Last time I visited Boston I ran into movie star Matt Damon jumping out of a car and running down the street.
It was on a movie tour of the historic city that has been the site of more than 400 movies and television shows.
This time, I discovered there’s so much more to Boston, the capital of Massachusetts and one of the oldest cities in the US.
It doesn’t take long to fall under its charm.
Here are some of the attractions you won’t want to miss.
This is one of the prettiest parks and the oldest in the US, dating back to 1634 when it was used as a cow pasture. Cows were formerly banned in the 1830s.
No wonder Bostonians are very proud of this 20 hectare park.
There’s a visitors centre for all of Boston on the Tremont Street side of the park.
It is home to the cute bronze ducklings that featured in the children’s picture book by American Robert McCloskey published in 1941.
The lake’s famous Swan Boats, which are the harbinger of spring to native Bostonians, are also out on the water in the sunshine.
Movies filmed in the Boston Common include Cheers, The Departed, Ally McBeal, The Company Men, Glory and Good Will Hunting.
Beacon Hill is the most filmed section of Boston. With its quaint streets, flowering window boxes and Federal style row houses it lives up to its name as the most expensive real estate in the city. It was named after a beacon that was placed at the top of the hill to warn residents about an invasion.
Birthplace of America
Boston is known as the birthplace of America and there was plenty of action during the American Revolution including the Boston Massacre and the Boston Tea Party. Several early battles of the American Revolution, such as the Battle of Bunker Hill and the Siege of Boston , occurred within the city and surrounding areas.
The best way to get a feel for the history of the city is to follow the Freedom Trail, a 4km red-brick walking trail that leads to 16 historically significant sites including museums, churches, meeting houses, burial grounds, parks, a ship and historic markers that tell the story of the American Revolution.
Follow guides dressed as historic characters at the start of the revolt against Britain. Players lead you on all Freedom Trail Tours, regaling all with stories of the brave men and women who risked everything to create the new nation.
Archie, a second year Harvard maths student, reveals a few secrets about life in these hallowed walls of America’s most prestigious University.
The 70-minute walking tours launch daily and are scripted as a theatrical experience.
We stop at a statue of Harvard founder, John Harvard that featured in the movie The Social Network. Archie advises us against following the time-honoured tradition of rubbing Harvard’s left boot, which is done to bring good luck.
Student pranksters have taken to regularly emptying their bladders over it, giving new meaning to the phrase “going to the john.”
Archie points out the dormitory where Zuckerberg came up with his multibillion-dollar concept Face Book and the grand buildings erected with endowments by Bill Gates.
Boston Public Market
Step inside this iconic building and you can smell the goodies from freshly brewed coffee to the best fudge ever.
The indoor, year round marketplace features fresh, seasonal food from 40 New England farmers, fish merchants, and food entrepreneurs. Dine-in or shop for produce, meat and poultry, eggs, dairy, fish, bread and baked goods, beverages, and speciality and prepared foods. There are also kids activities, cooking demonstrations, classes and events.
Red’s Best offers seafood that is traceable back to the fisherman who caught it. They share the fisherman pride and the story of each and every catch.
A free, one hour, guided tour of the Boston Public Market is offered to learn about the story, explore the space and meet the makers who grow, catch, brew, raise, cultivate, bake, ferment, cook, and harvest their food.
Location: 100 Hanover St Haymarket Station.
How do you beautify a former expressway?
Bostonians got it right with the fabulous Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, a linear park located in several downtown neighbourhoods.
Known as the Big Dig project it now feature landscaped gardens, promenades, plazas, fountains, art, and specialty lighting systems that stretch through the Chinatown, Financial District Waterfront, and North End.
Opened in October 2008, the 6.8 hectare Green Way sits on land created from demolition of the John F Fitzgerald Expressway.
It is named after Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy , the matriarch of the Kennedy Family who was born in the neighbouring North End neighbourhood.
It is the country’s only organically maintained public park and hosts more than 400 free events a year including exercise classes, public markets and mobile eateries. There’s a carousel and lots of public art.
Standouts include the Meeting House by Mark Reigelman inspired by the simple architecture of the area’s first colonial settlers and fabricated using traditional materials and techniques. The precariously-positioned New England Quaker-style structure that sinks into the lawn encourages visitors to explore the area’s built environment, consider the layers of history that make up Boston’s unique landscape, and challenge notions of community.
A mural by Iranian artist Mehdi Ghadyanloo, titled Spaces of Hope, is the fifth mural to adorn the popular Greenway Wall.
Boston Harbour Cruise
A great way to discover the history of Boston is to take a BHC historic cruise where an excellent guide provides an informative commentary about the inner and outer harbours. The 90-minute cruise includes stories of the Revolutionary War, local legends of the sea, and colourful characters past and present.
It also includes how the harbour was transformed into one of the cleanest in the country. Other highlights include passing the nation’s oldest continuously manned lighthouse, the Harbor Islands National Park area, Boston’s working port and passing expensive harbour dwellings. It’s a great day out.
Faneuil Hall Marketplace is four great places in one location – Faneuil Hall, Quincy Market, North Market and South Market, all set around a cobblestone promenade where jugglers, magicians and musicians entertain visitors.
In 1742 Peter Faneuil, Boston’s wealthiest merchant, built Faneuil Hall as a gift to the city.
It was home to merchants, fishermen, and meat and produce sellers, and provided a platform for the country’s most famous orators. It is where colonists first protested the Sugar Act in 1764 and established the doctrine of “no taxation without representation.”
Firebrand Samuel Adams rallied the citizens of Boston to the cause of independence from Great Britain in the hallowed Hall, and George Washington toasted the nation there on its first birthday.
Through the years, Faneuil Hall has played host to many impassioned speakers, from Oliver Wendall Holmes and Susan B. Anthony to Bill Clinton and Ted Kennedy, always living up to its nickname, “The Cradle of Liberty.”
These days it is a shopper’s paradise and a food haven and a popular place for locals and tourists.
There are hundreds of shops, stalls and cafes.
Try the seafood chowder in bread bowls which is delicious and the latest craze Wicked Good Cup Cakes in a jar. They are located in the centre rotunda and a sheer indulgence.
Sports lovers will enjoy a visit to Boston’s famous Fenway Park, known as baseball mecca. Built in 1914, it is the oldest stadium still used in US professional sports.
It is home to the much cherished Boston Red Sox baseball team, who waited 86-years before claiming victory in 2 World Series since 2004.
Known as America’s Most Beloved Ballpark, it is a place where dreams are made, traditions are celebrated and baseball is forever.
It is the home of Red Sox Legends, Williams, Yaz, Fisk and Rice.
A guided one hour tour is a great way to see the highlights and allows time for photos.
We sit in the oldest seats in all of Major League Baseball, visit the Press Box, and take pictures from atop the Green Monster, a popular nickname for the 11.33 m high left field which is only 94 metres from home plate and is a popular target for right-handed hitters.
Most fascinating is the single red seat among a sea of green seats. The lone red seat in the right field bleachers (Section 42, Row 37, Seat 21) signifies the longest home run ever hit at Fenway. The home run, hit by Ted Williams on June 9, 1946, was officially measured at 153 m. Baseball lovers can book that seat for a game.
Two monuments marking the location of the Boston Marathon bombings will be unveiled next year, the fifth anniversary of the terror attack on Boylston Street in Boston that killed three spectators and injured more than 260 others.
The finish line is across the road from the Lenox Hotel.
Don’t be surprised if you end up on a movie lot – there are so many movies being made in Boston.
Little did I expect to turn a corner and end up on a movie lot on my way to the Boston Common.
“Movies are a way of life here,” says a local and self-confessed movie buff as we stand behind a rope barrier manned by security guards.
He then proceeds to list movies and series made in this city including The Departed, Good Will Hunting, Cheers, The Town, Legally Blonde, Ally McBeal, Mystic River, Boston Legal, Knight & Day, 21, Fever Pitch, Gone Baby Gone, Shutter Island and The Social Network.
Boston Movie Walking Tour – visit.screentours.com
Where to Stay
The Lenox is an historic chic 214-room hotel located in the heart of Boston.
It is close to fabulous boutiques, art galleries, cafes and restaurants. It’s a short walk to the Boston Public Library, America’s first, the ever-popular Copley Square, Trinity Church, the Prudential Centre, and Newbury Street.
Legendary singer Judy Garland lived at the Lenox in 1968. A suite has been named in her honour and exudes old Hollywood glamour in a lavishly designed apartment-style suite with an Italian marble bathroom and a vintage crystal chandelier.
A nice touch
If you have a fireplace in your room, staff will light it providing a cosy haven on a chilly night.
Where to Spa
The Langham Hotel Boston located in the former Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. features 318 guestrooms and suites.
The hotel has an indoor pool and gym as well as a Chuan Body and Soul Spa where the hot rocks treatment is amazing. Facials, scrubs and wraps are also on offer and perfect for banishing signs of jetlag.
For details visit boston.langhamhotels.com
Great Tip – Invest in a Boston City Pass visit citypass.com/boston
For more information visit bostonusa.com