Spending a weekend in Boston in the middle of February may not appeal to everyone. Indeed, as I put out a call for suggestions of things to do on Twitter, I got at least one response warning me that February was not the time to be visiting.
Nonetheless, I was excited as I arrived in Boston late on a Friday night and woke up eager to explore the next morning. It didn’t hurt that the sun was shining and the temperatures were in the 30s (Fahrenheit) – downright balmy weather compared to Chicago! I spent Saturday morning retracing my steps from my first visit to Boston nearly eight years ago – walking the Freedom Trail.
The Freedom Trail is a marked path that takes you from Boston Common in the center of the city to the Bunker Hill Monument and the USS Constitution – the oldest commissioned warship in the world. Along the way, you pass 16 landmarks in American history. I did the full Freedom Trail back in 2006, getting a map from the office in Boston Common and stopping in at every site along the way. This time, I took an abbreviated journey that still took up most of my morning.
I started with a stroll through Boston Common, but then skipped the Granary Burying Ground (it was closed) and most everything else until I paused for a moment at the site of the Boston Massacre. I continued to follow the marked bricks in the sidewalk until I got to Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market. It was still early, so most of the vendors at Quincy Market were not yet open, but the building was and I needed to warm up a bit so I headed indoors to see if I could find anything to eat for a late breakfast.
Unsuccessful, but warm, I moved on toward Boston’s North End, but ran into an outdoor market on my way. While a Boston friend later told me it was of questionable quality, I was thrilled at the time, feeling like I was back in Kyrgyzstan or Kazakhstan, but about 70 degrees colder. I wandered through tent after heated tent (why don’t we do this in Chicago?!), taking pictures and drooling over all of the fresh fruits and veggies.
After picking up a bag of 6 apples for just $2, I picked up where I left off and made my way to the Old North Church. I passed by the Paul Revere House since I visited last time I was in Boston and finished up my walk at Copp’s Old Burying Ground. Given the chilly weather and my growing hunger, I decided against going all the way to the Bunker Hill Monument (also stopped there last time!).
After a quick stop for lunch, I headed back to Boston Common and Beacon Street, walking along Beacon Street all the way to the Back Bay neighborhood. With nothing really specific to see, I just enjoyed the atmosphere of the neighborhood and the beautifully snow-free sidewalks that were such a departure from my neighborhood in Chicago! Before I knew it, I had walked all the way to Fenway Park. Seeing a sign for ballpark tours, I inquired about the next departure and learned that one would be starting in less than an hour. You can read about that in another post, but for now I’ll just say it was worth the $16.
The next morning, I awoke to sunny skies once again and headed outside for an early morning run, retracing part of my route from the previous day down Beacon Street and through the Back Bay. I passed more than a dozen other runners out between 8:00 and 9:00 a.m. and loved the feeling of running in a city that embraces running as much (or even more) than Chicago does.
Later, I hopped on the T to Cambridge and the Harvard University campus. I tried to soak up some of the Ivy League atmosphere before meeting a friend for lunch but was a little disappointed. Harvard didn’t feel as Harvard-like as I imagined. At least not at first; I walked around the campus for a good 20-30 minutes before I stumbled upon the gorgeous Memorial Hall and then the very Ivy League feeling Harvard Square.
After lunch, I returned to campus to check out the Peabody Museum and the Harvard Museum of Natural History. Again, I was a bit disappointed. Combined admission to the two museums is just $12 and there is plenty to see; I just found it all organized a bit haphazardly. I like museums that tell a story and neither of these really did.
By the time I left the museums, it was close to 5:00 p.m. and the sunshine had given way to clouds. It was time to call it a day and my weekend of sightseeing came to an end. All in all, I felt like I squeezed a lot in to less than 48 hours and saw a lot of Boston – which is easy to do considering how compact it is compared to my hometown of Chicago.