Advice to a Visitor


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Advice to a Visitor

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ag. 15, 2007, 9:30 pm

Hello, Bostonians!

I am thinking about a vacation to Boston some time between mid-September and mid-October, probably about four or five days. I've never been to Boston before, but friends tell me it's a great city.

You might have guessed that as an LTer I love books, bookstores, libraries, etc. I also love museums (even worked in a couple over the years). So I'm hoping the LT crowd in Boston can offer some advice on what to see (or not see--you know, the over-rated touristy stuff).

Please keep in mind that I don't drive, so walkable and transit-friendly locations are preferred. But if enough Bostonians tell me that something is really worth a cab fare, I'll consider it.

All advice is appreciated.


ag. 18, 2007, 9:26 am

It's worth it to stop by the Boston Public Library -- not the 'new wing', but the entrance that is right on Copley Square proper, since that's where the Sargeant murals are and a graceful and ornate interior. There's also usually some sort of cool exhibit up in anteroom to the rare book room. This is right off the Copley Square T station on the Green Line. You can also take the T from there out to the MFA and the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum close by.

In walking distance from the library is the Christian Science mother church which has some interesting exhibits, too.

Editat: ag. 18, 2007, 12:57 pm

There is a site, but it's not all that great.

You're from New York, right? Do you have a special area of interest? Depending on what it is, I might heretically suggest that you give the MFA a pass if you're pressed for time. There are some areas where it's much stronger than the Met and others where it's much weaker and many where they're both what you'd expect of a large museum. I don't mean to suggest that one Old Master is the same as another, or even one oinochoe. But Boston has some things that are more unique to us.

Definitely the Gardner, which is unlike anything else anywhere.

All the university museums are charming and quirky. They used to be even more so, as recently as a couple decades ago, but they still are. Harvard's are expansive and diverse. MIT has permanent exhibits, if you're an engineering / science type. The rest have rotating exhibits which sometimes pull in something interesting, even more so if you worked in a small museum. You'd need to check their schedule once the school year starts up. BU, BC, and Tufts are easily accessible. Brandeis is doable by commuter rail or bus from Downtown Crossing. (I don't drive either.)

I notice your library has a couple books on Vikings. If you're into getting your picture snapped in odd places, Boston has a Leif Erikson statue with a runic inscription on the Comm. Ave. mall. Google for more details.

I'm also a fan of the Acela over a plane. Penn Station to South Station: right in the middle on both ends. So roughly the same total travel time. But that's just me. (Or the Fung Wah bus, Chinatown to Chinatown, if you're young, cheap, and daring.)

ag. 19, 2007, 11:11 am

Also, for relatively cheap-but-fast travel, is the LimoLiner which is about $75 one-way, and also downtown-oriented.

There are Boston walking tours which have literary bents, IIRC. Goodness knows, there have been enough famous literature committed around here to warrant some.

The Leif Ericsson statue is a favorite of mine, actually, but because it is so strange, since

A) the money for it was raised by a crackpot who believed that Vinland was in Cambridgeport (right across the Charles from where the statue is, since Cambridge didn't want it).

B) The sculptress didn't feel it was proper to have a man posing for her so she used a female model dressed up in a moustache and armor.

There are also the graves of "Mother Goose" and "Hester Prynne" right downtown -- or at least what is believed to be the real-life inspirations.

ag. 24, 2007, 5:00 pm

Pick up a copy of the latest Smithsonian magazine. I know it sounds weird but once a year they sponsor 'Museum Day" (Sept 29 this year) across the country and feature a free pass to museums in different states. (Hey, Boston is expensive enough.)
I suggest using the pass to go the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. It was the house of the aforementioned socialite and as part of her contract with the city the contents of the house could not be touched after her death or the entire contents would have to be sold off. This became problematic because in the 1980's the museum was subjected to the biggest art heist to date. The pictures were cut out of their frames, but according to the contract the curators decided the empty frames had to remain on the walls. It still contains an impressive collection and I still can’t believe it was someone’s house.

Oh and they have a 4 star cafe there which is reasonably priced ($20 per person for lunch) and it’s excellent.

PS If you have ever seen the show "The Venture Bros," on the Cartoon Network, the art the character Phantom Limb tries to sell is Season 2 are the stolen pieces from this museum.

ag. 25, 2007, 12:21 pm

The brattle book shop on west street is a favorite of mine and has a special place in local history.

Don't miss the Boston Athenaeum, a private library on Beacon Street that has special exhibits open to the public-1st floor i think. very old boston.

and if you're civic minded you could volunteer one Tues or Thurs night for a couple of hours at Prison Book project in Quincy (on red line -quincy center stop). Truly something you can't get anywhere. an added bonus to helping connect an underserved group with books is that you are in a historic church and can get a free tour for the asking. You can see the crypts where John Adams, Abagail adams, john quincy and his wife (name?) are interred. It put my hand on the granite sarcophagi. It was unbelievable.

ag. 25, 2007, 12:22 pm

of course i meant DON'T MISS the Boston Athenaeum.

nov. 16, 2007, 3:58 pm

Harvard Square in Cambridge, easily accessible by the T's Red Line, has great bookstores, some of them:

Harvard Book Store
Grolier Poetry Book Shop
Harvard Coop (the store most connected with Harvard Univ)
Revolution Books
Schoenhof's Foreign Books
Globe Corner Bookstores (travel)