Boston is a huge city with several district articles containing sightseeing, restaurant, nightlife and accommodation listings — consider printing them all.
Boston is the largest city in New England, the capital of the state of Massachusetts, and one of the most historic, wealthy and influential cities in the United States of America. Its plethora of museums, historical sights, and wealth of live performances, all explain why the city gets 16.3 million visitors a year, making it one of the ten most popular tourist locations in the country.
Although not technically in Boston, the neighboring cities of Cambridge and Brookline are functionally integrated with Boston by mass transit and effectively a part of the city. Cambridge, just across the Charles River, is home to Harvard, MIT, local galleries, restaurants, and bars and is an essential addition to any visit to Boston. Brookline is nearly surrounded surrounded by Boston and has its own array of restaurants and shopping.
The skyline of Boston's Financial District Allston and Brighton (Allston-Brighton)
Located west of Boston proper, these districts (especially Brighton) are primarily residential, and are home to many students and young professionals. Brighton is abutted Boston College, which is the terminus of the Green Line's B Branch. The border between the two is a fuzzy subject of debate, so they are often considered as one neighborhood by outsiders.
Back Bay This upscale area of Boston has fine shops, fine dining, as well as sites such as the Prudential Center, Copley Square, and Hynes Convention Center.
Beacon Hill Once the neighborhood of the Boston Brahmins. Beacon Hill has real gas-lit street lanterns on many of the streets, as well as many original bricks dating back to age of the city itself. Because the Massachusetts State House is located here, "Beacon Hill" is often used as a metonym to refer to the state government or the legislature.
Charlestown Across the Charles River to the north, this is the site of the Bunker Hill Monument.
Chinatown Great Asian food, great herbalists and next to downtown and the theater district. 4th largest Chinatown in the United States.
Dorchester ("Dot") A large working class neighborhood often considered Boston's most diverse. It includes the JFK Library, UMass Boston, and many wonderful eateries.
Downtown This is the hub of tourist activity with Faneuil Hall, the Freedom Trail, Boston Public Garden, and Boston Common. It is also the center of city and state governments, businesses, and shopping.
East Boston (Eastie) On a peninsula across Boston Harbor from the main bulk of the city and the location of Logan Airport. Several underwater tunnels connect East Boston to the rest of the city. Large Latin American population.
Fenway-Kenmore (The Fens, Kenmore Square) Fenway Park is the home of the 2004 and 2007 world champion Boston Red Sox.
Financial District Boston's business and financial center, this area has plenty of restaurants, bars, and tourist attractions such as the New England Aquarium.
Hyde Park (HP) The southernmost neighborhood in Boston, with suburban characteristics.
Mattapan A residential neighborhood that is home to the city's large Caribbean population.
Mission Hill A residential neighborhood, with a very high student population.
North End The city's Italian neighborhood with excellent restaurants. It is also the location of the Old North Church.
Roslindale (Rozzie) Residential neighborhood, also a large Greek population.
Roxbury (Rox,The Bury) The historical center of Boston's African American community.
South Boston (Southie) This is a proud residential neighborhood with a waterfront district and the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center on its north side. Home to one of the largest Irish and Irish American populations in the country.
South End Just south of Back Bay, has Victorian brownstones and a bohemian atmosphere. Large Gay population. West Roxbury (Westie, West Rox) With mostly single family homes, West Roxbury has a suburban feel in an urban setting.
Boston is a city of diverse neighborhoods, many of which were originally towns in their own right before being annexed to the city. This contributes to a strong pride within the neighborhoods of Boston, and many people will often tell you they are from "JP" (Jamaica Plain), "Dot" (Dorchester), "Southie" (South Boston), or "Eastie" (East Boston), rather than that they are from Boston. Alternatively, people from the suburbs will tell you they are from Boston when in fact they live in one of the nearby (or even outlying) suburbs. If in doubt, you can look for "Resident Parking Only" street signs, which will identify what neighborhood you are in.
Another consequence of this expansion is that the neighborhoods, in addition to their cultural identities, also retained most of their street names, regardless of whether or not Boston -or another absorbed town- already had a street with the same name. According to a survey by The Boston Globe, there are at least 200 street names that are duplicated in one or more neighborhoods in Boston. For instance, Washington Street in Downtown Boston, is different from Washington Street in Dorchester and another Washington Street in Jamaica Plain. This can play havoc with web-based mapping and direction services.
Be aware that geographic references in district names tend to mean little. For example, South Boston is different from the South End, which is actually west of South Boston and north of Dorchester and Roxbury districts. Some other confusing notables: East Boston and Charlestown are further north than the North End. The West End is in the northern part of town (bordering the North End and Charles River).
Among Boston's many neighborhoods, the historic areas of Back Bay, Beacon Hill, Chinatown, Downtown, Fenway-Kenmore, the Financial District, Government Center, the North End, and the South End comprise the area considered "Boston Proper." It is here where most of the buildings that make up the city's skyline are located.
The Back Bay is one of the few neighborhoods with streets organized on a grid. It is so named because it used to be mud flats on the river, until the city filled in the bay in a land-making project ending in 1862. It is now one of the higher-rent neighborhoods in the city. The north-south streets crossing the axis of Back Bay are organized alphabetically. Starting from the east, at the Public Garden, and heading west, they are: Arlington, Berkeley, Clarendon, Dartmouth, Exeter, Fairfield, Gloucester (pronounced 'gloster'), and Hereford. After Hereford Street is Massachusetts Avenue, more commonly known as Mass. Av., and then Charlesgate, which marks the western boundary of Back Bay. The alphabetical street names continue a little way into the Fenway neighborhood on the other side of Charlesgate, with Ipswich, Jersey, and Kilmarnock, but the streets are no longer arranged in a grid.
There are also several "districts" you might hear mentioned. "Districts" are generally areas of common interest located within a larger neighborhood:
New England is unpredictable and becomes very cold in the winter and is prone to mild bouts of humidity in the summer. The vast majority of tourism in Boston takes place in the summer, from late May through late September, when the weather is ideal and the most attractions are open. Boston summers are quite comfortable, with sunshine 60-65% of the time and and highs in the mid 70s to low 80s F (mid to upper 20s C).
When the heat does start, there are some beaches within the city, and many beaches outside of it, for swimming. The Standells classic "Dirty Water" doesn't apply any more as the water is safe to swim in thanks to the Boston Harbor Cleanup project. Beware that no matter how hot it is outside, the ocean water will not be warm.
Early and late summer tends to be nice, but this varies by year. In that time, the temperature will be perfect, and there will be no humidity. The city does have unpredictable stretches of heat between late June and early August when low 90s and high humidity are expected. All public transit options, including cabs, buses, and the subway system (called the "T") are air-conditioned.
Boston's fall foliage is at or near its peak beauty in mid-October, which also normally offers the advantage of many crisp sunny day (outside the city itself, peak foliage timing depends on how far north or south you venture from Boston.)
If you visit during the less busy wintertime, the Atlantic Ocean has a large moderating effect on temperatures. The average low in January is 22F/-5C, so as long as you dress appropriately, you should be fine.
Massachusetts' first governor, John Winthrop, famously called Boston a "shining city on the hill," a reference to Jerusalem and a declaration of the original settlers' intent to build a utopian Christian colony. From the very beginning, the people who lived there declared their home to be one of the most important cities in the world. Considering that the American Revolution and modern democracy got their start thanks to Bostonians, and that Winthrop’s quote is still used in modern political speech, one could argue that they were right!
The father of American jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes) once called the Boston statehouse "the hub of the solar system," but common usage has expanded to the now-current Hub of the Universe. This half-serious term is all you need to know to understand Boston's complicated self-image. Vastly important in American history, and for centuries the seat of the USA's social elite, Boston lost prominence in the early twentieth century, largely to the cities of New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Over the past two decades, Boston has regained political, cultural, and economic importance.
In 1629, English Reverend William Blackstone was the first English immigrant to arrive in the city. A year later, John Winthrop and the Massachusetts Bay Colony had followed. The Massachusetts Bay Colony were Puritan religious dissidents who had fled England to find freedom in the New World. At the time the city was called Shawmut, a name coined by Native American settlers, however now a new settlement, Winthrop had decided to rename the city Boston after his hometown in England. Because of its easily-defended harbor and the fact that it is the closest port to Europe it rapidly assumed a leading role in the fledging New England region, with a booming economy based on trade with the Caribbean and Europe. The devastating Fire of 1760 destroyed much of the town, but within a few years the city had bounced back.
Boston was also a city of great intellectual potential. Many statesmen had emerged in Boston along with presegious Schools such as Harvard and the first public school in America, Boston Latin. With the founding of these schools as well as the first printing press in New England, Boston was becoming more of a colonial society.
Bostonians were the instigators of the independence movement in the 18th century and the city was the center of America's revolutionary activity during the Colonial period. Several of the first Revolutionary War skirmishes were fought there, including the Boston Massacre, The Boston Tea Party, and the battles of Lexington and Concord -which were fought nearby. Boston's direct involvement in the Revolution ended after the Battle of Bunker Hill and, soon afterwards, the ending of the Siege of Boston by George Washington. For some time afterwards the city's political leaders continued to have a leading role in developing of the new country's system of government. The residents' ardent support of independence earned the city the nickname The Cradle of Liberty.
Throughout the 19th century, Boston continued to grow rapidly, assimilating outlying towns into the metropolitan core. Its importance in American culture was inestimable, and its economic and literary elite, the so-called Boston Brahmins assumed the mantle of aristocracy in the United States. Their patronage of the arts and progressive social ideals was unprecedented in the New World, and often conflicted with the city's Puritan foundations. They helped drive unprecedented scientific, educational and social change that would soon sweep the country. The Abolitionist movement, anesthesia and the telephone are a few examples of this.
At the same time, the city's working class swelled with immigrants from Europe. The huge Irish influx made Boston one of the most important Irish cities in the world, in or out of Ireland. Gradually the Irish laborer population climbed into city's upper class, evidenced no better than by the continued importance of the Kennedy family in national politics.
From the early twentieth century until the 1970s, Boston's importance on the national stage waned. Cities in what was once the frontier, like Chicago, San Francisco, and later Los Angeles, shifted the nation's center of gravity away from liberty's cradle. In the past two decades, Boston's importance and influence has increased, due to growth in higher education, health care, high technology, and financial services. It remains America's higher educational center; during the school year, one in five Bostonians is a university student. There are more college students per square foot in Boston than any other city in the Western Hemisphere.
Boston's nicknames include "Beantown", "The Hub" (shortened from Oliver Wendell Holmes' phrase 'The Hub of the Universe'), "The City of Higher Learning" (due to the plethora of universities and colleges in the Boston area) and - particularly in the 19th century - "The Athens of America," on account of its great cultural and intellectual influence. If you don't want to stand out as a tourist, don't refer to Boston by any of these nicknames. Locals generally don't use any of them, excepting the heavy use of "Hub" in journalism (Boston takes up more headline space).