If you’ve read my last article, I’ve recently returned from an exchange at Boston University! This means that I have spent the past four months exploring as much of Boston as possible, and based on my experience I thought I would share with all of you some fun things you could do if you ever decide to visit the city!
As always, there’s always a disclaimer: I was only there for four months and not four years, so this might not encapsulate every single possible thing you could do. Additionally, there were some things (e.g. apple picking) that I did not do, mainly because I had no interest in it. I will still mention these things, but I will not be writing in-depth about them because I personally did not do it. Finally, do take note that some of these recommendations will not be the ‘main’ tourist recommendations, but I do think they are still worth exploring. And with that said, here are my personal recommendations for your Boston travels!
One of my major recommendations is to go to North End in Boston. North End is known as the Italian district, and it’s where all the nice fancy Italian food is. Not only does it contain good and relatively authentic Italian food, but it’s also a nice aesthetic area. You can take a nice walk and enjoy the scenes of charmingly rustic buildings as you decide which restaurant you would like to go to for lunch!
During the two instances I went with friends to have lunch in North End, I went to a restaurant called ‘Trattoria II Panino’. I would personally recommend it if you want to have good pasta — the food was excellent, especially the Ravioli con Aragosta (lobster ravioli with crab meat sauce). However, do take note that all the food in that region (inclusive of Trattoria) is relatively expensive. It is at least 30 USD, and you still need to include a 15% tip. However, you won’t really be able to find Italian food of this quality in Singapore, so I would say to experience it at least once while you’re there.
To get there, just take the green line all the way to Government Center. You should be able to walk directly from there. One final note: the region also has both Mike’s Pastry and Modern Pastry, both of which are relatively well-known pastry shops, so feel free to order some desserts. I would also fully recommend trying the cannoli from Mike’s Pastry — it is a tourist experience, but it is a good cannoli.
On the way to North End, you can also stop by and enjoy Faneuil Hall Marketplace. If you are walking from the Government Center, as you head towards the North End, you should see a relatively large square that is bustling with more activity than usual. The whole region is essentially a tourist area, and it will often have a lot of lively activities.
There are usually some street performers — in the times that I’ve visited, there are people playing the drums or the violin, and there was even a man who was doing balancing tricks on a ladder! There are also a lot of shops selling Boston merchandise – Boson hats, sweatshirts, t-shirts, magnets, snow globes…the list goes on and on. Finally, there is the actual Faneuil Hall building itself. Inside Faneuil Hall, two of Boston’s most famous foods – clam chowder and lobster rolls — are sold. It doesn’t quite matter which vendor you buy the food from, as most of them are relatively similar, so feel free to just choose according to personal preference.
If you were looking to do some shopping, I wouldn’t recommend this area, but if you were looking for cute souvenirs, there are many shops selling ornaments and cute home decorations. If you would like a memento, there are even shops selling lobster stuff toys!
Now, this recommendation is a little bit outside of Boston. You definitely need a car, so I recommend that you rent one. But I personally think it’s very worth the cost. Boston itself does not really have any large outlets — it is a small city, after all. But Wrentham is an entirely different story.
The entire area is full of branded outlets: Banana Republic, Nike, New Balance, Bath and Body Works, and so much more! You can see the full list on their official website. And from personal experience, unlike the ‘outlets’ within the city of Boston, the outlets in Wrentham actually offer significant discounts. I personally managed to buy three pairs of Nike shoes for 130 USD (180 SGD)! Other discounts include a beautiful blue dress from Banana Republic (discounted from 58 USD all the way to 30 USD) and a 5 USD candle from Bath and Body Works.
Of course, not everyone can afford to rent a car in Boston. If you are still looking to shop, there are options. There’s Assembly Row in Somerville, and you can split the cost of the Uber if you are going with friends. Or if you prefer to shop cheap, there is always Goodwills (near Babcock Street at BU) and TJ Maxx (at Newbury Street). However, I will say that these other outlets offer less variety than Wrentham, and the discounts are not as great. But they are still plausible options, and you can still find good deals there.
Boston Theatre District
If you ever like theatre, I highly recommend that you make a trip to this area. This entire region has multiple theatres, and there are many plays that are shown. I personally went to the Modern Theatre to watch ‘The Taming of the Shrew’, and it was fantastic. I wanted to watch ‘A Doll’s House’ (it was my IB literature text), but unfortunately they will only show it in 2024 in Semel Theatre. If you happen to be there, I highly recommend you buy tickets for it. If you are a student (e.g. an exchange student), do take note that there are often student discounts, so ask for them before you pay the full price for the ticket.
Even if you don’t like theatre, there are other alternatives for you. If you happen to be in that area, you are also near Brattle Book Shop, a three-story building that houses a large variety of books. If you happen to go on the weekend, near Boston Common, there are sometimes a whole row of vendors that sell everything ranging from clothes to hand-made jewellery. Feel free to take a look around!
Finally, if you are a nature person, take a stroll in the Boston Common and the Public Garden! You can take a nice walk, sit on the bench, and enjoy life. If you like animals, there are also many dog walkers in that neighborhood, so be ready to take a lot of cute pictures.
Finally, before I move on to the next area, I would like to mention that a coffee shop called Ogawa Coffee is also nearby. Now, I personally don’t drink coffee, but they have a hojicha latte that is very authentic and really, really good. I fully recommend it to anyone who misses Asian drinks.
One final area I would like to recommend is Coolidge Corner. The train station (literally called ‘Coolidge Corner’) is on the Green Line. Whether you’re looking to do grocery shopping or you’re looking for some cool things to buy, Coolidge Corner has something for you!
One of Coolidge Corner’s main attractions for me as an exchange student is a relatively decent Trader Joe’s. You can buy a lot of groceries at a very low cost here, so I definitely recommend it if you’re planning to cook.
But aside from that, some of my favourites included going to Village Vinyl — a shop that sells discs for records. They have a whole section priced at $1 USD, so I would go there and look to see if there was anything that would catch my eye. I managed to buy a large Kenny Rogers disc, alongside smaller discs such as Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love A Bad Name”. Admittedly, I don’t have a record that can play them, but it’s still fun nonetheless.
There is also a movie theatre there, so you can go with some friends to catch a film! Although, do take note that it is a little bit expensive (I believe it was around 16 or 17 USD for a ticket), but even so, you might as well do it for the experience.
If you’re looking to eat, there’s a Subway shop — just order a sandwich and a drink, and sit down and enjoy life. If not, there is always Otto, a place that sells very nice pizza. I don’t really have personal recommendations, as I got to try the pizza when Boston University ordered it (and they ordered a wide variety of it, so I don’t quite remember all the flavours). But honestly, anything you order should be fine.
North Quincy Asian Food
One final recommendation I want to make involves Asian food. I’m sure many of you can relate when I say that I love Asian food. Unfortunately, Boston does not have the best Asian food available. During my time there, I visited three main regions that are generally conceived to be ‘Asian food regions’: Chinatown, Allston, and North Quincy. Out of the three, North Quincy is definitely the best.
Prior to the start of my exchange program, I was staying at the Holiday Inn at North Quincy. Although it was far from the actual city, I learned that North Quincy was an Asian neighbourhood and that there was a stretch of Asian restaurants nearby the North Quincy train station. I would especially recommend Pho Linh or Rubato HK Cafe, both of which serve very authentic Asian food.
Of course, if you don’t wish to travel so far, Allston and Chinatown are both fine. Also, if you’re at BU, Nud Pob Thai Cuisine and Brown Sugar Cafe are both good Thai places. Unfortunately, because it is in the States, it is also significantly more expensive than Singapore (Brown Sugar Cafe more so than Nud Pob Thai), but at least the taste is decent.
Those are all of my official recommendations. Of course, other things include visiting the MIT/Harvard campus, going to museums (Boston has many; I personally went to Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts), going Chinatown, going apple picking, walking the Charles River (it’s nice in the fall), going whale watching (season-dependent), exploring the many bars in Boston, going to holiday markets (season-dependent), and exploring the classical music near Berklee. Feel free to check all those out as well!
My list was more of a personal one and contains some recommendations that Google might not immediately flag up.