Having lived in Boston for a decade, and with family still living there today, we make a point of returning to the historic city every other year.
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.
Cappuccino, hot chocolates, and pastries at Caffè Nero on Tremont in the South End
Walking along Tremont Street, it was fun to see that many of my favorite neighborhood restaurants including Delux, B&G Oysters, The Butcher Shop, Frenchie, Metropolis, and Toro, are still going strong.
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.
Bates Hall in the Boston Public Library
Across the street from the library, you can tour the beautiful and historic Trinity Church, and a 5 minute walk away is the Skywalk Observatory, offering spanning views of the city from the top of the Prudential building.
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.
Lobster roll at Luke's Lobster
Boston Common and Public Garden
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.
Swan Boats in the Boston Public Garden
Frisbee in the Boston 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.
View of the Esplanade and Back Bay from the Charles River during our Duck Tour
Dinner in the North End
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!
The "North Ender" at BenCotto
As full as we were after dinner, we couldn't pass up the opportunity to grab a cannoli from famed Mike's Pastry. With a dizzying selection of flavors to choose from, we went with the chocolate mousse cannoli, which was worth every extra calorie.
Chocolate Mousse Cannoli from Mike's Pastry
Between the perfect sunny skies and fun adventures, the day was everything I had hoped it would be. As packed as our schedule was, we still have a whole host of things left to experience in Boston (think Fenway Park and Freedom Trail) and can't wait for our next visit. Thanks for a great day Boston. Until next time!