City: Boston, Massachusetts
Geographical Location: New England, Northeast, USA
Population: 617,594 (city); 4,032,484 (urban); 4,522,858 (metro)
Size: 89.63 sq mi (city); 1,774 sq mi (urban); 4,511 sq mi (metro)
Climate: humid continental
My Time There: five days, May 6-10, 2011
Weather: 6 out of 10. The weather was really nice while we were there, though it did rain one day. According to Wikipedia, summers are humid but not that hot, spring and fall are mild, and winters are quite cold. Also it snows a lot. It gets really windy as well, making it feel even colder.
Food: 7 out of 10. We ate a lot of delicious food in Boston. A lot of menus had macaroni and cheese on them, which is a major bonus in my book. If you’re into seafood, I hear it’s good here. We went to one of the best restaurants in Boston according to the Zagat guide, a Turkish place called Oleana, and it was relatively affordable, with a vegetarian tasting menu at $40, so that’s a bonus too. You’ll find a lot of good American places, Italian places, French places, and seafood places. There seemed to be a number of good Indian and Thai places in Cambridge.
Walkability: 9 out of 10. It’s true, they don’t call Boston America’s Walking City for nothing (and no, I hadn’t heard that either before I went). The historic area is quite small and great for walking around – just make sure you have access to a map or compass or something because the roads are twisty.
Bikeability: 7 out of 10. Downtown doesn’t have so many bike lanes but I saw plenty of people biking anyway. Cambridge has lots of bike lanes and would be fabulous for biking.
Public Transportation: 8 out of 10. The T system is fairly extensive and easy to navigate (except for the fact that the green line is really four lines grouped together…). I had no complaints and was able to get everywhere I needed to go. I took the bus in Cambridge and it seemed like a good system.
Vegetarian-friendly: 6 out of 10. Most of the specifically vegetarian places I found were in the Cambridge area, which makes sense. However, most places had good vegetarian options, so I didn’t lack for places to eat.
Beauty: 7 out of 10. Boston definitely has some pretty areas, like the Public Garden and its outlying Harbor Islands. With so many historic buildings and neighborhoods, it is quite picturesque.
Museums, Etc.: 7 out of 10. There are a lot of very nice museums, though most of them are around $20. I went to the Museum of Science which I would recommend for families. I also went to the New England Aquarium, which is absolutely fantastic.
Cool Shops: 7 out of 10. I found a fantastic comic book store and an even more wonderful board game store.
Free Stuff to Do: 8 out of 10. You can walk the Freedom Trail (definitely recommended) and go in some churches, graveyards, and historic buildings for free (not everything along it is free, though). There are some really nice parks to walk around in as well – I didn’t make it to as many as I would have liked. It seems like you can definitely find a way to pass an afternoon without spending money quite easily.
Great Outdoors: 7 out of 10. You can rent a bike or kayak and go on or along the Charles River, right there in the city. You can take a cruise to the Harbor Islands. Again, there are a number of nice parks. Plenty of hiking nearby, but you’d need a car.
Cleanliness: 6 out of 10. Decently clean, but not pristine. Lots of stuff on the ground around the Haymarket, but you should go check it out anyway.
People: 6 out of 10. I found some great characters at the Haymarket, shouting out their wares as though it wasn’t the US. There were some friendly people, but nothing stood out.
Cost of Living: $$$ out of $$$$. Rent appears to be fairly comparable to DC (though often a bit cheaper). Food was not remarkably cheap or overwhelmingly expensive.
Tourist Congestion: 4 out of 5. Since the downtown is so small it can easily be really packed with tourists. So much history brings in a lot of people.
Safety: 3 out of 5. I felt very safe in the downtown area, and really anywhere I went. We stayed in a part of Cambridge that was a little grittier, but I still felt relatively safe. We moved hotels for the last two nights to a place in Revere, and I don’t think I would’ve wanted to wait for the shuttle at night alone at the Wonderland T stop.
Overall Thoughts: I liked Boston. If it didn’t snow so much, I would consider living there. It was charming and extremely easy to get around on foot.