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Boston Travel Guide

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Most people will know Boston as the setting for TV favourites, Ally McBeal, St. Elsewhere and Cheers; the birthplace of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, Mark Wahlberg, Dennis Leary, Donna Summer, Aerosmith, Leonard Nimoy and, of course, JFK. But New England’s largest and most important city is inextricably linked with the roots of America’s economic and social development. The site of two of the most significant events in the country’s history, the Boston Tea Party and the Battle of Bunker Hill it remains at the hub of US political, economical and educational affairs.

50 colleges in the vicinity it is the University Centre of the USA a factor that has no small influence on the restoration and preservation of the City’s most celebrated buildings and neighbourhoods. Wandering around Boston it is easy to imagine you have stepped back in time. It may not have the razzamatazz associated many of America’s major tourist destinations but as Adam Gaffin of Boston Online puts it, ‘If you miss Boston, you`ll regret it. It`s THE place to see how America got its start. And bring your walking shoes - it`s a fantastic place to explore on foot.’

It’ s true. Boston is the favourite City in the USA for people to walk around and it’s not surprising. It would be a crime to miss any of the magnificent architecture that’s been so lovingly restored. A great way to see the sites and spend a day getting to know Boston is by taking the Freedom Trail, a three-mile walk linking 16 sites of historical interest. Starting at Boston Common the country’s oldest public park and a traditional bastion of free speech you simply follow the red line painted on the sidewalk.

The Trail will take you to the New State House, with its magnificent golden dome, the centre of politics in Boston since 1795. A highlight of the tour is the beautiful King’s Chapel Burying Ground, one of three burial sites on the Trail, and the first Unitarian Church to be built in the USA after the Revolution. The spot at which you’ll probably spend the most time Boston’s is famous ‘Cradle of Liberty’, Faneuil Hall. To this day it houses a thriving market place and meeting rooms and now includes the Honourable Artillery Company Museum on its third floor. When the Trail reaches Charlestown Navy Yard you’ll come across USS Constitution, the oldest commissioned warship in the world still afloat. Appropriately enough the Trail ends at Bunker Hill Monument. This 214ft obelisk commemorates the famous battle of 1775 (which actually took place on Breed’s Hill) and if you still have some energy you can climb the 294 steps to enjoy a superb view of the City. Be warned: there is no elevator.

Continuing in historical mood, Boston also has many excellent Museums. The most famous of which, the John F Kennedy Library & Museum has a comprehensive collection of movies, documents and photos tracing the life and times of America’s most fondly remembered president. On a more novel note the Boston Tea Party Ship Museum is a life size replica of the notorious boat from which disgruntled (and apparently very drunk) inhabitants dumped 100,000 tons of tea into the harbour. The ship contains numerous exhibits relating to the City’s troubled history and, of course, tea is served. The vast Museum of Fine Arts is well worth a visit. You’ll need to put aside the best part of a day if you want to really do it justice. The collection features beautiful exhibits from around the world including works by Monet, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, El Greco and Gaugin. The imposing Museum of Science is another full day out (at least). With 450 interactive exhibits, the museum covers everything from natural history and marine biology to electronics and astronomy. You can come face to face with huge dinosaurs, create lightning bolts, see the heavens in the planetarium and embark on wonderful journeys of discovery in the Imax theatre.

Boston is also a great place from which to explore New England. You can visit Cambridge next-door, home of the most famous University in the USA, Harvard. Famous for its museums and square filled with bookshops, a visit to this most revered of alma maters is a fascinating experience, the architecture is a history lesson in itself and the surrounding area is vibrant and intriguing. Another favourite day out is a trip to the notorious town of Salem - the town that spawned a thousand tales of the supernatural. You can still visit the haunted ‘House of Seven Gables’ that inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic 18th century gothic novel. As you would expect there are various Witch related attractions including the Witch Museum with its full size model of the torture process (very tasteful). There’s the Witch Dungeon Museum where they re-enact the infamous trials of 1692 and the Peabody Essex Museum home to fascinating art including The Real Witchcraft Papers, the 500-plus documents actually recorded during the trials.

If you’re looking to chill out for the day then Cape Cod is just a short distance away. Here you’ll find over seventy miles of beautiful beaches. Five miles to the south is Martha's Vineyard a picturesque island and a favourite tourist spot. Here you’ll find the famous Black Dog Café and Oak Bluff Beach (made famous by Jaws). Stop off in Edgartown where the homes of scores of whaling captains have been beautifully preserved and you’ll feel you have stepped into a 19th century seaport village.

As with most port cities Boston has a relatively cosmopolitan population a fact that fortunately reflected in the food on offer throughout the City. You can quite literally travel the culinary world and enjoy some of the very best cuisine the country has to offer. For traditional New England cooking there’s America’s oldest restaurant The Olde Oyster House that serves spectacular. Italian is also well served with Mama Maria’s and D`Amore`s two of the most romantic. Chinatown has a dazzling choice of oriental eating-houses including authentic, Chinese, Vietnamese, Cambodian and Taiwanese restaurants. For a mouth-watering taste of the Mediterranean you can’t go wrong with Olives and for the health conscious diner Suntory Japanese Restaurant serves excellent Sushi. By the way you would be well advised to avoid the ‘Cheers’ bar in town, as besides being in a basement it looks nothing like its TV counterpart.

Boston is a nice city. It is clean, accessible and above all friendly. For those looking for an American vacation where you can easily avoid overt commercialisation it is ideal. It is a city where you can both relax and still enjoy a fulfilling and exciting visit. Not only will you come away rested and a little wiser you will come away eager to return.

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