Oddly enough, my family never really vacationed north of Maryland when I was growing up, so New England has been a bit of a mystery to me — up until my twenties. I was able to visit a few spots in Connecticut during college, but I always wanted to travel to the heart of New England — Boston.
Well, this year, I finally made it happen — and I liked it so much, that I decided to go both in May and June of this year. I still have a lot of Boston I want to explore, but here’s a newbie’s guide to a few must-visit spots in the city!
Boston Travel Guide — Getting There & Getting Around
Getting to Boston is incredibly easy. I took the train on my first trip and opted for a flight for my second visit, and I enjoyed both options. Boston is the last stop on Amtrak’s Northeast Regional line, and you’ll end up right in the heart of town if you book a ticket for the Back Bay Station. Logan Airport was about a 20-minute ride from the Back Bay neighborhood, give or take a few minutes with traffic. The ride is even shorter if you opt to stay near the North End or in the Seaport District. If you want to jump on the T (aka their subway system), service from Logan Airport is always free. How cool is that? We were in a bit of a rush, so we opted for an Uber, but next time we plan on taking the T.
As for getting around town: I would highly recommend leaving your car at home. Between the Uber/Lyft, the subway, ferries, buses and more, you can easily get around town. Also, I found that a lot of the places we wanted to visit were fairly close to one another. We ended up staying in Cambridge across the river at the Royal Sonesta during our visit, and it was only a 10-15 minute Uber ride to all the spots in Back Bay and North End that we wanted to check out.
Boston Travel Guide — Where to Stay
- Westin Copley Place: The Westin Copley Place is located in the heart of the Back Bay neighborhood and steps away from the Boston Public Library, Newbury Street, and some incredible restaurants. We had the opportunity to stay in one of their stylish, renovated king rooms, and we loved every second of our visit. If you’re into health and wellness, the Westin Copley Place is the perfect destination for you: they recently made a few updates to their fitness studio, they offer group runs every Tuesday/Thursday, and you can even rent a New Balance workout gear just in case you didn’t pack any activewear (which is me nearly every trip!)
They also have a few restaurants on-site that offer healthy dining options as well. However, I like to indulge a bit while traveling, and enjoyed some of their local seafood offerings. I have an upcoming post with more of a detailed review of my stay at the Westin; stay tuned!
- Royal Sonesta Boston: The Royal Sonesta Boston is a charming, vibrant property located across the river in Cambridge, MA. Even though it was not located in Boston proper, it was only a 10-15 minute Uber ride into town, and there were also plenty of fun things to do in Cambridge as well. I loved how the property was right on the water: it offered some of the most incredible views of both the Charles River and the city. Read more in my detailed review here!
Boston Travel Guide — Things to Do
- See a Red Sox Game. I’m not a Sox fan, but I enjoyed my time at the iconic Fenway Park. I have to be candid: I was nervous because I’m sure we’ve all read horror stories of rowdy fans at the park, but we opted for an afternoon game in the middle of the week, and it was delightful. Fenway is a charming, old-school baseball stadium, and now I see why it’s dubbed “America’s Most Beloved Ballpark.”
- Visit the ICA. This might be one of the coolest art museums I’ve ever been to — and considering I was raised in D.C. in the land of Smithsonians, which says a lot! The ICA sits right on the water in the Seaport District, and it offers an incredible variety of exhibitions. During our visit, the Art in the Age of the Internet: 1989 to Today exhibit was open, and it had an amazing virtual reality piece produced by Jon Rafman that overlooked the water. They currently have a new exhibit open for summer, but I would highly recommend visiting!
- Take the Hahvahd Tour. Since we were staying in Cambridge during our first visit, I knew I wanted to see Harvard University. The Hahvahd Tour is a hilarious student-led tour that runs for 70-minutes and gives you all the inside scoop on the iconic college.
- Marvel at the Boston Public Library. If you do anything in Boston, take the time to wander around the Boston Public Library. It’s completely free, and one of the most stunning libraries I’ve ever visited. Get the scoop on the afternoon tea session we had in the Food & Drink section below!
- Shop on Newbury Street. For world-class shopping, take a stroll down Newbury Street. There’s a great mix of big-box retailers and local boutiques to browse. A highlight for me was the Tea Forte flagship store. Head in and do a tea tasting, and pick up some of their amazing products to take home.
- Cruise on the River with Discover Boating. Boston in the summer is glorious, my friends. Take advantage of being so close to the water, and charter a boat via Discover Boating. We headed to the Navy Yard in Charlestown, MA and cruised all around Boston — and we were able to soak up some of the best views of the city.
- Stop by the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Hands down, this is one of the most stunning, unique museums I’ve ever visited. Take the time to do the full tour of the museum: Gardner was a fascinating woman, and it was an incredible experience learning about her past, how she curated such an incredible collection of art and founded this one of a kind museum.
- Browse the Boston Public Market. If you want to try all things local, I’d highly recommend making a stop at the Boston Public Market. I could have spent all day here sampling all of the delicious eats!
- Take a stroll down the Charles River Esplanade. If it’s nice outside, definitely take a stroll, a run, a bike ride or set up a picnic on the Esplanade. It’s roughly a three-mile path, and you can soak up great views of Cambridge, rent a boat, or even relax in one of the hammock trees along the trail (bring your own hammock, though!)
Boston Travel Guide — Where to Eat & Drink
- Afternoon Tea at the Boston Public Library: While you’re roaming around the BPL, head over to The Courtyard Restaurant for their afternoon tea, which is served Tuesday-Saturday from 11:30am-5pm. Grab a seat near the window if you can — I loved looking out onto the courtyard during tea; it made for some amazing people-watching. Food-wise, you’ll enjoy a set menu: three tiers of scones, petit fours, and finger sandwiches. For drinks, you can choose from a wide selection of teas and a few cocktails as well.
- Scampo: You can’t go to Boston without enjoying some delicious Italian food. Scampo is upscale, trendy, and I loved how some of the dishes had Middle Eastern influences. Try out the mozzarella bar selections, you will not be disappointed!
- Al Dente: If you’re looking for Italian food with a bit more casual of a setting, Al Dente in the North End is your spot. Surprisingly, they offer gluten-free and low-fat options on their menu, but you can get all of the delicious Italian classics as well. I’d highly recommend making a reservation for Al Dente: this cozy
- Trattoria Il Panino: Il Panino is a local favorite, and was the perfect option for date night. The atmosphere was still a bit on the casual side, and the dishes were reasonably priced. However, they had an incredible wine selection, and the service is excellent.
- Boston Pizza Tour: The Boston Pizza Tour was one of the highlights of our trip. Not only did we get to sample some of the best pizza in the North End, but we also got to learn more about the history of the city and made five stops along the Freedom Trail. I definitely want to do this again, but try out the “Pizza After Dark” tour to experience a few nightlife options along the way as well.
- Row 34: If you’re an oyster lover, you have to make a trip to Row 34 in the Seaport District. They had a delicious, extensive selection of oysters, as well as fresh seafood dishes and a great craft beer lineup.
- Pier6: After our boat cruise, we enjoyed a delicious dinner at Pier6 in the Navy Yard. The restaurant is incredible: you could enjoy panoramic views of the Boston skyline while dining, and they had some of the freshest New England seafood options.
- North Square Oyster: We didn’t get the chance to dine at North Square Oyster, but they have a separate cocktail bar which was the perfect spot for a nightcap. It’s cozy and has limited seating, but the bartender whipped us up the most delicious drinks we had in Boston.
- Ward 8: If you’re looking for a boozy brunch, Ward 8 is a solid bet. In addition to incredible drink specials, they have delicious oyster shooters and 2-foot tall cocktails that are garnished with an entire bottle of champagne.
Photos by Tom McGovern
A big thank you to Boston USA and The Westin Copley Place for coordinating most of the above experiences! All thoughts and opinions are my own.