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Boston

Wear red socks with your Converse. Rebecca Knight on jazz and lobster in America’s most museumly city

rebecca knight | September/October 2014

Don't visit from December to March, unless you love the cold. Come in bloomy May, August (blueberry season) or better still October, when you can ooh at the changing leaves in crisp sweater weather.

Do stay in Back Bay or Beacon Hill, all tree-lined streets and ivy-covered brownstones. Try the Eliot Hotel or the Liberty, formerly the Charles Street Jail, overlooking the river.

Do tune into the Boston accent, typified by broad As and the marked absence of the letter R.

Don't pahk the cah at Hahvad Yahdor anywhere: Boston’s meter readers are an officious bunch. Happily, it’s a compact walking city and the T (subway) is easy to navigate.

Do bring the kids who will enjoy the Museum of Science and the refurbished Aquarium. Then head to the Public Garden for a swan boat ride and to pay your respects to a bronze sculpture of Mrs Mallard from “Make Way for Ducklings”.

Do while away an afternoon at one of the grand old museums: the Museum of Fine Arts or the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Or check out the Institute of Contemporary Art—for the spectacular view of the harbour.

Don't fuss about dress. Bostonians, by and large, are unfazed by fashion. Understatement rules.

Don't bother with the tourist-trap seafood restaurants around Copley Square. Rather head to Island Creek Oyster Bar in Kenmore or the Yankee Lobster Company on the waterfront.

DO take in a Red Sox game at Fenway, the oldest Major League ballpark in America. But be advised: Boston is a sports town and fans are fervent.

Do cross the Charles to Cambridge and stroll through the grassy lawns, soaring oaks and hallowed brick buildings of Harvard Yard. The free, student-led walking tour is a good way to learn about the university’s history.

Do lace up your Converse (a local brand) and hit the Freedom Trail. The two-and-a-half-mile route from Boston Common to Charlestown is where you’ll find famous historical landmarks including the Old North Church, whose lanterns warned of advancing British troops in 1775.

Don't bother with Faneuil Hall Marketplace. The area where Samuel Adams rallied the citizens for independence is today mostly filled with identikit restaurants and chain stores. Instead, explore the North End for Italian food and quirky shops including Acquire on Salem Street, which specialises in unusual home goods, and Fleet Street’s Twilight.

Do head to Cape Cod for a few days of sand and sea. In peak season, there’s a high-speed ferry from Boston to Provincetown.

Do devote an evening to jazz. Wally’s Café on Mass Ave is the real deal and doesn’t have a cover charge. It was founded in 1947 by Joseph Walcott, the first African–American nightclub owner in New England.

Don't expect to be out late. Boston’s Puritan roots run deep.

Readers' comment

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Dr Walter Heale - June 27th 2016

WFH: A lot of history between the Old North Church and the Old South Meeting Hall on the Boston Freedom Trail, culminating in the reading of the Declaration of Independence from the balcony of the Old State House in 1776. The Trail worth an article of its own? Pleasant weather in Boston in late September.