Local Area Information

General Information on Boston

Boston, first incorporated as a town in 1630, and as a city in 1822, is one of America’s oldest cities. One of the best ways of navigating Boston’s historic sites is the Freedom Trail. The Trail takes the visitor to 16 historical sites in the course of two or three hours and covers two and a half centuries of America’s most significant past. A red brick or painted line connects the sites on the Trail and serves as a guide. Since the past and the present live alongside the Trail, its visitors have the opportunity to see the City as it truly is. Some of the historical sites included in the Freedom Trail are the Boston Common, State House, Park Street Church, Granary Burying Ground, Old South Meeting House, Old State House, Site of the Boston Massacre, Faneuil Hall, Paul Revere House, Old North Church, Copp’s Hill Burying Ground, USS Constitution, and the Bunker Hill Monument.

In addition to Northeastern University, Boston has many other colleges and universities that are available to visit, including scientific and engineering-focused schools such as Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston University, Boston College, Tufts University, and Wentworth Institute of Technology. Other prominent institutions are Berklee College of Music, Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Emerson College, New England Conservatory, and many more.  More than a quarter million students attend colleges and universities in Boston alone making Boston a very young, energetic, and inspiring city.

For more information about activities in and around Boston please click here or contact the Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau at (888) SEE-BOSTON (888-733-2678).

Transportation Options

Walking: Chances are you’ve heard Boston referred to as “the walking city.” The City of Boston works hard to live up to this title. Its Public Works and Transportation Departments are constantly marking crosswalks, performing regular maintenance of traffic signals and pedestrian pushbuttons, and using innovative pedestrian safety signs at busy locations in downtown Boston.

Driving: The City of Boston has partnered with local company Zipcar to promote car-sharing in an effort to reduce congestion and promote sustainable transportation alternatives.

Commuter Rail/Subway/Bus: Thousands of residents and visitors use the extensive MBTA system of subways, commuter trains, and buses to get in and around Boston. Click here for information on schedules and fares and to access the trip planner tool.

Taxis: Boston’s taxis are regulated by the Boston Police Department’s Hackney Carriage Unit. The Department has been working to promote greener, fuel-efficient taxis through the Clean Air Cab program, providing online services to improve customer experience, and implementing the use of credit fare readers.

Boats: Boston’s Harbor helps connect residents and visitors to neighborhoods such as Charlestown and East Boston via water taxis. The Harbor is always buzzing with a variety of sea-faring vessels ferrying passengers to and from locations along the water. It is a great way to see the city skyline and some of Boston’s famous buildings. For more information, please click here.

Shopping and Dining

In the Back Bay, visitors can walk the length of Newbury Street for some of Boston’s most chic, fashionable stores. Boylston Street (which runs parallel to Newbury Street) has a number of fine department stores. There are several shopping centers in the heart of the city; the Shops at the Prudential Center connects by walkway to Copley Place, an enclosed mall full of upscale stores and restaurants. Downtown Crossing has the full range of national department stores, boutiques and pushcarts, which offer both the familiarity of home and local Boston souvenirs.

From comfort food to gourmet cuisine, there’s something in Massachusetts to satisfy everyone’s inner foodie. State specialties include fresh Atlantic seafood, authentic Italian in Boston’s North End, and farm-to-table freshness from our numerous farmers’ markets. And of course, that one-of-a-kind New England "clam chowda."

For more information on shopping and dining please click here.

Activities and Entertainment

Museums: Boston has museums to suit almost every interest. The Museum of Fine Arts offers one of the largest art collections in the world.  Also offering contemporary art is the Institute for Contemporary Art, newly-relocated to the Waterfront district. The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum has a garden courtyard blooming with life in all seasons, surrounded by three floors of galleries. The Museum of Science offers hands-on exhibits, laser shows and IMAX films that are fun for all ages, while the newly-renovated Children’s Museum can entertain and educate children and their parents. Please click here for more information.

Shows and Concerts: Boston has a strong tradition of performing arts. In the theatre district, there are the Opera House, Colonial Theatre, Wilbur Theatre, Shubert Theatre and the Wang Center for the Performing Arts. Dance performances remain a cultural strong point and the Boston Ballet is one of the best in the world. The world-renowned Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Pops perform at Symphony Hall. For additional information, please click here.

The 2012 NSF Engineering Research and Innovation Conference takes place right after the Fourth of July, which is a big celebration with the Boston Pops on the Esplanade.  Please click here for more information on the event.

Parks: Boston has multiple park systems within the city, including the Emerald Necklace, a 1,100-acre chain of nine parks, including the Public Garden and the Boston Common. In the summer, the Boston Common’s Frog Pond features a spray pool for children and the Swan Boats at the Public Garden. Just a short ferry ride from the city, you can visit the Boston Harbor Islands, the country’s newest National Park. Visitors to the Harbor Islands can enjoy full or half-day trips for swimming, boating, island tours, hiking, fishing and bird watching. Please click here for more information.

Sports: Boston is home to several well-known franchises, most especially the Boston Red Sox, who won the 2004 and 2007 World Series Championships.

Other things To Do in Boston: Check out this list of activities available in Boston.

Family-Friendly Activities

Boston has an array of activities that are geared towards family and children. Boston Central is an excellent clearinghouse for family-friendly activities and can be accessed here. Additional information on activities for children can also be found here.

Top 5 Family Destinations:

  1. Children’s Museum
  2. New England Aquarium (also the Whale Watch, which leaves from the docks next door)
  3. Museum of Science
  4. Franklin Park Zoo
  5. Duck Tours

5 Family-Friendly Freebies:

  1. Christian Science Center spray pools are a very short walk from the Conference Center and hotels.
  2. Boston Common includes the Frog Pond, which is an open-air spray pool great for cooling down, and the associated Freedom Trail.
  3. The Public Gardens have rides on the Swan Boats and you can see the duck statues from “Make Way for Ducklings.”
  4. Castle Island is a beautiful park in South Boston with a fort, playground, fishing pier and swimming beach. It is next to the airport so the planes fly right overhead.
  5. The USS Constitution offers free tours every half hour.

Child Care Services

Child care services are available at the Hynes Convention Center during the conference by Parents in a Pinch, Inc. For more information, please visit their website. To request child care during the conference, fill out this form and send it to the email provided at the bottom of the form.

The George E. Brown, Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation National Science Foundation Northeastern University

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