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The Best Way To See Boston? On Foot
Montana Senior News, Dec.2013/Jan.2014
If you enjoy walking vacations where you can trek to memorable sights, sounds, and tastes—city style—put Boston on your list of contenders. Thanks to its small size, Boston is one of America’s most accessible cities on foot. From its art museums and architecture to its music and ethnic enclaves, “Beantown” offers residents, students, and newcomers lots of tempting destinations. It may be one of the nation’s oldest cities but it is definitely current at making history come alive.
After an absence of some 20 years, I recently visited some of my favorite Boston haunts and found them as engaging as ever. While navigating the city’s sidewalks, I would sometimes compare the views before me with those I see along Glacier National Park’s trails. As I did, I realized I constantly discover beauty, inspiration, and pleasure in both locales. I expect other Montanans would do likewise.
Here are eight places I like walking to and exploring whenever I return to Boston. For a centrally located home base, I would recommend reserving a hotel room in Boston’s Back Bay area. From there, you can slip on your Keds or Keens and head to any of these attractions. Should your energy start to flag, no worries. Plenty of tours can introduce you to Massachusetts’s charming capital. Better yet, go native and catch a streetcar at the closest “T” station to carry you to your next stop. While not a red jammer bus ride along Going to the Sun Road, it is a convenient inexpensive way to travel the city and feel like a local, if only briefly.
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
When I attended college in Boston, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum was my refuge of choice when I wanted a soul-soothing escape from the university scene. Considering this museum is actually a romantic multi-balconied Venetian palace complete with fountains and flowers, there was never a contest about where I would go. Starting in the mid-1800’s and for the next three decades, Isabella Stewart Gardner traveled throughout Russia, Europe, and the Middle East to amass a unique collection of master and decorative arts. She built her palace, which was completed in 1903, expressly to showcase her eclectic assortment of paintings, furniture, textiles, and objects. Aside from dining at the museum’s restaurant and perusing its gift shop, you can also attend Gardner concerts where world-renowned musicians and emerging artists perform classical pieces, new music, and jazz. 280 The Fenway, 617-566-1401,

Newbury Street
Eight blocks long and lined with upscale boutiques, cafes, art galleries, and salons, Newbury Street runs through the heart of the Back Bay and is my go-to place for window shopping, fashion gazing, and people watching. It has been called everything from swanky to enchanting to the Rodeo Drive of the East and all the monikers fit. Originally, Newbury Street’s brownstones were built as residences for Boston’s elite. But gradually many of the homes gave way to businesses with no sacrifice of style or charm. With its broad sidewalks, storefronts that extend into the sidewalk, and street vendors Newbury Street appeals as much to the serious shopper as to the serious walker.
Boston Public Garden and Boston Common
Where Newbury Street ends, the Boston Public Garden begins and leads you into a fairy-tale vision of weeping willows, rainbow-hued flower beds, and meandering pathways. Established in 1837, it was America’s first public botanical garden and continues to carry on the Victorian-era tradition of celebrating vibrant floral displays in parks. Two icons of the 24-acre Garden are the Swan Boats and the Make Way For Ducklings statues. For over a century, graceful Swan Boats, which are “disguised” foot-propelled catamarans, have ferried visitors on cruises in the Garden’s picturesque lagoon. Newer to the landscape but equally beloved are the bronze Make Way For Ducklings statues based on a children's book of that name about a duck family that takes up residence here. Just across the street, you enter America’s first public park, the Boston Common, which was created in 1634. As in yesteryear, its walkways still bustle with cross-town foot traffic. Time your summer visit right and you can even take in an evening performance given by the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company under the stars. 617-522-1966,; 617-426-0863, www.commshakes.or

Museum of Fine Arts
With close to a half million pieces of art in its collections, the MFA ranks as one of the world’s most comprehensive art museums. Since moving to its current location in 1909, it has grown to encompass exhibits ranging from Grecian urns to impressionist paintings and Ming Dynasty porcelains. In recent years, the MFA created an Art of the Americas Wing, featuring American art from ancient times to modern day. Plan to arrive early and spend the day in this grand Beaux Arts building, which The Royal Institute of British Architects honored for its architectural excellence. You can also browse for keepsakes at the MFA’s three gift shops and relax in one of the museum’s four restaurants. 465 Huntington Avenue, 617-267-9300,

Mapparium and The First Church of Christ, Scientist
For outstanding examples of fin-de-siecle Boston architecture, take a guided tour of the Romanesque style Original Mother Church and its domed extension. The Original Mother church features frescoes, mosaics, Italian marble floors, and jewel-toned stained-glass windows. The elegant Byzantine-Renaissance style Church Extension houses one of the world's largest Aeolian-Skinner pipe organs with over 13,000 pipes. Next door, don’t miss the Mapparium at The Mary Baker Eddy Library. Stepping onto the 30-foot-long bridge into the midst of this three-story tall glass globe, you enter a whispering gallery where your voice can be heard at either end of the bridge. Built in 1935, the Mapparium portrays the political world as it was then. A sound-and-light show indicates how borders have changed since 1935. Huntington Ave. and Massachusetts Ave., 617-755-3345,

North End
For me, no trip to Boston is complete without an excursion to the North End, a.k.a. “Little Italy.” I have long savored all things Italian from their furniture and jewelry to their cannoli and cappuccinos. And over 100 businesses in this cozy old-time neighborhood happily help whet those appetites. Bakeries abound alongside trattorias, clothiers, markets, coffee bars, and boutiques. Although I go for the food and fashion, history buffs like to saunter the area’s narrow streets to visit twelve sites on the National Register of Historic Places including the Old North Church and Paul Revere House.
Faneuil Hall Marketplace
Just adjacent to the North End, you can explore Faneuil Hall Marketplace. Built in 1742, Faneuil Hall houses gift shops and eateries as well as a museum and armory. The thriving marketplace also includes Quincy Market, a historic building that has long been popular with Bostonians seeking the best provender available. Originally a shopping destination for groceries, it is now known for its array of food stalls and restaurants and is a buzzing lunchtime Mecca for downtown workers. On Fridays and Saturdays, stroll through the nearby centuries-old, open-air Haymarket where you can buy fresh fruit from a pushcart vendor or venture into one of the specialty stores selling cheese, spices, and other treats., 
Symphony Hall
Music lovers should plan to catch a performance at Symphony Hall, whether to hear the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Boston Pops Orchestra, or the Handel and Haydn Society. This National Historic Landmark also showcases talents such as George Winston, who grew up in Miles City and took to this venerable stage in a flannel shirt and stockinged feet when I saw him play his piano compositions here. With its coffered ceiling and statue-filled niches, this Renaissance style building is one of the best sounding classical concert venues in the world. Other than listening to a Symphony Hall performance, you can also dine here, take a tour, or attend adult education sessions, which provide a glimpse of the inner workings of the BSO. 301 Massachusetts Avenue, 888-266-1200,