Guest contributors John and Sandra Nowlan tour Boston past to present with a look-back at its history…
We never knew that tossing boxes of tea into Boston Harbor could be so much fun.
Of course, we weren’t under the same pressure as the British Colonists in 1773 when the Sons of Liberty defied the Tea Act; demanded that, as Englishmen, there should be “no taxation without representation;” and boarded three ships in the harbor to destroy the entire cargo of tea sent from the East India Company. This “Boston Tea Party” became a defining event in U.S. history and led to the American Revolutionary War in 1775.
That defiant act, and its consequences, is now played out several times each day at the excellent Tea Party Museum on the Boston waterfront.
The Museum, winner of many awards including “The Number One Family Museum in Boston”, includes a Meeting House where an actor playing Samuel Adams implores the citizens of Boston to rebel, two full sized ship replicas from the 18th century, a 3D holographic display showing the debate the next day, a display of the only known surviving tea cask from that momentous event and a multi-screen film showing Paul Revere’s ride and the dramatic battlefield conflict between British troops and American patriots at Lexington Green.
Every hour-long tour is accompanied by a talented actor or actress who stays in character and helps make you feel what it was like almost 250 years ago. Guests can tour the cargo hold and crew quarters on the ship, “Eleanor”, and get to toss full size tea casks into Boston Harbour (attached to a line for retrieval). It’s a great way to learn American history.
A new, nearby Boston attraction also gives visitors another look at American history plus a chance to eyeball some very realistic celebrities. The Dreamland Wax Museum, close to Faneuil Hall and the Old State House, is owned by a Brazilian company that runs 30 museums in Mexico and South America.
This is its first venture in the U.S. and they purposely focus on American sensibilities with full-sized and elegantly dressed figures of every president plus sports heroes, international figures and entertainment stars. Some figures, like the Dalai Lama, Elvis and LeBron James are very realistic but others, like President Trump, don’t ring quite true. However, with Trump, visitors can stand beside him for photos with a “Love Him” or “Impeach” Him sign.
Staying at The Lenox
We stayed at the historic Lenox Hotel in the fashionable Back Bay area of Boston. Constructed in 1900 in the Beaux Art style, its 214 rooms have been totally updated with modern amenities and a focus on comfort.
The location of the Lenox (next door to the massive Boston Public Library) is ideal for visiting the other attractions we enjoyed. It’s just a ten-minute walk to the 52-story Prudential Tower and its remarkable 360 degree overview of Boston, the Charles River and the city’s sprawling suburbs. The Skywalk Observatory looks down on Fenway Park, the oldest major league baseball stadium in North America (we enjoyed the 19 inning marathon game between the Red Sox and the Blue Jays) and the fascinating Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), adjacent to Northeastern University.
Arts & craft
The MFA is one of the finest museums we’ve ever visited. As expected, its American Art collection (Jackson Pollock, John Singer Sargent, Winslow Homer) is superb but it also includes European masterpieces by Rembrandt and Van Gogh as well as 37 Monets. There’s even a gallery devoted to Egyptian mummies.
As Canadians, we appreciated the gallery devoted to Inuit Art, most from the printmaking cooperative at Cape Dorset in Canada’s far north. It’s is special display commemorate this year’s 150th Anniversary of Canadian Confederation.
Boston is known for its excellent beer and many craft breweries. The Boston Original Brew Tour has taken advantage of this growing interest in beer and offers a five-hour tour, with lunch at several Beantown breweries, each with a distinctive taste and focus. A private van and a knowledgeable guide make for a fascinating few hours of viewing and, of course, tasting.
Sam Adams Boston Lager started the American Revolution towards better beer 30 years ago and has been hugely successful in battling the beer giants. They have an excellent tasting room. We also visited Night Shift Brewery that produces many interesting flavored beers plus the Downeast Cider House that’s meeting major demand for apple cider and other fruit based alcoholic beverages.
Like many North American cities, Boston’s culinary scene continues to offer some wonderful choices. One memorable meal was at Eastern Standard, an informal, bustling French-style brasserie near Fenway Park. From the five-star menu, we chose roasted bone marrow with mushrooms and peppers, burrata (pulled fresh mozzarella) with melon and tasty skate wing with brown butter. Unusual, but delicious.
Fresh fish is a staple in Boston and no one does it better than Legal Sea Foods. Started in 1968, it’s now a chain of 35 restaurants, most in the Boston area. We ate at the picturesque Legal Harborside overlooking the busy sea lanes. The crab cake and crab salad were especially outstanding – almost 100% lump crab with a just small amount of filler. When our too short stay in Boston ended, we sought out the Legal Sea Foods restaurant at Logan Airport. Also superb.
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*John and Sandra Nowlan are travel and food writers based in Halifax, Nova Scotia. All photo credits: John and Sandra Nowlan
Previously on MoreTimeToTravel: Liberty Hotel: A storied property in Boston