PARENTS SPREAD OUT blankets and mingle with friends while their children run wild at the nearby playground. Lovers find a secluded spot under the shade of a maple tree, dogs chase Frisbees, and a softball game ensues on the fringes of this city block. It’s a typical spring day. You could be in almost any metropolis in America, but inevitably you’ll come across one of the numerous plaques that read, “Boston Common, America’s Oldest Park, Founded in 1634.” Bostonians like to boast about their city’s lengthy history.
Author Stephen Jermanok Photography Augustus Butera
DAY ONE / Even Boston’s grand dame, the venerable Ritz-Carlton, has undergone a change. The hotel, which has hosted such luminaries as Winston Churchill, Charles Lindbergh, and Rin Tin Tin since its opening in 1927, is now called Taj Boston, having been purchased by the Indian hotelier Taj late last year. The impeccable service, comfy beds, and best location in town remain the same. The Taj resides at the beginning of Newbury Street, home to some of Boston’s finest boutiques, art galleries, spas, and restaurants.
Wake at the Taj and breakfast on site at The Café. Head across Arlington Street and make your first stop at the Public Garden and Boston Common. Come spring, Boston puts on its finest floral dress, as hundreds of multicolored tulips stand at attention. Pause atop the small bridge to view the Swan Boats and gaze at the overflowing willow trees that sprout from the pond’s edge. Then amble into Boston Common.
Near Tremont Street, you’ll find the Boston Common Visitors Information Center and the start of the 2½-mile Freedom Trail. Pocket your map and follow the red line that not only takes you to 16 monumental sites of the past but also brings you into some of the city’s most cherished neighborhoods—Beacon Hill’s century-old brick brownstones and village squares, the North End’s winding streets and lively Italian community, and Charlestown, the site of the Battle of Bunker Hill and home to America’s most celebrated ship, the USS Constitution. If you want to stroll the entire trail, give yourself a day. If not, take a 90-minute tour with a national park ranger between Old South Meeting House and Old North Church.
All that walking will build up an appetite, so make a pit stop at Union Oyster House. Opened in 1826, it’s the oldest continuously operated restaurant in America. Legend has it that Daniel Webster used to sit at the bar and order three dozen oysters and six tumblers of brandy for his dinner. John F. Kennedy also had his favorite booth, but take a seat at the circular counter to watch the oyster-shucking spectacle and savor a bowl of clam “chowdah” (as locals pronounce it).
Nearby, the Freedom Trail leads you to Boston’s No. 1 attraction, Faneuil Hall Marketplace (or Quincy Market). A slew of name-brand shops beckon out-oftowners, as does a long hallway full of dining options. Stop for a bag of just-out-of-the-oven cookies from Boston Chipyard. Also, grab half-price theater tickets at the kiosk for a play this evening at the Boston Opera House.
Head back to the Taj to rest before dinner at No. 9 Park, an elegant restaurant that sits on the edge of Boston Common, across from the gold-domed Massachusetts State House. Start with one of the yummy pear martinis (tastes like a zesty fruit juice but packs a wallop) and an appetizer of prune-stuffed gnocchi. Owner and chef Barbara Lynch won a James Beard Award for best chef in the Northeast. One bite of the gnocchi, or her signature entrée, crispy duck with cherries and braised endive, and you’ll understand why.
A 10-minute stroll from No. 9 Park will bring you to the Boston Opera House. This vaudeville-era theater was seemingly closed for good in 1991. Then Clear Channel purchased the building and poured $30 million into renovations before reopening in 2004. The striking gold-leaf décor and impressive ceiling mural return the space to its original 1920s splendor. National tours of such Broadway hits as The Lion King, Hairspray, and Wicked have played here. After a rousing performance, head back to the Taj and rest up for the next day’s sights.