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Where to stay near walkable, local food/shopping

Greetings all,

The wife and I are expecting this fall and are taking our last opportunity to take an easy vacation by spending three days in Portland, ME and two and a half in Boston.

I have only been to Boston once - about 20 years ago - and I recall nothing of its geography. Our goal is walkable areas with shopping and good food. From what I've read in other recent posts, it seems that we can't really go wrong with the North End, Downtown/Beacon Hill, Boston Common area, or Copley Square/Back Bay - but if one of those areas has the densest amount of good food and cool shops, that's the one we want.

We'll be coming off of three high-end dinners* in Portland, so I think we'll be looking for cheaper fare in Boston - but we still want good local stuff, of course. I'm not ever going to complain about a plate of fried clams or a good plate of pasta. I've seen some great-looking recs in other recent posts, but they mostly seem geared toward higher-end stuff. Neither wife nor I is picky at all other than her having to avoid a few things due to being in the family way (i.e. probably no raw bar). We've got a wide range of cuisine available here in Indy (although seafood is lacking) and so I think we're just looking for interesting stuff - seafood, Italian, good pastries/bakeries, whatever.

Thanks in advance!

*(Hugo's, Five Fifty-Five, and Fore Street)

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  1. I live in the burbs so I am not the one to ask, but here is a link to the feature a very good local TV program, Chronicle, did on bed & breakfasts IN Boston. They looked extremely comfortable and convenient, and I assume would be a nicer experience, and probably more affordable, than one of Boston's downtown hotels. There's even one on a houseboat. http://www.wcvb.com/chronicle/Wednesd...

    1. Boston is very walkable, so you can stay pretty much anywhere and have easy access to foodie areas. It's hard to recommend one neighborhood over another though. For example, Copley Square/Back Bay at first seems a poor choice because it's filled to the gills with chain restaurants (Cheesecake Factory, etc.). But staying there gives you easy access to the South End (where hotel options are limited), which has some great restaurant options.

      My advice: Find the hotel/price that works for you, and don't worry too much about location. Getting around on foot is easy if you stay in any of the areas you've noted above (North End, Beacon Hill, Boston Common area, or Copley Square/Back Bay).

      3 Replies
      1. re: huuvola

        Being pregnant, I would think your wife isn't going to feel like walking a long distance when it's summer weather here or up and down the hill to a hotel on Beacon Hill. That being said, I think Copley Sq is probably the most convenient location and walkable to more destinations than other areas. You'd be a few blocks to the South End(lots of good restaurants and some shopping), steps to the shops on Newbury St, a few blocks to the Public Garden with the swan boats and a nice place to walk through. Charles St is on the other side of the Public Garden and has lots of little shops and restaurants too. You could take a cab to the North End and do that area by itself.

        1. re: catsmeow

          I think cat's advice is spot on. While Kendall Sq,Camb is a neat newly developed area, if i had one area to stay in for its combination of history and iconic boston beauty, combined with shopping, sidewalk cafes, and access to restaurants- it would be Copley Sq or the Public Garden area.

        2. re: huuvola

          Agree with others that Copley/South End have some good places to stay (Inn at St. Botolph comes to mind as one of the few places truly in the South End, or more classic/expensive places like the Lenox or Fairmont Copley) and would be easily accessible to some of the best summer sightseeing spots.

          A few lower-key food options of the types you mentioned would be the Giacomo's South End location (Italian with an emphasis on seafood), and Flour or Buttery as excellent bakery options for breakfast or lunch.

        3. You might also want to consider staying in Cambridge, where innovative local restaurants are much thicker on the ground thanks to lower costs of entry.

          If it fits your budget, The Charles Hotel or Sheraton Commander in Harvard Square are both good options. There are also several hotels in Kendall Square. Be careful to avoid hotels on Memorial Drive like the Hyatt and Courtyard by Marriott. Those aren't very walkable to restaurants & shops.

          1 Reply
          1. re: VintageMolly

            I prefer Cambridge myself, but be advised the walking distances are typically longer than in Boston.

          2. You also can't go wrong with the Kendall/Cambridge area. (The Kendall hotel is really nice at a decent price point for downtown-ish Boston/Cambridge.)

            1 Reply
            1. re: antimony

              I'm a big supporter of the Kendall Square area in Cambridge. You can pop on the Red Line to go to Central or Harvard Square in one direction or Charles St. and Park St. in the other. (The latter 2 are across the river in Boston. One and two stops away on the Red Line.)

              Kendall Square has been booming with new restaurants over the past 4 or 5 years, (I live here, so I appreciate this immensely.) While it is not as much of a tourist destination, it is so close to things like Charles St., Boston Common, The Public Garden, Harvard, etc. that is does not matter. It's true that the Boston/ Cambridge area is small and easy to get around.

              I agree that you need to be sure your hotel is not one of the ones far away on Memorial Drive. Those locations are not good for visitors.

              (I've been pregnant 4 times and understand the feeling, especially in the summer!)

            2. Big fan of the Nine Zero Kimpton Hotel on Tremont St if the price works - it is right in the middle of the city and you can walk almost anywhere in Boston within 20 minutes (even less to Chinatown, Beacon Hill, and North End), as well as have easy access to several of the subway lines - there are tons of shops a couple of blocks away at Downtown Crossing, but not nearly as high end as those in Beacon Hill on Charles St, in the South End, or in the Copley / Prudential Malls in Back Bay. You are also right across the street from the Common and on the Freedom Trail.

              1 Reply
              1. re: rlh

                Downtown Crossing has lower end chain stores like TJ Maxx, Marshalls, budget priced shoe store chains, etc. Keeping in mind his wife is pregnant, a 20 minute walk to the areas that offer better shopping/restaurants would wear me out being about 7 months pregnant. Better idea to stay closer to better attractions.