Birthday Weekend in Boston

Birthdays are special, and they become even more of an event when you and your significant other share back-to-back birthdays. My boyfriend, Gabriel, and I wanted to take off and check out somewhere in the U.S. for our consecutive birthdays. I had been to Boston once before for a wedding as a child but did not remember much. Niagara Falls and Vermont were also on our list of possible destinations for our Fall getaway, but per usual, the standby seat availability dictated our final route. While I am lucky enough to have had the opportunity to use my flight benefits, I do understand the financial burden of buying airline tickets. Low fare carriers like Spirit or Frontier Airlines usually offer competitive rates, but keep in mind that you get what you pay for. There are definitely no bells and whistles, but if you are traveling on a budget, you should keep these airlines in mind in addition to considering indirect flights. Sometimes the routes with one layover stop can be cheaper as the airlines often funnel you through one of their main hubs. Or, if you have the luxury to add a day or two to your trip, and you live in relative proximity, consider driving. Road trips can be enjoyable while giving you the chance to get some fresh air and see different regions of the country.

Gabriel and I exploring & trying to keep warm

Having November birthdays meant we bundled up for our trip as winter was right around the corner in the northern U.S. The nights got nippy as temperatures reached the low 30s, but the daytime temperatures in the sun were comfortable around 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Our heavier coats and gloves were appreciated at night when we would spend our evenings exploring in the cold but were shed during the day as we worked up a sweat hiking across the city.

Boston (and basically all of New England) has a reputation for being horridly expensive. However, cheap Airbnbs do exist! We stayed in one with a private bedroom in an apartment sectioned off with three additional bedrooms (each serving as a separate Airbnb rental), a shared bathroom, and easy access to the subway while paying about $65/night.  Each day we took the subway to a central location and then walked to all our destinations from there enjoying the cool Fall weather. For inexperienced subway riders, I recommend looking at a map of the subway route online or on the wall in the subway to identify what line transfers you need to follow or at what stop you need to get off. Subways are rapid means of transit across the city that only cost a few bucks per ride but may be a bit intimidating for new timers. Don’t worry, the color coded routes help, but do pay attention to what side of the tracks you need to be on by following the signage!

Historical sites serve as cheap, and often free, activities, and the Northeastern United States has so much history to share. Fort Independence sits on Castle Island on the Eastern most point of the Boston peninsula. The island serves as a state park and houses acres of recreational area including running and walking trails. The hexagonal fort is free to enter, and you can walk the interior and exterior while overlooking the ocean. The U.S.S. Constitution (aka “Old Ironsides”), a naval ship from the revolutionary war built in 1797, is docked in Boston. The ship stood undefeated through 40 battles and now serves as a living museum. You can go aboard during daytime hours and the floating museum is free to enter, however they do have a suggested admission rate of $10 for adults to help support and maintain the museum. The Freedom Trail is a series of historic landmarks including revolutionary meeting points, cemeteries, the old and new state houses, the site of the Boston Massacre, the Paul Revere house, the Boston Common park, and more. This trail runs through the downtown area and tours are offered, but it was fun to do a self-guided tour on our own time. In total, the trail is 2.5 miles and I would recommend setting aside a half day at minimum to see everything. The trail was personally one of my favorite activities from the trip!

Benjamin Franklin’s grave site

Gabriel and I spent a full afternoon following the Freedom Trail and made it over to Boston’s Little Italy on the North End for some much sought after pizza and desserts. We chose Rina’s Pizzeria for dinner and were glad our noses drew us in to check out the menu! The pizza was delicious, but they also offered bite size arancini. These stuffed rice balls incorporated spinach and cheese, or meat and peas, and ended up being one of the best foods we had on the trip! Following the instinct of any foodie, we were then on the hunt for a dessert. What better treat than cannoli? We did not realize until after the fact that the cannoli shop we stopped in, Mike’s Pastry, is a Boston staple. I would recommend this place to anyone visiting Boston but be prepared to stand in line. They draw in so many customers and the interior of the shop was more like a mob waiting for their turn at the counter to order their favorite delicacies. Most people were ordering and taking out, but we wanted a second to get off our feet, so we were lucky enough to claim a small corner table while we enjoyed our pistachio and almond cannoli. With almost 20 different flavors, there is something for everyone. Naturally, being on the water, there are also plenty of seafood restaurants from fine dining to small hole-in-the wall establishments serving up extremely fresh lobster, crab, and oysters. On our second day, we ate at Yankee Lobster Co. and made the mistake of ordering crab at a lobster joint. We were served three whole blue crabs each; with some guidance from the internet, we learned how to properly eat a crab and what was edible and what was not! The crab was tasty, but harvesting the meat was a lot of work. If we ever get the chance to go back, I would definitely go for the lobster.

blue crab from Yankee Lobster Co.

Like most cities, Boston offers plenty of shopping options. Boston Public Market, a farmers market-type environment housed in a red brick building, and the Quincy Market / Faneuil Hall Marketplace area drew our attention the most. The Boston Public Market had lots of fresh food and homemade goods options. The Quincy/Faneuil area offered multiple restaurants, clothing goods, live music, and street performers. We reached this area around 8:00pm on a Saturday, and while the restaurants were full, the surrounding activity seemed to be dying down for the evening. We decided to continue the night, however, by finishing the Freedom Trail and exploring the wharf area in the North End.

Boston houses so much more in terms of history, food, and tourist experiences. Some suggestions to consider for your own trip are to check out the New England Aquarium, go to a Red Sox game and see the Green Monster at Fenway Park, take a scenic Boston Harbor Cruise, or pick up a piece of Boston crème pie straight from the source. Gabriel and I thoroughly enjoyed our two days there and would recommend the trip to anyone looking to explore one of the oldest cities in the U.S.

-Rebecca

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