A Boston Guide by Helen
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This is a list of activities that we find especially interesting or convenient for our guests. For a more comprehensive guide to Boston, see www.bostonusa.com.

Taking the “T”

The MBTA Subway is often called “the T”. It takes you to essentially all attractions in Boston and Cambridge. There are four lines – red, green, orange, and blue, all connectable to one another. Each ride on the T costs a token ($1.25), which includes all connections you need to make. Tokens can be bought at most stations. For stations without a token booth, the operator usually accepts exact change.

At a given station location, you often have to enter on different sides of the street for different directions you wish to travel. The direction of the subway will be labeled at the entrance to the staircases. The directions of the T are often denoted as “inbound” or “outbound”. Inbound means the train is heading towards the center of Boston (i.e. towards Park Street, Government Center, State, or Downtown Crossing stations); outbound means away from center of Boston. Thus, “inbound” and “outbound” have no meaning in terms of north, south, east, or west. Often the directions will also be labeled by the terminal destination of the train (e.g. “Alewife” means northward on the red line, while “Braintree” and “Ashmont” mean southward).

Useful information:

Here is a list of places and their respective T stops:

The Ritz-Carlton, Boston
Arlington stop on the Green line
MIT
Kendall/MIT stop on the Red line
Logan Airport
Airport stop on the Blue line (connected to the airport by a free shuttle bus)

Some notes on each line:

Red
Somewhere south of Boston the red line splits into two, one going towards Braintree and the other towards Ashmont, and the trains will be labeled accordingly. However, the split is more south than probably anywhere you will want to go, so when going south on the red line, it doesn’t matter which train you take.
Green
The Green line has a four-way split as you approach the west end of downtown. The four lines are labeled as B, C, D, and E. For most places you go (e.g. Arlington, Boylston, or Copley stop), it won’t matter which train you are on. However, for Prudential or Museum of Fine Arts, you have to take the E line. If you’re going anywhere more west than Copley, you need to check which green line you should take.

When going northeastward, the green line often terminates at Government Center instead of traveling all the way to Lechmere, the end station. If you want to go to Museum of Science, you need to take one that continues to Lechmere. The trains will display “Government Center” or “Lechmere” accordingly.
Orange
Not much complication here. Orange line is said to be “sketchy”, but I think it’s okay.
Blue
No big story here either. This is the line to take for the New England Aquarium or the Logan Airport.

Tours

The Duck Tour

The Duck Tour is operated on an authentic, renovated World War II amphibious landing vehicle. The tour begins on land, covering numerous historical landmarks and attractions in Boston downtown. The vehicle then heads to the Charles River and coverts into a boat tour with great views of Boston and Cambridge skyline. A unique and fun introduction to Boston! Tours run everyday beginning at 9am and depart from either Museum of Science or Prudential Center. Adult fare is $24 while students/seniors are $21. Tickets should be booked at least one week in advance. Go to http://www.bostonducktours.com/pages/buyonline.html or call 617-267-DUCK (3825).

The Old Town Trolley Tour

Less novel, but more convenient. Once you buy a day pass, you can board the trolley at any of its 17 stops. The closest stop to Midtown Hotel is the one at Prudential Center. The tour covers nearly all tourist attractions and historic sites in Boston and lasts about 110 minutes. You may get off at any stop that seems interesting to you and re-board another trolley, so the trolley functions as transportation too. One-day pass costs $23.40 and two-day pass costs $32.40. Go to http://www.historictours.com/boston/default.htm or call 1-800-868-7482. Tickets can be bought at any trolley stop and need not be reserved in advance.

Freedom Trail

This is a self-guided walking tour covering most historic sites of Boston. The tour route is actually painted on the sidewalks, so you won’t get lost. You can either start at Boston Commons or at the Charlestown Navy Yard, both of which have a visitor’s center with Freedom Trail walking maps. The entire tour is about 3.5 miles. Expect to spend at least half a day if you want to take a look at everything along the way.

Attractions

We are not listing any favorite here because there are simply too many and it really depends on your personal preference as to which type of attractions you want to see. We recommend taking a tour first so you will have a better idea of which sites you wish to explore more. This is just a summary of what we know of:

Historic Sites – U.S.S. Constitution (a genuine battleship from late 1700s – the oldest commissioned ship in the world. Dave was very excited to get on the ship after seeing Master and Commander), Bunker Hill Monument, Boston Tea Party site, Paul Revere House, Granary Burying Ground (Samuel Adams, John Hancock, to name a few)

Nature – Boston Commons, Boston Public Gardens (check out Swan Boats: www.swanboats.com), or hang out by the sea.

Museum/Aquarium – Museum of Fine Arts (highly recommended – very large, multicultural collection, not limited to paintings or sculptures; beautiful interior architecture as well), New England Aquarium, Museum of Science, Museum of Natural History, JFK Library

Hangout – Harvard Square, Theater District, North End (“Little Italy”), Chinatown

Food/Shopping

There is plenty of famous fine dinning options in Boston, but since Dave and I are budget conscious, we are not familiar with most of them. We’ve heard the following fine dinning restaurants are good: The Blue Room (close to Residence Inn), Aujourd’hui (in Four Seasons Hotel), Top of the Hub (situated at the top top of Prudential Tower – great view of Boston), Olives (owned by Todd English – the “falling chocolate cake” is heaven), Bambara (right by Cambridgeside Galleria, a shopping mall). Inquire us for location if you are interested.

From Residence Inn:

The closest food options are on Main Street. From the hotel, walk south on Ames Street for one block and make a left on Main. You will see Legal Sea Foods at the corner, or, walking a little more down, you will see a food court right by The COOP with cheaper food options such as Chinese fast food, sushi, Sbarro’s, deli and salad, and Au Bon Pain. Walking a little further down, you will see, on the right side, a Rebecca’s Café and a kabob place right next to it. Rebecca’s Café has excellent sandwiches but is pricier ($6 per sandwich). On the left side, you will see Characters Bar and Grill, part of the Marriott Cambridge, a casual sit-down place serving generic American grill foods. Aside from Legal Sea Foods and Characters, the above food options only operate on weekdays and generally close by 6pm.

For a truly MIT experience, try the very cheap food trucks located near the corner of Ames and Main. As you walk on Ames, cross Main and immediately make a right. You will see four food trucks, Gooseberry (Asian food), Jerusalem Café, a Mexican truck, and an Italian sub/pizza truck. Average price is $2-4 for a satisfying meal. Patrons are almost exclusively MIT students. There is no sitting area other than some outdoor benches and a grassy area. The trucks operate on weekdays only and leave by 4pm.

Other than Legal Sea Foods, there is another sit-down place in short distance called Polcari’s (Italian). From Ames, make a right on Main and walk a bit, past Vassar St and the rail tracks. You will see signs for MIT Technology Square, and Polcari’s is right in the square. They have an associated Pizzeria Regina for take-out pizzas.

You can also go to the Cambridgeside Galleria for the Cheesecake Factory, California Pizza Kitchen, Papa Razzi, or the food court there. There’s also a fine dinning restaurant called Bambara right next to the mall. For the physical minded, you can walk there from the Residence Inn (a little less than a mile). Otherwise, you can take a free shuttle from the Kendall T stop, in front of The COOP. The shuttle is called “The Wave” and comes every 20 minutes or so, with hours Mon-Sat: 9am - 6pm,
Sun: 12pm - 6pm. Parking at the mall is available for about $1 per hour. Go to http://www.cambridgesidegalleria.com/ for details. There is a Charles Riverboat Cruise that departs from the mall and cruises along Charles River (yep, the mall opens right to the waterfront) and costs $10 for adults. Go to http://charlesriverboat.com/cruises.htm for details.

In short, there is plenty of options for lunch on a weekday, but for late dinners or the weekend, your options are more restricted (Legal Sea Foods, Polcari’s, or Marriot Cambridge dinning). Consider taking the subway to alternative locations; see the section below.

From Midtown Hotel

I am not familiar with the Midtown Hotel area but I looked up the following on Yahoo! yellow pages. There’s no guarantee that all the restaurants listed on Yahoo! are actually there, but their information is usually accurate.

From the hotel, if you walk north on Huntington Ave for about 400 meters, you will reach The Shops at Prudential Center, an upscale mall with a large food court and several sit-down restaurants, including two Legal Sea Foods.

There are also several close-by options. From the hotel, walk south on Huntington Ave, past Massachusetts Ave (“Mass Ave”). Then you will see several eating options, including some Asian choices (Betty’s Wok & Noodle Diner, Taste of Asia), Taste of India, Moby Dick (probably seafood), Pizzeria Uno, and Burger King.

There are also a few eateries on Mass Ave. From Hungtingon Ave, make a left on Mass Ave and walk 200 meters, and you will see a Subway (sandwich shop). If you make a right on Mass Ave instead, you will encounter an Au Bon Pain (soup, sandwich, and bakery) and a Boston Market (typical American food) in about 200 meters. If you walk another 200 meters or so, you will see a Bangkok Cuisine (Thai), Supreme Pizza & Subs, Nan Lin Chinese Restaurant, and Bombay Café (Indian).

I have no experience dinning at any of the above, nor am I confident of their exact locations. For cheap and fast dinning, Subway and Boston Market are pretty good. Pizzeria Uno is a sit-down place, and they have good Chicago-style pizzas.

Other Hotels:

Wherever you are, I am sure there are food options within walking distance – just inquire the hotel front desk or explore. Consider the list of T stops below for some possible destinations.

On the Red Line:

Harvard this takes you to Harvard Square, with lots of eating options, quick or slow, as well as shops and pubs. We recommend Pho Pasteur, a Vietnamese noodle house that is cheap and good (35 Dunster St, one block from T stop). Pho Pasteur is a chain that is also located in Boston downtown, Chinatown, and Brighton. For weekday lunch, get all-you-can-eat Mongolian BBQ at Fire & Ice for $7.95 (includes a good variety of beef, pork, poultry, and seafood, as well as a burger bar and a salad bar). It’s located at 50 Church St, also close to the T stop.

Central Square – Lots of restaurants and cheap eats here, including our favorite Chinese delivery place, Pu Pu Hot Pot (ok, bad name, but good food). There is quite a mix of ethnic options and plenty of familiar fast foods like Wendy’s, Burger King, and McDonald’s. Try Toscanini’s ice cream, recommended by Dave. Residence Inn people can walk here in 10-15 minutes.

Kendall Square this is where the Residence Inn is, so see above for dinning options here. Most cheap eats here only operate on weekdays and close by 6pm.

On the Green Line:

Prudential (must take “E” train) – this takes you to the Prudential Center, a big shopping mall with a few sit-down restaurants and a food court. This is an upscale mall that’s mostly good for window shopping, although the food court looks like cheap food.

Government Center – this takes you to the Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market, with a huge food court as well as several restaurants. There are also some shops for hanging out. Check out the Samuel Adams statue while you are here.

Arlington – this takes you to the east end of Newbury Street, Boston’s version of NYC Fifth Avenue. There are a lot of unaffordable shops, upscale salons, though some reasonably priced dinning options (including the cheap Pho Pasteur). Fun to just walk and gaze. By the way, the Ritz-Carlton is at the corner of Newbury and Arlington, right off the T stop.

Boylston – this takes you within walking distance to Chinatown. It is also within walking distance to a mall food court across from Macy’s.

On the Orange Line:

Chinatown – As the name suggests, you’ll have all kinds of Chinese and Asian food options here. Try Taiwan Café for fairly genuine Taiwanese food (Helen’s recommendation: Stinky Tofu) or Emperor’s Gardens for dim sum.

Theatre/Arts

Although not exactly New York City, Boston has more theater and art venues than an average city. Take advantage of Bostix booths, which sell same-day tickets at half price for pretty much all available shows in Boston, including musicals, plays, circus, or something like the Improv Asylum (a comedy club featuring improvisation and sketch comedy). It opens at 11am each day for shows that generally starts around 7-8pm that same day. There are two Bostix booths, one right off green Copley T stop, and another at Faneuil Hall at the green Government Center T stop. For more info on Bostix and show schedule go to http://www.artsboston.org/bostix.cfm or www.artsboston.org.

To catch a movie, the best theater (or at least the only one Dave and I have been to…) is Loews Boston Commons, located right at green Boylston T stop in the “Theater District” of Boston. Movies aren’t cheap here - $9.75 for adult, $8.50 for students/seniors, and $6.50 for matinee. Other theaters include Loews Copley Square (closer to Midtown, two T stops away) and Loews Harvard Square.