Boston is one of the oldest cities in the United States. It is sometimes called a “city of neighborhoods” because of the profusion of diverse subsections. There are 21 official neighborhoods in Boston used by the city! Boston is home to several prestigious colleges and universities, and their presence has a significant positive impact on the economy. The city is also huge sports town, and Boston fans are loyal to their home teams.
The North End Crossing the Rose Kennedy Greenway as you head east toward the Inner Harbor, you enter one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods. Home to waves of immigrants in the course of its history, it was predominantly Italian for most of the 20th century. Though small, the neighborhood has approximately 100 eating establishments, and a variety of tourist attractions. It is known as the city’s Little Italy for its Italian-American population. Many newcomers are young professionals who walk to work in the Financial District. However, you’ll hear Italian spoken in the streets and find a wealth of Italian restaurants, cafés, and shops. The main street is Hanover Street and acts as the central hub for all things North End.
The Back Bay Back Bay is an officially recognized neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts and is famous for its rows of Victorian brownstone homes. Back Bay is considered one of the best-preserved examples of 19th-century urban design in the United States. Fashionable since its creation out of landfill more than a century ago, the Back Bay overflows with gorgeous architecture and chic shops. It lies between the Public Garden, the river, Kenmore Square, and either Huntington Avenue or St. Botolph Street, depending on who’s describing it. Students dominate the area near Massachusetts Avenue but grow scarce as property values soar near the Public Garden. This is one of the best neighborhoods in Boston for aimless wandering. Major thoroughfares include Boylston Street, which starts at Boston Common and runs into the Fenway; largely residential Beacon Street and Commonwealth Avenue (say “Comm. Ave.”); and shopping central, Newbury Street.
Beacon Hill is a historic neighborhood of Boston. It’s well known for its narrow tree-lined streets, brick and cobblestone alleyways, and architectural showpieces, mostly in Federal style. Beacon Hill rests in the shadow of the state capitol. Two of the loveliest and most exclusive spots in Boston are here: Mount Vernon Street and Louisburg (pronounced “Lewis-burg”) Square. Bounded by Government Center, Boston Common, the Back Bay, and the river, this is where you’ll find Massachusetts General Hospital. Charles Street, which divides the Common from the Public Garden, is the main street of Beacon Hill. Beacon Hill has several notable attractions including Boston Public Garden, the Boston Center for Jewish Heritage and the Museum of Afro American History.
South Boston aka “Southie” Once a predominantly Irish Catholic community, in recent years Southie has become increasingly desirable among young professionals and families who are attracted to the neighborhood’s strong sense of community and quick access to downtown and public transportation. People from all over the city enjoy taking a stroll around Castle Island, a Revolutionary War-era fort and 22-acre park that is connected to the mainland. “Southie Pride” is on full display in March when city residents flock to the neighborhood to enjoy the annual South Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade. You can also find one of the closest beaches to the city, M Street Beach, affectionately referred to as “Southie Beach.” Be sure to swing by Lawn on D, for music, games, food and drinks during the summer!
Seaport The Seaport seems to have developed overnight – what was once a sparse area is now home to luxury apartments and condos, restaurants and brand new office buildings, all along the Boston Harbor. In the summer, the Seaport hosts concerts almost every night, and provides frequent Harbor cruises. When the weather isn’t so great, the Seaport is home to art galleries and museums, including the Boston Children’s Museum.
In addition to the centralized neighborhoods, many young adults reside in neighboring towns such as Allston, Brighton, Charlestown, Somerville and Cambridge. Each area boasts its own downtown area, including restaurants, bars and shopping.
Public transportation is really convenient, but the T can sometimes be slow depending which line you ride, particularly in the winter months. You can buy a CharlieCard at any T or train station. Depending on where you live/work, getting a monthly T pass can be a great option. They are usually purchased through school/work, so check with your employer once you get here.
Having a car in Boston, particularly if you live in the city, is NOT recommended. Parking can be quite expensive and is usually not included with rent. Instead, consider a Zip Car membership for the random Costco/Target/day trips you think you’ll be making. If you are a commuter out of the city, you may be able to find a good “reverse commuter” parking deal!
Places to go:
The Waterfront This narrow area runs along the Inner Harbor, on Atlantic Avenue and Commercial Street from the Charlestown bridge (on North Washington St.) to South Station. Once filled with wharves and warehouses, today it abounds with luxury condos, marinas, restaurants, offices, and hotels. Also here are the New England Aquarium with its 200,000 ocean tank, and embarkation points for harbor cruises and whale-watching expeditions. Want to check out the aquarium without purchasing all-day tickets? You can watch the seals in their indoor/outdoor tank, while enjoying a snack from nearby food carts.
Several large financial services and legal firms have large offices here. Residential space ranges from trendy lofts carved out of old factories to sleek new high rises. And all kinds of new attractions and amenities are already popping up here as part of the first wave of massive redevelopment plans designed to totally transform this area.
Faneuil Hall Marketplace has been a market place and meeting place since 1742. An irresistible draw for out-of-towners and suburbanites, this cluster of restored market buildings, bounded by the Waterfront, the North End, Government Center, and State Street, is the city’s most popular attraction. The famous Faneuil Hall Boston, the Cradle of Liberty, has a greater historical interest than any other building in the United States, save Independence Hall in Philadelphia. You’ll find restaurants, bars, a food court, specialty shops, and Faneuil Hall itself. Haymarket, off I-93 on Blackstone Street, is home to an open-air produce market on Fridays and Saturdays.
Things to do:
Duck Boat Tours: I tell every Boston tourist to do a duck boat tour! You get a full history tour of the city, while being carted around in a duck shaped boat/bus, led by a comedic driver. Bonus: Boston sports teams ride in these buses during victory parades!
Freedom Trail: If you are looking for a more active historical tour of Boston, the Freedom trail is for you! Stretching about 2.5 miles, the trail (clearly marked by red brick), includes major historical sites from the American Revolution.
Lawn on D: Located in Southie, Lawn on D is the place to go during warmer months! The lawn hosts a variety of events, including concerts, group exercise, art showcases, and local food sampling.
Fenway Park: Boston fan or not, historic Fenway Park is a blast! Summer baseball games and outdoor concerts are fun activities as a group. If you are a baseball fan, Fenway hosts tours of the stadium during the off season. Start by grabbing dinner on famous Yawkey Way!
Thanks to our Transitions contributor!
Katie Madden – Katie attended Syracuse University where she was a member of Alpha Phi’s Alpha chapter and held various roles, from Director of Chapter Facilities to Vice President of Programming and Development. After graduation she traveled as an Educational Leadership Consultant and held multiple advising positions along the east coast. She has recently accepted a position at the Alpha Phi Executive Office as the Program Manager of New Chapter Development, and works remotely from Boston.