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Boston on a budget

February 6, 2010

Published by Metro international

Boston’s a city for everyone: families, young coeds, history buffs, nature enthusiasts, city lovers, even travellers on a budget. Beyond the luxury hotels, gourmet restaurants and old-money neighbourhoods find a city of rich history, culture and activity, all accessible for close to nothing.

Sights: For man-made scenery look no further than the skyline. Walk along the Charles River Esplanade for a view of Cambridge and the Boston skyline, as well as the sparkling “dirty water.” There, locals layout on the docks during the summer months and jog, bike and rollerblade along the path. Later in the year, see spectacular fall foliage while watching University crew teams row.

Food: At tourist-heavy Quincy Market vendors from the city’s popular restaurants sell everything from seafood to ethnic favourites Indian and Greek. Ditch the crowds there and go to the real restaurant instead. Find the real Steve’s Greek on Newbury Street, the original Pizzeria Regina in the North End. Boston’s version of Little Italy, the North End, is the place to go for authentic Italian. Be sure to stop by Mike’s Pastry’s for dessert – the line is always out the door, but it’s worth the wait.

To-do: Tour historical landmarks like the Old State House and Paul Revere’s house, or visit museums such as the Museum of Fine Arts and the New England Aquarium. Look for free museum nights or discounts to show in Boston’s Theatre District. Take advantage of the city’s music scene – try smaller venues like the Middle East and TT the Bear’s Place in Central Square or Harper’s Ferry and Paradise Rock Club in Allston for cheap tickets.

Or: If here for a longer stay, explore Boston’s outer neighborhoods. Take the “T” to Cambridge and walk around Harvard Square, or go to Coolidge Corner in the Boston-bordering city of Brookline. Both areas are great for people watching, local food and shopping.

Top 3 for free:

  1. Swan boat rides: Enjoy the lush scenery of the Boston Public Garden for under $3.
  2. Freedom Trail: Walk the 2.5-mile trail to see Boston’s Revolutionary War history. Pay for an official tour, or follow the marked footsteps on your own.
  3. Free city events and festivals: Look for free concerts at Hatch Shell, North End summer parades, and food festivals all year round.

Transportation: Boston’s a small city at heart and very walkable. Still, you can’t get everywhere on foot. Save money on transportation by taking the “T” – Boston’s mass transit system. Buy a one day pass for $7 or a weeklong for $15 for unlimited rides on the subway or bus. If new to the city, see the city’s neighborhoods and historic landmarks on a Trolley Tour. The sightseeing tour stops at Fenway Park, Fanueil Hall marketplace, Beacon Hill, the Waterfront District, the North End and more. Hop on and off the trolley all day with a pass (around $30 online).


Best budget accommodation: Staying downtown isn’t cheap, but a good location is worth the price. Search deals online – try Expedia or Priceline.

Best shopping area: Newbury Street has it all – designer stores for window shopping, thrift shops for deals, and everything in between. Go on weekdays to avoid crowds.

One local dish to try out: Boston’s a seaport city, so take advantage of the sea food. Be sure to try classic New England clam chowder.

When to go: The fall foliage in October’s unbeatable, though all summer is beautiful – but touristy. Skip May when the city’s 60 colleges hold graduation.

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