Boston Advice appreciated

Mar 14th, 2004, 06:54 AM
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Boston Advice appreciated

We are planning a long weekend trip the first weekend of August. We plan on Friday to visit the Museum of Science for a specific exhibit, and also get in some walking around the city.

On Sat, we'd like rent a car to see Plymouth, Salem, basically just tour some historical sites outside the city.

Would appreciate any advice on how to (hopefully) make things go smoothly. I was in Boston 15 years ago, and all too all remember the horrific traffic.

Is driving on Saturday going to be OK? Also, does it matter where we stay (recommendations appreciated!) with respect to proximity to the Museum of Science?

Croaker24 is offline  
Mar 14th, 2004, 07:09 AM
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Plynouth is an hour southeast of Boston, and Salem is north, so it's not practical to plan to visit them both in one day. There's plenty to see and do in either direction.

Traffic has improved a great deal in the past 15 years, and anyway it's driving around within the city that's problematic -- renting a car and getting out of town should be no problem at all, especially on a Saturday.

The Museum of Science has its own stop on the Green Line, so it's accessible to almost any hotel you'd choose. Back Bay is a lovely area to stay in and you can get some great deals on Priceline.
Anonymous is offline  
Mar 14th, 2004, 08:29 AM
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You may need to allow extra time for the Museum of Science.

I grew up in the Boston area and it has always been my favorite museum in the city.

You are in for a treat.
Dick is offline  
Mar 14th, 2004, 09:14 AM
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Hi Croaker-

As Anonymous has pointed out, Salem & Plymouth are opposite directions. I think Plymouth is a bit overrated (if you want to see the rock). If you go N, you can easily Salem, Gloucester & Rockport. Driving on a Sat should be OK.

In reagards to where to stay, again anywhere on Green Line would be fine, such as Back Bay/Copley Sq area.
yk is offline  
Mar 14th, 2004, 10:04 AM
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You will surely hit traffic on a Saturday morning going to Plymouth. Although it is not as bad as rush hour, this is the route to Cape Cod and the start of many vacation.
stillriver is offline  
Mar 14th, 2004, 11:56 AM
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Although I am not a big Salem fan, skip Plymouth - head north towards Salem. Perhaps go to a beach in some north shore town, eat seafood in Gloucester or Rockport, see some of Salem. Plymouth is reduced to a silly rock in a mesh cage and Plimouth Plantation - a re-creation village that is interesting but will be broiling hot to tour in August.

Or, my suggestion would be to skip the car and trip out of Boston and spend Saturday in Boston. I believe that is the weekend after Democratic National Convention, so city, if it survivies, should be quieter - but make reservations soon.

Regarding traffic - I grew up around New York City, have driven in many places on vacation. When I first arrived in Boston 25 years ago, there were times I felt like pulling the car over, crying and abandoning it. But really, that was not the norm. With various mapping programs and the greatly improved roadways and signage, if you are comfortable driving in an older city (meaning streets are not grid-like, change from one-way to 2-way at will, and sometimes do not conform to what is on a printed map), it is not really as bad as some will say. It is a hobby to complain about Boston traffic and driving. Depends on your tolerance for getting lost, honked at, and being lost for a while.

Still, you don't need a car within the city - parking is expensive and limited.
gail is offline  
Mar 14th, 2004, 12:34 PM
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Since you are going to the museum of Science, you could consider staying in Cambridge. Parking is cheaper, and the driving might be easier. The Royal Sonesta is pretty close to the museum, I think its walking distance. River view rooms in the Sonesta are very nice. And I think they have a shuttle service into downtown Boston.

You might enjoy a duck don't mention if you are bringing kids, my pre-teen nephews adored the duck tour, but even the adults thought it was fun. They leave from the museum of science, as well as downtown, and take a couple of hours.

so, you're coming for the "One Ring" exhibit, right? do post and let us know how it is

If you decide to go to Salem, the Peabody Essex Museum is really interesting. They have imported a Chinese house, and reconstructed it on the site, and its very cool.
china_cat is offline  
Mar 14th, 2004, 01:03 PM
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DO NOT SKIP SALEM..we just visited this week the Peabody Essex Museum and the chinese house.. but of more interest are the two little films outside of the house..fascinating. The museum is an absolute jewel.
As a Bostonian I turned up my nose at the thoughts of the Duck Tour, but took friends last year and it was a blast for adults too.
ParrotMom is offline  
Mar 14th, 2004, 01:32 PM
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Do not attempt to drive to Plymouth on a Saturday in August - unless you enjoy 30 miles of bumper to bumper traffic. Rt 3 is the highway from Boston to the Cape and the only route to Plymouth. Its a two lane highway for most of the way. Saturday mornings are when the cottages on the Cape turn over. The combination is killer.

You can use the commuter rail to reach Salem from Boston. Not a fan of Salem other than Peabody Essex.
bennie is offline  
Mar 14th, 2004, 02:10 PM
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Route 3 from Boston to Plymouth is a 4-lane freeway. Traffic is heavy, and can get really bad at times approaching the Sagamore Beach going to the cape, but shouldn't back up 16 miles to Plymouth.
rkkwan is offline  
Mar 14th, 2004, 02:19 PM
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Sorry but Rte 3 is not a 4 lane highway to Plymouth. It gets backed up on Saturday until early afternoon in the area where it goes from 3 to 2 lanes in Hingham. While it is not rush hour I know from living near Plymouth that you can expect at least a half hour delay.
stillriver is offline  
Mar 14th, 2004, 02:42 PM
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Don't we always count all travel lanes (both directions) in the USA? 4 lanes mean two on each direction. A "two-lane highway" means one lane on each direction.

It may not be the customs in other countries to count it this way, but that is the norm here.

Most Americans reading bennie's post would think that Rte 3 has one one-lane in each direction, and goes through towns with traffic lights. I'm pointing out that it is a multiple-lane freeway.
rkkwan is offline  
Mar 14th, 2004, 02:53 PM
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sorry rkkwan, here in MA Route 3 is a 2 lane highway. I don't know where you're from, but we don't calculate lanes the way you suggest. In fact, I've NEVER heard of refering to lanes in that manner.
Mar 14th, 2004, 03:10 PM
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That's okay. As long as the reader understand what the actual number of lanes are. I've lived in TX, RI, DC, and to me a "two-lane highway" is one that has one travel lane on each direction, like Rte 6 near Orleans on Cape Cod, or I-93 through Laconia in NH.

But you guys in Massachusettes can surely do things your way. Like letting people drive on the shoulder of 128 during rush hour (and I've always taken advantage of that!)...
rkkwan is offline  
Mar 14th, 2004, 04:25 PM
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Wow. Thanks for all the great advice. And yes, China Cat, it's the LOTR exhibit I also visited the exhibit in Toronto.

My daughter is quite insistent we *must* visit Salem, being a huge fan of "Charmed". I do remember the last trip we took: we hit some rotary not long after getting out of the airport, and went around in circles seemingly 25 times before we finally got out.

Ugh. Forgot about the Democractic convention being held there. Thanks for the reminder.

Salem/Gloucester/Rockport sounds good, we'd like to see the coast, something different for us, being surrounded by the wild corn fields of Indiana.
Croaker24 is offline  
Mar 14th, 2004, 06:59 PM
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I was just at the bookstore the other day looking up the Boston area. The best book I saw was put out by National Geographic Explorer for Boston and the surrounding areas. They had what they called a one day North Shore Drive that looked really nice, starting in Salem. It hits Manchester by the Sea, Rockport, Cape Ann Artist's Colony, Essex, and excursion from Ipswich to Crane Beach if you have the time, and then returning to Salem via MA 1A. It looked like a nice trip. No doubt your daughter will want to visit the Salem Witch Museum, we enjoyed it years ago. While in Salem, don't miss the House of the Seven Gables and walk around the area to see the museums, etc.
Heartburn3 is offline  
Mar 14th, 2004, 07:06 PM
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PS: I worked with a traffic engineer for 15 years and we always referred counted the entire amount of lanes in each direction. e.g., a 4-lane divided hwy has 2 lanes in each direction with a median in the middle. A 2-lane road has one lane in each direction. I also dealt with DOT, so this must be the norm. Maybe other states do it differently, I dunno. Just thought I'd throw in my 2 cents (that's one cent in each direction... )
Heartburn3 is offline  
Mar 14th, 2004, 07:33 PM
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As a lifelong Bostonian with a city planning degree, I hope I can settle this: The experts/professionals count both directions, and the locals around here count just one. As we say around my house, "It's one of those milkshake things" where local, colloquial useage varies. As a youngster, when I heard that California had 8-lane highways, I imagined 8 lanes in EACH direction.

Route 3 has 3 lanes (or 6, depending on who's counting) from Boston down to Weymouth. On the northbound side, the third lane magically grows from the Exit 16 on-ramp, but on the southbound side the third lane persists south of Exit 16 until it abruptly disappears about a half-mile north of exit 15, on the Weymouth/Hingham line. Welcome to Massachusetts!
Anonymous is offline  
Mar 14th, 2004, 08:38 PM
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Just for the record, I counted about 15 lanes (both directions + HOV) in one little stretch of US59 Southwest Freeway in Houston...

In my 2.5 years stay in RI, I've driven in MA many times. Here are a few things quite unique about that state's roads and highways, and this is just outside Boston:

- Rotaries, traffic circles, whatever they're called. The British people will feel like home. Other Americans won't.

- I can't understand how people can tolerate the traffic jams on both sides of the Sagamore bridge (and to a lessor extent Bourne bridge). And it can be improved greatly by removing those rotaries. Somehow, nobody seems to care or want to do anything about that.

- The permitted use of shoulders on Rte 128 at rush hours is extremely dangerous for out-of-staters. There's absolutely no merge area on on-ramps, and not enough signage. I'm surprised there aren't more accidents.

- The 2-lane controlled access Rte 6 in Cape Cod is quite unique in the US (together with I-93 in Franconia Notch in NH). Don't see that often.

- Probably the only case in the country where you take a toll card and give it back when you exit with no charge (autos only, Exit 1-4 on Masspike).

- 4 lanes each way of I-95 from the 128-split to the NH border? Which Congressman or Senator get that pork?

- If you travel N on Rte 24 from RI to Boston, you need to cut across three lanes within 1/4 mile after merging with I-195.

- Finally a nice thing to say. The new pavement they're putting on I-195 and I-95 leading to RI are excellent. Not very smooth, but totally porous and no splash in the rain. The best pavement material I've ever seen.
rkkwan is offline  
Mar 15th, 2004, 06:14 AM
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Be prepared to have mixed feelings about Salem, but do go there and pay attention not only to the Witch House (eh!) but the grand, old houses in the downtown area. Then yes, Gloucester briefly (for a working fishing town and the "They That Go Down to the Sea" statue on the waterfront) and Rockport for a more touristy "arty" town, but don't skip Marblehead. Old Town Marblehead is a lovely tangle of tiny streets and old houses, a picturesque harbor (grab a sandwich at the Barnacle on the way out to Ft. Sewell), I usually park on the way out to Ft. Sewell and walk back into the town, but there are a couple of public lots on Front St., I believe. Then drive out Marblehead Neck (the "thumb" on the mitten that's Marblehead) to stand on the rocks by the light tower and enjoy the waves and view. If you aren't bothered by driving back at night, you might even get a nice sunset from the neck (no, it doesn't set in the east, but a peninsula is set out into the water, right?). You'll need a GOOD map because the natives assume you already know where you're going, and a little patience re: parking, etc. but I think you'll find the charm worth it.

soccr is offline  
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