Sometimes, memories are cast in a rosy light. But in October 2019, 25 years after I left the city, I found it just as good as I remembered. And the weather was just as terrible as I remembered.
Returning After A Long Absence
Boston has good weather for six months of the year, and nasty weather for the remaining six months. It starts to rain in November, and then it starts to snow, and then it freezes, and then it snows some more. The bitter cold lasts until the end of April.
October is generally beautiful, with crisp days and colorful leaves. I was excited that we would be there for the last week of the month. But November apparently decided to arrive early.
Despite The Weather, We Had A Great Time
Even with not-so-great weather on our visit to Boston, we had a great time. The biggest challenge was that I wanted to show Eric everything I loved about Boston. And there’s just no way to condense a decade of memories into two days.
We started off with a walking tour of Boston with Free Tours by Foot. We’ve enjoyed several of these tours in our travels, including in New Orleans and Chicago. They’re always entertaining, and this one was over-the-top, with a guide that spoke in rapid Bostonese and could have been a stand-up comedian.
Boston is rich in colonial history. But what I’ve always enjoyed most is just wandering and exploring. The city is an intriguing blend of old and new, and it’s compact and very walkable. Which is a good thing, because driving is a nightmare. Trust me, you do not want to drive in Boston.
Random And Interesting Sights In Boston
Culinary Adventures in Boston
The Delightful Surprise Of Salem
Whereas Boston was just as interesting as I had remembered, Salem was far more interesting than I remembered. My memories of a brief visit to Salem many years ago were of a touristy little town with a tacky witch-related theme. (The Salem Witch Trials, however, were undeniably a real tragedy of paranoia and persecution.)
But there we were, parked at Winter Island Park for five nights for our visit to Boston. With downtown Salem only two miles away, we could hardly avoid it. Salem, however, turned out to be a delightful surprise, and we spent two days exploring the town.
There are, of course, still shops that cater to the occult in Salem. And Halloween is a month-long celebration. We happened to be there (by accident) the last week in October. I have no idea how I overlooked the fact that I was booking a campground in Salem during Halloween. We’re lucky we got a campsite (although we did have to move sites, mid-stay).
It turned out to be a very festive Halloween, which I actually managed to post about in October 2020, with many photos of some great costumes.
So Much More Than Witches
Salem is, above all, a town with a rich maritime heritage. Many of the goods for the colonies entered and exited through the port of Salem.
In 1938, the Salem Maritime National Historic Site was the first national historic site established by the National Park Service.
One of the biggest surprises in Salem was the Peabody-Essex Museum. It was established in 1799 and after a major renovation in 2019, is now considered one of the top 10 art museums in North America. It is fabulous, and made me less regretful that we didn’t make it to the Boston Museum of Fine Art.
Culinary Adventures In Salem
I did not think there were culinary adventures to be had in Salem. But there are. We had a delicious lunch at The Tavern in the 1925 Hawthorne Hotel, and surprisingly, afternoon hot chocolate at Kakawa Chocolate House. Why is that surprising? Because the Kakawa we know is in Santa Fe…and we had a strange moment of “Where are we?” We recognized the owner, who told us that he had moved to Salem but still has the shop in Santa Fe.
Where We Stayed
Winter Island Park is owned by the city of Salem, and is just over two miles from town. The park offers 28 water and electric sites, with some on the waterfront and some in a small field. All of the sites are close together, but it’s a great location for visiting both Salem and Boston. We stayed for half of our visit in the field, and the other half on the waterfront. That’s because I didn’t reserve far enough ahead. It was Halloween, the most popular day in Salem!
The Salem commuter rail station is only two miles from the campground, and it’s a 30-minute trip into Boston. Or, you can take the Salem Ferry into Boston, which is just over a mile from the campground (the trip takes an hour). Had the weather had been better, we would have taken the ferry at least once.
I don’t often leave a place feeling regretful. But there was so much more I wanted to do in Boston that we didn’t manage to do. Maybe it’s just that being there brought up so many good memories for me…and I was obviously unrealistic about how much we could do in a brief visit, especially with the added challenge of bad weather and the too-short days of fall.
If we return, you can bet we’ll be walking along the Charles River and crossing the bridge to Cambridge, where we’ll visit Harvard and MIT. We’ll be going to the Boston Museum of Fine Art and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. We’ll go to the aquarium down on the waterfront to see the penguins. And we’ll walk around Jamaica Pond and the Arnold Arboretum, in my old neighborhood. I’m sensing another visit to Boston in our future…
Beautiful photos. Thank you.
Thank you, Christine. I’m happy you enjoyed them!
WOW!! Thanks so much for the lovely tour of Boston and Salem! I would love to know more about what was going on in your life when “on a whim” you moved to Boston. I’ve visited Boston twice and still have nightmares about one trip–landing in a pouring rainstorm, getting a rental car and trying to find my hotel–back before the age of good GPS! AND the big dig was going on! The second trip was in 2017 for a convention of operating room nurses–much better–company paid–lots of good eating! I don’t know how you remember enough to complete a beautiful blog post–I suppose the photos help. As always Laurel–a fabulous post!
Aww, thanks, Janna! I love Boston and am happy that returning after such a long time away, it was just as good as I remembered. I enjoyed reading your memories of your visits there.
In answer to your question, after I finished my MSW in Tallahassee I got a great job as a therapist in Houston. But I did NOT like Houston. I had always thought it would be fun to live in New England, so after two years I moved to Boston and started a whole new chapter of life. It was definitely the right place for me to be at the time, not only because it was fun and interesting, but that’s where I got my start as an editor and writer. So much for all those years of schooling to become a clinical social worker, LOL!!
Thank you! Great words, great images, as always.😁 And perfect timing – we are planning a week in Boston in October! We’ll definitely include “your” Boston in our travels. And, I didn’t realize Salem was so easy-on, easy-off, so we’ll add a couple of days there as well. Thanks again!
Dick, this really is perfect timing, isn’t it? How fun that you’re going to Boston in October—which ordinarily is the very best time to be there. In writing this post, I realized how much I want to return to the city to show Eric more of what I loved about it (and also because I want to revisit my favorites).
I think you would enjoy Cambridge and the beautiful and interesting campuses of Harvard and MIT. And the Boston Museum of Fine Art and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museums are both wonderful. Salem is definitely worth a day! I appreciate your nice comment.
I’ve enjoyed every visit to Boston over the years, though they were generally all too short. I am particularly impressed by the results of the Big Dig, which allowed the industrial/warehouse areas along the water to be reconnected to the downtown via immense parks. Of course, my last visit was in the month of May so the weather and green lawns and trees and flowers were all lovely. :-) Pro tip: you guys need more than just umbrellas to brave the elements up north if you’re going be there in October!
I love how the city is packed with historical sites, sitting right next to modern office towers, and is so easy to navigate by foot. And there’s something about harbor towns that us just so calming. And the food! It looks amazing and I know that the seafood dishes did not disappoint. Definitely a city worthy of another visit.
Shannon, I love the mix of historical sites and modern buildings in Boston, too. And best of all are the many parks throughout the city. It’s possible to walk just about everywhere and have it be interesting and scenic.
We really do need to go back, because two days wasn’t near enough time. There are so many unique little places tucked away—like the glass flowers in the Harvard Museum of Natural History! Or the Arnold Arboretum. You would love both. I have definitely talked myself into returning.
And yes, we do know how to dress for the weather. We had our down jackets and rain gear, but in the downpours we experienced, we also needed umbrellas. Which did not work well with the winds, as you can see, LOL.
Gaaahhhh, the MEMORIES! Too many to count, evoked by this post, but I just have to comment on the Peabody-Essex in Salem, because of that glass globe. I fell DEEPLY in love with that piece back in…2003?…and my cousin bought me a miniature version, which is sitting on the mantel behind me. Thanks for all these photos & commentary about a beloved part of the world.
You have that glass globe?!! I love that globe! New England is a really special part of the world, isn’t it, Gretchen? From your comments on the last few posts, it seems as though you have a lot of good memories from your years there. And it seems as though we share a similar appreciation for many of the same things about New England. If only it wasn’t so cold in the winter!
So much fun to read about Boston from an insider’s perspective. We had only one day in port on our New England cruise, and yet I remember seeing many of those places in your photos…quickly, of course, but at least we got there. We even got to see the Red Sox Stadium. LOL, That dinner looked fabulous! I think we ate at Cheers. The only way I would remember is to return to my blog. We won’t be visiting Boston on our trip east this time. We are going straight from Portland, Maine, right on through to our FamCamp at West Point and skipping as much of the big city stuff as possible! Excellent read, Laurel. I hope that early October might be a little nicer as far as the weather goes.
Sue, I have no doubt that early October will be a beautiful time for your trip to Maine. Ordinarily, it’s the perfect month in New England! It sounds as though you hit all of the highlights on your New England cruise, including your day in Boston. It’s a city with so many interesting things to do, but it’s definitely possible to see a lot in only one day. We really needed at least a week just in Boston to do all of the things I had on my list, LOL. I’m so unrealistic sometimes.
My first and only visit to Boston was about 30 years ago. I remember being fascinated by all the history. I also remember arriving at the airport in a rainstorm and finding it particularly difficult to see the almost nonexistent street signs as we drove our rental to my boyfriend’s (now husband’s) brother’s house. Unfortunately, I was on a budget at the time and didn’t get to eat in any of the tempting restaurants we saw. Now that money isn’t as big of an issue, it looks like a return visit is in order.
Boston is such a great city, Janis. It’s definitely worth a return visit so that you can do ALL of the things! :-) I also find the history fascinating, especially the way that all of the historic buildings are still in place, and the city has just grown up around them. I think it’s a beautiful city, and just perfect for wandering and exploring. If you go, don’t miss Neptune Oyster.
Another lovely post !
That is the entire NE from what I recall
>>>>>Boston has good weather for six months of the year, and nasty weather for the remaining six months. It starts to rain in November, and then it starts to snow, and then it freezes, and then it snows some more. The bitter cold lasts until the end of April
Haha!! I think you’re right, Kathryn. That pretty much describes the weather in all of the Northeast. Except in Vermont, I think winter lasts for about eight months. I’m so glad you enjoyed the post. :-)
I looooooovvveeee Boston. Always have! It’s just so charming and quaint and fun and I love that there are people who’ve spent their whole life there and can’t imagine living anywhere else. The die hard sports fans, the college kids, the cannolis. Ohhhh, the cannolis.
Love it all!
What I don’t love is the endless winter nonsense. I couldn’t deal with it those 6 months, but the other six? Sign me up!
So glad it was as good as you remembered and it is CRAZY that you ran into a shop owner you recognized from the other side of the country. Talk about small world stuff!!
Laura, as you know, I LOVE Boston, too. And I can easily understand why people can’t imagine living anywhere else. As you said, were it not for those six months of brutal winter weather…I have vivid memories of walking in downtown Boston with cold winds whipping through the skyscrapers and almost knocking me down. And trudging through frozen snow drifts. And snow storms in April.
But other than that, it’s a fabulous place to live. I’m kicking myself that I didn’t plan for us to stay for at least a week. But at least now I know a good place for us to stay so that we can visit again!
Love your recap of this place….Boston not my favorite place….I have to change my attitude and return. The PD has a really cool police patch in Salem…. Enjoy your jaunt north!!!!! We loved Michigan, especially the UP and Door Co. in WI!!!!
Hi Julie, I see that the Salem Police Department has a witch on their police patch, LOL. As you can tell, we had a great time in Boston and in Salem. I would definitely return—Boston is such a fun place for walking and exploring and the parks are just magnificent. We’re looking forward to our trip this summer to MI and WI! Coming up soon!
Clearly the key to seeing Boston is to go with someone who’s lived there. We like Boston but it was a nightmare to navigate! Your photos are beautiful and capture that historic feel perfectly.
So bummed you didn’t get to take the ferry from Winter Island. And you were in Salem for Halloween!!! Something I have always wanted to do. The art museum looks like another reason to return as well.
Jodee, it was helpful in getting around Boston that I know it well. But it was also challenging, because my list of things to see and do was at least five times what we managed to do. There are so many interesting sights and experiences in the city, and I was unrealistic about how much we could do in two days.
You would love Salem at Halloween. It was a very fun event, with great costumes. We’ll go back, and next time, we’ll take the ferry to the city. I was trying to remember how I found out about the park—you are probably the one who told me about it!
Oh Man! Thanks for taking me back to Boston, one of my favorite cities of all times! We spent many hours there during our business owner days, and I have wonderful memories of walking through the Commons, eating at all the old standbys (Parker House) and finding new ones, afternoon tea, big hotels (Park Plaza) and boutique ones, Little Italy, walking and walking and walking. It’s the first city that I learned how to master the subway system! Sigh…
Sue, I’m not surprised that Boston is one of your favorite cities, too! It sounds like you had a lot of fun in Boston over many visits, with so many good memories. I was delighted to find that it was just as wonderful as I remembered. It’s so easy to have a great time in Boston, as you said—walking everywhere, enjoying the sights, and with great restaurants everywhere. I want to go back!
I’ve never been to Boston, but goodness, now I really want to go. This comment reminds me of a mash-up between Nebraska and Oregon. :)
“Boston has good weather for six months of the year, and nasty weather for the remaining six months. It starts to rain in November, and then it starts to snow, and then it freezes, and then it snows some more. The bitter cold lasts until the end of April.”
We didn’t get the huge snowfalls in Nebraska that New England gets, but it felt like winter went on and on and on. Kind of like the rainy season in Oregon (which is still here…). 47 degrees and raining. Sigh. April was our wettest month in history.
So, back to Boston. What is the BEST month to visit? If we ever go, I will be sure to plan for at least a week, if not longer. So many great ideas of places to see and restaurants to sample. Thank you, once again, for a fabulous travelogue!
Thanks, Lesley—I’m so glad you enjoyed the post! If you have the chance to visit Boston, I think you would have a great time. I would go in October, but early-to-mid-October just in case November decides to arrive early, LOL. And I would definitely plan for a week or longer! I really regret that I didn’t schedule us for a longer visit. If you decide to go, email me and I’ll tell you all my favorite places, including many things that aren’t on the usual tourist route.
I remember some years in Oregon when it took forever for spring to arrive. It seems like you’re having one of those years. Wow! The wettest April in history? That’s wild! But hopefully that means you won’t have fires this year.
Oh, your post made me so homesick for Boston. You did such a lot in such a short time (and yeah, winter does go through April, which was always a surprise to me, LA native that I am!)
Of all the places I’ve lived, Boston is one I still consider home even though I haven’t lived there in more than 20 years. I’m staying on the Cape (driveway surfing) end of the summer and already got 3 nights at a hotel next to Boston Common. It’s such a walkable city, which is one of my favorite things. The Fens, Jamaicaway, the Salt and Pepper Bridge, oh, I want to go now! (And this trip I might find my ancestors’s graves in Salem… I lived in Beverly for years and never know I had people buried the next town over!)
I didn’t realize that you lived in Boston, Annie. I felt homesick when I was writing this post, too! And I will always feel like Boston is a “home” for me, as well. Were it not for the long winters, I might still be living there. But I also don’t regret the 20 years I spent living in Oregon.
How great that you’ll be in Boston and Cape Cod this summer. Three nights in a hotel next to Boston Common sounds ideal! It’s such a wonderfully walkable city, as you said. I lived in Jamaica Plain and walked to my job in Brookline Village, and spent weekends walking everywhere, including across the Salt and Pepper Bridge to Cambridge. I’m ready for a return visit!
This was a delightful post, Laurel, and it prompted quite an assortment of reactions. Love, love, love the photo of Eric with his umbrella turned satellite dish! Our son Ryan had a beloved and well-worn copy of Make Way for Ducklings when he was young. My all-time favorite photo from our travels to Boston is of him sitting on Mama Duck when he was a toddler. The last time we actually drove through Boston was during the Big Dig and, as others have mentioned, it was a nightmare. Your Amaretti photo left me drooling and with no easy way to assuage the craving. Sigh. And lastly, I have three friends from high school and Alan has a childhood friend from his old neighborhood who landed in Boston after college and never left. So we always have a reason to return, and I appreciated the tip about the city RV park in Salem. That was a fun read – thank you for starting my day with a smile!
Hi Mary, it seems as though most people reading this post also have good memories of Boston—well, except for the Big Dig. And the weather. I always loved those Make Way for Ducklings statues. Mama Duck is polished from decades of children playing on her. :-)
I would like to have some of those amaretti cookies right now, too. It sounds like you have good reasons to return to Boston (in addition to getting cookies). If you do, that RV park makes it easy to visit the city!
How wonderful that you put to rest the idea that “you can’t go home again” by finding Boston just as good or better. Sorry about the weather though. IF I find myself in a city, I’ll try the Free Tours by Foot. Thanks for the tip.
I feels sorry for all the old buildings – Revere’s home, Old North Church, the Old State House – nearly smothered by the tall pushy edifices surrounding them. Great to see a protest in front of the “new” LOL State House. Great to see the duckling parade. Wish I could see what costumes they all have on. How great that they get dressed up. Mama looks like the Pope.
Boy does that scallop plate look delicious. After a 90 minute wait I’d have high expectations. And this was in October mid week? Or week-end?? Really glad to know about the RV park near Salem and the ease of getting into the town and into Boston. Salem in late October – Perfect! I’m amazed at how much you remember after such a long time. Nothing wrong with your memory.
Sherry, one of the things I like about Boston is how the city grew up around the historical buildings. They didn’t mow them down, but instead preserved them. It’s a city that really feels alive. And it’s also helped to keep it compact and walkable.
That scallop dish was one of the most delicious meals I’ve ever had. And we had fun exploring the North End while we waited. I think you would like Salem and the RV park there. It’s an easy trip into Boston if you feel inspired to visit.
Haha, I hope my memory is okay. Sorting through our photos helps me remember everything we did, and then when I write about it, the process helps anchor the experience for me. I get to re-live the adventure. :-)
We’ve been to Boston twice. Once as part of our family vacation to Cape Cod one summer when the kids were younger, and once for Kevin’s graduation from Law School. I have terrible memories of our family vacation bike ride following the red line around Boston while history John was having a great time. The kids and I, not so much. Hills, summer heat/humidity, and bikes didn’t equal fun back then. I’ve never wanted to return, it scared me that much. Your photo tour was delightful, though, from my air conditioned comfy seat! Thanks for putting a positive spin on the city. Kevin doesn’t have anything good to say about his three years there either. But then his main time was during the six horrible months. He has since been back several times as a pilot, choosing his time of year, and has enjoyed it. No more months of dirty snow. Sorry your weather wasn’t better but it sounds like Eric got to see why you loved the area. Your Boston Commons reflection is beautiful!
Pam, I’m so glad I could provide you with a more comfortable tour of Boston, LOL! Your experience with heat, humidity, and a grueling bike ride sounds absolutely awful. No wonder you’ve never had the desire to return! And Kevin’s experience doesn’t sound much better if he was there for the cold and ugly snow season.
Despite the drawbacks of the VERY long winters, I really did love Boston. Until I didn’t. A snowstorm in May made me decide that I had had enough, and I headed to the West Coast. But I still love the city, and I have the desire to go back again to show Eric all of the things we didn’t get around to in our too-short visit.
Thanks for the wonderful tour of a place I’ve always wanted to go and have never been. It’s always great to see through your eyes.
The picture of Eric with the inverted umbrella–Priceless! That expression!
Aww, thanks, Nancy! Boston is still a very special place to me, even after all these years. I was happy to see that it has aged well—in some ways, it’s even better! I thought that photo of Eric was hilarious, too. It was so crazy windy and stormy that our umbrellas (obviously) were no help at all!
I hope you’re doing well and enjoying a beautiful spring in Ashland (another place that will always be ‘home’ for me). :-)
I almost missed this one since I thought the last email notification was for the previous post — Brava on keeping to the posting schedule :D
That dang 6-month-on/6-month-off weather thing in much of our country’s north is such a stinker. Especially since you can’t be in all the 6-month-on places at once! Glad to hear you still liked a place you loved, and that your most recent visit didn’t taint your precious memories. The food, of course, looks soooo scrummy, and what a wild coincidence to re-encounter the hot chocolate dude! I have to ask, though, did he reveal why he decided to move to Boston from Santa Fe? Two more different places there could not be!
Keep ’em comin’!
Joodie, we all got spoiled with our RVing lives, didn’t we? It was so nice to be able to just pick up our homes and move to places with better weather! Winter is rough up north (as you know) and I wouldn’t want to do Boston winters again. It was a novelty for nine years, and then I was DONE. But oh….there is so much there that I truly love. From what I recall, the chocolate shop dude had family in Salem, but also really liked being there.
I hear your voice in my head keeping me on track to get this blog up-to-date, LOL.
Well, darlin’ you had me from the scallops. I’ve been to Boston many times and always wondered why I didn’t live there. When I was in college, I worked on Nantucket for a summer and had the time of my life, but realized that I couldn’t play forever and returned home…very enlightened.
As a real grownup, I returned and learned that Boston has so much to offer, and hope that I am able to return soon. Your pictures are awesome and I thank you muchly for reviving the memories.
Joe, your summer in Nantucket sounds like it was FUN! And it seems to me that you haven’t lost your ability to play, even if you did become a grownup. :-)) When you and Helen make your trip to the East Coast, maybe you can include a return trip to Boston. That little Salem RV park is such a great place to stay, and makes it so easy to visit the city. Plus, you have to have those scallops. I’m glad you enjoyed the photos and I’d love to see a series of Boston photos through your lens!
It’s been too many years to count since we were in Boston for any length of time. Thanks for the virtual tour.
Erin, I’m so glad we visited Boston…my only regret is that we didn’t plan for more time there! Thanks for commenting. :-)