Lucky you! Boston is known as “the hub” for a reason: when you’re there, it can feel like you are at the center of the universe. Boston has it all: arts, culture, exquisite food, some of the best universities in the world, and the beloved—if sometimes beleaguered—Red Sox Nation.
If you’re moving to Boston, here are some great tips and resources to help you find all the city has to offer.
Boston is a walking city.
You really can walk from one end of town to the other—and there’s a lot to see on the way. If you decide to begin at the Public Garden and walk to Fenway Park, remember this: the streets of the Back Bay are laid out in alphabetical order. Arlington, Berkeley, Clarendon… all the way to Hereford. (Then you’re on your own.)
Here’s a great tip for people who are new to the city: always find your way back to the Pru. “The Pru” is the Prudential Tower, which sits at the heart of Boston’s Back Bay. The Pru is easy to spot because it’s 52 stories tall. Once you figure out your way back to the the Pru, you can use it as a beacon. This helped me out on more than one occasion, walking home from… well, the library, of course.
You don’t need a car in Boston. The “T” (short for MBTA, which is short for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority) is fast, cheap and easy and connects most of the Boston metro area’s 53 colleges, plus the downtown area and dozens of neighboring towns—including Somerville, which just might be the hipster center of the East Coast.
Boston is a college town.
The oldest college in the U.S., Harvard, sits just across the Charles River from Boston. Down the street, MIT students are probably inventing the Next Big Thing at the MIT Media Lab. Boston University and Boston College are just across the river.
Every September, tens of thousands of students move to Boston to begin or resume classes. What does this mean to you? If you’re a student, it means there are a lot of people to meet. If you are a student who plans to live off campus, or if your college days are behind you and you’re moving to Boston for your career, to explore, or because you want to live in one of the coolest cities anywhere, it means your best bet for renting a place starts in September. Most leases in Boston run from September to August. This is great news if you are looking for a summer sublet, because lots of students travel during the summer.
Boston is a great place to enjoy a martini.
Or a Cape Codder, or a beer, or just about anything else you can think of imbibing. Maybe it’s the cold winters, or the hardy constitutions of the descendants of pilgrims. Boston is a town full of Irish pubs, local bars, and quite a number of fancy-pants drinking establishments.
There’s a relatively new (for Boston) bar on the scene. Dominic Amenta, founder of DPA Communications, told me about Frost. Kept at 21 degrees (the inside of the bar, that is, not the glasses), Frost is “designed and furnished entirely of ice.” Now that’s a great place to chill.
Dining out is a way of life in Boston.
Bostonians are proud of their restaurants. On any given evening, even on the coldest winter nights, hometown favorites like Dali Tapas Bar, 75 Chestnut on Beacon Hill and Pinnochio’s Pizza and Subs have lines out the door (or, in Boston, out the “dow-ah”). A long-time favorite is the “No Name” on South Boston’s pier. You’ll have to wait in line to sit at a picnic table once you get inside, but I promise it will be worth it. (And by the way, those giant trays of seafood cooling off on the railings as you wait in line are not free samples—I only wish someone had told me this ahead of time.)
Boston’s North End is a dining destination for first dates, meeting up with friends, and going out to a really nice dinner when your relatives come to town and say, “Pick any place you’d like!” After dinner, you can stroll by the Old North Church and Paul Revere’s house on your way to get a cannoli.
You can have fun in Boston without spending a lot of money.
One thing I noticed in Boston—while I was fighting my way to the mini-skirt rack in the original Filene’s Basement—is that Bostonians love a bargain. Saving money is almost a sport in Boston, and when you set out to do this, you will have plenty of backup.
As Brian Donohue, who runs the website Wicked Cheap in Boston, put it:
You really cannot beat a day cycling up and down both sides of the Charles River path. Along the way you’ll see opportunities to go on a gondola ride or catch a free concert at the Hatch Shell, take a free fitness class near Boston University, go kayaking or stand up paddle boarding near Newton… take a tour of the U.S.S. Constitution at the Charlestown Navy Yard, grab a drink at the harbor side rooftop bar known as Pier 6, and then even take the $3 ferry over to the New England Aquarium.
Brian is absolutely right: there is a lot to see and do in Boston. When you first get there, you might not know anyone. What better time to plan your own tour of Boston museums? On Brian’s site, you’ll find every possible discount to places like the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (my favorite) and the Institute of Contemporary Art (if you want to look really cool).
There’s another fabulous resource in Beantown: it’s called Eat Drink Lucky. It’s a free newsletter that shares three tips every day. (That’s a lot of eating, drinking and getting lucky!) Jim Britt of gBrittPR gave me the scoop on Eat Drink Lucky—recent newsletters have included:
Boston: Prepare for epicness.
Boston: Ramen for lunch.
Boston: Boston Public Market is finally here.
Boston: Take a Tom Selleck head trip.
I’m in! And, checking out the Boston Public Market is something I highly recommend. It’s new, it’s hip, it’s creative.
* * *
Writing about Boston pulls at my heartstrings. Even though I’m originally from San Francisco—where people tend to leave their hearts—Boston is my town. My only regret is that when my mom and one of my brothers came to visit me there, I sent them on a tour without me. I thought I’d been there long enough to have seen it all.
I was wrong.
There’s always more to see in Beantown. If you’re lucky enough to be moving to Boston, keep that in mind. Someday, you too may be singing:
Hey, Boston, you’re my town.
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