This post was contributed by Thomas Wiegand.
Something that I’ve always been a little embarrassed by is the fact that a good portion of my close friends, and even foreigners that I meet while traveling, have seen a lot more of my own country than I have. It’s not as though I have anything against The United States, I just have always idealized people who had the chance to travel abroad and see other parts of the world that were completely unfamiliar to me. I’ve seen more European cities than major U.S. cities. I’m not mad about it, but it makes me ask myself – what it is about the U.S. that seems so lackluster, and have I really had enough exposure to my own country to know what I like and what I don’t? Boston has changed my outlook. Seriously, this city has kind of given me a new perspective on domestic travel. I came to Boston for the sole purpose of presenting some of my research at a conference, but I’d be damned if I wasn’t gonna soak up every extra second of free time. My one goal: make this work trip as fun as possible. You’re here for business I told myself, but that doesn’t mean you can’t see the sights.
So, here’s what I did, and here’s what I think is worthwhile:
1. Freedom Trail
Freedom Trail is what all tourists expect to see when they come to Boston. Normally I’d be somewhat averse to these types of things, but when you’re in a town with so much uniquely early American history, it’s a little too interesting to pass up.
Okay, think back to Paul Revere screaming “The BRITISH ARE COMING!” and everything else that your eighth-grade history teacher probably over-dramatized, and you can find it here.
I saw the harbor where the Sons of Liberty literally spilled the tea, along with things like colonial cemeteries and original ships that were used during the war. I am by no means a history buff, but it’s surreal as an American to see something that so directly represents our shared history. I think the places like Boston that represent so much for Americans are very few in number, and it’s interesting to see what is considered “my” history.
2. Brattle Book Shop
Do yourself a favor and visit this historic bookstore that’s been open since 1825. It’s tucked away in a small corner of downtown that would otherwise seem normal to me, but the second you pass by the alleyway next to the store, you can’t miss it. The alleyway is full of shelves of books lining the red brick walls, and it really is a sight to see. Inside, you’ll find thousands of books on display, but just as you thought it couldn’t get any better, the third floor has a collection of extremely rare books, including a Dickens that is signed and ticketed at $12,000.
If you ask me, I’d say scour the $5 section in the adjacent alleyway before you make a high-price selection; I found a Moliere and a Hugo both from the 1800s for a meager $10.
3. Bunker Hill Monument
At the end of the Freedom Trail, you’ll have walked all the way to Charlestown. Take advantage of the Bunker Hill monument at the end of the trail. The monument is a huge obelisk on top of a hill in Charlestown that overlooks the city and the river. Once my friends and I finally reached the top, we met a really nice French couple and found a view of the city on all four sides that took our breath away.
You might be paying for it later after the 294 steps to the top, but this is your free ticket to a panoramic view of Boston herself.
Something I wasn’t aware of until I arrived in Boston is that the city is home to the Church of Christian Science. The Christian scientists seriously know their architecture, and the churches all over Boston make for a beautiful piece of art here and there amongst tall skyscrapers.
The Mapparium is an exhibit inside of the Mary Baker Eddy Library that boasts the supposed only map in the world that is not distorted.
It’s basically a chamber in the shape of a globe that shows the world and how it was in the early 20th century. The beautiful stained glass windows and the echoing effect that the chamber makes are well worth the entry fee. The chamber highlights, quite literally, different parts of the world and how we would have seen them around the time of our grandparents. It’s quite jarring to see Soviet Russia and a colonized Africa and to think of how much our world has changed in such a short amount of time.
One of the most exciting things about any new city is definitely the nightlife. If that’s more so your style, Machine Nightclub is perfect. Machine is a gay club near Fenway Park that has the absolute best college crowd that I have ever seen on a night out. I’m not sure if my friends and I just lucked out on this particular Friday night, but the place is full of young people that are all there to dance and have a good time. There is a cover charge, but the fact that it is packed and is open to anyone 18+ makes it worth it. They have two floors with the occasional shows on some nights, and the music was a good mix of the late ’90s, early 2000’s R&B, and hip hop along with some top 40 hits. If you have the chance to see what Boston is like on a night out, I’d highly recommend it.
Something I came to admire about Boston is that the city is digestible. On every corner, you have hints of New York City with a quaint feel to it that lets you dive in without feeling overwhelmed. I stayed in the middle of Back Bay, a neighborhood that’s really conveniently located. You can walk to a nearby block that has countless homes that have been transformed into trendy stores, nice green spaces between the nearby neighborhoods, and even to the riverfront. I spent hours just walking around the downtown area and exploring. This may just be the slow-paced, peaceful life that I’m used to as a small-town kid, but everywhere I went I couldn’t help but feel that everyone around me was walking at 10x the speed with purpose. Boston is bustling to say the least. My time here in a single weekend was full of excitement, history, good food and fun. I’m certainly less inclined to treat places like Boston as stop-over cities and more so as destinations in themselves. This city has a lot to offer, so don’t pass up the opportunity to visit.
Meet Thomas: I’m a 20-year-old college student from Chattanooga, Tennessee studying French and Environmental Science. I’m a researcher, language enthusiast, and travel junkie of course. Travel pet-peeve: When you try your hardest to speak the language and they still reply in English. Keep up with me on IG.