Boston Survival Guide

A CBC “Off the Beaten Track” episode in which I talk traveling to Boston for Prince Edward Islanders. Originally aired on August 18, 2000 on CBC Radio’s Mainstreet program in Prince Edward Island.

As with all of these pieces, I prepared a script for host Matthew Rainnie and me; it went like this:

Peter’s Boston Survival Guide

Introduction: It’s easy for Islanders to get to Boston.  We should do it more often.  This is the six-minute guide to getting to Boston in one piece and having fun while there.

Step One: Getting to Boston

  • The best flight to Boston is the 6:15 a.m. Air Nova flight direct from Charlottetown, which arrives in Boston 2 hours later at 9:13 a.m.
  • It costs a lot to stay in Boston – might as well maximize your time there by arriving early!
  • The earlier you reserve this flight the better – it can range anywhere from $250 to $1200.  There are usually seat sales three or four times a year.
  • As usual, it’s cheaper to fly if you stay over a Saturday night.
  • You only need 15,000 Aeroplan or Canadian Plus points to get to Boston.
  • The flight takes about ½ an hour to get to Halifax, then you have a ½ hour wait, and then it’s about an hour to get to Boston.

Step Two: In from the Airport

  • Boston’s Logan Airport is located just across Boston Harbor from downtown Boston.
  • You can take a taxi, a bus, a limousine – even a water taxi – but the best way to get to downtown Boston is by subway – known in Boston as “the T.”
  • It costs only 85 cents, and it tales about ½ an hour to get downtown.
  • Go out of the terminal building to the ground transportation area and look for the signs to “Logan Shuttle” – this is a free bus that takes you to the Airport subway station.
  • Make sure you get on the right bus – not all of them stop at the subway station, but they’re all clearly marked.
  • Once you get to the “T station” you pay your 85 cents and get on the subway – make sure you’re getting on the one going downtown – just ask the person in the toll booth.
  • About 9 minutes later, you’re downtown!

Step Three: Where to Stay?

  • Boston is a really expensive place to stay!
  • If you’re willing to stay in the suburbs you can find a good room for less than $100/night.
  • In general, the closer you are to the heart of Boston, the more you’re going to pay and to stay downtown means paying $150 to $300 (or more!) a night.
  • My picks for places to stay are:
    • Susse Chalet Boston
      • One of a chain of New England budget hotels
      • Basic accommodations, but clean and well-located
      • Make sure you stay at the Boston one, not the Cambridge one (Cambridge location is right on the highway, and very noisy!)
      • Has a pool; is next door to a bowling center; has a restaurant; Burger King is around the corner.
      • Not right on the subway, but they have a free shuttle that will take you there.
      • About $100/night.
    • Newbury Guest House and the Harborside Inn
      • Sister properties – one located on Newbury Street (the chichi shopping district of Boston) and the other located just of Quincy Market right downtown.
      • Small and friendly.
      • Clean rooms, a step up from the Susse Chalet.
      • Very nice continental breakfast is included.
      • Can’t beat the location – both are located in the heart of very interesting neighbourhoods.
      • $110 to $160/night, depending on the time of year.
    • The College Club
      • My personal favourite place to stay.
      • Located in an historic building very near Boston Common, right in the heart of the city.
      • Started life as a private club for college women; now invites the public to stay in its guest rooms.
      • The rooms are small; sometimes you have to share a bath down the hall.
      • Rooms have a lot of character – books and magazines, antique furnishings, large windows.
      • But there’s a good breakfast included, you’re in the heart of the city and a block from the subway, and the building is beautiful.
      • And the rooms go for $55 to $85/night, which is a great deal for Boston.

Step Four: What to do?

  • It’s easy to get around on foot or on the subway – there’s very little need for a car.
  • You can get a free subway map from toll collectors.
  • You could spend weeks in Boston and never run out of things to do.  
  • Here are some “must see” things:
    • Go to the top of the John Hancock Tower.  It’s a little expensive at $6 a person, but you get a great view of the entire city, and there’s an interesting presentation about the history of the city.
    • The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, right around the corner from the Museum of Fine Arts, is a fantastic building which houses the personal collection of Isabella Stewart Gardner, who was a wealthy patron of the arts.  The building is in the style of a 15th century Venetian palace, and is as interesting as the art.
    • The Nostalgia Factory in North Boston, which is the Italian district of the city, is a cramped little second-floor store, very hard to find.  They have a collection of 30,000 historic movie posters, lobby cards, photographs, books, and magazines.
    • While in North Boston, eat at Ida’s Restaurant.  Like the Nostalgia Factory, it’s cramped and hard to find, but they serve wonderful homemade Italian food.
    • Kendall Square Cinema over the Charles River in Cambridge is an “art house multiplex” and always has interesting movies playing.  It’s kind of hard to get to: you go to the Kendall ‘T’ stop, and then take a free shuttle bus to the Galleria Mall.
    • While you’re on the Cambridge side of the Charles River, you can try Fire & Ice, which is a weird sort of “make your own meal” restaurant, where you assemble a collection of meat and vegetables and spices and then have them cooked for you on a huge 8-foot diameter grill.
    • Finally, my favourite place in Boston is Filene’s Basement, which sells a motley collection of seconds, overruns and liquidated clothing at prices that gradually go down to zero as time marches on.  If you’re wily, you can buy an entire wardrobe for under $100.
    • When you’re at Filene’s, be sure to eat at Chacarero, a small Chilean takeout stand in the same building that sells a most amazing sandwich the core ingredient of which is steamed green beans.

Step Five: Coming back to PEI.

  • There’s a 6:00 p.m. flight from Boston to Charlottetown every day, which lets you still a full day in Boston after checking out of your hotel.
  • Many hotels, esp. smaller ones, have a luggage room where you can leave your things after you check out.
  • Remember that you have a $50 exemption from duty if you’re gone for 24 hours or more, a $200 exemption if you’re gone for 48 hours or more, and a $750 exemption if you’re gone for more than a week.