Boston is the undisputed birthplace of American history. It's home to a number of firsts: first public park (Boston Common), first botanical garden (the Public Garden), and even the first phone call (made by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876). Much of the political ferment that spawned the nation happened here, and visitors are often awed by the dense concentration of landmarks. Locals, on the other hand, take them in stride. This is a living city—not a museum—and, as such, its entrepreneurial spirit continues to evolve. Cambridge's Kendall Square, close to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is a hotbed of technological progress, while Boston's Innovation District in the Seaport area is home to a growing number of start-ups. Bostonians remain a proud, resilient bunch. This strength was apparent in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings in April 2013, which happened near the Back Bay finish line. "Boston Strong" became the city's unofficial motto in the wake of the attacks, and the marathon continues to go on each year with an estimated 1 million spectators.
Although no one refers to Boston as "The Athens of America" anymore, appreciating art seems to be as characteristic of folks here as dropping "R’s" and taking the "T." That explains why in recent years the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum unveiled a stunning complex by architect Renzo Piano, who is also the genius behind Harvard Art Museums’ $400-million reinvention. Now, three of the university's major museums—the Fogg, the Busch-Reisinger, and the Arthur M. Sackler—are under one roof.
This city has long been defined by its harbor: the first colonists were largely drawn here because of it, and local commerce has been inextricably bound to the water ever since. Over time, development obscured the view, and what was visible wasn’t always pretty. Nevertheless, a decades-long, $3.8-billion clean-up effort has paid off. See for yourself on HarborWalk, a 45-mile-long path linking Columbus Park to the New England Aquarium, Seaport, and Fan Pier, with harborside sites, picturesque piers, parks, working wharves, hotel lounges, and urban beaches.
Communing with Kennedys
The year 2013 marked the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and the memory of Boston’s beloved native son lingers. Take a 90-minute walking tour covering sites associated with JFK or the inauguration of a 30,000-square-foot wing at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum. The legacy of brother Ted is equally apparent next door at the Edward F. Kennedy Institute. The Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, a mile-and-a-half string of parks, is named in her honor.
There are lots of ways to get around Beantown: foot, cab, bus, ferry, subway, trolley, water taxi. But these days there’s another eminently practical way for travelers to be transported: three-speed bicycle. The Hubway bike-sharing program makes it easy because pedal pushers can cheaply access one of 1,600 cycles from roughly 180 self-service "docks" citywide. (.)
Lights! Camera! Action! Those words are being heard a lot lately, because a state tax credit for film producers has translated into a moviemaking boom. As a result, playing "spot the star" is a popular pastime. Big-screen names like Leonardo DiCaprio, Johnny Depp, Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Adams, Denzel Washington, and homegrown celebs Ben Affleck and Mark Wahlberg have all worked here. Ditto for talents such as Jesse Eisenberg, Mila Kunis, and Anna Faris. Interested in an entirely different type of star? The Museum of Science is more stellar than ever thanks to Astronomy After Hours, the museum's free seasonal Friday night stargazing sessions in the Gilliland Observatory.
Changing the Channel
Revitalization of the Fort Point Channel neighborhood has been ongoing for a decade: the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, the brazen Institute of Contemporary Art, the expanded Boston Children’s Museum (by the monster Hood milk bottle), and the opening of Atlantic and Liberty wharves. The area’s new high-water marks aren’t beside the channel but rather in it: the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum stand by the Congress Street Bridge, with guides in period garb. On-the-water recreational options allow tour boats, kayaks, and floating restaurants.
Eating Wicked Good Food
Sure, try traditional dishes like baked beans, codfish cakes, and slabs of roast beef at Yankee haunts like Durgin-Park and the Union Oyster House. But Boston lays claim to a long line of innovative chefs. M. Sanzian’s invention of Boston cream pie in 1856 made quite a stir among Parker House patrons; a century later, Julia Child launched a culinary revolution from her Cambridge kitchen. Today, top chefs such as Jody Adams, Jamie Bissonnette, Joanne Chang, Tiffani Faison, Barbara Lynch, Ken Oringer, Michael Schlow, Ana Sortun, Lydia Shire, Ming Tsai, and Tony Maws make dining out a gastronomic adventure. These days, Fort Point houses several flashy new restaurants from locals like Lynch and Tsai plus celebrity chefs like Mario Batali, while the North End is an essential stop for mom-and-pop Italian food.
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