Visiting Boston and New England
The TUG2012 annual conference will be held in July 2012 at the Omni Parker House in Boston. In anticipation of this event, I will incrementally post some sightseeing notes. Boston is a wonderful city—big enough to be interesting but not so big as to be overwhelming. It is also old and historic by a U.S. time scale, and easy to get around the parts relevant for sightseeing. However, don't expect a grid of right-angle streets and avenues.
I have lived in the Boston area for over 45 years, and feel qualified to present my personal views and what sticks in my memory. But of course you may not like what I like: you should also draw on other sources.
Mostly I will describe Boston and to a lesser extent Cambridge, with a little bit about the rest of New England (Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine). Of course, Washington, DC, Philadelphia, and New York City are other wonderful places to visit for someone coming to Boston from far away. Also, Montreal and Quebec City and the Maritime Provinces of Canada are also relatively close to Boston when viewed from the other side of the world.
Feel free to ask me questions: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Parker House itself
Getting to the hotel when arriving at Logan Airport or by bus or train (and back to the airport)
Close to the Parker House
Topographical history and architectural history
Boston Public Library lions
Boston literary trail
Museums in the Boston area
For children around Boston
Non-Internet information sources
Day trips from Boston (or longer travels)
The Omni Parker House
The hotel is at the corner of Tremont and School Streets in downtown Boston. School Street is so named as the 1635 site of the Boston Latin School, purportedly the first public school and the oldest existing school in the United States. My memory is that there is a commemorative plaque on School Street, across the street from the hotel.
The conference hotel has its own interesting history, e.g., the Parker House roll, a meeting place for
19th Century literary figures, a place Massachusetts where politicians met, connections to President Kennedy, and Hô` Chí Minh and Malcolm X as prior employees: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omni_Parker_House. (As Hô` Chí Minh was a baker at the Parker House, one might wonder if he had a hand in inventing the roll.)
Getting to the hotel when arriving at Logan Airport or by bus or train (and back to the airport)
If you arrive in Boston by intercity bus, most like you will arrive at South Station. Take the MBTA Red Line from there to the Government Center station and read below about the short walk from the subway stop to the hotel.
If you arrive in Boston by train, you will come to South Station (in which case read the prior paragraph about arriving by bus) or to North Station (in which case take the Green Line of the MBTA to the Park Street Station and read below about the short walk from the subway stop to the hotel).
Obviously one way to get to the hotel from the airport is by taxi. It will probably cost something in the vicinity of $25 or $30 (I don't know for sure). The fare will include the per-minute-per-mile charge, an (expensive) toll through one of the tunnels to Boston, and the fee the taxi has to pay to the airport; in the United States we also tip taxi drivers. I would assume the driver would bring you to the airport via the Sumner Tunnel. The Ted Williams tunnel is a longer distance, but the taxi driver may know something about relative congestion (or may just try to get a larger fare).
The shuttle buses mentioned below stop at each terminal (A, B, C/D, and E), but different shuttles may have different stopping places at a particular terminal.
A fairly direct way (but not the completely free way — see Silverline below) from the airport to the hotel is to take the Blue Line shuttle (not the Red Line Shuttle, not the Silver Line, not the boat shuttle, and not the economy parking shuttle) to the Airport T Station. This shuttle is free. At the Airport T station, you can buy a ticket. It is $2 today (this will increase by the time of the conference) for one adult fare (the senior fare requires being pre-registered with the T). A Charlie Card which is refillable is cheaper per ride and thus a better deal if you are going to ride the T a lot while in Boston. One you have a ticket, go up the escalator over the train tracks and down the escalator on the other side. Take the Blue Line train four stops to Government Center Station. Go up the escalator to the street level and follow the walking directions after the next paragraph below.
An almost equally direct and is a free method (save $2.50 or so per person) of getting from the airport is the Silver Line bus. The Silverline stops seem to be at the far right of each terminal building. Take the Silver Line bus to South Station (you will go past 3 or 4 stops before South Station, including one where the bus switches from diesel to electric power). At South Station go downstairs to the Red Line subway (the T) heading in the direction of the Alewife Station (an alewife is a type of fish — the end-of-the-line station is next to a small brook which might still include fish). Take the Red Line to the Park Street station. Go up the escalator to the street and follow the walking directions in the paragraphs immediately below. (You could also have gotten off a stop earlier at Downtown Crossing, but my walking directions below are not from there.)
As I read the schedule, the Red Line, Blue Line, and Silver Line run approximately between 6:15am and 12:15am. The MBTA trip planner may be useful to you.
The hotel is roughly half way between the Park Street and the Government Center T (subway) stops.
From Park Street Station, you get to the hotel by walking on Tremont in the direction of the Park Street Church (don't go in the direction of the State House), i.e., walk in the direction of the following photo:
Below is the conference hotel coming from the direction of the Park Street T stop:
From Government Center, you walk up hill on Tremont to get to the hotel, i.e., in the direction of the following photo:
(As of today, Google Maps doesn't clearly label Tremont. Viewing their maps you might think Tremont is a continuation of Cambridge Street after it passes City Hall, or you might think it is Shawmut Avenue which splits from Tremont after the Theater District.)
Below is the conference hotel coming from the direction of the Government Center T stop:
You can also get to downtown by ferry boat. There is a shuttle that circles the airport terminals providing free (I believe) transportation to the boat dock. Once you get to the downtown shore of Boston harbor, you can then take a taxi or public transportation to the hotel.
Getting back to the airport
Once again, the easiest way to the airport is by taxi, a short and perhaps slightly less pricey ride than coming in. I would think the taxi will use the shorter distance Callahan tunnel rather than Ted Williams tunnel to the airport.
You can get back to the airport via public transportation by walking to the Government Center T station, taking the Blue Line to the Airport Station, and then the free airport shuttle to your terminal. This is probably easiest. Alternatively, you can walk to either the Park Street (or Downtown Crossing) T station, take the Red Line going in the direction of Braintree or Ashmont, get off at South Station (one or two stops, so be alert), go upstairs one flight (but not up all the way to the street), transfer to the Silverline (SL1 going to the airport, not SL2), and get off the Silverline at your terminal.
The Parker House hotel 24 hour parking rate is $42, and they don't offer a discount for people staying at the hotel because, they say, the parking is operating by another company. Here are some other ideas for possibly less expensive overnight parking (with some URLs where you might find more information).
- Find a parking lot or garage at some other place in the city and take the MBTA to the hotel: http://boston.bestparking.com/index.php
If might be even less expensive to find an overnight parking lot or garage in one of the towns surrounding Boston (e.g., Cambridge, Arlington, Watertown, Newton, Quincy, etc.) and take the MBTA into Boston.
You can use the MBTA website at http://www.mbta.com/ to figure out how to get from your parking lot or garage to the Park Street or Government Center MBTA stations near the conference hotel.
(The parking garage on Cumberland between Huntington Avenue and St. Botolph Street near (my apartment and) the Prudential stop on the T certainly has a plausible rate for downtown parking.)
- Find one of the long term lots outside Logan airport, take the parking lot shuttle to the airport, and take the MBTA to downtown Boston from the airport. (I never do this so I don't know much about it.)
- Park at an MBTA lot in one of the towns around Boston and take the MBTA to the Park Street or Government Center stop near the hotel: http://www.mbta.com/riding_the_t/parking/ (search for "overnight parking" to see which T stations allow overnight parking)
- Park at a commuter bus lot and take a bus to Boston (undoubtedly to South Station, where you can get the MBTA Red Line to Park Street): http://www.charlesrivertma.org/program_commuterbusservices.htm (ignore the part about Cambridge at this website)
I park for free for several days at a time when I take the Plymouth and Brockton bus to Boston from south of Boston. I suspect that parking for buses coming to Boston from other directions may also be free.
Close to the Omni Parker House
It is a short walk from the hotel to many places you may want to visit, and the Government Center T Station and Park Street T Station a couple of blocks along Tremont in each direction connect you to other parts of the city. Longer but still very doable and pleasant walks can take you to most other sightseeing locations. (I typically keep my car parked while in Boston and walk or take public transportation.)
The history oriented Freedom Trail starts a few blocks west on Tremont and comes right by the hotel: Boston Common, State House, Park Street Church, Granary Burial Ground, Kings Chapel (directly across School St. from the hotel), the Ben Franklin statue, the Old City Hall (south on School Street from the hotel), the Old Corner Book Store (now a Mexican restaurant) at the corner of School and Washington Streets, the Old South Meeting House (half a block west on Washington), the site of the Boston Massacre (a couple of blocks the other way on Washington), and the Old State House and Freedom Trail Visitors Center (at the corner of
Washington and State Streets).
Other old places and useful places very near the hotel are: the Boston Athenaenum (private library, but there are visitor possibilities—on Beacon Street between the hotel and the State House), the Tremont Temple [Baptist Church] (next door to the hotel), lots of restaurants in every direction, Commonwealth Books (used books) on Spring Lane across Washington St. at the end of School St., a drug store and pharmacy on Washington St. (turn right at the end of School St.), and convenience grocery stores (right on Washington from School St., and left on Tremont Street toward the Park Street T Station).
See the Tours section for a self-guided tour of lots of nearby 1794-1862 literary sites.
Topographical history and architectural history
The topological history and architectural history of Boston go hand in hand. Boston was originally almost an island, called the Shawmut Peninsula, with a narrow connection (the current Washington Street) to the mainland. In time lots of the hilly area of Boston was cut down and used for land fill to extend Boston, and later (e.g., 1850 to 1910) massive landfill projects used gravel brought in by train from a few miles away from Boston. See
As the land was filled over decades, houses and other buildings were built in the style of the time. The Back Bay landfill took nearly 50 years, with house lots being sold as each was filled. This resulted in the architecture of Back Bay showing from block to block the evolution of architectural style over the 40 or so years of the landfill project. Even after the land was filled, architecture was affected: the construction on the flat of Beacon Hill (Charles Street to the Charles River) and in Back Bay was done on wooden pilings driven into the underlying mud flats and this limited construction options. Of course, in recent years deep steel pilings have been used permitting tall buildings, but not until much of the prior architecture was declared part of historic conservation districts. (My cousin Marc Diede took some panoramic photos a few years ago.)
The above image roughly shows a number of the neighborhoods of Boston and Cambridge, with circles 1 and 2 miles in radius from the conference hotel (marked with a plus sign). As you can see, much of what one might want to see is within a mile or two walk from the conference hotel. The Freedom Trail map may help you interpret some of the street details in the regions closer to the hotel.
- East Boston: the airport is there and some good views of downtown Boston.
- Charlestown: the Constitution (ship) and Bunker Hill Monument.
- North End: Old North Church, Paul Revere's house, and Italian restaurants.
- Waterfront: the downtown waterfront includes the New England Aquarium, tour boat and ferry boat options, a nice walk along water, the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway (this is still being developed but it's a nice place to stroll); the waterfront on the South Boston side of the Fort Point channel includes the Institute for Contemporary Art (nifty modern building) and the Children's Museum.
- South Boston: home neighborhood of Whitey Bulger and the location of Fort Independence on Castle Island (off the map at the bottom right, and connected to the mainland by a causeway).
- South End: lots of good restaurants.
- Fenway: Fenway Park, Museum of Fine Arts, Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum.
- Back Bay: Boylston and Newbury (walking and shopping streets), Copley Square (Trinity Church, Boston Public Library, New Old South Church), First Church of Boston, Arlington Street Church, Emmanuel Church, Christian Science Center), Prudential Tower (viewing from a high location), Copley Place mall (lots of shopping), walking along the Charles River Esplanade, lots of restaurants, famous for its Victorian era architecture (note that the street names going away from the Public Garden from Arlington to Hereford are in A-to-H alphabetical order).
- Beacon Hill: Charles Street walking and shopping, the Hatch Shell outdoor performance location, famous early architecture, African American Meeting House, Unitarian Universalist headquarters, Appalachian Mountain Club headquarters, the State House.
- West End: Mass. General Hospital. I suppose the Celtics (basketball) and Bruins (ice hockey) venue is perhaps on the eastern edge of the West End. The traditional West End neighborhood was torn down as part of a misguided mid-20th-Century urban renewal project.
- Old Downtown, Financial District, Theater District, and Bay Village: these (along with Beacon Hill, the North End, and the Boston Common are all (more or less) part of the original Boston before all the landfill began. Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market were once at the harbor's edge.
- The Boston Common and Public Garden are bounded by the south edge of Beacon Hill, the east edge of Back Bay, and the northwest edge of the Theater District and Downtown Crossing. I'm not sure which neighborhood claims each of them.
- Chinatown and the Leather District: At least the Leather District is filled land and maybe Chinatown too. I recommend the Windsor restaurant at 10 Tyler Street in Chinatown, although others are also good (the Windsor may not have a liquor license -- I don't remember). The Leather District is mostly lofts and condos now.
- Cambridge neighborhoods: Kendall Square is the high tech center of Cambridge and is right next to MIT. Central Square is half way from MIT to Harvard Square along Massachusetts Avenue. Harvard Square surrounded by Harvard.
Elsewhere on this page I mention walking and subways as ways of moving around the city. Another approach is
by bicycle. Boston's Hubway public bikes rental system has groups of bicycles
stationed at locations around
downtown where you can pick up a bike, ride it to another part
of downtown and leave it at another "bike station", do what you
want to do, and then do it all over again between the same or other stations.
There are stations relatively close to the conference hotel. (Via the link earlier in this paragraph, you can find a map of
where the bikes are stationed.) It costs very little for a 3-day pass
as long as you drop the bike off within 30 minutes of when you pick it up. In other words, these bikes are
for transportation, not touring. Helmets are not provided with the bikes, so bring your own, buy one
locally (there may be a rental possibility at a private bike rental place—I don't know), or risk riding without a helmet (Boston
car drivers tend to follow an anarchy principle). I don't know how it all works, i.e., paying, unlocking a bike from its rack, etc.,
but hopefully you can figure it out if you are interested.
I have mentioned shopping elsewhere on this page (search for "shopping"), but I'll say it again (plus a little more)
here. Zoom in on various parts of a map to see what I am talking about below. (The hotel is just
off the right side of the map; Faneuil Hall Marketplace if farther off the right side of the map.)
- Washington Street and the cross streets such as Bromfield, Winter, Summer, etc., near the hotel used to
be the downtown shopping area of Boston. There are still some shops there, including Macy's big store at the corner
of Washington and Summer; however, the area became rundown (it is struggling to make a comeback) as stores moved
elsewhere in the city. Traditionally the jewelry, gold, silver, etc., businesses have been near the hotel, e.g.,
roughly along Washington Street from School Street toward Winter Street.
There is a relevant building (as I remember) on Province Street near Bromfield, oh so close to the hotel.
The Windsor Button Shop on Temple Place is worth a look (I think it is still there).
- There is nice shopping (but not big stores) on Charles Street between Beacon and Cambridge Streets. This is a short
walk from the hotel. It's a nice place for a stroll.
- Going the other way from the hotel, there is some shopping
in the Faneuil Hall Marketplace complex.
- The important "downtown" shopping streets are Newbury and Bolyston Streets from Arlington Street to
Massachusetts Avenue. The big indoor malls are in the Prudential Center and in Copley Place, south of Boylston
Street and across Huntington Avenue, respectively, between Dartmouth and Belvidere/Dalton Streets (connected
together by an enclosed walkway over Huntington Avenue); these are open into the evening.
To give you some idea of the distances, it is a 15 minute walk from the hotel to Arlington Street, and
it is a 20 minute walk (if you don't stop) from Arlington Street to Massachusetts Avenue. But you can also
get to these shopping streets by subway on the Green Line from the Park Street station to
the Arlington station (at the east edge of the Back Bay neighborhood; or you can take
the Green Line deeper into the shopping streets of Back Bay and get off at the Copley,
Prudential, or Auditorium stations (the last two of these are on different branches of the Green Line)
You can also take Orange Line from the Downtown Crossing station to the Back Bay Station (closest subway stop to
The lions in the Boston Public Library (BPL)
Here are Don Knuth's May 21, 1986, comments at
the Computer Museum in Boston in honor of the publication of the Computers &
People often ask me why TeX and METAFONT are symbolized in
these books by a lion and a lioness. When Duane Bibby first came up with the
lion idea, I instinctively felt that it was right, but I never understood
exactly why this was, until about a month ago when I was in the Boston Public
Library. I passed by the magnificent stone lions on the library's grand
staircase, and I thought: "That's it! TeX and METAFONT try to be like these
lions, fixtures that support a great library. I love books, and lions
represent books!" No wonder I'm so happy when I realize that TeX and METAFONT
have already contributed to the making of several dozen books of fine quality;
it makes me extremely pleased to think that this research will probably
contribute to the making of many more fine books in years to come.
If you google around or look in guide books, I am sure you will find a number of self-guide tours of Boston. Or you can just wander around the various neighborhoods, e.g., North End, Waterfront, along the Rose Kennedy Greenway, Beacon Hill, Back Bay, Fenway, etc.
- The most famous self-guided tour is the Freedom Trail, where you follow a red line on the sidewalk from the Visitors Center on Boston Common to the the sights in Charlestown. The National Park Service also does guided tours of the Freedom Trail.
- If you are on the Freedom Trail, take a look at the Clough House, on the left side at the north end of the Paul Revere Mall, just before you enter the grounds of the Old North Church. This is the location of Printing Office of Edes and Gill, a modern reenactment operated by Gary Gregory who is knowledgable about historic printing.
- Another self-guide tour is
Literary Boston: 1794-1862. See also the following section of this website.
- Another self-guided tour is the Black Heritage Trail. There is also a guided version of it, by the National Park Service. You can see a map of the tour in the window at 14A Beacon Street, on the left side as you walk up Beacon Street from the conference hotel.
- The National Park Service is also involved in tours to Boston's Harbor Island. You can learn more that the Boston Harbor Island Pavilion on the Rose Kennedy Greenway (191W Atlantic Ave, a little north of State Street and east of the end of S. Market Street which runs east-west through the Quincy Market complex), staffed by the National Park Service.
- Also on the waterfront is the Boston Harborwalk. Also check the Summer on the Waterfront website.
- But as I said elsewhere on this website, Boston is a walker's city. Just walk around the Downtown, Beacon Hill, Back Bay, etc., neighborhoods by yourself.
There are many Boston guided tours available, and tours that go out to Lexington and Concord as well.
If you google on "Boston tours", you will find dozens of options, both from individuals and companies. Some specific options follow:
- I am biased toward the Boston By Foot walking tours. These are given by volunteer guides who have taken an extensive course in Boston history and architecture, and who typically have had several years of experience perfecting their knowledge of the tours they are giving. (When I first moved to downtown Boston in the mid-1980s, I took the Boston-by-Foot course taught by history and architecture scholars, wrote the research papers, and passed the rigorous test for accurate memory of the history and architecture covered by the tours; hence my bias.) Among their tours, Boston By Foot also offers a tour covering the literary locations of transcendental Boston in the 1800s.
- In have never been on the well known Boston Duck Tour, but friends and relatives say it is good: http://www.bostonducktours.com/. The guides are more actors than authorities on history, I think.
- I have also not been on the Old Town Trolley tours, whose guides are also probably more actors than historical authorities. I believe this tour option has the advantage that you can get on and off trolleys all day: http://www.trolleytours.com/boston/
- Ben Edwards at Walking Boston (http://walkingboston.com/) offers private tours, which
need several people going at one time to make them not so pricey. I have not taken his tour, but Ben seems to know his history (he helped me with some references).
Boston literary trail
While our conference is in Boston, there will be an exhibit on Boston Literary History from 1795-1860. The first five "chapters" of the exhibit story are on display at the Boston Public Library. Chapter 6 is on display at Massachusetts Historical Society. If you look at the map on the just noted website, you will see that our conference hotel is in the center of this "literary trail."
The library is between Dartmouth, Exeter and Boylston Streets (Copley T station). The historical society is at 1154 Boylston Street, between Fenway and Hemenway Streets (the Hynes Auditorium T station is the closest T station). The exhibit hours at the historical society are 10am to 4pm Monday through Saturday. The library hours are Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, 9am to 5pm; Tuesday 9am to 7pm; Sunday 1pm to 5pm.
The BPL part of the exhibit mostly consists of books from the 1795-1860 period, with descriptions on "chat cards", author photos, etc. These are in 5 to 7 display cases, depending on how you want to count big versus small display cases. It is primarily about books and authors, not about publishing and printing.
The appropriate entrance to the library for this exhibit is on Dartmouth Street, across the street from the westbound exit of the Copley Square T station.
[The day I took this photo, preparations were going on for the Boston Marathon finish which is at the library; hence the tents in the street]
Go into the front entrance, look at the BPL lions half way up the stairway, find an elevator, and go to the third floor. The exhibit is in the Cheverus Room, in the middle of a long high hall that has John Singer Sargent murals around the top of the hall.
Leaving this exhibit, you might turn right and go through the Wiggin Gallery until you can make another right turn down a corridor toward the Fine Arts Reading Room. A little way down this corridor you will find a couple of old printing presses, although nothing particular special. If you continue on to the Fine Arts Reading Room, make a right turn and walk to long direction of the room and go through another doorway into the Koussevitzky Room; at the far side of this room is a little room with another printing press (less old, I think, and a bit more impressive).
The Massachusetts Historical Society part of the exhibit is about "The First Seasons of the Federal Street Theater" and is quite a small exhibit compared with what is at the library.
The Society is housed is a beautiful building that looks like a late 1800s residence (although I believe it was in fact designed for the Society). It is primarily a research facility, but they do welcome sightseers. You ring the doorbell, they buzz you in, they ask the purpose of your visit and give you a badge, and will direct you upstairs to the literary trail exhibit where other interesting things were also on display the day I visited.
[At the conference, I can tell you about Boston literary, printing, and publishing history before 1795 and after 1860. -Dave]
Obviously this is a very subjective list (to which I will add over time).
Back Bay neighborhood (moving roughly east to west)
- New England Historic and Genealogical Society. This is one of the country's great genealogical libraries, and a day pass to do research is not so expensive.
- The Boston Marathon finish line. Marked on the pavement beside the new building of the Boston Public Library on Boylston Street between Dartmouth and Exeter Streets.
- The First Spiritual Temple. This building is on the corner of Exeter and Newbury Streets. The temple of spiritualism was built in 1885 and designed by H.H. Richardson and his architectural firm in the Romanesque Revival style. From 1914 to 1984, the building was known as the Exeter Street Theater. It then went through several changes of use and today houses a Montessori school. The building is typical of Richardson's architecture; it's uniqueness comes only from its original use. The church appears to still operate today in Brookline, MA (http://www.fst.org/), but I know nothing about it.
- The Mapparium (at the Christian Science Church complex) complex is a must-see 3-story stained glass globe that visitor can walk inside. Tours start on the half hour, and the price is low. The Mary Baker Eddy museum in the same building and the tour of the old and new cathedrals are also interesting. There is no pushing of religion.
- The Boston Red Sox and Fenway Park. Of course, there are baseballs parks and famous teams in other cities, but I am biased in favor of the Red Sox. They will be playing in Boston during our annual conference.
Cambridge, across the Charles River
- The MIT Museum. In additional to the MIT and technology history, I love the kinetic art of Arthur Ganson. There is lots of architecture and public art at MIT. Lots of other aspects of MIT are also interesting including the Infinite Corridor; unfortunately, our conference will not align with the annual MITHenge events.
- The glass flowers collection at the Harvard Museum of Natural History is unique in the world. The rest of the exhibits at the Museum of Natural History are also worth seeing.
Museums around Boston
Boston is a great place in terms of museums. There is apparently an association of museums that lists 40 of them. It includes some of the most important ones, e.g., Fogg, Busch-Reisinger, and Arthur M. Sackler art museums at Harvard, the Institute of Contemporary Art, and the Boston Children's Museum. However some of the other important museums are not include: the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, the Museum of Science, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and the New England Aquarium (if we can call a zoo-like place a museum). There are also some interesting lessor museums that are not part of the association of museums, e.g., the Rose Art Museum at Brandies.
The Isabella Stewart Gardner has just opened a new wing. The Museum of Fine Arts opened a new wing last year. The Institute of Contemporary Art built an entire new building on a new site just a few years ago.
Boston appears to have a typical amount of popular music for a city this size. I don't know much about it, except that some of it happens at the Orpheum Theater, a short walk from the conference hotel. House of Blues near Fenway Park is another venue.
There is a good bit of Irish traditional music at various Boston and Boston region pubs. There is also some jazz, e.g., at Schullers Jazz Club.
Boston is strong in classical music with many excellent but lesser known groups (and venues) in addition to the Boston Symphony. King's Chapel across the street from the conference hotel has a music series.
An aside. Boston has a lot of fine music schools: New England Conservatory of Music, Boston Conservatory, Berklee College of Music, Boston University School of Music, Longy School of Music (now part of Bard College), and programs at other university and colleges. During the school year (less so in summer) these places have frequent free concerts.
I don't live in the neighborhood of the hotel and thus don't eat out around there. I'll let you google-map yourself on "Omni Parker House Boston restaurants" to find the nearby options. However, three of the oldest, landmark Boston restaurants are within walking distance of the hotel: Union Oyster House, Durgin-Park, and Locke-Ober. The first is on Union Street a little north of the Faneuil Hall Market Place complex. The second is in the Market Place complex. The third is in an alley (Winter Place) off Winter Street between Tremont and Washington Streets near the Park Street T station. Read up on each of these before you go. Each has an old feel and is a unique experience that many people love, but not all. I suspect the Union Oyster House and Durgin-Park haven't changed much since I last ate in them a few decades ago. I have not eaten at Locke-Ober since Lydia Shire (a generation of first rate Boston chefs developed their skills in her restaurants) it over; from what I have read it still has its old school atmosphere. Marliave is also a long-time Boston place, now under new (and pretty good) management (and very close to the hotel). Owned by the same chef as Marliave is the Grotto, fairly close to the hotel; it has an excellent reputation and is on my to-try list. No. 9 Park also has an excellent reputation, is close to the hotel, and is on my to-try list. At least this last restaurant (and perhaps the next to last) are expensive.
I have also noted some little breakfast-lunch places around the hotel, but I don't know anything about any of them except one: High Spot Deli a short way up Beacon Street; Starbuck's halfway down School Street; Delicato Cafe down the alley from Starbuck's (I think I also remember a Dunkin' Donuts somewhere around here); Viga Italian in Pi Alley which is to the right, past one building after you emerge down the alley from the Delicato (this was OK for a quick lunch); Archie's Place next door to Viga Italian in Pi Alley; Tequita Mexican Grill on Bromfield parallel to School Street behind the hotel;
Sam La Grassa's on Province Street which is a right turn from School Street just after the hotel. Maybe I've missed some. Just a little farther away, on Tremont Street and on Washington Street to the west you can find places such as McDonald's, Burger King, another Dunkin' Donuts, etc. There is a food court at the corner of Washington Street and Winter Street (which you can also get to via a door to the right of the entrance to the Orpheum Theater at the end of the alley directly across Tremont Street from the Park Street Church).
Now I'll list some restaurants that I have eaten at in the not to distant past. Remember, you taste may not match mine, so don't blame me if you don't like it.
- Legal Seafood is a Boston based set of restaurants. I recommend it for seafood.
- For Pizza, I like Regina with several locations around Boston. Bertucci's is another solid small chain (with more than pizza). The are plenty of fancier pizza places around.
- For Chinese, I like know and like the Windsor and the New Shanghai in Chinatown. The first of these is a hole-in-the-wall place, which doesn't serve liquor; but some people think it is the best Chinese food in the city. The China King restaurant is a new, purportedly nice, replacement for the prior King Fung which I liked a lot; the new restaurant has the same owners and chefs according to the Boston Globe, but I haven't tried it yet.
- For Japanese, the Ginza is in Chinatown very near the above three Chinese restaurants; it's OK. The Samurai near the Prudential Center is close to me and I've been there a few times (it's OK, too). I haven't tried any of the places currently rated among the best in Boston (I probably should get going on trying all these). There are several small Japanese restaurants (and a Japanese food store) in the Porter Square Exchange Mall (really just one building) on Massachusetts Avenue a little east of the Porter Square T station in Cambridge.
- There is a big food court in the Quincy Market building.
- The Paramount on Charles Street (on the flat of Beacon Hill) is another Boston institution.
- Charlie's Sandwich Shop on Columbus Avenue is a Boston institution. It's only open for breakfast and lunch and only 5 days a week (I think). You may have to sit at a table with people you don't know. It's an easy walk from either the Prudential T station on the Green Line or the Back Bay T station on the Orange Line.
- Almost next door to Charlie's is Giacomo's Italian restaurant which I like a lot. (There is also a Giacomo's on Hanover Street in the North End.) Anchovies next door to Giacomo's and Charlie's. I have the impression that the patrons here like their drinks quite a lot, as well as their food.
- If you visit the Boston Public Library, the Courtyard Restaurant (inside
the library) is a nice choice of a meal. The Courtyard also serves some food.
- My neighborhood is Back Bay, so I know more about its restaurants. There are lots of options on Boylston Street and on Newbury Street between Arlington and Massachusetts Avenue; I often go to Steve's (Greek) at the corner of Hereford and Newbury Street (it was closed for renovation when I last walked by, so call first). Grill 23 is an excellent (and expensive) steak place at the corner of Stuart and Berkeley Streets. The Prudential Tower has a good fast food court at the mall level. The Cheesecake Factory and 5 Napkin Burger are at the southern edge of the Prudential Center (Huntington Avenue near Belvidere Street). Thornton's is a little west on Huntington. Near Symphony Hall, the following are all OK in various ways: Boston Market, Pho & I, Betty's Wok and Noodle, Uno Chicago Grill, and Panera.
- In or near Kendall Square are The Blue Room, Legal Sea Foods, and some fast food booths in the MIT Coop building. Au Bon Pain is a good place for lunch time sandwiches.
- There are lots of places around Central Square. The only ones I've tried recently is the People's Republik (I liked my Cuban sandwich), Mary Chung (Chinese), and the Royal East (almost the official MIT Chinese restaurant).
- Harvard Square is loaded with restaurants including Mr. Bartley's burgers (next door to the Harvard Book Store), Grafton Street (a couple of doors away from Mr. Bartley's) Jody Adam's marvelous (and expensive) Rialto, Harvest, and First Printer. The last has a relatively simple but good-looking menu and is particularly interesting because it is at the location of Stephen Daye's printing press (the first in the Colonies) and the walls are decorated with type cases and framed 1670s to 1890s newspaper pages.
For children around Boston
The Children's Museum and the New England Aquarium (not such a long walk from the conference hotel) are obvious places children might like to visit. The Museum of Science may also be good. The Boston Common and Public Gardens (just a block or two from the hotel west on Tremont Street) is the closest place for running on grass.
The Public Gardens are the location of the Swan Boats rides.
The little Make Way for Ducklings sculptures are also in the Public Gardens.
The locations of most of the Make Way for Ducklings story are within a few blocks of the sculptures: the island where they grew, the bridge from which they flew, the streets on which they walked, the intersection where the policeman held the traffic for them, and so forth (ask me if you want me to draw you a little map).
The Boston By Foot organization also has children's tour of the Freedom Trail: Boston By Little Feet
Non-Internet sources of information on Boston
You can learn about what's currently going on around town from the Boston Phoenix tabloid paper or the Improper Bostonian magazine, both free here and there about town (you may also be able to buy copies at a newsstand—I'm not sure). The Boston Globe newspaper also lists current happenings in its Monday through Saturday G section.
You may have your own favorite tourist guidebook, probably in your own language. Personally, I like the Insight Guide series, and one exists for Boston although I believe it is not updated yearly like some of the other guidebooks. There is also an Insight Guide for New England. For more detail on New England, I like the Smithsonian Guide to Historic America's two volumes on New England: northern New England (Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine) and southern New England (Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts).
For deeper study of Boston, I recommend the A.I.A. Guide to Boston architecture, 3rd edition (the first and second editions are still largely relevant); Whitehill's Boston: A Topographical History, 2nd edition; 1984's Blue Guide to Boston and Cambridge (out of print and without coverage of more recent things, but detailed on historical aspects of Boston and available used from Amazon), and the Zagat guide to Boston Restaurants.
Some day trips from Boston
Or more than a day trip. Once you are coming to Boston for the TUG conference, you could easily spend a week or two visiting sights in Boston and the rest of New England. I recommend doing that.
- Plimoth Plantation: in Plymouth, about a 45 minute drive south of Boston. This is a recreation of the 17th Century English village and includes a recreation of the Wampanoag Indians homesite. I think it is worth seeing. The Mayflower II is OK, and Plymouth Rock is uninteresting.
- Cape Cod: Depending on traffic, an hour drive to the Cape Cod Canal and another hour to Provincetown. You can also take a boat from Boston to Provincetown. The towns on Cape Cod are Bourne, Sandwich, Barnstable (including Hyannis and Hyannis Port), Falmouth, Yarmouth, Dennis, Harwich, Brewster, Chatham, Orleans, Eastham, Wellfleet, Truro, and Provincetown. Each has its own charm and sights. These days I primarily live on Cape Cod, so feel free to ask me about it: http://walden-family.com/. There are at least three decently-sized antiquarian bookstores on Cape Cod: Parnassas on Routh 6A in Yarmouth Port, Titcomb's on Route 6A in East Sandwich, and Isaiah Thomas on Route 28 in Cotuit (a village in the town of Barnstable).
- You could make a trip to "the islands," Nantucket or Martha's Vineyard in a day, but then plan to go early and get back late. Ferry boats leave from Woods Hole, Hyannis, and Harwich.
- Providence is a wonderful city. You can get there in an hour by bus, train, or car. I particularly like the museum at the Rhode Island School of Design. The AMS headquarters is in Providence.
- Newport, RI, is only a little farther from Boston than Providence (although when driving you go via Rt. 24 rather than by I95). This is the location of the big mansions of the Gilded Age and many other interesting sights. Newport shares Aquidneck Island with Portsmouth and Middletown; all three towns are interesting. (If you are driving to Boston from the direction of New York City, you can get off I95 at the sign for the University of Rhode Island, follow the road past the university campus, take Rt. 1 north to the right turn for the bridge to Jamestown, cross the Jamestown Island, and take the bridge to Newport.)
- Sturbridge Village is a little over an hour west of Boston via the Mass Pike (toll road).
- You can make a nice driving day trip out of a visit west of Boston to some combination of the historic towns of Lexington and Concord, the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln, and the Gropius House in Lincoln.
- Lowell, MA, has an urban national park relating to textile manufacturing early in the industrial revolution. Relatively nearby in Andover, MA, is The Museum of
Printing (with limited hours).
- Another nice driving trip, north and a little east from Boston, would be to some combination of Marblehead, Salem (the Peabody Essex Museum is nifty; the witch stuff is less interesting), Gloucester, and Rockport. Closer to Boston is the (small) Saugus Iron Works.
- You can get to the Berkshires by car in 2.5 hours. This part of western Massachusetts has wonderful art museums (e.g., MASS MoCA, the Clark Institute, the Norman Rockwell Museum), and the Hancock Shaker Village; beautiful old houses and gardens to tour (see the Trustees of Reservations); and, in summer, evening theater performances, the Tanglewood music series, Jacobs Pillow dance series, and so forth.
- In particular, if you are coming or going by car via New York City, I recommend a stop in New Haven, CT, to see the wonderful, Louis Kahn designed, Yale Center for British Art. My memory is that admission is free. The is lots of interesting modern architecture at Yale. Across the street from the Center for British Art is the Louis Kahn designed Yale University Art Gallery. Paul Rudolph design the architecture department's building across the street from the Art Gallery. A little walk away is the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library with its translucent walls (do go inside and walk around). Maya Lin's "The Women’s Table" monument is worth seeing. There is plenty of other interesting modern architecture, and the older architecture is interesting to.
- One hour southwest of Providence and two hours northeast on New Haven is Groton, CT, with its Submarine Force Library & Museum: Home of the USS Nautilus.
Boston used to have lots of independent book stores. Then the big chains pushed most of the independents out of business. Then Amazon, etc., pushed most of the big chain stores out of business.
There are a couple of used bookstores within a few blocks of the conference hotel:
The only big chain bookstore left in Boston is Barnes and Noble, with one store at the Prudential Center and another store on Commonwealth Avenue near Boston University. The Trident Booksellers and Cafe is one of the few independent bookstores left in Boston (on Newbury Street between Hereford Street and Massachusetts Avenue).
- Commonwealth Books a block away (on Spring Lane just across Washington Street from the end of School Street)
- Brattle Book Shop a few blocks away at 9 West Street (south on Tremont and left on West Street, passing the 1840-1852 location of the old Elizabeth Peabody foreign-language bookstore, lending library, and publishing business at 12-15 West Street).
In the Harvard Square region of Cambridge, there are:
- My favorite, the landmark Harvard Book Store, on Massachusetts Avenue (three short blocks east from the Harvard Square T station), next door to Mr. Bartley's well known burger place. The Harvard Book Store owns an Espresso Book Machines (EBM), which they named Paige M. Gutenborg. In addition to printing one's own books there (e.g., self-publishing), one can order books printed there from databases ("Search Book Databases" tab) containing millions of books in the public domain or having publisher permission for printing. When I was
in the store recently, I saw an antiquarian book being reprinted, and I could imagine obtaining reprints of old books myself for various research projects (e.g., my TUG2012 presentation).
- The tiny Grolier Poetry Bookshop, around the corner from Harvard Book Store.
- Schoenhof's Foreign Books, on Mt. Auburn Street between Dunster and Holyoke Streets, claiming to offer "the biggest selection of foreign books in North America."
- The Harvard Coop bookstore, across the street from the Harvard Square T station.
- A few used-book stores, e.g., The Raven and Lame Duck Books.
Also in Cambridge, there are the MIT Coop bookstore and the MIT Press Bookstore on Main Street between Hayward and Ames Streets (very close to the Kendall Square T stop). Also, Rodney's Bookstore of used books is still open in Central Square although it warned last year that it would be going out of business.
In Brookline, there is the Booksmith bookstore on Harvard Street near Beacon Street.