Archive | November, 2010

Explore History with the Black Heritage Trail

29 Nov

I have mentioned before that I am extremely interested in different cultures, which is why I studied in England. That is also the reason I have concentrations in Italian and African American Studies. During my African American History class, my professor took us to Park Street and we met up with someone from the National Park Service. We then went walked the Black Heritage Trail.

The Black Heritage Trail is on every map I own of Boston. Yet, it is never mentioned and barely walked. But I have to say that everyone should go on it, but not just for the history. Yes, you learn a lot about the history of African Americans in Boston, and New England, and you see a lot of famous/important places for African Americans. But you also see the area. The Black Heritage Trail is in Beacon Hill, an extremely historic and expensive area of Boston. It is also gorgeous and, minus all the politics and politicians, perfect.

I know most people have been to Beacon Hill, I mean who hasn’t seen the state house? But the Black Heritage Trail shows you things you probably missed, such as The Phillips School, the Charles Street Meeting House, Abiel Smith School and the African Meeting House. Information on the tour, which is run by the Museum of African American History, can be found here. Guided tours are available Memorial Day through Labor Day, so not now, but maps and guides are provided and special tours can be arranged.

A map of the Black Heritage Trail

Also, while you are in the area there are a few streets I suggest you check out (especially if you are with out-of-towners). Either take a detour while on Pickney Street or do a whole separate trip.

Acorn Street: This tiny street is considered the most picturesque street in Boston, and for that matter all of New England. It is the definition of New England. I thought it was adorable, but I also think there are other cute streets out there. It runs parallel to Mt. Vernon.

Acorn Street

Louisburg Square: This area, sandwiched between Pickney Street and Mt. Vernon Street, is considered one of the most expensive residential neighborhoods in the country. Louisa May Alcott, the author, lived there and Senator Kerry currently lives there. It’s fancy.

Louisburg Square- Notice the park in the middle of the street

Mt Vernon Street: This long street parallel to Pickney and running right into the state house, once earned the title of the most civilized street in America, whatever that means. It is cute though.

Charles Street: Chances are you have been there, but in case you haven’t I had to say it. Cute/adorable seems to be the words of the day.

 So, how do you get to the Black Heritage Trail and all these cute streets? I say take the Red Line or the Green Line to Park Street and start in front of the state house. It is the easiest. If you are really against Park Street (which would be weird) I suppose you can get off MGH on the Red Line or Bowdoin on the Blue Line. But both are on the back end of the trail and a little out of the way.

Go Back to College

28 Nov

Marsh Plaza at BU, and the sculpture dedicated to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

A while ago I talked about going to sporting events at different schools in the Boston area. But I suggest going to a college or university whenever you are bored (and not for the parties. Well, if you want to go to the parties I guess you can, but I am talking about just exploring the areas).

This past summer, my job involved traveling to other universities for tournaments and camps. I went to Umass Amherst (not my favorite), Amherst College (gorgeous), Tufts University (beautiful and close), Endicott College (umm… it is essentially on the beach) and Harvard University (the stadium looks like the Colosseum in Rome- amazing).

I know, I know, why the hell would you want to either go to another school that you don’t go to or never went to? Isn’t it kind of boring, dull and a waste of time? I say no, and the people who say that don’t appreciate different cultures, because that is what I ultimately think a college campus is- a culture. They all have something different to offer and they all have a different feel to them. Some are more modern, while others look like castles, and they all have something special about them.

I got tickets to a Boston College football game in September. Now, BC is our rival but I have never been on their campus. I was honestly scared that I would walk on that campus and fall in love, feel like I made the wrong choice when choosing a college. But it was amazing to see different schools, the schools’ library, the church on campus; it really was phenomenal and made me think about the students and alumni of that school and how they spent their four (plus) years there. It made me feel more connected to others and more connected to Boston, and Boston’s culture of being a student city.

Boston College

I say go to the area of the college and then walk around the area. If you take the Green Line ride it until you pass something that looks interesting and then get off the next stop. Not included in this list are numerous colleges on the commuter rail, including Endicott, Bridgewater State and Umass Lowell. Here is a list of how to get to…

BC: take the Green Line, either B Line to Boston College or D Line to Chestnut Hill.

Harvard: Red Line to Harvard Square.

Tufts: Red Line to Davis Square.

MIT: Red Line to Kendall Square/MIT; number 1 bus.

BU: Green Line, B Line to BU Central.

Northeastern: Take the Green Line, E Line to Northeastern, or Orange Line to Ruggles.

Wheelock, Simmons, MCPHS: Green Line, D Line to Fenway, or Green Line, E Line.

Wentworth: Green Line, E Line.

Suffolk: Green Line or Red Line to Park Street.

Take a Trip West, All the Way to Brookline

24 Nov

I moved into an apartment on campus a couple years ago and I was thrilled. But it wasn’t really because I was in an apartment and could cook for myself, that was just a bonus. I loved it because I was only a few blocks from Brookline, a town I have come to love. Brookline is the type of town that I would love to live in one day (although that day would probably have to come once I have a paying job, a good paying job).

Coolidge Corner Theater

During my orientation freshman year, we were asked to split into groups based on the area of Boston we wanted to explore. I had already been the majority of the areas they offered, so my friends and I chose Coolidge Corner. I am now a huge, huge advocate of the area (which is in Brookline- I should have mentioned that before). Coolidge Corner is a fabulous area that has something for everyone. Trader Joes (complete with an alcohol section) is there along with Ten Thousand Villages, a store everyone should check out. An old-fashioned movie theater is on Harvard Ave as well, and further down the street is a Gap and TJ Maxx among other stores.

Coolidge Corner

Although Coolidge Corner is the main attraction, in my eyes anyways, there is so much to see in Brookline. A few stops past Coolidge Corner is Washington Square, an area similar to Coolidge but a little smaller and a little more upscale. There are some adorable coffee shops (one of them, I forgot the name, my friend and I went to and the espresso was served with a small scoop of ice cream in it. But it was so strong I couldn’t finish it).

One of my favorite day trips this summer was when I took the C Line from Kenmore and got off at a random stop. I turned up a random street and just wandered around the neighborhood. I saw some unbelievable houses and gorgeous buildings. I also ran into Brookline High School; I always find it interesting to see other schools (I don’t know why, I know it’s kind of weird). I highly suggest doing just that: getting on a subway and getting off at whatever stop you want. You never know what you may find. There could be some gorgeous buildings or fabulous landscaping in a residential neighborhood. Or you may find a cute store or the perfect coffee shop. And if it sucks, you can hop back on the subway.

How to get to Brookline/Coolidge Corner: Take the C Line (Green Line) to Coolidge Corner stop or to the Washington Square stop. If you just want to just go to Brookline, get off any stop on the C Line and a variety of stops on the D Line (most have Brookline in the name).

Exploring the History of Boston

19 Nov

The other day I posted an article about 25 free things to do in Boston that was written by Boston.com. I mentioned in that post that there were a few walks/tours I would later highlight so they wouldn’t get in the way of the original material. Well, I didn’t completely lie. I just do not have that much time today to write this blog, but I did not want to leave y’all hanging (because I know you were waiting to hear about the walks that will take you out in the cold, away from your blankets, alcohol and TV and make you prance around a city full of crazy tourists on vacation for the holiday season. Sounds like fun, right?).

Anyways, the Boston.com mentioned two tours that I think are brilliant. Both are meant to be done by driving, but I think it would be easier to look through the sites, pick your favorites and walk/take public transportation. The first is a tour of JFK’s Boston. Okay, so to me it does not sound fascinating. Heck, it doesn’t even sound interesting. But I know many people who are interested in politics that would kill to go on this tour. The route seems phenomenal; it takes you through Cambridge, Downtown, the North End, the Financial District and of course South Boston. Some of the stops are hotels and restaurants. Others are churches that may be interesting to stop inside of. Others include his birthplace and the JFK Library and Museum. That is why I suggest picking the spots that sound most interesting to you and checking those out.

The second tour that Boston.com mentions is the Boston Sports Trail. This, to me, is amazing and innovative. Everyone knows that Boston is a sports town, but not everyone knows the history of sports in the city. This tour takes you from the North End, through Downtown, through the Common, Northeastern, Roxbury and finally puts you at Boston University. Stops include the Boston Sports Museum, which is the TD Garden (while you are there, check out the statue of Bobby Orr). There are some statues sprinkled across the city and a few things related to the Boston Marathon. Stops also include the arena at Northeastern, the arena at BU and the field at BU, all of which have significant ties to Boston’s sport’s history.

As these walks show, Boston has many places of interest. If you are interested in something specific, say the Boston Marathon, higher learning or hospitals (I know, that’s weird. I just couldn’t think of anything else), then do a little research online and create your own walk. It is a great way to see the city and the surrounding area and you may learn something in the process. Or you can use it as a bragging tool to your friends.

Christian Science Plaza: The Best of Boston

17 Nov

Christian Science Plaza- Boston

What is your favorite place in Boston? Is there a specific reason? Everywhere I have lived I have always been asked what my favorite place is. In London it was a no brainer for me: Trafalgar Square. But I did not realize what my favorite place was in Boston until this summer. I am in love with the Christian Science Plaza.

It is unbelievably peaceful yet is hustling with the traffic from the city. It is near to tourist attractions so you still get to see the faces of tourists when they enter the plaza for the first time. But it is also a place for Bostonians and their kids who just want to cool down in the fountain on a hot summer day. The plaza is a meeting spot for friends and families, a resting spot for travelers and a relaxing spot for students and professionals. The large reflecting pool reminds me of Washington DC, a city I am also in love with. The view of the Back Bay reminds you that you are in a city and surrounded by different cultures. Then, of course, there is the gorgeous Christian Science Church standing in all its glory.

The Back Bay from the Christian Science Plaza.

Christian Science Church- Boston

This past summer I would often get off at the Prudential stop (because an E train always came to North Station first and because I am impatient and because I don’t mind walking when it’s nice out) and just chill at the Christian Science Plaza for an hour or so. I just loved sitting on the stone wall, reading, watching the kids run in and out of the fountain while their parents laughed and talked to their friends. (On a side note, the Christian Science Church is going to redesign the plaza. I think it is a great idea and the Boston Globe article on it can be found here.)

Anyways, you all have probably already been here so I should stop rambling, although that may not be possible. However, I want to offer a couple alternatives to just sitting outside. One day last year when my parents visited, my dad decided he needed to see the inside of the Christian Science Church. I told him that was weird to just walk into a church (and yet six months later I was in Europe walking into every church I came to- I know, I know, such a hypocrite). But we did and I still talk and think about it every time I walk by it. There was an elevator adjacent to the huge lobby and as we got to the main hall, a tour was starting, so we tagged along. Turns out the tours are free and offered Tuesdays through Sundays (they also meet in the lobby and last about a half hour). I would highly recommend the tour. It is informative about not only the church but also the religion and the founder, Mary Baker Eddy (who I mentioned in this post, as I saw a monument dedicated to her at Mt. Auburn Cemetery). The church is enourmous and gorgeous; the organ has 13,000 pipes. In addition, you get to see the original church, which is smaller and attached to the large one that we view in the plaza, as well as the extension. If you do not have time for a tour, you can still walk around and take pictures.

After the tour, my mom decided we needed to see the Mapparium, which is in the Mary Baker Eddy Library directly next door to the church. It is a three-story, painted glass globe that you can walk through (there is a 30-foot long bridge across the middle of it). It was created in 1935, and there is a presentation called A World of Ideas containing music, lights and information on how the world has changed. It does cost a few dollars and although it wasn’t my favorite thing, my parents loved it and the church was free, so it all evens out.

The Fountain at the Christian Science Plaza, Boston

How to get to the Christian Science Plaza: take the Green Line to Prudential and walk across the street. If you are not on the E line, take the Green Line to Hynes and walk down Mass Ave until you hit the church. The #1 bus also goes right past there, and the Orange Line stop Massachusetts Ave isn’t too far either.

Note: the Christian Science Church is not Scientology. Just fyi.

Free Things to Do in Boston: Courtesy of Boston.com

15 Nov

One of my favorite images of Boston

While watching football yesterday, my best friend showed me an article from Boston.com on the top 25 free things to do in Boston. To my surprise, I had already mentioned many of things here in this blog. I am not going to mention them all here, but I will mention a few in case you do not want to go to the article and click through all of them.

A few were obvious, such as walk the Freedom Trail and climb Bunker Hill. They also mentioned a few trails that I think I will dedicate another post to because I found them really interesting (and, after all, this blog is for me. Okay, and you.). Boston.com also mentioned taking free tours of the Massachusetts State House, the Boston Public Library and the USS Constitution.

One other place they mentioned was Coit Observatory at Boston University. This observatory is technically on the roof of our College of Arts and Sciences and provides a fabulous view of the night sky. Every Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. stargazing is free throughout the fall and winter. I went to Coit twice my freshamn year because it was required for my astronomy class. And, predictably, it was the only part of my class that I liked, and you know what, I absolutely loved it!

Perhaps the most interesting part of Boston.com’s post was their slides on museums (even though I just mentioned I did not really like museums). Apparently, girls names Isabella get in free at the the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and everyone can get in free on their birthday. Furthermore, and this is my favorite, if you have a BPL card (valid one of course), you can get passes to a handful of museums for a (really) reduced cost or for free! Two examples are the New England Aquarium and the Museum of Science! All the information on this great deal is here.

Now you probably know what I am going to say, but I am going to say it anyway. My advice is that if you are bored one day or need something to do, choose one of the activities and go. Perhaps get off a subway stop early and walk to the attraction so you can experience the neighborhood. Explore the area as well as the attraction. It’s great that you went to the Aquarium, but it’s a waste if you also didn’t see the harbor and experience the waterfront.

Escape the Tourists: Fort Point Channel

13 Nov

Boston Children's Museum, one of the many museums in Fort Point Channel

A couple of weeks ago, my dad and I were talking on the phone and he mentioned an interesting article on Rob Gronkowski that was in some paper. Gronkowski is on the Patriots and is a rookie tight end; but to my family, he is the other tight end. That is because the other rookie tight end on the Patriots is Aaron Hernandez, who I went to middle and high school with (that, by the way, is always my one interesting fact when talking football with people). Anyways, because of Aaron and Gronkowski’s connection, we have always been interested in him.

So, my dad sent me that article, but included another one as well that appeared in our hometown newspaper as well the Hartford Courant. The title is Fort Point Channel: Boston’s newest destination. I was floored. I had never heard of this area (and yet I assumed you had by mentioning it in my other post), and I consider myself knowledgeable about the different areas of Boston. I, once again, am wrong.

But I read the article and realized I had been to the area before, though have really only walked through it. Fort Point Channel is located near South Station. According to the article, it was once swampland and then warehouses and factories were built (apparently for wool). The area now is much like the South End, full of galleries, artists, upscale restaurants, museums, shopping and tranquility.

The main attractions are the museums. I will admit (I admit a lot on here) that I don’t really like museums. I find them dull and I get so tired because of all the standing around. I just don’t understand them, which I know is an ignorant thing to say. But, the museums that are in Fort Port Channel are some of the ones that I would find interesting, mostly because they are more interactive. The Boston Children’s Museum, as I have heard form some classmates, is amazing; it is fun, entertaining and informative. The Boston Fire Museum has antique equipment, which is always interesting to look at. The ICA is a five minute walk from the area well. But what sounds the most interesting to me is a gallery that is in the Grand Circle Corp., a travel tour company. The gallery houses vintage travel posters and other exhibits showcasing photography, including aerial photographs of the area. The Boston Tea Party Ship and Museum is also in the area.

 How to get to Fort Point Channel: The easiest way to get to the neighborhood is to take the Red Line to South Station. From there, walk across one of the bridges, either Summer St. or Congress St. and you are there! Take in the atmosphere of the former warehouse neighborhood and escape the cobblestone, tourist-filled sidewalks that are everywhere else in the city. Enjoy the view of the harbor and just relax. Then brag to your friends that you found an area that no one else knows about.

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