Boston's Cultural Scene

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Boston's Cultural Scene
Boston has a large collection of museums, performance centers, and music venues. Championship sports teams, historic sites, open green spaces, and an inviting harbor round out the fun in this multi-layered city.
By Alison Abbott, AFAR Local Expert
Photo by Alison Abbott
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    Boston's Eclectic Museums
    Anchored by the Museum of Fine Arts—with its majestic Art of the Americas wing—and the Institute of Contemporary Art on the waterfront, Boston offers exhibits dedicated to stamps, glass flowers, watches, sculptures, sports, and more. Be sure to explore some of the smaller venues like the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln, and the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem. The art gallery scene is centered on Newbury Street, but the South End also puts on many high-profile exhibits.
    Photo by Alison Abbott
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    The Historic Heart of Boston
    You can’t come to Boston without walking at least part of the 2.5-mile Freedom Trail, a red-brick road for history buffs. Any of the route's 16 sites will give you an appreciation for Boston’s legacy, and options abound to rest or grab a bite along the way. It’s no surprise that millions of visitors come here each year to learn about how the United States was founded. Landmarks, statues, and other significant stops take you back to Paul Revere's midnight ride, the early navy, and the Battle of Bunker Hill. Whether you choose a self-guided walk or an organized tour, you're in for a new perspective.
    Photo by Alison Abbott
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    Park Pride
    Although Boston is one of America's oldest cities, it has made huge strides toward a sustainable future. For travelers who like to get outdoors, you'll find a city that prides itself on its parks and outdoor attractions. The Kennedy Greenway, the Freedom Trail, and the Harborwalk provide miles of trails that take walkers through the city's classic neighborhoods. Boston's parks are second to none; the Public Garden, the first public park in the country, is the crown jewel of the Emerald Necklace, a chain of green spaces that stretches across more than 1,000 acres.
    Photo by Kristen Deveney
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    Festivals throughout the Year
    Bostonions love to celebrate. The Boston Wine Expo kicks off the year in February. The two-week Dine Out Boston event offers some of the best meals in August, and Patriots' Day culminates in the finish of the Boston Marathon. June is the start of three months of fun in the North End: The Rose Kennedy Greenway hosts summer activities, including the Boston Harborfest and Outside the Box. Each Sunday from May through October, the SoWa Open Market fills with fresh vegetables, craft vendors, food trucks, and an indoor art and design market. Fall highlights range from the Head of the Charles Regatta to the Local Food Festival and Craft Brewfest. Holiday performances by the Boston Pops Orchestra send residents and visitors into the New Year.
    Photo by Alison Abbott
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    Beaches within Easy Reach
    Boston boasts some of the area's best beaches, and many are only a quick trip from the city center. Revere, Carson, and Singing beaches, along with the shores of the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area, can all be accessed via public transportation. A trip to Castle Island could include a meal and a walk along the waterfront all before your lunch hour is over. Some beaches are quiet and feature lake-calm water, while others offer waves for surfers. Whatever you're looking for, the many choices of sand and ocean will make you love this city.
    Photo by Alison Abbott
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    Iconic Boston Views
    Walking or biking along Memorial Drive is a great way to take in views of the city and the Charles River. The skyline builds in layers from the townhouses of Beacon Hill up to such skyscrapers as the John Hancock Tower and the Prudential Center. Harborwalk on the east side of Boston offers another great vantage point. Winding through the city's waterfront neighborhoods, the path allows visitors to connect with the redeveloped Boston Harbor. From South Boston and Fort Point Channel, you'll catch some of the best glimpses of sparkling high rises. And when you get tired, a memorable meal is waiting for you in one of the restaurants around the corner.
    Photo by Alison Abbott
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    Show Your Spirit
    Sports fans in Boston have a reputation for being, well, loyal. Seeing a Bruins or Celtics game is a highlight in the winter; the championship banners proudly hang from rafters in many bars and restaurants. Gillette Stadium (also known by its old name, Foxboro Stadium) is home to the four-time Super Bowl champions the New England Patriots. Then there’s Fenway Park, the oldest and most iconic baseball field in the country. Off season, you can feel the Red Sox spirit during a tour. No matter what sporting event you choose, you’ll see energetic players and passionate fans.
    Photo by Joseph Sohm/age fotostock
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    Discover Boston's Neighborhoods
    Boston’s neighborhoods reflect the diversity of the city's population. Harvard Square, in the historic center of Cambridge, is a bustle of academics and students. Faneuil Hall is crowded with street performers and tourists tasting samples from vendors in Quincy Market. The city’s strong Italian community dishes out pasta and cannoli throughout the North End, and Newbury Street features some of the best cafés and upscale boutiques. The South End is where you'll find independent shops and restaurants, and, on the first Friday evening of the summer months, endless gallery hopping and open art studios.
    Photo by Howard Stapleton/age fotostock
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    Fresh Food in Every Season
    Bostonians are lucky to have access to year-round farmers' markets. Vendors and crowds are thinner once the snow starts flying, but root vegetables, chard, local cheeses, artisan breads, and canned goods are perfect for keeping patrons warm throughout the storms. From May through November, head to Dewey Square on Tuesdays and Thursdays. And on Sundays from May through October, the SoWa Market is a favorite for its craft stalls, food trucks, and vintage finds, as well as its local produce. Locavores shouldn't miss the Boston Public Market, the first year-round market in the country to feature only local vendors. An up-to-date listing of food markets can be found on the Farm Fresh blog.
    Photo by age fotostock
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    America's College Town
    With more than 250,000 students, dozens of college and university campuses, and a healthy smattering of independent bookstores, Boston may just make you want to study. If you’ve always wanted to attend Harvard or MIT, now is your chance. Sit in on a class or take a campus tour. Or for something less bookish, both the Boston and Cambridge Centers for Adult Education offer one-day classes that cover everything from rustic Italian cuisine and knife sharpening to digital photography and do-it-yourself bath salts. You're bound to feel smarter by the end of your trip.
    Photo by Alison Abbott
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