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8 Mistakes Every Traveler Makes in Boston

March 24, 2019
6 min read
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First-time visitors to Boston might stroll along the city’s Revolutionary War-era Freedom Trail, visit the historic port or take in a baseball game at Fenway Park. And with a burgeoning culinary scene offering diners something more high-end than New England clam chowder, Boston now has a host of upscale restaurants stretching from Back Bay to the North End.

Boston is a walkable city, and — despite our reputation as curmudgeons with harsh accents — we native Bostonians are (generally) extremely friendly and willing to give directions or a recommendation. But for travelers in town for a long weekend or even a week-long trip to Boston, there are some common mistakes first-time visitors should definitely avoid in “the Hub.”

1. Not Checking a Map

A routine search for “Boston hotels” or “Boston Airbnbs” can turn up results as far away as the suburbs of Lowell or Revere Beach. Actual Boston is less than 50 square miles, so make sure to keep your hotel centrally located.

Boston is a huge city. (Photo via Getty Images)
Pay attention to where your hotel is located. (Photo via Getty Images)

2. Expecting a Late Night Out

It may be thanks to the city’s Puritan heritage, but Boston bars tend to close much earlier than bars in other major cities — usually around 1am, with a handful staying open until 2am. After a two-year experiment with later hours, the subway system known as “the T” is once again stopping service around 12:30am. Sorry, night owls.

3. Planning a Day Trip to the Cape

Cape Cod is the preferred summer getaway for Bostonians, and it has been the favorite second home destination of the Kennedy family, Taylor Swift, Samuel L. Jackson — and old Irish fishermen. While getting to the Cape shouldn’t take more than two hours by car, it can take much, much longer on summer weekends. (My father would love to tell you a horror story about a seven-hour ride.) So, it’s best to save a visit to the Cape for a weekend rather than a day trip — or to try the ferry that runs straight from Boston to Provincetown.

4. Skipping the Cultural Activities

Many travelers might associate a thriving art and music scene more with New York City and Los Angeles than with Boston, but Beantown has long been home to some of the country's best museums, theaters and even an orchestra.

The Museum of Fine Arts is Boston’s answer to the Met, while smaller museums such as the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and the Institute of Contemporary Art are likely to charm any art aficionado. When it comes to nightlife, musicals, plays and symphonies can all be found in downtown Boston at the Wang, the Citizens Bank Opera House and Symphony Hall.

The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts, is one of the largest museums in the United States. (Photo via Getty Images)
The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston is one of the largest museums in the US. (Photo via Getty Images)

5. Trying to Drive

Many cities are easy to navigate by car — Boston is not one of those places. Between the mazelike urban planning, the plethora of one-way streets and the resident drivers (so lovingly nicknamed “Massholes”), driving is best left to the locals here. Most of central Boston can be explored on foot, and travelers can otherwise use the T or spring for a taxi.

6. Using a Boston Accent

For some reason, people come to Boston and are inclined to say, “Pahk the cah In the Hahvahd Yahd.” Frankly, I’m not sure any Bostonian has ever said this — especially since Harvard Yard does not have parking.

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Trying to do a Boston accent has become a popular activity for tourists (thanks, Affleck family!), but the impressions are best left to the professionals. If you want to hear some authentic Boston accents, just visit any of the unpronounceable towns outside of Boston (Worcester, Gloucester) and walk into any one of the hundreds of Dunkin' Donuts and order a "cawfee."

7. Wearing New York Sports Attire

Don’t. Do. It. Boston’s fierce rivalry with New York City sports teams — especially the New York Yankees — has a long and well-documented history, so please leave your Ellsbury jersey (and your Jets or Giants cap) at home.

It’s actually more of a rivalry between Boston and New York about everything, so maybe don’t get in the middle of it right now?

People take sports, especially baseball, very seriously in Boston, as you can see here at the Boston Red Sox World Series victory rally. (Photo by Rick Friedman/Corbis via Getty Images)
People take sports, especially baseball, very seriously in Boston. (Photo by Rick Friedman/Corbis via Getty Images)

8. Not Packing Snow Boots

If you're visiting Boston during the winter, do not leave home without legitimate snow boots. Boston gets a lot of snow, and the sidewalks end up slushy on most days in the winter. In the winter of 2015, Boston saw nearly 80 inches of snow in just one month — and across the state, plows shoveled enough snow to fill the Patriots’ football stadium 90 times.

So check the forecast and remember that winter weather can start as early as October in Boston, and can last as late as April.

Featured image by Getty Images