Boston has been on my travel list since high school, but as time went on getting to the east coast seemed less and less a possibility and my plans to visit Boston were put on the back burner. That was until my parents invited me to go with them on their vacation to Nantucket last summer with a connecting flight through Boston and suddenly I was finally going to visit this place I’d been waiting to see for a decade!
This wasn’t a proper visit, more of a glorified layover. Between my flight arriving at 5:30 am and my return flight back to LA at 6 pm, a few days later, I had about twelve hours to explore the city. Shortly after landing I discovered that my friends from Germany were passing through town on the day I flew out so we planned to meet up for lunch. It was a last minute trip invite, but I did some research and made a list of things I wanted to see. Traveling, as with life, doesn’t always go according to plan, though. I chose to visit something that was a total bust and worst of all I ended up misjudging the amount of time it would take to use public transportation to get to the airport and missed my flight home. So I will label that section: Things Not to Do. LOL. Overall I had a great visit to Boston and what’s life without a few misses? It only makes me want to make the next time even better! So here we go, my (mis) adventures in Beantown. I hope you enjoy the trip!
The apartment my parents were staying at was in the Beacon Hill neighborhood. Once where black people lived segregated, now it’s one of the most desirable neighborhoods in the city. (ahhh irony) When walking around the neighborhood it’s obvious why, beautiful brick row houses, many with copper facades and details line every street. There are several houses and buildings that played a role in the changing tide of African American rights during the Revolution. You can follow the Black Heritage Trail which links up with the Freedom Trail at the Old State House. There is also a free guided tour by the National Park Service as well as an audio tour you can download.
The Freedom Trail
If you only have a few hours in Boston, following the Freedom Trail is a great way to see a lot without having to plan anything in advance. It’s a two and a half mile trail marked by brass plates in the ground that takes you across the city to all of the places where famous things in American history happened. Boston is the birthplace of the American Revolution and a surprising amount of original buildings are still there. You can choose to take a guided tour or you can easily follow the brass markers through the city on your own. They have all kinds of tours, even a running tour. (Yes, really. Google it!) Starting in Boston Common and ending with the USS Constitution there are 16 official points of interest on the Freedom Trail. We were able to knock out five points on the trail in a short walk of less than a mile:
Old State House/Site of Boston Massacre
The Old State House is the oldest building in Boston and is also the site of the Boston Massacre which sparked the American Revolution. The State House has a museum but we chose not to visit because we were short on time. There’s a big brass marker in the front of the building that marks the spot where the Boston Massacre happened. Only four people were killed, but it was enough to started the Revolutionary War.
Old Corner Bookstore
On the corner of Washington and School Streets is a Chipotle in a barn shaped brick building. This building was built in 1718 and was once the home of Anne Hutchinson, the woman who was banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for heresy. Later it was the site of many retail establishments, most famously the Old Corner Bookstore, and is now a Chipotle. (I think there’s a Joni Mitchell song in there somewhere.)
Old South Meeting House
Kitty-corner from the Chipotle is the Old South Meeting House. Originally a meeting
house for the Puritans, and a few decades later was the hall where Sam Adams may or may not have told five thousand Bostonians to dump tea in Boston Harbor.
Benjamin Franklin Statue/Latin School
We just walked by this place but it’s one of the oldest schools in the country and a bunch of founding fathers and revolutionaries attended.
King’s Chapel and Burying Ground
The church was having a service when I was there, but the attached burial ground is a great alternative. It’s smaller than the Granary down the road, and there are not any famous people buried in it that I am aware of, but if you’re like me and obsessed with history and cemeteries, or if you just really like Hocus Pocus (no judgement) – you will love this.
Granary Burying Ground
The Granary Burying Ground is on the edge of Boston Common which is the end of the Freedom Trail. John Hancock, Paul Revere and Ben Franklin’s parents are all buried here along with several thousand others. There are also commemorative stones for Sam Adams and the victims of the Boston Massacre.
Samuel Adams – Boston Brewery
I started off my morning with a tour of the Boston Brewery, where Samuel Adams beer is made. They have tours every 40 minutes and include an overview of what goes into the beer, and how the beer is made, followed by a tasting session. Their first tour is at 9:30 am and since I got off the plane from Nantucket around 7 am I was on my way to the brewery to get a morning buzz. But I was not alone, there were at least 40 other people on the tour with me! We sampled 5 beers, and got to keep our cute little sample glasses. The tour was funny and informative – definitely would come back here again. There are other breweries in Boston as well if you are more for the craft beer, like Trillium that a good friend of mine recommended but I didn’t have enough time to get to.
My maternal grandmother was a Christian Scientist and my mom and her siblings were raised in the church. The First Church of Christ, Scientist is referred to as the Mother Church and located in the South End of Boston. My mom reminded me that the church was here and I wanted to be able to see it while I was in town. I was running short on time so I was only able to see the outside. I would love to see inside the church as well as the Mapparium, the three-story domed globe built in the 1930s.
After lunch we walked through North Square Park to the Old North Church where Paul Revere’s famous midnight ride began. It’s the church where two lanterns were hung in the steeple to alert everyone the British were coming by sea. Following the Freedom Trail from Revere’s House to the Church you will walk through first Paul Revere’s Mall
with a statue depicting his famous ride and then a brick paved courtyard with a traditional chocolate shop where you can learn how they made chocolate in the 1700s and stock up on treats. The inside of the church is unique (not to Boston, just to any church I’ve seen outside the city) where the lower level of the church has family boxes instead of pews. The only people allowed to sit in the boxes are the families who paid for them.
What Not to Do
Museum of Bad Art
When I was researching things to see I stumbled across the Museum of Bad Art. I thought it sounded like a unique place to visit while I was in Boston, I mean where else would you find a museum dedicated to terrible art? I could feel at home here! But unfortunately, their website belied the fact that they are not the type of museum I had imagined, but instead were a wall space on the third floor of a school office building. I wish I had known this before taking the train all the way out to the Brookline neighborhood and wasting time I could have been spending somewhere else. If you are already in the neighborhood, it’s a fun thing to see. But it’s not worth the trip, in my opinion. I’m surprised, actually, that I didn’t look for reviews of the museum, because I usually check yelp for everything. Oh well, I’ll chalk it up to experience and pass along my goof so that you, dearest readers, do not fall victim as well!
Missing My Flight!
In all the years I have traveled, I have never missed a flight. Almost missed, yes. But never actually missed. A combination of spending too much time in the city, it taking a long time to get my bags from where I left them at South Station, and afternoon traffic heading to the airport, I arrived at the airport too late to board my flight. I was on jetBlue (who is fabulous, if you didn’t already know) and the booking flight attendant was very nice and was able to reschedule me for a later flight that day, connecting out of JFK. The flight left a few hours later, so I after getting through security I stopped to get some much needed chocolate and a bottle of water before walking to my gate. Where I discovered, that my new flight was DELAYED which would cause me to miss my connection. The gate attendants were ridiculously helpful, even with all the other people asking for things from them, and looked for another flight to get me home. But as much as they could do, the flight I was rebooked on was the last one leaving Boston that day. Which meant that I had to stay another night in Boston. Luckily, I was able to book a hostel for that night and grab an uber to the airport as the sun was rising with no traffic. Hooray technology!
Pro Tip: Give yourself plenty of time to get to the airport, but even if you miss your flight, it’s not the end of the world.
Boston is one of those cities that has so much to offer trying to narrow it down to a few things is not easy. Do I wish that I had managed my time in Boston better? Do I wish I could have seen more? Of course. But am I happy with what I was able to accomplish alone in a city I have never been to before? Yes. Am I beyond stoked to give up some of the time I could have spent waiting in line at Paul Revere’s house to eat lunch with friends I hadn’t seen in a few years who happened to be passing through the city on the same day I was in town? Absolutely. You better believe my next trip to Beantown will be 1) longer and 2) great!