Welcome to Boston – Things to Do

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This is a guest post from Joe Corkery. Joe is Vice President of Business Development at OpenEye Scientific Software in Cambridge, MA. Remarkably, Joe has been with OpenEye for nearly 13 years helping it grow from 3 people to over 40 at last count. In an earlier life, Joe ran away from writing code to attend medical school, only to be drawn back in after graduation. Despite not having access to a prescription pad, he is passionate about drug discovery and the impact computers have on that process, among others.

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Welcome to Boston and to Business of Software 2012! I am really excited for the meeting this year and while I expect the meeting to keep us all quite busy, I thought as a native Bostonian, I would share some ideas on how to get around town as well as some fun things to do in your free time (particularly Sunday or Wednesday afternoon).

Getting Around Boston

Boston is an extremely walkable city and has excellent public transportation. In fact, Boston’s subway (officially known as the MBTA or more simply just the “T”) was the first subway to operate in the United States. Assuming that you are staying at the conference hotel (the Intercontinental), you will have easy access to the T via South Station which is only 2 blocks away. Both the Red Line and the Silver Line (an express bus) stop at South Station. You can also access the Blue Line at the Aquarium Station which is a longer, but not too long, walk in the opposite direction. You can find a subway map on the MBTA website (PDF version). There are also a wide variety of iPhone and Android apps that might be of interest as well in planning your trips.

Getting To and From the Airport

There are many easy ways to go between the airport and the Intercontinental Hotel. If you don’t have a lot of baggage, I would recommend using public transportation because with the airport fees and tunnel tolls, your taxi ride will start at $10 before you even set foot in the car. As an incentive to take public transit, the MBTA is currently offering free service on the Silver Line to and from Logan airport. The bus travels regularly between each terminal at the airport and South Station (your destination). If the weather is good and you are looking for a fun and/or different experience, you can take the Water Taxi across the harbor between the airport and the Intercontinental Hotel (which has its own stop).

Walking The Freedom Trail

The Freedom Trail (PDF map) is one of Boston’s most popular tourist attractions and is well worth doing if the weather allows. The trail begins at Boston Common and meanders between the many historic sites along the streets of Boston for about 2.5 miles ending in Charlestown. If you don’t stop at all along the way, it should take less than an hour to walk. However, if you want to spend time at the various historical sites, be prepared for the trail to take half a day or longer. If constrained by time, I’d recommend ending early in the North End and skipping Charlestown. If you do go all the way to Charlestown, you can pickup the Water Taxi by the Navy Yard and take that directly back to the hotel in time for the cocktail reception. You can also pickup the Water Taxi in the North End at the Fairmont Battery or Burroughs wharves.

Depending on your schedule, I’d recommend having dinner in the North End while you are there. The North End is Boston’s Italian neighborhood and is home to many wonderful restaurants. One of my personal favorite restaurants is Artu on Prince St, which is just around the corner from Paul Revere’s house. That being said, it is hard to go wrong with any of the abundant choices. If you are specifically looking for pizza, seek out Pizzeria Regina on Hanover St.

The North End is also famous for its pastries (in particular the cannoli). You will undoubtedly see lots of people walking around with boxes from Mike’s Pastries during your walk. Personally, I would avoid Mike’s as it is a bit of a tourist trap and try either Modern Pastry (also on Hanover St) or Maria’s Pastry (on Cross St). If you go to Maria’s be sure to try the almond macaroons as they are delicious.

If you are getting started early enough and are interested in Dim Sum for breakfast/brunch, Chinatown is only a short walk from the hotel and pretty much on your way to the start of the Freedom Trail at Boston Common. Hei La Moon is probably the closest Dim Sum restaurant to the hotel and is quite excellent. Other great choices include Chau Chow City and China Pearl. All three are very popular on Sundays, but China Pearl tends to have the longest lines. Chau Chow City has the distinction of being open very late in the evening as well. If I remember correctly, the restaurant stays open even after the bar closes (bars close at 2 AM in Boston and 1 AM in Cambridge).

If you’ve already done the Freedom Trail and are looking for something similar, you can try the Black Heritage Tour which also starts at Boston Common, but over across from the State House. You can walk this trail by yourself or join a Park Ranger guided tour (recommended). The Black Heritage Tour takes you through the streets of Boston’s historic Beacon Hill neighborhood. Charles St (the main street in Beacon Hill) is home to a variety of interesting local shops and restaurants. One of my personal favorites in the neighborhood is a Persian restaurant called Lala Rokh on Mt. Vernon St.

The Boston National Historical Parks Service has an excellent iPhone and Android app to assist you in planning/executing your tour of either the Freedom or Black Heritage Trails.

Boston Common and Beyond

In addition to being the starting point for the Freedom and Black Heritage Trails, Boston Common is a nice area to enjoy being outdoors. There are often a variety of street performers out on nice days and if you brought your family, there is a carousel and a playground. Across from the Common are the Public Gardens, home to the Swan Boats (closed for the season unfortunately) and the “Make Way For Ducklings” statues (always a big hit with children).

On the other side of the Public Gardens is the start of Newbury St, which is Boston’s prime shopping street. There are lots of fancy shops, restaurants, etc. and is a great place for people watching. Running parallel to Newbury St is Boylston St, home to Boston’s flagship Apple store. So, if you didn’t get your iPhone last week, this might be your opportunity (please note that I have no idea what their inventory status is at the moment). There are also a number of restaurants and fun bars along Boylston as well. For the runners in the crowd, the finish line for the Boston Marathon can be found on Boylston St next to the Boston Public Library in Copley Square.

If you’d prefer to stroll along the river instead of the streets, you can access the Charles River Esplanade via a footbridge near the corner of Beacon and Arlington streets. The bike and foot trails along the Esplanade run for many miles up the Charles River and makes for a great place to go for a stroll, a run, or a bike ride. Here’s a useful running map (PDF) that provides distances between the many bridges that cross the river.

Fenway Park

Fenway Park is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year and it is open to the public everyday for tours between 9 AM and 5 PM (except on game days when it closes 3 hours before game time). The Red Sox are away on Sunday, so that would be a good day to visit. The Red Sox will be playing their last three games of the season (against the Yankees, of course) at home Monday through Wednesday, so it’ll be a zoo over there and I wouldn’t even try to find same day tickets.

Indoor Activities

If the weather isn’t that great, there are still lots of places to visit including Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (although the Gardner Museum does feature a large open courtyard that is better appreciated on a non-rainy day). The Gardner Museum was the site of a very famous art heist. The art has yet to be recovered and there remain empty spaces on the walls from where the paintings were taken. Both of these museums are very close to each other and can be accessed by the Museum of Fine Arts stop on the E branch of the Green line. Admission to the Gardner Museum is discounted with an MFA ticket and is free if your name happens to be Isabella.

Boston’s Museum of Science is also very popular (especially with children) and is one of the starting points for the Boston Duck Tours (although these are also definitely better on a good weather day, they still work well in rainy weather). The Museum of Science can be reached at the Science Park stop on the Green Line (but be sure to catch a train bound for Lechmere otherwise, you’ll have to change at Government Center as many trains terminate there instead of going all the way to the end at Lechmere).

Both the Harvard and MIT campuses are close by on the Red Line (Harvard Sq and Kendall Sq stops respectively). Both universities have a collection of wonderful museums. Harvard Square is a vibrant community with great bookshops, a variety of restaurants, and interesting shops.

In addition to museums, there are a number of movie theaters around including the AMC Loews Theater on Boston Common, the Simons IMAX Theater at the Aquarium or the independent Kendall Square Cinema in nearby Cambridge (accessible via the Red Line).

Another fun option would be to tour the Harpoon Brewery over in the Seaport District (a 1.1 mile walk from the hotel). Be sure to check the website for weekend tour hours. While on your way, you might consider popping into the Institute for Contemporary Art. I’ve never been, but I’ve heard it’s nice.

Late Night on the Waterfront

The Intercontinental Hotel bar is a fun place to hang out but you might find yourself wanting to wander a little more broadly for some variety. If you are interested in live Irish music, I’d recommend heading over to the Quincy Market area to the Black Rose to listen over a pint (or two) of Guinness. Live music usually starts sometime between 9 and 10 PM. Check their website for details. If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, just around the corner from the Black Rose is the infamous Hong Kong, known for their scorpion bowls and night club. If you are interested in comedy, check out ImprovAsylum over in the North End. This is just a small sampling of the many options available. Have fun!

Anything else?

Trying to sum up all the great things to do in Boston is quite a challenge, but I hope that I’ve been able to provide a few ideas for your brief free time. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me directly (twitter: jcorkery or in person at the conference). See you Sunday night!

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One Response to “Welcome to Boston – Things to Do”

  1. Joe Corkery says:

    Correction: Red Sox are away Mon-Wed in New York. Sorry about that.

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