Traveling “like a tourist” has gotten a negative connotation over the years. Think about what comes to mind with the word tourist…”obnoxious,” “fanny packs,” “cameras.” They’re the people who get in your way when you need to be somewhere in your own hometown. They’re the people who grab you to ask for directions when the building they’re looking for is right across the street...or on the other side of town. They’re the people that pool together at the same five spots when you know there is SO much more to discover.
Travel seems to have gone through some changes over the last few years. Culture and local hot spots are things that newcomers are eager to find. Those “hole in the wall” spots that your friends won’t expect you to know about when you get home. However, some of those “touristy” spots many of us avoid to ditch crowds are 100% worth venturing to. Every city has them, including Boston. We’ve made it simple and put a list of 8 together with tips to improve your experience.
This gem is an Instagram user’s dream. Beautifully lined with colorful leaves in the fall, Acorn Street is a small street tucked in the middle of the Beacon Hill neighborhood. It’s small with a brick and cobblestone road and lined on either side with townhouses, old-school lamp posts and trees. I’m not quite sure how this street became so popular or even why because there is nothing extraordinary about it. It’s just a beautiful street famous for being used in photos.
*TIP: Head over to Acorn Street early in the morning or on a rainy day. The cloudy skies will give your photos a better quality and avoid any glares. There will also be few people around to fight for photos with.
The Boston Common pops up in many of our round-ups. It’s one of the stars of Boston. Besides being free and enormous, it’s absolutely gorgeous any time of year. Locals and tourists flock to this site but if you want to feel like a local, here are a few ideas:
- Grab a sandwich or some snacks and have a picnic. It’s the perfect spot for a lazy weekend afternoon people watching.
- Go for a jog. Breeze through the park while still taking everything in, just a little faster.
- Watch a performance. You’ll find live music throughout the park most of the year. Head to the common for a free concert.
Famous for being the home to Harvard University, Cambridge can get a bit touristy during high travel months. Not like Boston but enough to feel like a popular destination. It’s a gorgeous city with beautiful campuses and quaint downtown squares. If you want to feel less like a tourist and more like a local, visit during the weekday while classes are in session and visitors are less likely to be crowding the streets.
*TIP: Bring a book with you and spend an hour or so in a coffee shop. You’ll fit in with everyone else in no time.
While I don’t have any local tips for this one, it would be negligent of me not to include the Cheers Restaurant in our tourist spot list. In case you’re unfamiliar, the Cheers Restaurant was the famous inspiration for the TV show back in the day. It’s still in business today with a classic bar menu and unforgettable experience.
*TIP: The Cheers Restaurant is located right across the street from the Boston Common. If you’re short on time, hit both in an afternoon!
One of the top tourist sites, Faneuil Hall probably got so popular because of how many things it has to do. From shops and stores to live entertainment, the marketplace is one of the heaviest traffic sites in Boston as far as people are concerned. There is an infinite number of things to do and for every budget. Walk through and watch live performers without spending a dollar or shop at one of the many stores.
*TIP: Faneuil Hall is one of the central locations in Boston making it a great place to establish a home base during your trip. The Bostonian is across the street and there are several other hotels within walking distance including The Boxer Boston.
Whether or not you’re a baseball fan, everyone knows that being a Boston Red Sox fan is practically in the native blood. For the ultimate experience, book a tour on non-game days. As you can imagine, these book up pretty fast so we recommend buying your tickets in advance to play it safe.
*TIP: The Museum of Fine Arts is a 10 minute walk away from Fenway Park so head on over after your tour. Looking for something else? Fenway/Kenmore, the neighborhood the park is in, borders Back Bay. Head east to explore for a day packed with plenty of activity and exploration.
John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum
The JKF library and museum is located a bit out of the way of everything else but a must-visit if you can swing it. Filled with exhibits dedicated to John F. Kennedy, his presidency and life, it’s a great opportunity to see pieces of history up close and personal. Something else the institution has is the Hemingway collection. JFK was a huge admirer of Ernest Hemingway and his family donated many documents, letters and photographs to the library to immortalize the literary genius.
*TIP: There’s no ideal time to visit the museum since weekdays you chance running into field trips and weekends can get crazy. We suggest visiting early when the doors open and spend the morning before heading to the rest of your plans for the day.
USS Constitution Museum
A great place to take the kids, the USS Constitution Museum is home to the oldest commissioned naval vessel still floating. It’s exactly what you’d imagine thinking back to Revolutionary Times and the museum does a terrific job embodying the history to provide a realistic experience. The Constitution was recently restored so now is the time to see the ship in all its glory.
What about you? Do you travel “like a tourist” or do you avoid looking like a visitor at all costs?