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Nerdy Girl Guide: My Best of Boston

I’m finally sharing some details from our recent trip to Boston, MA.  If you recall, I’m not going to have pointers on the most expensive watering hole, the most underground shoe store or the hippest spot to dine.  Seriously, I use phrases like “watering hole”.  Nope, can’t promise coolness but I can suggest fun things to do in Boston (and if you missed it, here is my post about Duluth, MN).

Sadly, I didn’t find a restaurant or hotel I’d give a glowing recommendation for.  Our hotel, the Boston Marriott Copley Place, was nice enough, but we really only stayed there because the conference I presented a paper at was actually in the hotel.  The room we got was kind of cute:

But let’s talk sights and sounds!  After two visits to this fantastic city, I’ve got some favorites so I made a shortlist (leaving out things we liked but weren’t enamoured with, like the Ghost Tour we took, the too-small Marimekko concept store in Cambridge, etc):

Institute of Contemporary Art
I am obsessive about visiting art galleries and museums and this gallery is one of our favorites!  Situated on the waterfront in a super modern building, this gallery has the most inspiring and innovative exhibits, the sweetest gift shop and – yay! – ample parking.  Plus, Thursday nights are free!

This time visiting the ICA, I was really taken by Sue Williams’ intensely colourful abstracts:

2 Greens With Sable, 2002 (image via)

The painting on this DVD cover is: Colour Pile, 2002 (image source)

New England Aquarium
Honestly, not the best aquarium we’ve been to (we check every city we visit to see if there’s a good one) but still pretty fun.  There is a tank where you can touch a Ray (it doesn’t feel like what you think it would feel like) and be sure to check out the 3D Imax; the shark film we saw was mesmerizing.  I honestly feel conflicted about aquariums because I wouldn’t enjoy being locked up, but this aquarium houses a lot of rescue animals and does extensive conservation and research.  Plus, look at the friends we made:

The Gibson House
The strangest museum we’ve ever been to, this museum is a time capsule of a 19th century townhouse.   The last Gibson to live in this house decided early on that the house should become a museum and didn’t update anything.  He lived with 19th century furnishings and technology until the 1950s, when he passed.  The home is remarkable and, as you take the tour, think about how someone lived like that in the 50s!  He also wore 19th century clothing in the 20th century and was a poet who wrote odes to his favorite people.  An early hipster, perhaps?

If for nothing else, go for the amazing embossed wallpaper.  So beautiful.

Boston Duck Tours
Oh my gosh, only the most fun ever.  The Duck Tours use restored WWII-era amphibious crafts (DUKWs), decked out in crazy colours with equally nutty guides.  We learned so much about the city and geeky Hubby was thrilled with the vehicle.  If it sounds really nerdy and touristy, that’s because it is, but I promise it is the most unique way to explore Boston

Here was our DUCK:

Boston Neighbourhoods:
Boston has some of the most beautiful architecture.  I can’t even pick a favorite neighbourhood.  To start, see how the other half live by walking about prestigious Beacon Hill or Back Bay.  Here are some photos I took in the Back Bay area.  Swoon.  I also like this activity because it is free (unless you pop into one of the posh stores, restaurants or coffee shops you’ll find).

Shreeve Crump & Low:
Most everything in this jewellery store was out of my price range (but I did buy a gorgeous charm for my charm bracelet).  Why did we visit?  I like “firsts” and this company is the oldest jeweller in North America.  I am such a magpie, so just ogling the wares was fun, but I also like a bit of “everyday” history.  Sure, sites dedicated to monumental events are important, but this store represents a tiny bit of ordinary history and that is interesting to me.  Plus, they are home to the gurgling cod.

Photo Source


Boston Public Garden:
Boston has a surprising number of parks, and many have historical significance.  We like the Boston Public Garden because it is just so pretty (whereas Boston Common is supposedly less flowery).  Apparently critics say this park is garish.  As someone who hates gardening, I need to get my fill of flowers somewhere and this park did the trick.  Sadly, I didn’t take many photos of the flowery goodness because I was too focused on this hilarious couple obsessed with feeding the squirrels:

I know, I’m weird.  I like to people watch. 

Places I wish we had time to see:

Any Bostonians or fellow tourists want to add to my suggestions or still-to-see list?



  1. muchadored
    May 4, 2012 / 7:14 pm

    I lived in Boston for 3 years, so this post is really fun for me. If you go back, I'd recommend the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum. It's right near the MFA, so you can easily walk and hit both. Plus, that little Fenway neighborhood has some great restaurants, and they tend to be a lot less crowded since they're not in Back Bay.

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      May 4, 2012 / 10:44 pm

      Someone else recommended the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum when we were there, but we just ran out of time. Great item to add!! Thanks!Boston is such a beautiful city – you were so lucky to live there!

  2. Hannah
    May 6, 2012 / 3:06 am

    I lived in Boston for 8 yrs and loved it. I suggest 1st Fridays in the South End for all the art gallery viewing. Another great place is the North End for amazing Italian food.

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      May 6, 2012 / 3:16 am

      Fabulous ideas! I think locals (or former locals) give the best advice for really getting to know a city. I wish I'd known about the Italian food, yum!

  3. Lorrie
    May 6, 2012 / 4:38 am

    Wow, that's quite an overview of Boston's attractions – from art to history to DUCK TOURS! Such fun.

  4. barbara@hodge:podge
    May 6, 2012 / 4:58 am

    That is one city I wished we had visited while we lived on the east coast! Looks like you had a great time!

  5. Kim S.
    May 8, 2012 / 12:29 am

    I never lived in Boston but since moving to Connecticut we visit every now and again. I'd agree North End for delicious food, in particular Mike's Pastry has the most amazing desserts. It can be a madhouse but I find that fun. I also like Faneuial Hall Marketplace for lunch, love the variety and street performers, but it is definitely more of a tourist spot.I think next time I'll try some of your suggestions and check out some art museums.

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      May 8, 2012 / 2:10 pm

      Sounds like the North End definitely has good food – we've been missing out!! One more reason to go back!

  6. Twisted Susan
    May 8, 2012 / 2:15 am

    Someone already beat me to the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum ( but not the wonderful, interesting, historic Old North Church (

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      May 8, 2012 / 2:11 pm

      Great tip, it looks like a beautiful church.

  7. erica | wicked bride
    May 8, 2012 / 5:44 pm

    Can't believe I met you AFTER you were in my neck of the woods – you have to come back some day! We love the ICA – we had our engagement photos taken there, and held a friends 30th b-day bash there (which strangers totally crashed), and went to their Halloween blowout a few years ago – fun! My brother lives in the Back Bay (looks like you were on his street, ha!). The Duck Tours are super fun, I learned more in a few hours about the city and I've lived here my whole life. Others gave great suggestions, and your list is great. Hubs did the new jewel box addition on the MFA so if you ever come back and want a tour, let me know! (Longest comment ever?)

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      May 8, 2012 / 6:42 pm

      I KNOW – I wish we had connected just a few days earlier and we could have met for coffee in PERSON. Well, I love Boston, so maybe I will be back! And, you know, Ottawa's pretty awesome if you want to wander over here for a visit.Wow, didn't know you could host events at the ICA – so fun!

    • erica | wicked bride
      May 8, 2012 / 8:31 pm

      Oh I'll get up to Canada again, just you wait!

  8. erica | wicked bride
    May 8, 2012 / 5:45 pm

    Oh – and the squirrels… fair warning, if you sit down on a bench they will molest you, food or no food.

  9. Simply Kate
    May 13, 2012 / 11:40 am

    In Ottawa the black squirrels stalked me for blocks without me having fed them! I love this blog!! First time here. Thank you from a Maine girl living in NorCal…

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      May 14, 2012 / 2:34 am

      That's too funny!! Yup, these city squirrels sure are getting brave . . .

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