Five observations about Boston that surprised me

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Boston is my July Featured Travel Destination, which is appropriate considering that today is the 4th of July and Boston was the scene of many of the important events that led to the founding of our nation.

I can’t wait to go back to Boston. Not for the sports, of course – the Red Sox and Patriots are part of the evil empire. But for the culture, the history and the nightlife.

Here are five surprising things I learned about Boston during my visit.

1. The roundabouts are freakin’ scary
I’d never seen a roundabout until I went to New England. Unlike every other part of the country, which has nice, civilized stoplights and stop signs at four-way intersections, Boston and surrounding areas prefer to use roundabouts. In these weird junctions, traffic arrives from all directions and drivers speed out into the intersections like maniacs. These things remind me of the days before traffic signs and rules of the road. It’s damn near anarchy out there! If you’re driving in Boston, beware of these things.

2.They don’t make a big deal about where the Boston Tea Party took place
This was a shocker, because it was one of the spots I most wanted to visit. I’m rarely in awe of people or things, but one thing I am in awe of is history. Standing at the exact spot of such a famous patriotic event, one I read about endlessly in middle school history class, would really be an overwhelming experience. I think there’s one historic marker, but it’s hard to find and there’s no other signage of the event. I would expect them to make a much bigger deal about this. Evidently, there is a museum, but it’s been closed for years.

boston tea party site

3. The trains don’t run all night
Come on, Boston. If Chicago can run a few train and bus lines 24 hours, surely you guys can. I wanted to go out and explore a few select neighborhoods and perhaps engage in some nightlife with a choice beverage or two, but we had to leave the bars before midnight to catch the last train back to where we were staying. Lame!

boston transit map

4. Jamaica Plain is where I want to be
I found myself enjoying Jamaica Plain, a revitalized neighborhood with lots of green space, pubs, cafes and other places of interest. I don’t find areas where I feel at home in every city (New Orleans comes to mind), so I appreciated finding such a location in Boston.

5. Newbury Comics really is the best multimedia store around
I’d read about Newbury Comics before going to Boston, and it sure did live up to its reputation. This monstrous store had aisles and aisles of every form of media, from music to movies to tv to video games, plus clothing, stickers, keychains and other novelty items. While I do indeed heart bacon, I ended up purchasing a much more rock & roll sticker – one that depicted the Velvet Underground’s first album cover, as drawn by Andy Warhol.

i heart bacon


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About Scott Shetler

Scott is a Chicago-based journalist and blogger who seeks out quirky sights and awesome destinations throughout North America and beyond.

15 comments on “Five observations about Boston that surprised me

  1. Before we visited Boston we were fully expecting to love it… but unfortunately that just didn’t happen. Granted, we were experiencing travel burnout at the time and didn’t make it to Jamaica Plain, but it was just so disappointing. I haven’t given up hope, though, so we’ll need to make another trip before we completely commit to not liking Boston! 🙂
    Christy @ Technosyncratic recently posted..The Seven Links Project

    • Christy, I would give it another try! I’ve had experiences like that, notably in Los Angeles and San Francisco, where I didn’t like the place nearly as much as I thought I would. But when I went back and got to know the cities a little better, my opinion changed.

    • Haha, for the folks dressed in character, wait until you read my post in two weeks about the site of Bunker Hill battle 🙂

  2. Haha, we have roundabout in my college on the school bike path. We call it freshman circle because 1 graders do not know how to merge their way out of the circle (heavy bike traffic during the day)….so they just keep biking around and around 3-4 times before they finally get off their bike and walk themselves out of the circle. XD
    Annie recently posted..SF (8) Ocean Beach ~ Lands End Trail

  3. On the west coast (seattle, portland, sf–more so the further south you go) I’ve seen a lot of roundabouts popping up in recent years. They can be really stressful when you’re unfamiliar with them–and it often seems like everyone is done differently!

    Boston is a city I have never been to but has long been towards the top of my places I’d like to go (even though I don’t have much of a reason for why). I’ll definitely check out the Jamaica Plain neighborhood when I do make it there.

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