“Beantown”, as Boston has historically been dubbed, is much more than Boston Baked Beans.
It is Ducks that will splash you into the waters of the Charles River and swans that will glide you
atop the waters of the Lagoon in Boston’s Public Garden. It is a 3-mile, red-painted Freedom
Trail, and a somber Holocaust Memorial that towers along that trail. Now for a bit of Boston
trivia: The toothpick was first used in the United States at Boston’s Union Oyster House.
Enterprising Charles Forster of Maine first imported the toothpicks from South America. To
promote his new product he hired Harvard boys to dine at the Union Oyster House and told
them to ask for toothpicks. That did the trick!
I guarantee you a quacking good time when you board a Boston Duck Tour. This particular
breed of Ducks was hatched during World War II to meet the demand for an amphibious
transport that was half boat and half truck. The transport, with the code name of DUKW, played
a crucial role in allied operations including the D-Day landing in Normandy. Decades later,
Boston’s Original Duck Tours take place in authentic renovated WWII amphibious landing
vehicles. Upon boarding, you will be greeted by a tour ConDUCKtor, who will narrate your tour.
Your land portion of the tour will drive by all the places that make Boston the birthplace of
freedom and a city of firsts. And just when you think you’ve seen it all, there’s more. It’s time for
“Splashdown” as your ConDUCKtor splashes your DUCK right into the Charles River for a
breathtaking view of the Boston and Cambridge skylines. Little wonder that the Duck Tour’s
slogan is “One big splash and the rest is history!”
For more than 130 years, the Swan Boats have been a part of the Boston experience. As a
welcome sign of spring, they glide along the waters of the lagoon in the Boston Public Garden,
the first botanical garden in the United States. The Swan Boats, the only boats of their kind in
the world, have been gracefully preening themselves in Boston’s Public Garden Lagoon since
1877 when Robert Paget developed a catamaran that housed a foot-propelled paddle wheel.
Inspired by the opera Lohengrin, in which a knight crossed a river in a boat pulled by a swan,
Paget conceived the idea of concealing the boat’s captain with a white swan. Now a symbol of
Boston, the fleet of Swans gives their passengers a chance to view the 24 acres of glorious
greenery in the Public Garden.
And what would a trip to Boston be without downing a nip at Cheers? When you step inside the
convivial Original Cheers on Beacon Hill (previously known as the Bull & Finch), you’ll
immediately know why everyone knows your name. Because the bar in the Bull & Finch did not
look like the bar on the TV show, the owner Tom Kershaw built a room above the original that is
a duplicate of the one on the show. In 2001, at Faneuil Hall, (rhymes with Daniel Hall) Kershaw
recreated the bar as it appeared on the set of Cheers.
The Freedom Trail is a 3-mile, red-painted, walking path connecting Boston’s historic Colonial
and Revolutionary sights from the Boston Common to the Bunker Hill Memorial. The Freedom
Trail includes such historic sites as the USS Constitution (known as “Old Ironsides) and the Old
North Church, the location from which the famous “One if by Land, two if by Sea” signal is said
to have been sent.
The New England Holocaust Memorial, located along Boston’s historic Freedom Trail (in front of
the Union Oyster House) was dedicated in October 1995. Built to foster the memory of one of
the great tragedies of our time, the memorial was conceived by a group of Holocaust survivors
who found new lives in the Boston area. The six luminous, 54-foot tall, glass towers of this
striking memorial, etched with six million numbers in memory of the Jews who perished in the
Holocaust, serve a threefold purpose. They represent the six million Jews who perished in the
Holocaust, they recall the chimneys of the six main Nazi death camps, and they glow as the
candles on a memorial menorah. Those six glass towers are set on a black granite path, each
over a dark smoldering chamber bearing the name of one of the principal Nazi death camps.
Smoke rises from charred embers at the bottom of these chambers. Nobel Prize winner Elie
Wiesel quoted a great Hasidic master who said: “If you look for the spark, you will find it in the
Elie Wiesel’s own words are also inscribed at the memorial. They instruct visitors: “Look at
these towers, passerby, and try to imagine what they really mean – what they symbolize – what
they evoke. They evoke an era of incommensurate darkness, an era in history when civilization
lost its humanity and humanity its soul .” “We must look at these towers of memory and say to
ourselves, No one should ever deprive a human being of his or her right to dignity. No one
should ever deprive anyone of his or her right to be a sovereign human being. No one should
ever speak again about racial superiority. We cannot give evil another chance.”
When in Boston, you must eat fresh seafood. For Boston’s best bounty from the brine include
stops at Legal Sea Foods and the Union Oyster House. Legal Sea Foods is not a fish tale, but a
tale of fish 60 years in the making. It is a tale of a family-owned seafood market that was born in
1950 when George Berkowitz opened a fish market in the Inman Square neighborhood of
Cambridge, Massachusetts. He opened it adjacent to his father Harry’s grocery store Legal
Cash Market where customers were given “Legal Stamps” (forerunners of S&H green stamps)
with their purchases. It’s here that the “Legal” name became synonymous with quality and
freshness. In 1968, the family opened its first seafood restaurant, right next to the fish market.
The fish was either broiled or fried, and served on paper plates at communal picnic tables.
Despite the low-key trappings, the food was second to none and word quickly spread. This early
success led to further expansion and now, six decades later with restaurants along the Eastern
Seaboard, the family philosophy endures: Legal Sea Foods is a fish company in the restaurant
business. Their iconic tagline says it all: “If it isn’t Fresh, it isn’t Legal”.
The Union Oyster House is the oldest restaurant in Boston and the oldest restaurant in
continuous service in the United States. The doors have always been open to diners since
1826. The Union Oyster House has been frequented by some very distinguished patrons.
President John F. Kennedy, while still a senator, came in every Sunday to feast in privacy in the
upstairs dining room. He always sat in the same booth to read his newspapers. “The Kennedy
Booth”, booth #18, was dedicated in his memory in May 1977. You can request booth #18 in
advance and enjoy fresh oysters, cod fishcakes, Boston scrod, authentic Boston baked beans,
and the town’s best chowder, as you dine in a bit of history.
As Sinatra crooned many moons ago… “Let’s take a powder, to Boston for Chowder, let’s get
away from it all.”
PHOTO CREDITS: JANET STEINBERG
Janet Steinberg, winner of 55 national travel-writing awards resides in Cincinnati but calls the
world her home.