By Stephen Jermanok
Boston roads were designed with the horse and buggy in mind. One-way streets always seem to lead away from where you want to go. And the rotaries! Parking is prohibitively expensive and parking tickets appear the instant time on the meter hits zero.
If you're used to taking the subway in New York, London, or Paris, don't expect Boston's little ole T to compete on speed. They're much slower.
• Driving. I don't think so.
• The T. Sure, it's safe and effective. Best during the day.
• Taxis. To and from the airport, and getting back to your hotel at night.
• Bikes. Best bet: pedal along the Charles on the bike trail and into Cambridge.
• Walking. By any and all means, yes. This city was made for walking.
• Duck Tours. All those Red Sox, Patriots, and Celtics championships this past decade come with parades. And those parades through the city are provided by the Duck Tours. It's a great way to see the city, "two if by land, one if by sea."
Where to stay
Location, location, location. That's what you get when you book a room at the Marriott Long Wharf. Nestled alongside the Boston Harbor cruise line boats and within easy walking distance of the aquarium and Faneuil Hall, the 400-plus-room hotel is worth every penny. Kids can swim in the indoor pool while mom and dad chill after a long day of sightseeing on the sundeck. www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/boslw-boston-marriott-long-wharf
If you crave service, comfort, and great locale and don't care about the price, then the Four Seasons is your choice. The hotel borders the Public Garden, within walking distance to the boutiques, galleries, and restaurants on Newbury Street. But first you have to tear the kids away from the hotel, and that's not so easy. Upon arrival, families receive free games, books, stickers, lip-gloss, and other goodies. Complimentary room service dining for children under 12 is part of their "Kids In The City" package, which also includes free admission at many of the attractions in town. Then there's the before bed goodies and a spectacular indoor pool. Parents can expect sumptuous beds that suck you in and a top-notch fitness center. www.fourseasons.com/boston
In the shadow of Fenway Park and under the large red, orange, and blue Citgo sign, Kenmore Square has always had the foot traffic--folks going to and from Red Sox games, and students heading to classes at nearby Boston University. But it never felt hip until the 150-room Hotel Commonwealth made the bold move to open in the heart of the neighborhood in 2003. Dine with kids al fresco at the hotel's Eastern Standard restaurant. And, of course, grab some Red Sox tix if they're in town. www.hotelcommonwealth.com
The Colonnade Hotel, across from the shops of the Prudential Center and the start of the popular Duck Tour, just finished an $18 million renovation. Best for families during summer's humid days is the city's only rooftop pool. It's a perfect end to a day of sightseeing. www.colonnadehotel.com
A recent addition to the Boston skyline, the Intercontinental is located along Fort Point Channel, within easy walking distance to the Children's Museum, the New England Aquarium, and Quincy Market. Favorites for families are the indoor pool and the outdoor concourse, with lounge chairs overlooking the water. www.intercontinentalboston.com Where to Eat Since 1927, Charlie's Sandwich Shoppe in the South End has been Boston's breakfast choice. They're known for their gigantic three-egg omelets, tasty hash and home fries, and blueberry pancakes ($4.95 to $8.45).
Have lunch near Quincy Market at Union Oyster House. Opened in 1826, John F. Kennedy has his own booth here (number 18) and rumor has it that Daniel Webster used to sit at the bar and order three dozen oysters and six tumblers of brandy for his dinner. Kid size items that are easy on the pocketbook abound; prices range from $5.50 for a cup of chowder to $21.85 for a lobster roll). www.unionoysterhouse.com
Head to the North End for great Italian cooking. You can't go wrong with the Trattoria Il Panino for pasta, (priced $13.95 to $18.95; www.trattoriailpanino.com). Eggplant parmesan ($17.50) is thinly sliced and lightly breaded at Artu (www.artuboston.com), the budget choice for families. Afterwards, everyone heads over to Mike's Pastry (www.mikespastry.com) for chocolate-chip cannolis and sinfully rich pistachio macaroons.
Both out-of-towners and locals like having lunch at The Barking Crab. Sit family-style at picnic tables next to businessmen and women who think nothing of walking across Fort Point Channel for a lobster roll, chockfull of meat, steamers, grilled fish sandwiches, and crab cakes ($5 for a cup of chowder to $26 for a dish of Dungeness crab). www.barkingcrab.com
Boston's Chinatown is paltry compared to New York or San Fran, but you can't tell when we sit down for dim sum at China Pearl (www.chinapearlrestaurant.com) or Chau Chow City. Pick out dishes of shrimp and lobster dumplings, bowls of sticky rice (a favorite of kids), and salt and pepper calamari. Best time to go is Saturday or Sunday around noon. Averages $35 for a family of four.