Boston is a truly historic city, founded by the New England pilgrims, integral to the events of the American Revolution and the fight against slavery, and home to many of the nation's great thinkers and writers over the centuries:
The main reason to holiday in Boston is the city's vast historic importance, being one of the oldest cities in the country and, for many generations, home of the scholarly elite. Boston is dubbed the 'Athens of America' because of its great, cultural, political, and economic influence, as well as being renowned for its superior higher education institutions.
A holiday in Boston will appeal to history lovers and cultural tourists who will revel in the plethora of museums, art galleries, libraries, and diverse, interesting neighbourhoods. Visitors can walk the Black Heritage Trail and the Freedom Trail to get to grips with the historic wealth of Boston, and need only wander the hallowed grounds of Harvard University to feel the city's academic energy.
Boston may be one of America's oldest cities, but it has a remarkably young population. Something like 75 percent of the population is under 45, ensuring that the city's lofty academic atmosphere is balanced by a vibrant restaurant scene, plenty of good shopping, lots of events and outdoor activities, and a varied nightlife.
Best time to visit Boston
Although some visitors relish the hot, humid summers, or even the cold, snowy winters, the best time to travel to Boston is in late spring or early autumn (May, September, and October), when the weather is warm and pleasant. Autumn is particularly lovely as New England's trees wear their colourful fall foliage.
GMT -5 (GMT -4 from March to November).
Electrical current is 120 volts, 60Hz. Plugs are mainly the type with two flat pins, though three-pin plugs (two flat parallel pins and a rounded pin) are also widely used. European appliances without dual-voltage capabilities will require an adapter.
English is the most common language spoken but Spanish is often heard in the south-western states.
There are no specific health risks associated with travel within the USA. Medical facilities are excellent, but expensive. Only emergencies are treated without prior payment and treatment can be refused without evidence of insurance or proof of funds. Good medical insurance is essential.
A 15 percent tip is expected by taxi drivers, bartenders, hairdressers and waiters, but don't tip in fast-food or self-service restaurants. In expensive restaurants or for large parties, tip 20 percent of the bill. It is normal to tip staff such as valets and porters in hotels; this is discretionary, although a minimum of $5 is expected. Most services are customarily tipped if the service is good.
Travel within the United States is generally trouble-free, however, travellers should be aware that the US shares with the rest of the world, an increased threat from terrorist incidents. Security has been heightened, particularly at airports. Restrictions on hand luggage apply and travellers are advised to check on the latest situation with airlines in advance. Travellers should also be alert to the dangers of car and street crime in cities and should use common sense and take basic precautions. Hurricanes are common between June and November, putting the southern USA, including the Gulf Coast and the eastern US at risk. There is a risk of wildfires in many dry areas in the US, particularly on the West Coast from March to November.
Laws vary from state to state, including speed limit, fines and punishment. The age at which you may legally buy and consume alcohol is 21 years.
An historical treasure trove, Boston is full of fascinating sites crucial to America's history. Following a line of mostly red bricks and linking 17 of Boston's top attractions, from Paul Revere's house and the statue of Benjamin Franklin to the Bunker Hill Monument and Boston Common, the Freedom Trail is a must for history buffs and anyone sightseeing in Boston.
Head to the New England Aquarium, featuring more than 70 exhibits with aquatic animals from around the world; marvel at the Bengal and white tigers at the Franklin Zoo; visit the Museum of Fine Arts; and get away from the buzz of the city by wandering through the first botanical garden in the United States, the Boston Public Garden.
After a long day of exploring the city, what could be better than appreciating Boston from a distance aboard a sunset cruise on one of the many boats that leave the harbour. Enjoy sipping on a glass of wine, a magnificently prepared seafood dinner and breathtaking views while the sun dips below the horizon.
Visitors keen on viewing a number of the city's greatest sights would be wise to get a Go Boston Card which grants travellers admission to more than 70 of the best activities, tours, and attractions in Boston.
Due to its shared cultural roots with greater New England, fresh local seafood dominates Boston's regional cuisine, along with a large emphasis on rum, salt, and dairy products. Tourists eating out in Boston will want to try a cannoli before leaving, with some of the best found at Mike's Pastry and Modern Pastry. Ideal for a takeaway lunch by the harbour or a quick bite to eat, Faneuil Hall still comes out tops with a fantastic cross-section of the city's cosmopolitan cuisine and manages to simultaneously be a wonderful tourist attraction.
The North End is a firm favourite with locals and features wonderfully intimate cafés, bakeries, and eateries with enough gastronomic treats to get just about everybody's mouth watering. Hanover Street also offers many good restaurant choices. The South End boasts some of the most elegant restaurants in Boston's dining scene, with bookings a priority.
Most restaurants in Boston close by 10pm or 11pm; however, those looking for late-night dining can head to Chinatown, where some eateries stay open as late as 2am.
Surprisingly, considering the huge student population, Bostonians don't take their nightlife too seriously. Most clubs close by 2am and Massachusetts state law forbids smoking in all bars, nightclubs, and restaurants.
That said, Boston's entertainment and nightlife scene is still thriving with live bands, comedy acts, and shows taking centre stage in the Theater District. Contrary to popular belief, not everybody knows your name in Boston's bar scene, but a beer at the Cheers bar on 84 Beacon Street is a must for fans of the 80s TV show.
Don't be disappointed though if you don't find your friends here, they're probably hitting some of Boston's hipper nightspots. Boston's nightlife has a sophisticated edge, with a good dose of culture in the entertainment.
Popular spots to drink and mingle include venues like the Museum of Fine Arts, which often features live music, and a cash bar on summer evenings. Crowds of classy 20- to 30-somethings mingle and socialise in the galleries and museums while sipping on cocktails and wine.
Many Bostonians prefer to start off an evening with drinks in hotel lounges and bars, as patrons are able to chat more easily than in many clubs and bars. Once warmed up, the clubs are the place to be and Bostonians can party hard.
Pool and bowling are popular pastimes in Boston and visitors are spoilt for choice with the amount of bowling alleys and pool halls to choose from. Couple these activities with a few beers and you've got yourself a recipe for a more relaxed evening out.
Those looking for theatre or classical music will love the city. Both the renowned Boston Pops Orchestra and the Boston Symphony Orchestra have regular performances at Symphony Hall. The New England Conservatory is also nearby, offering top-notch student performances for no admission charge.
Boston has a continental climate with very changeable weather patterns such as wide temperature swings in a matter of days, and unseasonal snowfalls. Summers (June to August) are usually sunny, hot and humid, with temperatures in July hitting averages of 82°F (28°C).
Winters, by contrast, are bitterly cold, windy, wet and snowy, with temperatures in January averaging between 22°F (-6°C) and 35°F (2°C). Boston averages 42 inches (108cm) of snowfall annually, much of it deposited in northeasterly storms.
The best time to travel to Boston is in late spring or early autumn, when the weather is warm and pleasant. Autumn is particularly lovely when New England's trees wear their colourful fall foliage.
The US is an extremely diverse society and attitudes towards lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people differ hugely across the country. Massachusetts is regarded as one of the most advanced U.S. states in regards to LGBT rights legislation. Same-sex sexual activity has been legal since 1974. State law bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, public accommodations, credit and union practices.
Details of vaccination recommendations and requirements are provided below.
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