Shoes On: A Weekend in Boston by Train

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With any trip I take, I aim to be as climate-friendly as possible. While I can’t avoid travel (my loved ones are spread far and wide), I can do my absolute best to avoid planes, cars, and other forms of high-emissions travel. In cities I like to try local foods, walk, and bike as much as possible. Not only is walking and biking better for the climate, but I find that I end up seeing a lot more of the city that way. 

Timeline

Friday

  • 4:00 pm, I got on a subway to Penn Station/Moynihan Hall.
  • 5:00 pm, I caught the Northeast Regional to Boston Back Bay Station.
  • 9:28 pm, I arrived in Back Bay and walked two blocks to the nearest T station, Copley.
  • 10:15 pm, I arrived at my accommodation.

Saturday

  • Enjoyed the sights 😎 I walked through the Boston Common, to the Boston Harbor, then checked out the Seaport. From there, I hopped on a T (Boston's public transit tram) to Harvard, and walked back to my accommodation from there. 

Sunday

  • Got a coffee then BlueBiked to the Harvard Arboretum.
  • 4:45 pm, I caught the T to Copley Station, then walked to Back Bay Station.
  • 5:45 pm, I caught the Northeast Regional back to Penn Station/Moynihan Hall in New York.
  • 9:52 pm, I arrived at Penn Station/Moynihan Hall in New York and caught the subway home.

I love taking Amtrak. Especially for a trip like this when I’m cutting into my work day a little, the train has tables and wifi for me to keep working while I ride. Plus, there are some fantastic views along the Connecticut coast of all the beach towns. Amtrak lets you store a carry on for no extra cost, and there is ample legroom in each of the chairs. For the trip to Boston, the train took exactly the same amount of time as an airplane would when you factor in security checkpoints and travel to the airport.

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Once arrived, Boston is a surprisingly easy city to get around in. Almost all the big sights to see are within a 1-mile radius, and the streets were very walkable. I chose to get off at Back Bay station as it was slightly closer to where I was going to stay. I only had a 2-block walk from Back Bay station to the nearest T stop, Copley, where I was easily able to get into the station and find my train (the T isn’t always this simple, mind you).

This was a slightly later train, which I chose because it was also the cheaper option. By the time I got to my accommodation, I was ready to relax and go to bed.

Houses on Commonwealth Ave in Boston. Photo: Michaela Keil/Bluedot Living Brooklyn

On Saturday I did a lot of moving around. While I chose to walk, you can also bike most of the route I took. Amtrak does let you bring your own bike on the train, if that suits your fancy, or the city of Boston has BlueBikes available for rent, just like a NYC CitiBike.

I got on the T on Saturday morning and headed toward the Boston Common. The Common is gorgeous, with a few bridges, ponds, and lots of the willow trees that I love. From the Common, it’s a short walk to downtown. From here, you can go to Little Italy in the North End, or Chinatown further south, but I decided to head east toward the harbor. 

The harbor is also near Quincy Market (also known as Faneuil Hall Marketplace). Quincy Market/Faneuil Hall is home to shops, restaurants, and historic architecture that you can only find in Boston. Once you pass through the iconic marketplace, the harbor hosts serene sailboats, more old harbor buildings, and the USS Constitution, a 200 year old ship.

I kept walking south along the harbor waterfront until I came to the Seaport. I walked across a bridge into the Seaport, a cute neighborhood, and got some lunch. The morning portion of this walk was a little under 3 miles.

After lunch, I walked over to the red line, and took the T to Cambridge to go see Harvard. I got off at the Harvard stop, and explored the iconic campus. From there, I crossed the Charles River and walked along the river through Christian A. Herter Park where I found a pop-up beer stand and paused to take a rest (and a drink!) after another 2 miles of walking. Along the Charles River were kayak rentals, and many, many boaters. I always love watching rowers in their racing shells cut through the water. 

Rowers passing under the Harvard Bridge in Boston. Photo: Michaela Keil/Bluedot Living Brooklyn

From the Charles River and Herter Park I walked to the nearest T stop at Packard’s corner, another 2 miles away. On this walk you also pass through North Allston, and the Harvard Stadium before coming into Allston proper — a young neighborhood known for great Asian food and home to the Boston University campus. I got dinner here then got on the T and headed back to my accommodations.

Sunday morning I took a walk to get coffee in Brookline, a beautiful neighborhood for families. The streets of Brookline are tree-lined with sycamores. After coffee (and some breakfast at a local cafe), I decided to rent a BlueBike and head down to the Harvard Arboretum, a large open-air museum of different species of flora. I bought a sandwich for the ride, then got on my bike. The bike ride took me through several neighborhoods and while it was hilly in some parts, the 4 miles flew by. 

A bonsai at the Harvard Arboretum dating back to 1737. Photo: Michaela Keil/Bluedot Living Brooklyn

The Arboretum was gorgeous. The rose gardens, while not yet in bloom, are sure to be stunning in the mid-summer, and every other budding branch showed promise while the ground was littered with fallen petals from the cherry trees. Many of the trees were labeled with their genus and species, and the paths were easy to see. I stumbled upon a bonsai garden, where some of the bonsai had been started as early as the 1700s. 

I stopped and ate lunch in the Arboretum before finding the BlueBikes station and heading back. I packed up and left the same way I came, through Copley Station, Back Bay Station, and on the Amtrak home. Needless to say, I both napped on the train and had a good night’s sleep once I was back in New York — a successful trip if I do say so myself.

Other cool sights to catch:

  • The Boston Library
  • The Freedom Trail
  • A Red Sox game at Fenway Park
  • Beacon Hill neighborhood
  • A cruise on the harbor
  • Rent a kayak on the Charles River
  • The Boston Museum of Fine Arts
  • The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
  • South End neighborhood
  • The Boston Aquarium

If you have a little more time: 

  • Catch a train up to Portland, Maine, and grab a fresh lobster
  • Take the commuter train to Salem to see the history of the witch trials
  • Catch a ferry from the Boston Harbor to Cape Cod and spend a night at the beach (Memorial Day – Labor Day only)
The Boston harbor at sunset. Photo: Michaela Keil/Bluedot Living Brooklyn

The calculations (cost and carbon) 

Cost: $151.5 per person (not including accommodations or food)

  • Subways to/from Penn station/Moynihan, NY: $5.50
  • Train from New York Penn to Back Bay Station: $62
  • Five T rides at $2.40 each: $12
  • BlueBike Adventure Pass (one day unlimited rental): $10
  • Arboretum: Free
  • Train back to NYC, $62

Carbon: These calculations are approximations using several different calculators. The figure is meant to represent how clean train travel is compared to air travel. While it’s important to consider our personal carbon footprint, it’s more important to show governments and businesses what we care about — if more people chose to walk, bike, take public transportation, and use the train, then more infrastructure will be put into place to make those options easier. Plus, it ends up being pretty cost-effective to eschew planes and cars.

  • For about 460 miles of travel with Amtrak, I used 15kg of CO2. 
  • For about 20 miles of subway/public transportation travel, I used 1 kg of CO2. 
  • For a 2 nights stay in a different home, I used about 20 kg of CO2, making the trip total about 72 kg of CO2. The flight to or from Boston for one person would have been nearly double that.

This article is part of our new series, “Shoes On,” all about travel from NYC using trains and other forms of low-impact transportation. Subscribe to our newsletter for the latest destinations, right to your inbox.


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Michaela Keil
Michaela Keil
Michaela Keil is the Editor of Bluedot Living Brooklyn, and the Managing Editor, Special Projects, for the Brooklyn Eagle. When she's not writing, you can either find her outside — in the rain, shine, snow, or cold — or inside baking bread. Find her on twitter @mkeil16.
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1 COMMENT

  1. I do not drive so I’m always searching for places to visit using public transportation. Your trip appears very easy to plan… Thank you for the details….very helpful…

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