Reporting Jay Lloyd
It took a tragedy to remind us how close we are to Boston — in both history and geography. Most parents of college age youngsters have been there to tour the city’s highly regarded schools. Baseball fans have made pilgrimages to Fenway Park. Now, getting there becomes a little less costly and a bit faster as Jet Blue launches low fare service direct from Philadelphia to Logan Airport, filling the gap left when Southwest jettisoned the route. The fun starts minutes after you land. – Jay Lloyd
WHAT TO DO
CITY WATER TAXI
Scenic Boston Harbor is your highway to town from the airport as your water taxi planes across the waterway crisscrossed by cruise ships and pleasure craft. It’s a unique way of getting to your city hotel, and at $10 a ride, it may be one of the best airport transit deals to be found in the country. A convenient shuttle bus takes you right from the airport terminal to the water taxi dock. The boat makes stops at the waterfront hotels and attractions and offers a sightseeing tour along the way. Round-trip fare is $17.
Now that you’ve had a cruise and checked into the hotel, what’s there to do? My move was to continue with the nautical theme and head straight to one of the most famous and historic ships in the country – “Old Ironsides” – the USS Constitution. She remains in a beautifully preserved condition at the Charlestown Navy Yard, which is now part of the Boston National Historical Park. Admission is free and you can tour both Old Ironsides and the Constitution Museum.
The yard is within easy walking distance of other key Boston sites. Stroll to Bunker Hill and Old North Church, where Paul Revere saw the signal that sent him on his famous midnight ride. You’ll also be close to Little Italy and its smorgasbord of eateries. Boston is a very walkable town, and the Freedom Trail ties together many of the historic sites and leads you to central and waterfront attractions including:
One of the nation’s best known marketplaces, Faneuil Hall predates the Revolution and has evolved into a modern day public center where visitors can shop for everything from tchotchkes to bling. Vendors offer fast food and children’s fantasies or linger-awhile adult fare. Outside on the open air promenade, street performers draw the crowds.
Just a few blocks off the Freedom Trail at the waterfront, you’ll find:
THE NEW ENGLAND AQUARIUM
Seals, octopi and penguins help populate one of America’s largest aquariums. But the exhibit that has a powerful draw on wide-eyed kids and adults is the shark and ray pool, which offers visitors a chance to actually touch these storied creatures. Complimenting the aquarium, the neighboring IMAX theater tells the story of rarely seen creatures of the deep in settings that are too distant or deep to exhibit away from their natural habitat. Right now, construction is underway on the aquarium’s massive ocean tank and discounted admissions are posted during the renovation period. For current prices, float over to: www.neaq.org/visit_planning/tickets_and_hours/index.php
The terminal point of the Freedom Trail is:
A seventeenth century park, Boston Common and its public gardens have been magnets for visitors who follow the path of history. It’s a place where they once hung “witches.” Today, the gallows is gone and visitors enjoy rides on the city’s unique “Swan Boats.” There are fifty acres to explore, and the common is bordered by some of the best known streets in Boston — including Boylston, the site of recent tragedy.
WHERE TO STAY
A personal favorite is the Seaport Hotel. It’s located right on Boston Harbor and is a stop on the Airport Water Taxi route. The hotel is a few blocks from the waterfront attractions, the aquarium and an array of familiar restaurants. Rooms are well furnished, with all the amenities of a top tier hotel and views of the harbor, distant cruise docks and Logan Airport. An upscale eatery and popular bar give it a resort atmosphere. Room rates in May start at $339 a night.
More reasonable accommodations can be found in Cambridge, just across the Charles River and close to all downtown Boston attractions including Fenway Park. Check out the Best Western Hotel Tria. Rates here start at $220 a night in May and go down to $200 in June, when there’s less activity at nearby Harvard.
WHERE TO EAT
A Boston favorite which has expanded to include a popular stop in King of Prussia is Legal Seafood at Harborside. For price and variety, choose the first of three floors. My favorite dish here is the Portuguese Fisherman’s Stew, but there’s a wide range of fresh fish, chowders and a great raw bar selection.
The Chart House in Boston is a neighbor of the aquarium, and like it’s other waterfront locations (including one in Philadelphia), it has a familiar menu that’s heavy on fin food. However, my favorite item is the prime rib. It’s a tender cut with incredible flavor, and Great Harbor view tops it off.
With the addition of Jet Blue Flights this month, airfares have dropped dramatically. U.S. Airways has been serving Boston as well and meets the Jet Blue fare.
Boston is about a 5-1/2 hour drive from Center City in Philadelphia. Check MapQuest or Google Maps for a direct route beginning on I-95.
If you want to avoid New York City traffic on I-95, consider going north on the Garden State Parkway to I-287 East. Then take I-684 North to I-84 East. That takes you to I-90, the Massachusetts Turnpike. Head east right into Boston. This route takes longer, but it’s a more relaxing ride.