Please help with Boston itinerary!

Old Jun 12th, 2004, 12:53 PM
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Please help with Boston itinerary!

We're visiting Boston, for the 1st time, in August for 5 days. DH will be attending a conference during the day; my 12 year old son and I will be sightseeing. I'm wondering how best to use our time so we see our "must-sees"(Freedom Trail, Science museum, MFA, Faneuil Hall area, USS Constitution and Harvard) along with some of our "want-tos"(whale watching, aquarium, JFK museum, Salem). Our 1st afternoon, before DH's conference, we'll hit the Freedom trail, ending in the North End for an early dinner and the play about Paul Revere at the Old North Church.

Beyond that, I'm not sure how to fit all this in. We're staying at the Lenox and will not have a car. I've purchased the Go Boston cards for my son and myself so will have access to the Beantown trolley as well as the T. Any suggestions on how best to use our time? Should we do Faneuil Hall and Harvard area in the evening as DH can join us? One minor complication is that my son and I may have two other conference "widows" and their younger children joining us. Any help you can give me will be appreciated.
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Old Jun 12th, 2004, 02:24 PM
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You and your son would love the Duck Tour located not far from the Lenox at the Prudential..
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Old Jun 12th, 2004, 02:38 PM
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The Museum of Science is well worth a trip, and I think there are still some hands on exhibits there for the kids as well.

The Boston Museum of Art is wonderful and the Fens, (garden) is just a block away.

I'd suggest getting a book on Boston before you leave so your son can look up some of the sites he would like to see, lots of history in Boston, probably some of which he has already touched on in school.

You mentioned Salem it's quite a distance from Boston, on the Northshore, and probably would be easiest in a rental car, you could also hit a beach or two on the way up.

Have a great time, Boston is a great city.
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Old Jun 12th, 2004, 02:50 PM
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The best strategy for your itinerary would be to get a map of Boston that shows the subway ("T") lines ans stops, and if possible the Freedom Trail. You'll see that a lot of your musts overlap -- the Freedom Trail goes right thru Faneuil marketplace, which in turn is a couple of blocks form the Aquarium where you can pick up whale wathces.

Harvard is also very accessible, having its own "T" stop (on the Red Line, which intersects the Green Line under Boston Common at Park Street, which is also where the Freedom Trail begins and the main Visitors Info center is located).

The Harvard area is a good evening visit, plenty of colorful locals and students on the streets, performers and restaurants.

The other places you've mentioned, including the Science Museum and the MFA, are on the Green Line. Boston is a small town, easy to get around!

If you want to shake the other famlies with younger children, just propose that they visit the Children's Musem, a 10-minute walk from the South Station stop on the Red Line. Your 12-year-old is too grown up for almost everytihng there. But there's something for everyone at the Museum of Science.

The JFK Musem is also worth visiting, there's a Red Line stop and then a shuttle to the museum.

I continue to be baffled as to why visitors spend precious time trekking out to Salem. I think they just must have an excellent publicity team.
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Old Jun 12th, 2004, 08:23 PM
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Definitely put the Duck Tour, Science Museum and Aquarium on your A list.
On the Duck Tour, your son will have the opportunity to steer the vehicle on the Charles River. The Science Museum is a great hands-on experience for young and old alike. And at the Aquarium, make sure you catch the sea lion show.
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Old Jun 12th, 2004, 09:16 PM
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I moved to Boston at your sons age and lived there for 15 years.

Beacon Hill- very old world, check out the state house

Freedom trail- you will love it, he will eventually grow bored

Copley Square- Go in the Library, check out the very top floors, they are open to the public and are almost like a movie set.

Harvard Square- very funky, and Harvard too!

Elizabeth Gardner Museum- If you have to do one museum, do this one, I loved it at his age, very unique.

Boston Gardens- ride the swan boats, you can't go to Boston and not ride this tradition
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Old Jun 12th, 2004, 10:33 PM
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I say - if you want to visit Salem - go for it. It's a beautiful seaside town with lots to see and do. It's also an easy trip via the commuter rail from Boston - see www.mbta.com

And, Salem does offer one of the very best by far visitor's information booklets, which you can download in gorgeous pdf format from their website.

With 5 days, you'll be amazed at how much you can fit it. Boston is quite compact. And, nothing takes longer than half a day (except Salem).

Faneuil Hall/Quincy Marketplace are excellent evening destinations - most places are open late every night.

The indoor food hall at Quincy Market is fabulous for families.

Fire and Ice is a terrific dining destination in Harvard Square. They have a website.

You'll find brochures galore at the hotel, and the Concierge will be of fabulous assistance.

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Old Jun 13th, 2004, 04:22 AM
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I think you have done some research - things on your "must-do" list are perfect. You might combine Museum of Science with visit to Harvard Square - (both actually in Cambridge across the Charles River)perhaps you and son do museum during the day and meet husband in Harvard Square later in the day - you and son can walk around and meet for dinner someplace. (one day)

Museum of Fine Arts could be combined with Fenway Park tour if he likes baseball. (another day)

You may find some places along Freeedom Trail that you wish to return to - on that day head over to USS Constitution on the same day. Meet husband in Faneuil Hall area later in day - for a casual dinner eat at one of the many restaurants in area or even just get food from assorted stores and eat at central tables. In summer, often street musicians/entertainers around, even during the week. If it is a Friday or weekend, Haymarket is an area of street produce vendors that is worth a walk through - lots of whole creepy looking fish staring at you from their ice beds! (another day)

You could do New England Aquarium and half-day whale watch in one day.

JFK Museum is easily accessible by public transportation - with travel time it will take up about 4-5 hours.

That is how I would fit it all in (I think I may have an extra day in my itinerary). So before you prioritize, I also recommend a Duck Tour - I know they are becoming available in quite a few cities - and even though we have taken a Duck Tour in several cities we have visited, it is always fun.

All above suggestions would work for somewhat younger children except perhaps MFA and JFK. (Unless they are stroller age - then all bets are off) - send them off to Children's Museum on that day.

I also suggest skipping Salem - more hype than substance. Without a car it is doable, but train schedules during the day can be a pain. You will have more than enough to do right in Boston without a trek to Salem - unless, as another poster suggested, you want to get a car for the day and add on the beach.
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Old Jun 13th, 2004, 04:26 AM
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There's also a Fire & Ice restaurant near their hotel, on Berkeley Street in the Park Swquare building. This restaurant is a great choice when you have a diverse group of eaters -- they can satisfy most vegetarians, big appetites, picky eaters, etc. etc.
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Old Jun 13th, 2004, 04:30 AM
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Good morning, gail!

I agree with almost all of your recommendations. Everyone loves the Duck Tours.

But combining the MOS and Harvard just because they're both in Cambridge doesn't make sense for people relying on public transport, since one's on the Red Line and hte other on the Green; instead, combining the JFK Library and then riding up to Harvard would be a stright shot on the Red Line, plus keeping to a historic theme.
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Old Jun 13th, 2004, 04:34 AM
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You've had some great advice already. I would like to congratulate you on navigating the city via the subway. It's a good skill for your son to learn at his age. I'm surprised at how many people do not know how to use public transportation. The JFK museum is special but younger children might be bored so I agree that this would be a good day for the other "widows" to visit the children's museum. If you can do everything, I would prioritize. There is only one JFK museum but other cities have science museums and aquariums. Boston is a unique city and you can cover a lot in a few days. Wear comfy shoes! I also enjoyed the duck tour and would recommend it.
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Old Jun 13th, 2004, 10:02 AM
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The Museum of Science is in *Boston* not Cambrige and it not even close to Harvard Sq. Instead visit nearby Charlestown (another boston neighborhood) and see the Bunker Hill monument and USS Consitutions. Salem is a good day trip, just take the commuter train from North Station.
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Old Jun 13th, 2004, 10:21 AM
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Thanks, everyone, for all your great suggestions; I really appreciate your ideas. Gail was right; I've been researching Boston and am really getting excited about coming! Salem was iffy--I was interested because it was on the water. If we want to go to a beach, are there any that are easily accessible by commuter rail? Also, we're still deciding about the aquarium. How does it compare to the National aquarium in Baltimore(which we've seen)?
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Old Jun 13th, 2004, 11:06 AM
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OK - you guys win - you are correct about Museum of Science and Harvard Square not being logically grouped together. I am never sure if MOS is Boston or Cambridge since it is right on the river dividing line.

New England Aquarium is just an average aquarium. If you have other preferences for filling the days, pick them.

MBTA.com gives schedules and info on commuter rail, subway, bus, etc - you can print a subway map that might be useful to have with you in your travels.

As far as MBTA accessible beaches - Singing Beach (?Manchester) used to boast that it was the only easily accessible beach by rail - in fact, had such limited parking that rail was the way to go for non-residents. However, I will admit to not using public transport for beach in years - check it out with someone more current info.

Depending on from where you are coming - the beach may or may not be worth it. New England ocean, even in August, can be quite cold. Many beaches are quite rocky. Some of the nicest ones do require a car. However, if it is hot, your 12-year old might crave the beach. Another thought is to take train all the way up to Rockport - a nice little town with shopping, some small beaches, several decent restaurants.

If the consensus is for a beach day, you could always split the cost of a car rental, pack the other conference widows", kids, etc. in a van and do the beach. Many major car rental companies have in-town (as opposed to airport) locations and could do an easy one-day rental. Depends on how much you want to go to the beach. (We always add a beach day to our trips with our teenagers - something authentic about touching the water after hauling through museums and historic sites)
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Old Jun 13th, 2004, 02:15 PM
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One other day trip you could consider, if you want waterfront, is take the ferry from Boston to Provincetown. You can spend a few hours wandering around PTown, and seeing the ocean. I think the timing of this doesn't easily allow for a trip to the beach on the Cape, but perhaps I'm wrong. Still, its a fun day trip.

Not trying to nitpick, but InMiami has the Gardner Museum wrong. Its the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (unless there's another one I don't know about?). It is a very nice museum.

When walking the freedom trail, there are a number of places you can go in and look around. But some are of limited interest, yet can take a while if you try to read all the displays. When we went with my teenage nephews, their favorite parts were the Paul Revere house and North Church. So try to save some energy for the last part.

I really liked Salem too. Not for the witch stuff, which is a little cheesy. But the Peabody Essex Museum is fabulous, especially the Chinese House. And they also offer a tour of 3 small historic homes right nearby that were very interesting as well. To decide if any of this interests you or your son, check out http://www.pem.org/homepage/
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Old Jun 13th, 2004, 04:25 PM
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You may want to go to Castle Island and explore the Fort, have an ice cream, watch the planes, etc. It is easily accessible by the T. At the risk of sounding silly, if you really want to go to the beach, head to Revere. I have lived in MA all my life and while there are beautiful beaches and ugly beaches, the ocean is the ocean. You could do worse if all you want is a day at the beach. I would skip the Aquarium or allot no more than 2 hours to see it (including the seal show). It is not the best and I have taken school groups there and they are ready to leave after an hour and a half.
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Old Jun 13th, 2004, 05:58 PM
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Thanks one and all! You've been very helpful. You'll probably be hearing from me again as the time comes closer to our trip.
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Old Jun 13th, 2004, 06:41 PM
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As long as picky is popular in this thread...
Your son may NOT get to steer the Ducktour boat on the Charles. It is a wonderful tour, but only one or two people get a chance to actually pilot the thing on the water.
Salem is great! The House of Seven Gables is one of my favorite spots. The Peabody Essex Museum is great, and the Witch Museum is wonderful, especially for your son's age. (Not the Witch House, however... boring!)
Another Northshore hit is the Hammond Castle Museum in Gloucester. Can you rent a car the day before or after the conference to go exploring in this area with your husband? It would be a great family day! You can also go out to Marblehead for some pretty driving, rocky shores, and nice restaurants. The town hall there has the original Spirit of '76 painting. Lots of excellent traditional fried seafood in Essex.
Besides the Duck Tour, my preteens also loved the Prudential Tower observatory, Science Museum, and ISG Museum (I think concerts might be included in the admission there on Sundays)
Hope you have a great time!
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Old Jun 13th, 2004, 07:24 PM
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I'm a Boston now over the Bridge/ Cambridge by MIT resident all close to eachother, I walk across the bridge to my old haunts in Back bay or walk to harvard Square, but What I want to ad is that Peabody Museum in Essex is the place to visit and meander. The museum also has a first rate dining terrace.
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Old Jun 14th, 2004, 01:52 AM
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With a 12 year old, pick one art type museum only (Gardner, MFA, or Peabody Essex). Peabody Essex (in Salem) just completed huge expansion - I have not seen it since expansion but it is supp-osed to be incredible - would be my guess as best for 12 year old. Gardner is a wonderful museum, but probably the least likely to appeal to 12 year old boy. (When my kids were that age, they liked 3-D stuff (sculptures, historic artifacts, etc.)more than paintings.

If you have other conference people and kids much younger than 12 - suggest they go someplace else that day.
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