By Haley Chi-Sing
As a West Coaster, I, of course, wanted to visit all of the typical “Boston tourist” attractions when I came here. And, of course, doing all of the typical touristy things and visiting all of the touristy sites was enjoyable, but I definitely could have done with a few tips and tricks to smooth out the process.
So behold, my top hacks and tips when trying to pull the tourist card but simply don’t have time for all of the tourist drawbacks:
The Freedom Trail
If you Google “top tourist attractions in Boston,” the first thing that will pop up is the Freedom Trail. Although it may not spark the interest of everyone, it is interesting to walk along some of the most important spots our nation’s journey to independence.
But, to be fair, the walking can become too much. Instead, I recommend taking one of the trolley tours around Boston. Although it seems like the most touristy thing out there, it really isn’t. It’s basically an Uber that takes you around the city and you only have to pay once for it.
The trolley tours have specific spots across the city, many of which follow the Freedom Trail. You can get off at any one of the stops and stay as long as you’d like. Once you’re done, you can meet the trolley back at its stop or simply leave. The trolley passes by every 15 minutes, so I assure you, you won’t be left abandoned some place odd in Boston.
Mike’s Pastry and Modern Pastry
When in the North End, you must get a cannoli. If you don’t, it’s as if you weren’t even there. And where better to go than Mike’s or Modern?
Both very popular, and both busy, if you are looking to get yourself some type of pastry from either one of these shops, be sure to go around 3–5 p.m. That way you’ll be able to miss the lunchtime traffic as well as the evening visitors.
And don’t forget your cash. Neither one of the pastry shops takes cards, so be sure to have some cash on hand.
I won’t take a stance on which reigns supreme, but I definitely recommend the espresso cannoli at either location.
Known for being one of the most photogenic spots in Boston, Acorn Street draws in both locals and tourists alike with its picturesque cobblestone street and colonial-era houses that border it on either side.
More often than not, Acorn Street is buzzing with photoshoots, professional and amateur alike.
Although Acorn Street is truly the spot to get all of those ideal Instagram shots, try going up one or two streets. Although you don’t get the cobblestone drive — old buildings, colorful doors and fall foliage are still at your disposal.
This time, without that one bride and groom in the back photobombing your shot.
Brattle Book Shop
Yet another iconic spot for the Instagrammer or, even better, a bibliophile’s dream come true. Brattle Book Shop is an outdoor bookshop on West Street by the Common and is quite well-hidden among the buildings and streets.
As a photo spot, it is definitely a must. As an actual bookshop, you might want to go to the Barnes and Noble in Kenmore or Brookline Booksmith in Coolidge Corner.
The books have no particular order and are spread out everywhere. If you are in the hopes of visiting the bookshop and finding an antique book, you will.
But be wary, most are encyclopedias or Ancient Greek readings. If I were looking for vintage shops, I’d skip out on this one and visit Charles Street — which happens to be scattered with antique shops and bookstores.
Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall
While visiting Boston, you’ll inevitably end up at Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall. More often than not, the marketplace and shopping area are filled to the brim with tourists. If you’re thinking of grabbing a bite to eat, I assure you, you’ll be in line for a fair amount of time or won’t find a spot to sit.
I recommend going either early on in the day or much later at night. You are ensured an empty Faneuil Hall with lots of places to eat, sit and shop. Bottom line, just make sure you miss the lunch and dinner time rushes.
I’ve found that Chinatown is a hit-or-miss experience. I love Chinatown. However, I’ve taken the time to really narrow down the times of day and places you should and shouldn’t go.
Chinatown is best during the day, especially in the morning or noon time. Most, if not all, of the restaurants and shops are open, and you’ll miss all of the busy traffic coming in and out of the extremely narrow streets.
Although it is dirty in areas, don’t let that throw you off from the incredible authentic food and treats available.
Chinatown is definitely a no-go once the sun sets. The streets have no lights whatsoever other than the lighting from the shops, and they can get quite busy and rambunctious. Just to stay on the safe side, be sure to visit Chinatown during the day and preferably with a couple of friends — it’s easy to get lost.