I think maybe this list will be more useful to people than the list of things I recommend doing. After all, people often disagree on what’s fun (especially with me) but people are generally in agreement on what constitutes a tourist trap. Given that Boston is especially prone to them, I hope this will save at least one person from making a terrible mistake:
- That bar that looks like the inside of Cheers. Some enterprising tourist trapper licensed the name “Cheers” and the logo and opened a bar that actually sort of looks like Cheers. It’s in Quincy market, a bit far from Boston Common, and it’s partly outside, partly a cafe, and entirely a tourist trap. Cheers was a show taped before a live studio audience and it only had three walls. It doesn’t exist. If you REALLY want to experience a Boston bar where everybody knows your name, move here, find a local bar, and become an alcoholic.
- That bar that looks like the outside of Cheers. Remember that brief outside shot of an old school stairway leading down to a basement bar from the show? Don’t you wish that bar exists? Well, it does. Those stairs can be found near the Boston Common, and lead to a tiny bar which bears no resemblance to the set of the show except maybe in that neither place actually sells a reasonably priced beer to the public. Go see the steps, enjoy the pangs of nostalgia for your friends from the 80s, and move on.
- Harvard. It’s a university. The fact that it may be the best one in the world does not make it any more interesting to visit than any other university. It’s got buildings made of brick, trees, and a lot of grass between them. You cannot sit in on a class, walk into the buildings, or experience any other aspect of what makes it better than any other community college founded in 1690. So cloistered is it, in fact, that it’s actually one of the least interesting universities you can visit. It’s the first university I’ve ever seen which doesn’t allow people to visit its library, for example. Perhaps the best reason, however: people who live in Cambridge are really sick of people blocking the narrow sidewalks while they take the a picture of the same goddam gate that’s been photographed a million times and for which you can buy a postcard twenty feet across the street. Spend some time more time in the North End, which is actually fun.
- The “Hahvahd” tour. I’ve overheard enough of these tours to tell you that 90% of what they tell you is completely made up. Completely. My guess is that it’s the biggest inside joke ever played on tourists. Obviously, the insipid little “personal stories” told by the student tour guides are made-up, but so are most of the “facts” provided on the tour. The only true thing you’ll really learn on the tour are that nobody can take smug self-satisfaction to more of an art form than a Harvard undergrad.
- The Freedom Trail. Unless Paul Revere needed to pick up a canolli, a few commemorative t-shirts, and a box of CVS tampons for his wife on the way to warn everybody of the British invasion, I’m pretty sure he did not follow the route implied by the red bricks winding through Boston.
- The “trolley” tours. First of all, I’m not sure where the trolley idea even comes from or if Boston even ever had them. What I am sure about, is that if Boston was ever known for having trolleys, they sure as hell weren’t built on a GM commercial truck frame with 24 inch double tires. Boston is a tiny city. Get out and walk it, you lazy bastards. If this counts as “visiting Boston,” then I guess you also “visited” Worcester, Pittsburgh and everything else on the interstate between here and Ohio.
- Somerville. I know people don’t usually think to visit Somerville. I just want to make sure it stays that way.
- The Tea Party Ship. It’s a replica. A replica!