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Destination: Boston

Published: 06/09/2011 - Filed under: Home » Archive » September 2011 » Special Reports »

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Even as you look westward from Logan Airport across Boston Harbor, the sense of history begins to rise on the wind and you feel you’re in a place where the past – and the present – is very much alive. Boston is one of America’s oldest cities, yet the vibe here is young and energetic. 

In part, at least, that goes back to another of its nicknames, the Athens of America. With both Boston University and Boston College in town, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) just across the Charles River in Cambridge, and another 100 or so well-known institutions of higher learning scattered throughout the Greater Boston area, over a third of the population is under the age of 25. No moldy historic relic, this place. 

Still, history has shaped Boston and you can’t turn a downtown corner without bumping into a little piece of it. To keep all that straight, visitors can follow the Freedom Trail, a two and a half-mile hike from Boston Commons to the Bunker Hill Monument, with a side excursion to the USS Constitution, ‘Old Ironside.’ The trail is marked in red, often red brick, and is dotted with markers explaining 17 sites important to the early history of the United States. Tours are available and run from May through October. They begin at the statue of Samuel Adams on the Congress Street side of Faneuil Hall, Friday and Saturday at 10:00 AM, Sunday at 2:00 PM, rain or shine. The cost is $8 per person. Alternate walking tours laid out around the downtown area include the Black Heritage Trail and the Harbor Walk.

Boston residents tend to be scarce at Faneuil Hall Marketplace (also called Quincy Market). 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. 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.

 

Getting Around

Downtown Boston’s streets are not organized on a grid, but grew in a meandering pattern from early in the 17th century. They were created as needed and as wharves and landfill expanded the area of the small Boston peninsula. In fact, at its founding, only a narrow spit of land kept Boston from being an island. Through the years, rubble and earth scraped from the surrounding hills were dumped into the harbor to create the outline of the city as it is today. But along the way, nobody bothered to straighten out the street system; along with several rotaries, roads change names and lose and add lanes seemingly at random. 

By contrast, streets in areas like Back Bay and the South End do follow a grid system. These are just a few of the names of 21 official neighborhoods that make up Greater Boston. Others include Charlestown, Dorchester, Roxbury, North, South, East and West Boston and, just north of Boston Common, the gas-lit and well-heeled Beacon Hill.

When Bostonians say “downtown,” they usually mean the Waterfront, the North End, North Station, Faneuil Hall, the Financial District and Government Center; there’s no “midtown” or “uptown.” Almost everything in this compact urban enclave is “within walking distance.” Which is a good thing, because the last thing you want to be is in a car. For one thing, you can best appreciate Boston at street level, and walking the narrow, picturesque streets. Urban walkability website walkscore.com rated Boston third most walkable city in the US for 2011. 

For another, the traffic is in an almost perpetual state of gridlock, so if you’re thinking about driving, don’t even try it. Cabs are plentiful (although you may have to walk to a major hotel or Faneuil Hall to find one), but expensive. If you want to get around like a real Bostonian, you’ll want to jump on board the nation’s oldest subway system – otherwise known to natives affectionately as ‘The T.’ Subway stops on The T are denoted by white circular signs that say, simply, ‘T’ – hence the name. Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, which operates The T also runs an extensive bus system and regional rail lines.

 

What’s New

America’s largest urban underground tunnel project, which became somewhat disparagingly known as ‘The Big Dig’ is less than 5 years old, but controversy and finger-pointing still surround its cost and construction. The project literally buried I-93, otherwise known as the Central Artery, under the eastern tip of downtown, and rerouted I-90 east-west across Boston Harbor through the new Ted Williams Tunnel. But despite the overruns and leaks, the resulting road system has untangled a substantial portion of Boston’s traffic snarl, and has connected Boston’s Logan International airport, Boston’s new convention center, Boston’s CruisePort, and downtown Boston and Cambridge. Above the downtown tunnel, the one and a half mile-long Rose Kennedy Greenway offers gardens, paths and activities stretching from Boston’s North End to Chinatown. The Greenway connects the downtown to Boston’s waterfront. 

The completion of ‘The Big Dig’ and related projects has resulted in major pedestrian, bikeway and green space connections. Boston’s 125-year-old ‘Emerald Necklace’ is now connected to waterfront by the one-mile ‘Walk To The Sea’ which connects the Rose Kennedy Greenway to Boston Harbor Walk.

 

What’s Old

Harvard celebrates its 375th birthday beginning on October 15, 2011. One of the most prestigious universities in the world and the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States, Harvard founded 16 years after the arrival of the Pilgrims at Plymouth. The University has grown from nine students with a single master to an enrollment of more than 18,000 degree candidates. Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) is 200 in 2011. One of the world’s most famous hospitals, MGH is the third-oldest general hospital in the United States, the birthplace of the Harvard Medical School and the location of the first demonstration of ether to the medical profession. Massachusetts Institute of Technology is 150 years old in 2011. The most famous technology school in the world has students and faculty from 117 countries. MIT grads have been in on the development of the World Wide Web, the invention of the transistor and mapping the human genome, among other world-changing technologies.

 

Where to Eat

A better question may be, where not to eat? More than a dozen new restaurants have opened in the last two years: The newest is the stunning new harborfront three-story Northern Avenue Liberty Wharf development on Boston’s new Harbor Walk – a three-story, 20,000-square foot Legal Sea Foods restaurant (combination fish market, restaurant and private event space), Houston-based Del Frisco steakhouse, a 200-seat Jerry Remy’s Sports Bar & Grill, and Texamal Mexican restaurant. Last fall, the landmark Italian restaurant Strega, on Hanover Street in Boston’s North End, opened a 150-seat indoor and outdoor dining restaurant, Strega Waterfront. At One Marine Center, is Capital Grille on the ground floor of the Hynes Convention Center in the Back Bay. Earlier this year Towne Stove and Spirits opened a fine dining 300-seat, two-level space with three bars on Boylston Street. Towne features a wood-burning stove, private dining for 80 and an outdoor patio.

If you’re in town at the right time in March or August, Restaurant Week Boston is a twice-a-year tradition that’s an ideal way to sample the culinary scope of the city Over 200 participating restaurants lay out their best with prix fixe offerings for lunch (2 Course - $15.11, 3 Course - $20.11) or dinner (3 Course - $33.11). Prices are per person and exclude beverages, tax and gratuities.

 

Where to Stay

If  You Are Serious About Fitness:

The Seaport Boston Hotel offers one of Boston’s finest fitness facilities including an indoor heated pool. The Constitution Inn consists of 147 well-appointed, comfortable, and spacious rooms. All rooms have refrigerators and microwaves and many include private kitchenettes and dining areas. The workout facility is part of the Boston YMCA, and includes a heated indoor Olympic-sized pool, sauna, cardiovascular equipment, free weights, yoga, fitness classes, and a full basketball court - all complimentary to guests. The hotel provides free wireless internet, and because it’s a not-for-profit, guests are exempt from paying room tax. 

Guests of the Charles Hotel enjoy complimentary admission to the Wellbridge Athletic Club including, group fitness classes. Located in the hotel is a three-story gymnasium sporting a lap pool, weight room, group fitness classes and personal trainers.

The Colonnade Boston’s new state-of-the-art fitness center totals over 1,000 square feet. Open from 6:00 AM until 10:00 PM, it’s complimentary for all hotel guests.

The Ritz-Carlton Boston offers access to the Sports Club/LA which is directly connected to the hotel. It is a 100,000 square foot luxury sports and fitness complex designed to fulfill every fitness need.

Ames Boston’s fitness center is located on the fourth floor. The center is open 24 hours a day and is accessible with a guest room key. Complimentary bicycles are also available for guest use by reservations with the hotel Concierge.

 

Meetings info

For the third consecutive year, Boston and Cambridge have been named the Top Destination in the United States for International Association Meetings by the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA). In 2010, Boston and Cambridge hosted a record number of 43 international meetings, making it the number one destination for international association meetings in the United States. 

Boston has three major convention and event facilities. According to the Greater Boston Convention and Visitors’ Bureau, “The Boston Convention and Exhibition Center (BCEC) is the world’s newest, most spectacular and most-user friendly convention center. Built from the inside out, the 1.6 million-square-foot facility has everything you need to stage a successful event.”

Located in the heart of Boston’s beautiful and restaurant-rich Back Bay, the Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center offers over 175,000 square feet of exhibit space and 91,000 square feet of meeting rooms, making it well suited for mid-sized shows. The Hynes is close to the new Boston Exhibition and Convention Center.

Situated on Boston’s waterfront, The Seaport World Trade Center with a 118,000 square-foot exhibit hall, 200,000 square feet of meeting space and 396-seat amphitheater is a premier choice for meeting planners.

In addition to the three major facilities, Greater Boston has more than 127 hotels offering flexible meeting spaces to accommodate meetings from 10 to 10,000 attendees.

The new Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum wing will open up some significant new opportunities for meeting and event planners who have not been able to include the Gardner in the past.. The 1903 museum will complete restoration of the Tapestry Room in late 2011 and open its $135 million Renzo Piano-designed, four-story 70,000 square foot wing in January 2012. 

 

Traveler Alert

BIO BostonUSA 2012: The world’s largest annual gathering of the biotechnology industry is once again coming to Boston in June 18-21, 2012. The 2012 convention, which will attract more than 26,000 attendees from all over the world, will be hosted at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. 

GBTA Convention 2012: The Business Travel Event of the Year is scheduled for July 22 - July 25, 2012 in Boston. It’s the  one conference thousands of business travel buyers count on each year to find cost-effective solutions to industry challenges. 

 

Contacts

For further assistance on meeting planning contact:

Lisa Deveny 

Director of Convention Services

617-867-8216

ldeveney@bostonusa.com

 

Toshiba L. Bodden, CMP

Director of Housing Services and Special Projects

617-867-8249

tbodden@bostonusa.com

For more information, visit bostonusa.com

 

By Carol Ann Bakeman


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