Mar 20, 2014 10:20AM
● By Anonymous
Springtime in New England — need we say more? This month, we’re looking into what makes the Massachusetts metropolis of Boston the perfect location for your next getaway. The city is certainly rich with American history, but it’s also packed with modern splendors that are equally as enjoyable. We think this trip is one the whole family will love, so read on to discover what highlights you should hit along the way.
Boarding in Boston
Like any big city, Boston is replete with hotels and inns with world-class amenities. They dot the harbors and bays and extend throughout downtown and further inland into Cambridge, but we have the insider scoop on a couple that we know you’ll love.
Situated along the Charles River in Boston’s West End district is the Liberty Hotel, whose building used to house many of Boston’s most notorious criminals. Yes, you read that correctly. So, why should you stay here? In 2001, a developer was hired to transform the jail into an upscale hotel while preserving many of the jail’s original features. Its granite exterior and well-lit interiors remain mostly unchanged, its 90-foot-tall central atrium was preserved, and several jail cells can still be found within the hotel’s restaurant. What was once the jail’s exercise yard is now a private courtyard with picturesque landscape design. Today, the hotel’s interior design features stylish, modern décor like the reception desk made of ebonized wood and richly colored carpets and tapestry. The luxurious Liberty also offers sought-after services like 24-hour in-room dining, complimentary Saturday yoga and in-room private bars, plus unbeatably dynamic views of the city.
Located in the heart of downtown Boston is the Omni Parker House, another historical hotel that’s been updated to offer old-world charm combined with modern elegance. America’s longest continuously operating hotel includes more than 500 guest rooms and suites as well as a restaurant that offers Saturday and Sunday brunch (and is the home to the creation of Parker House rolls). Stay here, and you’ll be in good company — author Charles Dickens stayed at the Parker House during his tour of America in the mid-1800s. More notoriously, John Wilkes Booth holed up at the hotel merely a few days before he assassinated Abraham Lincoln in Washington, D.C. LibertyHotel.com, OmniHotels.com
The Freedom Trail
Whether you’re a history buff or your kids are learning about the American Revolution in school and you’re in need of a refresher course, the Freedom Trail is a must-see during your visit to Boston — where it all began. The 2.5-mile, brick-lined route takes you to 16 different sites, each historically significant in its own way, and you have the option to begin the tour at whichever point you prefer. If you’re looking for magnificent architecture, we suggest starting at the Massachusetts State House, built in 1798. The grand building features a magnificent golden dome adorned with a gilded wooden pinecone that symbolizes the state’s reliance on logging during the 18th century. Be sure to stop at the Old State House, where the Declaration of Independence was first read to the public on July 18, 1776. It was also the site of the Boston Massacre, during which British soldiers killed several civilians on March 5, 1770, below the building’s balcony.
Another fascinating stop on the trail is Paul Revere’s house, which dates back to 1680 and is Boston’s oldest building still in existence — Paul lived here on the night he made his famous ride to Lexington. Also worth exploring is Park Street Church, which features a 217-foot steeple. It is well known for supporting Abolitionist causes — the church hosted its first anti-slavery lecture in 1823 and was also the site of William Lloyd Garrison’s 1829 speech he delivered about the Abolitionist movement. While the Freedom Trail covers a lot of ground and a lot of history, we advise spending as much time as you can at Boston Common, America’s oldest public park. The land, which was once overcrowded with British soldiers when they made camp during the British occupation of Boston in 1775, now comprises acres of lush foliage, beautiful flowers and gorgeous views of Frog Pond. TheFreedomTrail.org
New England Aquarium
Nestled near the waterfront in downtown Boston, the New England Aquarium boasts a plethora of activities to be enjoyed by young and old. This past summer, the giant ocean tank — handmade and painted by aquarium artists — reopened after an extensive renovation and now features a beautiful Caribbean coral reef plus more than 2,000 exotic animals like midnight parrotfish, yellow goatfish and moray eels. Exhibits with penguins, sea lions and turtles are not to be missed, but particularly intriguing is the brand new Blue Plant Action Center, where you can discover more about the aquarium’s role in searching for solutions to challenges currently facing the oceans. Kiddos will especially love the shark and lobster nurseries, where the animals are born and raised to conserve their populations.
Lastly, don’t forget to venture out onto the water for a whale watch tour with the aquarium’s partners at Boston Harbor Cruises. The three-hour adventure leaves from the aquarium’s dock and meanders through Stellwagen Bank, where you’re sure to catch a glimpse of not only whales but also seals and various sea birds. Neaq.org
Frost Ice Bar
Although temps are now on the rise, there’s a place in Boston where it’s always 21 degrees. The Frost Ice Bar is New England’s only and the world’s largest permanent indoor ice bar — meaning the entire bar (walls, furniture, drink glasses) is made of ice. Featuring walls awash in constantly changing bright colors, fun ice sculptures and unique drinks, the ice bar is a place for everyone, including the kids. The under-21 menu offers concoctions like sparkling blackberry lemonade and cider-berry splash as well as good ol’ chocolate milk. For the adult crowd, sip on cocktails like the Old North Ender (vodka, lemon sorbet, sparkling wine and limoncello), the Lion & the Unicorn (gin, Pavan, Lillet and blue curacao) and many more. And don’t fret about freezing — the bar provides insulated capes and gloves with admission. FrostIceBar.com
One of the best things about Boston in the springtime is its parks. You already know about Boston Common, created in 1634, but there’s also Public Garden that was established nearly two centuries later. The first public botanical garden in the country, Public Garden comprises more than 20 acres featuring meandering pathways, decorative elements and elaborate floral arrangements that render it a romantic setting suitable for weddings and other parties. The garden is also home to the Make Way for Ducklings bronze sculptures, based off of Robert McCloskey’s famous children’s book. Not-to-be-missed are the swan boat rides, which depart from the Public Garden lagoon and take you on a relaxing 15-minute cruise on the water. CityOfBoston.gov, SwanBoats.com