12 Boston museums everyone should visit at least once
Tour season is ramping up, which means groups of sightseers are traversing Boston daily alongside tour guides eager to share the city’s rich history.
And the visitors have questions.
We asked Boston tour guides to share the most common questions they’re asked during tours. From questions about food, buildings, and bathrooms, they’ve heard it all.
“Where is The Freedom Trail?”
“It’s funny because you are usually standing right on the red Freedom Trail line when you get asked this,” said Jeremy Murphy, a Freedom Trail player who conducts tours of The Freedom Trail complete in colonial costume. “People do not realize it.”
The renowned 2 ½-mile Freedom Trail, famously marked with a red line, links 16 nationally significant historic sites and tells the story of the American Revolution and beyond. It was recently named one of the top 15 American landmarks by Fodor’s Travel.
“How easy is it to get around the city?”
Folks always have questions about traveling around the city, said McEntee, of ToursByLocals.
“We’re a very walkable city, so staying downtown means you could walk to pretty much any of the neighborhoods, sites, or harbor,” McEntee said in an email. “We also have a pretty reliable train (The T), which makes it easy to get around if walking is just a bit far. The T itself is historic as we have one of the oldest train systems in the country.”
There are also plenty of cabs and Ubers, he noted.
“Where is the best lobster roll, and where is the best clam chowder?”
Boston is known for its seafood, so Brian Burgess, a tour guide for Free Tours by Foot, is inevitably asked which restaurants dish up the best delicacies from the sea.
“It is a historic restaurant, and they make a fine chowder,” Burgess said via email.
“Where is Cheers?”
The tour guides said visitors want to see the bar made famous from the hit TV show “Cheers,” which ran from 1982 to 1993.
“Seriously, after almost 30 years since it went off the air, people still ask!” Neil Roberts, a tour guide for ToursByLocals, wrote in an email.
Cheers on Beacon Hill was founded in 1969 as the Bull & Finch Pub. It’s located at 84 Beacon St. across from the Public Garden.
“Where should I go to eat?”
Martin McEntee, tour guide for ToursByLocals, said he’s “spoiled for choice of recommendations” when it comes to going out to eat in the city. He tells visitors that, while sampling the seafood is a must, don’t overlook the Italian food.
“One of my first suggestions is to visit our Little Italy: the North End,” McEntee said via email. “There’s over 100 restaurants ranging from traditional Italian menus, to modern takes on the classics to coffee shops and bakeries.”
“What is that?” (while pointing at City Hall)
The brutalist architecture of Boston’s City Hall often surprises people, said Tom Revay, tour guide for Boston by Foot.
“I give them a brief history, that it was a competition that was held in 1961 to come up with a new City Hall,” Revay said. “And that it represented a new direction for Boston, which at the time Boston really needed.”
“If you have to see one thing in Boston, what is it going to be?”
“I tell people to go see the USS Constitution because there’s nothing like it in the world,” Revay said.
His other picks: The Isabella Gardner Museum and its “amazing courtyard,” as well as the Boston Public Library. “There’s all kinds of interesting free public art in that building, plus they have free public tours,” he said.
“Other than The Freedom Trail, what else is there to see in Boston?”
A lot, according to McEntee, of ToursByLocals.
“There’s so much to Boston….we have a beautiful harbor with great views of the ocean and a Harborwalk that is a pathway from one end of the city right along the waters’ edge,” McEntee wrote. “We also have very distinct neighborhoods with each having its own look and feel. You’ll see some of the most interesting and diverse architecture spanning our 400 years, from old cobblestone streets and red brick to contemporary and oceanfront buildings. There is a lively culture scene in Boston, we have world class art galleries, restaurants, music venues and, of course, our excellent sports teams. One last recommendation I have is to take time to walk through our parks. We have fabulous green space in the city, and it’s a favorite thing of mine to do, grab a coffee and walk into the Public Garden or along the Greenway and just enjoy being outside.”
“Where is Mother Goose buried?”
“That’s kind of awkward because the woman that everybody thinks is Mother Goose in the graveyard probably is not,” said Murphy, the Freedom Trail player.
The historic Granary Burying Ground, located on The Freedom Trail, has about 2,300 markers with famous names like Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and Paul Revere. And Mary Goose.
“There was a woman named Mary Goose in Boston in the 17th century,” Murphy said. “But the Mother Goose rhymes predate her by some time and come from Europe, not Boston. So she’s probably not Mother Goose. We can’t 100 percent rule it out, but most likely she is not Mother Goose.”
“What is your favorite part of Boston?”
“Fall season is very special in New England, and I always suggest my clients drive out of the city to places like New Hampshire and/or Concord, MA, to see the changing of the colors,” Benmayor wrote in an email.
“Where is the bathroom?”
“Any tour guide worth his or her salt knows where all the bathrooms in town are,” said Revay, tour guide for Boston by Foot, adding: “This city needs more of them, in my opinion.”
How to Boston
Get the best of the city, delivered to your inbox weekly.