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Is driving in and out of Boston really as terrible as I've heard?

Is driving in and out of Boston really as terrible as I've heard?

Mar 28th, 2007, 10:02 AM
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Join Date: Nov 2003
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Is driving in and out of Boston really as terrible as I've heard?

For our "historic Massachusetts" trip, I was planning to stay in Boston for about three days (without a car), then rent a car and maybe stay around Lexington or Concord and see "out of town" sites from there.

I haven't found any out of Boston hotels/inns that excite me. One problem is that there are 5 of us, and we'd have to rent three rooms at the more charming places.

The Eliot Hotel in Boston has a "summer fun" package that is $46 under rack rate for a 1 bedroom suite and includes free valet parking. I'm thinking that maybe we should extend our stay in Boston a few days, then rent a car after day 3, see the out of town sites, then drive back into town every night.

Or is driving in and out of Boston such a horror that we'd be better off staying at a non-descript Hampton Inn, or something, off a highway?
missypie is offline  
Mar 28th, 2007, 10:19 AM
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My husband and I were in Boston for President's Day weekend, and we drove up from NYC. We didn't find it to be particularly difficult getting in or out, and we just parked in a garage for the whole trip.

Granted, we're used to driving in NYC traffic, but I don't think that should deter you. That being said, I'm not sure what the summer traffic is like, so perhaps someone else can speak to that.
TarheelsInNj is offline  
Mar 28th, 2007, 10:20 AM
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IMO..if you know where you are going, the drive is fine. If you're from out of town and have no ideas as to where you are going, then you're going to have problems. Lots of one-way streets.
However, the drive out to Lexington might not be too bad from the Eliot. YOu can just hop on Massachusetts Avenue and stay on that all the way to Lexington...not the fastest way, but probably the easiest to explain. Route 2 getting through Cambridge could be a chore if you are not familiar with the road.
bm is offline  
Mar 28th, 2007, 10:23 AM
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It's not that big of a deal. I wouldn't recommend renting a car and using it to drive around the city but for your purposes it will be fine.

You'll want to avoid rush hour traffic, but that goes for any city.
wyatt92 is offline  
Mar 28th, 2007, 10:23 AM
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The problems (?) we had driving in Boston area:

There are so many 'round-abouts' and I HATE them with a passion.

Boston drivers do not subscribe to the 'alternating' system at merges. I guess I'm just spoiled by the area where I live.
pollyvw is offline  
Mar 28th, 2007, 10:26 AM
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The round abouts are what I remember from my family trip to Boston as a teen...they almost drove my Baptist preacher dad to swear.
missypie is offline  
Mar 28th, 2007, 10:38 AM
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I circled downtown for nearly an hour trying to go two miles! It drove me nuts because the streets would 1) change directions 2) change names 3) circle. I read somewhere that Boston was the "Worst Cycling City" in the U.S....add the Worst Driving City to that! Plus there are those expressways that circle the river and drove me nuts trying to get off them and still have a vague idea where I was. And I'm from LA!Do yourself a favor. TAKE THE T.
brushfire is offline  
Mar 28th, 2007, 10:53 AM
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It's not about driving in and out of Boston, its about driving around in Boston.

Traffic can be heavy, but the real problem with Boston is, it is amazingly easy to get lost. So if you are going back to the same hotel every night, you will be able to practice: You will feel a great sense of accomplishment on the third night, when you finally get it right. I say go for it.
capxxx is offline  
Mar 28th, 2007, 11:41 AM
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Definitely stay at the Eliot. I think you'll be much happier staying downtown Boston than in an out-of-the-way motel. If I remember correctly from a previous post, you are coming to Boston in the summer. Summer traffic is MUCH less than during the school year. The exception to this rule is when the Red Sox are playing at home. Then traffic getting into the city can be no fun.

The Eliot is located on a major street and is fairly easy to get to off of the major highways. I agree that taking Route 2 from Boston out to Concord and Lexington can be tricky so you might want to take the Mass Pike (Interstate 90) to Route 128/I-95 to Route 2. This is a little longer way around but also an easier to navigate and probably less stressful alternative. Or, as bm suggested, simply take Massachusetts Avenue the whole way out to Lexington. The Eliot is located on Mass Ave.

The problem with driving in Boston is at least three-fold: (1) The streets are not laid out in a grid so you get lots of winding streets where you end up in totally the opposite direction in which you thought you were heading; (2) signage is very poor to non-existent and sometimes downright wrong anyway; and (3) there are many one-way streets and often two one-way streets heading in the same direction right next to each other. So if you miss your turn it is difficult to circle the block to correct your direction. You could end up in who knows where.

Having said all of that, for your purposes I wouldn't hesitate to take a couple of day trips from the Eliot. I think if you follow the directions on the hotel's web site from the major highways you'll be okay. It's not that difficult. Just don't try to drive IN Boston other than to your hotel.
sharona is offline  
Mar 28th, 2007, 11:43 AM
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Right...we would still use public transportation whenever possible.
missypie is offline  
Mar 28th, 2007, 12:18 PM
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I have been following and responding to your other posts about this trip.

This is the best option/idea you have had. Eliot is a fine hotel in a great location - it meets the criteria in your first post.

As others have suggested, drive in and out of Boston, not around the city. You will be walking distance to many things from your hotel and easy MBTA travel to others in Boston.

For your day trips, some suggestions. Print out at home some directions from a good website - I like Mapquest but there are others. Then, at the hotel, directions in hand, ask at desk for any clarifications/changes - like a street that is closed, some landmarks to look for.

While you will be driving in reverse from most commuter traffic, there will still be rush hour heavy traffic, so try to avoid those hours (6-9 AM, 4-7 PM).

We are rude drivers in Boston, partly because driving here can be so frustrating. Rotaries (round-abouts can be especially nerve racking. If you are unsure where to exit, just drive around the rotary again until you can figure it out.

Be careful where you park. Although you will likely not be parking on street in Boston, if you do, note that much of it is resident only parking and you will get an expensive ticket.

If you decide to head south - Plymouth, Cape Cod - do not do this on a Friday afternoon in the summer or you will go insane from the tgraffic and hate our city forever.

Now, do you want to hear the part about how Route 95 is really known as Route 128 to locals, although rarely posted as such. Or the part about where Route 93 south is the same as Route 95 north.
gail is offline  
Mar 28th, 2007, 12:28 PM
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I think there are 2 questions to ask yourself: how do you do with city traffic in general? and how do you feel when you get lost? You just need to be able to deal with these things and you'll be fine. If you never drive in city traffic, if you live in the suburbs someplace and the idea of "driving downtown" is enough to set off a panic then don't do it. If you are the kind of person who gets flustered, and frustrated when you get lost, then you might not want to do it.

Otherwise, driving in and out of Boston is not that horrible. Yes, there's traffic, yes the drivers are aggressive, and yes you can definitely get lost. But as long as you know those things, and it doesn't rattle you, you'll be fine!

I've heard great things about the Eliot, and staying there, you'll definitely have lots of nice dining options nearby.
it makes a lot of sense, and will be much nicer than a non-descript Hampton inn, or a rest-stop Ramada!
china_cat is offline  
Mar 28th, 2007, 12:52 PM
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Thanks so much for all of your comments and suggestions!

I drive from the suburbs into downtown Dallas 5 days a week; certainly no stranger to agressive drivers. I like the idea of showing my mapquest directions to someone at the hotel. There have been a few times (notably, in Victoria, BC) where the computer driving directions would have had us driving the wrong way on one way streets, etc.
missypie is offline  
Mar 28th, 2007, 02:46 PM
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Missypie, I agree with what everyone says about your plans (Eliot, being fine driving out of the city) but believe me, driving in Dallas is _nothing_ like driving in Boston.

Driving in Boston is like driving in Paris or Rome. You will not be coping with heavy freeway traffic but with heavy street traffic and people who turn right from the left lane and vice versa, who don't signal so as not to let others know what they are going to do, who drive all the way to the front of a line of traffic in the breakdown lane, then force their way back in.

You will still do fine. You are also correct to be wary about Yahoo and Google maps and about GPS routes: we were recently sent through one of the scariest neighborhoods in the city by my daughter's GPS (don't worry, it won't be where you are going).

Anybody who can thrive like you in Barcelona will be fine in Boston!
Ackislander is offline  
Mar 28th, 2007, 03:51 PM
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If you're used to driving in a city Boston is not a big deal. Granted there are lots of small one-way streets - but you find that in every city.

The question is - how far out are you planning on going on these day trips. If they're fairly short I think the idea is OK. But if you're going several hours it could get tiresome.
nytraveler is offline  
Mar 28th, 2007, 03:57 PM
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My computer is acting up, so I am not sure if this is going to be a double post -

I agree you can rent a car and drive to out of Boston destinations - leaving the city after rush hour at 9am or so and returning anytime after 6:30 into the city , which means you could possibly leave where you are at 6ish - however, you might want to check 1030am on your hotel radio or channels 4,5, or 7 in teh morning to make sure it isn't one of those obscure commuter mornings where an oil tanker tipped over and everything is going to be backed up until 10am , in which case you can have an extra cup of coffee or take a morning walk !

However, just so you will know you have the option - and it might not be worth your while, you might prefer to drive, it might be more costly to take tours, but you may want to do a bit of both, but so you will have the info -

There are tours to Lexington/Concord/Salem/ Plimoth Plantation, Cape Cod, everywhere you can imagine that would be of interest within a day trip of Boston (even the Wrentham outlets which for me is a bit to wrap my mind around) but they are there and most pick you up at your hotel, a few don't, but are accessible by T and/or T Bus.

If you decide to rent a car and self-tour, you still might want to check out these itineraries for ideas and historical info for yourself which is on their web sites:

Here are some of t he sites, and you can always check on SideStep.com for better rates -

for example, for plimoth, salem, cape, etc:



For lexington/concord:
escargot is offline  
Mar 28th, 2007, 04:00 PM
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The first time you want to pull your hair out.

After that, well you know exactly what NOT to do.

seetheworld is offline  
Mar 28th, 2007, 05:04 PM
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Eliot Hotel is a good place to stay, you can walk to Coply Square, Prudential Center, take a bus on the street to Harvard Square, walk along the Charles River, or take a subway. You will be in the only part of Boston where the streets make sense. Starting at the Ritz Carlton, now named the Raj, that faces the Public Garden on Arlington, the corner of Newbury Street.
next crossing on Newbury is Berkely, than Clarendon, Darthmouth, Exeter, Fairfield, Gloucester, Hereford and Than MASS.AVE Where the Eliot is.
cigalechanta is offline  
Mar 28th, 2007, 07:11 PM
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No, it's not as terrible as you've heard.......it's much worse. And I grew up driving there! As others have noted, streets are twisty, narrow, unmarked, drivers are hyper-agressive.
If you stay in the waterfront/Freedom Trail area, you can easily walk to most of the historical places, restaurants, and subway elsewhere, because that's where you'll probably be spending most of your time. To give you a better perspective for driving in Boston, here are the two theories about how the streets were laid out, 250 years before automobiles.
1. The city planners followed a drunken Indian on his horse and laid out the streets.
2. The horse was drunk also.
xkenx is offline  
Mar 28th, 2007, 10:08 PM
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My goodness, I can't imagine why anyone would want to take Mass. Ave. all the way from Boston to Lexington - there's about a zillion stoplights going through Cambridge, Somerville, and Arlington. The Eliot Hotel is only a couple of blocks from the westbound entrance to the Mass. Pike at Mass. Ave., and as Sharona suggested, it would be very easy and fairly quick to hop onto the Mass. Pike and head out to Lexington and Concord. Just past the Weston tollbooths you would head north on 128/95. The only tricky part is knowing that after you exit the Mass Pike you need to get over to the left fairly quickly across a couple of lanes of traffic to enter onto 128/95 North. If you want to visit Lexington first, you would get off at route 2A (about 5 miles up 128) - it's a short distance from there to Lexington Center. If you want to visit Concord first (which I'd recommend), you would exit from 128 onto route 2 west (about 4 miles up 128) - it's about 4 miles from there to Concord Center. After you're done in Concord (which will take several hours, depending on what you want to do), you could take Lexington Road and Route 2A to Lexington, a much prettier drive than Route 2, which takes you through part of Minuteman National Park. If you have the time and inclination, you could walk part of the Battle Road Trail, which you access from those roads.

Just try to avoid driving into and out of the city at rush hour, and you should be fine. Getting back, if you take the Mass. Pike back to the city, I think you'll need to take the Copley exit (which is underground) to Huntington Ave, then go a couple of blocks and take a right onto Mass. Ave. to get back to your hotel. Get a map of Boston and ask at your hotel, I'm sure they can help you.

Let me know if you have any questions about Concord and Lexington - I live in Concord, am proud of my town, and happy to help if I can.
Sara is offline  

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