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How to Discover Boston Like a Local

The Freedom Trail, Harvard, the Red Sox… We all think we know Boston but, in truth, there’s so much more to discover beyond the traditional landmarks. Think vibrant neighbourhoods, unrivalled history and great geography – this compact metropolis is just a stone’s throw from the beach, the Cape and myriad unique experiences. We caught up with our friends at Visit Boston to get their top tips for exploring the city like a local, and really get under the skin of the place:

Boston Harbor Ferry - (image: Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau)

Boston Harbor Ferry

(image: Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau)

Ride the Commuter Ferries

“Ride Boston Harbor’s commuter ferries for one of the best deals in town,” says Maria Smith. The inner harbour ferry (Route F4) runs from Charlestown to Long Wharf. Children 11 and under ride free and all other tickets are US$3.70 – making it one of the most affordable cruises in town. “In Charlestown, you won’t want to miss the Navy Yard where the USS Constitution is berthed, and the Bunker Hill Monument,” adds Marina. “But after climbing up that hill, or perhaps climbing the 294 steps, we suggest giving your legs a break and taking the ferry back to Long Wharf for some great harbour views.”

Esplanade concert, Boston - (image: David Fox / Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau)

Esplanade concert, Boston

(image: David Fox / Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau)

Get Outdoorsy

Nestled on the coast and home to the adventure-packed Boston Harbor Islands National Park, Boston is actually a pretty outdoorsy city. Which is why it’s no surprise that Susan Cronin, National Parks Sales Director at the National Tour Association, and friend of the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau, is all about sampling delicious local food and getting alfresco. “For every day, no-fuss seafood, check out Yankee Lobster or Dry Dock Café,” she recommends. “Dinner at Villa Francesca in the North End is amazing and the Sail Loft overlooking the water is fun. Outdoor concerts at the Esplanade are always special.”

Beacon Hill - (image: Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau)

Beacon Hill

(image: Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau)

Stroll Beacon Hill

Beacon Hill is one of Boston’s oldest neighbourhoods – a confection of beautiful brick homes, cobblestones streets, and gas streetlamps, unlike anywhere else in the city. “I love to pay close attention to the colourful doors, fun door knockers, and window-box displays,” says Sarah Dale. “If you’re in the area for breakfast, stop at The Paramount. Don’t worry about the line out the door, I promise it moves quickly!”

Berklee Performance Center - (image: Kate Flock / BPC)

Berklee Performance Center

(image: Kate Flock / BPC)

Catch a Show at the Berklee Performance Center

Looking for first-class entertainment at a fraction of the price? Be sure to check out a concert at the Berklee Performance Center. “Berklee College of Music students are amazingly talented,” explains Stacy Thornton. “With their stagecraft, costumes, lighting and incredible music and arrangements, they are practically ready for the big time.

“You can also find Berklee students moonlighting with more seasoned players and the ghosts of jazz legends at nearby Wally’s Jazz Café, which opened in 1947 and offers live music 365 nights a year.”

Seaport, Boston - (image: Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau)

Seaport, Boston

(image: Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau)

Dine Out at the Seaport

The waterfront Seaport neighbourhood is one of Boston’s newest and trendiest areas. “It’s filled with exclusive shopping, unique attractions and an array of restaurants, cuisines and great nightlife,” recommends Stacy Roberts. “When I’m in the mood for great food and ambiance but don’t want to wait in line, I often have luck getting a table at Gather. Located in the back of District Hall and in the heart of the Seaport, Gather offers a diverse menu, indoor or outdoor seating and harbour views.

“My top tip? Try the hummus platter!”

Aerial view of Seaport - (image: Kyle Klein / Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau)

Aerial view of Seaport

(image: Kyle Klein / Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau)

Support Local Businesses at Coolidge Corner

Jessie Mooney highly recommends a trip to Coolidge Corner in Brookline, via the Green Line. “Our subway system – locals call it the “T” short for MBTA Massachusetts Bay Transportation – is colour coded,” Jessie explains. “Coolidge Corner is right off the Green Line (“C” train), just past Fenway. There’s a neighbourhood feel and loads of small businesses to explore and support. From shopping to dining to drinking, an independent movie theatre and book shop, and a secret Sapporo ramen shop called Ganko Ittetsu inside a historic arcade, you can spend an afternoon into the night here.”

Houses in Coolidge Corner, Boston

Houses in Coolidge Corner, Boston

Pull on Your Dancing Shoes for Salsa in the Park

“If you’re visiting Boston in the summer, join music and dance lovers from all around the city for Salsa in the Park,” suggests Kamilla Carmignani. This Latin experience takes place every Monday under the locust trees in the BCYF Blackstone Community Center courtyard at 50 West Brookline Street, between Shawmut Ave and Washington Street. “You can take free 30-minute lessons from 6-6:30pm, dance to your favourite salsa and bachata songs, and enjoy performances by amazing local and national performers. ¡Vamos a bailar!”

Dorchester Bay, Boston

Dorchester Bay, Boston

Sample Delicious Local Fare & Craft Beer in Dorchester

Dorchester is a vibrant and diverse neighbourhood, overlooking the bay. “From Upham's Corner to Ashmont, Fields Corner to Four Corners, Lower Mills, Adams Village and the Polish Triangle, Dorchester offers bustling commercial and cultural districts alongside public parks, beautiful murals and ethnic cuisine,” explains David O’Donnell. “Most importantly, it’s got some of the best Vietnamese and Caribbean food in Boston, not to mention great craft beer!"

He recommends the Dorchester Brewing Company for a tasty tipple – and not just beers either! DBCo serves up craft beer, wine and cider and even has a four-season rooftop greenhouse, games room and restaurant in its namesake neighbourhood.

North End, Boston - (image: Leise Jones / Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau)

North End, Boston

(image: Leise Jones / Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau)

Discover Boston’s Italian Roots

The North End is Boston's oldest neighbourhood. Dating back to 1630, it was the first stop for many immigrants seeking a better life in the US. “Italians began arriving in North End in 1860 and, since then, the neighbourhood has stayed authentic with the best bakeries, pasta, meat, and cheese shops, plus more than 120 restaurants,” says Maureen Buckley. “You can't go wrong with any of them, but my favourites are Panza, Bricco and Limoncello. The feasts and festivals that take place are also some of my favourite ways to spend those warm summer nights.”

South End, Boston - (image: Kyle Klein / Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau)

South End, Boston

(image: Kyle Klein / Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau)

Explore Hip South End

South End is known for its Victorian homes – indeed, it’s the largest district of its kind in the US. And, thanks to its SOWA art galleries and market, it’s the perfect fusion of historic and hip. “There are many nice parks to sit and eat lunch, and the best coffee shops,” shares Olivia Sullivan. “Be sure to stop by the South End Buttery for a pastry or cupcake, and B&G Oysters, Myers + Chang, Cosmica or Picco (short for Pizza & Ice Cream Co.!) for dinner.”

Written by Alexandra Cronin (Gregg)

Once a roving local news reporter and now a travel-obsessed writer/sub, I'm head-over-heels for nature, wildlife and the ocean. When I'm not getting up close to animals and sea creatures, I'm seeking out the sets of my favourite TV shows around the world. 

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