Vacay.ca occasionally publishes articles on destinations outside of Canada. Vacay.ca Deputy Editor Rod Charles spotlights one of America’s most fascinating destinations.
Story by Rod Charles
Vacay.ca Deputy Editor
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS — Boston is city loaded with outstanding attractions and venues but I was in the mood for something a little different. So when the opportunity came to get below the surface of this legendary city, I jumped at the opportunity.
Different strokes for different folks, but what truly makes Boston special in my eyes is the history. It’s was here where a group of upstarts led by Benjamin Franklin, Paul Revere and Samuel Adams fired the first salvos in the American Revolution and where tea was defiantly thrown into the ocean in protest of British taxes. For sports fans, there is history here as well. Boston has several teams that Canadians love or love to hate depending on their point of view – namely the Red Sox, Bruins, Celtics and Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots. This being said, step away from the key attractions and major venues you will find some hidden gems that are just itching to be discovered.
I catch an early flight to Boston for an overnight trip and my ride drops me off at the trendy Revere Hotel, where I will be crashing for the night. Located downtown, the hotel is only a few blocks from Boston Common (home of the legendary Nova Scotia Christmas tree). The hotel itself has a 24-hour fitness centre and a really lovely lounge called Emerald, which features live entertainment. Seasonal cocktails at Emerald start at $13 USD. The hotel also has a restaurant called Rustic Kitchen Bistro & Bar featuring Italian-Mediterranean cuisine.
Boston has several attractions, including The Freedom Trail, Faneuil Hall Marketplace and of course Cheers, inspiration for the hit tv show. But if you’re willing to go a little deeper and step away from the beaten path, there are surprises and a few interesting Canadian connections.
Six Interesting Boston Underground Sights
Location: 139 Tremont Street
What you should know: When visiting Boston, try and make a stop at Boston Common. This isn’t just any park, it’s the oldest park in the United States and it oozes history. In 1775, British troops camped here prior to the American Revolution before facing colonial resistance at Lexington and Concord in April of that year. In more recent history, this park was the scene of speeches by Charles Lindbergh, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Pope John Paul II.
Canadian Connection: Nova Scotia sends a Christmas tree to Boston every year as a thank you to Massachusetts for their support following the Halifax Explosion of 1917.
Tip: The park is alive during the daytime, with children, families and tourists milling around. But if you feel you can do it safely, take a stroll along the park at sunset. There’s just something about this park that’s interesting in twilight, especially around Christmas time.
Location: 580 Mount Auburn Street, Cambridge
What you should know: Yes, I already know what you’re thinking – why in the world would anyone want to go to a cemetery? On their vacation, no less? The simple answer is Mount Auburn isn’t like most cemeteries you’re going to visit in your lifetime.
This cemetery is so stunning that people get married here. Founded September 24, 1831, this 175 acre historical jewel is located in the middle of the city and is visited by more than 200,000 a year.
There are several reasons people flock to this place. For starters, the horticultural collections include 16,000 plants, and the area is known for trees (most of the 5,000 trees in the collection are labeled). Another reason is wildlife – throughout the year Mount Auburn is home to all sorts of animals and is most known as a haven for birds (and bird-watchers).
“One of great significances of Mount Auburn was its role in shaping the way Americans viewed life and death. Mount Auburn’s founders wanted this to be a place where the memories of all those commemorated here would be celebrated and a place where death could be viewed as the end of a well-lived,” said Bree Harvey, Vice President of Cemetery & Visitor Services. “This was quite a shift from the common views of death—as a “scary” and inevitable end—that predated our founding. Nineteenth century visitors came here to celebrate this cycle of life and death, find comfort and inspiration in the beauty of our designed landscape while being reminded about the importance of living life to its fullest. Today visitors come to enjoy our collections of horticulture, art and architecture and to learn about the history of the Cemetery and the stories of those buried here. But, they also continue to come, as many generations have before, to get lost in our 175 acres, to commune with nature, and to reflect on life’s most important lessons.”
Another reason why people visit is because nearly 100,000 individuals are buried or memorialized at Mount Auburn and commemorated at Mount Auburn (most are buried, but there are some who have monuments at the cemetery without actually being buried here) and that number continues to grow by nearly nearly 500 people every year.
Famous individuals buried at Mount Auburn include poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Mary Baker Eddy, Discoverer of Christian Science. Others of note include Pulitzer Prize-winning author Bernard Malamud (he wrote “The Natural”), Academy Award-winning actress Anne Revere (she played Elizabeth Taylor’s mother in the movie “National Velvet”), historian and social critic Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., and Harriet Jacobs, fugitive-slave turned abolitionist, activist and author.
Canadian Connection: I didn’t really find a direct Canadian connection here, but I’m sure you could probably find a few Canucks buried somewhere if you were inclined to look.
Cost: Free of charge 365 days a year
Tip: Mount Auburn’s landscape includes more than 60,000 monuments that commemorate the lives of those buried here. Some of these monuments are significant works of art, created by renowned artists from the 19th and 20th centuries. If you’re knees can handle it, climb Washington Tower.
Location: 138 St. James Avenue
What you should know: It was nice to visit a gem in the Fairmont family called Oak Long Bar, a gorgeous and welcoming location. OAK Long Bar + Kitchen can hold 146 people and resides in a deeply a historic space, starting out as Copley Café in 1912.
“OAK Long Bar + Kitchen is one of the most vibrant restaurants in the Back Bay,” said Suzanne Wenz, Regional Director of PR. “The dramatic space and the detail that went into the restoration of the room, is complemented by Chef Paul’s menu that offers his own twists on comfort food. It’s a great spot for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner, but if you’re looking for a bite after 11 p.m., insiders know to ask for the late night menu, which really highlights the creativity of the culinary team and changes every night.”
The main attraction is the bar itself. Over 80 feet long with a capacity to seat 28 people, it is the longest copper bar in the city, running almost the length of the building. The venue has two fireplaces and a hearth oven, as well as beautiful mirrors that create a really nice, open space.
Canadian Connection: Fairmont Hotels is Canadian-owned.
Cost: Prices for this venue: appetizers/small plates $10-$15, flatbread pizzas $14-$16, entrees $23-$38, desserts $10, cocktails $10 – $18. The New England Clam Chowder ($12), the Charcuterie Board ($27 / $36 / $58) or Wild Mushroom Pizza ($23).
4. SECRET NORTH END TOUR
Contact: North End Boston Tour by Alex Goldfeld. 1-617-680-3829 or email email@example.com.
What you should know: Most of us know the story of Paul Revere, a silversmith and hero of the American Revolution who was one of the leaders of the Boston Tea Party and who famously warned the Minutemen in Lexington about the approaching British army in 1775. If you don’t know the story of Paul Revere, click here.
One great way to get acquainted with Mr. Revere and see some interesting sights in North Boston is with Alex Goldfeld’s Freedom Trail Walk, where you can see Paul Revere House, as well as his famous statue and his home church.
Working without a script, Alex Goldfeld tailors his tours to the specific interests of his group. The information he provided during the tour ran the gamut from the 1600s to the present day. During his tour he talked about architecture, religion, city planning, business, and every other topic that relates to the development of a community.
One interesting thing that he pointed out during our tour was how the city had changed. As we walked along North Street (the old shoreline) at Richmond Street — just up the road from Paul Revere’s house, Goldfeld noted that it was at this point was the location of the ocean shore before the city expanded.
Canadian Connection: Points of interest for Canadian visitors are related to the lore of migration to the North End by Canadians, who then joined the Old North Church (because it is an Episcopal, formerly Anglican, church). In addition, Paul Revere’s military service during the Seven Years War and the War of Independence includes several Canadian connections. Discussion of Black Bostonians during the era of the Underground Railroad is also a big link to Canada’s history in the region.
Cost: The tour is $25 per person. Group rates available.
Tip: Bring walking shoes for this tour and if you have an umbrella it wouldn’t hurt to bring that along as well. This is a rain or shine tour.
Location: 4 Yawkey Way
What you should know: Getting under the skin of a city can mean doing odd things (hey, we suggested visiting a cemetery, remember) so I know it might seem a bit off the wall to go to a baseball park when the home team isn’t even playing. Don’t worry, there’s nothing silly about getting up close and personal with Boston’s Fenway Park.
My team is the Blue Jays and I have always enjoyed watching baseball at the Rogers Centre even though it’s been 22 years since our last trip to the playoffs. The Jays have a beautiful home and Rogers Centre is a nice place to enjoy a game of baseball but with all due respect…Fenway Park is one of those stadiums that transcends the game. If you’re a baseball fan — even a small one — try and get a tour of Fenway Park. The guide will show you the ins and outs of the stadium and tell you the story of the park, and some of the big names who have played there.
Canadian Connection: Every year, Canuckleheads flock to Boston by the thousands to watch the Red Sox. Many Canadians have also had the honour of suiting up for the Sox. Active players include catcher George Kottaras from Scarborough (2008–2009) and pitcher Érik Bédard (2011). Past players include Pitcher Ted Bowsfield (1958), Ryan Dempster (2013), left fielder Jason Bay (2008–2009) from British Columbia and Éric Gagné (2007) from Montreal.
Cost: $18. Tours are available year-round and depart at the top of the hour.
Tip: If you go on the tour, try and go on a nice day. I have no regrets about my visit but when I went it was cold, wet and windy and believe me when I tell you that’s not the kind of weather you want to be in on top of the Green Monster.
6. AFTERNOON TEA AT COURTYARD, BOSTON PUBLIC LIBRARY
Location: 700 Boylston Street
What you should know: This is one of those things that a native Bostonian might shrug their shoulders at. Can’t say I blame them – heading to a library on your vacation seems about as ridiculous as going to a cemetery. But this isn’t an ordinary library. The size and architecture are two things you have to see, including the lovely courtyard inside the library. And like Auburn Cemetery, this is also a favourite stop for weddings.
The library is cool, but it isn’t the only thing that makes this an interesting underground stop. Be sure to enjoy an afternoon tea at Courtyard Restaurant, where you will find several choices of loose leaf tea, scones and sandwiches. The library is pretty special, but what makes this a cool underground stop is the tea. Most libraries I’ve been too don’t have anything like this.
Canadian Connection: The library features several Canadian-American newspapers on microfilm, including the American Canadian (1874-1876), Newfoundland Weekly (1924-1932), one issue of Le Protecteur Canadien from 1894 and Foyer Canadien (1873-1874) Worcester, Massachusetts. There’s also the Upper Canada Gazette Weekly (1793 – 1848) and Voice of the Fugitive Weekly (1851 – 1852) which fought to end slavery in the United States.
This library is filled with a lot of interesting Canadian connections and we can’t name them all here. However, Henry Scannell, Curator of Microtext and Newspapers at Boston Public Library says there are a few things at the library Canadians would find interesting.
“The 1873 Boston City Directory lists Alexander Graham Bell on West Newton Street while he was a professor at Boston University. Dr. Bell is also closely associated with Baddeck, Nova Scotia, where he had a summer home,” says Scannell. “In the Proceedings of the Trustees of the Boston Public Library , August 4, 1877, it is recorded that the Superintendent be authorized to agree with Straus & George for constructing a line of telegraph between the Central Library and the South End Branch at the cost of $155, and to sign a contract for the use of two telephones at $10 each for one year.”
Cost: $32 per guest.
Tip: Make a reservation.
MORE ABOUT MASSACHUSETTS TOURISM
Address: 200 Stuart Street
Telephone: 1-617-973-8500 / Toll-free: 1-800-227-MASS (U.S. & Canada)
MORE ABOUT REVERE HOTEL
An online search for an April weekend date showed rooms can be booked for 359.00 a night excluding taxes and fees, with an advanced purchase rate of $305 for a Superior Queen, Superior Accessible King room. The King Guest Room is really nice with a large work area, a firm bed and a really nice view of the city.