America may be known for many things but its keen sense of history isn’t always one. Not so in Boston, where the Freedom Trail highlights 16 landmarks on the road from the Tea Party to the first reading of the American Declaration of Independence.
But it’s not all serious stuff.
Boston also houses the country’s oldest baseball stadium and you can sleep right next door, in a memorabilia hotel that lets you spin your own vinyl and lounge on rock star yellow sofas.
And old is becoming new again in the Sowa district, where Sundays are spent learning to paint, chatting with artists, drinking craft beer and mingling through pop-up coffee shops and vintage markets.
You can even find your own notion of a Boston Tea Party. Read on to find out more about this and other boutique hotels in Boston who bring plenty of flavour to Beantown.
Described as “Boston’s most radical, retro, rock-and-roll hotel,” The Verb hotel seems to sum up the city’s love affair with the past and thirst for the future.
For this is a living museum. Not to the founding fathers of the republic but to the founding fathers of rock and roll.
Black and white photos of a young Elton John, Mick Jagger and Johnny Rotten grace the walls.
A vinyl library supports the record player in every room and even the toilet roll holder says Rock ‘n’ (extra) Roll.
I found the place through a search on Booking.com, a long time favourite search site of mine because of its numerous filters, easy cancellation procedures and wide range of results.
This time, I was on assignment with both Booking.com and Lonely Planet pathfinders but it scarcely mattered. I could probably search for hotels blindfolded on booking.com by now and, of course, as ever, as always, I kept the right to write what I like here on the blog.
(If you would like £25 off your next hotel booking anywhere in the world with booking.com then please do use this link. I make no money from it by the way, and there is no other catch!)
Anyway, enough of that. Where were we?
Oh yes, not spreadsheets and booking engines. But the pulse of rock and roll.
What made the place more than just a kitsch distraction on this long road called life was the mixed in, in-the-minute cheers from the neighbouring stadium Fenway Park.
America and baseball have what I suppose we’d call as special relationship, but in this case, Fenway Park is even more special than most.
It’s the country’s oldest stadium, dating back to 1912 before there’d even been a world war and with seats that were set in somewhere between the first and second.
If you can’t get tickets (or if you’re with a young child and it isn’t a good idea) then hanging around the area soaks up plenty of the Boston Red Sox vibe.
For processed and polished facts and lashings of fun trivia, book a guided tour of the stadium. (You can catch an inside glimpse of Fenway Park on the broadcast here.)
Next up was another reinvention of the not too distant past: the Open Market in Sowa.
Here, more than 100 artists work in renovated warehouses, creating paintings, ceramics, couture and cut-outs, and throwing their doors open on a Sunday morning to a decidedly hipster-cool crowd.
Around 20 food trucks rock up each week to 540 Harrison Avenue to serve organic eats and smoothies next to grilled cheese and brick oven pizza beneath strands of baubly lights.
But what if you enjoy chandelier-tinted glasses instead?
Well, hop on a cruise of Boston harbour for the history and then check in to the resplendent Fairmont Copley Hotel for the glam.
With gilded corridors criss-crossing the lobby and an unquestionably stately, address, The Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel almost qualifies as an historic institution in and of itself.
(It is actually a member of Historic Hotels of America®, the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation for recognizing and celebrating the finest historic hotels across America.)
It’s just steps away from the iconic Boston Public Library and only a few steps more to some highly instagrammable bakeries and bars of Back Bay and Beacon Hill.
Since 1912, the Fairmont has ushered luxury through its heavily carpeted lobby but unlike many other grand landmark hotels, you’ll find a canine ambassador as part of the arrival process too.
Or in other words, a friendly dog will greet you in the lobby, if you like that kind of thing.
From there, it’s a leisurely stroll to two landmarks that highlight the city’s knack for reinvention and regeneration.
The first is the Skywalk Observatory, providing a 100 mile radius view of the present if you look one way through the glass.
And a several hundred year view of the past if you turn around and look the other, as the museum explores how vital immigration has been and continues to be to developing what the world knows as Boston.
Back on the ground, after a chic and leafy walk through Beacon Hill, you’ll find the Liberty Hotel.
It’s easy to believe that in Boston, this name should signify some great part of the story that became the American dream.
But, somewhat subversively, it’s a boutique hotel that used to be a prison instead.
The Verb Hotel
Location: next to Fenway park
Vibe: rock n roll cool
What to know: you’ll find a mix of guests, from families to hen and stag dos. Don’t expect soundproofing!
The Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel
Location: next to the Boston Public Library
Vibe: cream, gold and chandeliers
What to know: almost all the presidents in office since they opened have stayed here.
The Liberty Hotel
Location: next to Beacon Hill, 10 minutes from Boston Common
Vibe: business cool in a previous prison
What to know: I didn’t stay overnight so can’t comment on some things! The Italian restaurant, Scampo, is excellent though ;-)
The easiest way to get directly to Boston is to fly into Logan International Airport which is located in East Boston. From there, it is easy to take a shuttle, taxi or public transportation into the city.
For a shuttle, you can reserve a GO Boston Shuttle online. You can also get a taxi from the airport. However, keep in mind rush hour traffic (usually during typical commute times from 7-9am and 4-6pm) which can make travel time increase significantly. If you arrive during rush hour, the best option might be to take public transportation.
You can look up the MBTA (Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority) to find the stop closest to you. The Silver Line connects with the Red Line and Commuter Rail at South Station while the Blue Line connects to the Green Line, Orange Line, and Commuter Rail at North Station. It’s free to ride the Silver line when inbound from the airport, but keep in mind that you’ll need to pay the fare when returning to the airport.
You can also arrive by train if you are coming from a city such as New York City. The Amtrak stops in three areas in Boston:
South Station (700 Atlantic Ave)
Back Bay Station (145 Dartmouth Street)
North Station (On Causeway Street, under the TD Bank North Garden — trains departing from this station are northbound only, heading to Maine and points north)
There are bus stations nearby for easy transfers.
The MBTA is the the public transportation system to navigate Boston which has buses and subways that run to and from the city. The Charlie Card is available to get and reload money on to make traveling quicker. They’re available at every subway stop and free to get. Fares are also cheaper when you use this card, about $2.25 one way.
You can also walk and bike the city, most of the tourist attractions are relatively close.
Taxis and car rentals are another option. However, parking may be difficult depending on where and when you’re looking to park in Boston. Most street parking downtown is metered with time limits and restrictions are strictly enforced. Parking garages are easy to find, but can be pricey. If you park in a garage, check to see if it offers validated parking (for, example, guests of a hotel or nearby attraction).
The final option would be to travel by trolley which travels between tourist attractions.
The Go Boston Card is a card available for purchase that is like an “all inclusive pass” to visit attractions in Boston. Depending on what you want, the prices vary but it can be a way to save money on transportation and activities.
Pfff. It’s a mixed bag here. Some hotels I paid for myself, for others I was hosted. Booking.com are a partner for this project but I use them on a near monthly basis anyway. But the important point is this: I always keep the right to write what I like here on the blog and only recommend things I think are worth recommending for the reasons I recommend them.
Because, really. Life is just too short otherwise!
Hi, I'm Abi, a doctor turned writer who's worked with Lonely Planet, the BBC, UNESCO and more. Let's travel more and think more. Find out more.
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