As much as I love Mount Holyoke’s beauty, there aren’t a lot of places to visit close to campus. South Hadley is extremely serene and picturesque, but when you’re antsy to get out of your dorm and seek out a new place, the Pioneer Valley might not be what you need — but stress no more! What you need to do is hop on the next Peter Pan Bus to Boston and spend a day exploring all of the places this city has to offer.
Coming from Framingham, MA, a town that’s only a thirty minute drive from Boston, has had its perks. I’ve never been a person who wants to live in a big and bustling city but as a kid I always loved spending weekends with my family in Boston, where we’d visit all different part of the city. My grandparents lived in Revere during the 1930’s and my mom lived on Beacon Hill for years before moving to the suburbs. It’s actually pretty strange how everyone else in my family, including my sisters, wants to live in Boston except for me. I guess I enjoy my sleep too much — but nevertheless, over the nineteen years I’ve been alive, I’ve walked the streets of this city more times than I can count and have grown fond of certain places. If you ever find yourself in Boston without a plan for where to go, here are ten spots to check out!
1. The Public Garden
The Public Garden is by far one of my favorite places in the world. It’s fairly small, quiet, and serene. On a typical weekend you can find tourists lounging around here taking photos of the lake, sitting on park benches, or feeding peanuts to the unbelievably tame squirrels. Although it can get crowded, the garden never seems noisy or chaotic. It’s the perfect place to take a stroll after eating out.
2. The Museum of Fine Arts
The first time I visited the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston was when I was twelve years old. I remember my mom wanted to see an exhibit there, so one weekend in the summer of 2010 she drove my sisters and me all the way there. I remember complaining about it on the way, since I assumed it was going to be boring. I must have been so annoying that day, but my mom ignored my sour attitude and assured me the MFA was an amazing museum. And it’s true when they say mothers know best.
The MFA isn’t like your stereotypical art museum. It’s not just a blank wall room with small paintings hung on them. The MFA is a giant building, with art pieces divided by culture, country, and type of art. The inside of the building is breathtaking, with its high ceilings and massive windows. It looks like a mansion, or a palace. Everytime I go to visit the museum, I find myself overwhelmed by how pristine and grand it is. And this is coming from a girl who usually hates staring at art — the MFA is the only exception. I don’t think it’s possible to get bored here — there are so many different sections of the museum to see, it takes multiple visits to look at them all! Another great aspect of the MFA is that they allow photography, so when you visit feel free to capture your trip!
3. Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market
If you’re someone who loves walking, shopping, and eating, this is the place to go! Faneuil Hall is one of the top tourist attractions in Boston, and it’s easy to see why.
Faneuil Hall is a section of shops near the Waterfront that includes Quincy Market, a building lined with food vendors on the sides. It’s the perfect place to spend time with friends for a day out. All of the shops are fun to explore, and the people are very friendly. The food counters in Quincy Market sell pizza, ice cream, pasta, and other favorite foods. You can’t go wrong by visiting!
4. The New England Aquarium
I love the ocean. I’ve spent every summer since I was a baby on Cape Cod, so it’s no surprise that I’ve grown to become fond of the beach and all the critters that live on it. Marine wildlife fascinates me to the point where my favorite animal of all time is a beluga whale. If you’re like me and have a fascination to oceans and marine wildlife, you definitely have to go visit the New England Aquarium.
My favorite part of the aquarium are the penguins. They’re the first animals you see when you enter the front doors, and they’re the cutest creatures ever. Sometimes they’re sitting on the rocks, and other times they’re swimming. But either way — seeing these penguins makes your day much brighter.
The rest of the aquarium includes an incredibly tall tank, filled with various fish, crabs, small sharks, and stingrays, that reaches from the ceiling to the first floor. A bannister wraps around the structure, allowing you to view the animals from all angles. If you have any interest in marine life, take the afternoon off from studying and relax by visiting the aquarium! I promise you won’t regret it!
5. The North End
For those of you who have watched How I Met Your Mother, do you remember the episode where Marshall recalls the time he ate the best burger in New York City, and how afterwards he thought all other burgers tasted bland?
I had this exact same experience in the North End about a year ago, at a small pizza place called Ernesto’s. I went for my sister’s birthday, at the recommendation of my cousin. I wasn’t sure what to expect when we got to the pizza place — the actual building wasn’t anything too fancy. I assumed it would just be normal, everyday pizza.
I was entirely wrong.
I felt like Marshall after I took a bite out of the pizza from Ernesto’s. I’m not even joking when I say I felt my mouth die from happiness. The flavors were magical and the pizza itself was cooked perfectly. Growing up with an Italian mom I’d eaten my fair share of pizza, but I can say without a doubt Ernesto’s pizza was hands down the best pizza I’ve ever tasted. Now I’m highly critical of all other pizza. Sorry, Mom.
If you love Italian food, pizza, or just eating high quality meals in general grab a bite to eat at a place in the North End and prepare to be in tastebud heaven!
6. 200 Clarendon Street (The Hancock Building)
It’s the first building that catches your eye when you see the skyline of Boston, or Google image Boston. It’s seen in the background of the Tipton Hotel in The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. The Hancock Building, formerly known as 200 Clarendon Street, is one of the most famous buildings in Boston. With its tall structure and blue windows, it’s easy to see why it’s a tourist attraction.
I’ve only been to the Hancock once, when I was 11 years old. My family and I had actually been planning to go to the Prudential, but at the last minute opted for the Hancock. We took the elevator all the way to the Observation deck, which has a 360 degree view of Boston’s skyline. The view was amazing, and I remember looking down at the tiny cars on the street and being impressed by the fact that we were so high off the ground. Seeing Boston from ground level is an entirely different experience than seeing it from above. It’s certainly quite the experience!
7. Harvard Square
Okay, this one is technically in Cambridge. But hey, it’s just across the Charles River! Anyway, one aspect I really love about the Boston area is all of the college life. There are 54 colleges in the Boston area, and the ones I’ve been to are all very impressive to walk around. The one I’ve been to most recently, however, is Harvard. It’s funny — I’ve visited Boston hundreds of times in my life, but have only seen Harvard’s campus twice. Harvard is known internationally and it’s weird for me to think I live near one of the most famous universities in the world yet don’t see it as a big deal. To me, Harvard is just another university.
Harvard Square is a lot of fun to walk around. It definitely has a college feel to it, and I love all of the small shops that are within it. In some ways it reminds me of Diagon Alley in Harry Potter, since both are the places where students spend free time together and can purchase their things for school. If you’ve ever wanted to see Harvard with your own eyes and get a feel for college city life, Harvard Square is a good place to start!
8. Arnold Arboretum
The Arboretum is similar to the Public Garden, but much quieter and seclusive. It’s a small park area filled with colorful flowers, trees, and other foliage where people can walk through the area and take pictures of nature. Some of the colors of the plants are so bright and vibrant that I wonder if they’re real. It’s a place that’s always calmed my senses. I’ve only been three times before, but each time was fun and relaxing. If you love observing nature and being amazed by it, take a walk around the arboretum!
9. Duck Boat Tours
I’ve been on a lot of tours in my life, but the Duck Boat Tours take the cake for strangest and most memorable. If you want to get a taste of the city but don’t feel like walking around it, these tours are perfect for you. Despite being from the Boston area, my dad decided one day when I was ten that we should go on a Duck Boat tour. I hadn’t known what to expect from them, but the second I got on the car/boat I knew I was in for an experience. My favorite part of the tour was that you saw Boston from land and sea. Part of the tour takes place on the streets, and about halfway through the car’s wheels tuck under it and suddenly you’re cruising down the Charles River. The tour is extremely fun, and you learn a lot about the history of Boston!
10. Isabella Stewart Gardner
In a way, I’ve saved the best for last. If I had to revisit a museum ten times in one day, the Isabella Stewart Gardner is on the top of the list. Not only is it a great price for tickets, the museum used to be the house of Isabella. I mention this because the museum is enormous, with high ceilings, beautiful windows, and a cute, picturesque garden in the middle of the house. The museum is always a great place to go when you’re relaxed. It’s also located on the Fenway, next to Simmons College and Emmanuel College. If you’re in the mood to visit a museum but not one filled with paintings, give this place a try!
No matter where you decide to go in Boston, I can promise you’ll get a taste of the beauty of the city and all of its historical locations!
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