Off the Beaten Path in Boston and Beyond


Jun 18th, 2009, 10:07 AM
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Off the Beaten Path in Boston and Beyond

I know most tourists in Boston want to see the typical sights, such as:

Duck Tour
Freedom Trail
Boston Common/Public Gardens
Harvard Sq
Museum of Fine Arts/Gardner Museum
Museum of Science

I'm curious if anyone is interested in listing some off-the-beaten-path sites in Boston? Of course, I'm partly doing this for my own interests, but maybe some repeat visitors to Boston may want to know what else they can see?

Please share your hidden gems if you would.

I'll start with a few.

Historic Houses in Boston
Gibson House Museum "A victorian time capsule in Back Bay"

Nichols House Museum

Otis House Museum

Plenty of other historic houses in Greater Boston area and beyond, managed by Historic New England:

Shirley-Eustis House in Roxbury

Loring-Greenough House in Jamaica Plain

Historic Buildings
Boston Atheneum

Boston Public Library

Trinity Church

Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge

Forest Hills Cemetery in Jamaica Plain
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Jun 18th, 2009, 10:11 AM
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Copy and Paste from my other thread:

National Historical Parks/Sites in Greater Boston

These attractions are operated by the National Park Service. Some are free of charge, while others do have an admission fee. However, the fees are quite cheap compared to other commerical attractions.

Boston National Historical Park
Located next to the Old State House. Offers free ranger-led guided tours parts of the year. I had posted a description of the tour earlier in this thread.

Adams National Historical Park
This is in Quincy MA. It can only be toured by a trolley operated by the NPS. Great tour of the old Adams's houses. $5pp

Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area
It comprises of plenty of islands in the Harbor. The famous ones include Geroges Island, Spectacle Island, and Little Brewster (lighthouse). Ferry cost is $14 and they are only open part of the year.

Longfellow National Historic Site
Located in Cambridge's Tory Row, just a few minutes' walk from Harvard Sq. One of my favorite places to visit in Boston. It also is open part year. $3pp

JFK National Historic Site
In Brookline, JFK's Birthplace. $3pp

Further outside of the city:

Minute Man National Historical Park
Located in Concord and Lexington, where the American Revolution began in 1775.

Lowell National Historical Park
New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park
Salem Maritime National Historic Site
Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site
Essex National Heritage Area
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Jun 18th, 2009, 10:29 AM
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Sam Adams
$2 suggested donation for tours
Monday-Thursday 10-3
Fridays 10-5:30
Saturday 10-3

Tastings FREE
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday: Daily at 4pm
Friday 2pm and 4pm

Tours and tastings $5
Saturday 11:30 AM to 4:30 PM (starting every half hour)
Sunday 12:00 noon to 3:00 PM (starting every hour)

Buzzards Bay Brewing Tasting in Westport MA

Literary sites
Old Manse in Concord

Wayside Inn in Concord

Orchard House in Concord

Walden Pond in Concord

Longfellow House in Cambridge, mentioned above
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Jun 18th, 2009, 07:02 PM
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The Dorchester Heights Monument in Dorchester (south Boston) and the Myles Standish monument in Duxbury (NE of Plymouth) are supposed to have great views.


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Jun 18th, 2009, 07:31 PM
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If you are north of Boston along I-95 or US 1, go off the beaten path to Richardson's in Middleton for ice cream. Part of what makes it unique is that the Richardson family has been dairying in Middleton since 1695 (although they have been making ice cream only since 1952).

The ice cream shop ("ice cream stand" doesn't do it justice!) is next to the dairy, so you can go out back and see the cows while you enjoy your ice cream, frozen yogurt, or soft serve (their website says they have over 85 flavors). You can also buy milk there (for much less than at a grocery store, and it's fresher).
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Jun 18th, 2009, 07:32 PM
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-Black Heritage Trail (including the African Meeting House, Abiel Smith School, and Hayden House)
-The USS Cassin Young (its a world war II battleship open to the public as a museum)
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Jun 18th, 2009, 07:37 PM
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This is a really great post on Boston that will be of use to repeat visitors. I lived in Boston during grad school (back in the Late Middle Ages). I have been back occasionally but it does remind me it is time for a visit again. I amazed how little I saw while I was a student. Well, who had a car? Who had money?
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Jun 18th, 2009, 07:41 PM
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Ditto, Lauren. I lived in Boston for 7 years in my younger years, but never got around to see/do much. Now that I'm back here, I try to do my best to see some other attractions.

There are plenty of free or cheap activities in Boston as well. I started a thread on it:
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Jun 19th, 2009, 01:11 PM
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Self-guided Walking Trails

Irish Heritage Trail

Boston Women's Heritage Trail
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Jun 19th, 2009, 06:32 PM
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I'll add a few that I recall doing when we lived in the area:

-Charleston Days for lots of re-enactments and historical presentations
-Blue Hill Observatory
-in Lowell you can take a boat tour of the locks; also a trolley tour and there's a museum that gives visitors insight into the lives of factory workers' conditions during the city's textile heyday
-easy to take a commuter rail up to Salem for all the witch musuems; the Peabody Essex Musuem has a surprisingly outstanding collection
-Re-enactment of the Boston Tea Party - it was held in the Old South Meeting House and 'the organizers' were dressed in period costume. The public was encouraged to participate as slips of paper with questions in historical text were given out to those who would like to stand and read them during the re-enactment. Even those who do not want a 'spotlight' role could join in; it was pretty fun pounding the banisters and yelling, "no taxes! no taxes!" from the balcony. Well, you could choose to join the Patriots or the!
-Boston Ballet used to offer backstage tours
-well not off the beaten path but the ballet reminds me to say, check out the world reknowned Boston Pops/BSO

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Jun 19th, 2009, 06:43 PM
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YK, you're a doll to be doing all of this. If the weather holds out, we're venturing into Boston tomorrow to finish off with the USS Cassin Young and then go wander around the North End.

I need to go back and print out these recent threads on Boston!

P.S. does anyone know the name of the trolley tours that run through the Charlestown Naval Shipyard? I saw them, but didn't note down the name. Thanks.
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Jun 19th, 2009, 07:07 PM
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Jaya, why not take the boat from the Navy Yard to Long Wharf? I'm pretty sure that's cheaper than a trolley tour.

I hope the weather holds up. While you're near North End, you can consider heading up the observatory deck of the Custom House. See my other thread for description. We're planning to do a walking tour in Jamaica Plain tomorrow.

klam- thanks for the input. My brother & I visited the Lowell Historical Park a few days ago and it was excellent. A few days ago this week, June 17, is the 234th anniversary of the Battle of Bunker Hill with a re-enactment. Unfortunately I was busy that day and couldn't go.
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Jun 20th, 2009, 10:16 AM
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You're never to old to ride the swan boats, and they're a good bargain. It's beautiful to ride around, and then walk around, the Public Garden. Read Make Way for Ducklings first to get inspired, and then look for the duckling statues afterward.

Another off-the-beaten-path thing to do (unless I missed it above) is to tour the Christian Science Church in Boston. Regardless of your religious affiliation, it's great to see the architecture. The Mapparium, part of the Christian Science Center, is also fun to walk through.

North of Boston, walk around Old Town Marblehead and then walk out to Fort Sewall for a beautiful view of the harbor. Nearby is Salem, with the Peabody-Essex Museum and also Historic New England's Phillips House Museum. North of there, in Magnolia (really a part of Gloucester, I believe) is Hammond Castle. And Beauport, another Historic New England property--in Gloucester--is worth a detour.
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Jun 20th, 2009, 08:14 PM
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Check out 17th Century Saturdays at many sites in Essex County (NE of Boston):

Several of the sites will be having special activities on one or more of these dates (July 11, August 1, September 5, October 3). Check individual websites (listed in the pdf brochure) for more details. While June 6 was free at all sites listed, most will be charging admission for the remainder of the dates (Saugus Iron Works NHS is one that is always free, however).

There are free walking tours of Ipswich at 11 AM on those Saturdays. Ipswich, founded in 1634, celebrates its 375th anniversary this year and has lots of events planned (see
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Jun 24th, 2009, 08:48 AM
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Wow, what a thread yk et al! I'm going to print this out with son in Cambridge teaching Boston U. and his friend with American Rep Theatre Harvard. Thanks.
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Jul 11th, 2009, 10:36 AM
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A bit more about the Boston Athenæum: It is a membership library. While the first floor is open to visitors, one has to be a member to visit the upper floors. However, the Athenæum offers twice-weekly guided tours for non-members, so this is the only way a non-member can tour the building. It is important to call in advance to book the tour (free), because each tour has only 8 spots.

Some of the treasures at the Athenæum include:
~ part of George Washington's library
~ Henry Knox's bookcases and books (he was a bookstore owner in Boston right before the revolutionary wars)
~ King's Chapel Library (gift from King William III of England to the King's Chapel in Boston in 1698)

The artwork that remains (most went to form the Museum of Fine Arts in 1876), include busts of Ben Franklin and Lafayette by Houdon (whose George Washington's bust made headline news last week, and was auctioned by London Sotheby's this week for £301,250). There are also portraits by Gilbert Smith, paintings by Copley and Sargant, sculptures by Daniel Chester French and Horatio Greenough.

The Athenæum was founded in 1807. Its location moved a few times before it settled at the current location of 10½ Beacon Street, in 1849.
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Jul 11th, 2009, 10:46 AM
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Congregational Library

Located next door to the Boston Athenæum, at 14 Beacon Street, is the Congregational Library.

Formed in 1853 with the gift of 56 books from its owners' personal collections, the Congregational Library now holds 225,000 items documenting the history of one of the nation's oldest and most influential religious traditions.

During the summer, the Library offers a tour twice a month.

The tour begins at the Library's reading room, which looks exactly the same as it was over 100 years ago when the Library took its present location in 1898. An adjoining room is known as the Pratt Room, named after S. Brainard Pratt. He collected many bibles during his life: in different languages and of different sizes. He also enjoyed doing illuminations of his bibles, not unlike the monks and friars during medieval times. He donated his bible collection to the Congregational Library.

What this library does, apart from collection bibles, is collect documents from congregational churches, especially ones that ceased to exist. What came next on the tour was quite a shock!

The librarian led me up a narrow staircase and unlocked a door. Behind the door is a climate-controlled room where rare books are kept. It looks just like an ugly warehouse room with stacks and stacks of old books, about the size of a large living room.

Then, she took a book from the shelf and told me that was a baptismal record book from the Old South Church in Boston, from the year 1706. She opened up the book to a page, and pointed out one entry from January 1706. It recorded the baptism of Benjamin Franklin! I could NOT believe my eyes. 10 inches in front of me, is this 300+ year-old book, recording the baptism of this baby who became one of the greatest American in history. There is no plexiglass between it and me. The guide/librarian was so casual about this as if she was just flipping through a magazine to show me some tabloid photos.

While I was still recovering from my awe-struck state, she took down another book (kept in an acid-free box). This one is the first printed Bible in the US, known as the John Eliot Bible, in Algonquian in 1663. Again, no plexiglass, no nothing between me and this historic artifact. Truly phenomenal.

One does not have to be a religious person to take this tour. I think anyone who is interested in the history of Boston will enjoy this. And if you are into genealogy research, the library is a great resource because it has all these old church records.
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Jul 11th, 2009, 11:54 AM
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You've listed lots of my favorites including the Saugus Iron Works

I'd add Fruitlands in Harvard, MA

and Salem Maritime National Historic Site

We have been using a good guide book on recent trips to the Boston area, the Literary Trail of Greater Boston (includes Cambridge and Concord sites)
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Jul 11th, 2009, 12:19 PM
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Hi Vttraveler, no, I haven't been to all the places I listed. At least not the Saugus Iron Works, well, not YET.

Fruitlands is on my list; I think the Tower Hill Botanic Garden is not too far away at Boylston, MA. There's also the Museum of Russian Icons in Clinton, MA. I have been to the latter.
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Jul 11th, 2009, 12:47 PM
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My husband and I took an American history course in college many years ago and went out to see the Saugus Iron Works which was mentioned in a lecture. I sometimes refer to this as our first date. We stopped again with our kids on our way back from Boston a few years ago. It really is a fascinating social history site.

On another thread I reported that we finally visited the Longfellow House in Cambridge last month after talking about going for years. It is well worth the walk up Brattle Street in Cambridge.
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