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Boston’s Top 3 Destinations: Your Guide to Beantown

Cheers in Boston

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Full of history, culture and pride, Boston is one of America’s best destinations. Here is my guide to the city’s top 3 sights:

In This Boston Article You Will Discover:

  • The Top Three Destinations in Boston
  • The Best Museums
  • The Best Sports Venue
  • & Bonus Travel Tips!

Welcome to Beantown. The Birthplace of American Freedom. Boston.

Arguably America’s most historic city, Boston is a fabulous place for the visitor interested in history, arts and — during the summer — baseball. Beyond the sights and history, though, Boston is also rich in personality. Bostonians are like no one you’ll ever meet — you have to experience their, um, personalities for yourself. Make sure you have a thick skin.

Save 44% or more on Boston’s 5 best attractions with CityPASS. Shop Now!

Here are my picks for the Top Three Destinations in Boston:

Museum of Fine Arts & The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

museum of fine arts

Picassos on display at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

I’ve lumped these two artsy picks together as they sit side by side in the Fenway area of Boston, easily accessed on the Green Line of the MBTA subway system. I’ll go ahead and say that if you can only visit one, pick the Isabella Stewart. (But try to make time for two.) The ISGM is nothing short of breathtaking. Nineteenth century socialite Isabella Stewart Gardner (1840-1924) spent her widow years collecting art from around the globe and arranging it within her majestic home however she saw fit — eclectically and randomly. She opened her doors as a museum in 1903, and, when she died, Gardner willed her property to be a public museum forever — providing her general arrangement of the artworks was left in tact. Now, visitors are treated to self-guided tours through rooms that feature Renaissance paintings hanging above ancient Roman sarcophagus with 17th century Japanese lanterns hanging beside… and so on. Almost none of the hundreds upon hundreds of artworks have signage — not even the priceless Titian on the fourth floor — leaving the viewer to interpret the works as he or she sees fit without outside influence. It is truly a museum like no other, plastered floor to ceiling in every ornate room — and featuring a jaw-dropping arboretum as the centerpiece — with priceless paintings, sculptures, furnishings and more. The site of a major art heist 20 years ago, museum staff forbid camera or cellphone use inside. www.gardnermuseum.org

The Museum of Fine Arts is conventional by comparison, but still worthy of a visit. Modern art, antiquities, European art, Asian art, fashion and more make up the permanent collections, and various world-class exhibitions are always on display. Make it to Boston before January 11, 2011 and you can take in the wonderful Richard Avedon fashion photography exhibit! www.mfa.org

Fenway Park

fenway park image

Fenway Park, in Boston, is a perfect place to spend a summer evening.

Also accessed via the MBTA’s Green Line, Fenway Park is the penultimate baseball stadium in the USA. Ninety-eight years old and featuring the imposing “Green Monster,” a huge wall in left field known for thwarting home run attempts, Fenway Park is more than just a place to watch a ballgame. It is an active, high-energy good-times experience in itself — from the party in the streets before and after the game, featuring street performers, food and lots of beer, to the delicious Fenway Franks (best hot dogs, ever!) to the simple joy of heckling the opposing team as the summer sun dips below the horizon and the nighttime lights of downtown Boston sparkle behind the massive John Hancock scoreboard. Sip a cool beer. Chomp a ‘dog and a pretzel. Do NOT wear a Yankees hat. In fact, just make your life easier and cheer for the Sox. (Bostonians take their baseball very seriously.) It’s the absolute perfect way to spend a summer evening in Beantown — if you can get a ticket (every game has been sold out since 2003). Even if you can’t get a seat in the stadium, though, still head to the park on game day…. The action around the park is worth it.

Harvard Square

harvard square

The nighttime hustle-bustle of Harvard Square.

Not just for eggheads and trust fund babies, Harvard Square, in Cambridge, accessed by the MBTA’s Red Line subway from downtown Boston, could be the hippest, most happenin’ place in Beantown. During the day, take some time to wander the gorgeous, nearly 400-year-old campus of Harvard — from the library to the churches to the boutique shops — and make sure to pick up some Harvard branded clothing as a souvenir. Stop for an outdoor lunch and coffee at one of the cafes; then evening brings more action. Street performers, bars, pubs, restaurants and nightclubs too numerous to mention by name all come to life. Just wander about. Have a pint of Sam Adams lager here, have another there. Take in the ambience. It’s hip, hustle bustle and people watching at its finest, and definitely a must-do during your Boston visit.

Bonus Tips!

Best Bakery In Boston: Formaggio — try the bread pudding; www.southendformaggio.com

Best Pub In Boston: For pure, wonderful kitsch value, it has to be Cheers in Beacon Hill (although you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a great Irish pub in Beantown); www.cheersboston.com

Best Crowd-Pleaser Restaurant in Boston: Not Your Average Joes — something for everyone and a fun environment; www.notyouraveragejoes.com

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About the author: David Webb is a Vancouver, BC-based travel writer, photographer and magazine editor.

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