€ť turns the wheel over to a 10-year-old girl, and the half of the passengers who arenâ€™t from town capture the moment on their iPhones. I need a drink.
The Samuel Adams Brewery tour [$2, samueladams.com] is packed with hipsters, and Iâ€™m feeling old for remembering a time when Sam Adams was just a Patriot. We all know weâ€™re really there for the beer, and so we nod patiently as our guide, Audrey, describes the intricacies of brewing and passes around some malted barley for us to chew (sweet and nutty with hints of roasted toffee) and papery green Hallertau Mittelfrueh hop buds to sniff (bitter, citrusy, floral). Someone asks: Are hops smokable? Audreyâ€™s answer is well rehearsed: While she canâ€™t vouch for its smokability, the hop is a kissing cousin to cannabis, perhaps the reason Jim Koch calls it the â€śsoul of the beer.â€ť
Our patience exhausted, Audrey at last leads us into the tasting room. Fun fact: A â€śsessionâ€ť beer is one you can comfortably drink a lot of in one session. Black Lager is just such a beer. Fourteen ounces later, I can barely hear myself drink. On the way out I purchase a souvenir six-pack.
Bostonâ€™s Ghosts & Gravestones â€śFrightseeing Tourâ€ť [$38, ghostsandgravestones.com] may sound cheesy, but itâ€™s actually a good laugh, particularly after a few Sams. And itâ€™s pretty obvious that most of the people on this bus are drunker than I am. When Constance Casket â€” our bloody tour guide â€” brags about all the husbands sheâ€™s killed (five), we all agree that one particularly intoxicated guy with us should become her sixth.
As church bells sound, Constance guides us by candlelight through a chilling drizzle to Coppâ€™s Hill Burying Ground (where the dead lie as many as 10 deep); the Granary Burying Ground (one tomb holds 500 children); and the Central Burying Ground, a â€śvery large mass grave.â€ť
Itâ€™s then that things get sloppy. Constance holds up a noose and asks for a volunteer, and the inebriated should-be sixth husband lurches forward in an attempt to kiss her. Itâ€™s no longer a Ghosts & Gravestones Tour. Itâ€™s become a drunken-douchebag-tourist ride, which is a good deal scarier. Sitting on the trolley, I laugh, realizing that in spite of myself, Iâ€™ve had a wicked pissah day.
â€” Steven Brykman
High Art Tours
Boston is home to a ton of great museums, but to experience truly local contemporary art, schedule a walking tour with Kayla Mohammadi. An artist herself (she teaches drawing and painting at Brandeis and UMass Boston), sheâ€™ll show you the best of the cityâ€™s private galleries along Newbury Street or in the South End and help you find that perfect piece to take home. Bring: The second date youâ€™re trying to impress; your checkbook. Cost: $200 for 1 to 6 people. Duration: 2 hours. >> 617-455-1766, arttoursboston.com.Â Â
North End/Chinatown Food Tours
Trained chef Michele Topor helps groups navigate the North Endâ€™s shops and markets while sharing the history and evolution of Italian-American cooking. Prefer kung pao to cavatelli? Toporâ€™s business partner, Jim Becker, has Chinatown covered. Heâ€™ll lead you to the best barbecue and bubble tea, then treat the whole group to dim sum. Bring: Your Food Networkâ€“obsessed spouse; your appetite. Cost: $50 (North End); $65 (Chinatown, includes lunch). Duration: About 3 hours. >> 617-523-6032, bostonfoodtours.com.Â Â
Boston Movie Tours
When youâ€™ve had your fill of historical sights, book a seat on this bus tour, which proudly declares itself history-free. Youâ€™ll visit the locations of iconic scenes from Boston-set movies, from the Charlestown street captured in The Townâ€™s car-chase sequence to the rooftop where the climactic scene in The Departed takes place. Bring: Your nun mask; a cranberry juice. Cost: $40 (bus tour); $24 (walking tour). Duration: 1 to 3 hours. >> 800-979-3370, screentours.com.Â
Boston Night Tour
Get your creepy-crawly fix the contemporary way with the Boston Night Tour. Youâ€™ll visit spooky locales (the Kingâ€™s Chapel cemetery, the â€śHanging Elmâ€ť site on the Common) â€” but rather than just hearing scary stories, youâ€™ll attempt to communicate with the dead, and detect paranormal activity with EMF meters and spirit photography. Bring: Proton packs; a change of underwear. Cost: $15 (adults); $10 (children ages 6 to 12). Duration: 1 hours. >> 978-741-1170, hauntedbostontours.com.Â Â
â€” Tanya Pai
Tour guides? They wonâ€™t shut up. How about AC/DC instead, blaring from 30 marine-grade speakers as Codzilla tears through the ocean at 40 miles per hour? A 2,800-horsepower engine, fierce paint job, and air of badittude make this high-octane boat ride a rollercoaster on the harbor. Bring: Ray-Bans; Dramamine. Cost: $25 (adults); $21 (children ages 4 to 12); $23 (seniors). When: Anywhere from three to eight departures daily from the Long Wharf pier. >> 617-227-4321, bostonharborcruises.com/codzilla.Â Â
Paddle the Charles
Paddle Boston can get you out on the water any way you want, with a selection of standup paddleboards, rowboats, kayaks, and canoes launching from several convenient locations in Boston nd Cambridge. If you donâ€™t feel like paddling, reserve a 10-person canoe and let your friends do the work. Bring: Upper-arm strength. Cost: Kayaks, $15 per hour; canoes, $16 per hour. When: Rentals are available from April through Columbus Day. >> Boston, 617-462-2513; Cambridge, 617-492-0941, paddleboston.com.Â
Boston Harbor Sailing Club
You got your sea legs before you could walk and have been sailing ever since. Impress the landlubbers in your life by taking a Sonar out for a spin in the inner harbor. A membership gets you unlimited use of the clubâ€™s fleet. Bring: Topsiders; your best ostentatious yacht-club inflection. Cost: Full-day rentals, $100 (weekdays); $125 (weekends). Memberships start at $400 per year. When: The season runs May through October. >> 617-720-0049, bostonharborsailing.com.Â
Yacht for Hire
If you still find yourself singing Andy Sambergâ€™s â€śIâ€™m on a Boatâ€ť whenever you get out on the open water, charter an all-out luxury yacht for you and up to 109 of your favorite people to cruise the harbor in. Bring: T-Pain; your fraternity brothers. Cost: Starts at $1,800 per hour, with a minimum two-hour charter. When: Whenever you want. Thatâ€™s what charters are about. >> 866-429-9283, groups.entertainmentcruises.com.Â
â€” Katherine Brooks
Pssst! Secrets of Museum Curators
Hub art experts reveal where they take their out-of-town guests.
â€” Rachel Slade
Click here for the slideshow!
Out-of-towners want a shopping experience thatâ€™s bona fide Boston? Steer them to these spendworthy streets.
SHAWMUT AVENUEÂ Browse hip home dĂ©cor boutiques like J.E.M. and Hudson â€” or pick up bold, geometric baubles from Michele Mercaldo Jewelry â€” on this tree-lined, brownstone-filled street in the South End. Polka Dog Bakery and Formaggio Kitchen are perfect places to stop: The former offers treats for pups (and is worth a visit even if yours is at home), while the latter has one of the most comprehensive selections of cheese and charcuterie in the city. Take Home: Tazaâ€™s salted-almond Chocolate Mexicano disk, $5.25, Formaggio Kitchen.
BRATTLE STREETÂ This boutique-packed stretch in Harvard Square proves that bigger is not always better when it comes to shopping. Black Ink offers a whimsical selection of letterpress stationery and irreverent gifts, and Cardulloâ€™s has been packed with gourmet dry goods, coffee, and chocolate since 1950. The Tannery stocks tried-and-true brands such as Hunter and Boston-based Timberland, while Passport proffers stylish designer duds and accessories from the likes of Vince, Hayden-Harnett, and Chan Luu. Take Home: Cards from Milton-based stationer Two Trick Pony, $4.50, Black Ink.
CHARLES STREETÂ For an epic combo of historical scenery and boutique shopping, thereâ€™s nowhere better than Charles Street in Beacon Hill. Those with a penchant for used treasures can lose themselves at Antiques at 80 Charles and Upstairs Downstairs. Good meets in the middle, with unique luxuries like vintage jewelry and art. Moxie and Wish round out the spectrum with mod, contemporary womenâ€™s clothing, while Charles Street Supply, the cityâ€™s oldest hardware store, has something for the toolheads in tow. Take Home: Chart Metalworksâ€™ Boston Harbor keychains, $135 each, Good.
â€” Anne Vickman
Source URL: http://www.bostonmagazine.com/2011/05/summer-escapes-stick-around/