Want to explore a new city in the States that isn’t the Big Apple? Try Boston.
The historic city of Boston in Massachusetts is one of America’s favorite college towns.
With over 50 institutions of higher education, including the prestigious Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, this small metropolitan area, Boston, is home to more than 250,000 college students each year, according to Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education.
In the 6-mile walk between Boston College on the west border of the city and Suffolk University near the central Public Garden, you will pass Boston University, Simmons College, Wentworth Institute of Technology, Northeastern University, Emerson College and Berklee School of Music, to name a few. Just across the river in Cambridge is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University and Lesley University. Go 20-miles out and you’ll include Wellesley College, Babson College and Brandeis University.
If you are studying in the States and are overwhelmed with the madness that is New York City, you should join the other 250k college students and check out Boston for a weekend.
Fun things to do in Boston without breaking the bank …
A free way to get a quick history lesson on the American Revolution is to take the 2.5 mile-long Freedom Trail. As you follow the red-striped cobblestones on the sidewalks of Boston you will see 16 different historic sites ranging from old meetinghouses and churches to the first burial grounds in the city. Some specific stops include Paul Revere’s house, the site of the Boston Massacre, and the Old South Meeting House.
The great thing about the Freedom Trail is that you can either do it on your own and follow it using a map or take a guided tour led by tour guides dressed 18th-century costumes. Here is a daily schedule of public walking tours. You can also purchase discounted online tour tickets here. Ticket prices are $12 for adults, $10 for Seniors and $6.50 for children between the ages of 6-12.
Another Boston staple on the edge of the waterfront and next to Government Center is Faneuil Hall Marketplace. Faneuil Hall Marketplace has been around since 1742 when it was named “The cradle of Liberty” by the founding fathers, according to the Faneuil Hall website. There is a ton to do, eat and see at Fanuiel Hall. From the street performers and musicians playing on the cobblestones outside, to over 70 retail shops between the hall and the North and South markets, and dozens of options of cuisine in Quincy Market, Faneuil Hall is the place where tourist and residents alike gather to enjoy the best of Boston.
If you want to visit the oldest public park in the United States you have to check out the Boston Common in downtown Boston. Here you will be able to see a handful of historical monuments, skate on the Frog Pond and hang out on the grass and enjoy the views of Beacon Hill and the Public Garden. Back in 1634 when the Common was created, it was used for pasture and military gatherings. Ice skating on the Frog Pond will cost you $6 to get in and $12 to rent skates.
Boston Public Garden
Connected to the Boston Common is the Public Garden. The Public Garden is a part of the Emerald Necklace, a series of parks connected throughout the city. The Public Garden was created in 1837 and is America’s first botanical garden. Here you can walk around the central lagoon, feed the squirrels, take a swan boat ride and hang out on the bridge all while admiring the colorful plants and Victorian touches. I personally like to hang out here with a group of friends in the spring time or study for my finals once all the snow finally melts. The swan boats are open from April to September and cost $3.50. They were created and have been run by the Paget family for over 100 years.
Another part of Boston’s Emerald Necklace and one of my favorite spots in all of Boston is the Esplanade. It is most famously known to host the Boston Pops Fourth of July Fireworks but is also a calling ground for runners and relaxers to watch the sunset over the Charles River as Harvard rowing team pass by. There are also free concerts and events held at the Hatch Shell on the Esplanade during the summer.
On the edge of the Charles River (on the Boston, not Cambridge side), the Esplanade stretches from the Museum of Science to the Boston University Bridge (approx. 6 miles). A fun thing to do here while you are visiting is to pack a picnic, bring a speaker to hook up your favorite playlist, and watch the sunset with your fellow travelers. Not a lot of tourists come to this area because it is hidden. But enjoy the view like a true Bostonian.
A last must-see part of Boston is Newbury Street in the Back Bay neighborhood. Along the eight blocks of 19th-century brownstones are hundreds of boutiques, restaurants and cafes. Stores range from high-end retail shops to more bohemian boutiques. Newbury Street is a place to window shop. If you are a broke college student like me, grab a cupcake from Georgetown Cupcakes, a D.C. based bakery. Newbury Street definitely won’t disappoint if you love to shop but might put a dent in your wallet.
These are a few of many historic and culturally stimulating places in the great city of Boston. If you are looking to spend a little more cash make sure to check out the Museum of Fine Arts [$23 for students], New England Aquarium [$27 for students,] Fenway Park, the Boston Public Library [free!] and the Skywalk Observatory [$14 with Student ID].
[Cheaper] ways to get to Boston:
Like any trip, if you plan ahead flying into Logan International Airport will be your quickest bet. It can get pricey if you are on tight budget and plan last minute. However, deals on flights have been exceptionally low lately so make sure look at all your options.
For example, a round-trip flight from JFK Airport in New York to Logan International in Boston after the holidays will run you about $90 to $100. If you are flying out of the D.C. area, it will cost you between $140 and $160.
If you are studying on the East Coast, I suggest taking an Amtrak train right into South Station in Boston. Amtrak offers discounts for students and has pretty reasonable prices if you book ahead. If you don’t book ahead, it can get very pricey.
If you were planning to visit Boston over spring break in March, a roundtrip ticket from Washington would cost around $160. If you decided Monday that you wanted to go this weekend, it would cost upwards of $250. My advice is if you know you want to go to Boston and are a fan of traveling by train, book at least two to three months in advance to be most cost efficient. Amtrak allows you to modify your trip just in case something comes up during your travel dates.
By taking the train you also get a great view of the coast on the North East Regional line. From the bright NYC skyline to the boats on the dock in New London, Connecticut, you will get a glimpse of the Northeast while sitting back and relaxing — most likely avoiding homework like I always do.
The cheapest overall is taking a bus. MegaBus, Greyhound or Bolt bus are three popular companies. Greyhound from NYC to Boston for a weekend after the holidays runs about $56 roundtrip while MegaBus is about $26. But fair warning: Traffic getting into the city can be atrocious at rush hour in the morning and after work. Driving through Connecticut at any time can be frustrating, so prepare for some added time and bring a book or homework to complete because most buses have free wifi.
Hitch a ride with a friend
Another option is hitching a ride with a friend from school who lives near Boston when they go home for breaks.
Jana Goyvaerts and Charlotte Bonami, international students from Belgium who are enrolled in an academic internship program in D.C., went home with a co-worker for Thanksgiving break. Goyvaerts and Bonami not only enjoyed their first traditional American Thanksgiving meal but were also able to see what another smaller city in the U.S. has to offer. This was for free as a co-worker’s dad drove them back and forth.
There are many ways to get to this historic hub. My advice is plan ahead and use all your resources.
Where to stay?
If you don’t have that kind of cash check out the options on Airbnb for the Boston area. Prices depend on what kind of room you are looking for. A private room ranges from $35 to $90.
If you can, try and stay with friends or extended family members. Reach out and ask. This will not only give you a familiar face and personal tour guide, but will cut back on costs for a bed to sleep in and give you more money to spend on seeing and experiencing Boston.
Wondering how to get around in Boston?
Get a Charlie Card. This is a refillable card used to pay for the subway system, which Bostonians call the “T. ” Boston’s subway system is the first and oldest underground subway rail in the United States that opened September 1, 1897. The T definitely reflects the age of the city, so be patient, my travelers!
Do you have a favorite tourist attraction in Boston you want to recommend to others? Want to know other places to travel? Please leave your comments here and on our Facebook page, thanks!