Boston is a big city, but it doesn't feel that way when you're walking around -- and make no mistake, this is one of those cities perfect to explore on foot. (If you're not a walker, join a trolley or amphibious vehicle tour.) In 20 minutes, you can stroll from the Common (Boston's Central Park) down to the waterfront and pass major historical attractions, shops and food purveyors along the way.
Boston is, perhaps, America's most glamorous historic city, dating back more than 350 years. The city was founded in 1630 by colonists led by John Winthrop, and it gets its name from an English village. The events that led to the American Revolution, including the infamous arguments over the tax on tea that led to the Boston Tea Party in 1773, started there. During the protest, three British ships were raided by colonists dressed as Native Americans who dumped tea into the harbor. In 1775, Paul Revere helped spread the word that the British were coming. The next day, the "shot heard round the world" was fired, signaling the start of the American Revolution.
These days, Boston, also dubbed "Beantown" (the moniker is another colonial-era legacy, referring to a time when baked beans made with molasses were a Boston specialty), has a European feel, in part because of its many ancient buildings and cozy ambiance. But, it is not a city museum by any stretch. As an area home to major educational institutions, including Harvard, MIT and Boston College, a big student population also contributes a fresh, edgy feel.
The "locals" are part of Boston's charm. Just keep in mind they tend to come in two categories: friendly and grouchy. (There are even restaurants that specialize in surly waitresses.)
This is a big sports town, and the Red Sox and the Patriots are king. A conversation on either will bring emotional discourse. Sure, there's lots of American history, especially on the Freedom Trail. (Just follow the red lines down the sidewalk.) But if television history is more your style, visit the bar that was the model for "Cheers." If you're a movie buff, there are numerous filming locations throughout Boston. Tours are available where you can visit the backdrops for "Good Will Hunting," Legally Blonde," "The Departed," "The Social Network," "American Hustle," "Boston Legal" and many more.
As a visitor, you also shouldn't overlook the city's many museums. Boston has great shopping both for those who want to spend big bucks and for those looking for "bah-gans." And if you're a foodie, you can find everything from haute cuisine to Fenway Franks. If you order "chowda," it will be the creamy kind. (Don't even ask for tomato-based.)