Twenty reasons to visit Boston

ROB MCFARLAND
Last updated 05:00 08/08/2013
Boston-Landscape
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FENWAY PARK: Ideally, you should see a game at "America's Most Beloved Ballpark", which has been home to the Boston Red Sox since 1912.

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From a walk along the historic Freedom Trail to a day at the baseball at Fenway Park, there is always a lot to do in Boston.

1. FREEDOM TRAIL

Boston played a pivotal role in the American Revolution, in which 13 North American colonies broke free from the British Empire.

You can learn more about the city's involvement by walking the Freedom Trail, a four-kilometre route that winds past 16 of the city's most historically significant sites.

Although you can tackle the trail on your own, I'd recommend joining one of the free 60-minute tours led by a national parks ranger. They start at the Faneuil Hall Visitor Centre. nps.gov/bost /forteachers /rangerguided.htm.

2. BOSTON SYMPHONY

Considered one of the top five orchestras in the US, the Boston Symphony performs in the elegant surrounds of the Symphony Hall, a US national landmark that has some ofthe best acoustics in the country.

Also worth checking out is the Boston Pops, an orchestra offshootthat plays popular classics during spring and around Christmas. Discounted US$20 ($25) ticketsare often available for the under-40s. bso.org.

3. NEPTUNE OYSTER

Boston is justifiably famous for its seafood, and this tiny gem in the suburb of North End is the place to sample it.

Start with oysters from the raw bar, move on to the clam chowder (made fresh to order) and finish with a roll crammed full of succulent Maine lobster.

The buttermilk johnnycake - a heavenly combination of honey butter, smoked trout tartare and California sturgeon caviar - might just be the best thing I've tasted. neptuneoyster.com.

4. DUCK TOUR

Spending 80 minutes in abright-pink amphibious truck being quacked at by passers-by might not be everyone's cup of tea, but this entertaining tour is a great way to see the city.

Narrated by a fictional costumed character from the revolution (in my case, Paul "Reverse", who got on his horse backwards and reversed out of town), the tour ticks off the main land-based attractions before plunging into the Charles River foran aquatic perspective. bostonducktours.com.

5. HARVARD UNIVERSITY TOUR

When Harvard was established in 1636, students could barter for their tuition fees with livestock.

Nowadays, it costs US$57,950 ($73,345) a semester. It's not hard to see the appeal, though.

Not only is the campus an incredible sanctuary of manicured lawns and red-brick dorms but, according to Forbes magazine, Harvard has produced more billionaires than any other Ivy League school.

Free student-led tours run regularly from the Harvard Information Centre. harvard.edu /visitors/tours.

6. THE BLACK HERITAGE TRAIL

While Boston's involvement in the American Revolution tends to get all the glory, there was another struggle in which the city played amajor role.

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Massachusetts was one of the first states to abolish slavery, and you can explore the lives of the city's community of free19th-century African Americans by following the BlackHeritage Trail.

It can be tackled as a self-guided tour or you can join a ranger-led walk. afroammuseum.org/trail.htm.

7. MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS

Housed in an impressive neoclassical granite building on Huntingdon Avenue, the Museum of Fine Arts holds nearly 450,000 works of art, including an impressive collection of ancient Egyptian artefacts and 18th- and 19th-century American art. mfa.org.

8. BOSTON TEA PARTY MUSEUM

Kids, in particular, will enjoy the Boston Tea Party Museum, which provides an interactive version of the events that led to 342 crates of English tea being tossed into Boston Harbour on December 16, 1773.

An entertaining band of costumed characters lead visitors in a re-enactment of the raid, and a series of films and special effects help make the history more palatable for the little ones. bostonteapartyship.com.

9. LIBERTY HOTEL

Formerly the Charles Street Jail, this imposing granite building was transformed in 2007 into a 300-room luxury hotel.

Even if you don't stay here, it's worth a visit to marvel at the hotel's 27-metre-high atrium, which features the jail's original catwalks and circular, hand-blown glass windows.

The jail theme continues in the hotel's restaurant, Clink, and its bar, Alibi, which is lined with photos of celebrity offenders such as Frank Sinatra. libertyhotel.com.

10. CHEERS BAR

Who wouldn't want to visit a bar where everybody knows your name?

There are actually two Cheers venues in Boston: the "original" on Beacon Street, which was used for the exterior shots in the famous TV series, but which looks nothing like it inside, and the "Replica" in Faneuil Hall Marketplace, which looks a little more like it inside but nothing like it outside.

At both you'll find a wide range of beers, bar food and more Cheers memorabilia than you could possibly imagine. cheersboston.com.

11. MUSEUM OF SCIENCE

With its planetarium, IMAX cinema and dinosaur exhibits, the Museum of Science is a big hit with little ones.

An unexpected surprise is that it's also home to more than 100 animals, many of which make live appearances in a busy program of daily presentations.

Adults will find plenty to keep them amused, with simulator rides, a 3D digital cinema and the world's largest van de Graaff generator. mos.org.

12. FENWAY PARK

Ideally, you should see a game at "America's Most Beloved Ballpark", which has been home to the Boston Red Sox since 1912.

However, given every home game has sold out since 2003, you might have to settle for a guided tour instead.

Hour-long tours run every day on the hour between 9am and 5pm and cover the park's most famous features, including the Lone Red Seat (signifying the longest home run ever hit at Fenway) and the Green Monster, a daunting 11-metre-high wall that lines left field. boston.redsox.mlb.com.

13. USS CONSTITUTION

First launched in 1797, the three-mast USS Constitution is the world's oldest commissioned warship still afloat.

Its greatest triumph came during the war of 1812, when it defeated four British frigates, earning the nickname "Old Ironsides" because cannonballs glanced off its reinforced wooden hull.

Free guided tours paint an evocative picture of life on board: men would work 20 hours a day and eat biscuits that had the consistency of hockey pucks. Photo ID required. history.navy.mil/ussconstitution.

14. MIKE'S PASTRY

In the heart of North End, Mike's Pastry has been baking fresh Italian pastries for 50 years. It's famous for its cannolis, which are fried pastry tubes filled with ricotta cheese.

You'll also find a dizzying selection of flavours, ranging from limoncello to Oreo to amaretto. If the queue's too long, try Modern Pastry down the road. Don't tell Mike, but some locals prefer it. mikespastry.com, modernpastry.com.

15. BOSTON PUBLIC GARDEN

Built in 1837, Boston Public Garden was the US's first public botanic garden. A beguiling montage of lakes, fountains and monuments, it remains an idyllic space in which to while away an afternoon.

Visit in summer and you can enjoy a paddle in one of the lake's famous Swan Boats.

The garden is also home to notable sculptures, including an imposing statue of George Washington and acute parade of bronze ducks inspired by a children's story.

16.JFK PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY AND MUSEUM

It's a bit of a trek to the John F. Kennedy library in the suburb of Dorchester, but you'll be rewarded with a fitting tribute to the 35th president of the US.

Not only is the building the official repository for the Kennedy administration's original papers and correspondence, but it also has the world's largest collection of Ernest Hemingway archival materials (JFK was a fanof the famed American writer), plus a fascinating exhibit on the space race, which would prove to be one of Kennedy's greatest legacies. jfklibrary.org.

17. SAMUEL ADAMS BREWERY TOUR

There's debate as to whether American revolutionary Samuel Adams brewed beer, but that hasn't stopped the Boston Beer Company using his name for its range of craft beers.

To learn more about the brewing process, take a 60-minute tour of the factory, which includes three tastings (providing you're 21 or older). There's no fee or reservation needed, just a suggested US$2 donation. samueladams.com.

18. WALK THE GREENWAY

Recognised as the largest and most technologically challenging highway project in US history, the Big Dig rerouted Interstate 93, the main artery through the heart of Boston, into a 5.6-kilometre-long tunnel.

A byproduct of the development was the creation of the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, a 2.4-kilometre ribbon of landscaped parks and plazas that stretches from Chinatown to North End. rosekennedygreenway.org.

19. ENJOY THE VIEW

For an aerial perspective of the city, it's hard to beat the 360-degree views from the Skywalk Observatory on the 50th floor of the Prudential Centre.

There are telescopes for zooming in on attractions, as well as acoustic guides and interactive exhibits for historical flavour. If the US$15 ($19) admission seems a little steep, for a $US3 donation you can get a similarly beguiling panorama from the observation deck on the 26th floor of the Marriott's Custom House Hotel. topofthehub.net/skywalk.php.

20. BEACON HILL

This quaint neighbourhood features narrow streets lined with handsome red-brick townhouses and Victorian-era gas lamps.

Explore the galleries, boutiques and cafes along Charles Street before strolling up the hill to admire the State House, an imposing federal-style building topped with an impressive gold-leaf-covered dome.

Be sure to check out the bronze relief memorial to Robert Gould Shaw and the all-African American 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment opposite. It's considered to be one of the finest sculptures in the country. beaconhillonline.com.

The writer travelled as a guest of the Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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