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Boston is a bastion of American history. From iconic neighborhoods to cultural centers and gleaming monuments, the city’s urban landscape is replete with sights. But you don’t have to be a Revolutionary War buff to appreciate Beantown—the city is also an outdoor mecca when the weather’s warm! Colorful, well-tended parks and public spaces, bike lanes and the meandering Charles River are all fodder for active locals and tourists. Runners in particular feel at home.
“Boston brings the best of a larger city and a smaller running community together,” says Pam Linov, the co-president of Liberty Athletic Club, one of the first all-female running clubs in the country (founded in 1948). “The running community is certainly reflective of this—wonderful camaraderie and enthusiasm.” Of course, in the evenings, Boston’s eclectic eateries and character-filled pubs come alive. But don’t stay out too late—a scenic morning run and an afternoon of sightseeing are both a must!
Charles River & Esplanade
Forming the border between Boston and Cambridge, the Charles River flows past some of the brightest minds in the country. The paths that line both sides of the water hug the campuses of Harvard, Boston University and MIT.
Boston’s Esplanade, a three-mile section along the river, is particularly scenic. Begin at the Museum of Science and head west toward Boston University. Along the way, you’ll spot leafy parks, children’s playgrounds and bustling docks. Double your mileage by crossing the bridge into Cambridge, thereby turning your run into a looped route. While on the northern side, consider a pit stop at the MIT Museum, where $10 will buy you access to cutting-edge robots and intricately designed model ships.
Commonwealth Avenue Mall
This flower-filled promenade forms the backbone of Boston’s Back Bay, one of the city’s most exclusive neighborhoods, characterized by beautiful brownstones, Victorian architecture and upscale shopping. Totaling more than 30 acres, the mall has a long, linear, pedestrian pathway flanked by shady trees and stately homes. It’s a lovely place for a brisk run and easily accessible from downtown Boston. Rise early to explore this path, as sightseeing tourists tend to flock here in the afternoon.
If too many days in the bustling city have left you frazzled, make a beeline to Cambridge’s Minuteman Bikeway. Originally a rail line, it was transformed into a car-free path, officially being named the country’s 500th rail-trail in 1992.
The 10-mile path ends in the quaint town of Lexington, where the very first battle of the American Revolution took place in 1775. If you’re not up for the full out-and-back 20-miler, bring a bike or use Boston’s subway system, which has stops at Alewife Station and Depot Park, to get back to your hotel before you bonk.
Located smack-dab in the heart of the city, the Boston Common is a park that covers almost 50 acres, including an array of crisscrossing footpaths. It’s the country’s oldest public park and the starting point for the famed Freedom Trail, comprising 16 historical sites that cover 250 years(!) of American history.
A leisurely run down the 2.5-mile trail, marked by red brick in the pavement, will take you past the gold-domed Massachusetts State House; tiny Park Street Church, where “My Country ’Tis of Thee” was sung for the first time in 1831; and the Granary Burying Ground, where Samuel Adams and John Hancock were laid to rest.
Explore and Refule
One of Boston’s oldest neighborhoods, Beacon Hill, with its stoic Federal-style homes, gas-lantern lined streets and quaint, red-brick sidewalks, pays homage to eras past.
For a glimpse into the domestic life of Boston’s historical elite, start at the Nichols House Museum, a well-preserved 19th-century town-house chock full of lovely furnishings, dine textiles and delicate antiques. Schedule a tour at Vilna Shul, a Jewish cultural center—you’ll know you’ve arrived when you see the colorful stained glass above the doorway. These doors open to reveal a small exhibit on the building’s history as well as stunning murals. Follow the Black Heritage Trail to learn more about Boston’s early African American community—plan on spending at least an hour in the incredibly informative Museum of African American History too.
End the afternoon on picturesque Charles Street, where a row of shops and eateries await. For a classic pub experience, join locals at tiny Seven’s Ale House—the warm, friendly atmosphere, and comfy tables perfectly complement icy cold pints of beer.
Known for pretty Victorian townhouses and a thriving foodie scene, Boston’s South End is the perfect evening anecdote to a full day on your feet.
For Spanish tapas, go to Toro—where the long lines are worth the wait. The vegetarian paella is perfect for refueling after a long run. Another local favorite The Gallows serves eclectic meals in a creative, relaxed setting. (Check out the huge Ouija Board on the wall.) From mammoth-sized burgers to artisanal cheese boards, there’s an option for everyone. If you’ve never experienced Ethiopian food, give it a go at Addis Red Sea. The cavernous colorful space is Instagram-worthy, and the richly spiced meat and veggie dishes will leave you yearning for more.
Now for dessert! Boston’s Little Italy is home to a breadth of quaint shops and eateries, but locals know it’s all about the pastries. From cream-filled cannoli and espresso-laced nougats to giant, flaky lobster tails, the sweet shops are full of delights. Top-nosh choices include Modern Pastry, Mike’s Pastry and Caffe Paradiso—but why not take your sweet tooth on a tour? Try a treat at each spot and decide for yourself—they’re all in walking distance and reasonably priced.
If hip and trendy sound appealing, book a stay at the Liberty Hotel, a historic jail that has been transformed into a modern inn. Upon entering, you’ll notice the grand 90-foot rotunda along-side the old prisoner catwalks.
Omni Parker House Hotel
At nearly 160 years old, the Omni Parker House is the oldest operating hotel in the United States, with such notable guests as Ulysses S. Grant, Babe Ruth and John F. Kennedy. Parker’s Restaurant has a fascinating past as well—along with creating the famed Boston cream pie, both Ho Chi Minh and Malcolm X worked as baker and busboy, respectively.
Go big at Boston’s most luxurious hotel. Rooms are inspired by the city’s regal townhouses with touches of lavish fabrics and dangling crystal chandeliers. Boston’s prettiest park, the Boston Public Garden, is located across the street so you won’t need to venture too far for a run or a picnic.