Boston - A City Tour, recommendations

Old Feb 17th, 2012, 08:48 PM
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Boston - A City Tour, recommendations

We are a group of 9 (RVers) that are taking an extensive trip over 9-10 months and seeing lots of provinces and states.. Most are seniors (but active).
One of my States to plan is MA, and I have scheduled 2 days in the area of Salem & Boston - one to tour Salem and one to tour Boston. We will be staying in Salem and plan to drive closer to Boston and grabbing a city tour. Are there any recommendations you could give us? Since our time is limited we would like to do a city tour to take in the highlights.
As our one visit many years ago was not enjoyable as the traffic. parking etc was overwhelming we spent more time in traffic and saw nothing and couldn't wait to leave. As I KNOW there are a lot of interesting things to see and do we thought the city tour was a far better idea that tackling it on our own. This time I plan on leaving with a positive feeling. LOL This will be about the second week of October.b
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Old Feb 18th, 2012, 02:12 AM
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The duck tour is fun but maybe a little silly.

The culinary tours of Boston's North End and Chinatown are pricey but well worth it. On each you get an in depth look (and taste) of a particular neighborhood. You will need to add some shopping time afterward because there isn't any shopping time on the tours. They pack a lot of stops and info into each tour.

I like city tours for a brief overview but the culinary tours are so unique I would choose one of them. But then, I grew up within field trip distance of Boston so went on too many Freedom Trail visits.
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Old Feb 18th, 2012, 04:08 AM
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Agree with dfrost - but you have to decide if you want breadth or depth. The culinary tours - have taken both of them - are wonderful but give you a small sample of the city and history. You would then have the other half of the day to do something else in Boston.

You could do the North End (Italian) tour and then walk a bit of the Freedom Trail. Would be especially convenient if you took the commuter rail into North Station (see 2 paragraphs down)

I also like the overview of a city tour - and would pick either of the 2 hop-on/hop off trolley tours. Boston is easily negotiable either by foot or by a quick subway ride - but this will provide some history, really bad jokes, and transportation all in one. Duck Tours are fun - but don't give you much of the city and expensive. In your short time, skip Cambridge/Harvard, JFK Library - just do main tourist area of Boston.

But one sentence in your post jumps out at me - about driving closer to Boston and parking the RVs. I can not think of any MBTA lot that will let you do that - better to take commuter rail from Salem - even if you need to take a few cabs to get to Salem train station - and take the train into North Station from there. This part of MA is so congested that RV parking options you might find in the rest of the country will not work here - most WalMarts will not let you park overnight due to local regulations, for example. But check the train schedule carefully - most trains run on very limited schedules except during rush hour - not a problem if you are spending the day in Boston, but make sure you can get a train back to Salem when you want. There was a commuter boat from Salem - not even sure about its status - but will give you all sorts of transportation info. If you plan now, check back on site in October - big cuts and fare increases coming to MBTA.

Timing - the Head of the Charles regatta is Oct 22-23, 2012. If your stay gets a bit later this should not effect you much since you are staying in Salem - big rowing event with people from all over the world - quite an event to see, but not worth altering anything with only 1 day in Boston. Just something to keep in mind.

While in Salem, spend far more time at Peabody Essex Museum than on all the witch trial tourist traps - a little of that goes a long way. City will be gearing up for Halloween.

Happy to answer any further questions.
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Old Feb 18th, 2012, 04:19 AM
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My first reaction to reading your post was that you have 9-10 months and you are only giving Boston one day? Boston is one of the most visually pleasing and historically interesting cities in North America. One reason many people have for not liking a place is trying to see it in way too short a time. Out of all that time couldn't you possibly squeeze a couple more days?

You say you are traveling in RVs so obviously you can't stay IN your RV IN Boston. But if you are already staying in Salem I suggest you just stay there the entire time that you in the area and take the commuter train into Boston. It's pretty cheap and inexpensive, even if you did it a few days in a row. Staying in a hotel in the city itself would be most people's choice but I think you could have an enjoyable time 'commuting' in from Salem.

In Boston there is of course the Historic Walk - the Freedom Trail. You really don't even need a guide. Just get a guide book. The trail is easy to follow (it's marked in red brick in the sidewalk. There is the (along this route) Quincy Marketplace, one of first of it's kind in the country - now most cities have something like it. Tons of historic buildings. The Boston Common/Public Garden is one of the most beautiful city parks in America. The whole waterfront area has been recently redone and a walk along there is a 'must see'. A walk along the Esplanade which runs along the Charles River is also great. Strolling the cobblestone streets of Beacon Hill. Have a look at my photos, perhaps you'll change your image of Boston.

While you are in the area I hope you also plan to go out to Gloucester/Rockport - very close to Salem.
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Old Feb 18th, 2012, 05:54 AM
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There are many different tours of Boston. Do you want a walking tour or a trolley type tour?

With only one day, in your short time you should walk (if possible) the Freedom Trail. See for offered tours. There are free tours given by the National Park Service, but I'm not sure if they cover the whole trail. You can also do it yourself by walking to the various sites. Pick up a map at the visitor center at the Boston Common. There is a red line in the sidewalk that guides you along the trail.

If you want a trolley tour, Old Town Trolley is one of the main operators. I have never taken a trolley tour so cannot recommend any special company, but for what you want they're probably all okay.

Because there are a few of you, you may want to customize a walking tour. has gotten good reviews, and this may make the best use of the time you have.

Enjoy . . . Boston is a great city.
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Old Feb 18th, 2012, 10:27 AM
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Agree with so much time Boston deserves more than one day - given everything there is to see and do. Your error first time was inusing a car. Boston needs to be toured on foot and via public transit - just like NYC or DC - cars are worse than usless - they are like an albatross hanging around your neck.

Have no idea where you wold put an RV - but I would take your vehicle and park in a handy stop on public transit and then take that into the city for 2 or 3 nights - enough time to really see something of the city an appreciate it.
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Old Feb 19th, 2012, 09:29 PM
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Thanks so much for your replies and invaluable information. First off I need to clarify that we are not taking RV's into Boston. (We have large motorhomes - 40'! I couldn't image the horror of doing that, taking a full size van last time was a nightmare
We are staying at a park in Salem and will do our commute to Boston from there. Thanks for the idea of taking a commuter train/boat to Boston. Had not thought of that so will pursue that angle.
I knew that I would get flack on only allowing one day in a 10 month trip. We are touring the Cdn Maritimes extensively and not crossing the border to the US until Oct 1. We don't want to chance hitting any winter like weather so need to adjust our schedule to be further south by the end of Oct. Not ideal, but better a day than not at all.
I had seen information on a bus tour, possibly Boston Tours?? I think it was about 6 hrs. What are your thoughts on that? Would we still be better to do a on/off trolley tour or try and cram more in with the bus tour?
Thanks for the Salem suggestions. I have looked at an on/off trolley tour there, so good to know which of the attractions to spent time at.
Thanks again to all for the help.
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Old Feb 20th, 2012, 07:20 AM
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From a former RVer recently moving here from Missouri...yes just walking the Freedom Trail as mentioned is about all you can manage. So much of interest in Boston! Surely you can get MBTA into the city. Salem is also interesting incl. Peabody Essex Museum.
Bill in Boston
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