Boston: Recreation

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Boston: Recreation


Boston's great appeal to visitors and residents alike is its compactness; it is a very walkable city and many of its attractions are planned around that fact. Maps are available at the National Park Service Visitor Center on State Street. The Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile walking tour, passes the sixteen major sites of colonial Boston. A red line painted on the sidewalk marks the way. The trail begins at the Boston Common, with 48 acres and the oldest public park in the United States. The next stop is the gold-domed State House, built in 1795. Designed by Charles Bulfinch, it sits atop what remains of Beacon Hill. Next is Park Street Church, birthplace of the Abolitionist Movement, and farther on is the Granary Burying Ground, resting place of such notables as Mother Goose, victims of the Boston Massacre, John Hancock, Samuel Adams, Paul Revere, and Peter Faneuil. King's Chapel, formerly an Anglican Church, became the nation's first Unitarian Church. Ben Franklin's statue stands on the grounds of the country's first public school, the Boston Latin School, which was opened in 1635. The Old Corner Bookstore survived to host meetings of the Transcendentalists and other Boston literati, while the Old South Meeting House rang with the sermons of the Puritans. The Old State House, built in 1713, was the scene of the Boston Massacre and revolutionary rhetoric such as the first reading of the Declaration of Independence. Faneuil Hall is next door, and a step down the street is Paul Revere's house and Old North Church. Copp's burying ground, the USS Constitution, and the Bunker Hill Monument complete the Trail.

Boston's long-standing commitment to equality is highlighted in another walking tour, the Black Heritage Trail. In existence for more than 350 years, Boston's African American community predates the Civil War by 120 years. Abolitionist meeting places and Underground Railroad stops are featured on the tour. Sights of a modern nature include a view from the 740-foot-high observation deck in the John Hancock Observatory or a glimpse of the stars through a telescope at the Boston University Observatory. Boston's parks are popular regional attractions, including the famous Harbor Islands. Next to Boston Common is the 24-acre Boston Public Park featuring an ornamental lake and swan boat rides. The parks follow the Fenway, a tree-lined boulevard, south to Jamaica Plain and the Arnold Arboretum, a botanical garden. The Esplanade, which runs along the Charles River, is a popular park and home of the Hatch Shell, where the Boston Pops plays its summer concerts. The Boston Harborwalk is a public walkway along the water-front, connecting neighborhoods, parks, restaurants and attractions along the trail from Charlestown to Dorchester.

In Cambridge, Harvard University's several gardens draw crowds, as do its Fogg Art Museum and Harvard Coop, the university bookstore. A bit north, in Charlestown, are the Charles River Dam and the Charlestown Naval Yard. Boston's varied neighborhoods prove popular with visitors year after year. Beacon Hill, in downtown Boston, was settled by prosperous Yankee ship builders and their families, known as the Boston Brahmins. The elegant townhouses, gas lamps, and lacy iron fences still line the streets of Beacon Hill. The Back Bay is home to Boston's newer developments, including Copley Place, the John Hancock Building, and the Prudential Tower. The South End and its brick bowwindowed homes are undergoing a revitalization as new residents and businesses move back into the area. Boston's Chinatown houses the country's third largest Chinese population, along with restaurants and stores specializing in traditional Chinese fare and ware. The North End is home to Boston's Italian community, while South Boston remains a solidly Irish enclave.

Lovers of the New England countryside might consider a day trip to Concord, thirty miles west of Boston. Attractions there include Fruitlands, a collection of small museums displaying treasures from nineteenth-century transcendentalism and other mystical movements, and Shaker Village.

Arts and Culture

Boston, home to a number of major museums, a world-class symphony, several legitimate theaters, and a premier dance company, is considered one of the nation's top cultural centers. Rated outstanding by music lovers the world over, the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) performs at Symphony Hall. An offshoot of the BSO, the Boston Pops, has gained fame under the batons of the late maestro Arthur Fiedler and maestro/composer John Williams, and currently maestro Keith Lockhart. Other orchestras include the New England Conservatory Symphony Orchestra, the Boston Conservatory Orchestra, and the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra. Chamber concerts are programmed by the Handel and Hayden Society, while the Boston Musica Viva plays contemporary music.

Theatergoers in Boston can enjoy everything from tragedy to comedy, all performed by well-regarded professional troupes. Major groups include the American Repertory Theatre, and the Huntington Theatre Company. Several smaller repertory companies, small theaters, university groups, and a Boston's Children's Theatre augment the professional stage offerings. Dance is popular in Boston, which is home to the Boston Ballet, the fourth largest ballet company in America, and Dance Umbrella, New England's largest presenter of contemporary and culturally diverse dance from around the world. The Boston Ballet performs at the Wang Center for the Performing Arts, an opulent former motion picture palace. Other dance groups include the Art of Black Dance and Music, Beth Soll and Company, the Boston Flamenco Ballet, Concert Dance Company of Boston, and the Ramon de los Reyes Spanish Dance Theatre. Boston supports the Boston Lyric Opera, and many nightclubs featuring musical performances from rock and roll to folk music.

The Museum of Fine Arts is world renowned for its Oriental, Egyptian, and classical collections. The Museum of Science, complete with dinosaurs, space capsules, an OmniMax Theatre, and the Charles Hayden Planetarium, sits on a finger of land jutting into the Charles River. Italian Renaissance art is the attraction at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, considered one of the world's finest private art museums. The Institute of Contemporary Art offers a multimedia look at the newest in art, while the Computer Museum, the first in the United States devoted exclusively to computing, houses a venerable computer, the MIT Whirlwind. The museum has merged with, and is now housed at, the Museum of Science. The New England Aquarium, with 2,000 fish and sea animals, occupies a five-story building on Boston's waterfront. Hands-on exhibits and tours are offered, as are whale-watching cruises.

Among the attractions at the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University are works by Rembrandt, William Blake, and the French impressionists. German art is featured at the Busch-Reisinger Collection, which is on display at the Fogg Museum. The Botanical Museum and the Gray Herbarium, both part of Harvard, exhibit two of the finest flora displays in the world. Also at Harvard, the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology displays relics of the Mayans, Pacific Islanders, and Native Americans. Other Boston museums include the USS Constitution Museum, Children's Museum of Boston, the museum at the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library, the Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists, the Sports Museum of New England, the DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park, the Museum of African American History and the Boston Tea Party Museum and Shop.

Arts and Culture Information: Greater Boston Convention-Visitor's Bureau, telephone (888)SEE-BOSTON

Festivals and Holidays

Many of Boston's festivities center around historic, religious, and maritime events. The celebration by the Irish community of St. Patrick's Day on March 17, a day that is also known locally as Evacuation Day, commemorates the retaking of Boston from the British by the Colonial Army during the Revolutionary War. In early June, costumed residents march through Boston in the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Parade. The Battle of Bunker Hill Day follows on June 17, the anniversary of one of the bloodiest battles of the Revolutionary War. June 24 through June 26 is Boston's First Folk Festival. The New England Spring Flower Show, one the oldest and biggest indoor shows in the country, draws 170,000 visitors during a 9-day period.

For six days at the beginning of July, Boston's HarborFest jubilantly celebrates the nation's birthday. Events include a Chowderfest, Children's Day, the reading of the Declaration of Independence from the balcony of the Old State House, and the July Fourth rendition of the 1812 Overture, replete with cannon, and followed by a dazzling fireworks display. The Italian Feasts take place each weekend from late June through August in Boston's North End. Their major event is the Feast of St. Anthony in June. On December 15, in a reenactment of the Boston Tea Party, citizens playing the parts of disgruntled colonists disguise themselves as Native Americans and dump crates of British tea into Boston Harbor. The year culminates with First Night, a 10-hour jubilee of indoor and outdoor performances, a parade and fireworks, welcoming the new year.

Sports for the Spectator

Boston is home to five professional sports teams whose games annually draw hundreds of thousands of fans. The professional basketball team, the National Basketball Association's Celtics, play their home games at the city's downtown FleetCenter, as do the Boston Bruins, the National Hockey League team. The Boston Red Sox, the city's professional baseball team, compete in the American League East. They play their home games at Fenway Park, one of the country's most beloved ball parks, from April to October. The New England Patriots, part of the National Football League's East Division, and the New England Revolution of the MLS play their games at Gillette Stadium in suburban Foxboro. The Patriots, like Boston's other professional teams, are eagerly followed by scores of fans throughout New England.

A popular annual event is the Boston Marathon, run on the third Monday in April, which in Massachusetts is the holiday Patriot's Day. Boston's is the oldest marathon; thousands of runners from around the country and the world participate annually in this event.

In October, the focus shifts to the Charles River and the Head of the Charles Regatta international sculling event. Horse racing is scheduled from spring through late fall in and around Boston. Flat and harness racing are run at Suffolk Downs in East Boston. Parimutuel betting is permitted by law. Athletes at Boston-area colleges and universities compete in a wide range of collegiate sports. College hockey fans come out in February for the Beanpot, an annual tournament between Harvard, Boston University, Boston College, and Northeastern for the city championship. Polo matches are held at nearby Myopia Polo Grounds in Hamilton, MA.

Sports for the Participant

Its proximity to water makes Boston a natural attraction for sports enthusiasts. Anglers can enjoy saltwater fishing in the Atlantic Ocean or fresh water fishing in inland rivers. Boaters can sail the Atlantic coastline or canoe inland. Swimmers can choose between public beaches along the ocean or civic pools within the city. Municipal golf courses, tennis courts, baseball diamonds, playgrounds, and tot lots are maintained in the city. Since 1995, more than $120 million has been spent to rehabilitate the city's 215 parks. Ice skating outdoors is popular in the winter months at the Frog Pond on Boston Commons and throughout the year at the city's indoor municipal facilities. Boston is close to excellent ski runs, horseback riding trails, and mountain climbing areas.

Shopping and Dining

Boston's shopping areas range from carefully restored colonial shops to gleaming glass and steel towers. Quincy Market, dating from 1826, is a cobblestone square surrounded by small shops in renovated warehouses. Nearby, Faneuil Hall's ground floor contains a modern shopping mall. Downtown Crossing, Boston's original marketplace, is an outdoor pedestrian mall encompassing several streets. It is anchored by a Boston institution, Filene's Department Store, which is noted for the zeal of the shoppers hunting for bargains in its basement. Copley Place, an indoor mall connecting four office buildings and two hotels, has upscale stores such as Tiffany & Co., Louis Vuitton, and Neiman Marcus. Other popular shopping sites are Charles Street on Beacon Hill, a mecca for antique hunters, and Newbury Street, referred to by locals as the new Rodeo Drive. Across the Charles River in Cambridge is the Harvard Coop, world famous as a comprehensive supplier to the university's students and its entire academic community.

With almost two thousand restaurants, Boston offers everything from traditional seafood dishes to continental and ethnic cuisines. Fresh saltwater catches include clams, lobster, oysters, bluefish, and scrod. Boston has been called "Beantown," a term that originated with the Puritans who, out of respect for the Sabbath, did not cook on Sunday. Instead, they relied on food prepared the day before, and one popular menu item was baked beans. Clam and seafood chowders, baked beans, and Indian pudding are still staples on many Boston menus.

Continental cuisine, sometimes blended with American nouvelle cuisine, is now the specialty of several respected Boston restaurants. Ethnic specialties include a small but flavorful sampling of restaurants in downtown Boston's Chinatown. At the North End, diners relish northern Italian specialties such as pasta and cappuccino. In neighborhoods such as Dorchester and Jamaica Plain, a wave of immigration has brought restaurants specializing in the cuisines of Vietnam, Ireland, Spain, and other ethnicities.

Visitor Information: Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau, Two Copley Place, Suite 105, Boston, MA 02116-6501; toll-free (888)SEE-BOSTON; fax (617)424-7664

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Boston: Recreation

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