When I asked my 12-year-old daughter, Haley, if she’d like to go with me on a trip from our Utah home to Boston, Massachusetts, she asked, “Is that where the Liberty Bell is?” Hiding my pain that (1) her chances of becoming a Jeopardy champion were slim and (2) she obviously isn’t as big a fan of National Treasure as I am, I encouraged her to look online for the answer to her question and, while she was at it, become a little better informed about Boston.
She returned from this assignment with honor, and we began hammering out an itinerary. In an uncharacteristic stroke of genius, I contacted the Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau (www.bostonusa.com) to get some assistance for the rookie travelers. Our trip was much better because of it.
On Google Map, Haley noticed Salem was really close to Boston and wanted to visit some sights there, so we added that destination to our plans. Working with the Salem Convention and Visitors Bureau (www.salem.org) was equally productive.
We decided to visit Salem first and stayed overnight at a delightful Bed & Breakfast called the Coach House Inn (www.coachhousesalem.com)-a Victorian mansion built by a sea captain in 1879. After a good night’s rest, Haley was elated with the breakfast basket left at our door and intrigued with the distinctive New England accent of the proprietor of the place, with whom we chatted prior to our departure. We spent the day visiting the Salem Witch Museum (a sobering but important educational experience), Maritime National Historic Site (sounds potentially boring, but Haley loved it) and the House of Seven Gables (made famous by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s book).
At the outskirts of Salem, we boarded the Salem Ferry (www.salemferry.com)-a high-speed catamaran which connects the cities of Salem and Boston. The fast and comfortable ride transported us from one harbor to the other in 55 minutes.
Our first stop in the city was Boston Common-America’s first public park established in 1634, where we began a Walk Into History tour (www.thefreedomtrail.org). The tour follows a portion of the Freedom Trail and includes a number of historical sites that tell the story of the American Revolution and beyond. Our 90-minute tour included the Granary Burying Ground (where Paul Revere, Sam Adams, John Hancock, and others are buried), the Old South Meeting House (where an energetic meeting about taxes led to the Boston Tea Party), the corner of State and Congress Streets (the site of the Boston Massacre), and Faneuil Hall (a historic meeting place sometimes referred to as “the cradle of liberty”). Though the guided tour ends at Faneuil Hall, tourists can continue walking along the Freedom Trail to see Paul Revere’s House, the Old North Church, and Bunker Hill.
Next on the itinerary was Boston Public Garden-America’s first public botanical garden (est. 1837). This beautiful park, in the midst of the bustling city, was refreshing and relaxing. As part of the experience, we took a ride on one of the Swan Boats (www.swanboats.com). For 130 years, these boats have been making young women feel like princesses, and Haley enjoyed her turn.
While looking for an authentic place to eat, we were referred to Union Oyster House and Warren Tavern. These two eateries have been fighting for years about which is the oldest restaurant in Boston. We got tired of them arguing and went to Quincy Market where we enjoyed clam chowder and bread at the Boston Chowda Company. Haley quickly grew tired of me randomly saying “chowda” throughout the rest of the trip in my best (but pathetic) Boston accent.
We then walked to the Prudential Center-one of Boston’s tallest buildings-and proceeded to the Skywalk Observatory (www.topofthehub.net), where we took a 360-degree, self-guided audio tour of many of the city’s cultural and historical sights. At one point during the tour, we were disappointed when we looked down and saw Union Oyster House and Warren Tavern fighting again.
One of the highlights of our time in Boston was a one-hour harbor tour with Boston Gliders (www.bostongliders.com), riding Segway Personal Transporters (two-wheeled, self balancing electric vehicles). We were briefly trained prior to departure and led by an Adventure Captain, who gave us an audio tour with wireless earpieces. The Segways were easy to operate and so much fun that I momentarily considered quitting my job to become a mall cop.
Another fun activity was the Duck Tour (www.bostonducktours.com) which enabled us to see the city in an authentic, renovated World War II amphibious vehicle. Our “ConDUCKtor,” as he called himself, was informative and hilarious. Haley particularly liked the “splashdown” in the Charles River, when the vehicle literally became a boat and paddled down the river, giving us an amazing view of the Boston skyline. The ConDUCKtor let Haley steer the “boat” for a few minutes.
One note: After walking for much the trip, Haley and I decided to give the Boston subway a try and were impressed with the cleanliness of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) and the ease with which the system’s five “lines” enabled us to move quickly from one location to another.
After an amazing time in one of America’s oldest cities, we returned our rental car and boarded the plane. Haley had a window seat, and as the craft took off, she was able to look back one more time at Boston.
In the coming years, I’m sure we’ll both look back many times.