Monday 26 February 2018

Bustling Beantown: What to do in Boston during JFK's centenary

American holidays

Boston - a city with deep Irish roots
Boston - a city with deep Irish roots
The Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway and Rowes Wharf in Boston, Massachusetts.
Fairmont Copley Plaza
President Kennedy sails aboard the U. S. Coast Guard yacht "Manitou" off the coast of Maine in 1962. Photo: Robert Knudsen, White House / John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library, Boston.
JFK Library

Susan Morrell

JFK's centenary is the perfect excuse to wander the leafy streets and markets of Beantown, says award-winning travel writer, Susan Morrell.

Set the mood

The Massachusetts capital has long enjoyed a love affair with the Irish (and vice versa). From the Kennedy family's legacy to its popularity as a J1 destination, Boston is a city with deep Irish roots.

Often cited as having a European feel due to its relatively modest size, cobblestoned streets and leafy brownstone buildings, it is in fact a quintessentially American city that punches well above its weight in terms of history, culture, sports, food and fun.

Think you've seen all of Boston? Visiting the city now will turn up surprises, even for regular visitors. And right now, Beantown is celebrating the centenary of the birth of Massachusetts' most famous son, with a fantastic exhibition at JFK's namesake museum (until May 2018).

Top Tip

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President Kennedy sails aboard the U. S. Coast Guard yacht "Manitou" off the coast of Maine in 1962. Photo: Robert Knudsen, White House / John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library, Boston.
 

This year marks 100 years since the birth of JFK. The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum (jfklibrary.org; $14), a beautiful I.M. Pei-designed building in South Boston, houses a huge collection of handwritten notes, photographs and immersive displays on the 1960 election and the Cold War.

Insider Intel

For something that feels less like a tourist trap, head to Boston Public Market (bostonpublicmarket.org) on Hanover Street. This bustling indoor food emporium features produce from local farmers, artisan cheese, chocolate, coffee and, my personal favourite, apple cider donuts. A baseball game is a must, but the Fenway Park Tour (mlb.com/redsox; from $20pp) gives a behind-the-scenes peek.

Guilty Pleasure

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Fairmont Copley Plaza

Indulge in a five-star breakfast at the Fairmont Copley Plaza (fairmont.com; rooms from $399/€333) - whether you're a guest or not. Since 1912, this venerable hotel has embodied Back Bay prestige and today an air of luxury remains (check out its golden linos and vast gilded lobby).

If you stay, you'll be spoiled silly with plush suites and rooftop yoga. But even if you don't, it's worth visiting for breakfast in the OAK Long Bar + Kitchen (oaklongbarkitchen.com; dishes from $12 to $27). Sink into a massive leather chair, amid hushed tones and clinking glasses, and try to decide between the brioche French toast or the breakfast sandwich with roast fingerling potatoes.

Later? Why, martinis at the bar, of course.

Cheap Kick

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The Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway and Rowes Wharf in Boston, Massachusetts.
 

When temperatures soar, head to the green oasis of the Rose Kennedy Greenway (rosekennedygreenway.org), an urban park reconnecting neighbourhoods once divided by an ugly highway (its removal was known as the 'Big Dig'). Today, it features gardens, public art, a farmers' market and more from Chinatown to the North End. It's the perfect spot to sip an iced coffee in summer and tuck into some amazing cheap eats ($5 gourmet grilled cheese? Vegan banh mi sandwich?) from a gaggle of creative food trucks.

Glitches

We could never find a taxi when we wanted one (not all US cities are like New York). There's always the T (subway), but you might download a ride-sharing app when you get there, or ask your hotel for a local taxi number.

Get me there

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JFK Library

Susan flew with Delta Air Lines (delta.com), which flies from Dublin to Boston from €449.27 return including tax, and recently confirmed a daily service from May 25 to October 27, 2018.

You can also upgrade to Delta's Comfort+ (its premium economy level, with extra legroom, earlier boarding and added amenities) from an additional €80-€160 each-way.

The Boston Park Plaza (bostonparkplaza.com; rooms from $152/€129 + tax) has a great location near the theatre district. See bostonusa.com for more info, and pick up a City Pass (citypass.com/boston; $56) for savings on its four top attractions.

Read more:

Hipster Boston: Forget Brooklyn, Beantown is trendy without even trying 

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