City Guides and Maps: Boston
February 24, 1997
(CNN) -- American history texts are chock-full of Boston, and travel guides on Boston are chock-full of history. While reminders of the past dominate the city's landscape, from Boston Common (the oldest public park in the United States) to the Old State House (the city's oldest public building, erected in 1713), the city thrives on its past, rather than being embalmed in it.
Boston offers much more than relics of the wigged, knickerbockered set. Its history lives and breathes -- along the soon-to-be modernized Freedom Trail, in its off-beat museums, in its chic and artfully down-chic shops, even amid its bustling rock music scene. In Boston, the past hasn't gone anywhere, but it sure has come a long way
For a tour of Boston's living heritage, click on the images at the right.
"Interactive" was the guiding principle of the Freedom Trail before Bill Gates was a glimmer in his father's eye. The two-and-a-half mile red-line path leads tourists on a journey through history, from Boston Common to Bunker Hill. Among the sites: the Paul Revere house (the oldest surviving structure in Boston), the first public school in America, and the site of the Boston Massacre (March 5, 1770). Yes, you will be quizzed later.
Modern urbanites take heart: there are plenty of diversions to keep you clear of the cobwebs, including shopping at the historic Faneuil Hall (one of the stops on the trail) and the adjacent Quincy Market.
A huge restoration project is underway to dress up the famous footpath. The plan includes reconstructing painted portions of the trail's guiding line in brick, providing portable audio devices to plug you into the past, and designing a light and sound show at the Charlestown Navy Yard.
The Other Pops
Boston's revolutionary tendencies live on, through its vibrant modern music scene. The Founding Fathers of the city's hard-driving rock, Aerosmith, have established a nightclub called Mama Kin, on Lansdowne Street, serving up saucy local sounds, national acts, and chow from the "Bitchin' Kitchen".
Lansdowne is home to other notable music and drinking venues, including Avalon and Bill's Bar/Venus de Milo. On weekends, the strip is packed with sonically-savvy hipsters decked in black, who have propelled artists such as Pixies, Dinosaur, Jr., Throwing Muses, Morphine, Aimee Mann, and Tracy Bonham to national attention. It just goes to show that in Boston, Plymouth is not the last word in rock.
Boston's ports have made it a center of trade since colonial times. That mercantile tradition struts its stuff these days on Newbury Street. The bustling cosmopolitan shopping drag includes something for every taste, from the off-beat to the button-down.
For a historic bend to your shopping spree, LouLou's Lost and Found offers an eclectic selection of china and silverware from the golden era of hotels and ocean liners. Or visit Waterstone Booksellers, which occupies a grand stone facade designed in 1881 by William Ralph Emerson, nephew of the infamous Ralph Waldo. Newbury is also home to a smattering of antiques stores and vintage clothing boutiques, for shoppers with an eye for the past.
Not all museums are sterile repositories of the past. The Isabella Stewart Gardner museum, two blocks west of the Museum of Fine Arts, boasts an astounding garden atrium , a lush refuge from even the harshest of Boston's infamous winter days.
Mrs. Gardner, a socialite with a passion for art, built the luxe Venetian-style palazzo on the Fenway, after the death of her husband in 1898. She filled it with art treasures they had collected on their frequent trips to Europe, and lived on the top-floor of the unusual mansion until her death in 1924. Her extensive collection includes the works of Titian, Matisse, Whistler and Rubens, among others.
The World Headquarters of the Christian Science Church (at Massachusetts and Huntington Aves.) offers another quirky attraction: a 30-foot stained glass globe. A glass bridge allows visitors to walk through the "Maparium," a vibrant picture of the world as it existed in the 1930s. Bonus: admission is free.
City Guides and Maps: Boston
Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism - Phone
Boston Freedom Trail
Freedom Trail Sights
Boston Nightclubs Listing
Architectural Tour of Newbury Street
Discover Newbury Street
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum: Then & Now
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum