Lately I’ve been doing long weekend trips to big cities that I haven’t been to before. Last month I decided to go to Boston to visit a friend there and to go see all the historical sites there and to see the final results of the Big Dig project.

I got there late on a Thursday night where my friend met me at the airport. We rode the silver line, which is not a traditional subway line. It features buses that can run on both gas or overhead electric lines. Above ground, the buses run on gas and travel on roadways shared with other cars. But when it goes underground to connect with the subway system, it stops and switches to the electric line, presumably so that bus exhaust doesn’t fill the tunnels. It was a cool introduction to the city.

The next two days my friend and I took a walk around the city, following the uquibitous “red line” that marks out the historical trail in the city. It goes by sites like the Old North Church, Bunker Hill, the USS Constitution, and burial grounds where many early patriots were laid to rest. The trail also ran by many modern-day spots like the Boston Commons.

One of my favorite areas in the city turned out to be the North End. It’s the Italian part of town, filled with blocks of resturants from low-key pizza joints to high-end bistros. Throughout the trip I stopped in for lunch, dinner and dessert. One pastry shop called Mike’s Pastries served outstanding cannolis that I’m still craving today.

Another area that I enjoyed was the Public Gardens. It has a beautiful pond, gardens and statuary. It’s a great spot to take pictures. One of the highlights of the park was a set of brass ducks based off of a favorite children’s book of mine, Make Way For Ducklings. The city also has many educational institutions, the most notable being Harvard. MIT is also located right next to Boston in Cambridge.

The timing of my trip turned out to be a bit serendipitous. The Boston Marathon was taking place on the last day of my trip. I didn’t realize the marathon was happening that weekend until I got into town. I was able to get a viewing spot along the last mile and cheer on the runners for over two hours. The marathon really brought out the best in people. The crowd cheered endlessly for hours. If someone came up on the sidewalk to catch their breath, everyone encouraged them to keep going.

What surprised me was the variety of runners coming through. The front of the group were the elite runners with rippling muscles and high-end gear. But as the race went on, all kinds of personalities showed up. Some of the runners were US soldiers, running in full military fatigues, combat boots, and 100-pound backpacks. Some were amputees. One runner was blind and had a guide running alongside her. Many runners were running on behalf of charities. One runner stopped, gave his sweetheart a long smooch and then ran to the finish line. Another did cartwheels. Others cheered the crowd on. It was just a wonderful experience all around.

Boston is well-worth the visit. The highlights of the city can be easily covered in about 3 to 4 days.

Boston is also quite easy to get to. The airport is served by most major carriers and Amtrak provides train service from destinations throughout the northeast. Boston also has several interstates running through it, but it will be hard to find parking inside the city.