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Road Trip! Destination: Boston

| Saturday, April 14, 2012, 5:19 p.m.

Boston was a destination city before the United States was born, and now attracts 12 million visitors annually.

The harbor was the site of the original tea party, when residents dumped boxes of imported tea into the harbor rather than pay an English tax on it. But that's just one of Boston's many iconic sites of American revolutionary history.

Boston is a wealthy city and the hub of sports, the arts and academia in New England. No baseball fan will pass on Fenway Park, nor hockey and basketball fan the TD Garden.

Harvard University is the most famous of many excellent higher-education institutions in the area. Seven presidents, including Barack Obama, hold degrees from Harvard, which was founded in 1636. Walking Harvard Yard can be a nice break from other activities.

Boston's cuisine reflects its melting-pot nature that resulted from being a major port of entry to the United States. There are many fine Italian restaurants in the North End of town. Unless you're averse to seafood, you won't want to miss the Union Oyster House at 41 Union St. Try the Boston Clam Chowder at the oldest restaurant in the United States.

Freedom Trail

Tired of getting lost looking for Boston's historic sites, journalist and Boston-area native Bill Schofield led the charge in 1951 for Boston's downtown and North End historic sites to be linked by a walking route with good signage. It took a year for Boston's mayor to get on board with the creation of what is Boston's most-popular tourist attraction.

Tours are available, some with guides in 18th-century costume. Among the sites are Old North Church (think Paul Revere's ride), the Bunker Hill Monument and the USS Constitution -- the oldest commissioned warship still afloat, with copper fittings by Paul Revere, incidentally.

Details: 617-357-8300 or www.thefreedomtrail.org

Museum of Fine Arts

The Museum of Fine Arts, which has more than 1 million visitors a year, opened a new wing in 2010 for its Arts of the Americas collection of more than 5,000 works dating from the founding of 17th-century colonies to the third quarter of the 20th century.

The museum is home to the largest collection of paintings by Impressionist Claude Monet outside of Paris, while offering a vast array of Japanese and Chinese artworks and seven galleries of contemporary art.

Details: 617-267-9300 or www.mfa.org

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

This Boston gem is most likely to be missed by tourists because it is overshadowed in size by the Museum of Fine Arts, but it is worth a stop. The museum opened in 1903 with a collection of remarkable quality assembled by Isabella Stewart Gardner. It includes Titian's "Europa," selected in 2002 by Boston-area museum directors as the most important piece of art in Boston, beating out one of Rembrandt's self portraits, which also is at the Gardner.

The original museum was designed to evoke a 15th-century Venetian palace. A new 70,000-square-foot wing opened in January, featuring works by resident artists.

Details: 617-566-1491 or www.gardnermuseum.org

Samuel Adams Brewery

The hourlong tour of the Samuel Adams Brewery is another of Boston's most-popular tourist attractions. Founder Jim Koch, a fifth-generation beer brewer, was a pioneer of the craft beer revolution, and named his product after the revolutionary-era patriot, who was a brewer and lawyer.

The tour includes the chance to taste several kinds of malts and hops, and a walk through the entire brewing process. It concludes, for those 21 and over, with tasting three kinds of beer: Boston Lager, a seasonal brew and often a test brew that hasn't hit the market yet.

Details: 617-368-5256 or www.samueladams.com

Symphony Hall

Unlike most orchestras, when the Boston Symphony Orchestra goes to Carnegie Hall in New York City, it is not visiting a better concert hall than its home. Symphony Hall is considered one of the top three concert halls in the world (the other two are in Europe), and shows why many people believe its shoebox shape is the best for acoustics.

Symphony Hall was built in 1900, and is home to the Boston Pops and the Handel and Haydn Society of Boston. Pops concerts have been led for the past 16 years by Carnegie Mellon University graduate Keith Lockhart.

Details: 617-266-1392 or www.bso.org

John F. Kennedy Library and Museum

More contemporary history than found on the Freedom Trail can be explored at the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum, which was designed by architect I.M. Pei and opened in 1979.

In addition to smartly designed print, video and audio exhibits about President Kennedy, the library honors his brother Robert F. Kennedy and houses the largest archive devoted to American author Ernest Hemingway. The current special exhibit is an ora-history project featuring former first lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy.

Details: 617-514-1600 or www.jfklibrary.org

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