Boston Travel Guide
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Public Garden
The Public Garden was the first public botanical garden in the United States, established in 1837. The Public Garden and Boston Common is split by Charles Street, and provides a locals' boundary between Beacon Hill and Back Bay. A statue of George Washington stands at the Arlington Street entrance.

The Garden had been salt marshes on the edge of the Common before being created in the early 19th century. Numerous fountains and statues decorate the spacious park.

Boston Public Library
The Boston Public Library, just off Copley Square, was founded in 1848. Often referred to as "the BPL," the library claims to be the first library in the country to lend a book, and the first to have a children's room. Today, many visitors seek out the BPL to gaze at the murals by John Singer Sargent, to relax in the peaceful courtyard, or to use the free Internet access.

Copley Square
Located in the heart of Back Bay, Copley Square is the home to fountains, history and the stunning Trinity Church. Shown here through the water of a fountain, Trinity Church, is built on pilings sunk into the swampy Back Bay, and it is currently undergoing some exterior renovations. When the light is right, the nearby John Hancock Tower provides beautiful reflections of the church's roof and steeple.

There are college towns and then there are college towns - and then there's Cambridge. The double whammy of Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) would make any burg's head swell. Just across the Charles River from Boston, Cambridge is a mix of ivy covered antiquity and nose-ringed youth. Ground zero is Harvard Square (actually a triangle) and the surrounding blocks, crammed with all the bookstores, cafés, restaurants and shops you'd expect to find in a town that caters to 30,000 university students. Just off the square is Harvard Yard, a quiet leafy quadrangle of vine-covered brick buildings. Among the school's several museums is the Museum of Natural History, where over 3000 lifelike handblown glass flowers and plants are on display.

Beacon Hill
When Oliver Wendell Holmes called Boston the 'hub of the universe', he was thinking mainly of Beacon Hill. You can locate Beacon Hill easily by the gilt dome of the Massachusetts State House and the undulating rows of brick houses that surround it.

The 1798 State House was designed by local architect Charles Bulfinch. You can watch the parliamentary machinations of the state legislature when it's in session. Some of the finest headstone carvings in New England are on view at the Old Granary Burying Ground, where Paul Revere, John Hancock and Samuel Adams rest in peace.

Boston's most affluent - one might almost say precious - neighbourhood, Beacon Hill was once the stomping ground of the Boston Brahmin, the stereotypical member of the city's ruling class. Modern day young urban professionals now tread the brick sidewalks and cobblestone streets of the hill.

This neighbourhood is a living museum of Boston's shipbuilding past. At the river's edge is the oldest commissioned ship in the US Navy, the USS Constitution. Launched in 1797, it got its nickname, 'Old Ironsides', after surviving over 40 engagements during Thomas Jefferson's war against the Barbary pirates of North Africa.

Nearby are the Bunker Hill Monument and Monument Square, where during the Revolutionary War a rebel commander warned his men not to fire until they saw the whites of British eyes. The blocks around the square are lined with restored Colonial and Federal houses. You can reach Charlestown via a short walk from the North End across the Charlestown Bridge, or by water taxi from the Long Wharf on the eastern waterfront.

At the Charlestown Navy Yard, signs of its 174-year run as one of the country's major shipbuilding centres include one of the country's first drydocks, an 1836 Ropewalk (where the Navy made its rigging) and a WWII destroyer of the type built here in the yard's heyday.

Faneuil Hall
Faneuil Hall and the adjacent Quincy Market form one of the country's first mixed-use commercial developments. The hall, built in the 1740s, has always been a market with an upstairs meeting hall; Quincy Market's three granite buildings were added nearly 100 years later to provide warehouse and retail space. Fishsellers and butchers still have stalls in Quincy Market's warehouses, but they now have trendy espresso joints and piano bars as neighbours. Jugglers and other street performers regularly perform outside. The complex made the transition to tourist attraction in the 1970s, getting redubbed Faneuil Hall Marketplace in the process.

North End
Narrow, winding streets and the smell of coffee in the air probably mean you're in the North End, Boston's oldest neighbourhood and home to much of the city's Italian population. The heart of the Italian section is Salem, crammed with bakeries, cafés, delicatessens and candy shops. Among the remnants of Boston's early days are Copp's Hill Burying Ground, serving stiffs since 1660 (look for headstones pockmarked by Revolutionary War musket balls); the tiny clapboard Paul Revere House, built in 1680 and the oldest house in Boston; and the 1723 Old North Church, where two lanterns were hung in the steeple to signal the Brits' arrival by sea, which was followed swiftly by the first battle of the Revolutionary War.

Off the Beaten Track

Cape Cod
'The Cape' - as it's universally called - is among New England's favourite summer vacation destinations and it thrives on tourism. Vacationers come (in dribs and drabs in the off-season, and in hordes in the warmer months) to lose themselves amongst endless miles of windswept seashore.

There may not be many salty old sea dogs hopping around on a wooden leg on the Cape these days, but the chief attractions of the area - the historic towns - have resisted the lure of strip malls and retained their nautical charms, even if at times they verge on the contrived.

Concord was the Redcoats' next stop, but the guerrilla tactics of the Minutemen proved too much for them and they hightailed it back to Boston. White church steeples and oak and maple trees make this a quintessential New England town, located about 22 miles (35km) northwest of Boston. You can stick you finger in the hole left by a British musket ball at Bullet Hole House. The home of Concord sage Ralph Waldo Emerson is now a museum, and the remains of local hermit Henry David Thoreau's cabin grace the shore of nearby Walden Pond, just a few hundred yards southeast of the centre of town. Thoreau and Emerson are buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, along with other such famous Concordians as Nathaniel Hawthorne and the Alcott family. From downtown Boston, Concord is a short trip by car or a 45-minute ride via commuter train.

Lexington is a repository of the kind of American History that comes in capital letters and reverent tones. On 18 April 1775, Paul Revere and two companions rode from Boston to Lexington in the predawn hours to warn the colonial militia - the Minutemen - of the impending approach of British troops. What followed was the first battle of the Revolutionary War, which took place on Lexington Green (now called Battle Green). This leafy, placid town has a number of historic houses and taverns, such as the 1695 Munroe Tavern and the 1698 Hancock Clarke House, where John Hancock and Samuel Adams hid out from the redcoats. Lexington is about 18 miles (29km) northwest of downtown Boston and is accessible by a combination of the subway and public bus.

If you feel oppressed by the morbidity of Salem, Marblehead is a good place to clear your head with a big hit of sea air. Just a few miles southeast of Salem, Marblehead's narrow winding streets are excellent for exploring on foot. The best sights are in Old Town, also known as the Marblehead Historic District, where most of the town's colonial and early federal houses are. The 18th-century Jeremiah Lee Mansion is now a museum with period furniture, toys, folk art and nautical and military artefacts. At the southern end of Old Town, a causeway leads a few hundred yards east to the wooded island of Marblehead Neck, where mansions share the place with the Audubon Bird Sanctuary.

Salem's mild-mannered suburban aspect doesn't immediately make one think of witches and warlocks hanging from the gallows, but 300 years ago the town was rife with rumors and accusations, and 19 people got the rope for consorting with the Wicked One. These days Salem takes a Disneyesque approach to its bewitching past. Open to the public are the Witch House, where suspected sorcerers and sorceresses were interrogated; the Salem Witch Museum, which uses dioramas, exhibits and audiovisual materials to explain the witch scare; and the Witch Dungeon Museum, where dramatic recreations of the witch trials follow transcripts of the original proceedings. The most famous house in Salem is the House of the Seven Gables, eponymous star of the 1851 Nathaniel Hawthorne novel. It's open to visitors year round. Salem is 20 miles (32km) northeast of Boston, about a 35-minute train ride away. The Salem Trolley takes visitors past all the major points of interest.

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