Greener Is The Grass

09 boston skyline 4Linda Burton posting from Boston, Massachusetts The other side of the fence. During my days in New Hampshire almost everyone asked “Where are you headed next?” And when I answered “Boston” I noticed eyes light up; suggestions poured forth as to what I should see, how I would love it, how they love it. Ending with “I wish I lived in Boston now.” “It still takes my breath away,” said someone I met in the New Hampshire State House, “when I round that curve and see the Boston skyline ahead of me.” Many claimed Boston as their birthplace; regaling me with tales of Fenway Park and 09 fenway signmemories of baseball games; Ted Williams, Roger Clemens, Carl Yastrzemski. The Sox Nation extends far north into New Hampshire; that’s for sure. With the Red Sox in the playoffs, the New Hampshire passion pulsated loud and clear. The Tampa Bay Rays came to Boston to play; as I rounded a curve on the New Hampshire freeway last Friday a flashing highway sign caught my attention. “Go” was the first line of warning; I expected to see notice of a detour, or road work. But the second line was “Red Sox,” followed by another “Go.” It made me smile. Today 09 trees hillswas my day to “Go” as I moved south from Concord, New Hampshire to Boston, capital city #44 on the Journey. It was less than 70 miles of smooth sailing on a freeway bordered by that famous New England foliage; traffic was moderate. Until I hit the Massachusetts line. And what did I see? Droves of cars headed north, straight into New Hampshire! Here in Boston tonight, the weather report focused on where to go in New Hampshire this weekend, to revel in fabulous autumn scenery. Sounds like a “grass is greener” kind of thing.

09 ne mapTonight I am settled in my Boston hotel, surrounded by brochures I picked up from the kiosk in the lobby. I’ve sorted them into two stacks – the “getting out of Boston” group, and the “what to do while I’m here” pile. There’s a lot to do in a concentrated area; no other capital city has offered anything close, except for Honolulu. For tours Beyond Boston, Grayline offers narrated day-trips on air-conditioned motor coaches; here’s their list:

  1. Fall Foliage, Leaf Peeping in New Hampshire
  2. New England Seacoast of New Hampshire and Maine
  3. Downeast Maine and Lobster Bake
  4. Salem and the Witch City
  5. Witch City and the Schooner Fame
  6. Cambridge, Lexington, and Concord
  7. Plimoth Plantation
  8. Cape Cod Excursion
  9. Autumn on Old Cape Cod
  10. Fabulous Newport Mansions of Rhode Island

Not bad, but I’m here to focus on the capital city, so I’ll stick with the Boston options. Grayline also has some in-Boston motor-coach tours:

  1. Boston/JFK Library & Museum/Fenway Park
  2. Total Experience – Boston, Cambridge, Lexington, Concord

And Grayline runs the Beantown Trolley; you know, those open-air buses that let you step off and on all day long as you tootle around the city. Hop off, stay as long as you please, catch the next one. They list 17 stops in all:

  1. New England Aquarium, where your Trolley Ticket also entitles you to a Harbor Cruise; you can visit Quincy Market while you’re there.
  2. The North End – Little Italy/Paul Revere House/Old North Church; try the Italian cuisine and visit Copp’s Hill Burial Ground too.
  3. USS Constitution/Old Ironsides/Bunker Hill; the ship, the Bunker Hill Monument, historic Charlestown.
  4. Faneuil Hall/Old State House/Site of Boston Massacre; the Globe Corner Bookstore is here; the Old South Meeting House; also the Holocaust Memorial
  5. Theater District/Chinatown; Wang Center, Shubert Theater, and more
  6. Boston Public Gardens/Swan Boats
  7. Cheers; inspiration for the TV show; the bar was originally the Bull & Finch
  8. Copley Square/Newbury Street/Trinity Church
  9. Midtown Hotel; Symphony Hall and the South End
  10. Prudential/Mary Baker Eddy Library/Christian Science Center; the Prudential Skywalk, the Mapparium
  11. Fenway Park/House of Blues
  12. Cambridge/Harvard/MIT; Charles Riverboat Company for excursions on the river
  13. Antique Row/Beacon Hill/Charles Street; Charles River, Esplanade/Hatch Shell
  14. State House/Boston Common/Beacon Hill
  15. West End/Old West Church/Government Center
  16. Seaport District/Seaport Hotel
  17. Rowes Wharf/Boston Harbor/Children’s Museum

The Old Town Trolley Tours offer the above, plus the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum;09 trolley 2 free admission; choose between that or a free harbor cruise. They list 20 Trolley stops in all; and claim to have more vehicles and less waiting time. I haven’t checked the ticket price on either one; both have the same map in their brochure; I’d give Beantown Trolley a few glory points simply because their stops are highlighted in BIG NUMBERS that are easier for me to read. Plus, the map is smaller and easier to handle, if you’re jumping off and on a trolley. Some of the other brochures tout 09 trolleythe Duck Tours, that drive you quacking all over town and then head splashing into the harbor; On Location Tours for a three-hour drive to Boston sites where movies and TV shows have been filmed; Ghost Tours of Haunted Boston, Crime Tours where seedy characters have roamed; Whale Watch tours; Tall Ship Sailing tours; Fenway Park tours; Back Bay Shopping (looking for Neiman-Marcus?); the Freedom Trail for walking; and Urban Adventours on a bike. And you wouldn’t want to miss the Foodie Tours, now would you? Little Italy alone would be worth any price.

What is so important about Boston, and why does it attract so many visitors? There’s the 09 tea party shiphistory, for one thing. Boston is one of the oldest cities in the country, founded in 1630 by Puritan colonists from England. Several key events of the American Revolution happened in Boston – like the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party, and the Battle of Bunker Hill, sites you can walk around today. Did you know that the first public school (1635) was opened in Boston? Boston has the first subway system (1897) (think of all the cities that are still talking about the need!). Boston Common is the oldest public park in the country; today it’s a hub of activity in the center of the city, for tourists and residents alike. Boston’s seaport is the oldest continuously operating industrial and fishing port in the Western Hemisphere. As to higher education, there are over 100 colleges in the Greater Boston area with a student population of 250,000; Harvard, the 09 harvardnation’s oldest university, and prestigious MIT are located just across the river from Boston proper in Cambridge. Boston is strong in the arts, and in the love of sports; I’ll be doing posts on that, as I explore this city. And there is the geography of Boston; another thing it has in common with Honolulu (besides “tours and tourists”) is an ocean shoreline – the only two capital cities that do. There is the Charles River, the Mystic River, the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area. The city’s water supply, from the Quabbin and Wachusett Reservoirs to the west, is so pure it satisfies federal quality standards without filtration.

Boston’s population is 617,594 (US Census 2010), making it the 5th most populous of the capital cities, behind Phoenix, Indianapolis, Austin, and Columbus. But the metro area of Greater Boston is home to 4.5 million people, and the commuting region is home to 7.6 million. Economically, Boston is a global city, with the twelfth-largest economy in the world. And tourism is a large part of that – 21.2 million visitors spent $8.3 billion in 2011.

21.2 million visitors in a year. It’s a “grass is greener” kind of thing.