This is a travel guide for visiting Boston without destroying your budget. As with most major cities, Boston offers plenty of easy ways to pay top dollar for things that won't really enhance your experience.
When to Visit
Autumn in New England is "high season" because of the wonderful fall foliage and mild temperatures. A lot of people also take ski trips and use Boston as a base. But spring and summer afford the opportunity to visit venerable Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox. In short, there really isn't a bad time to be in Boston -- it really depends on what you want to see and do.
Where to Eat
Durgin-Park, 340 Faneuil Hall Marketplace is a unique Boston experience. Communal seating and cranky table help are all part of the fun people have had eating here since 1827. Mr. Bartley's Burger Cottage in the Harvard Square area is another local favorite. North End trattorias serve up great low-cost Italian menus. Ye Olde Union Oyster House on Union Street is touristy but serves tasty seafood. Daniel Webster was once a regular -- service here dates back to 1826.
Where to Stay
Hostels.com provides a number of options in Boston, including The Prescott International Hotel and Hostel, which offers both hostel-style and private room accommodations. As with any large city, you are often best-served by choosing a hotel room that is close to the attractions or locations of greatest importance to you. If you plan to spend most of your time in the center of Boston, don't book a room that's 30 miles from downtown. The money you save will cost you time. Sometimes, the 5 star Taj Boston at Arlington and Newberry offers some affordable rates.
Airport trains make ground transportation cheaper here. Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority offers transportation by subway, train, bus, and boat. Look for the big black "T" that is MBTA's logo. A one-day LinkPass (check for a seven-day pass if you're staying longer) allows unlimited travel on subway lines, as well as some buses and the inner harbor ferries. It also allows commuter rail travel within about five miles of downtown. Boston has a reputation for traffic congestion, so if you plan to drive or rent a car, consider yourself warned.
Greater Boston is home to about 100 colleges and universities, making it perhaps the most important higher education hub in the nation. This means there are all sorts of cultural opportunities, libraries and bookstores to explore. As is the case in any "college town," you'll find low-cost eating, lodging and museum possibilities in the campus vicinity. Consult the college Web sites for dates, times and maps. Schools such as Harvard qualify as attractions that could easily fill an entire low-cost day.
A Boston Pops concert is among the best experiences you can have here. Pops Tickets start in the $20-$30 range on weekdays and can be quite a bit more on weekends or for special performances. It is possible to sit in on open rehearsals for $18. Watch for special promotions. Boston also offers a lively theatre scene and the famous Boston Ballet.
More Boston Tips
- Get a GO Boston Card
This is a card you buy prior to your trip and then activate on first use. You can buy from one- to seven-day cards good for free admission at dozens of local attractions. Design your itinerary before you consider a Go Boston purchase, to determine if the investment will save you money on admissions. Many times, it will.
- Treat yourself to a game at Fenway Park
It's one of the world's best-loved sporting venues, and the smallest park in Major League Baseball. That means tickets can be hard to find at reasonable prices. So it might be a bit of a splurge, but it's one you're likely to remember. Look here for Fenway Park tickets and seating charts.
- Experience 300 years of history on the Freedom Trail
Few places in America offer a chance to walk through this much history in the space of roughly two miles. Follow the signs in the sidewalks and the lines of tourists in summer. Highlights are Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market.
- Don't overlook other walking opportunities
Haymarket is one of the greatest farmers' markets you'll ever see. Tremont Street is a place where you can shop (or window shop on a tight budget). Boston is a place where interesting, walkable neighborhoods abound.
- Consider a boat trip
Whale watching cruises, Cape Cod escapes and even lighthouse tours are possible from Boston. Among the companies offering such services is Boston Harbor Cruises. One example of their services: express service to Provincetown (on the tip of Cape Cod) takes about 90 minutes, and that saves time spent in traffic.
- Seek relief in the Arnold Arboretum
Boston was laid out in colonial days, and it tends to be very cramped in places. If you start to feel a bit confined, head for this spacious and beautiful park in the city center. The same can be said for Boston's famous Public Garden and its Swan Boats.