date published: July 5, 2004

Beantown's Must-See Destinations and the Insider Alternatives
by Christine Celli

Finding your way to Boston's most popular visitor destinations is usually not very difficult. If there's not a literal line down the road leading the way, there's surely a well-worn path. But often hidden gems lurk just around the corner, sitting undiscovered by the crowds eager to hustle on to the next suggested site in their guidebooks. Without a local to lead the way, it may be difficult to find out what you're missing. Since we already know the places likely to be on your list of things to do while in town-from paying a visit to Cheers to walking the Freedom Trail-we've sought to highlight some overlooked, or underrated hotspots that are in the same area. For those willing to stray from the beaten path, we've also suggested some alternatives residents of the Hub have been enjoying for years. Be it a good place to eat right by Fenway Park, or Boston's other history-rich sporting destination, we're letting all the locals' secret spots out of the bag. There's no need to toss that itinerary-just get ready to make some additions.

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84 Beacon St., 617-227-9605
Why everyone goes: When the long-running,
popular NBC sitcom "Cheers" chose this Boston tavern (formerly called the Bull & Finch Pub) for exterior shots for the fictional bar, it's fate as a tourist attraction would be sealed forever.

After you go: The 21st Amendment (150 Bowdoin St., 617-227-7100), is right around the corner from Cheers and probably a better example of a Beacon Hill pub, with great food options and a lively mix of locals. Other Cheers neighbors include the former home of the Boston-based "MTV's Real World" cast (127 Mt. Vernon St.) and Senator John Kerry's townhouse in Louisburg Square. Just be sure to mind the Secret Service agents guarding the peace!

3484 Washington St., Jamaica Plain,
Why it's worth the trip: Doyle's, founded in 1882, is the real deal when it comes to pubs where locals might actually expect someone to know their name. The walls are a testament to its more than a hundred years' worth of famous patrons, including former President Bill Clinton and a slew of local politicians and sports heroes. Even today you're likely to spot many Boston politicians-such as Mayor Thomas Menino-dining and drinking there regularly. And like Cheers, it's even made its mark on Hollywood, having been featured in the recent Academy Award winner, Mystic River. If that weren't enough, it's practically a museum to local brewery history, still has the now-defunct Pickwick Ale on tap, and is just down the road from the Samuel Adams Brewery (right) which offers tours Wed-Sat.
Why everyone goes: The North End not only draws a crowd for Freedom Trail stops such as the Paul Revere House and the Old North Church, but also for the area around Hanover Street (pictured above) with its abundance of Italian bakeries and restaurants, including the ever-popular Mike's Pastry (300 Hanover St.).

While you're there: The Secret Tour of Boston's North End (617-720-2283) begins at the Old North Church but follows a far less conventional path through history than the Freedom Trail. Tour-goers visit the wake site of infamous convicts Sacco and Vanzetti, hear stories of the Great Molasses Flood, see Boston's narrowest residential house and even get a free cannoli.

Why it's worth the trip: The South End (not to be confused with South Boston, a.k.a. "Southie") is as picturesque as Boston's Back Bay and North End neighborhoods thanks to its narrow, brownstone-lined streets. But locals are drawn here for its ever-growing abundance of stellar dining options, antique shops and quaint boutiques. For eats, start at Tremont Street where such standouts as Hamersley's and Aquitaine (569 Tremont St.) can be found. Then be sure to make your way towards Washington and Harrison streets for the open market held every Sunday, the art galleries of the SoWa area and late-night hot spots like Red Fez (1222 Washington St.).

Why it's worth the trip: Eclectic Central Square is just down the road from Harvard Square and is home to M.I.T., a slew of ethnic restaurants and lively nightlife options. Rock out to local bands at the Middle East Cafe (472 Mass. Ave., 617-864-EAST), where patrons can munch falafel and throw back pints of Pabst Blue Ribbon before the show. Or get your dance on at The Enormous Room (567 Mass. Ave., 617-491-5599) to hip hop, funk and breakbeats while snacking on Mediterranean eats. Also popular for food and entertainment is the Green Street Grill (280 Green Street, 617-876-1655), where Caribbean sounds and flavors are always on the menu.
Why everyone goes: If the smartypants that attend Harvard University are happy here, why wouldn't other folks follow their lead? Visitors flock to Harvard Yard, shop at the Coop and other popular boutiques, and people-watch in "the Pit" (pictured above), where street performers and youth culture abounds.

While you're there: The Harvard Museum of Natural History (11 Divinity Ave., 617-495-3045) showcases the artsier side of academia with the Ware Collection of plant models-over 3,000 artisan-made glass creations representing more than 830 plant species. Then visit Grendel's Den (89 Winthrop St., 617-491-1160), where food is half-price during happy hour.

200 Clarendon St., 617-572-6429
Why everyone goes: It's next-to-impossible to miss this striking, sliver-of-glass masterpiece of architect I.M. Pei-if not for its elegance, then for the fact that, at 62 stories tall, it towers above nearly everything else in the Boston skyline.
After you go: Copley Square, nestled at the base of the Hancock, also features examples of the city's earlier architecture. Be sure to tour the Boston Public Library and visit Trinity Church, both considered masterpieces in their own right. Also in the Tower's midst is the masterwork of restaurateurs Michael Schlow and Christopher Myers-Via Matta (79 Park Plaza, 617-422-0008). The praises sung for this Italian trattoria soar even higher than the Hancock.
3 McKinley Square, 617-310-6300
Why it's worth the trip: The Hancock Tower may be touted as the most striking skyscraper in the Hub, but only the Custom House holds the distinction as the city's first. With its 30-story tower completed in 1915, the structure seems by today's standards a modest height for "skyscraper" status. But Walt Whitman dubbed it "the noblest form of commercial architecture in the world." And today, its handsome, illuminated clock tower still holds a place in the hearts of the hometown crowd-especially now that it accurately tells time.

Before it was renovated, locals nicknamed the building the four-faced liar because all four clocks showed a different time. But these days things are looking up. The Custom House is now home to 84 vacation time-share units. And while those on the ground are getting the correct time, those visiting the observatory are soaking in the spectacular views of the Harbor. Another room with a view: The Skywalk Observatory at the Prudential Center gives guests the highest perch from which to view their surroundings.

Why everyone goes: The painted, red brick line of the Freedom Trail weaves its way through the heart of the city, connecting 16 different historic sites from Boston Common to "Old Ironsides" (a.k.a. the U.S.S. Constitution).

After you go: Since the Trail covers a lot of ground, there are lots of potential pit stops. We especially like Olives, the flagship eatery of celebrity chef Todd English, in Charlestown; Ye Olde Union Oyster House, the history-rich seafood spot steps from Faneuil Hall; and Filene's Basement, the shopping mecca for bargain hunters in Downtown Crossing.

Why it's worth the trip: The Black Heritage Trail gives you a glimpse behind aspects of Boston's history that are oft-overlooked but no less relevant than the sites on the Freedom Trail. Stops at the 54th Regiment Memorial (a testament to the achievements of the first black regiment of the Civil War); the Lewis and Harriet Hayden House (a major part of the Underground Railroad); and the African Meeting House (the oldest black church edifice still standing in the United States); among others, show the often critical role Boston's African-American community played in the politics and battles that shaped our country into what it is today.
Route 1A, East Boston, 617-567-3900.
Why it's worth the trip: It's the only horse track in Boston and home to the MassCap, but what makes it especially interesting to casual fans of horse racing is that a year after opening its doors in 1935, trainer Tom Smith arrived to watch the horse that would make him famous-Seabiscuit-whose story was immortalized in last year's major motion picture. Under Smith's training, Seabiscuit would be back a year later and best a field of 12 to become the first favorite to score in the MassCap. His final time is still a track record. If you go: Take the MBTA's Blue Line and stop at Revere Beach, the first public beach in the country and a national landmark.
4 Yawkey Way, Tickets: 617-482-4SOX;
Tours: 617-226-6666.
Why everyone goes: Whether it's to see a game or take a tour of the grounds and behind the Green Monster, sports fanatics clamor to glimpse the former home field of Ted Williams and the oldest ballpark in the Major Leagues.

After you go: The Back Bay Fens (between Commonwealth and Huntington Avenues), or the "other Fenway Park," is part of Frederick Law Olmsted's Emerald Necklace and boasts the oldest victory garden remaining in the country. Take Peterborough Street to get there from Fenway Park and choose from a variety of outdoor dining spots-from Thai to barbecue-along the way.

Quincy Market/
Faneuil Hall Marketplace
Why everyone goes: Faneuil Hall, a historic meeting hall and market center that dates to pre-Revolution Boston, flanks the shopping and food mecca Quincy Market/Faneuil Hall Marketplace, one of the most popular attractions in the city. During convention week, several national television programs, including "The Today Show" with Katie Couric, will broadcast from in and around the area.

After you go: Search for fresh produce and other wares from 200 pushcart peddlers at The Haymarket (Blackstone and Hanover streets), held every Fri and Sat 6 a.m.-7 p.m. Around the corner, the historic Blackstone Block, contains the oldest continuously-operating restaurant in America, Union Oyster House.

Newbury Street
Why it's worth the trip: Dubbed "The Rodeo Drive of the East" by Bostonians who still think we're the "Hub of the Universe," Newbury Street boasts the best shopping, strolling and people-watching in the city. Flanked by the historic Ritz-Carlton Hotel on one end and the Virgin Megastore and Urban Outfitters at the funkier end, Newbury is where locals and tourists really do mix. On the chi-chi side, you'll find stores from European designers like MaxMara and Ermenegildo Zegna. Don't miss the Alan Bilzerian boutique or the internationally renowned Louis Boston, which has remained on the cutting edge of men's (and now women's) fashion for over 50 years. On the hipper end of the Street, check out Newbury Comics, which sells a huge selection of discount CDs, DVDs and other pop culture kitsch. Then grab a bite to eat at the funky bohemian hangout Other Side Cosmic Cafe (407 Newbury, 617-536-9477). If outdoor dining is your thing, Newbury boasts the best sidewalk cafes in the city, including Sonsie with its signature French windows and frequent celebrity sightings, and Stephanie's. Refer to listings in Shopping and Restaurant Guide.
Why everyone goes: Smack in the middle of downtown Boston, these two storied green spaces sit side-by-side and are home to the beloved Swan Boats and outdoor, summer performances by groups including the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company.

After you go: Check out The Charles River Esplanade by crossing the Arthur Fiedler footbridge at the intersection of Beacon and Arlington streets. The 17-mile-long park runs along the river, is a haven for athletics-from jogging to sailing-and is home to the Hatch Shell, site of outdoor summer concerts including the famed July 4th Boston Pops performance.

125 Arborway, Jamaica Plain.
Why it's worth the trip: The Arboretum was established in 1872 when James Arnold, a whaling merchant who apparently fancied flowers, willed part of his estate to Harvard University as a place to raise as many varieties of plant life as possible. Charles Sprague Sargent took up Arnold's cause with the help of famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, creating the 265-acre natural haven that is now part of the Emerald Necklace. Today the Arboretum boasts plants and trees from all over the world, a library housing a 40,000-volume herbarium collection, and a terrific view of Boston from atop Peter's or Bussey's Hill.

Why it's worth the trip: A cruise of the Boston Harbor Islands includes a stop at George's Island, home to Fort Warren-a National Historic Landmark thanks to the role it played defending our coastline, especially during the Civil War. Formerly a patrol point, training ground and prison, Fort Warren was finally decommissioned in 1947 and is now fully accessible to visitors. Kids will have fun exploring its secret passageways while parents will enjoy the history lesson and picnicking possibilities on the 53-acre island. The park also boasts a snack bar and wonderful vistas of the Boston skyline.

Charlestown Navy Yard, 617-426-1812.
Why everyone goes: The beauty and stature of tall ships always seems to attract a crowd and the U.S.S. Constitution, the world's oldest commisioned warship still afloat, is the crown jewel for seafaring fanatics and military buffs alike.
After you go: Right next to "Old Ironsides" is the U.S.S. Cassin Young, a WWII destroyer open for tours. Or pay a visit to City Square Park (on the corner of Rutherford Avenue and City Square), which was fashioned from 40 acres of new green space created thanks to the Big Dig. The park offers views of the centerpiece of that highway project-the cable-stayed wonder, the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge.

Museum of Fine Arts
465 Huntington Ave., 617-267-9300
Why everyone goes: One of the Hub's oldest and most important cultural institutions, the Museum of Fine Arts boasts an encyclopedic collection of art spanning most countries and eras, with particular strengths in European and Impressionist paintings, ancient Egyptian art and artifacts, and Asian art. The museum also has an active film screening program and presents live music at its Concerts in the Courtyard series (Wednesdays during the summer).

After you go: If you're into fine art, the oft-overlooked Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, located right around the corner from the MFA, is a must-see. Named after 19th century philanthropist Mrs. Gardner, who willed her entire estate and all its art to the public, the collection features important pieces by Rembrandt, Sargent and Matisse, as well as what's been voted the city's most significant work of art, Titian's painting The Rape of Europa. And you'll love the museum's idyllic Venetian-style courtyard filled with flora and fauna (pictured right).

Fogg Art Museum
32 Quincy St., Cambridge, 617-495-9400
Why it's worth the trip: Boston offers a wealth of cultural attractions for art lovers, but Harvard University on the other side of the Charles boasts three world-class art museums, led by the Fogg with its Italian Renaissance-styled courtyard and its galleries that illustrate the history of Western art. The museum's Wertheim Collection features one of America's finest stockpiles of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings and, although the MFA has some great Picassos, the Fogg displays the city's most important collection of the Cubist's work. Even better, the museum is free on Saturdays from 10 a.m.-noon.