Technically, we stayed IN (greater Boston), but hosted Out of Town visitors for a weekend (my college friend, her hubby and two kids). So I got myself a wonderful excuse to plan a weekend of touring activities for our two families – all without leaving Boston and minus a travel book. I did my research (online), but after 20+ years in the city, I thought the book may be bit too much, even for a planning enthusiast like me.
Day 1. MFA, Harbor Cruise, Faneuil Hall.
Our guests arrived late Friday night after a 10-hour drive from Virginia, so we took it slightly easy Saturday morning. It was one of those newly cold and rainy October weekends, so we decided to stay in head to the Museum of Fine Arts. (A note on transportation: our 8 passenger minivan is indispensable to travel with another family, and parking in the center of Boston while not entirely easy is not totally impossible.)
I am a big fan of the MFA. The permanent collection is quite decent, the space is beautiful – inside and out – and the programming is rich with classes, lectures, tours, and activities for kids and adults. (I myself interned in the Film Program some 20 years ago). The entrance fee on most days is $25 per adult, but we got everybody in on our family membership (unlimited visits and a number of guest passes – all for a yearly price of $109). We began to tour the Museum together at the visiting exhibit of Sargent’s Watercolors then everyone went about their ways to different galleries, countries and epochs.
After a quick snack of sandwiches in the car (when a tourist, do as tourists do!) we decided that the wind and rain should not stop us from the quintessential Boston activity – a Boston Harbor cruise. We parked on Atlantic Ave (thanks to a membership in another local Museum- Boston Aquarium nearby) and walked through a multistory arch at Rowes Wharf to the Boston Harbor Cruises’ kiosk at Long Warf.
Constitution themed narrated 45-minute cruises are offered hourly from end of March through end of November ($20 for adults, $16 for kids, 3-11).
After the cruise, it started to warm up and lit up at the same time so we walked to cobblestone streets of historical Faneuil Hall and Quincy market (for the out-of-towners, the 18th century sight of Boston’s marketplace and political gatherings). Today it is a great place to catch a quick Boston snack from vendor carts inside- and a street performance – or two – outside.
By then it is time to head back home for a big dinner.
Day 2. Freedom Trail. Little Italy.
Despite partying late into the night, there is no sleeping in. Today we are booked for a walking tour of Boston’s historical Freedom Trail with “Free Tours by Foot”. In central Boston touring on foot is not only possible, but a must. We walk about a mile in two hours (toddlers, at times, in strollers). The pace is slow enough to allow Den to try out one of the public pianos and for the toddlers to play in the park.
“Free Tours by Foot” is rated one of the best activities in Boston on tripadvisor, yet I was skeptical to say the least. After an initial confusion with the reservation (it turns out they themselves are skeptical about groups of 6+ and we were group of 6+), everything turned out perfect. Our guide Brian (a journalism graduate from Emerson College, history and theater enthusiast) was the most entertaining guide you will ever encounter. Other tourists around us from NON free tours were looking over with jealousy as Brian offered his crazy loud, engaging, funny 2-hr account of Boston history and its famous rebels (Sam Adams, Benjamin Franking and the like) – all while keeping us entertained on our foot. He even had a special prize for my son Den (bragging alert!) who (Brian said!) was only the 7th participant of all ages who knew what James Otis was most famous for (taxation without representation).
The tour took us from Boston Common and the golden dome of the State House, via Omni Parker House Hotel to the Old State House and Faneuil Hall – while not missing a monument or a landmark- the mile is packed. We may be a young country but Boston is one of the oldest cities we got.
We now cannot wait for more friends to visit so we have another excuse to walk with Brian. The company also offers tours of Cambridge-Harvard, Back Bay, Women of the Freedom Trail and Little Italy. They think you should not pay until you experience the tour, at which point you can decide how much the tour was worth for you if at all.
We finish the tour at Faneuil Hall and walk for about 10 mins to Little Italy. Our friends have plans for the afternoon so we sample local sweets and specialty coffees and make plans to come back for a food tour of Little Italy in the spring. We’ll be sure to take you with us!
Useful Boston links.
FREE TOURS by foot-boston http://www.freetoursbyfoot.com/boston-tours/
Harbor Cruises http://www.bostonharborcruises.com/boston-harbor-cruises/uss-constitution-cruise/