It’s that time of year again. Summer. Fourth of July. BIRTHDAY!
We had such a blast in Chicago last year celebrating my birthday (and, you know, the nation’s birthday too, I guess) that I didn’t know whether to go low key this year or try to out-do the previous year.
Go big or go home, I always say.
I started doing some looking, and thanks to astronomical airline ticket prices, decided to keep this year’s adventure a little closer to home. The east coast was looking pretty good, and the fact that some of the cities were part of our nation’s birth was not lost on me.
Those particular cities actually became of most interest, and I eventually narrowed it down to Boston. Not only were we going to benefit from the historic significance, we were going to get to ‘see’ the Boston Pops, check out the nation’s oldest bars, and take part in some re-enactments of our country’s founding years.
This year’s extravaganza was made possible by my annual Delta Companion Certificate as well as a few left over hotel points the boyfriend still had. We decided to use the points to stay in one area of town for the first part of the visit and then priceline a different hotel right downtown for the actual Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular. We lucked out that our second hotel practically overlooked the Charles River so we would have front row seats from our hotel rooms.
Our flight got in mid-day so we dropped everything at the hotel and found a little Irish pub nearby and grabbed lunch. The food was just ok, but the bartender made the boyfriend this amazing cocktail that involved rum and nutmeg. Delicious, and we are going to have to figure out what it was.
From there, we took public transit to the Samuel Adams Brewery, which was crawling with people. We figured things would just get busier as we neared the fourth so we thought we would get some of the more popular attractions out of the way as soon as possible. The tour was short and sweet, which was fine because we were obviously there for the tastings, which were plentiful and more drawn out.
There was a party bus outside to take guests to a local bar that was the first in the country to carry Sam Adams, promising you a free Sam Adams souvenir glass if you ordered a beverage at this particular bar. The party bus, equipped with disco lamp, flashing lights and dance poles and blasting Neil Diamond and we were all flung about on the fastest, jerkiest ride of our lives, finally deposited us at the bar in one piece. Two free glasses later, we were definitely sure it was worth it.
We spent most of our time just walking the city. While we were outside of town, we walked over to the Charles River, took pictures of the brownstones, found some fabulous places to eat and took in some of the city life. There were so many beautiful buildings, and the nightlife was busy but not too intense.
We did walk up to the downtown area as well, roaming through the main park area to take pictures of the site that served as the external view of Cheers on the TV show. The hotel gave us a packet of all the reenactment and fourth of July activities taking place, so we made sure to hit some of those as well. We watched the British invade the harbor, saw a few pipe and drum groups marching around and then stopping to perform, and we bought tickets to go on the Freedom Trail tour with our period-costume clad guide.
At the end of the tour, we were dropped off at the Government Center near the pier so we went into the markets so I could get a Boston Cream Pie and sat and watched all of the people milling in and out of the markets and eating at all of the restaurants. We were only half-way through the entire Freedom Trail and decided to tackle the rest of it on our own the next day.
Instead, we visited two of the oldest bars in the nation; the Green Dragon Tavern and the Bell in Hand Tavern. We grabbed drinks and apps and then headed down to the water to get some skyline shots and watch some of the crazy boat races they were holding in the harbor. We found the Hard Rock Cafe over there too so I was able to grab the latest addition to my collection.
The next day we packed up and moved to our hotel downtown and resettled. We were expecting a really hot day so we spent the morning unpacking and planning out the day before heading way across town to the Barking Crab. We had heard about it on Man v. Food and wanted to try it, but we heard it was almost impossible to get in so I had made reservations almost a month in advance.
We had one of the earliest reservations and wanted to get there early but ended up actually beating the staff! As soon as they were ready we headed in. I thought my concerns were misplaced, but the next thing we knew the entire place was packed. I definitely suggest a reservation. The food was amazing; the boyfriend and I split one of the huge hot pots that had everything from lobster to clams to mussels to shrimp and veggies. Amazing!
We took a nice walk after lunch, eventually heading over to the pier to catch our Charles River Cruise and Locks Tour. Luckily we had bought these tickets ahead of time too because the pier was packed with people. The boat ride was fun– we got some nice views and pictures of the harbor, the skyline and either bank of the river, and the locks were kind of neat. I think they said there really aren’t any navigable and active locks in the country so it was kind of a unique experience. We were wiped out after the tour so we returned to the hotel for a while before heading out to the North End for dinner. We found a great Italian restaurant and then stood in the massive line for Mike’s Pastry Shop, another Man v. Food mention. The cannoli was worth it.
We decided to finish out our last full day and the fourth by completing the Freedom Trail, but first we wanted to try a restaurant with amazing breakfast reviews called The Paramount on Beacon Hill. We got their before they opened and there was already a line. They have you stay in line– no saving seats– and wrap around and up to the cooks who take your order and make it on the spot in front of you. Then you pay and walk your food to any seat you can find. The food was delicious– I had some caramel banana french toast that I could hardly dent.
We were in major need of a walk after that so we headed up through the North End to catch where we left off the trail. We saw Paul Revere’s house, the church where they indicated if the British were coming by land or sea, an old cemetery, and then headed over to see the U.S.S. Constitution, which was actually heading out to complete it’s one journey each year. In order to remain an active ship is has to travel so many miles in a year, so it goes out each fourth of July for one journey. Exciting that we got to see it!
It was getting incredibly hot and miserable as we began our assent to the Bunker Hill Monument. We were taking in as much water as possible, but it was still brutal. We barely took a breather when we finally climbed to the monument itself before heading right up the 294 steps to the top. I never felt so old or out of shape. I didn’t think I was going to make it. A couple with their kid were also climbing and the kid was running all over the place. I didn’t know if I should be envious or hit him.
The view was great, though. We were able to look out over all of Boston and also watch the U.S.S. Constitution out in the harbor. We slowly made our way back down and back over to where we began in order to meet up with some friends from home who also happened to be in Boston for the holiday. We ate a delicious lunch at the Union Oyster House and then returned to the hotel for a brief rest before tackling the afternoon.
We grabbed the train and headed across the river to Cambridge and came out of the station in the middle of an oval of people, eateries and music just outside the gates of Harvard University. I had been to Boston and the surrounding area once before when I was little with my family so I remembered a few things we were visiting, but I distinctly remember how I felt when we visited Harvard. I LOVED it. It is such a beautiful and old campus, and I wanted to just relax and walk around the old ivy-colored buildings for a while.
We made our way around campus, found the College of Engineering for the boyfriend, and ended up back by the station until we found a bookstore so I could get a shirt. From there, we walked away from main campus in the direction of Boston, checking out the athletic facilities until we crossed a couple of bridges. We were trying to find some of the other well-known buildings and schools on campus, but we had done so much walking we were beat. We headed back to the station to catch a ride home.
That night, we had lobster roll dinners by the main pier on the harbor and then attempted a walk down by the river to see if we could hear the Boston Pops. We were almost crushed and lost in the crowd. It was so packed and hot it was overwhelming. We pushed our way along the fenced off oval with millions of others before deciding it wasn’t worth the struggle. We couldn’t really hear anything, we certainly couldn’t see anything, and I didn’t want to miss the fireworks.
We went back to our hotel and watched the Pops on TV with the rest of the world. Then we walked down the fall to one of the community rooms on our floor with several other couples and watched the fireworks out the window overlooking the river. It was beautiful, but a bit difficult to see and some of the romance was lost with everyone else in the room ohhing and ahhing all around you. The fireworks were great but we both decided my first birthday adventure to Nashville supplied the best fireworks we’ve ever seen.
We flew home the next morning and got in around noon, which was perfect. We still had half a day to recover before returning to the real world.