Itinerant Fan

Boston city guide

There’s really nothing that can be said here that we feel could make Boston any more enticing to visit than it already is. It’s a beautiful city, full of history, character and charm, and that goes for its sporting culture as well. Whether you like Boston’s sports teams or not, each of them carry a rich history and tradition, and all of them play in unique and interesting venues. And while Boston’s sports fans can be a little rough around the edges at times, as most East Coast fans are, they’re also knowledgeable and can be fun to be around. (Though you might hear a little more than you want to about the city’s impressive sporting success over the last decade or so.)

Getting to Boston, and navigating it, can be challenging, for sure. But for the traveling sports fan, a trip is well worth it regardless of what you’re coming to see.

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The landscape

Boston is a huge city with an extremely confusing street grid dating back to colonial days. The city’s pro sports venues are not that close together and, with the exception of Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, in dense neighborhoods where parking is at a premium. Either way, public transportation is the visiting sports fan’s friend.

To attend a game in Boston is also to take in some of the city’s sports history. Fenway Park, of course, has been around just a little bit short of forever; the old Boston Garden once stood right next to where TD Garden is today; and Gillette Stadium was built next the site of the Patriots’ old home, Sullivan/Schaefer/Foxboro Stadium.

The venues
Fenway Park: Home of the Red Sox. Located at 4 Yawkey Way in the Fenway-Kenmore section of the city.
Gillette Stadium: Home of the Patriots and Revolution. Located at 1 Patriot Place in Foxborough, about 30 miles south of central Boston.
TD Garden: Home of the Bruins and Celtics. Located at 100 Legends Way in the North End section of the city.

Fenway Park

Fenway Park

The strategies

Getting in
Travelers to Boston by air are usually arriving through Logan Airport (BOS). Located on a peninsula, the airport is not far from the hub of the city, though the famous Boston Harbor separates the two. Access by car is through the Ted Williams Tunnel (which might bring a knowing nod from sports fans), and the airport is well-served by the city’s subway system, known locally as the T (more on that later).

Boston is also a very active stop for Amtrak, especially for travelers coming from points south on the Eastern Seaboard. If you’re coming from New York, Philadelphia or Washington, the train is certainly a viable option. The primary train station in Boston is South Station, but if you’re coming from points north, you’ll likely wind up at North Station, just underneath TD Garden.

Drivers’ main routes into Boston are Interstates 95 (from the south and north, it runs west of the city center), 90 (coming from the west as the Massachusetts Turnpike) and 93 (which branches off from 95 and runs into the city center).

Where to stay
The good news is, options are plentiful. The bad news is, they’re about equally as expensive, so shop around and consider where it is you have to be during your stay. If money is no object, then the popular Back Bay area is your best bet, with the highest concentration of hotels and proximity to restaurants and nightlife (not to mention Fenway Park is a comfortable stroll away).

Fortunately, the T links up most other districts with the city’s sports venues, so there are other neighborhoods worth considering. Namely: Kenmore Square, the North End, the Seaport district, and Cambridge. If you’re coming for a Patriots game only, there are hotels in Foxborough and the surrounding area, but they usually jack their rates up significantly on football weekends.

Getting around
The T, for our money, is one of the country’s best subway systems, and if you’re riding the Green Line within the city, you get the old-timey feel of underground trolleys and ancient-looking systems (but they still operate with a modern efficiency most of the time). Get off at North Station for TD Garden, and Kenmore for Fenway Park.

Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority, which operates the T, also runs special-event trains from South Station (and north from Providence, R.I.) to Foxborough for Patriots games. So football fans have an alternative to driving down to Gillette Stadium if they need it.

Be warned that parking is at an absolute premium at Fenway Park and TD Garden, and be prepared to pay up the nose if you do drive to events there. That said, it can be done — we just don’t recommend it if you’re traveling on a budget. Even if you do have a car, you could easily park at a T or commuter rail station and take the train to the game, and many locals do just that.

If you’ve read all that and still insist on driving, here are guides to parking at Fenway Park and TD Garden. Parking at Gillette Stadium is a little easier — more info here.

Faneuil Hall

Faneuil Hall, with Samuel Adams statue in the foreground

The extras

Get a history lesson
Boston played a key role in the American Revolution, and more than 200 years later reminders of that exist throughout the city. You can take in some of it just by walking randomly about town, particularly in the area around Faneuil Hall. Or you can follow the Freedom Trail, marked by a red line running along the sidewalk through and by most major historical attractions such as Boston Common. If modern history is what you crave, try the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library to learn about the life and times of the nation’s 35th president.

Steamed lobster from Hennessy'sEat the New England way
If you love seafood, you’ll love Boston. Maine lobsters, clams, oysters and fish are all plentiful, and it would be a real shame to visit Boston and not have a bowl of clam chowder somewhere. Restaurants offering seafood are just about everywhere, from the popular chain Legal Sea Foods to the historic Union Oyster House.

For Italian food, head to the North End for a dizzying array of restaurants, many with strong reputations. Though it’s a chain, Regina Pizzeria is particularly popular with out-of-towners. If you’re too full for a meal, at least stop for a cannoli at popular bakeries Mike’s Pastry or Modern Pastry, both on adjoining blocks of Hanover Street.

Educate yourself
Boston’s university scene is impressive, with Harvard, Boston College, Boston University, Northeastern and MIT, among other schools, all calling the area home. OK, you might not be able to take a course at any of them, but walking the campuses and their surrounding districts are good ways to spend an afternoon in themselves. Not to mention the athletic scenes, which brings us to…

More sports
If it’s major college football and basketball you’re looking for, Boston College is likely your best bet, with competitive teams in both. But don’t ignore the other sports — particularly hockey. The annual Beanpot tournament pits BC, BU, Harvard and Northeastern‘s hockey teams against each other at TD Garden.

Another college football option is the University of Massachusetts, which is located well west of the city in Amherst but, having just moved to the FBS in Division I, now plays its home games at Gillette Stadium.

Patriots Day, a regional holiday that falls on the third Monday in April, is a special sports day in Boston, with the annual Boston Marathon coinciding with a traditional 11 a.m. Red Sox home game.

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