A Terrifically Touristy Day in Boston
Last week, I fell in love with Boston. I know I said something similar upon my return from Chicago earlier this summer, but there is just something about these great American cities that captures my heart. As a mountain girl currently living in a (fabulous) town of about 10,000 people, it could be that the novelty, culture and diversity of any city would thrill me at this point. But I don’t quite think so – there’s something truly special about Boston.
We only allowed ourself one full day and bits of the next two to explore Boston, so on our first day we planned to hit the ground running. We arrived on a red-eye around 6 a.m., took the T into the city and were thrilled to find out that our hotel room was already available for check-in. After a short power-nap, a shower and some Dunkin Donuts, I was totally ready to take on the day.
The first item on our agenda was a Boston Duck Tour. We knew it would probably be fabulously cheesy, but a Duck Tour was one of the top recommendations we received from friends and highly rated on Yelp. I also figured that we’d be sluggish from our overnight flight and might benefit from a seated orientation to the city.
Not familiar with the concept of a Duck Tour? These tours are run in amphibious vehicles in several cities that I know of. Your “Duck” serves as a bus to cruise around the city, then goes into boat-mode for the water portion of the tour.
Here’s our Duck reflected in the John Hancock Building on land:
And splashing into the Charles River:
Wondering about the guy in the funny hat? That Joker (that was his “name”) was our tour guide. Boston Duck Tours hires guides to entertain as well as inform. While the Joker might have been a little over the top, he was also pretty darn funny and his humorous anecdotes helped me pay attention and absorb more about the city and its history than I would have otherwise.
Even though it was a dreary morning, it was nice to get out on the water and see the city from that angle.
I really enjoyed this tour. Taking it at the beginning of our time in Boston gave us a great overview of the city and allowed us to see areas we wanted to return to over the course of our visit. I also loved hearing all about the city’s history. Boston is proud of its place in American history as the birthplace of the American Revolution, and it was great to get a refresher on the history I’d learned as a kid and gain new knowledge.
We had a pretty international crowd on board, including a couple of Brits. Upon learning this at the beginning of the tour, our guide issued a pretty funny apology to the couple for the content of our tour.
The Duck Tour normally costs $33 for adults, but by joining a tour that leaves before 10 a.m. we got a discount that took it down to about $27 each. Book ahead because the ducks do fill up!
After returning to dry land, we headed almost immediately to another tour. This one had a little more of a cool quotient than the Duck Tour, however: The Sam Adams Brewery tour.
The Sam Adams Brewery Tour and tasting is totally free and received rave reviews on Yelp. Add that to the fact that Stan loves their beer, and this excursion was a no-brainer.
I’d read that the tours book up early in the afternoon, so we headed there straight from the Duck and had no trouble scoring tickets for the 12 p.m. tour. During our brief wait we entertained ourselves in the entry area.
This touch-screen was wicked cool (yeah, I said wicked) and kept us entertained for a while.
Before we knew it, it was time for our tour. I’ve been on a couple of large brewery tours before (most recently Coors), and this was nothing like those. The Boston Sam Adams brewery is a small facility in a residential area where they mostly do research and development and brew their competition beers. So rather than parading us through a factory, our tour guide Amanda took us all into a room and schooled us on how to make beer.
She went over the three main components of beer – hops, malt and crap… was it barley? – and passed around cups of each so that we could taste and smell each ingredient while she explained what they do in the brewing process. Then we moved into the area where they actually brew to learn about the process.
This is a working brewery, so we could see the brewers milling around and doing their thing. We even saw the bald/bearded guy from the Sam Adams commercials. You can see him in this creeper shot in the red t-shirt:
After the roughly 30-minute tour, it was time for the fun part: the tasting.
Amanda brought our group into a room full of long tables and a bar, while her sidekick started filling up pitchers. Once we had our first pour, their flagship Boston Lager, she took us through the steps of a tasting.
Step one was checking out the clarity. From there we moved on to aroma and taste. There may or may not have been additional steps. During each sample she talked about some of the characteristics of the beer and asked our group for feedback. She was a really entertaining and engaging tour guide.
We drank 8 oz. pours of three different beers: the Boston Lager, Octoberfest and their White Ale. I enjoyed all three but preferred the last two to the lager. Depending on how thirsty your table was, there was an opportunity for seconds on the tastings. Since it was noon, I was running on no sleep and hadn’t really eaten, I responsibly declined seconds. For the most part.
We had a great time at Sam Adams and I’d recommend their tour to anyone visiting Boston who also likes beer. Afterward, we made our way back toward our hotel, scarfed down a late lunch and took a little nap before our next adventure of the day – a Red Sox game! Stay tuned for a recap of my first time at Fenway Park.