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Got guests? 5 tips for being a wicked good Boston tour guide

Posted by Alex Pearlman  March 16, 2012 05:06 PM

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boston from water.jpgBy Minh Pham

Spring is fast approaching, which means Beantown’s flourishing tourist season is upon us -- that glorious time of year when the tourists wandering around as you’re sprawled out and studying on the Common might make you feel like a zoo animal. Fighting your way through the tour groups taking up the sidewalks is akin to a salmon swimming upstream, but it’s not all bad: You’ll likely get some guests of your own.

Whether the visitor is your longtime childhood friend or your younger cousin who’s looking at colleges, you’re going to have to be on your game and ready to impress when you’re showing people around town. Here are a few tips to ensure that you’ll knock your visitors' socks off with your wicked good knowledge of Bah-ston.

The comfort zone is a boring zone. Clearly, you’ll want to show your visitors around your neighborhood, and while I can’t argue with that, having guests in town is a chance for you to try something new, too. Whether it’s an activity as quintessentially Boston as a Duck Tour or a Sox game or something a bit more off the beaten path, like a Sam Adams brewery tour and tasting or getting lost in the South End, step out of your own comfort zone and have some fun! The new experience might even bring you and your guests closer together -- the perfect way to spice up those long-distance, slightly rusty friendships.

Get personal. Thanks to the packs of friends flocking to my futon, I’ve discovered that the key to a great visit is all about knowing your guests’ interests. Not everyone falls into the same category of tourist -- your best friend might not like all the historical landmarks as much as your parents will -- so take your visitors' preferences into account. You wouldn’t take your artist friend to the Museum of Science, but your physics major buddy would totally dig it.

You’ve got to eat. From high-quality sushi at Oishii to the signature clam chowder, Boston offers a collection of restaurants that serve every type of cuisine under the sun. Cater to personal preference; if you'll be trying somewhere new, make sure you do some research beforehand. If you know your guests will be picking up the tab (yay for visiting parents and relatives!), don’t hesitate to raise the standards a little bit; when you’re in college, really good meals are harder to find than stars in the city sky. Legal Sea Foods, anywhere in the North End, and Union Oyster House are a few of my favorites.

Don’t be afraid to improvise. You’re going to have to set some sort of plan and schedule if you want to get everything done in the few days your visitors are in town, but don’t hesitate to deviate a little. Boston Common too crowded? Get up early and check out the sunrise from the Esplanade, or take in a magnificent postcard-like sunset by the Charlestown Bridge. Out late and still not tired? Walk the Harbor Walk at midnight, then head to South Street Diner or Bova for some delicious treats. After all, it’s the ability to think up an awesome idea on the spot that separates true Bostonians from those who just know how to Google.

Keep your eyes on the sky. Last but not least, don't forget to check the weather. The Boston climate is infamously capricious, and deciding to walk around Harvard Square despite those gray clouds could leave everyone soaking wet and miserable. At the very least, if you’re going to push your luck, make sure to bring the appropriate clothing, just in case.

What’s your advice for being an awesome Boston tour guide?

Photo by ZelenyOko (Flickr)

About Minh -- I once told my mom that there are three consistent passions in my life: advertising, bartending, and tennis. I wouldn't consider myself an expert in any of those fields, but something about each of them makes me feels very much alive. Twitter: @DatsWatMinhSaid

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