October 7, 2022

Alex o'Loughlin

My WordPress Blog

Mistakes Tourists Make While Visiting Boston

Boston is a classic travel destination for anyone interested in American history or professional sports, or both! But beyond Fenway Park and the Freedom Trail, the Massachusetts capital also boasts an impressive food scene, several art museums and other cultural attractions that appeal to tourists.

But according to locals, visitors to Beantown tend to get things wrong during their stays. We asked people who live in the New England city to share some of the faux pas they’ve observed.

Here are 17 mistakes tourists often make while visiting Boston ― and some advice for avoiding these errors during your travels.

Looking for happy hours

“If you’re planning a ‘happy hour,’ you might have to get creative. Massachusetts banned happy hours in the 1980s, so instead I recommend creating your own at a local bar in between tourist stops. You won’t find drink specials, but certain places are an event within themselves. Try Banyan Bar + Refuge (South End), Local 149 (South Boston) and Warren Tavern (Charlestown).” ― Vanessa Gatlin, founder of Vanessa in Boston

“Happy hours are not allowed in Boston. That is to say that alcohol can’t be discounted, but many restaurants get around this by discounting food instead.” ― Chelsea Marrs, lifestyle blogger

Rubbing the John Harvard Statue for luck

“Don’t rub the shoes of the John Harvard Statue. It’s known that Harvard students pee on that at night. Oh, and yeah, don’t wear the Yankees gear! Bostonians are pretty serious about their sports teams.” ― Dolphia Arnstein, photographer, videographer and UX designer

Getting Starbucks instead of Dunkin’

“Don’t buy Starbucks instead of Dunkin’ ― and you MUST get iced coffee no matter the weather. Everyone swears by Dunkin’ here, especially their iced coffees. Yes, even in the dead of winter!” ― Marrs

Skipping Fenway because you don’t like the Red Sox

“It is true that many love to hate the Red Sox, but it is a mistake to skip a tour of Fenway Park because you don’t like the Red Sox. Fenway Park is the oldest park in Major League Baseball and a tour will take you past some pretty cool memorabilia. There is even a rooftop vegetable garden that Fenway chefs use for some of the higher end ballpark food.” ― Leah Klein, founder of City Living Boston

Not wearing your walking shoes

“Boston is a very walkable city, so comfortable shoes are a must. More importantly, many of the sidewalks are uneven or made of cobblestone, so you’ll want to make sure your soles aren’t slippery. Heels especially can be difficult in the city.” ― Jodi Grundig, founder of Family Travel Magazine

“Boston is a very walkable city (well, except during the cold, winter months), so bring a pair of comfortable walking shoes so you can explore the best of this city on foot. From the pedestrian-friendly Rose Kennedy Greenway to the historic streets of the North End and Beacon Hill, there is so much to see within walking distance of downtown. Boston is also home to the Boston Public Garden and Boston Common, the oldest public park in the U.S. Both parks are right in the heart of the city and offer beautiful views of nature, historic buildings and modern skyscrapers.” ― John Miksis, photographer and blogger at My Global Viewpoint

Messing up pronunciations

“I would say the biggest mistakes locals make are calling some cities and towns by the wrong name. My family talks about it constantly. Things like Peabody and Worcester are said wrong frequently.” ― Nikki Torday, founder of Bayberry and Main

“If you’re looking for Copley Square to check out the Boston Public Library, the farmer’s market or to visit Cori Copley (the canine ambassador) at the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel, don’t make the mistake of calling it ‘cope’-ly. It is ‘cop’-ly, so be sure to ask a local how to get to the Copley Mall with confidence when you want to do some shopping.” ― Klein

Red Brick houses along Acorn Street, Beacon Hill in Boston.

Joe Daniel Price via Getty Images

Red Brick houses along Acorn Street, Beacon Hill in Boston.

Forgetting to check home game schedules

“Make a note if the home team (Red Sox, Celtics or Bruins) will be in town as game day traffic can impact accessibility, and travel time to and from your destinations.” ― Gatlin

“If you’re going to check out Boston University or the Kenmore area, and you’re not going to a Red Sox game, check the Red Sox schedule. Going near Fenway Park when there’s a home game means tons of traffic: people walking, people driving, people taking the T. You’ll end up stuck in any and every type of traffic!” ― Kate Mitchell, chronic illness blogger and advocate

Looking for rooftop bars

“In Boston, it usually only stays warm enough to comfortably enjoy a rooftop bar for about three months of the year. This means that both locals and tourists are fighting for a reservation or spot at one of the already scarce rooftop bars. Aside from the views, they don’t offer much else that you couldn’t get at one of our many amazing cocktail bars through the city. I recommend patios over rooftops any day. Some of my favorite patios include Woods Hill Pier 4, Lolita Fort Point, Audubon, The Bowery Bar, ReelHouse, SRV, Alibi and Committee.” ― Claudiane Philippe, founder of Nail the Cocktail

Driving and parking downtown

“If you’re going to drive in to Boston and park, read the signs. Boston is extremely happy to ticket you. It’s best to drive in on a Sunday, when you can park in almost any spot. The best way to get around Boston without the headache of driving is walking, taking a Bluebike or riding the T. Alewife Station usually has $7 daily parking and is an easy ride in to the bustling downtown areas.” ― Marissa Ashcraft, blogger at One CrafDIY Girl

“Don’t rent a car. The roads are filled with drivers who are constantly trying to take a right from the left lane ― which locals call a Boston Right. Despite living here for a decade, my husband is still confused about many one-way streets. Also, Boston is a very walkable city. For example, you can walk from Downtown Boston to Cambridge in 30 minutes.” ― Arnstein

“The parking enforcers are always out in full force. One time we hopped out of the car for 30 seconds to grab a to-go food order, and when we got back they were already writing a ticket! Another time, the parking meter was only two minutes over and a ticket was already on the car. Plus, the streets were decided by horses and buggies back in the day so there’s not a simple grid to follow.” ― Marrs

Doing a Boston accent

“No, the locals don’t think these are cute or funny. Best to keep those to yourself! Also, don’t expect everyone to have the accent here.” ― Marrs

“I wish this could go without saying, but please, please, please don’t try to mimic the stereotypical Boston accent. We’ve heard it before. We’re good.” ― Meaghan Murray, blogger at The Stopover

Eating in touristy areas

“While I recommend visiting Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market, when it comes time for dinner, I would head elsewhere. The North End is just a five-minute walk away and offers the city’s best Italian food, as well as one of our most historic neighborhoods to check out. I would head there rather than eat at a chain in Quincy Market.” ― J.Q. Louise, travel blogger

“There are some really great local spots in neighborhoods just outside the main tourist areas and they will give you a great taste of the Boston food scene ― like Dovetail in Charlestown and Gray’s Hall in South Boston.” ― Murray

“Some of the best meals I’ve had are just a short drive or bike away, including Sarma in Somerville and Pammy’s near Central Square.” ― Ashcraft

“Consider strolling through the mural-lined streets and urban greenscapes of Jamaica Plain, or eating your way through empanadas in East Boston. I promise Wahlburgers will still be there when you get back.” ― Celina Colby, freelance travel writer and arts and entertainment editor at The Bay State Banner

Skipping the local shops

“Tourists love to shop in Boston but often get caught up in brand name stores. There are fabulous local designers and stores here in Boston like Serenella, Ouimillie, Gretta Luxe and Mr. Sid. Some of these might take you off the beaten path but they’re worth checking out.” ― Tara West, lifestyle blogger

Overlooking the architecture

“Take some time to admire the architecture, particularly the brownstones, in the Back Bay, Charlestown and South End neighborhoods. Boston is considered one of the most European cities in the U.S. for a reason.” ― Murray

“It may not be quite like walking the Brooklyn Bridge, but I think not enough visitors check out the view of the Charles River and the Back Bay skyline from the Longfellow Bridge.” ― Brian McWilliams, photographer

Forgetting the surrounding areas

“Boston is such a fun and vibrant city, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the amazing day trips around Boston. Located just around the corner from Boston is the city of Cambridge, home to Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), as well as many hip cafes, restaurants, bars and bookstores. History lovers will want to check out Lexington and Concord ― two beautiful towns with many sites going back to the American Revolutionary War. Another popular day trip is Salem, a historic fishing village known for the Salem Witch Trials. Other quintessential New England towns I’d recommend nearby include Rockport, Gloucester and Newburyport.” ― Miksis

“If you have the time, take a day trip outside of Boston. Gloucester, a quintessential New England fishing town recently featured in the movie ‘Coda,’ is 45 minutes north of Boston. It’s a great place to grab fresh, local seafood, and while you’re there, you can explore the artist colony at Rocky Neck.” ― Murray

Not making reservations

“One of the biggest mistakes tourists make when visiting Boston is not make dining reservations. Whether you want the North End for Italian cuisine (everything is good), Seaport for amazing seafood (check out Row 34 or Lola 42) or endless steakhouses scattered all over Boston, plan and reserve a table a month or two in advance.” ― West

Sticking to the popular spots

“I think the biggest mistake is sticking exclusively to popular spots such as Quincy Market or the ‘Cheers’ restaurant, and never discovering what it really feels like to live in Boston. For example, many travelers go to Beacon Hill, visit Acorn Street and leave. Instead, walk up some of the lesser-known but character-laden streets like Revere Street, which has its own interesting little mini Acorn alleys. Or wander the flats of Beacon Hill, such as Brimmer Street or the almost hidden West Hill Place, which feels like a little London cul-de-sac. All too many visitors to Boston also never step foot in the South End, where you can find some of the city’s most impressive residential neighborhoods, such as Union Park or Rutland Square.” ― McWilliams

“One of the most common mistakes tourists make when coming to Boston is believing you can find all of Boston’s culture downtown or by Fenway. Boston is far too diverse, and in order to really experience all of the tasty bites, the electric energy and various architecture, you would certainly need to venture through the different neighborhoods. As a native of Boston, I would go to Dot Ave (Dorchester Avenue) for any Vietnamese related food or shopping, Mattapan and Hyde Park for my Island cuisine, Roxbury for a bit of every culture.” – Alex Joachim, marketing and branding consultant

“Boston is a city that’s rich with history, but when you visit, I really think you should make a concerted effort to see both the old and ‘new’ that it has to offer. For example, you should definitely visit the popular tourist spots along the Freedom Trail and near Faneuil Hall, but you should also immerse yourself in the Boston that actual Bostonians know and love. Opt for a boutique hotel, bed and breakfast or Airbnb in one of Boston’s more residential neighborhoods, like the South End or Beacon Hill.” ― Alyssa Stevens, blogger at The A-Lyst

Going to the wrong place for dessert

“If you are looking for a sweet treat, don’t make the mistake of just heading to Johnny Cupcakes on Newbury Street. Johnny Cupcakes is a cool, local shop that designs T-shirts with all kinds of themes ― worth a visit, but for a sweet treat, you’ll have to head to Revival or Jonquils Café, or stop in for a frappe (never a milkshake in Boston) at Emack & Bolio’s or Ben & Jerry’s.” ― Klein

Quotes have been lightly edited.