Difference between revisions of "Boston"
Revision as of 18:16, 5 January 2010
Boston is the largest city in New England, the capital of the state of Massachusetts, and one of the most historic, wealthy and influential cities in the United States of America. Its plethora of museums, historical sights, and wealth of live performances, all explain why the city gets 16.3 million visitors a year, making it one of the ten most popular tourist locations in the country.
Although not in Boston, the neighboring city of Cambridge (just across the Charles River, home to Harvard and MIT) is part of the larger urban area and an essential addition to any visit to Boston.
Neighborhood nicknames are in (parentheses).
Boston is a city of diverse neighborhoods, many of which were originally towns in their own right before being annexed to the city. This contributes to a strong pride within the neighborhoods of Boston, and many people will often tell you they are from "JP" (Jamaica Plain), "Dot" (Dorchester), "Southie" (South Boston), or "Eastie" (East Boston), rather than that they are from Boston. Alternatively, people from the suburbs will tell you they are from Boston when in fact they live in one of the nearby (or even outlying) suburbs. If in doubt, you can look for "Resident Parking Only" street signs, which will identify what neighborhood you are in.
Another consequence of this expansion is that the neighborhoods, in addition to their cultural identities, also retained most of their street names, regardless of whether or not Boston -or another absorbed town- already had a street with the same name. According to a survey by The Boston Globe, there are at least 200 street names that are duplicated in one or more neighborhoods in Boston. For instance, Washington Street in Downtown Boston, is different from Washington Street in Dorchester and another Washington Street in Jamaica Plain. This can play havoc with web-based mapping and direction services.
Be aware that geographic references in district names tend to mean little. For example, South Boston is different from the South End, which is actually west of South Boston and north of Dorchester and Roxbury districts. Some other confusing notables: East Boston and Charlestown are further north than the North End. The West End is in the northern part of town (bordering the North End and Charles River).
Among Boston's many neighborhoods, the historic areas of Back Bay, Beacon Hill, Chinatown, Downtown, the Fenway, the Financial District, Government Center, the North End, and the South End comprise the area considered "Boston Proper." It is here where most of the buildings that make up the city's skyline are located.
The Back Bay is one of the few neighborhoods with streets organized on a grid. It is so named because it used to be mud flats on the river, until the city filled in the bay in a land-making project ending in 1862. It is now one of the higher-rent neighborhoods in the city. The north-south streets crossing the axis of Back Bay are organized alphabetically. Starting from the east, at the Public Garden, and heading west, they are: Arlington, Berkeley, Clarendon, Dartmouth, Exeter, Fairfield, Gloucester (pronounced 'gloster'), and Hereford. After Hereford Street is Massachusetts Avenue, more commonly known as Mass. Av., and then Charlesgate, which marks the western boundary of Back Bay. The alphabetical street names continue a little way into the Fenway neighborhood on the other side of Charlesgate, with Ipswich, Jersey, and Kilmarnock, but the streets are no longer arranged in a grid.
There are also several "districts" you might hear mentioned. "Districts" are generally areas of common interest located within a larger neighborhood:
When to visit
New England is unpredictable and becomes very cold in the winter and humid in the summer. Late May through late September, you'll be comfortable with no jacket or sweater.
When the heat does start, there are some beaches within the city, and many beaches outside of it, for swimming. The Standells classic "Dirty Water" doesn't apply any more as the water is safe to swim in thanks to the Boston Harbor Cleanup project.
Early summer tends to be nice, but you don't know when that will be year to year. In that time, the temperature will be perfect, and there will be no humidity. The remainder of summer tends to be very warm with uncomfortably high humidity. Walking, taking a cab, bus, or the "T" (short for MBTA, the public transit system, which is air-conditioned) are all good options for exploring the city.
Boston's fall foliage is at or near its peak beauty in mid-October, which also normally offers the advantage of many crisp sunny day (outside the city itself, peak foliage timing depends on how far north or south you venture from Boston.)
If you visit during the less busy wintertime, the Atlantic Ocean has a large moderating effect on temperatures. The average low in January is 22F/-5C, so as long as you dress appropriately, you should be fine.
Massachusetts' first governor, John Winthrop, famously called Boston a "shining city on the hill," a reference to Jerusalem and a declaration of the original settlers' intent to build a utopian Christian colony. From the very beginning, the people who lived there declared their home to be one of the most important cities in the world. Considering that the American Revolution and modern democracy got their start thanks to Bostonians, and that Winthrop’s quote is still used in modern political speech, one could argue that they were right!
The father of American jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes) once called the Boston statehouse "the hub of the solar system," but common usage has expanded to the now-current Hub of the Universe. This half-serious term is all you need to know to understand Boston's complicated self-image. Vastly important in American history, and for centuries the seat of the USA's social elite, Boston lost prominence in the early twentieth century, largely to the cities of New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Over the past two decades, Boston has regained political, cultural, and economic importance.
The city was founded in 1630 by members of the Massachusetts Bay colony, Puritan religious dissidents who had fled England to find freedom in the New World. Because of its easily-defended harbor and the fact that it is the closest port to Europe it rapidly assumed a leading role in the fledging New England region, with a booming economy based on trade with the Caribbean and Europe. The devastating Fire of 1760 destroyed much of the town, but within a few years the city had bounced back.
Bostonians were the instigators of the independence movement in the 18th century and the city was the center of America's revolutionary activity during the Colonial period. Several of the first Revolutionary War skirmishes were fought there, including the Boston Massacre, The Boston Tea Party, and the battles of Lexington and Concord -which were fought nearby. Boston's direct involvement in the Revolution ended after the Battle of Bunker Hill and, soon afterwards, the ending of the Siege of Boston by George Washington. For some time afterwards the city's political leaders continued to have a leading role in developing of the new country's system of government. The residents' ardent support of independence earned the city the nickname The Cradle of Liberty.
Throughout the 19th century, Boston continued to grow rapidly, assimilating outlying towns into the metropolitan core. Its importance in American culture was inestimable, and its economic and literary elite, the so-called Boston Brahmins assumed the mantle of aristocracy in the United States. Their patronage of the arts and progressive social ideals was unprecedented in the New World, and often conflicted with the city's Puritan foundations. They helped drive unprecedented scientific, educational and social change that would soon sweep the country. The Abolitionist movement, anesthesia and the telephone are a few examples of this.
Education was another area that was vitally important to the elites and citizenery in general. The first public school in America, Boston Latin, was founded in 1635. The oldest elementary school in America, the Mather School, opened in 1635. (Its current structure, built in 1905, is the oldest continuously-operated school building in America.) Harvard College in nearby Cambridge became, and in many ways remains, America's premier center of learning. Boston was also the first city in America to adopt a public library.
At the same time, the city's working class swelled with immigrants from Europe. The huge Irish influx made Boston one of the most important Irish cities in the world, in or out of Ireland. Gradually the Irish laborer population climbed into city's upper class, evidenced no better than by the continued importance of the Kennedy family in national politics.
From the early twentieth century until the 1970s, Boston's importance on the national stage waned. Cities in what was once the frontier, like Chicago, San Francisco, and later Los Angeles, shifted the nation's center of gravity away from liberty's cradle. In the past two decades, Boston's importance and influence has increased, due to growth in higher education, health care, high technology, and financial services. It remains America's higher educational center; during the school year, one in five Bostonians is a university student. There are more college students per square foot in Boston than any other city in the Western Hemisphere.
Boston's nicknames include "Beantown", "The Hub" (shortened from Oliver Wendell Holmes' phrase 'The Hub of the Universe'), "The City of Higher Learning" (due to the plethora of universities and colleges in the Boston area) and - particularly in the 19th century - "The Athens of America," on account of its great cultural and intellectual influence. If you don't want to stand out as a tourist, don't refer to Boston by any of these nicknames. Locals generally don't use any of them.
Boston Logan International Airport is the main gateway to Boston and New England. It is in East Boston a few kilometers from downtown. All major U.S. carriers serve Boston Logan with extensive direct connections nationwide. Many European carriers also fly to Boston from their hubs including British Airways and Virgin Atlantic (London), Air France (Paris), Alitalia (Rome), Lufthansa (Frankfurt, Munich), Aer Lingus (Dublin, Shannon), Swiss (Zurich), Icelandair (Reykjavik), Iberia (Madrid) and NWA/KLM (Amsterdam). Getting to Boston from Asia will require at least a one stop connection.
To get to the Blue Line, MBTA boat, or parking, take a free Massport shuttle bus. Check the sign on the front of the shuttle for its destination.
The Blue line requires a transfer at the Airport Station to/from a free Massport shuttle to get to/from the terminals. On your way out of the city, check the signs at the Airport Station to see which terminal you need and which shuttle route goes there. The Airport station was completely rebuilt in 2004. Blue Line fare is $1.70 with plastic CharlieCard, or $2 with cash or CharlieTicket. You can get a CharlieCard for free if you ask the customer service agent near the faregates at Airport station. This is a good deal; it gets you discounts on all MBTA trains and buses, and free transfers. You can get this discount on your first ride if you see the agent before you use the ticket vending machine. The last Blue Line train leaves Airport station shortly after about 12:30AM.
From the Blue line, change at Government Center for Green Line trains and at State Street for Orange Line trains. If you need a Red Line train, you could take a Green Line train from Government Center to Park Street, but the Silver Line (see above) is a better bet.
Taxis are more expensive than in many other cities. Fortunately, the airport is very near the city so the fare is not extremely expensive. It would be about $25 for fares to Boston, and less if you are staying downtown in the financial district. If you're not driving or being picked up, you'll need to take a taxis if you are at the airport when the T is not running.
Driving to Logan from the north, take the Callahan Tunnel; from the south or the west, take the Ted Williams Tunnel. Routes are well marked, and there is no toll in this direction. Driving from the airport to downtown Boston or to points north, including Interstate 93 northbound, take the Sumner Tunnel; for points south and west, including Interstate 93 southbound and Interstate 90, take the Ted Williams Tunnel. There is a $3 toll for either tunnel. Routes are well marked, but the airport road system is complex. Read the signs carefully and be sure you're in the correct lane, or you may be forced to swerve across several lanes of traffic to catch an unexpected off-ramp.
If your final destination is a point outside of Boston, you may be better off flying into Manchester-Boston Regional Airport (IATA: MHT)  (50 miles north of Boston) or T.F. Green Airport (IATA: PVD)  (60 miles south of Boston). Public transportation from these airports to Boston is infrequent, so if your final destination is Boston, renting a car is the best option.
Amtrak arrives at South Station, which intersects with the MBTA's Red Line and the waterfront branches of the Silver Line. You can take the Amtrak Northeast Corridor or Acela Express from South Station all the way to Washington D.C. and beyond. Average Acela time from Boston to New York City is 3 1/2 hours, while a trip to Philadelphia takes about 5 hours. Another popular Amtrak train is the Lake Shore Limited service between Boston and Chicago (requiring a layover in Albany). This isn't as high quality or high speed as the Acela, but at around $75, the price is right (note that in order to get the low-low fare, you have to purchase your ticket a few weeks in advance). All Amtrak, and most commuter, trains to South Station also stop at Back Bay Station, which is much smaller, but more convenient to Back Bay, Beacon Hill and the South End. It is on the Orange Line on the subway.
Remember, Boston's North and South stations are not linked, and are over a mile from one another. In order to travel in between, hop on the inbound Red Line subway at South Station and switch at Downtown Crossing to the Orange Line to North Station. You could always take a cab, but the subway (known locally as the "T") is significantly cheaper. Your best option is to go between North Station and Back Bay station, since they are directly linked by the Orange Line.
If you have a first class Acela ticket, you may use the Amtrak Metropolitan Lounge in the historic, renovated South Station. There is no lounge at Back Bay Station. You may use Quik Track machines to buy your ticket without standing in line, or to pick up tickets you have reserved online.
Arriving by train has the advantage of putting you within easy reach of most downtown destinations by public transit.
Greyhound and Peter Pan Bus serve many cities from South Station but are generally much more expensive than the Chinatown buses, with Greyhound and PPB averaging $30 to New York. However, eSaver fares available online make the Greyhound fare between Boston & NYC as low as $15 each way. The Chinatown buses (AKA Dragon Buses) and BoltBus now use South Station also and serve Hartford, Connecticut and New York City. Some Chinatown buses average $12.50 one way. BoltBus and Megabus also include free wi-fi aboard most buses to New York City.
It should be noted that Fung Wah Transportation has been in the headlines for several accidents involving its buses in 2006 and 2007. Despite having stayed out of trouble in the past several years, it maintains a somewhat poor reputation around the city.
If you are driving in, you may seriously want to consider dropping your car at a lot and taking the "T" in. If you're heading downtown for the touristy sites, you will consider having a car a curse rather than a blessing. Parking at MBTA commuter rail and terminal subway locations is usually cheaper than parking in the city. In particular, the Riverside (Grove Street) stop at the end of the Green D line is right off I-95, and is $5.75 to park ALL DAY. You can even park overnight for something like a dollar more. Commuter rail stations are even cheaper. See the Public Transit section in the "Get around" section below.
Boston has two major highways entering it, I-93 and I-90 (the Massachusetts Turnpike, or "Mass Pike", or "Pike"; locals do not usually call it "I-90", though they will know what you are refering to). I-93 enters the city from the north and the south; the section running from Boston southward is referred to as the "Southeast Expressway" but the northern section is just "93 North." The Pike enters Boston from the west. The Mass Pike is a toll road - expect to pay $1.25 to enter the city via the Pike, in addition to the tolls charged when arriving at the I-90 / I-95 interchange in Weston, just outside the city (variable based on distance travelled, max price is $3.85 if you drive all the way from the automatic ticket machines near the New York border). Also, if you enter The Pike in East Boston (at Logan Airport) the toll is $3.50. There are minor roads, of course, that enter Boston as well, including Route 9 (Old Worcester Turnpike), Route 2, and US 1. Another major highway, I-95 (also known as Route 128) encircles the Boston area.
There are many car rental places around Boston, but one of the most unique is Zipcar, an hourly car rental service. If you don't plan to do much driving, this may be an economical alternative to owning a car. If you want to use Zipcar, you should try signing up in advance (students of universities in Boston may be able to get a discount). Rental fees and taxes differ between Boston and Cambridge, but the rental agencies at Logan Airport (in East Boston) are still usually less expensive and have a greater fleet of cars available.
In addition to the Massachusetts Turnpike (I-90), the Sumner Tunnel is a toll road (coming from the airport only), along with the Ted Williams Tunnel (from airport only), and the Tobin Bridge (southbound/from the North Shore only).
If driving on a major highway during rush hour, do not be surprised to see cars driving in the breakdown lane on the shoulder. This is permitted in certain areas, at certain times, as indicated by signs along the road.
As a general rule, especially as a tourist unfamiliar with the city, alternatives are favored over driving - even when just getting in or out of the city. Boston is one of the densest major cities in the U.S. - perfect for walking, biking, or using the collection of mass transit systems known as the T. Driving can be confusing and dangerous with numerous one way streets, narrow roads, and continuous road construction. Driving conditions have improved after the completion of the infamous Big Dig, but it is still not recommended to those unfamiliar with the area.
Due to the extensiveness of Boston's light rail and subway system, with lines going out into the suburbs, and commuter rail going even further, hitchhiking into Boston has a much larger margin of error than it would in many other US cities. One need only find a ride to somewhere in the vicinity of Boston, and from there hop on a train into the city.
Navigating the streets of Boston is difficult if you are not familiar with the area. While other American cities have their streets laid out in a grid (New York, Chicago, Indianapolis, Philadelphia, Phoenix), or along a river, lake, or other geographical feature (New Orleans, Cleveland), the modern streets of Boston are a twisty and seemingly incomprehensible maze. Boston in the 1600s was a narrow peninsula surrounded by farmland and distant settlements. Landfill, urban expansion, waves of radical economic change, and new technologies have seen sensible street patterns added on to and collide in less sensible ways. Due to dense development, the older street patterns have largely remained in place without being adapted to their modern surroundings. In this way, Boston is more similar to old European cities than most typical large American cities that were well planned, expanded into unsettled land, or were mainly settled in the late 20th century.
Driving is to be avoided if possible. Boston is known as an excellent walking city, and has excellent public transit  relative to the size of the city itself and inner suburbs. Most tourist attractions are well served by the subway system, and walking will allow you to see the top tourist sights with ease.
Signage is generally poor, and the names of major streets are usually unmarked when crossing minor streets. There are many one-way streets, often arranged haphazardly. Street names are duplicated in different neighborhoods (due to municipal consolidations in the 1800s and early 1900s). Even Bostonians can easily get lost. Navigating from "square" to "square" (major intersections - usually not actually square or really any consistent shape) is one navigational technique. Some parts of the city are difficult to reach from other nearby parts, prompting the local expression, "Ya cain't get theyah from hee-ah! (You can't get there from here!)"
Avoid driving at morning or evening rush hour; highways and streets can become quite congested. (Peak times vary, depending on relative distance from downtown.) Public transit also becomes very crowded during rush hour, and just before and after major sporting events and public celebrations.
If you do chose to drive, watch out for double-parked vehicles, travel lanes that suddenly become parking lanes, lanes that disappear as you cross intersections, jaywalkers, and bicyclists coasting through red lights or lane splitting. Give taxi drivers extra room; do not pass stopped trolleys on the right. Allow buses to merge back into traffic instead of trying to pass them quickly. If you encounter train tracks in the road, be aware that they can be slippery, especially when wet. Hold the steering wheel tightly to avoid being dragged off course. If you encounter a rotary, remember that Massachusetts state law gives the right of way to traffic in a rotary, also known as a roundabout in other parts in the world.
The only toll road in the area is the Massachusetts Turnpike (Interstate I-90), with various prices depending on entrance and exit points. Other tolls include the Ted Williams and Sumner Tunnels, each of which charges $3.50 when coming back from Logan Airport into downtown. The Tobin Bridge on Route 1 headed southbound toward downtown charges $3. Have cash on hand for these roads as checks and credit card are not accepted.
Parking can be expensive, up to $40/day downtown on a weekday, though $20 and $7 deals can be found if you are willing to walk. Most cheap or free street parking is permitted as resident only and requires a special sticker, or is metered and has a 2-hour time limit.
Parallel parking is a necessary skill for street parking. Believe it or not, you can park in a space that is only a few inches larger than your car, if you don't mind scrapes on your bumpers and take advantages of the bounciness of cars' suspensions.
Garages are located at Quincy Market, the Aquarium, the new State Street Financial Center, the Theater District and the Boston Common. There are three levels of parking under the Common. The garage is very clean and its central location makes it a good starting point for a day trip in the city. To get in and out of the garage, there are four pavilions on the Common; each has stairs and an elevator. Once out of the garage, the Park Street and Boylston Street subway stops are only a two or three minute walk away.
As a rule, if you think you may be illegally parked, you probably are. Read the street signs very carefully. Watch for street cleaning, resident-only parking zones, and commercial parking zones - all of which will vary depending on the day and time. Parking meters are enforced heavily throughout the city. Meters in different parts of the city will turn off at different times (ie. 8PM downtown or 6PM in many other neighborhoods). A broken meter entitles you to the posted time limit without having to pay.
Public transit in Boston is convenient and relatively inexpensive, and can take you directly to most everything. A single public transit agency serves the Boston Metro area, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority ("MBTA", or "the T" for short). The MBTA is the fourth-largest transit system in the U.S. For complete schedules, maps, and other information, see their official website at .
After decades of using tokens for fare payment, the entire MBTA system was converted in 2007 to an electronic CharlieCard and CharlieTicket system. Dispensing machines at all stations accept cash, credit cards, and debit cards. If you go straight to a dispensing machine, you'll get a paper CharlieTicket with magnetic stripe. If you have time, first ask an attendant at any underground station for a plastic CharlieCard, which is a contactless "smart card". The Card is free and will give you a discount on all subway and bus fares, and it's the only way to get free transfers to and from buses.
Bicycles are sometimes welcome on the MBTA. Bikes are allowed on the Blue, Red, and Orange subway lines except at peak hours, but are not allowed on the Green and Silver lines. Bikes are always allowed on MBTA buses that are equipped with bike racks. The MBTA is currently installing bike racks on many bus routes - check the MBTA website for the latest updates. Bikes are allowed on MBTA boats and ferries at any time. On commuter rail trains, they are allowed anytime except weekday rush hours, as noted on individual train line schedules.
The T consists of several components: subway, bus, water shuttles, and commuter rail.
Full-color system maps are available at major stations; you may need to ask an agent if you would like one. They are extremely useful for locals and travelers getting a bit off the beaten track, because they show all bus, rapid transit, commuter rail, and boat lines. Most of the T maps you will see only show the rapid transit lines, which are identified by color. If you have a color printer, you can even make one yourself by printing the PDF version online. (Front , back .)
Subway (or "the T")
The subway is composed of four color-coded rail lines, the Red Line, Orange Line, Green Line, and Blue Line. Short of particular non-touristy spots in the suburbs, the subway can get you anywhere.
The Green Line splits into four branches going west that are known as the B, C, D and E lines (from north to south). Going west on the Green Line, the E line branches off at Copley Square station, the other three split at Kenmore Square station. Just after the lines split, these lines all run above ground and become "streetcar" lines. The B line branch of the Green Line runs through Boston University and ends at Boston College; therefore, during the school year, B-line trolleys are often very crowded with students, particularly at night.
The Red Line splits in two directions going south that are known as the Braintree and Ashmont branches, the latter of which connects to a streetcar line to Mattapan. Going south, the Red Line splits at JFK/UMass station.
When Bostonians say that they use the T, they're almost always referring to the subway, though the other modes of mass transit (bus, commuter rail, etc.) are still technically part of the T. While the MBTA refers to the Silver Line as a subway route (it appears on subway maps), most Bostonians consider it part of the bus system.
The subway system is slightly confusing in that directions are often marked "inbound" and "outbound", rather than with a destination. "Inbound" means "into the center of Boston", where all four lines converge at four stops: State (Blue and Orange), Park Street (Red and Green), Government Center (Blue and Green), and Downtown Crossing (Orange and Red). "Outbound" means "away from the center of Boston". Once one is in the center, signs generally give the direction ("eastbound") or the last stop on the line in that direction ("Alewife"). All trains are signed with the last stop in the direction they are headed, and this is the best way to know if you are going in the right direction.
Note that most Green Line trains do not go all the way to the end of the line at Lechmere; most turn around either at North Station or Government Center. If you are traveling farther than Government Center, your best bet is to get on the first train that comes, and then wait at the stop where you are forced to leave the train for the next Lechmere or North Station train. (Depending where you are, Lechmere trains might not stop there.)
Subway and light rail service generally does not run between 1 AM and 5AM. (The same goes for the commuter rail lines - usually midnight or before.) Each line (Green, Blue, etc.) has a "last train" time, starting at one end of the line and going to the other. Check the schedule in advance if you are going to be out late. Sometimes the last train is delayed due to passenger load or the need to wait for the last connection from another line, so you might get lucky if you are running late. Check with a T employee near the faregates to see if you've missed the last train or not. A general rule of thumb is to be in the station by midnight to safely catch the last train.
Unlimited-ride subway and bus passes are available from the T. If you're going to be riding a lot around town, these are worth investigating. See the link  for complete fare information on passes. Buy a CharlieCard 1 day pass for $9 or a 7 day unlimited pass for $15. The 7-Day LinkPass is valid for 7 days from the date and time of purchase. The LinkPass gives you unlimited travel on Subway, Local Bus, Inner Harbor Ferry, and Commuter Rail Zone 1A. (Note that Commuter Rail and boats do not accept CharlieCards, so you must use a CharlieTicket for these services.)
The cost of a one-way ride on the MBTA Subway is $1.70 plus FREE subway and local bus transfers (if done on a CharlieCard), or $2 if done on a Charlie Ticket or paying by cash. This will get you to most destinations. Parking at the Alewife station on the Red line is ample but will cost you $7 no matter when you come and go (for each 24 hour period). Riverside Station just off I-95 has plentiful parking for $3.75 for ALL DAY. Additional suburban parking is available in Quincy, Braintree, and many Commuter Rail stops.
Regular bus service (the vast majority of buses) is usually slower than rapid transit, but is also cheaper and may take you closer to your final destination. Express buses are faster, more expensive, and travel longer distances. CharlieCard users get free transfers and pay $1.25 for regular bus, $2.80 for Inner Express, and $4 for Outer Express (check the schedule to know which line is which). Charlie Ticket or cash customers pay $1.50 for regular bus, $3.50 for Inner Express, and $5 for Outer Express, with no free transfers.
Note that the Silver Line bus rapid transit line is split into discontinuous segments. Routes SL1 and SL2, departing from South Station, are considered part of the subway system (though their vehicles are dual-mode electric/diesel buses) and have free underground transfers to the Red Line. Routes SL4 and SL5 are considered part of the bus system, and have the lower local bus fare fare. Although Route SL4 also stops at South Station, it stops outside the station complex, and transfers between SL4 and the other Silver Line routes or the Red Line are only free with a CharlieCard.
The MBTA runs a number of water shuttles, but the most useful for tourists is the shuttle from Long Wharf to Navy Yard, which costs $1.70. This provides a convenient connection between the USS Constitution Museum and the area around Faneuil Hall and the New England Aquarium. There's also a shuttle from Long Wharf to Logan Airport, but it runs relatively infrequently, so the Blue Line is your best bet for getting between these two destinations.
There are also non-MBTA public ferries available from several ports, notably the Aquarium and Long Wharf, and a water taxi service on the waterfront.
Commuter rail  in Boston is primarily used for traveling to towns outside of the city. Due to its limited frequency compared to the subway, it is not generally recommended for travel within the city itself. An exception is travel between Back Bay Station and South Station, which is served by 5 commuter rail branches on weekdays and is free one way. Commuter rail fares range from $1.70 to $7.75 one way, although any ticket to or from the city is at least $4.25. Tickets can be bought on board trains, but at a slight surcharge. Passengers can ride for free from Back Bay to South Station, but must buy a ticket for $1.70 to travel from South Station to Back Bay.
Trains heading north of the city leave from North Station, while those heading south or west leave from South Station. Both stations have connections to the subway: North Station is on the Green and Orange Lines, and South Station is on the Red and Silver Lines. The two stations are not directly connected: you cannot board a train north of the city and take it to a point south of the city. Such a journey will require a subway ride in-between train trips to make the connection.
Your current alternative to late-night public transit is a taxi. Taxis can be hailed at any significant street corner, such as Kenmore Square or Copley Square. Expect to spend at least $5 and possibly up to $30 in the immediate surroundings (this includes the initial fare, a small tip for the driver, small one-way streets, bad traffic, construction, tolls for bridges, tolls for tunnels, tolls for the Mass Pike, and any wait time). To get further out of Boston, expect to spend much more (for example, from the airport to Wellesley, a Boston suburb, would be around $80, which includes the actual driving and tolls along the way). Fun fact, as of summer 2009, Boston has the most expensive taxis of any major American city.
Boston's downtown core is compact and easily walkable. Most tourist attractions can be visited on foot, although some neighborhoods require rail and/or bus connections. The climate is cold from December to April, and the city is the most windy in America. Snow can also be an obstacle.
If late at night, you feel you can deal neither with the cost of a taxi nor the wait involved with the MBTA, then Boston is a relatively small and safe city and walking is an option. Just remember to use the same sense you would in any city.
Many Boston residents use bicycling as their primary mode of transit all year round, and Boston's small size and relative flatness make biking an appealing way to get around. Boston lacks many amenities for bicyclists, however, as the roads are covered with potholes and absent of designated bicycle lanes or bicycle racks, so visitors wishing to travel by bicycle should have excellent urban riding skills prior to renting a bicycle. Riding on the sidewalk is illegal in the city of Cambridge, and frowned upon in Boston, and being well-lit in the evenings is important both for following regulations and for being safe. Recent efforts by Mayor Thomas Menino promise increased city investment in bicycling as a viable mode of transportation, and the mayor himself has taken up biking around town.
A central transit for bikers in Boston is the Southwest Corridor Bike Path, a major park/bike way placed along a route once slated for a major freeway system. This runs parallel to the T's Orange Line and connects Forest Hills to the Back Bay. This is an excellent means of transit if you intend on staying in Jamaica Plain.
There are several visitor pass programs that offer discounted or free admission to a number of the sites listed below, among them the GoBoston Card  and the CityPass . Depending on the length of your stay and what you want to see, either program could potentially save you quite a bit of money.
A good resource for daily and nightly event listings of all sizes and interests can be found by picking up a free Weekly Dig or The Phoenix newspaper from one of the many free newspaper vending boxes located at most major busy intersections.
Boston is a sports town, and its professional teams are much-loved. These include the Red Sox (baseball), Celtics (basketball), Bruins (hockey), New England Patriots (football), and New England Revolution (soccer).
The Greater Boston area has over one hundred colleges and universities, many of which are world-renowned. The metro Boston area has something of around 250,000 students living in the area at any given time.
The biggest shopping areas in the inner Metro are the Back Bay and Downtown Crossing. In addition, there are two large malls in and near the center of the city.
More local color can be experienced outdoors at any of several popular commercial areas:
Boston has excellent seafood from the nearby New England coast. Local specialties include baked beans, cod, and clam chowder. For dessert you'll have no trouble finding good ice cream. Boston (and New England as a whole) are one of the top per-capita ice cream consuming regions.
A variety of excellent ethnic restaurants can be found in neighborhoods such as the North End, Chinatown, or Coolidge Corner.
The best sit-down restaurants can be quite crowded in the evenings on weekends. Unless you have a reservation, be prepared to wait anywhere from a few minutes to an hour, depending on how refined your tastes are.
The North End is full of Italian eateries, and it's certain that you'll find something here to your liking. Take the Green or Orange Lines to the Haymarket station, follow the pedestrian passageway through the Big Dig, and then follow the signs to Hanover Street, the main commercial thoroughfare. Most of the good restaurants are on this street or on side streets. If you visit the North End on the weekend in the summer you may encounter one of many saint's festivals. Streets are closed off and there are music, food, and parades of the saint's statues.
The Bull & Finch Pub in Beacon Hill was inspiration for the hit television show "Cheers." Very pricey for bar fare, but an essential part of the Boston tourist experience. The Beacon Street address is the original and does not look much like the set of the show. There is another Cheers at Faneuil Hall which is more of a replica of the TV set. If you ask a local for directions to Cheers, you may be directed to Faneuil Hall. The Beacon Street bar is referred to by its original name. Both locations are very touristy complete with souvenir shops.
Legal Sea Foods is a Boston original - well, technically Cambridge, since it started as a fish market in Inman Square, Cambridge. Legal Seafood is known for its New England Clam Chowder. Expect to pay between $25-$30/person at dinner at one of their multiple locations.
Boston has a thriving nightlife and is known to be a 'drinking' town. There are many different venues that cater to college students, businesspeople, sports fanatics, and many others. Bar Hopping is very easy and commonly done
With a large Irish population, Boston has a number of very good Irish pubs. Many tourists look for an authentic "Boston Irish Pub". A good rule of thumb is if the establishment has a neon shamrock in the window, it is not an authentic Irish pub. For nightlife and club listings look for "Stuff @ Night" or "The Weekly Dig" in the free boxes on the street.
Places densest in bars include Canal Street (just south of TD BankNorth Garden), Bolyston Street & Downtown Crossing, Faneuil Hall, Landsdowne Street and Fenway area, Harvard Ave/Brighton Ave in Allston, Central Square in Cambridge and Harvard Square in Cambridge.
There are many dive bars in Boston. One suggestion is The Other Side on the corner of Massachusettes Avenue and Newbury Street, if you're a total hipster. Less expensive than the neighboring bars with a good selection of Belgian Beers. Ask for the "Trois Pistoles" beer from Quebec for a flavorful, tasty dark beer (9% alc./vol.).
If you are in the North End or near the Banknorth Garden, go to Sullivan's Tap. Ask for the Brubaker - a $2 beer in a recycled bottle. ESPN's Sports Guy, Bill Simmons, rated it "The most depressing bar in Boston."
In Davis Square, Somerville you can find Sligo's Pub, a similar hole in the wall serving cheap beer in plastic cups.
If you're off the beaten path in the outer neighborhoods (Hyde Park, Dorchester, South Boston) in search of some real Bostonians, look for any tavern with a cheesy old lamp light out front. Be ready for an in-depth conversation about the "Red Sawx" or the Bruins back when Bobby Orr played.
You should be able to stand on any corner in the city and see at least two Dunkin' Donuts stores. The commercials should really be "Boston runs on Dunkin." Every Bostonian knows that "Dunks" is for coffee, not donuts - trust us. But quality and service at a Dunkin' Donuts is really hit or miss depending on the location. Au Bon Pain's 200 stores began in Boston and are also common. Starbucks are, of course, plentiful. Boston does, however, have some outstanding independent coffee shops as well.
All hotels are listed in the individual district articles.
Greater Boston uses 10-digit dialing. This means you need to include the area code whenever you are making a call. The standard area code is 617, but some phone numbers, especially cell phones, use the new 857 overlay.
Crime and other hazards in Boston are low for a major American city.
Some neighborhoods (Roxbury, Mattapan, and some parts of Dorchester and Jamaica Plain) are more dangerous than average, and extra care should be taken. Avoid walking in these areas at night if possible. Also avoid public parks after dark (unless there's a special event), especially the Fens (known as an extremely popular "cruising" spot for homosexual men who often engage in sexual acts in the park itself).
Dangers related to alcohol consumption are not uncommon, such as fights and drunk driving. Be especially careful when there is a Red Sox vs NY Yankees baseball game in progress. Don't wear Yankees gear in the Kenmore Square/Fenway districts.
Care should be taken as well if you decide to go clubbing on Landsdowne St., the Theatre District, Chinatown, or Faneuil Hall. As mentioned above, the more dangerous parts of Boston are generally not visited or even seen by tourists, but there are a few mildly dangerous locales that you should be aware of if you plan on enjoying Boston's nightlife. In Kenmore Square, be especially careful on Landsdowne St. as muggers and pickpockets are becoming more common, waiting in the darker areas near Ipswitch St. at the end of the strip. Don't wear any kind of flashy jewelry that would attract attention and keep designer labels out of sight as much as possible, as assailants usually determine who to target based on the way they are dressed. In Chinatown, be very careful if you wander off of Kneeland St. There are a plethora of little alleyways and inlets where muggers operate. Faneuil Hall is generally safe, but not without its share of fights and petty robberies. Keep an eye on your stuff and don't get involved with strangers, especially if they've been drinking. The safest place to have a night on the town in Boston is definitely Boylston St. in the Back Bay, around the Prudential Center area. There are plenty of bars, pubs, clubs, and restaurants that cater to the college, professional, and upscale crowd, greatly reducing the likelihood of crime. Also this area is within short walking distance from most of the major hotels in the city. All this being said Boston is a reasonably safe city known more for its schools and history than crime; petty or otherwise.
As mentioned above, Boston area drivers are not known for their courtesy or consideration for others around them. Pedestrians should use crosswalks and exercise considerable caution when crossing streets. Assume the drivers are *trying* to hit you.
For emergency dial 911 from any telephone for police, medical, and fire services.
Boston makes an excellent starting point for any tour of New England.