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Boston, MA

We're headed to Boston in June of 2017 for Boston Sail (a big ships festival) and would appreciate recommendations for smaller budget-friendly hotels (under $250 a night) as close to the harbor as possible. Also, what are area attractions that might not be well known but are interesting and might be considered must-see's? Activities that are on our list so far: The Freedom Trail, Bunker Hill, USS Constitution, Lighthouse Tour. We're not really interested in Fenway or Cheers. Thanks in advance!

Posted by
333 posts

When I was there we did a walking "ghost tour". So much fun! Not at all scary, but lots of history and you do walk though an old cemetery. You might also look into a day trip to Plimoth Plantation or Salem for some witchy things. As for Boston, look into a whale watching cruise, the Longfellow house is also very cool- and Washington planned some of his Rev war strategy from there!

Posted by
13085 posts

I was going to suggest Chandler Studios which we really liked, but it is not that close to the Harbor, and is above your budge for thos dates. I expect most prices will be jacked up for an event like that.

A quick check on Tripadvisor brings up the Seaport Boston hotel at $264---but it is not a small hotel. You might try searching under Inns and B and B's instead of hotels.

We really enjoyed the FreedomTrail--we walked all the way to the ships at the end, and rode a ferry back. Also enjoyed walking through Boston Common and down Newbury Street---where we saw Ringo Starr, who was in town for a concert. Also the Gardner Museum and the little gardens near Fenway Park.

Posted by
276 posts

There maybe a house and garden tour in the Beacon Hill area. I've gone early June. I really like the Christmas tours. The houses are pretty. If you have kids the Museum of Science is great, for adults too. The New England Aquarium is a good place for kids too. You can take the Boston Harbor cruise, also the ferry to Provincetown. P-town is a unique seaside town. Not a lot to see but nice to walk around. A whale watch would be good in June. The whales are back, feeding, by May. Most whale watching tours are 4-5 hours long. You'll see Fins and Humpbacks. Plimouth Plantation is another idea but I haven't been in awhile. Have fun.

Posted by
21071 posts

I didn't manage to get to the aquarium on my two recent trips to Boston, but it sounds like a good possibility.

The Museum of Fine Arts is impressive. And large. Very large. The sort of place you might want to visit over the course of two days. The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum has a more personal collection and is a more manageable size. I enjoyed both very much.

Posted by
2914 posts

Hi Julie, How many days will you be in Boston and what do you like best? History, art, food or all of the above? Boston has so much to offer, it is hard to just pick a few without knowing what you like. As far as hotels in your price range, I would keep watching hotels.com and booking.com as well as the web sites because $250.00 is pretty low for Boston. I have never heard of a Lighthouse Tour. Add more details and I'll come up with some additional recommendations. Wray

Posted by
5483 posts

Salem, Mass is a great town to visit. There is a train that goes there from Boston. You can do a day trip and walk around the town without renting a car or taking a tour.

Remember, Lobster is pronounced Lobsta in Mass.

Posted by
2133 posts

Not sure if you have any interest in an apartment instead but we stayed here for 4 nights: https://www.vrbo.com/339232. It's $185 per night. It's about 400 square feet - a totally charming little apartment in a great location. 23 Temple St. if you want to look it up on Google Maps. It's 4 flights up, no elevator.

Posted by
3111 posts

We lived near Boston for two years and traveled back there last summer for a conference. Everyone's sightseeing suggestions are terrific, been there, done that. All are fantastic.

I like Valerie's idea of the Temple St. apartment. If it is available for the dates you'll be in Boston I'd book it now. Boston city center hotels are already very expensive and with your harbor event in June they will be even more so. Last summer we stayed at a small B&B on Newbery St., the Newbery Guest House. At the time it was the least expensive downtown hotel we could find for about $250 per night. To add insult to injury, the day we were supposed to fly home our flight was cancelled after about 3 hours of waiting at the airport--air traffic controller issue so our carrier would not pay for our unexpected hotel. There were 2 airport hotels and we ended up staying at the least expensive one which was still over $300 per night. Other than that issue, we loved every minute we spent re exploring Boston. June should be a pleasant month to be out walking and sailing. Enjoy!

EDIT: I also made it a quest to have "lobsta" in some form or another every day and it was delicious.

Posted by
1804 posts

For attractions, in addition to some of the big tourist draws already listed (Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Museum of Fine Arts, Science Museum, New England Aquarium), I would recommend the ICA, South End Open Market (Sunday only), Harvard Museum of Natural History - particularly the glass flowers exhibit, Forest Hills Cemetery, Old Burying Grounds, Kelleher Rose Gardens.

Your budget of less than $250/night is very low for something around the Harbor during peak season and a big event. I'd recommend looking at what might be available in your price range on Airbnb. It's easy enough to get around by the T, taxis or Uber, so don't focus only on what lodging is right near the Harbor or you could end up needing to increase your budget.

Posted by
5262 posts

The Kennedy Library in South Boston has well designed exhibits about him and his administration, if you're interested. It's in a beautiful waterfront location.

Posted by
3458 posts

Another vote for a day trip to Salem . Forget the witch stuff , it's for the " tourists " . If you are interested in the hysteria of 1692 , see the Arthur Miller play " The Crucible " https://youtu.be/QAU4uunTLcE . Salem's architecture is magnificent , vernacular New England style largely of the federalist period . The highlight in Salem is the wonderful Peabody - Essex museum http://www.pem.org/ the trip from Boston is easy !

Posted by
278 posts

So many great ideas, thank you! I checked the home rental dates and the apartment is not available for our time frame, although it got me thinking of other options, such as B & B's and home rentals. We're loosely planning 3 or 4 days in Boston, and from there heading to RI (to meet the daughter's boyfriend's parents), then probably to NYC to visit the daughter. I really appreciate all the suggestions!!

Posted by
3458 posts

I hope you will be able to spend some time in Newport when you are in Rhode Island , it should not be missed !

Posted by
4125 posts

Just outside of Boston are some compelling and scenic historical attractions, including (in Concord) a national park that showcases the birth of the American revolution, Walden Pond, and the Alcott House. All steeped in old-time Yankee ambiance.

Posted by
2914 posts

You should have more than enough to do in a 3 - 4 day visit. I still haven't seen everything and I've been living here over 40 years! There is alternative housing if you are a member of a Unitarian Universalist Church. The Club Quarters Hotel, which is a private hotel, is the UU's replacement for their former B&B. They will give you a discount as a UU, which would bring you in under $250.00...quite a bit, if that applies to you (I think $167.00, but I could be wrong, it might be higher).

The Freedom Trail will take your day if you visit the sights along the way. The Constitution is at the end of the trail. You could then taxi up to Bunker Hill Monument if you have time...they might even have a shuttle from the museum, not sure. Another day you might want to thoroughly walk Beacon Hill, Back Bay, and the Charles River or/and walk down to the Museum of Fine Arts and the Isabella Stuart Gardener Museum. If you are not tired, when down at the MFA, walk a little further to The Squealing Pig (google for directions, as it is just a little further down and slightly off Huntington Ave), my favorite low key pub (Irishish) in Boston...not a tourist pub. Another well liked definitely Irish Pub is The Burren in Cambridge (You could include The Burren with Harvard Square). There are historical homes in Boston Proper that are interesting, 3 fairly close but in different eras...Nichols House, Gibson House, and Harrison Otis House. You must have at least one meal in the North End (Italian Food) and walk the area, and then along the waterfront from Columbus Park, past Rowes Wharf and into the new South Boston by the new courthouse if you want to get away from history and just enjoy the harbor or ships, etc. There are some bars/restaurants down that end. However, let's skip back to the Rowes Wharf Hotel. In the summer they have entertainment on the water side of the hotel; i.e., there's a night every week allotted to old movies, another to blues, another to jazz, etc. You can just sit on the steps and listen, or get early and have a table for dinner. As you are interested in the sailing ships, you might really enjoy our National Park of Harbor Islands. You can take a ferry to George's Island and see the fort, then take water taxi's to other islands, or just get back on another ferry and take the rest of the round trip around the harbor and then back to the Boston. Also, you might enjoy going to the Green Dragon pub, which has been in operation since 1654 and where Revere, Warren, Sam Adams, etc. plotted against the British. I don't think you will run out of things in Boston, but if you do, I would recommend taking the subway to Quincy Center to the Adams National Park where you can take shuttles to the three Adams Houses, their crypt (Abigail and John, Louisa Catherine and John Quincy Adams. This would take 1/2 a day, and then if you are a Kennedy fan you can go to both JFK's Presidential Library and Ted Kennedy's Library next door...and as a previous poster said, it's another lovely harbor view. I'm not a Salem, Mass fan...it's dirty and small, IMO...even though my ancestors helped settle it and one was burned as a witch... The Peabody Essex Museum can have some great exhibits, but that time of year you might want to skip many museums. If so, I'd skip the art museums and save them for a winter visit. OK, I'll stop now as I could go on and on. IM me if you have any questions. Have a great time! Wray

Posted by
380 posts

Hi, Julie

Even though you are there for the Boston Sail staying by the harbor may not be as convenient. How many days/hours are you going to spend on the Boston Sail event?

I stayed in the seaport area for an event in 2014, but found it was difficult to get to the other parts of town from there. And restaurants were limited. The Silver Line was more expensive and not as convenient.
If I had to do it again, I would pick a hotel near the Red or Green Lines instead. Maybe North End, Back Bay, or even Cambridge or Somerville. $300+/night is about average for Boston.
For less expensive, you have to go out of Boston a bit and commute back in. Try Chelsea, Brighton, Newton, Brookline.
Have you looked into AirBnB?
Good luck searching.
chun

Posted by
21071 posts

Chun makes an excellent point. I stayed at the Marriott Long Wharf near the aquarium while attending an event in Boston, and it did mean quite a bit of walking to get to a really useful T station.

Posted by
278 posts

Thanks everyone, for the very helpful information. And especially to Wray, Mona, and Chun (you guys know your stuff!). We're willing and able to go higher on lodging for a place we like, but are always trying to save where we can (last rugrat tuition check just written). I think we'll look outside the main harbor area on one of the more accessible T lines. Also, I appreciate any and all restaurant suggestions. We're fairly spoiled, living in the farm-to-fork capitol. It doesn't have to be fancy, but it HAS to be good! In fact, if it requires a coat and tie, then I'm afraid it won't happen (per the HB requirements). In any case, this travel forum is my go-to for any and all travel!

Posted by
21071 posts

Boston has many very interesting restaurants. It's a very good food city. When I prepped for my trip a couple of years ago I found that a surprising number of restaurants had a lot of organ meats on the issue. I am not that adventurous; if you are, you will be in heaven. Cautious eaters will want to check out online menus before making a reservation.

Posted by
2914 posts

MrsEB, I never asked what proof is needed as I never personally stayed there for obvious reasons. if you're a member, you receive correspondence from the UU, but I don't remember every receiving an ID card. I'm sure the Club can verify what's needed, likely as easy as a note from the church secretary. Maybe it's just a well kept secret so they trust...that I have blown.

Posted by
1767 posts

More than any one single attraction or thing to do, the best thing to do in the city of Boston is to explore 3 nice neighborhoods that each offer something unique and are extremely safe for walking.
Back Bay (the Public Garden is an absolute must see) ; which has the Charles River, shopping, people watching and just generally walking on the lovely streets of Newbury and Boylston street along with the "alphabet side streets" making this one area in Boston you cannot get lost. Trinity Church is really nice, usually something going on outside there in the summer and just seeing the old church next to the modern John Hancock Tower is a cool visual.
Beacon Hill: an easy walk from downtown where the State House is and many fine residences, a walk through this historic area is a must and can be done in a short amount of time.
North End (basically little Italy) and very close to the harbor where you plan on staying you want to make sure you have at least one dinner here and explore on an evening stroll. One of the few places where cash is still king and many restaurants do not accept credit cards.
The entire Seaport area has been recently built up and is very nice, it now extends over into South Boston where the best evening city views are in an area called Fan Pier.

I would rather you concentrate on making sure you have these in your plans before heading over to Charlestown to see anything (Bunker Hill, USS Constitution, etc...). Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market should also be on your list.
Not sure what the Lighthouse Tour is??? Is that some type of Harbor Island Cruise? if so those are very nice and from the harbor where you are staying convenient, they also offer very nice sunset cruises from that area.
FYI: The better New England Lighthouses are quite far from Boston (Cape Cod, Maine, etc...)

The Clock Tower observatory deck at the Marriott Custom House is now open and offers a nice observation view over the city at night if you like that sort of thing. Prudential's Top of Hub does as well but the Custom House is not as well known since it is new and would be much closer to where you are staying.

Posted by
1767 posts

Boston is definitely a foodie city. It is as most cities also very trendy where the hot restaurant changes frequently with new ones popping up all of the time.
It is very rare that one would have a dress requirement, I can only think of one or two that might have a formal one at least.

If you don't require to stay at the Harbor / Waterfront ; the Back Bay is the best place to stay. Not sure rates there would not be even higher but you might find a deal since there are many more hotel choices in that larger area, just check any place on a map to make sure it is close to a T-Stop.
Not sure I would recommend for your first stay being as far out as Somerville, Brookline, etc... or elsewhere. If you don't find anything suitable in downtown Cambridge or South Boston by their waterfront would be 2 other places to look ; just make sure you are near a T Station Stop.

Posted by
2914 posts

Julie, If the history is good on the way out to Little Brewster Island, this sounds like a nice tour. There's lots of history about the harbor islands and you'll have a lovely view back to the city. Little Brewster Island lighthouse is picturesque. Lovely spot for a picnic...but it will likely be cooler than on the mainland so prepare accordingly. The other three lighthouses are more functional than anything, but that won't matter, as it is an interesting ride out to the island.

Posted by
1767 posts

The Boston Harbor Islands are extremely underrated as an easy/relaxing thing for visitors to do.
Think of it as a harbor tour/cruise rather than a Lighthouse Tour and you will be very pleased, I think you will enjoy the boat ride more than anything else.
One of the cheapest ways to get on the water which in the summer usually is a great relief and see Boston from the harbor, which is really a beautiful sight especially at sunset.