Boston Day Trip Help!

Old Jan 14th, 2009, 12:05 AM
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Boston Day Trip Help!

I am going to Boston for 4 whole days in March. So far I have worked into my schedule a full day for Boston itself (Freedom Trail, Fenway, etc). That leaves me 3 more days to do stuff.

I was hoping to get out of the city one day and see Mass. I want to do either Concord or Salem, or possibly both. Is this doable in a day? If not, which one do you all prefer?

I am going by Train because I'm not old enough to rent a car. Which leads me to my next question, which is easier to explore sans car? I am a huge literary fan so I would love to do Concord but Salem sounds like fun too.

Please help me out. I am pretty much starting out at zero and welcome any and all suggestions! Thanks!
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Old Jan 14th, 2009, 02:48 AM
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Can I suggest you start over. First, Freedom Trail can take most of a day. There are some small museums along the way, which would be nice places to stop in and warm up since it will likely be cold and windy in March. Along the way, near Old North Church and Faneuil Hall is Quincy Market, an area of shops and restaurants. Have lunch, shop, warm up there. Then you can continue on to the end of the Freedom Trail (USS Constitution) if you wish.

This is near the North End, the Italian section of Boston. Great restaurants and cute authentic streets - another place worthy of some time.

A Fenway Park tour is also fun, but do not try to fit that into the above day. If the weather cooperates, take the MBTA Green Line to Fenway ( is a great website that lets you enter origination and destination and will tell you how to get there) and then walk back thru the Back Bay along Newbury Street towards Boston Common and Public Garden - obviously nothing is blooming in March, but it is a nice walk.

If the weather is bad, consider taking one of the hokey hop on-hop off trolley things. It makes transportation to various places easier, although MBTA is easy to navigate.

If you are a museum type - Museum of Fine Arts is good, but Isabella Stewart Gardner is better (these are in same general area as Fenway). The New Institute of Contemporary Art is really nice, but will only take a few hours and is not really near anything. I am not a New England Aquarium fan - it has fish but there are many better aquariums in the US, but I might only go there if it is too cold to go outside.

Now, moving on to your actual question. It is really difficult to see anything in Concord without a car. There is a train, but then you need to get from train to any place and distances are not reasonable by foot. Salem by train is easy. (Again, You can do the witch stuff but the Peabody Essex Museum is wonderful - so spend some time there. Be careful with train schedules - outside of rush hour there are not a lot of trains.

Some people like to wander Harvard Square, but after you stare at Harvard, it has become mostly chain stores. JFK Museum and Library is also reachable on Red Line of MBTA - if that is in your interest sphere it is also worth it.

You might like to skate on the Boston Common Frog Pond - they rent skates. Other thoughts - it will almost certainly be windy and raw and maybe snow. Bring something warm and waterproof for your feet - leave the cute shoes and heels home - the kind of footwear your Mom would tell you to bring and you would want to leave home. Slush is the most common roadway surface in March.

If your visit is around St. Patrick's Day, Boston goes a little nutty for this holiday, which is a local legal holiday. There is a parade in South Boston - I don't know the date but probably the weekend before. All sorts of bars have green and normal beer specials and often decent Irish music (someone here listed Irish bars in a post - if you are interested, do a search)
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Old Jan 14th, 2009, 03:23 AM
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Agree strongly with gail on almost all of this, especially Salem rather than Concord. It is very walkable, and you can see Hawthorne sites as well as the Peabody-Essex since you are literary.

However, I do not find North End "cute"; "gritty" is the word I would use. It is also interesting. Lots and lots of yuppies are living there (Barron's and WSJ on the steps every morning) but there is still plenty of Italian street life. See Old North Church on the Freedom Trail (definitely worth it) but wander up some alleys, too. I would suggest lunch or dinner on Hanover Street at the Calamari Cafe (officially The Daily Catch) if you like fish or Umberto's Rosticceria (universally known as Ralph's)for pizza and Sicilian specialties. Long lines because it is dirt cheap but they move fast. When Ralph runs out of food, that's it for the day.

If you are too young to rent a car, you are probably young enough to find Harvard Square more interesting than she suggests. There are museums and lots of free concerts etc. Check out the Phoenix, a free newspaper, or the Harvard University Gazette. Eat a burger at Mr Bartley's Burger Cottage. There is quite a scene in the Square, though Kenmore Square (near BU on the Boston side) is clubbier.
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Old Jan 14th, 2009, 04:37 AM
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Can't help you with your question but saving for the wonderful information you have received for our visit in August.

Do you have your lodging worked out?

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Old Jan 14th, 2009, 07:14 AM
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Golden Goddess: Here's a link to Longfellow's house in Cambridge that you might find interesting. It's walkable from Harvard Square

Also, I agree with everyone else about Concord (I live there so I encourage tourists but it's too difficult to see the sites without a car). However, if you were going to be in this area in the summer/fall, there is a tour called the Liberty Ride that starts in Lexington that I think you would enjoy. It stops at all the historic sights in Lexington/Concord. Here's the link for future reference, or for others who might be interested You can get to Lexington using public transport via the red line to Alewife and then a bus. Enjoy your visit!
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Old Jan 14th, 2009, 07:53 PM
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Thank you everyone for all the wonderful information. I really feel like I'm on the right track now. I'm kinda disappointed to not be able to go to Concord (HUGE Alcott fan right here), but I think I'll definitely look into Harvard and Salem.

Also, thank you for the weather tips, that would have been my next question, so I will be sure to pack warm and dry.

Gail- Do they still have the Freedom Trail tours in March, or is that more of a late spring summer thing?

SandyBrit- To answer your question, I am staying at the Omni Parker House in Beacon Hill. I went online to and booked both my flight and my hotel. It being such a historic/quaint hotel, I couldn't afford not to book there. I will send you a review when I get back so you know what it was like. Except for the small rooms (being that it's a much older hotel, that is understandble), everything else I have read has been good.
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Old Jan 14th, 2009, 08:55 PM
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also for general info
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Old Jan 15th, 2009, 05:18 AM
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If you don't mind my asking, how old are you? If you really want to see Concord you can probably rent a car and pay the age penalty (usually abotu 50 dollars).
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Old Jan 15th, 2009, 08:30 AM
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Agree with gail and everyone else above.

Freedom Trail can take a whole day, perhaps even two days if you want to break it up. March can still be quite cold (not sure where you're from), and you may not want to be walking outdoors all day long. Hence, you may want to break up Freedom Trail into 2 days.

Other sights that you may be interested would be John Quincy Adams sites in Quincy. It is easily reachable by the Red Line on the T.
Not too far is JFK Library and Museum.
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Old Jan 15th, 2009, 09:46 AM
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Unfortunately, the Adams homes are closed for the winter and won't re-open until April, after the OP's trip.

But in season the are an excellent excursion, with a tour trolley and visitor center right across the street from the nearest T station.
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Old Jan 15th, 2009, 04:40 PM
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golden_goddess, if you really do want to go to Concord, it's not out of the question, as long as you don't mind doing some walking, or are willing to take a taxi to get around. The commuter rail goes directly from North Station in Boston to Concord Center, it's about a 45 minute ride. There are more trains weekdays during the morning and afternoon rush hours, fewer in the middle of the day. Here's the link to the MBTA's commuter rail page on their website - click on the upper left hand rail line, which is the Fitchburg/South Acton line, to see the schedule - you can then choose either weekday, Saturday, or Sunday, and outbound or inbound to see the schedule for those days. In addition to North Station (on the green or orange lines via subway), you can get on or off the train at Porter Square in Cambridge, which connects to the Red Line of the subway.

Since you're a big Alcott fan, you'll want to visit Orchard House, where the Alcotts lived when Louisa May wrote "Little Women" - it also has Bronson Alcott's School of Philosophy building on the property. It's really interesting, and I always take visitors there (I also live in Concord). According to Google Maps, it's about 1.3 miles from the train depot, you could walk it in about 25 - 30 minutes, and you would go down Main Street through the picturesque center of town, with many interesting shops and galleries, and then down Lexington Road (also known as the American Mile) to Orchard House. Or you could take a taxi (later I'll give you some info on local taxis). Here's the Orchard House website, where you'll find information on visiting. They are open every day year-round, but during the winter months they open later and close earlier than other times of year, so take that into account in your planning.

The Concord Museum is just down the street from Orchard House, a very short walk, also open every day, but also shorter hours in the winter - here's their web site:

Just across the street from the museum is R W Emerson's house, very interesting, but, unfortunately, they only give tours from mid-April through October - but I imagine you could walk around the grounds if that interests you (and there isn't still a lot of snow on the ground - or you brought your boots). Also, very near Orchard House (practically next door, separated only by a small wooded area) is the Wayside, where the Alcotts lived when Louisa May was younger, and it's thought that this is really the setting for a lot of the inspiration for "Little Women" (Nathaniel Hawthorne and author Margaret Sidney also lived there at various times). It's owned by the National Park Service, but, unfortunately, it's only open May through October - but you can always go look at it from the outside - it's a lovely house (and purported to have a secret room that was part of the underground railroad).

You should also try to go to the North Bridge (part of the National Park Service) if possible (site of the "shot heard round the world") - it's about a 1.3 mile walk from Orchard House (but back through town, past Monument Square and down Monument Street. The bridge and surroundings are very scenic, I love to walk there. There's a nice visitor's center, but I see from the NPS web site it's only open from 11:00 to 3:00 in the winter. Lots of visitors go to Author's Ridge in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery where many of the famous authors and family members are buried, and it is interesting, but unless you're really up for extra walking or have a car, I don't think you should try to include that.

Of course, the other big attraction in Concord is Walden Pond, but it's nowhere near the other sites. I suppose one could walk there if they had the time and energy, but unless you have a deep interest in Thoreau (or want to take a taxi there), I wouldn't bother. Sure, it's a lovely pond, and there's a nice walking trail around it (though somewhat marred by the anti-erosion fences that border it), but there are lots of other beautiful ponds and lakes throughout New England (and elsewhere), so unless you have an abiding interest in this I wouldn't try to go there. FYI, if you take the commuter rail, the tracks go along the south side of Walden Pond for a short way. If you're alert you can catch a quick view of the pond between the Lincoln and Concord stations - on the right side of the train going west, on the left side of the train going back toward Boston.

Here are a couple of local taxi companies listed in the yellow pages of our phone book:

Acton-Maynard-Concord Taxi & Limo - 978-897-9988

Sunshine Taxi Cab 978-369-1752

I can't vouch for them, have never used them, but I picked then from several listed because they seemed the most local. I don't think you should count on them giving you numerous short rides between sites, or waiting while you toured someplace, but you could certainly call and inquire about their services.

You may decide that it's not worth your while to spend on of your precious four days to come to Concord, especially since some of the historic houses aren't open that time of year, but if you do, there are things to do and see. I don't know if you plan to be here in early, mid, or late March, but if the weather is cooperative, not too cold or snowy/icy, and you're up for some walking (through lovely, scenic parts of town, I should add), you might consider it. You could have a nice meal at the historic Colonial Inn, right on Monument Square - the food is somewhat variable, I've had some very nice meals, and some disappointments there, but it's authentically historic and quaint. There are other choices right in the center of town if that doesn't appeal.

I hope you find this information helpful, and I'd be glad to try and answer any questions you might have.

Sara is offline  
Old Jan 15th, 2009, 07:20 PM
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I am continually amazed at the community of help received by the locals of the Boston/New England area, here on Fodors.

I have nothing to add right now. Such continued great advice.

stay in touch golden_goddess! We are bound to come up with more thoughts.
gyppielou is offline  
Old Jan 15th, 2009, 07:49 PM
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As far as you literary interest go, the Longfellow House is about a 10 minute walk from the Harvard Square subway stop. Although there are many chain stores, there are also fun places to hang out in the square: Creme Cafe and Algiers among them.

If the weather allows, check out the courtyard at the Boston Public Library in Copley Square, you can take a book and sit down there, or go to the cafe to relax and read.

check out improv asylum for Comedy-in the north end.
When you walk the freedom trail, consider stops for coffee at Cafe Paradiso or Cafe Vittoria in the North end, both on Hanover Street.
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Old Jan 17th, 2009, 11:13 AM
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Sara's advice on Concord is spot on. There's a decent bit of walking involved if you take the commuter rail out to Concord from Boston, but if you don't mind that, seeing the sights here is reasonably manageable on foot (except for Walden Pond, which is a solid distance away). Though of course March can be a real wild card weather-wise for a Concord visit, as you may have good weather and clear sidewalks/streets or snow-covered ones -- and if it's the latter, I wouldn't recommend it.

The sights in Salem are much closer to the commuter rail stop and are bunched closer together.

Definitely check out the hours for the attractions you want to see, as some of them are only open seasonally. That's especially true of historic houses.
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Old Jan 17th, 2009, 01:54 PM
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The last time we visited Concord (fall of 2007) my husband and I went to the Orchard House and Wayside which is a fascinating combination. We picked up a book called The Literary Trail of Greater Boston by Susan Wilson. you might find a copy of this book useful in planning your trip. it has suggested tours of sites in Boston, Cambridge and Concord

When we go to Cambridge I like to look for the very small plaque on the Larz Anderson bridge:
Quentin Compson.
Drowned in the odour of honeysuckle.
a quote from The Sound and the Fury
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