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Boston, also known as Beantown or The Hub, is a city in the US state of Massachusetts, and unofficially the capital and biggest metropolitan area of the New England region. Trees line the historic brick sidewalks of the city that was home to the start of the American Revolution. Today, it's the higher education center of America, with over 100 colleges and universities in the region. In many ways, the culture of the city is defined by the approximately 150,000 or so students that call it their home. The city is also home to a thriving high-technology industry, as well as many successful national level sports teams. The Red Sox, Boston's professional baseball team, is particularly important to the Bostonians and those all over the region.
Boston and the surrounding state of Massachusetts are very progressive politically, with an emphasis on tolerance and liberal values. Gay marriage is legal, possession of small amounts of marijuana is a civil offense ($100 penalty ticket - not a criminal offense), and health care is both required and mandated (if your employer does not provide it, the state health care plan in Massachusetts is cheaper than the tax penalty for not maintaining health insurance) The 2010 US "Obamacare" plan was modeled after Massachusetts' health law. For these and other reasons, Massachusetts is considered the "bluest" state, tending to vote for more liberal politicians from the Democratic Party. Perhaps because of this, many Western Europeans find that Boston's sociopolitical atmosphere is more similar to theirs than perhaps in most other American cities. Furthermore, the large number of universities attracts intellectuals and scholars from around the world, which tends to give the city a diverse, tolerant and liberal character.Boston Accent (popularly lampooned with the phrase "Pahk yah kah in Hahvahd yahd") is well known world-wide thanks to actors like Matt Damon, who is from Boston, using it in movies like The Departed and Goodwill Hunting. This accent is generally heard in working-class neighborhoods of mostly local-born residents, most famously South Boston and Dorchester. Boston is home to many international and non-local American residents who lack this characteristic accent, so if you are looking to "hee-ah" (hear) it, keep an "ee-ah" (ear) open around construction "wuh-kuz" (workers), in "bah-z" (bars) during "spoahtz" (sports) games, or on the trains and buses "fah-yah" (for your) best chance of "hee-in'" (hearing) the spoken Boston accent. You can also sample some common words for comparison at Boston Sound Comparisons.
This article not comprehensive. Boston's CS ambassadors highly recommend you take time to visit Wikitravel's page on Boston and to purchase the excellent Lonely Planet Boston guide book before coming to Boston. Also, if you are visiting for more than a few days, absolutely check out the Not For Tourists guide as well.
Getting Into Boston
- Logan Airport: Logan Airport serves Boston. Public buses, Logan Express (bus), water transport, taxis, etc can get you from Logan into the city and eventually to your final destination. Shuttle buses take you to connecting stations on the Silver and Blue subway lines. There is no luggage / locker storage here.
- Bus: If you are taking a bus into Boston, chances are you will be arriving at South Station. This station connects you to the Commuter Rail, local and long-distance buses, and the Silver and Red subway lines. Your best chances are to search for a cheap bus ticket to Boston using BusJunction. There are luggage lockers / storage available here.
- Taxi: Chances are if you are taking a taxi into Boston, you are coming from a fairly close location or have enough money to afford a taxi from a very far location. Either way, taxis are not necessarily the best way to get around the city once you are here. Check out the MBTA website for train and bus schedules. (Taxis are best after midnight when public transportation stops.)
Getting Around Boston
Unlike many newer U.S. cities, many of Boston's roads were not planned as a grid. Instead, many claim that the city's modern roads are simply the paved cow paths of colonial-era Boston. Add to the fact that one of the world's largest public works project, The Big Dig, changed both major and minor roads on a daily basis for over a decade. Despite this attempt to simplify the major roads into and through Boston, driving and parking in the city can be extremely difficult. If you don't believe it, just look at these map examples for proof: 1, 2, 3, 4. Boston area car drivers have a reputation of driving terribly. Metered parking spots, garages, and lots are expensive and hard to find. The city does not consistently post street signs or directions, which often unsurprisingly even confuses the locals. Driving is not recommended for travelers without a GPS (satnav) navigation device. Even these devices can become confused by duplicated street names in different historical neighborhoods of the city. Furthermore, finding a decent parking spot is challenging, as rules for parking can be be different on different parts of the same street. Car-park lots and garages are typically very expensive. If you must, park at one of the lots at the end of the subway line stations, such as Riverside, Alewife, or Oak Grove, and then get on the public transit. Don't drive a car in Boston unless you absolutely have to, as having a car is expensive, stressful, and confusing to deal with as a visitor. Your best bet for finding safe, somewhat cheap parking, is to use the Boston Best Parking Tool.MBTA website. Please note: The T shuts down at approximately midnight, and starts again around 6am. Most nightlife venues close their doors by 1 or 2am, so you may need to walk or take a taxi home if you choose to stay beyond the last train.
Understanding the region of Greater Boston
Boston "proper" is quite small, but the city is surrounded on all sides by other, smaller cities, which are also divided into distinct neighborhoods. There is a strong chance that your host might not technically live in Boston itself, but in one of the neighboring cities. When searching for a host in Boston, you may wish to use the "within miles/kilometers" option for this reason. Boston-proper's population is approximately .5 million residents, but the Greater Boston Metropolitan Area is home to about 5.3 million residents. You can impress the locals by understanding that visiting Boston means you are also visiting places like Cambridge, Somerville, and Brookline - all independent cities on the subway system. For example, the well-known Harvard University is in Cambridge, with only some of its graduate schools and athletic areas located across the river in Lower Allston (part of Boston, not Cambridge).
Despite its small size, Boston-proper includes neighborhoods that are also referred to as if they were separate cities, such as Allston, Brighton, Southie, Dorchester, etc. - all of which are valid "cities" when used to send post-mail, and within each neighborhood are often one or more special squares. Many of the Boston neighborhoods were independent towns before they were incorporated into Boston. These new sections of the city kept their street names, leading to confusion as several main streets shared the same name. A perfect example is Washington Street - there are at least 4 distinct streets with this name, from Charlestown in the northwest, to Brighton in the southwest, neither of which connect with the "main" Washington Street in the South End. For these reasons, if you are using GPS (satnav) or meeting locals, please try to use the name of the neighborhood, rather than simply "Boston", to reduce confusion.
When visiting Boston, it can be helpful to know a few local abbreviations. Locals love to shorten the names of neighborhoods, major streets, and even common chain-stores. South Boston (not to be confused with the South End) becomes Southie, while East Boston is shortened to Eastie. Jamaica Plain is usually referred to as JP. Conversely, Allston and Brighton, adjacent sections of Boston incorporated around the same time, are often combined to Allston/Brighton. Massachusetts Avenue is almost always called Mass Ave., while Commonwealth Ave becomes Comm Ave. In the morning, locals may ask you if you want DD - local coffee chain Dunkin' Donuts. If you're confused, just ask. Locals are used to getting lost in their own city, and understand when visitors can't navigate the same maze! You might even find someone offering to help you find your destination if you simply open up a map and act as if you are lost.
Finding a Couch in Boston
Here are some general tips to increase your odds for finding a couch in the Boston area:
- As mentioned above, send requests to hosts residing in areas other than Boston "proper". Many CSers live in Brookline, Cambridge, and Somerville. The search by map feature is useful as well. Especially during the summer tourist season (which is preceded by college graduation season starting in mid-May and followed by college move-in season ending in mid-September), hosts in Boston "proper" have been known to receive more than 10 requests PER DAY. Do not get discouraged if your requests are repeatedly declined or not acknowledged in a timely manner. Hosts themselves tend to travel during the summer season as well.
- Consider hosts with proximity to non-subway forms of public transportation. For example, there some bus lines that run as frequently as subway lines and even bus/commuter train/commuter boat schedules that are less frequent may not present too much of an issue. Many hosts will list proximity to public transit in their profiles. Then, you can compare it with your maps and see if its worthwhile. Just remember, though, that public transit tends to end around midnight. Taxi rides from the city center to the suburbs could nearly $30-40 depending on how far away you're staying.
- Plan ahead. Sometimes this is not possible as travel opportunities do come up at the last minute and CouchSurfers in general tend to be more spontaneous than the average folk. If you are able to fix your plans in advance, don't put off sending out requests until the last minute. A good time frame for sending requests is 1-3 weeks prior to arrival. Likewise if you have control over your planning arriving try to avoid arriving in the wee hours, especially on a weeknight. Also, the public transportation system does not run all night so think carefully before buying a cheap bus ticket into the city that arrives in Boston at 2:30am - you'll only end up having to pay for a taxi cab at that point anyways.
- Groups of 3+ people may have better luck splitting up (for sleeping purposes) and using "divide and conquer" to find couches. Even for those willing to sleep on the floor be advised that apartments in this area tend to be on the smaller side. Also, many hosts live with roommates who may be fine sharing a bathroom with one or two extra people, but not six extra people.
- If you are not able to find a couch through the traditional request syste,m consider the emergency request message board. Whining about not being able to find a couch and/or scolding the CS community here for not being responsive/hospitable will NOT help your cause. Even if you are feeling discouraged, try to convey positive energy in your post.
Getting Out of Boston
From Boston to New York City
Many travelers stop in Boston before heading to New York City. There are many ways to reach NYC including: car, train, bus and plane. Pick the method that fits within your travel budget. Time wise, the cheaper the ride, the longer it takes. By bus, the trip to New York usually takes 4 to 4.5 hours, although it can take up to 6 in bad traffic. By train, it usually around 3.5 hours. By flight, 45 minutes, plus 1 or 2 hours of to-and-from-the-airport travel. The most common way is by bus - search for a bus ticket using BusJunction.
- Megabus and BoltBus are two competitors that serve the Boston-NYC route. By booking a few weeks in advance, it is possible to secure a round trip ticket for only $2.50 ($1 each way, with $0.50 fee). Both offer free wifi on board. Boltbus: South Station Bus Terminal, Red and Silver Lines. Megabus: Back Bay station, Orange Line.
- Fung Wah and Lucky Star are two buses that run from South Station to Chinatown in NYC. The tickets are $15 each way and the buses run hourly, with extra buses during busy intervals.
- Peter Pan Bus(cheap) Another inexpensive option is the Peter Pan/Greyhound bus. If you buy your tickets online, the trip is $15 per person each way. South Station Bus Terminal, Red and Silver Lines. There are luggage lockers / storage available here.
- Amtrak/Acela (moderate) There is also a train that leaves from Boston South Station (or Westwood) going to NYC. This service is slightly more expensive ranging from around $50 to over $200. There are two stations in Boston: Back Bay and South Station as well as a station in Westwood. To view fares, schedules and to purchase tickets check out the website. If you have an International Student Identity Card (ISIC), you may be able to save 15%, be sure to check out any specials on the website. South Station Bus Terminal, Red and Silver Lines. There are luggage lockers / storage available here.
- Air Travel: (more expensive) Flights to NYC depart from Boston daily. While the flights are relatively quick (about 45 minutes), the tickets may be more expensive especially if you are buying last minute. Also, note that these flights land on Long Island (La Guardia Airport or JFK) and will not bring you directly into Manhattan. With baggage claim and travel to and from airports, flying could very well take the same travel time as the train or bus, both of which arrive in central Manhattan locations. Airport Station, Blue and Silver Lines. No luggage lockers / storage are available here.
From Boston to Montreal
Montreal is a unique place, with a blend of North American modernity and a very strong Francophone flavor. There is plenty of culture, night life and restaurants. There is no direct train from Boston to Montreal - instead, by train, you need to go to NYC (+4 hrs) or Albany (+3 hrs) first. Most CSers take a direct bus to get to Montreal.
- Driving - If you have an international driver's license, and are traveling with several people, it may make sense to rent a car and drive to Montreal. Check out several of the most popular car rental companies: Hertz, Enterprise, Avis, National Car or others. The drive to Montreal takes approximately 6 hours, and runs through the beautiful Green Mountains of Vermont.
- Greyhound Bus - Cheapest direct route to Montreal from Boston, other than splitting gas costs in a car. 7 hours ride from Boston. This is the most common way to get there. South Station Bus Terminal, Red and Silver Lines. There are luggage lockers / storage available here.
- Amtrak Train - (From Albany or NYC, not direct from Boston) Considered a very scenic route through the Adirondack mountains of upstate New York, if you have the time for this ride, it is a unique experience that not many people take. 10 hours long ride from NYC. South Station Bus Terminal, Red and Silver Lines. There are luggage lockers / storage available here.
- Air Travel - Fastest way to get to Montreal, although a nonstop flight may cost $400-500, and will take about 4 hours total. Because this route is not popular, fares can suddenly rise to absurd levels (over $1200) since it is largely business travelers on expense acounts. On the other hand, look out for online deals that can make the flight affordable for a budget-conscious traveler.
From Boston to Points North East
Many people choose to include a visit to some of the smaller coastal cities along with Boston, New York City, and the other large Eastern seaboard cities. This may include any number of smaller cities and ports in Maine, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia (including Halifax)
- Driving - Interstate 95 serves as the backbone for intercity travel from Miami all the way to the Canadian border in Maine. If heading on to Nova Scotia, the ferry service through Portland or Bar Harbour in Maine can also be used.
- Travel by bus - The bus system of the big US cities only goes so far into Maine until it is required to switch to the Canadian bus network (Acadien bus lines in the Canadian Maritimes).
- Air Travel - A lot of the same pros and cons of air travel to Montreal (as above)
Weather and Climate in Boston
There's a local saying about the weather in Boston that goes, "If you don't like the weather in Boston... wait five minutes."
This means that the weather can frequently change - maybe not in five minutes, but within a single day the weather can swing nearly 15°C (20-25°F) hotter or colder than the day before. For this reason, most Bostonians decide to wear clothing in layers - and chose to remove layers as needed when the day is warmer than they expected.
The most mild weather that a tourist visiting the city would enjoy is during late spring (May through early June) and mid-autumn (September through October).
Summers are typically warm, with a maximum about temperature of 33°C (95°F). Late July and August are the hottest time, usually. The heat may feel hotter than the thermometer though, as the air is usually very humid in the summer.
Winters are usually unpleasant, with January and early February being the coldest part of it. They are cold, windy, and snowy, with minimum temperatures going down to nearly -10°C (15°F) sometimes. Having a good pair of waterproof, insulated boots, as well as a winter jacket, gloves, scarf, and winter hat that covers your ears is important in order to stay warm while outside.
Visit the climate index for Boston on wikipedia for more information on the weather in Boston.
Things to see and do in Boston
Some Boston CSers have compiled a google map of their favorite views, bars, and spots in Boston to help you out during your visit, find good photo spots ("kodak moments") and other things to see. We also keep a list of free activities to check out.
- Freedom Trail - Three mile (4.8km) walking tour of 16 historical sites in Boston. Tours are scheduled in the spring, summer and fall, but you can do this walk on your own as well. The sidewalks are painted with a red line, or with a brick path indicating the route, so you don't even necessarily need a map! Plan at least 3-5 hours for this walk. Park Street Station on the Red and Green Line.
- Harvard University - Located in Cambridge (not Boston - did you read the "understanding" section above?), Harvard is one of the oldest and most well known universities in the world. You should also check out "unofficial" free walking tour. The tour guides are students who work for tips, and have good stories and jokes. Be sure to check the tour schedule link, before you head there. No reservations are needed. The Harvard Square area is also home to boutiques, cafes, and other interesting urban interactions. You can find free Wi-Fi here too, in the open area as well as in every coffee shop. Plan at least 3 hours to the tour plus exploring Harvard Square. Harvard Station on the Red Line.
- Boston Common and Public Garden - The oldest city park and garden in the United States, the common and garden are a place for gatherings, protests, concerts, ice skating in the winter and general relaxation. The Common is part of the Emerald Necklace, an 1,100 acre chain of parks in Boston and Brookline designed by Frederick Law Olmstead (who also designed Central Park in NYC and Mont Royal Park in Montreal). Be sure to visit the Swan Boat Ride and the Make Way For Ducklings statues. Plan at most 1 hour to explore the Common and Garden. Boylston Station on the Green Line, and Park Street Station on the Red and Green Line.
- Faneuil Hall- A shopping and dining center, Faneuil Hall is also a 15 minute walk to many of Boston’s attractions. Nearby is also the Holocaust Memorial. It is bordered by the North End, the financial district, Haymarket and Government Center. In the summertime, there are street performers outside the hall itself. Plan at least 2 hours to explore this area. Haymarket Station on the Orange Line.
- Museum of Fine Arts - Fantastic art museum with a top-notch gallery of impressionist paintings by Renoir, Monet, Manet, Picasso, Degas, as well as the rest of the museum with large galleries and more. Great for an all day activity, especially on a bad weather day. Museum of Fine Arts Station on the Green E line.
- Boston Public Library - Be sure to see Bates Hall, the reading room, which is simply stunning. Plan at least 30 minutes to explore inside. Copley Square, Green Line. Free.
- Paul Revere House- Visit the home of Paul Revere, the midnight rider who warned of the British advance in the Revolutionary War. His home, built in 1680 is the oldest building in downtown Boston and is now a national historic landmark. The Freedom Trail takes you past this house. See Freedom Trail above.
- The North End- This section of Boston housed the immigrant Italian enclave. Although many Italians have moved on and out, their legacy lives on in the numerous restaurants in this neighborhood's tiny streets. This is a heavily touristed area, but also a residential area where locals visit for excellent old world cuisine. To eat like a local, step off the busy,touristy Hanover St. and onto the smaller streets. With so many restaurants tucked away, you may discover a gem to pass on to your host! Haymarket Station, Orange Line (walk of 5-10 minutes required).
- Boston Symphony Orchestra - Symphony Hall, the home of the BSO and the Boston Pops, is consistently rated in the top 5 classical halls in the world. Comparable to the Musikverein in Vienna, Symphony Hall was scientifically designed with perfect acoustics in mind. Cheap tickets are available for students, and currently anyone under 40 can purchase tickets for $20. Symphony Station on the Green E Line.
- USS Constitution- "Old Ironsides" is the oldest commissioned warship in the world afloat. This ship was originally launched October 21, 1797. It's now housed at the Charlestown Navy Yard, near the famous Bunker Hill. Charlestown, while not as picturesque as the North and South Ends or Beacon Hill, is distinctly Bostonian, with a mix of Irish and Italian families, newer immigrants, young professionals and transplanted families.
- John F. Kennedy Library - The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum is the presidential library and museum of the 35th President of the United States, John F. Kennedy. The building is the official repository for original papers and correspondence of the Kennedy Administration. JFK Station on the Red Line (may take some time to reach from downtown).
- Fenway Park- Stadium home of the Red Sox baseball team, this ballpark is almost entirely unchanged since it opened on April 20, 1912. Take in a game or simply take a tour and see a piece of Boston's history. Note that tickets for the Red Sox can be difficult to find. The team has dramatically increased their online presence in the last few years, making it worthwhile to keep an eye on the site if you think you might want to check out a game. Kenmore Station on the Green Line (any line except "E" line, just look for the Fenway Park signs! Note that the "Fenway" station on the is farther from the stadium than Kenmore Station.)
- Old North Church- The Old North Church is officially known as Christ Church in the City of Boston. Built in 1723, it is the oldest standing church in Boston. On April 18, 1775 church sexton Robert Newman climbed the steeple and held two lanterns signaling that the British were marching to Lexington and Concord by sea and not by land (according to the website).
- Old State House- Now dwarfed by the modern buildings surrounding it, the Old State House is the oldest public building in Boston. The Old State House bore witness to the Boston Massacre, a reading of the Declaration of Independence, and a visit from President Washington. State Street Station on the Orange Line.
- King’s Chapel- This Unitarian Universalist church was founded in 1686. It was built on a burying ground since no one would sell land for the construction of a non-Puritan church. Today, it is located on the Freedom Trail and the burying grounds still lay adjacent.
- Boston Harbor Island National Park- Thirty-four islands comprise the BHINP. Within minutes of Boston, you can visit Civil War historical sites, see historic lighthouses, camp, hike, swim, fish, etc. The islands make a great day trip or break from the city.
Thanks to some Boston locals and their research check out few of the links
- 21 Free Things To Do In Boston - This is a list and guide of Free Things to do in Boston while visiting - the list includes museums, tours, events, entertainment, places to eat and lots more.
- 25 free things to do around Boston - Taken from one of the local Boston sites.
- Boston Duck Tours - Unique ride and tour of Boston on special amphibious vehicles. Tour guides are full of interesting information, jokes and historical oddities. They also encourage "quacking", making this tour perfect for children and adults unafraid to feel slightly silly. A bit pricey (maybe $30), but a "must do" if you only have 1 or 2 days in Boston and want to get a quick feel for the city without walking around or reading a book. Locals also enjoy this ride. Good on a sunny or rainy weather day. Tours start at either the Prudential Center (E branch of the Green Line) or at the Museum of Science (Science Park on the Green line).
- Swan Boats - Summer only. For $2 or $3, you get a nice little ride around the lagoon in the public gardens. Arlington Station on the Green line, and walk eastward into the Public Gardens.
- Skywalk at the Prudential Center - Best view of the city from the top of the tallest building. Cost is approximately $12 to go to the top. Dusk (4pm-7pm) for sunsets is probably the best time to visit. Go to the Prudential Station on the Green Line.
- Hubway Bikesharing - Similar to the Vélib bikesharing program in France and in other cities, you can rent a bicycle at one station and return it at another. The the bikesharing program closes during the winter months, however.
- Photo Walk - Explore Boston on five separate photo walking tours presented with fascinating historic commentary and creative photography tips. Capture amazing pictures in Beacon Hill, Back Bay, the Public Garden, along the Freedom Trail and Boston Harbor. All ages and skill levels welcome. Starting points vary based on walk locations.
- Museum of Science - Highly interactive museum that is absolutely fun for kids and adults. Great for a rainy day. Science Park Station on the Green Line.
- Urban Adventours - Choose from several different bike ride tours of different parts of Boston and the surrounding area.
- Minuteman Bikeway - Off-Street paved bicycle path appx 15km long. Takes you through historic Lexington Center, home of the first battles at start of the American Revolutionary War. Starts at Alewife Station on the Red Line.
- Rent (hire) Bicycles - Bike Tours and other independent rental shops: 1, 2, 3, 4 (various locations).
- Charles River Wheelmen - A group of regular cyclists ride together around the city and surrounding areas. Also visit Mass Bike Association for regional bicycling information.
- Spirit of Boston Cruise-
- Whale Watching-
- Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum - smaller, private art museum - collection of the same namesake. Several high value paintings were stolen from this museum in 1990, including works by Vermeer and Degas. Longwood or Musueum of Fine Arts Station on the Green E. Line.
- New England Aquarium - slightly expensive ($30) and not an all-afternoon activity, Boston CSers recommend you go to the Museum of Science or Museum of Fine Arts first, before you go here. Good on a rainy weather day. The harbor-walk next to it is a nice, free walking activity instead if you are nearby. Aquarium Station on the Blue line.
- Charles River Esplanade - Walk along the Charles river, along the Boston/south side. Share the path with dozens of bicyclists and joggers, as you head westward. Rent canoes, sit on the river, watch sailboats, or maybe even dip your feet in the water. Excellent to visit on a warm, sunny weather day. Charles/MGH Station on the Red Line for the eastern-most end.
- Ice Skating at Frog Pond - Winter season only - Smaller version of NYC's central park rink. Park Street Station, Red and Green lines.
- Samuel Adams Brewery Tours - Take a tour of a popular local beer brewery. All ages welcome, however you must be 21 years old to sample the beer. Good on a rainy day. Stony Brook station, Orange Line.
- Foliage viewing - Fall / Autumn Season only -
Coffee Shops, WiFi and Internet Cafes
Starbucks are numerous and easy to find, and so we won't list them. To use the Wifi at most Starbucks, you must have an AT&T internet account or a registered Starbucks card, which gives you two hours of free Wifi per day. The Starbucks at the Barnes & Nobles in Prudential Center has free wifi without the need of an account. When the weather is good, there is free public wifi in Harvard Square as well as on Newbury Street if you don't want to sit indoors at a coffee shop.
- Massachusetts WiFi Hotspot Listing - Comprehensive listing of WiFi spots around the city and beyond. Also try I love free WiFi.
- Trident Booksellers - Back Bay / Fenway area, Boston, on Newbury Street. Green Line, Hynes Station.
- Diesel Cafe - Hipster/Alternative/Young Professional shop. Lots of seating. West Somerville, Davis Square station, Red Line. (No free wifi)
- Athan's Bakery & Cafe - Euro Bakery and Cafe. Brookline, Green C Line, Washington Square Station.
- Peet's Coffee and Tea - Cambridge, Harvard Square Station, Red Line.
- 1369 Coffeehouse - Cambridge, Inman Square. Central Square station, Red Line. (No free wifi)
Other common chains that have free Wifi are Boloco (a chain of burrito restaurants) and JP Licks (ice cream shops).
Internet cafes do not exist very much in the USA, and Boston isn't so different in this case. If you don't have your own computer and need to use the internet, there are a few options you can check out:
- Boston Public Library - has computers you can use if you wait in line, and free wi-fi too. The BPL is worth visiting as a tourist attraction anyways, as Bates Hall is stunning. Copley Square station, Green Line.
- Apple Store Boston - Biggest Apple Store in the USA. Boylston Street, Copley Square station, Green Line.
- Apple Store Cambridge - Located inside the Cambridgeside Galleria Shopping Mall. Lechemere Station, Green Line.
- Tech Superpowers Lounge - Internet Cafe. Newbury Street, Copley Square, Green Line.
- Super Socks - Internet cafe is located upstairs in a crazy store on Winter Street. Park Street station, Red Line, or Downtown Crossing station, Orange Line.
- Fedex Office / Kinko's - Several locations in Boston: 60 State St, 2 Center Plaza, 211 Congress St, 125 Tremont St.
If you are looking for unique souvenirs, check out Boston Coasters (Porter Station, Red Line) for special "Boston" gifts, or visit typical Fanueil Hall (see below) for lots of touristy souvenir carts and shops.
- Best Buy - a "big box" electronics chain. Prices here are OK but not great; the customer service is NOT very good. We recommend you figure out what you want to buy ahead of time before going in the store. Otherwise, if you can have something shipped via online shopping, retailers like Newegg or Amazon are far better options. Fenway Station, Green "D" line.
Department Stores, Fashion, etc.
- Newbury Street -Lots of 'European' boutiques, expensive designer brands like Burberry, Prada, Gucci, Puma to Diesel, in addition to FCUK, Zara, as well as fancy cafes and art galleries. Very picturesque area of Boston. Not so good on a rainy or cold day. Accessible by the Arlington, Copley, and Hynes stations (Green Line).
- Shops at the Prudential - Upscale shopping mall, brands like Coach, Tiffany, Louis Vitton, FCUK, A/X, etc. Good on a rainy or cold day. Accessible by Back Bay (Orange Line), Prudential (Green E Line), Hynes (Green B, C, or D Lines).
- Downtown Crossing - Mostly large department stores (Macy's), clothing (H&M, TJ Max, Filene's Basement), and a very large shoe store (DSW). Accessible by Downtown Crossing (Orange Line), or Park Street (Red or Green lines).
- Haymarket and Faneuil Hall Marketplace - open air food market on certain days, souvenirs and other local food geared towards tourists. Accessible by Haymarket (Orange Line)
Used, Vintage, Thrift and Consignment Shops
This is only a partial listing of discount, used, vintage, thrift, and consignment shops around Boston. Be sure to search Yelp for more stores and locations.
- Goodwill - Cambridge, Allston, Roxbury, Somerville
- Salvation Army - Cambridge, Somerville
- Cambridge - Garment District, Christ Church Thrift Shop, Boomerangs Central, Oona's
- Somerville - Artifaktori, Grand, Poor Little Rich Girl
- Jamaica Plain - Boomerangs JP, Dame, 40 South Street
- South End / Back Bay - Bobby From Boston
Like any city, Boston is brimming with clubs and bars. Asking 10 different Bostonians for the best of these will elicit 10 different answers, as tastes vary greatly. Downtown establishments tend to be pricier and dressier, with more mainstream music. The Boston CSers tend to avoid these establishments in favor of smaller venues, where the cover (door fee to enter a club) and drinks tend to be cheaper and the music better. For those interested in catching a live band, Boston has several world-class clubs that are institutions, as well as newer places to catch a big touring band or a small local gig.
A warning to minors
A warning about the legal drinking age restrictions on nightlife in Boston - The legal drinking age in the USA is 21 years old. Depending on what city or bar or part of the country, you might find places where this law is not enforced. However, Boston is not one of those places. You should always bring your international passport with you if you are going out at night. For many places, even a government issued national ID card may not be accepted, but an EU Driver's License may work. An ID not issued by the government, such as a student ID, will never be accepted. In some places, you may be allowed in without proper ID, but the bartender will not sell you an alcoholic drink. The reason for such strict enforcement of this law in Boston is due to the fact that if a bar or club loses its Liquor License temporarily, it may very well have to go out of business, as rent is expensive in Boston, and a loss of the license to serve alcohol can be devastating to their revenues. Add to the fact that Boston is a big college city with many people under the age of 21 looking to get drunk, the bar owners in this city find it better "to be safe than sorry" when it comes to checking your legal drinking age. You have been warned! If you are under the age of 21, we have made a list of nightlife possibilities Boston that are 18+.
Local Event Listing Websites
Several web sites list what is happening in the city, and recommend promising events:
- Boston Phoenix Listings
- Weekly Dig
- Last.Fm Music Event Listings
- Salsa Boston Calendar Listing
- Boston French Conversation Club Events
- Tourfilter Boston Concert List
If you are looking for something special or less common, such as Gay clubs or a Trance night, you should check out Yelp! as your best resource. By reading reviews rather than just ratings, you can decide whether the place will suit you. You could also seek advice on rare nightlife events by asking the Boston CS Group of course, as well.
Boston Couchsurfing Events
The Boston CS group often posts gatherings, meetups, and other events several nights a week, and they are open to everyone (generally, except for bars which are 21+).
Cambridge and Somerville
Much like diverse Cambridge itself, you can find a little bit of everything in the bars and clubs across the Charles River from Boston. Top spots depend on the night of the week and personal taste, as many venues have different themes on different nights.
- Central Square - The Middle East and TT the Bear's, the Phoenix Landing, Brick and Mortar, Middlesex Lounge, ZuZu, and River Gods in Central Square.
- Kendall Square - check out Think Tank, Lord Hobo and CBC.
- Porter Square - further out on the T's Red Line, has Toad.
- Davis Square - close to Tufts University. Check out Orleans, Foundry, Johnny D's, Saloon, The Burren, and Sligo.
- Inman Square - is a section of Cambridge and Somerville with many independent bars, restaurants and cafes, including Ryles Jazz Club (also, salsa), Bukowski's Tavern for beer lovers, and Atwood's Tavern for roots music.
- Union Square - Many laid back bars with live music fill this small area, including the Independent, Backbar, Precinct, PA's Lounge, Sally O'Brien's and Razzy's.
Central Square, Harvard Square and Davis Square stations on the Red Line all are good bets if you simply exit the station and walk around looking for these establishments.
Landsdowne / Fenway Park area
Many, many sports bars and a bowling alley with billiards (Jillian's and Boston Billiards) anchor this mainstream bar scene. In one of Boston's usual incongruities, a leather-and-vinyl Gay/Fetish club (Ramrod, The Machine) and punk-rock/metal venue (Church) are located nearby, along with the recently built House of Blues featuring medium-to-big-name music acts. Cover charges on weekends are likely for clubs and bars. Kenmore Station on the Green Line.
Boylston Street / Back Bay
The actual street "Boylston Street" is a very long street that stretches for many miles. Here, we are just describing the Back Bay neighborhood portion of this road. If you talk about the "Boylston Street Bars" to a local, they'll understand it to be this part of the street. It starts with the hipster-esque Otherside Cafe at the westernmost edge that you can see from Hynes Station (Green Line). It then continues with many "college bars" in the west end, such as the Pour House and Lir, and gradually gets more and more upscale with sleek martini bars, the further eastward as you get closer to downtown. There are a few similar bars on Newbury Street (parallel with Boylston). One notable standout is the tiny, but very popular Wally's Jazz Cafe (Mass Ave, Orange Line, or a 15 minute walk from Hynes). Rattlesnake Bar is notable for its roof deck, and is at the Arlington Station end of the stretch. Hynes, Copley and Arlington Stations on the Green Line.
Faneuil Hall / North Station
Disclosure: The authors of this wiki page are biased, especially about this nightlife area. Home to many sports bars and "Irish" (dubious) establishments, Faneuil Hall and the nearby North Station area have numerous bars to check out. The crowds here could be called the Bostonian equivalent of the NYC Bridge and Tunnel Crowd, and the atmosphere is often gets referred to as a Meat Market. This is the nightlife area of Boston that regional suburbanites, cougars, hapless tourists, docked sailors, fraternity brothers and sorority sisters frequent the most. Sadly, for these crowds, Fanueil Hall is synonymous to them with "Boston Nightlife." The music choice is usually uninspired top 40 hits, although you may find decent real live Irish music at the Black Rose bar. Expect stricter dress codes, unfriendly waitstaff, overpriced drinks, attitude, heavily-groomed women and men (right next to the crude and unrefined), lots perfume and cologne, lines, cover charges, and overly-drunk fellow patrons. As you may have already figured out, this area is at the bottom of the list of CS recommended nightlife areas for a visitor to the city - but perhaps this is exactly the kind of place you enjoy most - we're not stopping you from checking it out anyways. Haymarket Station on the Orange Line, Government Center on the Green Line.
Located in the theatre district, and the "The Alley" area, as well as the Downtown Crossing areas, you'll find the larger electronic music venues / nightclubs that aspire to bring a little bit of Miami or NYC to Boston. The more notable venues are Royale, Underbar, Down Ultra Lounge, Felt, Liberty Bar/Hotel, The Estate. A particular club/bar stands apart from the rest, Good Life, which tends to be less upscale and draws in more up-and-coming indie/underground DJ acts to it's downstairs section. In most all of these venues, dress codes are definite, cover charges are always high ($10-$20), you will wait in line 30 minutes to get in, and drinks are expensive and generally weak. Boston CSers generally consider these venues too expensive and "fake posh" to be worth visiting regularly. The truth is that Boston just doesn't have the kind of expensive, exclusive, fashionable and fancy clubs like NYC or Miami, yet the venues in this area do try to pretend that they are (as do their clientele). However, big name top electronic music artists do come through these clubs, so you can't always avoid them. Boylston Station or Park Street Station on the Green Line, or Downtown Crossing on the Orange Line.
Allston / Brighton
Home to mostly smaller, grittier rock venues. Colloquially known as "Allston Rock City", check out Common Ground, Brighton Music Hall (née Harper's Ferry), Great Scott and Wonderbar. Dress codes are unlikely, although cover charges for live music are typically cheap ($5-$15). At the easternmost edge is also Paradise Rock Club that features many good indie bands, although tickets are usually required to be purchased ahead of time. The best place for beer in the city is also here - Sunset Grille sports over 100 beers on draught (tap) and nearly 300 bottles to pick from. Above this is Big City, a large billiards/foosball hall. Harvard Ave Station on the Green B line, and then walk north 5-10 minutes on Harvard Avenue. Warning - this area is not typically covered or included on downtown tourist maps! Finding public parking spaces in this area is very difficult, so look at a map and take a bus route like the #66, or consider taking a taxi from somewhere nearby instead - a cab fare will certainly be cheaper than a parking ticket ($40) or being towed ($150+).
Gay / Lesbian / Bi / Trans / Drag
Rather than listing this as an area, the typical top venues for alternative GLBT nightlife are to be found at Ramrod/Machine (Fenway), RISE, Oberon, and Club Cafe (Back Bay/Bay Village), Midway Cafe and The Milky Way (Jamaica Plain), and Paradise (Cambridge). Note that the "Paradise" bar in Cambridge is not the same as the large rock venue in Allston called Paradise Rock Club. Many other venues have special gay theme nights one or more nights a week. Most of these places are certainly not fully GLBT (except perhaps Ramrod) - "straight" Bostonians frequent these nightspots too, to see musical acts and top DJs, or just to be with their friends. Spend some time on yelp.com to be certain of which nights and venues you choose to visit. Another neat option is Boston Guerrilla Queer Bar, which is a group of people that "crash" a random bar and make it "full of queers" for one night a week. Luckily, searching for a gay night or club in Boston is a choice, as the city is generally open and accepting. You're much more likely to be heckled for wearing a NY Yankees piece of clothing. Worth noting is that the South End neighborhood is known as the most "gay" neighborhood, and Jamaica Plain as the most "lesbian", respectively. While many bars/venues in these areas will generally have an above average amount of LGBT patrons, they are not necessarily "known" as "top" homosexual destinations. In fact, both the South End and JP each are very diverse places with something for everyone, so don't exclude or include these areas just on these facts alone.
As an under-21 year old in Boston, you'll find it very frustrating at how few options there are for nightlife. Read "a warning to minors" to understand the situation. We feel bad about this and want to make sure you have some ideas for things to do as an "underage" visitor in Boston! Some of the rock shows are "all ages" (under 18 is okay) - be sure to read the event listings carefully ahead of time. A general tip is that many "rock" (indie) shows are 18+, but nightclubs or bars with dance/djs are 21+.
- Glow Boston Think Tank in Kendall Square hosts an 18+ dance night on Thursday nights called Glow Boston Live.
- Throwed BPM regularly hosts 18+ electronic dance nights around Boston at a variety of venues.
- Oberon Oberon tends to hold LGBT/Burlesque/Alt lifestyle shows and events. Check for specific nights, for example, Junk is an 18+ gay night.
- Boston Couchsurfing Events Check the Boston CS events - we try to pick venues that allow 18+.
- Phoenix Landing - Drum n Bass and other electronic music nights are often 19+ (but never on Friday or Saturday, for sure!). Central Square, Cambridge, Red Line.
- Bill's Bar - Bill's Bar hosts several 18+ rock music and dance nights. Kenmore Square, Green Line. Check their schedule to be sure.
- Jillian's Boston - Billards, Bowling and Sports Bar. Huge venue. Sunday-Thursday before 8pm is all ages, after 8pm, 18+. Friday & Saturdays before 8pm is all ages, after 8pm, 21+. If you enter before 8pm, they are unlikely to tell you to leave after 8pm. Kenmore Square, Green Line.
- Middle East Rock Club - Many of the indie rock shows at the Middle East are 18+. Central Square, Cambridge, Red Line.
- Paradise Rock Club - Paradise and Paradise Lounge often have rock shows or dance nights that are 18+. Many shows sell out, so you may need to purchase tickets ahead of time to ensure entrance. Pleasant or Babcock Street station, Green B Line.
- Great Scott - Some of the live rock shows here are 18+. Harvard Ave Station, Green B Line.
- Cambridge Brewing Company - This is the bar/restaurant that Boston CS often has meetups. Under 21+ are allowed to enter, but may not purchase alcohol from the bar. Don't bother to come here if it is not a CS meetup, though. Kendall Square Station, Red Line.
- Rise Night Club - Because RISE is only open after hours, they do not serve alcohol, and therefore welcome 18+ people into their club. Note that you need to be on their guestlist or go as a guest of a member to enter. Getting on the guest list for a particular event isn't usually hard, as they allow you to do so from facebook.com, however expect to pay more money to enter (nearly $20) as a non-member. Plan ahead of time, as you cannot just "show up" at the door. Arlington Station, Back Bay, Green Line.
Where to Eat in Boston
Boston has a large selection of restaurants, from cheap delis and pizza places to ritzy upscale bistros. Yelp, the online review site, is a great resource for finding a good restaurant for your budget in your area. While there are many fantastic places in the city, it's often worthwhile to get input from locals rather than randomly selecting a restaurant. Pizza especially can be terrible in the wrong place. Ask someone on the street where a good restaurant is, and if you catch someone from the neighborhood they may have very firm views on the best places to grab any food.
- Near your host's apartment - find suggestions using Not For Tourists guide. Select the neighborhood that you're surfing in and use this guide to help you decide on a place, and then read more reviews of the place if you like on Yelp.
- North End - ("Little Italy") with loads of Italian restaurants. Get off the beaten path (Hanover St.) and explore the side streets, where you actually CAN pick a random place. Many are good, and some are hidden gems with cheap, flavorful Italian food.
- Quincy Market (Fanueil Hall) - plenty of restaurants and fast-food. Seek out seafood items such as Boston Clam Chowder, a very distinct local soup recipe (be sure to try it!) and Lobster dishes.
- Chinatown - like many American cities, Boston's Chinatown features numerous Asian restaurants, including some dim sum options. These range from excellent to dirty and cheap.
Vegetarian / Vegan Options
- Peace o' Pie Gourmet Vegan Pizza - Allston ($)
- Dali- Somerville ($$$)
- Grasshopper Restaurant - Allston ($)
- Wheeler's - Vegan Ice Cream - Back Bay ($)
- Veggie Planet - Vegetarian and Pizza - Harvard Square ($)
- Veggie Galaxy - Vegetarian Food - Central Square ($)
- My Thai Vegan Cafe - Chinatown, Boston ($)
- The Otherside Cafe - Boston / Newbury St. ($)
- Life Alive - Urban Oasis - Organic and Vegetarian - Cambridge
- The Middle East Restaurant - Central Square, Cambridge, Ma ($)
- Food not Bombs- delicious and free vegan food (Free)
Some other Boston CS favorite restaurants with good vegan/vegetarian friendly options:
- Tibetan: Martsa's on Elm in Davis Square
- French/Cambodian: The Elephant Walk (Brookline and Porter Square in Cambridge)
- Falafel: Moody's Falafel Palace in Central Square, Cambridge
- Cafe atmosphere: Diesel cafe in Davis Square or Bloc 11 in Union Square, both in Somerville
- Chinese: Mary Chung's in Central Square
Price ($) indications: (Including tax + tip)
$ = easily doable for less than $15 - 20 / person
$$ = $20 - $25 / person
$$$ = $25+ / person
Massachusetts Tax on Food = 7%
TIPPING IS REQUIRED The bartenders and waitresses here depend on tips, as their hourly wage is practically 3rd world. Try to give an additional 20% tip for what you spend, or alternatively, at a bar, adding $1-2 per alcoholic drink ordered is also acceptable. We are aware not all foreign travelers are familiar with this custom here in the US. (more info)
- For emergencies, dial 911 from any telephone for police, medical, and fire services.
- Crime and other hazards in the Boston area are average for a major American city. Some parts extremely safe, and then there are some relatively dangerous parts of the city. Common precautions should be taken as in any major city, such as keeping your purses and bags in front of yourself, and your iPods and cellphones in your pockets while riding on a crowded train. Women should take care when walking through non-residential areas at night, and avoid doing so alone. Also, avoid crossing through public parks at night.
- Boston area car drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians have a reputation for being unpredictable, rude, and impatient in their sharing of the road. Pedestrians should use crosswalks and exercise considerable caution when crossing streets. Drivers may often speed up to beat (or even run) a red light. While Boston does not have jaywalking tickets (a penalty for crossing the street outside of crosswalks), it is better to wait for the white "Walk" signal, rather than to assume cars will stop. Boston pedestrians often cross in front of traffic dangerously. Do not attempt to copy their unsafe habit! Don't assume because others are crossing that it is safe to do so, and double check before you cross. As one CSer put it, "Assume the drivers are trying to hit you..." Cycling is increasingly popular in Boston, and like drivers, Boston cyclists have a reputation for rudeness and aggression. The narrow streets of Boston make it difficult for cars, bikes, and pedestrians to coexist. Be aware of your surroundings and all other pedestrians, cyclists, cars, and even trams (the green line of the subway system runs above ground partially).
- Some neighborhoods and nearby areas, such as Roxbury, Mattapan, Chelsea, certain areas of Dorchester, Jamaica Plain, Charlestown, and South Boston all have streets and or sub-neighborhoods, with public housing projects, for example, that are more dangerous than average, and extra care should be taken. These areas are generally far from the main tourist paths, so you're unlikely to have a reason to visit them or end up there accidentally. However, that being said, avoid walking in these areas at night, if possible, and use common "city sense" in areas you're unfamiliar with.
The Boston CSers have come up with a list of tips to help you find a host in the city, as there are many visitors looking for couches here!
Places to eat, shop, and hang out
- Not For Tourists - Boston - Per-neighborhood based guide to all the great stuff in the city.
- Yelp! - Reviews of restaurants and everything thing else in the city, by real people. Search by neighborhood, food type, business type, etc.
- Boston Citysearch
- Boston Craigslist - Apartment rental listings, sublets, temporary housing, things for sale, community calendars, and more.
Events and things to do
- Boston Hosteling Int'l hosts traveler-friendly events
- Event Listings from the Boston Phoenix
- Boston Events Insider
- Cheap Thrills Boston
- Weekly Dig (alternative weekly/events guide)
- Message board with large listing of local music events