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Old 06-12-2008, 20:42   #1
GlocknSmith
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Seeking Input: Traveling to Boston/Cambridge

Good evening fellow GTers,

The Scenario:

My wife and I have decided to take a short trip out to the Boston area during the first week of July. We will be there for 4 nights/5 days and will be there during the 4th. Our hotel is in Cambridge. We are a young couple, no kids traveling with us. We will be relying solely on public transportation and our feet. We have already determined that we will be exploring the Freedom Trail. Other than that, we are open to suggestions.

The Questions:

Given our limitations with public transportation, what are the "must see and do" activities that we should look into during our stay? We want to check out a lot of historical stuff, but are not really interested in guided tours.

What museums (art, history, miscellaneous) should we visit? Zoos? Theaters? Aquariums?

What are the off the beaten path/hidden gems that we should check out?

Best place to view fireworks? 4th of July celebrations/parades?

How about good local restaurants, preferably in the Cambridge area? I want to try some fresh lobster, but I am not really interested in the tourist trap restaurants.

What are the best live music/night life venues in the Cambridge area?

Thanks in advance for your help and suggestions!
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Old 06-12-2008, 22:25   #2
lens
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GlocknSmith View Post
Given our limitations with public transportation, what are the "must see and do" activities that we should look into during our stay? We want to check out a lot of historical stuff, but are not really interested in guided tours.

What museums (art, history, miscellaneous) should we visit? Zoos? Theaters? Aquariums?

What are the off the beaten path/hidden gems that we should check out?

Best place to view fireworks? 4th of July celebrations/parades?

How about good local restaurants, preferably in the Cambridge area? I want to try some fresh lobster, but I am not really interested in the tourist trap restaurants.

What are the best live music/night life venues in the Cambridge area?

Thanks in advance for your help and suggestions!
Must see:

First visit the Tourist Booth in the Boston Commons (on Tremont St.) and pick up literature and info there.

- USS Constitution (leave even tiny knives at the hotel, it's a US Navy Commissioned Ship on Active Duty, everything is verboten here).
- Walk the Freedom Trail - Stop in and visit the Old North Church and meander thru the old cemeteries along the path.
- Bunker Hill Monument
- Boston Aquarium is a nice take
- Concord and Lexington are a real nice take, but I doubt that they are easy to get to without a car. The Museum of Our National Heritage is a "hidden gem", but doubtful that it is accessible w/o a car (it's in Lexington).

Museums:
- Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, www.mfa.org
- Museum of Science Boston, www.mos.org
- Harvard University in Cambridge has some pretty awesome museums
- JFK Presidential Library

Zoos:
- Just hang around Harvard Square (Cambridge) after dark and you'll observe more strange two-legged critters than you could ever find anywhere else.
- Stone Zoo in Stoneham, www.stonezoo.org Never been there and don't know if it is worthwhile or not.
- Franklin Park Zoo in Boston. Haven't been there in ~50 years and it was in a very unsafe/bad area. No idea about "safety status" of area these days, but I personally wouldn't venture there.

Fourth of July:
- Best place to see the fireworks and avoid a "crushing mob" is on Memorial Drive Cambridge overlooking the Charles River and across from the Hatch Shell. Boston Pops plays at Hatch Shell (Boston side) but there are usually >500K people crushed into that area and unless you like crushing mobs, it's best to stay away.

I try to stay out of Boston and Cambridge as much as possible, so I'll leave the other questions for others to answer.

Hope this helps some.
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Old 06-13-2008, 11:18   #3
GlocknSmith
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Lens,

Thanks for taking the time to post, your input is much appreciated! I am not one for crushing mobs, so it looks like fireworks will be best observed from across the river. The USS Constitution sounds great too!
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Old 06-13-2008, 12:26   #4
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The fireworks are shot off from a barge in the middle of the river, so visibility (theoretically) from either side of the river should be equally good.

However, probably 30ish years ago they planted trees on the riverbank on the Esplanade (Boston side, beside the Hatch Shell). Well, those trees have "grown up" and block most of the fireworks for the 500K people who all crush the riverbank after the concert is over.

On the Cambridge side, visibility of the river and fireworks is almost totally UN-impeded in comparison, and the size of the crowd is a helluva lot smaller.

After a particularly nasty confrontation with a jerk who was blocking our and ~100 other people's view of the Hatch Shell on one July 4th, we will no longer go there. We'll watch it on TV with a totally unobstructed view. I had to threaten to call the MA State Police on that guy to get him to sit down, even then he doubted that I'd do anything until I pulled out my cell phone and said "your choice?"

Check carefully on which days the USS Constitution will be accessible to the public. They take her out in the Harbor for a "turn around cruise" every July 4th. So I would expect that when they are getting her seaworthy and for a time afterwards they probably don't allow the public aboard. Hmm, the website says that it is open on July 4th. I'd check just to be sure. Also note that they are "heavy handed" in declaring all legally possessed OC/Mace/weapons as "illegal weapons in the state of Massachusetts"!!

http://www.ussconstitution.navy.mil/...nformation.htm

CAUTION: Another webpage implies that the USS Constitution may be in dry-dock this Summer. Don't know what that does for accessibility. Best to double check.

http://www.ussconstitution.navy.mil/Lotterypage.htm


Enjoy your trip.
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Last edited by lens; 06-13-2008 at 12:28..
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Old 06-24-2008, 12:07   #5
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also try to get to the north end for some great italian food and shops - i agree the aquarium is a nice time, maybe do a whale watch.

if there is anyway for you to get on a boat, i have seen the fireworks from the water a few times and it is the best (imho).

quincy market is not for everyone, but if the wife likes shopping, you can kill some time there. they also have entertainment like jugglers etc performing.

also a duck boat tour while touristy, is also fun and you get to see a lot of stuff in a fun atmosphere.

good luck, let us know how things went and stay safe!
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Old 07-01-2008, 14:44   #6
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if you want good food, go to Helmand in Cambridge. Afghani food is amazingly good!
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Old 07-07-2008, 20:23   #7
GlocknSmith
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Thank you guys for your suggestions. We had an excellent trip and I would like to get back to the Boston area in the near future. All of the people we encountered were very friendly, and the city was very clean for such a busy place.

We sure covered a lot of ground in just 3 days. We walked the Freedom Trail, stopped in at Paul Revere's house, the old churches and meetings houses, the aquarium, and Bunker Hill. We were around the USS Constitution on the 4th and they were having a ceremony on board so we did not get too close to it. We also spent some time at Harvard and saw a lot of places in between.

Our hotel was in Cambridge right near the Kendall station. The location was ideal for the fireworks which were the best we had ever seen. There were a lot of people in attendance on the Cambridge side, but we were mostly surrounded by families and good natured folks.

As for food, I had my first lobster roll, and an excellent bowl of clam chowdah! The Sam Adams that I got on tap was the best Sam Adams I had ever tasted.

We look forward to our next visit. Next time we will rent a car and/or get on a boat.

Is it just me or do people on the East coast really like to use their car horns and shout at each other from across the street? Here in Colorado I rarely hear a horn unless someone has been sitting at a green light for more than 15-20 seconds.

Cheers!
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Old 07-08-2008, 12:47   #8
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Originally Posted by GlocknSmith View Post
Is it just me or do people on the East coast really like to use their car horns and shout at each other from across the street? Here in Colorado I rarely hear a horn unless someone has been sitting at a green light for more than 15-20 seconds.

Cheers!
LOL, you should try Providence, Rhode Island. It is called the "Providence Doorbell"... pull up to someone's house, and instead of getting out and hitting the doorbell, just sit in your car and hit the horn until someone comes to the door...
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