Boston is one of America’s oldest cities, first founded by Pilgrim settlers in 1630. Throughout the course of American history, Boston has been front and center: the events leading up to the American Revolution happened here, the city was a stop for former slaves traveling the Underground Railroad, and the American Industrial Revolution flourished here. Even today, Boston is one of America’s foremost hubs of culture, education and business. It’s also a great place for the LGBT traveler, with an open, welcoming atmosphere. Let me tell you what to see and do in Boston.
HOW TO GET THERE
Boston Logan International Airport is located just off the Massachusetts Turnpike in East Boston, minutes away from downtown by car, taxi or the free local shuttle. The free local shuttle, the Silver Line, transports travelers between Boston Logan and the World Trade Center Boston as well as South Station. At South Station, travelers can connect to Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) commuter trains around greater Boston and even to Worcester and Providence, Rhode Island. All major airports in South and Central Florida offer at least one direct flight per week to Boston Logan. (The remainder require short layovers in other cities.) The city is also accessible by car from Florida via Interstate 95.
WHERE TO STAY
Boston Park Plaza is located in the Back Bay neighborhood of the city, one of the most well-heeled areas of town. It’s also within walking distance of Boston Common and shopping on Newbury Street. The massive hotel offers over 1000 guest rooms, with colonial decor and modern amenities. If you’d like to try some authentic New England seafood, there is an award-winning restaurant on-site. (64 Arlington St., 617-426-2000)
The XV Beacon Hotel is a small luxury hotel in the Beacon Hill neighborhood, and has been named Boston’s best hotel by tourists and locals alike. You’ll find that this hotel is very close to the Massachusetts State House. All 63 rooms are tastefully decorated, and there are amenities such as fireplaces, minibars and large flat-screen TVs in each room, as well as 24-hour room service. (15 Beacon St., 617-670-1500)
The Boxer Boston Hotel is the newest boutique hotel property in Boston, and it is situated in the Bulfinch Triangle. The hotel’s 80 rooms feature such amenities as all-marble bathrooms, suites with sofa beds, and complimentary wireless Internet throughout the hotel. Location is everything in Boston, and The Boxer is located between all the action in downtown and Fenway Park, which is two miles away. (107 Merrimac St., 617-624-0202)
The Hyatt Boston Harbor is right on the water and also bordering Boston Logan International Airport, making it easy to explore the city and to catch your flight home at the end of your trip. All 270 guest rooms are soundproofed and amenities include loveseats in each room, premium bedding, and comfortable work areas. Be sure to have a drink in their lounge, which offers beautiful views of the city. (101 Harborside Dr., 617-568-1234)
WHERE TO PLAY
Boston’s gay neighborhood is the South End, located south of the Massachusetts Turnpike and adjacent to Copley Place, which is to the northwest of the neighborhood. Many of Boston’s gay bars and nightclubs are located here; others are scattered throughout the city.
Bars and clubs located in the South End include Fritz Lounge (26 Chandler St.), Boston’s gay sports bar, where you can make new friends and root for your favorite sports teams (Patriots fans are particularly welcomed!); the Boston Eagle (520 Tremont St.), described as “the gay Cheers,” where the bartenders know your name and your drink order; Club Café (209 Columbus Ave.), a large complex that includes a restaurant, a piano bar, a dance floor and video lounge; and 28 Degrees (1 Appleton St.), a place that is well-known for their handcrafted drinks, including some of the best martinis in all of gay Boston.
Other gay bars and clubs you should check out in Boston include The Alley Bar (275 Washington St.), a favorite haunt for the local bear community; The Machine (1256 Boylston St.), which hosts one of the biggest gay dance nights in Boston every Friday night; the Boston Ramrod (1254 Boylston St.), right next door to The Machine, a gathering place for the local leather community (you must wear some leather to drink at the front bar); Rise (306 Stuart St.), an after-hours bar open on the weekends, spinning some of the best house and trance music in New England; and Paradise Bar (180 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge), across the river, where you can enjoy a great mix of music and lots of go-go dancer eye candy!
WHERE TO GO
No trip to Boston would be complete without seeing the sights on The Freedom Trail. The Trail is two-and-a-half miles long and begins at the Boston Common Visitors Center and ends at the Charlestown Navy Yard. Some of the sights you can see on The Freedom Trail include Boston Common, the Massachusetts State House, the Benjamin Franklin Statue, the Boston Latin School (the oldest school in the United States), the Old State House, the site of the Boston Massacure, Faneuil Hall, the Paul Revere House, the Bunker Hill Monument, and the USS Constitution. Guided tours are offered daily and tickets can be purchased from the Boston Common Visitors Center.
If you’re looking for history, Boston has a lot of it. Start by going to Boston Harbor and visiting the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum at the Congress Street Bridge. You will be able to see a live re-enactment of the Boston Tea Party on most weekdays. Close by is the Institute of Contemporary Art, which routinely exhibits art by local, national and international artists and artisans. Learn about art throughout modern history at the Museum of Fine Arts, near Fenway, which boasts more Monet paintings than anywhere else in the world except for Paris, and one of the largest Japanese art collections in the United States.
If you’re going south into Dorchester, be sure to stop by the Commonwealth Museum, completely devoted to Massachusetts history, and the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, which chronicles the life’s work of one of America’s most beloved presidents. The library was built by world-renowned architect I.M. Pei. If you’re going north across the river into Cambridge, the MIT Museum showcases the innovative technological advances that the school has become famous for, and Harvard University is home to two popular museums, the Harvard Museum of Natural History and the Harvard Art Museums.
If you’d like to take in a show while you’re in Boston, entertainment acts from all over the world perform at the Citi Performing Arts Center as well as the Boston Center for the Arts. If shopping is what you’re after, there are boutiques lined all along Newbury Street, one of the ritziest streets in town. There are also many boutiques located on Charles Street and in Copley Place. Back Bay is home to a very large shopping complex, The Shops at Prudential Center, which is anchored by Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord & Taylor, Free People and Sephora.
If you have time, consider Providence, Rhode Island as an easy day trip from Boston. It takes an hour and ten minutes to get to Providence from Boston’s South Station on the Providence/Stoughton MBTA Commuter Rail line. The train station is conveniently located in the downtown area, next to the Rhode Island State House.
Providence is easily walkable and most sights in downtown can be seen in one day. The Arcade Providence is close to Kennedy Plaza and the Providence City Hall, and is America’s oldest underground shopping center, originally built in 1828. Around this area are Providence’s largest gay bars, The Dark Lady and The Stable. Walk back to Kennedy Plaza and turn left; you will pass the Rhode Island Convention Center and Providence Place, a large urban shopping center. Prepare to cross the Woonasquatucket River as if you were heading toward the State House. Once you’ve crossed the bridge, turn right and walk along the beautiful waterfront area. A few blocks to the north and west, you will encounter the College Hill neighborhood, home to the Rhode Island School of Design and Brown University. Once you’re done sightseeing, treat yourself to dinner: west of downtown is Federal Hill, Providence’s “Little Italy” neighborhood. If you’re in the mood for Portuguese food, travel to East Providence. For more information on Providence, visit goprovidence.com.
Provincetown, at the tip of Cape Cod, is another fun option for a day trip or an overnight stay. The Provincetown Fast Ferry leaves from Boston Harbor near the World Trade Center, and operates on a limited schedule in the fall and winter. After September 21, the ferry leaves daily from Boston every morning at 9 a.m., and takes 90 minutes to reach Provincetown. Provincetown is well-known for its thriving art colony, over a century old, as well as its large LGBT community. For more information on Provincetown, visit provincetowntourismoffice.org, and feel free to read our “Let’s Travel to Provincetown!” feature on our website, hotspots.lgbt. Hotspots also publishes a Provincetown special issue each March, and that is also available for viewing on our website.
If you’d like to learn more about Boston, visit the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau’s website, which covers of Boston Metro, including Cambridge, in-depth at bostonusa.com.