Boston Love, RV Camping, Sights, And Baseball!
Boston MA holds a rather special place in my heart. You see it’s where I started to fall in love with Paul. Or perhaps more specifically it’s where this West-Coast living Danish girl experienced the spark that led to this 20-year thing we’ve had going ever since. It’s a fun little story too…
At the time we were both living in San Jose CA and working in the same group in the semiconductor business. I was in marketing, he was in engineering and we had somehow managed to get ourselves on a business trip together to Boston. It just so happened to be the dead of winter (what were we thinking?) and in the short few days we were there a huge snowstorm blew through town which shut down the streets and literally snowed us in.
It was bitterly cold and utterly romantic (of course), and since we couldn’t make it to any of our business meetings we simply walked the streets of Boston together and got to know each other. I already knew I kinda liked Paul, so I pretended to be a klutz on the icy pavement (not much of a stretch for me) so I could grab him by the arm. On his side, Paul rather generously offered up said arm for as long as I needed it. I didn’t let go all day. Amazingly nothing happened beyond the arm thing those few days, but I still remember it as being one of our most romantic pre-officially-dating experiences.
So yeah, even though I’ve only ever been once before, Boston is my city of love.
But it also has rather more of a link for us too. You see Paul’s dad has been a lifelong Red Sox fan, which means he’s an AVID, CRAZY Red Sox fan (anyone in Boston will tell you it’s more like a religion than a sport) and one of his lifelong bucket list items has been to attend a game in Fenway Park with his son. In addition my dad was traveling with us, and he’d never seen a baseball game (ever!). What better first experience than seeing a game in the oldest baseball stadium in the country?
So, we formulated our devious plan to bring it all together….
The Caravan To Boston (And Where To Stay In Your RV)
Paul was already there (of course) as well as his dad & stepmom (in their own RV). They were parked at Hartwick Highlands Campground (sorry, didn’t have time to do a Wheelingit review but we liked the forested section very much. You can see other reviews HERE and HERE). Both Paul and his dad are huge baseball fans so they’d been geeking out in the “home of baseball”, going to the Baseball Hall Of Fame and refreshing themselves at the famous local brewery (Ommegang). Good stuff all-around.
The next morning we all raised our jacks and headed east to Boston.
Now, unlike NYC there are sadly no “downtown” RV parks (that I know of) in Boston. In fact a search of campgrounds around the Boston area reveals that you need to go at least 20 miles out of town before you get to anything at all. Knowing that Boston traffic can be HORRIBLE (seriously, you don’t want to be anywhere near it at any time) we decided our best option was to park our rigs at a campground close(ish) to one of the trains into town and then just rely on public transport to get around downtown. In the end we decided on Boston Minuteman Campground** (full review coming), a nice forested FHU campground located just 20 mins drive to the train into town. For the few days we were there it turned out to be a great choice.
** NOTE/ If you don’t need full hookups, there are also 2 public parks which rate very well and look to be close to a train/subway into town -> Wompatuck State Park (on south side of Boston. Almost entirely 35-ft max sites, although there are five 40-ft sites listed online) and Winter Island County Park (on north side of Boston. Looks tight, but sites fit up to 45-ft and waterfront views are an option here!)
Getting Around Town
Like all big cities once you figure out how to use the public transportation, getting around is a breeze although it can take a little research and a few missed steps before you get to that state of enlightenment.
It can feel overwhelming when you first look at it, but believe me it’s worth it!!! When I said the traffic in Boston was horrible I wasn’t kidding. The afternoon rush hour starts at 3PM and by 5PM the highways out of Boston are completely chocked up. Unless you are into tourturing yourself for fun, it’s simply not worth it.
Thankfully from our campground we had several easy public transport options only ~20-40 mins drive away using either the MBTA commuter rail ($9.25 each way) or the Boston Subway (known locally as “the T”, $2.25 each way). Once downtown our feet, the T and Lyft/Uber got us everywhere else we needed to be. Honestly it was a breeze and the campground was super helpful with info both in-person as well as with detailed transportation instructions for each option online.
Some useful tips we picked up along the way:
Commuter Rail: For the commuter rail we download the free mTicket App (for Apple & Andriod) to check timetables and buy/activate tickets. It was super easy to use and avoided us having to wait in line for a ticket or carry cash onto the train.
Subway System: For traveling on “the T” we got a free Charlie Card (available at these stations) loaded it up with some $$ and used it for everyone traveling (you can actually use a single card for two people simply by swiping it twice when you go through the turnstiles). The card gave us a slight discount over the regular cash price ($2.25 per trip instead of $2.75) and saved us having to buy a ticket at the vending booth every time we traveled on the T. Plus we got discounted transfers to local buses. We loaded ours with $20 and that was enough to cover the whole family for everything we did.
Google Maps Transit Is Awesome: For figuring out how to get around downtown on public transport Google Maps transit was our best friend! We just entered origin and destination in Google Maps on our computer or phone, clicked on the “transit” icon (the one that looks like a train) and we got a handy dandy list of all the possible options including how far we had to walk to the station, which line to take, how many stops, how long it was going to take, and any transfers we needed to do. If you’ve never tried using this in a big city, you’ll be blown away by how useful it is! We used it constantly while we were downtown.
Lyft & Uber ROCK When You Need Them: When we were tired of walking and just wanted a car service, Lyft (discount referral HERE) & Uber (discount referral HERE) were awesome. If you’ve never used this service, just download the free app on your phone and walk through the set-up process. It’s super easy once you’ve used it once. We used Lyft a few times in Boston and never had to wait more than 4 minutes for a car.
PAW NOTES/ Well-behaved paws are welcome on MBTA lines! During off-peak hours, leashed dogs can ride, provided they are under your control and don’t cause annoyance to fellow travelers. During rush hour they can also ride, but must be able to be transported in a container that fits into your lap. Read official info HERE and more detail in this helpful blog post HERE.
The Freedom Trail
Once we’d figured out the transport options we settled in to do some sightseeing!!
Now there’s a ton to see and do in Boston (including many, many things we missed), but if you only had ONE day and you were only able to do ONE thing then The Freedom Trail would be my hands down, absolute “must do” recommendation. It’s a 2.5-mile red-lined route (a bit like the Wizard Of Oz, you literally just “follow the red brick line” through town) that leads you past 16 historically significant sites and IT IS AWESOME!!
Boston was one of the key starting points for the American Revolution, and the history here is deep and fascinating. From the oldest standing structure in the city (Paul Revere House, 1680) to the oldest church (Old North Church, 1723) to the Old State House (1713) and the site of the Boston Massacre (1770), there are no end of interesting spots to see. You could literally spend a week just exploring the trail & visiting the various museums & stops along the way, but even if you only do a portion it’s well worth it.
Dad and I did the entire walk, starting at Boston Common (where we picked up a detailed brochure for ~$7), visiting all the churches as well as the museum at the Old State House (most excellent), stopping for lunch at an Irish Pub near Faneuil Hall Market Place (worth seeing in and of itself), walking through Boston’s Little Italy (what a cool neighborhood) and finishing up at the USS Constitution (which was sadly closed for restoration). From there we took the water ferry back into downtown (also well worth it!). Paul, his dad & stepmom did the exact same outing the following day. We all LOVED it!
VISIT & PAW NOTES/ The Boston Freedom Trail is free to visit and you can pick it up anywhere along the route. Just look for the red line on the pavement and follow it! You can download free maps HERE or click on this Google Map HERE. You can also buy a detailed brochure at the Visitors Center or book a tour with a certified tour guide (HERE). This is city walking so you can certainly bring paws along if you wish, but you won’t be able to bring them into the various historic buildings or museums along the way. We chose to leave Polly at home.
No visit to Boston would be complete without a trip to see Fenway Park.
Not only is it the oldest baseball stadium in the country (dating from 1912), but thanks to various additions and renovations over the years it’s got a bunch of quirky features including The Triangle, Pesky’s Pole, and the Green Monster. Plus of course it’s the home of the Boston Red Sox whose fans are some of the most dedicated and vocal I’ve ever seen.
Going to see a baseball game here is not just an outing, it’s an EXPERIENCE amplified by the small stadium (it’s crazy loud), the music, the charged atmosphere and the things that make Boston baseball unique (Oh Sweet Caroline, I’m talking to you).
Paul and his dad & stepmom went the day after we got to Boston, fulfilling their lifelong bucket list of seeing a game together here. It was a good game (Red Sox won) and a truly momentous event for them both. I think a few tears might have been shed. Priceless stuff!
My dad and I went the next day and saw a thrilling game that literally came down to the very last pitch. The Red Sox came from behind and won in the 9th inning and the stadium went INSANE! It was riveting and one of the best baseball games I’ve ever attended. Dad loved it.
BEER & FOOD TIP: The brew options inside Fenway park are mediocre, so if you decide to go to a game I highly recommend stopping at one of the many establishments just outside the park for some pre-game sustenance. We were particularly impressed with the beer at Boston Beerworks (awesome Milk Stout on Nitro and very tasty BWX IPA) even though it was standing room-only. Inside the stadium there no brews worthy of mention, but some decent food options at THESE spots.
VISIT TIPS: Outside of game-time you can tour Fenway Park for $20 and I’ve heard it’s a fabulous tour. If you’re coming for a game the official place to buy tickets is HERE. They cost anywhere from $23 to $240 depending on where you are seated. Check out View From My Seat for a good idea of what your view will be like before you buy.
And Stuff We Missed
Sadly we only had a few days in Boston, so the two items above were literally the only two things we managed. There was lots we missed!
We didn’t make it out to see the Boston Light (an iconic lighthouse but it’s only open for visitation Fri-Sun, and we were there mid-week), nor were we able to make the pilgrimage to Trillium Brewing (the timing just didn’t work out, so sad….).
We also would have loved to explore more of the stops on the Freedom Trail in further depth (for example, we didn’t go into the Paul Revere House because of the insanely long queues) as well as more of the downtown neighborhoods & foodie spots. Alas, you can never see everything and even less so when you’re on a fixed travel schedule.
But what we DID get to see we really loved!
I know Boston sometimes gets compared to it’s bigger neighbor-in-the-south New York City, but we all agreed that it’s a totally different vibe. From the buildings (all much lower, which means there’s more natural light in the streets) to the history (SO much of it here) to the many different downtown neighborhoods, it has a unique atmosphere that simply can’t be matched anywhere else. It’s a huge city yet it feels cozy and welcoming, which presents a fascinating mix.
Plus there’s the love-thing. For that reason alone it’ll always have a special place in my heart. Until next time, my city of love 🙂
What did we miss? One day we want to come back so feel free to share tips in the comments below!
Useful External Links:
- Boston’s MBTA -> Details of all public transport options in and around Boston HERE
- City of Boston -> Free and mostly free events listed HERE
- Boston Discovery Guide -> Good info on things to see and do in Boston HERE
- The Freedom Trail -> Official links and maps HERE
- Fenway Park -> Official Boston Red Sox tickets HERE, plus info on tours HERE