What do they look for when they browse Boston, taste its cuisine, see its history, shop, ask directions . . .
We Bostonians usually flee the urban jungle for mountaintops and beaches on summer weekends or days off. (We can have the Hub anytime we want.) On those same weekends, there’s a reverse migration of tourists who leave from Australia, Japan, Oklahoma City, Seattle, and all over the globe to shuffle along the Freedom Trail and raise a glass at Cheers.
Boston means different things to different people: History. Chowder. Baked beans. Sports. Museums. A stopover on the way to New York.
We chatted with camera-and-map-wielding visitors at Quincy Market, in the North End, and near the Park Street MBTA stop in the Boston Common to learn what out-of-towners think of our fair city.
Mike Fein, New Orleans
What did you think Boston was going to be like?
A lot of
How’s the food been during your trip?
We’ve had absolutely marvelous food. This is coming from a person who writes reviews for Zagat in New Orleans. We had a spectacular meal at Meritage. And as I told the maitre d’, this is what fine dining is supposed to be.
Where else have you eaten in town?
Last night we went to Legal Sea Foods. We went to Oceanaire a couple of nights before, which was also extremely good. I’d say on my scale, Meritage is five stars, Oceanaire would be four stars, Legal Sea Foods three stars. We also had an unexpected wonderful meal at Scollay Square.
Tips for someone visiting New Orleans?
There’s always a festival somewhere in the area. Whether it’s a church fair that calls itself a gumbo festival or a catfish festival, a lot of the nice festivals there have grown up from church fairs and fund-raisers. You can either go the traditional second weekend of Mardi Gras, which you better start planning your hotel room pretty soon, or you can go to the locals’ weekend, which is the first weekend. Less crowded, not quite as bawdy. (NC)
Tamura Norikazu, Kobe, Japan
What did you know about Boston before you visited?
It’s better than New York. That’s what you want to hear, right?
Where have you eaten so far?
We’ve had very good seafood.
What museums have you seen?
The Museum of Fine Arts. Every time when I’m here, I visit the museum.
Any tips for people visiting Boston?
It is not a big city like Tokyo. It’s easy to walk around here. I tell my friends that it’s easier to visit here than New York. And it’s more academic than New York. We went to Harvard the day before yesterday.
What should I do in your hometown?
Kobe is also near the harbor, like Boston. You can enjoy seafood.
And Kobe beef?
Of course. It’s very expensive. (CH)
Brian and Caroline Denny Knoxville, Tenn.
How did you become Red Sox fans?
Brian: I’m a little ashamed to admit it, but it started in ’04.
What do you like best about Boston so far?
Caroline: The shopping is great. I think it’s called Quincy Market?
What about Boston has surprised you?
Caroline: It’s a lot colder than I thought it’d be. [Temperatures boomeranged from the 50s to the 80s during their trip.]
Advice for other folks planning a trip to Boston?
Caroline: Pack a variety of clothes.
What you think of our Boston accents?
Caroline: We haven’t heard any.
Brian: We’ve heard straight Irish accents.
If we visit your hometown, where should we go?
Brian: We have Market Square. It’s like a smaller version of this. [He gestures to the Faneuil Hall cobblestones.]
Shonita Savage, Seattle
What had you heard about Boston before visiting the first time?
That it’s cold in the wintertime, which I experienced. To be perfectly honest with you, I hadn’t heard much about it.
What do you like to do in Boston?
I love Newbury Street, which is a girl’s dream. I also love the architecture - it’s absolutely amazing. I had chowder today for lunch. It’s been a long time since I’ve been here [12 years]. The last time I was here, I was 25.
Do Bostonians have style?
I think it’s pretty eclectic here, more eclectic than I thought. There’s great diversity. I think you guys have a very interesting look - don’t know if that’s because of the students.
What should I do in Seattle?
If you came to Seattle, you’d definitely have to go to Pike Place Market, of course. The first
A book town?
Not having lived there forever, I don’t like to say that it rains all the time. But it’s overcast a lot. So it’s great weather to curl up into a corner either at home or in a bookstore and read a book.
Anything that surprised you about Boston?
When I came here before, I was a strict vegetarian and I found some great places to eat, which I was surprised about in Boston. (CH)
Karen Scott and Joe Young, Dallas
What’s the best part of your Boston visit so far?
Karen: Little Italy. The old church up there.
Other sites on your list?
Karen: I want to go to Cheers. I grew up watching that.
If we go to Dallas, what should we see?
Karen: I guess we’re most known for JFK.
Joe: And Cowboys Stadium.
Karen: It’s pretty impressive.
What do you think about New England weather?
Karen: In Dallas, it’s in the mid-90s, so we’re embracing the change. (MG)
Jeremy Duffy, New York, and Ai Sasaki, Okinawa, Japan
What have you done so far while you’ve been in town?
Jeremy: We just got in a couple hours ago, walked up to the Aquarium, around Fanueil Hall, Quincy Market, and made our way here.
What do you think of Boston?
Ai: Nice and clean. Beautiful. People are nice. We were just looking at the map and someone came up - “Where are you guys going? Ah, this way, this way.’’ So nice.
How does it compare with Japan?
Ai: In Japan nobody [would] help me. They don’t care.
If I were to visit Okinawa, where are some places I should go?
What else are you doing while you’re in town?
Ai: After we go to Chinatown, to get some Chinese food, we’re going to see his aunt.
What did you know about Boston before you came here?
Ai: Clam chowder. (NC)
Yiping Wen and JingZi Wang, China
What have you seen so far?
Harvard, MIT, Beacon Hill.
Why come to Boston?
Because it’s historic.
Have you been treated well?
Yiping: The people are very friendly.
What’s been the best part of your trip?
JingZi: Seafood. [They both try to describe a certain type they have absolutely loved. After some charades, they find the right word: lobster.] It’s very expensive in China. (MG)
Pam Ellis and Ben Mills New Brunswick, Canada
I see you have a Red Sox hat on. Are you a fan?
Ben: Just purchased. We’re going to a game this afternoon.
What have you done during your trip so far?
Ben: We’ve just been walking around, following the Freedom Trail.
Did you have any expectations for what Boston was going to be like?
Ben: We heard it’s really similar to St. John [New Brunswick’s largest city], so I guess we were expecting it to feel a little bit like home.
And does it?
Ben and Pam: It does.
What is it specifically that fe els like home?
Pam: The buildings. The hometown that we’re from, I guess the architects from Boston rebuilt our city way back in the 1800s. So the buildings and the heritage sections are very much alike.
Ben: And the people, too. Everyone’s friendly.
What should people do when visiting New Brunswick?
Ben: Well it’s similar to Boston in the sense that [Saint John is] an old city and you can pretty much just hang out downtown and see a lot of historical monuments. You can take a horse ride through the city. We have the largest municipal park in North America, so that’s definitely something to do while you’re in Saint John - Rockwood Park. (NC)
Emily Vandeputte (with Shirley Desaever), Belgium
What brought you to town?
We are here on a round trip through the eastern part of America. We’re coming from New York and tomorrow we’re going to the Niagara Falls and Toronto.
What do you think of Boston?
It’s a nice place. It’s not as big as New York. Has nice houses and it has Harvard. That’s cool.
What did you think Boston would be like?
I thought it would be bigger with bigger buildings. But it’s quite OK. There are nice parks and open spaces. And lots of monuments as well, so that’s good.
What have you seen since you’ve been here?
We’ve been to Harvard but unfortunately there were no students. They’re already on holiday. We’ve been to the market and the harbor, but we couldn’t visit the boat [USS Constitution]. It’s Monday and so it’s closed. We’ve been around the city but by bus so we didn’t see much.
What should someone do or see while visiting Belgium?
You should really go to Bruges. It’s a medieval city and it’s the most beautiful city of Belgium. Brussels for chocolate and manneken pis.
What is manneken pis?
It’s like a little man who is peeing all the time. It’s a story that there was a big fire around the city and there was a little man who fought against the fire by peeing and he won. It’s a story that’s very popular because people from China, Japan, they all come to see manneken pis. (NC)
Denise and Gary Morehead Clearwater, Kan.
What did you know or think about Boston before you got here?
Denise: Just history and thought there was going to be a crush of people.
Gary: Not much. I’ve read history books . . . and the Red Sox.
Any Boston stereotypes?
Gary: The language.
Gary: Like ‘watah.’
You arrived yesterday. What’s the best thing you’ve seen so far?
Gary: We’re just starting our tour.
What are your plans?
Gary: We’re going to a ballgame. We’re going to let these people [his son and daughter-in-law] show us all the sites.
Denise: The aquarium.
What food are you excited to try while you’re here?
Gary: All of it . . . seafood, a ballpark hot dog. We’re going to drink a beer where George Washington drank a beer at Warren Tavern. (CH)
Mary and Tom Blythe, Flushing, Mich.
What did you know about Boston before you got here?
Tom: We heard that it’s a clean city with lots of things to do and that people are friendly. That’s what we’ve heard and it’s turning out to be true.
What’s the best thing you’ve done so far?
Tom: Well, today we went to the National Historical Park where the [USS] Constitution is. We went to the museum. . . . We liked the aquarium a lot.
Mary: Quincy Market.
Tom: And now we’re just wandering, looking for a nice place to eat lunch.
Mary: Everyone is very, very friendly and very helpful. You can ask anyone and they will help you get where you need to go. . . . Oh, and we’re going to see the Boston Pops tonight - who, by the way, are playing Motown hits. Coming from Michigan, that’s a great thing.
What are you looking forward to eating in Boston?
Tom: Well, Italian in this part of town [North End]. We’re going to do seafood either tonight or tomorrow evening.
What should people do in your hometown?
Tom: Our town is very small.
Mary: Very quaint. We have a nice river walk.
Tom: It’s a paved river walk, it’s about a mile long, through the woods along the river. It’s just a little tiny town. . . . Huckleberry Junction is the name of the tourist area up there [in Flint] where kids can go. There’s a real train they can take.
Mary: Our downtown is coming back to life. There are a few nice restaurants.
Why did you decide to come to Boston?
Tom: Actually, we had a vacation planned to Glacier National Park in Montana. And we found out Wednesday that it was canceled because of flooding. We had talked about visiting Boston one day, so we looked up flights and looked up hotels. We planned it on a whim.
So you just up and left?
Mary: We can now because we’re empty nesters.
What do you think about the Red Sox?
Tom: I like the Red Sox. Of course, they just swept the Tigers, but that’s OK because I’m not a Tigers fan. . . . I know that you don’t say anything nice about the
Mark Schlembach and daughter Audrey (with wife Sue and daughter Chelsey) Shandon, Ohio
Why are you in Boston?
Mark: Because my 14-year-old daughter [Audrey] said that she wanted to go to Boston for vacation and I said, why not?
What did you know about Boston before you came here?
Mark: Just knew there was a lot of history here and that’s why she was hitting me up to go here, too. Boston Tea Party and the Boston Massacre, all the stuff she just learned in school this year. We thought it would be kind of neat to come up and see it.
What have you seen so far?
Mark: We just took a lovely tour of your public library - that’s a nice building. We spent a while there. We ate at the Chart House last night.
Any food you are looking forward to eating here?
Mark: We’re going to try some lobster. My brother-in-law was teasing me about getting some beans. This is Beantown, isn’t it?
What should people do in your hometown?
Mark: We’re from a podunk little country town. The population is about a 150. If you come there, you can help me bale hay.
Audrey: Or go to the local antique shop.
Mark: We hang out in Cincinnati, mostly. That’s about 25 miles south of us.
Anywhere else you’re hoping to see when you’re here?
Mark: We’re just winging it. There are a lot of things we’re hoping to do, but I don’t know if we’ll get to it all. (CH)
Janice Sansom, Davis, Okla., her daughter Renee Sansom, grandson Dylan Sansom, and friend, Jill Oliver, all from Oklahoma City
What did you hear about Boston before you came here?
Renee: Go to Quincy Market. The wharfs.
Dylan: The New England Aquarium - we’re going Thursday. We’re going to do the whale watch, too.
Had you heard anything about the people in Boston?
Jill: The drivers. . . . I did a duck tour last time I was here, and people were honking and yelling and giving us the finger and everything.
Janice: We’re trying to do the subway instead.
What else are you going to do in town?
Renee: See the Cheers place. That’s where we’re headed now.
Janice: We wanted to go to the beach, too, but I don’t know if we’re going to make it. It’s on the list.
Any food you’re excited to try ?
Janice: Steamed crabs is what we’re looking for.
Jill: The last time I was here I really wanted to try Boston cream pie.
What should people do in Davis?
Janice: Bring a swimsuit. Go fishing. Bring a car because there’s no transportation or taxis. There’s one stoplight. We have Turner Falls, a natural swimming and camping area up in the mountains. We have the Chickasaw [National Recreation Area] and the culture center. Oh, and fried pies: individual pies that are deep-fried .
Jill: That’s why Oklahomans are so thin.
What should people do in Oklahoma City?
Renee: Bricktown. It’s downtown and they have a memorial where we had the bombing a few years ago.
Dylan: If you really want excitement, you have to go to Frontier City or White Water Bay. (CH)
Ruth Law ( with Bob Law) Georgetown, Ontario, Canada
Highlight of your trip so far?
The duck boat. The driver was very knowledgeable.
General impressions of Boston?
It reminds me of being in Italy. The people doing the tours know what they’re doing.
What is it like to be a Canadian tourist in Boston at the start of the Stanley Cup ?
Fine. People are nice. And it’s neat to see the fans.
Where should Bostonians visit in in Georgetown, Ontario?
Oh my, it’s small. You’d go to Toronto. You’d probably go to the CN Tower. Young Street. (MG)