Cheers Boston, it's been fun! With a rich history and beautiful sights, the capital of Irish America deserves a spot on any bucket list
I had to check it wasn’t a mistake — a return flight to Boston from Belfast for less than £200.
It turned out to be very much present and correct thanks to Norwegian Airlines’ new direct service to T.F. Green Airport, near Providence on the outskirts of Boston. You can snap up fares from £99 one way and, yes, they do exist as I quickly found out and are not just some marketing gimmick.
A regular visitor to the US, Boston was always on my to-do list as I had heard wonderful things about New England. I finally managed to visit in late October and the city truly is at its most beautiful in the Fall, with the parks and elsewhere a sea of brilliantly coloured leaves.
The Massachusetts capital has a depth of history, with landmarks and famous sites visible on any walk around the city streets.
You could also feel you are walking through a film location as Boston has been the setting for several Hollywood movies including Good Will Hunting, Legally Blonde, The Departed and Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island.
You will take great pleasure in walking through this easy-to-navigate city. It isn’t hard to see why it has been nicknamed America’s Walking City.
Here are my tips after my first trip to the city. It most certainly won’t be my last as with those fares it would be rude not to go!
SIGHTS TO SEE
Use the Go Boston Card to visit interesting spots and do interesting things, such as the hop-on hop-off trolley tour; a Boston Duck Tour that traverses both land and water aboard a renovated World War II amphibious vehicle; Fenway Park, beloved of baseball; a whale watching cruise; Harvard campus; a trip to Salem; or a tour of the picturesque New England coastline, taking in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine. Visit smartdestinations.com for details.
The home arena for the Boston Bruins of the National Hockey League and the Boston Celtics of the National Basketball Association, it is worth trying to catch a match or a concert. It is an impressive arena, as I discovered when I went to see Guns ‘n’ Roses during my trip.
Immerse yourself in the city’s revolutionary history by following the Freedom Trail. This red-brick path winds its way nicely past 16 key sites over a two-and-a-half mile route. It starts at Boston Common, America’s oldest public park, and runs as far as the Bunker Hill Monument, site of the devastating Revolutionary War battle.
History aside, it’s worth the walk alone to take in the beautiful architecture, stunning skyline, funky cafes and boutiques and the vibrant atmosphere created by thousands of students who flock to Boston’s universities, including Harvard, from all over the world. Try and call to see Harvard when you are there.
When the British placed a tax on tea in 1773, this led to the famous Boston Tea Party when outraged American Colonists, disguised as Mohawk warriors, dumped 342 chests of tea into the harbour waters.
Visit this site nowadays and you will find a series of guides dressed as people would have done centuries ago. They bring history to life on the streets of the city.
The Skywalk Observatory on the 50th floor of the Prudential Center at 800 Boylston Street (skywalkboston.com) provides 360-degree vistas. Worth a trip on a clear day.
Another of Boston’s nicknames is the Capital of Irish America, with those immigrants making up the largest ethnic group in the city. Reminders of the green contribution are everywhere, not least that of the most famous Irish American ever, President John F Kennedy. The John F Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum provides a fascinating look at the Kennedy family era, in particular the 35th president’s life from birth to his assassination. Entrance costs are $14 for adults, $10 for college students with ID and teens aged 13-17. Children 12 and under get in for free. For more information, visit jfklibrary.org.
Salem is the charming city famed for the witch trials of 1692, which inspired Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. The fascinating Salem Witch Museum is the best place to learn of the true story behind how widespread hysteria and fear of the devil led to the hanging of 20 innocent people branded as witches. It should come as no surprise that this town is a hotbed for Halloween activity, so it truly comes alive in October, when I visited. Travel to Salem from Boston via the ferry from Boston Harbor. It costs $25 one way and $45 return for an adult and $20 one way and $35 return for a child over three years old. The journey duration is under an hour. To book, visit the website,
FOOD AND DRINK
Faneuil Hall in the centre is packed with quirky shops, food vendors and entertainers. A marketplace and a meeting hall since 1743, you will be captivated by its 14 restaurants and pubs, including Dick’s Last Resort, which I discovered, to my surprise, is a bar where the staff go out of their way to insult and humiliate you. In addition, you’ll find more than 36 food stalls inside, boasting every kind of cuisine you can think of. Ensure you try some New England clam or lobster chowder. Visit faneuilhallmarketplace.com.
Boston Public Market is an indoor, year-round market that includes fresh, seasonal food from Massachusetts and New England. It has free admission and is located at 100 Hanover Street, at Haymarket Station. For more information, visit bostonpublicmarket.org.
City Brew Tours
I thoroughly enjoyed The After Hours tour from City Brew Tours, which brought me on a tour of Boston’s favourite breweries after dark. It may cost $99 per person, but that includes sampling a selection of 16 beers with food pairings and transportation. Trust me, I found it very good value. They offer a variety of tours daily, with a starting price of $70. Visit citybrewtours.com for more information.
The city has not one but two Cheers tribute bars. The ‘original’, at 84 Beacon Street, was the inspiration for the successful television comedy series and it is its exterior was used in the show. The ‘replica’ at Faneuil Hall is a working recreation of the studio set. Both open at 11am daily (cheersboston.com).
There is so much dining choice for every palate, but for some of the best Chinese food you will ever taste, try the Gourmet Dumpling House on Beach Street in Chinatown. Expect to pay less than $10 for a delicious meal. It was so good I returned a number of times during my stay. When in Salem, check out the Adriatic on Washington Street. For me, their lobster cavatelli (pasta, grilled lobster tail, shrimp, zucchini and vodka sauce) was the standout meal. If you are waiting for your flight home from T.F. Green Airport, walk across the road to the Iron Works Tavern for some epic chicken wings.
WHERE TO STAY
Boston Park Plaza, which celebrates its 90 Anniversary in 2017, is a landmark in Boston’s Back Bay. The hotel is one of Boston’s premier hotels and features 1,060 comfortably appointed guest rooms and suites, sophisticated dining offerings, such as STRIP by Strega and Off The Common, and additional amenities such as a 20,000 sq ft fitness centre and more than 50,000 sq ft of meeting space. Overnight stays start from $199 per night. To book, visit bostonparkplaza.com.
At the Hyatt Regency Boston Harbor hotel, low season rates range from $169 to $288 per night and high season rates range from $289 to $409. To book, visit bostonharbor.regency.hyatt.com.
You can get a water taxi across to the city centre from the Hyatt Regency for a return fare of $20.
- For more information on Massachusetts and for help with planning your trip, visit massholiday.co.uk.
- Norwegian operates a twice weekly direct service between Belfast International Airport and Providence. Flights are operated by a fleet of brand new Boeing MAX aircraft and start from £99 one way. To book, visit norwegian.com/uk or call 0330 828 0854. Norwegian is the world’s sixth largest low-cost airline, operating over 500 routes to more than 150 destinations in Europe, the US, South America and Asia. As T.F. Green is a small airport, you can breeze through customs without queuing for long. In fact, I was through in around 10 minutes. It has an adjoining train station from where you can get into central Boston for just $12.
Belfast Telegraph Digital