The arrival of the earliest pioneers near Salem in 1630 was the shaping of Massachusetts as a state. Puritans arriving from an England threatened with civil war came to set up a new colony, intended to be an example to the world of a perfect human society with rigid Protestant discipline and a devout way of life. This was the beginning of New England and today it is made up of six states including Massachusetts.
Boston has been the hub of the state since colonial times. The state capital is full of history that can be traced back through walking attractions like the Freedom Trail and the Black Heritage Trail. Boston also boasts a wealth of culture thanks to the prestigious presence of Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. To the east lie the beaches of the Cape Cod Peninsula as well as the islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket that together form the region's most popular holiday destination, with historic towns and plenty of walking and cycling opportunities. Inland Massachusetts is much quieter with settlements having formed around the fertile river valleys and in the Berkshire Hills to the west. Development of the Berkshires began with the construction of the railway from New York and Boston and it became a favourite summer retreat for wealthy city folk as well as attracting artists and writers. The region is now most famous for its vibrant summer music, dance and theatre festivals, particularly the Boston Symphony Orchestra that has its home in the huge Tanglewood Estate in Lenox.
The 2.5-mile (4km) Freedom Trail follows a line of red bricks or a painted red line on the pavement linking 16 historic sights associated with the early struggle for freedom from British control and the events leading up to the revolution. Markers identify the stops and provide information from downtown to the North End to Charlestown and Bunker Hill Monument. Sights along the way include the Paul Revere House, Boston's oldest surviving house that was home to the famous revolutionary, and the nearby Old North Church where two lanterns were hung in the belfry to warn the revolutionaries of the British movements while Revere went on his famous horse ride to warn of imminent British attack. The elegant Old State House was the seat of British colonial government and where the Declaration of Independence was read in 1776. There is a museum of Boston history inside. At the Old South Meeting House Samuel Adams addressed the revolutionaries in the significant meeting prior to the Boston Tea Party and a circle of cobblestones marks the site of the Boston Massacre. In Charlestown the USS Constitution, known as 'Old Ironsides' is the oldest warship still afloat and was named after the sinking of the British frigate, HMS Guerriere during the war of 1812. Bunker Hill Monument is the site of the first formal battle of the America Revolution that was fought in 1775. Also along the trail is the beautiful white steeple of Park Street Church, the site of several important anti-slavery speeches, the Old Granary Burying Ground where a number of revolutionaries are buried, and the Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall that once was the meeting place for revolutionaries as well as a bustling marketplace. Although a complete self-guided trail, the National Park Service also conducts free tours with guides in historic costumes that cover some of the trail's highlights.
Black Heritage Trail
Today Beacon Hill brings to mind images of affluence and luxurious living, yet until the end of the 19th century it contained a community of free blacks and escaped slaves from the southern states who owned businesses, built houses and schools, and worshipped together in the churches. Although the black community has since shifted to other parts of Boston, the Black Heritage Trail covers 14 sites that are part of the local black history. Massachusetts was the first state to abolish slavery in 1783 due in part to the black participation in the Revolution. Beginning at the Boston Common there is a memorial to slave abolitionist Robert Shaw who led the first black regiment recruited during the Civil War. Various sites on Beacon Hill include homes of famous citizens, the city's first racially integrated public school with exhibits portraying the struggle for equal school rights, and a house that was part of the famous 'Underground Railroad', sheltering runaway slaves from their pursuers. The African Meeting House, part of the Museum of Afro-American History, is one of the most interesting sights and was the first black church in the United States, known as 'Black Faneuil Hall' during the anti-slavery campaign. It was here that famous abolitionist speeches were made and black people were called to take up arms in the Civil War. There is an informative audiovisual presentation in the gallery. Although this is a complete self-guided trail with brochures and maps provided by the Museum of Afro-American History, park rangers also give free daily two-hour tours, which start at the National Park Service Visitor Center.
Boston Tea Party Ship and Museum
Moored to the bridge is the Beaver II, known as the Boston Tea Party Ship and Museum, and one of the three ships stormed by patriots in 1773 as an act of rebellion against British rule and in particular against the new tax laws imposed on tea. A group of revolutionaries disguised as Mohawk Indians burst from the South Meeting House and boarded the ships that were loaded with tea. They emptied the crate contents into the harbour, an event that became known as the Boston Tea Party. The Beaver II is an exact replica of the original Beaver I and visitors can learn about the event on board the ship. ** Note: The Boston Tea Party Ship and Museum is currently closed for renovations and plans to open again sometime in 2012.**
The MIT Museum is located in Cambridge, near the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one of the most prestigious universities in the US. The relatively small museum houses technology-themed collections of holograms, artificial intelligence, robotics, and maritime history, placing specific importance on MIT's contributions to the history of technology. Some of the most interesting exhibits are those of the MIT Hacks, elaborate pranks pulled by students each year, and don't miss the Arthur Ganson gallery of kinetic sculptures.
Just across the Charles River from Boston, Cambridge is actually a city in its own right although the two cities are so closely associated that many people believe them to be one and the same. Cambridge is home to two of the most prestigious centres for education in the country, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and has a young and vibrant atmosphere due to the 30,000 university students from around the world that reside and study here. The city is centred on Harvard Square, which is a gathering spot that reflects the international culture of its learning community as well as the influence of its students, residents and business owners. Surrounding the square and lining the streets that spread out from Harvard Square are dozens of bookstores and music shops, cafes and coffee houses and restaurants. Harvard Square is a lively mixture of students and professors, buskers, the homeless, evangelists and political campaigners, and is a great place to have a cup of coffee, watch the activity and soak up the atmosphere. Harvard University occupies one side of the square.
Established in 1636, Harvard University is the oldest in the country and one of the most prestigious institutions of higher learning in the USA. It is famous for its brilliant faculties that have produced economists, biologists, prize-winning poets, and famous graduates like President John F. Kennedy. It is also as well known for its famous dropouts such as actor Matt Damon who left in second year to write the Oscar-winning film 'Good Will Hunting', and businessman Bill Gates who left to start up a small software business, also dropping out in his second year. The focal point of the university is Harvard Yard, a courtyard surrounded by ivy-covered colonial buildings from the 18th century until the present that was named for John Harvard, a graduate of Cambridge University in Britain, who died leaving the college half his estate and his entire library. The shoe of his statue is rubbed for good luck. Harvard also has four outstanding museums, including the Harvard Art Museums and the Museum of Natural History. The Fogg Art Museum is the most famous art museum with a huge collection covering works from the European Renaissance period to the modern day, including works by Renoir, Monet, Van Gogh and Klee. The Bush-Reisinger and Arthur Sackler Museums are included in the same ticket. The Natural History Museum is renowned for its display of hand-blown glass flowers.
Boston Public Garden
The first botanical garden in the United States, the Boston Public Garden provides a tranquil escape from the fast pace of the city centre. Maintained by the Boston Parks and Recreation Department and the Friends of the Public Garden, the botanical garden is a must-see on any exploration of Boston. With over 600 varieties of trees and colourful displays of well-ordered decorative flowers, visitors can go for a relaxing swan boat ride on the three acre lagoon, enjoy the attractive vista of the city's sardined skyscrapers through the trees, or take pleasure in the numerous public works of art that border the meandering paths.
Believed to have been named by mariner Bartholomew Gosnold for his daughter Martha, with the 'vineyard' referring to the abundance of wild grapes growing on the island, Martha's Vineyard is a favourite summer destination for New England's wealthy elite. Tourism is the main economy, boosted by celebrity regulars like actress Sharon Stone and the Clinton family, but they are usually tucked away in their private houses and on their private beaches. It is far less developed than Cape Cod, but more sophisticated than neighbouring Nantucket Island and simple pleasures such as the weekly farmers' market, miles of coastal pathways to explore and an agricultural fair blend with the concerts, outdoor theatres, galleries and nightlife that keeps the towns buzzing throughout the summer. The six towns have distinct characters, from the upmarket Vineyard Haven that is the island's main port, receiving ferries as well as private yachts, to the fun centre of Oak Bluffs where the old Flying Horses Carousel, pizza take-aways and ice-cream parlours cater to the young and carefree. The graceful Edgartown has quaint inns, historic whaling captains' homes and stylish boutiques lining the narrow streets, and is the island's oldest settlement. The pace is decidedly laid-back although the hassles of summer crowds, traffic and high prices have led to more visitors discovering the appeal of the off-season, with peaceful roads, friendly folk and private beaches that are opened to the public.
Thirty miles (48km) off the coast of Cape Cod, the island of Nantucket is smaller and more remote than Martha's Vineyard, and is an escape from city stress and the chaos of everyday life. Miles of unspoilt beaches, rolling wind-swept moors, solitary windmills and lighthouses, church steeples, quaint cottages and peaceful lanes are the attractions on the island. Its only town, Nantucket Town, was once the whaling capital of the world and has retained much of its 17th to 19th century character with historic mansions, old fashioned street lamps and cosy inns lining the cobblestone streets. The rest of the island is mainly residential except for a few villages, and there is not a billboard, fast-food franchise or flashing neon light to be seen anywhere. Nantucket has long appealed to wealthy visitors and has grown to a summer vacation retreat for nearly 50,000 tourists, and despite the increasing amount of luxury houses going up, over 36 percent of the land is protected from development, and the island still feels like a romantic paradise. The excellent Whaling Museum is an added attraction to the beaches, strolling and biking, and window-shopping at the exclusive boutiques. July and August are the most popular months and the busiest times, and although off-season has its charms the island is often covered in thick fog at this time.
Faneuil Hall Marketplace
A great Boston daytrip and shopping destination, Faneuil Hill Marketplace offers superb shopping with all your familiar designer stores as well as great restaurants and sidewalk cafÃ©s. Four places in one, Faneuil Hall Market place encompasses Faneuil Hall, Quincy Market, North Market and South Market. Set around a cobblestone promenade, the market is a haven for the performing arts with jugglers, mimes, musicians and magicians entertaining passers-by. Centrally located and operating for over 250 years, the Faneuil Hill Marketplace is the hub of Boston city life. Drawing large crowds excited by the electric energy, visitors can shop, stroll, eat and wonder.
Boston Museum of Fine Arts
An artwork in itself the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston houses some of the most famous European paintings, including Gauguin's Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?Boston's oldest, largest and best-known art institution, the MFA also houses one of the world's most comprehensive art collections, with 22,000 artworks including masterpieces by some of the finest artists in history. With a striking collection of Impressionist paintings by artists like Monet, Egyptian sculpture, and a moving exhibition of Japanese and other Asian artworks, visitors should make sure they have ample time to explore the exhibition rooms of the MFA. Have a break and enjoy a coffee or lunch at one the three gallery restaurants or browse the outstanding museum bookstore and shop.
Prudential Center Skywalk Observatory
Located in the Prudential Tower, the Skywalk Observatory is a must for children of all ages. Enjoy the spectacular panoramic views over the city and beyond. Visitors can also enjoy an exclusive state-of-the-art Antenna Audio Tour, which touches on points of interest in Boston.
Come to see one of the longest running non-musical plays in the United States. The play is an interactive comedy where the plot revolves around the characters at a unisex hair salon. The landlady gets murdered and the audience gets involved in questioning the actors in an attempt to find out 'whodunnit'. Shear Madness is a great experience for families and children of all ages.
Puppet Showplace Theater
Take the kids to one of the oldest continuously operating puppet theatres in the United States to watch one of their favourite stories, such as Sleeping Beauty, Jack and the Beanstalk or Little Red Riding Hood, told through the medium of puppetry. These award-winning shows captivate the audience and it's not long before even the adults forget they are watching puppets. Reservations are strongly recommended.
Codzilla takes passengers on a high-speed cruise around Boston's harbour. People on board will scream in pure delight as the boat curves, spins and rips through the harbour for 40 minutes, with music such as Bobby Darin and ACDC blaring, you'll be travelling at around 40 miles (70km) per hour. Reservations are recommended.
New England Aquarium
Home to Simons IMAX Theatre the New England Aquarium Whale Watch, which runs from April through October, the New England Aquarium features a plethora of some of the world's most amazing marine species, such as the impressive giant pacific octopus, sand tiger shark, green sea turtles and North Atlantic Right whales, and is an absolute must for children of all ages. Basic admission includes the aquarium, while the IMAX and Whale Watch charge additional fees.
Cape Cod Lighthouses
Cape Cod is home to a number of picturesque lighthouses that draw sightseers year-round. At one point there were more than 20 in the peninsula, however many of those have been decommissioned and knocked down. Those remaining have varying degrees of difficulty in access: some are easily reached, while others require a hike. Some of the most popular (and easiest to get to) include Chatham Light and Nobska, which offers a spectacular view of Martha's Vineyard. Some that involve more walking are Cape Cod Light and Race Point Light. There are also lighthouses that can only be viewed from a distance, including Monomoy Light, which involves a boat trip past a very active seal colony! Some of the lighthouses can even be rented for weekly accommodation.
The bar 'where everybody knows your name' is well-known itself. The Bull and Finch Pub in the Beacon Hill district of Boston is instantly recognisable as the setting of the long-running sitcom Cheers. While the exterior of the bar is familiar, visitors may be disappointed to learn that the series was not filmed in the bar, but in a studio in Hollywood. The bar is small and usually full of tourists, but has interesting memorabilia from the series.
The Boston Red Sox are a much-beloved part of life in New England. The 'curse of the Babe' and their infamous near 100-year losing streak only made their supporters more fanatical. Fenway Park is the oldest Major League Baseball stadium still in use, and has quirky features like The Triangle, Pesky's Pole, and the famous Green Monster left-field wall. Visitors will notice a lone red seat in the right field bleachers, which is where Ted Williams hit the longest home run at Fenway, measuring 502 feet (153m). A baseball game at Fenway Park is a must for any summertime visit to Boston, hot dog, crackerjacks and all.
Sam Adams Brewery
Visitors to Boston can take an informative tour of the Sam Adams Brewery, and get a look at the brewing process for the popular beer. Named for the Revolutionary War hero, the beer has been brewed in Boston since the 1980s. The tour showcases the entire process, and allows visitors to taste the special malts used. A free glass is included for visitors using the Go Boston Card.
Boston Logan International Airport
Location: The airport is situated four miles (6km) northeast of Boston.
Contacts: Tel: +1 800 235 6426.
Time Zone: GMT -5 (GMT -4 from March to November).
Departure tax: None.
Transfer between terminals: A free shuttle bus services the five terminals.
Facilities: Facilities for the disabled are excellent. There are ATMs in all terminals, a bank in Terminal D and bureaux de change in Terminals B, C and D. Other facilities include restaurants and bars, shops, duty-free, business facilities, children's entertainment, tourist information and hotel reservations. There are Internet facilities in all terminals. The nearby hotels offer swimming pools and gym facilities to passengers for a daily rate.
Parking: Parking at Boston Logan starts at $3 for the first half hour, $6 for an hour, $11 for two hours and $2 per hour thereafter up to $18 per day. Weekly rates are charged at $108. The three parking lots closer to the terminal are more expensive if you stay more than a couple of hours, and all lots are serviced by a free shuttle to the terminals.
Transfer to the city: The Massachusetts Bay Transport Authority provides regular bus service, on the Silver Line, and a faster subway connection, on the Blue Line, to and from the city centre costing $1.25. More expensive and longer options include taxis available outside all terminals taking up to 20 minutes to an hour to downtown, depending on traffic, and costs up from $25 in addition to airport and toll road fees. The Boston Cab phone is (617) 536-5010. Some companies offer shared vans that provide door-to-door service. Massport's free water transportation bus connects from all airport terminals to the Logan dock where private water taxis and public commuter boats are available to multiple destinations in the Boston Harbour. Most water taxis began from 7am to 7pm with some after hours services and cost up from $10.
Car rental: Car rental companies include Avis, Budget, Hertz and National.
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