During these visits, most of our time is spent in the suburbs. However, this year we chose to end the trip with a day in the city, sharing its beauty and history with our two young boys.
With only a day to explore, we had to pick and choose from all that the city has to offer. Thankfully, knowing that we'll be back helped temper our fear of missing out. Following is how we chose to spend the day.
To Drive or Not To Drive
Although we rented a car for the first leg of our trip, we made a point of returning it before spending the day in the city. With most on-street parking restricted to residents, non-residents end up having to pay for parking, which can get very pricey.
Many people commuting through the city rely on the bus and subway system, otherwise known as the "T" (MBTA). In addition, Boston is highly walkable. With a little planning, you can easily walk from one neighborhood to another, enjoying the city's sites and foods along the way (click here for neighborhood map).
We also noticed that Boston now offers Blue Bikes, a public bike share system that allows you to rent bikes for a nominal fee. While our boys weren't big enough for us to take advantage of these bikes, I imagine it's a great way to get around. Especially, if you want to hop over the Charles river into Cambridge and don't want to walk or take the "T".
Breakfast in the South End
Our day started with coffee and pastries at Caffè Nero in the South End. Located on Tremont Street, the café is around the corner from The Buttery, another good neighborhood breakfast spot. The South End is also home to the original Flour Bakery & Café location, which we gladly would have visited, had time allowed.
Lunch in Back Bay
From the South End, we walked over to Copley Square in Back Bay. There are a number of sites to enjoy, including the Boston Public Library, which is free to all. With its stunning architecture, works of art, and extensive literary collection, it is well worth the visit, even if just for a few minutes.
After several hours of exploring Back Bay, we were ready for lunch. Both Newbury and Boylston Street are packed with great lunch spots. Some of my favorites dating back to my Boston days include Stephanie's on Newbury, Parish Cafe, Global with its rooftop deck, and Casa Romero for great Mexican food and a lovely courtyard patio.
Of course, no trip to New England is complete without a good lobster roll. While nothing beats enjoying one off the boat on a pier in Maine, Luke's Lobster came pretty close.
Having gotten our fill of lobster rolls, we walked over to the Boston Common and Public Garden. After enjoying a leisurely stroll through the Garden and a swan boat ride on the park's lagoon, the boys had the great foresight to pack a frisbee, which we had fun tossing around the Common.
If you only have time to do one thing while in Boston, make it a Duck Tour! Having been on one years ago, I knew it would be a fun way to view the city without wearing out the boys. The tour narrator shared all sorts of fun tidbits about the city and it's a thrill to view the city from the Charles river.
To wrap up our day, we headed over to the North End for dinner. With its narrow streets lined with family owned Italian restaurants and pastry shops, the North End feels like a mini- escape to Italy.
With the boys craving pizza, we decided to eat at BenCotto. Their "North Ender" with prosciutto, soppressata garlic, oregano, extra-virgin olive oil, basil, and mozzarella cheese was a hit!