Harvard is in Cambridge, not Boston. But try convincing Grandpa Bob back in Fancy Gap, Virginia, of that.
You can't. Never mind the fact that Cambridge is equipped with its own historical landmarks, theaters and neighborhoods. An anthology of tales about eight-hour organic chemistry labs, lunches in the Pit with preteen skinheads and idle afternoons lingering over coffee and croissants at Au Bon Pain, do not a complete Harvard Summer School Extension student make.
There's no excuse for leaving Harvard without ever setting foot in one of the oldest and most fascinating metropolises in America. Fleeting images of skyscrapers, the townhouses of Back Bay and the Boston side of the Charles River on your cab ride from Logan Airport simply won't do.
On your first trip into Boston, don't be afraid to play tourist. The first thing tourists hit-especially those who are also history buffs-is the Freedom Trail.
The trail, a red line painted on sidewalks or lain in brick throughout the city, will lead you on a three to four-hour tour to the city's most prominent historical landmarks as well as to Boston's traditionally Italian neighborhood, the North End.
You can reach the trail by rail. The Boston subway system, part of the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) and called the T, is the oldest in the nation. And its four lines (red, green, blue and orange) will take you everywhere you need to go for just 85 cents a ride.
From Harvard Square, take the Red line inbound and get off at Park Street. There you will find Boston Common, a 48-acre green oasis if fountains, monuments relaxed Bostonians and other tourists. Bought by the city in 1634 as pasture land for cows, goats and sheep and later used as a military training ground-the Common is the oldest public park in the nation.
At the Boston Common Visitor Kiosk ask for a guide to the Freedom Trail and let the red line (not to be confused with the subway line) take care of the rest. Along the trail, must sees for history buffs include: the State House; the Granary Burying Ground, final resting place of not only Samuel Adams and John Hancock but also of your childhood friend, Mother Goods; Old North Church, of Longfellow fame.
Perhaps the most lively and frequently visited spot along the trail and all of Boston is Faneuil Hall Marketplace, where you'll find jugglers, magicians and street musicians entertaining crowds in front of a variety of restaurants and shops.
Enter the pillared Quincy Market building and your nose will be assaulted by a million appetizing odors-fresh lobster, pot pies, egg rolls, empanadas, pizza, fudge brownies and more. The food court houses more than 20 stalls from which even the most finicky tourist can choose a tasty meal.
In the mood for a little shopping? Flanking Quincy Market are pricey gift and craft shops as well as such traditional favorites as Victoria's Secret, The Sharper Image, Banana Republic and The Gap. Don't forget to visit the seven story Limited.
If you're a theater fan on a tight budget, stopby the Bostix kiosk, where you can get half-pricetickets to many plays at Boston area theaters onthe day of the performance.
Faneuil Hall Marketplace is easily accessibleby T as well. Take the T to Government Center andwalk past one of the few architecturalmonstrosities in Boston--the anti-organic upsidedown concrete City Hall--to this festive shoppingand eating complex.
Back on the Freedom Trail, you'll move on toHaymarket, Boston's open-air produce and fishmarket. There vendors sell their in-season fruitsand vegetables at wonderfully low prices.
The Trail will then lead you to the North End,Boston's version of Little Italy, home of bakeriesand Italian Restaurants of varying quality andauthenticity. Several yuppie-chic restaurants haveopened to cater to the new residents who havemoved into some of the neighborhood's recentlygentrified buildings.
Look for the tell-tale signs ofgentrification--the too-freshly painted fireescapes and Volvos parked along the street as youleave the North End. Then cross the Charles Riverto the predominantly Irish Charlestown and BunkerHill Monument, a 220 floor obelisk thatcommemorates one of the first battles of theRevolutionary War.
Can't get enough of trail tours? The BlackHeritage Trail begins at the Shaw-54th RegimentMemorial in Boston Common. This monument honorsthe first regiment of Black volunteers from thenorth to fight in the Civil War, as well as theircolonel, Harvard College graduate Robert GouldShaw (played by Matthew Broderick in Hollywood'sportrayal, "Glory.")
The Harborwalk is a blue painted line that willtake you from the Old State House to museums andlandmarks along the Boston waterfront includingthe Children's Museum, the New England Aquarium(T: Aquarium, on the blue line) and the Boston TeaParty Ship.
If you're not into walking, don't despair; thetrusty T can take you to most spots on the varioustrails, and almost anywhere else you'd like to go.
Or you can float around for a relaxing ride onBoston's famous Swan Boats which inhabit thelandscaped ponds of the French-inspired PublicGarden next to the Englishstyle Common.
Shopping enthusiasts and window shoppers alikewill find paradise on Newbury Street (T: Boylston,greenline) and Copley (T: Copley, green line).
Walk along Newbury Street and watch thebeautiful people cruise past dress shops andgourmet restaurants in their BMW convertibles. Andremember to check out the funky dresses and shirtsat Betsey Johnson's.
At Copley, you'll find the grand departmentstores Saks, Lord and Taylor and Nieman Marcus.
While you're at Copley Square. take a minute tovisit the tall buildings. The John Hancock Towerreflects the older buildings around it. Thetallest building in Boston, it has a sightseeingdeck and museum on its top floor.
If you're more into bargain basements and bluelight specials, take the Red Line to DowntownCrossing and visit Filene's Basement. the motherof all bargain basements. There, you will makeyour way through mile-long racks of designerclothes, all priced to please.
For the artistically inclined, the Museum ofFine Arts (MFA) at the Museum T stop houses acomprehensive assortment of international art. Themuseum boasts an impressive collection ofimpressionist paintings, including 35 works byClaude Monet. To save money, be sure to stop byWednesdays from 4 to 9:45 p.m., when admission isfree.
On your way to the MFA, take an interestingdetour at the world headquarters of the FirstChurch of Christ Scientist (T: Symphony, greenline). The 19th century Mother Church is theChristian Scientists what St. Peter's in Rome isto Catholics.
And though not as massive as St. Peter's, thischurch seats a huge congregation, boasts athunderous organ and requires an elevator to reachits chapel.
Walk beside the church and catch breathtakingglimpse of an immense reflecting pool. Also try tovisit the "Mapparium," a huge glass globe you canwalk inside.
To get to Chinatown, you'll have to walkthrough the Combat Zone (T: orange line toChinatown). The Combat Zone is one place youdidn't want to visit unless you revel in dirtymovies, drug dealing and triple X-ratedpeep-shows.
A good time to visit Chinatown is on a bright,i.e. safe, weekend afternoon when you can enjoydim sum in one of the numerous Chineserestaurants.
It's hit or miss at these places. Your best betis to keep away from the seafood dishes--squid andblack bean sauce, for instance. The cakes atChinese bakeries are always delicious as well.
The list of things to see and do in Boston goeson and on. Catch a Red Sox game at historic FenwayPark, featured in the movie Field of Dreams (T:Kenmore, green line). Watch an omnimax film at theMuseum of Science. Or make a visit to the John F.Kennedy Presidential Library (T: JFK/U.Mass, redline).
But whatever you do, don't forget to sendGrandpa Bob a postcard.Crimson File PhotoThe home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra,Symphony Hall is located just down HuntingtonStreet from the Museum of Fine Arts.