Boston is known for its famous clam chowder, the Boston Marathon, the bar from Cheers, baseball (the Red Sox), Fenway Park and of course, baked beans. But did you know that Boston is famous also for its rich history, and that it was the birthplace of the American Revolution (Boston Tea Party, anyone)?
The Massachusetts capital is also known as the Athens of America for its artistic and intellectual prowess — after all, it does boast of some of the greatest colleges and universities such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, Tufts University and Berklee School of Music.
It is also known as the city of many (American) firsts: America’s first public school, first public-supported free municipal library, first park, first chocolate factory, first subway, and first public beach! Loaded with history and an active, intellectual culture, there are lots of things Boston is famous for:
1. Freedom Trail
Boston played a major role in the American Revolution, and it is little surprise that it is full of history. Who can forget “the shot that rang ’round the world”, a description of the opening shot of the Battle of Concord in 1775, that led to the beginning of the American revolution and eventually, the creation of the United States of America! To make areas of national importance more accessible to tourists, the Freedom Trail was started. It was initially envisioned by Bill Schofield, a writer at the Boston Herald-Traveler, and Bob Winn, a member of the Old North Church.
Today, Freedom Trail can be called a one-stop-shop of major historical sites in the Massachusetts capital. With a path of 2.5 miles, the Freedom Trail covers 16 historic sites. It is marked by a painted red path and red bricks. The trail starts from Boston Common, the oldest park in the whole of United States of America, and covers the Boston Latin School (US’ oldest public school), the Old Corner Bookstore, the Old South Meeting House, the Boston Massacre Site, the Faneuil Hall, the Paul Revere House, the Old North Church (the site that to have launched the revolution!), USS Constitution, and more!
2. Boston Common
According to Boston government’s website, Boston has as many as 217 parks! There are green spaces covering 2,300 acres of land in Boston so it would be redundant to say how much the city loves its viridescent landscape.
Boston’s well-known park, of course, is the Boston Common. Founded in 1643, it is the oldest park in America and has been a witness to all of history. It has seen military trainings, executions, sermons and has also been a ground for free speech — it heard the echoes of anti-war and civil rights rallies. It was also where the Founding Fathers of the nation gathered to celebrate their independence — George Washington and John Adams.
But parks in Boston are not just green spaces. It is where one can participate in numerous activities that take place throughout the year. With amphitheaters, sports facilities, and art spaces, these areas are clearly much more than just scenic vistas. You could also visit a number of other parks such as the Boston Public Garden (don’t miss the Boat Swan here and the beautiful fall greenery), and Rose Kennedy Greenway.
3. Boston colleges and universities
Boston is known as the Athens of America and for good reason. It is here that seeds of political freedom were sown and dispersed. And it is here that thinking and artistic pursuits were encouraged. In fact, the Constitution of Massachusetts, 1780, specifically entails that pursuit of arts and science be encouraged. And that is clearly being upheld seeing as how some of the smartest, most creative minds, study and learn at the world’s best universities, such as MIT, Harvard, Tufts, and Berklee School of Music.
4. Boston Tea Party
This act could be said to be a precursor of sorts to the American Revolution. The American colonists were tired of being taxed without having any representation in the British Parliament. The last straw was when the British, while abolishing most other taxes, did not repeal the tea tax. As protest, the American colonists boarded three British tea ships, and threw 342 chests of tea into the sea! Today, there is the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum that has live enactments of the event. Tickets to the events cost $29.95 per adult and $21.95 for children between ages of five and 12. Buying these online will be marginally cheaper.
5. Fenway Park
No trip to Boston is complete without a visit to the Fenway Park, which is home of the legendary Red Sox, the city’s American League baseball team. It opened in 1912 and still attracts crowds of unimaginable size. Even if you’re not a fan of baseball, you can take a tour of the park to understand and appreciate its traditions and how well-loved this sport is. And of course, see Boston’s famous ‘Green Monster’ wall which is 37 feet and two inches tall. You could either catch a game during season or participate in the walking tour they offer and learn more about its history in the Hall of Fame.
But the Massachusetts capital is not just about baseball. Bostonians love their sports. After all, it is located in the country basketball was invented in, so it makes sense that Boston has its own football team, the New England Patriots. It also has its ice-hockey team, the Boston Bruins, and its own basketball team, the Boston Celtics. If you’re a sports fanatic, you should definitely visit The Sports Museum located at TD Garden, which has exhibits celebrating sports in Boston and other places.
7. Boston Public Market
Craving delicious pastries or donuts? How about some artisanal bread? Or coffee that is sourced from farms all over the world? Some pasta? Wine? Seafood? Cold-cut meats? Fruits and veggies?
If any of this excites you enough to want to check it out, head over to the Boston Public Market where you can have all this and more! Once you choose how to want to make your tummy happy, you can carry your food to the Kennedy Greenway or sit at the City Hall Plaza and watch people go by as you lose yourself in the flavors of your food.
The Market also offers tours, where guests can explore the space and interact with the makers. They also offer a number of classes in The Kitchen, a demo space that has all sorts of activities related to food, health and wellness.
8. Faneuil Hall Marketplace
This is one of the popular stops in the Freedom Trail. Built in 1741 as a commerce center, it was the place where America’s first Town Meeting was held! It has been witness to several speeches by Samuel Adams, James Otis, and others who encouraged independence from the Royal rule. It is sometimes referred to as “home of the free speech” and “the Cradle of Liberty”.
Today, four buildings constitute the Faneuil Hall Marketplace: Faneuil Hall, Quincy Market, North Market and South Market. Here, you can find jugglers, magicians, singers, performers of all kinds entertaining passersby at the cobblestone promenade. You can shop, eat, be entertained, all in one place!
As testimony to the fact that Boston encourages learning and the arts, there are numerous museums one can visit depending on their interest. There’s the Museum of Fine Arts that is housed in a neoclassical architectural design. Opened to the public in 1876 with 5,600 art pieces, today, the collection includes 500,000 art works! It contains within it ancient Egyptian, Greek, Native American and more contemporary artists as well.
Then there is the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum that houses the collection of Isabella Stewart Gardner that she herself arranged. She reveled in traveling and had a penchant for finer things in life. You could also visit the Harvard Art Museum, Harvard Museum of Natural History, the Institute of Contemporary Art, the Museum of African American History and more.
10. USS Constitution
In the line of history and museums is also the USS Constitution, the oldest commissioned ship in the United States’ Navy. Here, you can check out the cannons used in the 1812 battle against the British. The battle was how the warship earned the monicker of “Old Ironsides”, because the cannons fired at her apparently just bounced off her side! Located at Charlestown waterfront, it is considered the second last stop of the Freedom Trail.
11. Boston nightlife
While Boston may have quaint streets and stately history, it also has some pretty fun stuff to do after the sun goes down. If you’re looking to party, there are numerous options to pick from, such as Royale, Club Cafe (said to be the hottest gay bar in town), The Grand, Tunnel, Venu and more. You also have bars near the Faneuil Hall Marketplace, but since it is located close to TD Garden, most are sports bars.
But if you’d like to do something different, like gaze at the stars and planets, head over to Boston University’s Judson B. Coit Observatory, which opens its door — or roof, in this case — every Wednesday for the public to view the stars and planets via their telescope. The entry to this is free, but you’d do well to reserve your ticket in advance for guaranteed entry.
12. Annual events
Boston is a city that prides itself on its history and traditions. It is only natural that it has a number of annual events. Starting with, of course, the Boston Marathon, the oldest marathon that began in 1897, and continues to be one of the most prestigious events. With a sizeable number of Irish immigrants’ descendants, the St Patrick’s Day Parade is celebrated with a lot of pomp and ceremony here. It includes lots of green, marching bands, floats and of course, Irish pubs. Then there is the Harbor fest, the country’s largest Fourth of July festival; the Patriot’s Day Parade and First Night, among a few others.
13. Boston Symphony Orchestra
Boston Symphony Orchestra is the second oldest of the five major American symphony orchestras. It gave its first performance in 1881, and continues to delight lovers of symphony. You could take a tour of the concert hall, or even dine here.
14. Boston Duck Boat Tour
Imagine travelling in an automobile that can traverse land as well as water. This was something I fantasised building as child! But Boston Duck Tour offers just that. You go around soaking in the views of Boston, passing through its historical landmarks, when suddenly, you’re heading towards the waters and lo! you’re now on a boat! The narrators of the tour are adorably called the conDUCKtors. The tickets for this tour can be purchased online.
15. Boston Harborwalk
Boston is a city built around water. It has the Charles River flowing through it, and joining its destination at the Atlantic Ocean. The Harborwalk is nearly 43-mile long that traces the Boston shoreline. A walk along this has numerous views — places to sit, parks, installations, and so on. If you like traveling a lot, you’ll notice how enjoyable people-watching is. Watch people go through their daily routines and take in the entirety of human experiences. It can be magical. You could either sit in one place or walk along the harbor in Boston while people-watching.
16. Clam chowder, lobster rolls and Boston Cream Pie
Say, ‘Boston’ and the first things that come to your mind is clam chowder, lobster rolls and Boston Cream Pie!
Apart from this, Boston is also known for its cannoli and baked beans. Some say the pastries at Mike Pastry are a must-try. You could also try the North End area, which is famous for Italian restaurants; and Chinatown, which is famous for Asian cuisine.
Fun fact: Did you know that Boston Cream Pie was first created in 1856 at the (then called) Parker House Hotel?
17. Beer drinking city
The popular, much loved show Cheers was set in Boston. But did you know that a Boston pub actually inspired the series? The Cheers bar today is located at Beacon Hill and its replica at Faneuil Hall. Boston is also known as a beer drinking city, and local beer-brewers names include Samuel Adams, and Harpoon Brewery & Beer Hall. Both of these have tours and tasting schedules, so go on, get your freak on and enjoy the Boston experience.
18. Grave peeping
Now don’t write me off as a morbid freak. The city’s history stretches back to the American Revolution and is home to some of the oldest burial grounds in America. It looks absolutely gorgeous during the fall. If you’re a literary buff, there are a handful of famous personalities who are laid to rest in this historic city. There’s the beautiful Sleepy Hollow cemetery in Concord, which has a part is known as the author’s ridge. Here lay buried some of the literary greats such as Luisa May Alcott, Henry Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Some other graveyards include Granary Burying Ground, King’s Chapel Burying Ground, and Old Burial grounds.
So there you have it. Boston has a rich history with a culture of encouraging intellect and good art. But it is also a cosmopolitan city where the brightest minds bloom. Boston is home to some of the biggest names in the world — such as Mark Wahlberg, James Spader, Uma Thurman, Chris Evans, Madeline Kahn, Matt Damon, Leonard Nimoy, Benjamin Franklin and many many others. Now you know not one but 18 reasons why Boston is famous. And why you should visit it.
Have you visited Boston before? How was your experience? Let us know in the comments below!