Friday, March 7, 2008

A Day and a Night in Boston

This article and all accompanying pictures are available for publication. Please contact me at kat@tiedyetravels.com if you would like thie feature for your newspaper or magazine.

The Cradle of Liberty. The City on a Hill. Beantown. Boston goes by many names, but it's hard to pin just one description on it. It's both old and new, large and small. Its suburbs fan out like a spilled glass of juice all over the Bay area. Yet it's called a walking city -- and most of what we know from afar is packed into a very tight package.

If you find yourself headed Northeast for a visit to this land of landmarks, you may find this guide useful in directing your travels. Boston can be a bit overwhelming, but with a little fine-tuning you can hit the important bits.

Eats


Breakfast


Trident Bookseller and Café is about more than books -- it’s about a breakfast you can really sink your teeth into. The Newbury Street hang-out has been a mainstay for more than 20 years,
serving up Hemingway with a side of ham, Shakespeare with Smoked Salmon Scramble, and dozens of hearty and delicate teas. Try the Lemon Ricotta Stuffed French Toast with Blueberries for a sunrise-worthy surprise.



Trident Bookseller and Café * 338 Newbury Street * (617) 267-8688 * tridentbookscafe.com * Green Line to Hynes Convention Center


Lunch

Indecisive much? It’s hard to go wrong with the myriad of choices at Faneuil Hall Marketplace. The Quincy Market centerpiece features dozens upon dozens of choices -- from bagels and pastries to Indian food and roast beasts and even sushi. Vendors line a
long hall, ready to take your order.

Dine in the center common room of the historic building, and peruse the many booths after lunch for souvenirs. Also check out the North and South Markets for high-end merchandise.

Faneuil Hall Marketplace * Quincy Market * (617) 523-1300 * faneuilhallmarketplace.com * Green Line or Orange Line to Haymarket


Dinner

What’s dinner in Boston without seafood? For fresh choices and a menu that changes based on the best and freshest fish available, check out McCormick & Schmick’s. The menu is topped each day with your available selections… a variety of whitefish, crab, lobster, salmon, and more. You have to try the Crab Cake Trio -- a selection of crab cakes made from blue crab, Dungeness crab, and King crab, each served with its own special sauce. If it’s fish and it’s fresh, chances are you will find it here. Don’t miss out on a local favorite -- Upside Down Apple Pie a la Mode.

McCormick & Schmick’s * North Market at Faneuil Hall Marketplace * (617) 720-5522 * mccormickandschmicks.com * Green Line or Orange Line to Haymarket


Late Night

Step back into a smooth, sophisticated past and experience a French nightclub from Bohemian times at The Beehive. Cool jazz and an eclectic menu set this South End eatery apart. You’ll find live music seven nights a week at this Boston College of Arts Complex institution. Savor
Poutine, thick plank fries broiled in veal gravy and cheese -- or sample the Bohemian Platter with a fine selection of nibbles, pates, and tasty bites.

The Beehive * 541 Tremont Street * (617) 423-0069 * beehiveboston.com * Orange Line to Back Bay Station

Historical

Boston is home to the nation’s oldest continually operating restaurant, the Union Oyster House. This two story landmark is packed with history. Suck down oysters on the half shell at the bar downstairs or climb up to the intimate second floor for a
succulent dinner. The Broiled Fresh Boston Scrod is an area tradition, as is Boston Clam Chowder, Indian Corn Pudding and Hot Gingerbread with Whipped Cream. There’s also a fantastic gift shop.

Union Oyster House * 41 Union Street * (617) 227-2750 * unionoysterhouse.com * Green Line or Orange Line to Haymarket


Where To Stay: The Trendy.


Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, the Onyx Hotel is suited for any man’s travel. You won’t find an inch of lace here.

The ten story edifice in Boston’s Bullfinch Triangle was built to offer a fun, sophisticated alternative to name brand hotel lodgings that are cut from the same cookie-cutter. Rather than beige walls and the same bedspread you could find in any
American hotel, the Onyx Hotel is decked out in splashes of bright red and bold checkered patterns. Leopard print robes greet each guest on arrival.

The hotel caters to men on business travel, and those who want to take a “man-cation,” the hottest new concept in the travel industry. The concierge service can specialize your stay for whatever your reason for being in Boston -- whether it’s to head to a conference or take in a Red Sox game.

For groups of men traveling up to see the Bruins or the Celtics at nearby Banknorth Garden, the entire penthouse floor can be rented out. On arrival, you may find a bucket of beer, a bottomless bucket of pretzels, and the latest edition of Sports Illustrated available. Other travelers may enjoy an in-room massage performed by a licensed massage therapist. Still others may want to take advantage of the Date Night package and share champagne and a flower petal turndown with the one they love.

The Onyx Hotel is also pet friendly -- offering “walkies” and “snackies” for the four-legged set. A bowl of food is put out for visiting dogs right at the front door, and some of the hotel’s 112 rooms have been specially designated as pet-friendly.

The hotel’s lobby is also the popular Ruby Room, a great bar with fantastic ambience. Enjoy sophisticated beverages and conversation in a comfortable designer setting. The gigantic red glass structure overhead is the talk of the town.

There’s also a breakfast buffet available that includes hot foods like eggs and sausage, a wide array of pastries and fresh fruit, and healthy options such as granola and yogurt.

Onyx Hotel * 155 Portland Street * (617) 557-9955 * onyxhotel.com * Green Line or Orange Line to North Station

Where To Stay: The Traditional.


It’s known as the place where the Boston Cream Pie was born and the home of the original Parker House Rolls. But the Omni Parker House is also known for its elegance and refinement in the heart of downtown.

The hotel is the longest continually operating luxury hotel in the nation, open since 1855.

A wide selection of American presidents, from Grant to Clinton, have stayed at this august landmark.
Some of history’s most famous people have worked at the hotel. Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh worked in the bakery in 1911, and Malcolm Little -- who would go on to be known as Malcolm X -- was a busboy in the early 1940s.

The magnificent Parker House rolls were the creation of a German baker who worked in the kitchens in the nineteenth century. The rolls were baked and shipped out all over the United States until 1933, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt requested the recipe for the White House.

The Boston Cream Pie perfected in the Parker House kitchens has been around for well over 100 years. It’s been named the official dessert of the State of Massachusetts.







The hotel’s 551 well-appointed rooms feature newly updated beds, distinguished décor and well planned amenities.

There are a large selection of room types available, from the economy single for solo travelers to the bedroom suites.

There are several dining options, including the World Famous Parker House, Parker’s Bar, and The Last Hurrah -- a traditional Boston pub known for its Scotch collection.

Omni Parker House * 60 School Street * (617) 227-8600 * omniparkerhouse.com * Green Line to Park Street


Where To Go:


Want a great overview of the city? You can’t beat the Skywalk Observatory. The view from the 50th story of the Prudential Center can’t be beat. See a 360 degree panorama of the Greater Boston Metropolitan area.

You can utilize the handy tour-guide-in-a-box to point out the different sights from your high perch, and photo taking is encouraged. Be sure to check out the
multitude of exhibits also featured in the Observatory -- and consider dinner at the Top of the Hub, the restaurant and lounge upstairs on the 52nd floor.

Admission to the Observatory is $11 for adults and $9
for seniors. The Skywalk Observatory is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., with the last tour starting at 9:30 p.m.

Skywalk Observatory at Prudential Center * Boston’s Back Bay * 800 Boylston Street * (800) SHOP-PRU * prudentialcenter.com * Green Line to Prudential Center

Experience the markets of Boston. Visit the Haymarket. Vendors shout their wares and offer everything from fresh fruit to fresh fish at prices that would make a grocer green with envy. On Fridays and Saturdays, the area is packed with people perusing every manner of produce and meat to take home for the freshest dinner possible.

Prices are incredibly low and walking room is at a premium.
Look down near the entrance to see the refuse of ages past immortalized in brass forever.

Haymarket * Blackstone Street between New Chardon and North Streets * Green Line or Orange Line to Haymarket

You’ll find the best free exhibit of all at the Boston Public Library. This ancient edifice at Copley Street and Dartmouth is more than just another place to look at books.

Artists have enhanced every surface, from a gigantic second story study to the
top floor’s Biblical stories en fresco.

Assistants at the front desk will help you with self-guide packets.

There are also touring exhibits on display -- recently, the feature was “Crisis in Little Rock.”

Boston Public Library * 700 Boylston Street * (617) 536-5400 * bpl.org * Green Line to Copley

What would a visit to Boston be without a trip to the most beloved ballpark in America? Fenway Park is home to the Boston Red Sox, who you can see in action during the regular baseball season. But the ballpark itself is available to tour any time of the year.

The reigning world champion Red Sox are a hard ticket to come by. Every game in the 38,000+ seat is a sell-out, and tickets go as soon as they’re made available each spring.
That doesn’t mean you can’t find a way to go. Many tour operators and ticket brokers have tickets available for you to purchase.

The Red Sox have been playing at the oldest of all of the Major League Baseball parks since 1912. It’s home to all those legends you remember -- the Green Monster (don’t pronounce the “r” if you’re in town!), Pesky’s Pole, the fantastic old wooden grandstand seats. It’s given birth to memories, and it’s considered the most difficult of all the parks for MLB pitchers.

For any baseball fan, a pilgrimage to Fenway Park has to be on the schedule. Tours are conducted on the hour every day of the week -- Monday through Saturday starting at 9 a.m. and Sunday starting at noon. The last one leaves at 3 p.m. -- or three hours before a game on game day.

Visitors aren’t disappointed. Well-versed guides take visitors up to the press box for a view of the field… then down to the EMC club for a view of how the luxury-minded celebrate the game. Fans get to sit in the grandstand seats while tales of Red Sox greats are shared -- and stories are swapped. This is the best way to find out who changes out the scores on one of only two manually-operated scoreboards in the Majors, what the Morse code on the Green Monster stands for, and who sat in the Lone Red Seat and got conked on the head by a home run.

The fan store across the street is one of the best and most complete fan destinations you’ll find in professional sports. If it has a Red Sox logo on it, you’ll find it here. Whether it’s T-shirts, ball caps, models, baseballs, posters, or any other sort of memorabilia -- you can pick it up and take it home.

Fenway Park has been undergoing renovations to the stands this year. There’s a new restaurant being put into the outfield, an expanded concourse project underway, and a new ladies’ restroom is being added. More important, this year’s additions are increasing the number of available seats.

No matter what day you’re in town, tour Fenway Park. Tickets are $12 -- and they’re only sold at the fan shop.

Fenway Park * 4 Yawkey Way * (617) 226-6666 * bostonredsox.com * Green Line B, C, or D to Kenmore or D to Fenway


St. Patrick’s Day in Boston

America’s very first St. Patrick’s Day celebration was held in Boston in 1737. To this day, there are few places that celebrate the Wearin’ of the Green any better than Beantown.

Thousands of visitors will pour into the Boston area for the holiday. Many will want to celebrate the day in style at one of the many pubs you can find around. Here are a few you’ll want to check out.

Mr. Dooley’s. On TV, Cheers is the Boston bar where “everybody knows your name.” But in real life, that place is Mr. Dooley’s. The popular pub at Broad and Batterymarch is the place to go for a proper pint, not a “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” show. The laid back atmosphere is prime for celebrating and relaxing in style. It’s known for a broad spectrum of awards, including several for Best Burger and for its famed Irish Breakfast. And in addition to traditional pub food, you’ll find such local favorites as Clam Chowder, oysters, and lobster on the menu.
There’s live music scheduled for several nights each week, and you never know when a musicians’ session will get started.

Mr. Dooley’s Boston Tavern * 77 Broad Street * (617) 338-5656 * somerspubs.com * Blue Line or Orange Line to State

McGann’s Irish Pub. Catching the Celtics or the Bruins at the Banknorth Center? Hotfoot it over to McGann’s for pub fare and a pint. The cozy wood-paneled sports fanatic hideaway is just two blocks away from the big game, and it’s an easy walk.

McGann’s Irish Pub * 197 Portland Street * (617) 227-4059 * Green Line or Orange Line to North Station













The Green Dragon
. This particularly American tavern dates back to 1654 (Paul Revere is believed to have taken a wee dram here once or twice) and is still located on the same cobblestone path. The historic tavern shares the block with the Union Oyster House, and offers a full selection of regional specialties in addition to one of the most complete bars in Boston.

The Green Dragon Tavern * 11 Marshall Street * (617) 367-0055 * celticweb.com * Green Line or Orange Line to Haymarket

Side trip: The Boston area’s best kept dining secret


On Waltham’s popular Moody Street, you’ll find a diverse selection of eateries and food stores catering to every ethnic delight.

But it’s the Tuscan Grill that will draw your epicurean thoughts. Executive chef Jason King changes the menu quarterly to take best advantage of what’s fresh and in-season.

The Northern Italian eatery specializes in incredibly complex and divine dishes, such as Veal Osso Bucco and Braised Beef Short Ribs.

Daily specials take advantage of the freshest items available, such as fresh fish. Portions are gauged for quality, not quantity.

Desserts are exquisite works of art.

The wine offerings are hand-selected by a knowledgeable sommelier, and several of the cordials are housemade on-site.

Tuscan Grill * 361 Moody Street in Waltham, MA * (781) 891-5486 * tuscangrillwaltham.com * MBTA Fitchburg commuter line to Waltham Station

Other things to know before you go:
Ride the T. Boston is not a car city, though you'll see lots of cars rolling through it. As people kept reiterating to me my entire time there, it's a walking city, and it's not especially friendly to commuters. Parking fees are high. Tolls are common. And just
finding a place to park can be an ordeal in itself.

MBTA, on the other hand, is pervasive. It's close to everywhere. Whether it's bus lines or subways or trains or even boats, there's a way to get around the area. But to the uninitiated, it can be confusing. The MBTA website is a decent resource -- if you know exactly where you are going and what you are doing.

How to get around? When you book your hotel, find out how close it is to the T (the subway system). Learn where your stop is. The subway is much easier to negotiate than the bus lines, and it's going to get you around most of the area you're going to be touring.

Oh, and make things easier on yourself. Purchase a Charlie Card. These reusable plastic cards store value. If you're going to be traveling away from where you're staying a good bit, charge your card up -- maybe, $20 or more. If you're staying close by, $10 should do it.

Just remember -- if you're starting out on a bus, you're going to need correct change. Don't be afraid to ask an MBTA worker for assistance if you need it. And be courteous to your fellow travelers.

It's dry up there. Here in the South, we like to gripe about the weather. It's always humid, except on the three or four days each year when we get a bit of an ice storm. ALWAYS humid. Well, it's not humid everywhere.

New England has very dry air in the winter, and you're going to need to keep yourself protected. First off -- lip balm. Your lips will chap, dry out, and try to run away from you. Cover them religiously. That same dry air may dehydrate you a bit, so be sure to drink more water.


Take care of your feet. If you are in a walking city, chances are -- oh, I don't know -- you'll walk more. A lot more. We're not talking a few blocks more -- we're talking a few miles more. Lots of miles.

If you want to be able to get around like the locals, you're going to have to walk it. And if you're not accustomed to that, it's going to take its toll. And this isn't comfortable walking, either. While most streets are traditional asphalt, you have a lot of cobblestone in addition to sidewalk concrete. It can be devastating for your soles.

So, what to do? Bring extra shoes and change them out. Keep your feet dry. If it's cold, wear more than one pair of socks. And moisturize your feet with a good lotion -- believe me, this makes a big difference.


Pace yourself. While you might look at "walking city" and think everything is close by, it's deceptively not. Your tour maps may show popular attractions as being mere inches away, but those inches can be miles or more. Plan accordingly. Do things in one area of the city at a time. This will save you money on the T and a lot of beating pavement. For instance, tour Paul Revere's House and visit Faneuil Hall and the Haymarket on one day, and South End's Arts community and shopping another. Beacon Hill is nowhere near the JFK Library. When you make out your itinerary, be sure to include travel time -- which means, give yourself 20 minutes for places you walk to and 30 minutes (at least) for a short T ride. Anything can happen -- the trains can go down, construction on your route, even crazy folks who want to buy you coffee. You never know.


Skip the souvenir stands. The best souvenirs you are going to find aren't going to be the ones in the airport, or in the most expensive shopping centers. They're going to be the ones you find at the locations you really want to attend. Like baseball? Fenway Park offers a great tour with lots of information about the Red Sox, and has an expansive shop to boot. Faneuil Hall's Quincy Market is loaded with more types of food vendors than you can shake a pretzel at, and you'll also find kiosks lined up in the solarium wings with lots of smaller items. Consider purchasing local art at boutique galleries, or from local booksellers.

Which do you prefer, convenience or comfort? If you're not a big fan of the wait, the expense, the sheer trouble of dealing with Logan International Airport, check out one of the two regional airports in the area. There are two close by -- Providence, RI and Manchester, NH.

You can make it without a pickup from point A to point B, but it is a bit of a juggle. Manchester runs a shuttle to and from two points in Boston -- Sullivan Station on the
Orange Line, and the Anderson Regional Transportation Center in Woburn. The shuttle runs about every two hours -- check their website for more information.

Manchester's airport is easy to access and has one of the easiest TSA run-throughs you'll find. The concourse is well thought out, and you're not going to find too much trouble there.

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