Shipping up to Boston? Good choice! Boston isn’t just home to the Red Sox, Paul Revere, and the world’s best clam chowder; it’s also my adopted city.
Don’t Do This While in Boston
Unless you want to immediately stand out as a tourist when you’re among us, take it from me: Avoid the following faux pas or you’ll drive every Bostonian crazy.
Don’t Try to Imitate the Accent
You want to “pahk the cah in Harvahd Yahd” and then get some clam “chowdah”? And you wonder why none of the locals want to hang out with you? We’ve heard it a million times, and you sound as bad as Martin Sheen in The Departed. Stop it.
Don’t Block the Sidewalk
A lot of the small restaurants that tourists love in Boston don’t take reservations (we’re looking at you, Giacomo’s and the Daily Catch in the North End). That means lines snake outside the door and down the street. If you want to wait in line for mediocre food, that’s fine by us (thanks for leaving more space at the good restaurants!), but please—wait up against the building, not down the middle of the sidewalk.
Same goes for walking the Freedom Trail: Just because the bricks go down the middle of the sidewalk doesn’t mean your family of four has to slowly walk the same way, leaving no room for anyone else to pass.
Don’t Order a Regular Coffee If You Want It Black
Here in Boston, we need to pack on the pounds to prepare for the winter chill. This is the only explanation for why if you order a “regular” coffee at many places, it will come loaded with sugar and cream—not plain black.
Don’t Insult Boston Sports Teams and/or Wear Yankees Gear
Want to make friends with the locals? Lay off Tom Brady! And while we’re at it, leave your Yankees hat at home, too. In Boston, we love our professional sports teams in a borderline unhealthy way, which is why we’re the only people allowed to criticize, mock, or otherwise disparage them.
Don’t Wear Pink Sports Gear
Boston sports team colors are some combination of red, blue, white, green, yellow, and black. No pink in that list, so why would you buy a pink Red Sox/Celtics/Patriots/Bruins hat? Be warned—you’ll be immediately branded a “pink hat,” a.k.a. a poseur. And you will deserve it.
Don’t Rent a Bike and Ride It on the Sidewalk
Renting a bike is a great way to get around Boston and see a lot of the city. Just please, ride it in the bike lanes and not on the sidewalks. It’s illegal, and it makes everyone walking on the sidewalk hate you (especially if you run into them).
Don’t Get a Paper Ticket for the T
If you buy a ticket for the T from the machine in the station, you’ll pay 50 cents more per ride than if you get a reloadable plastic CharlieCard (which you can get for free from a T attendant—if they have any in stock).
Corollary: If you don’t know that the T is the name of Boston’s subway system, run by the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority, you’re probably not ready to walk among us.
Don’t Assume the Map of the T Is Related to Actual Geography
Places that seem far away on the T map could actually be walked, while places that seem right next to each other are really far apart. Listen to Google Maps, not the T map. And while we’re at it, don’t call the T the Metro, the L, or whatever. It’s the T! Also, don’t get off at the Fenway stop for Fenway Park—get off at Kenmore and walk.
Don’t Forget to Hold on When You’re on the Green Line
Boston is a major city (really, we are—just ask us!), yet one of our biggest subway lines is actually a trolley car. It’s always packed, and it makes extremely frequent stops. Don’t forget to hold on if you’re riding this sardine can on wheels—the train jerks around and brakes sharply and unexpectedly. Try to avoid it entirely after a Red Sox game, unless you like being pressed up against a bunch of drunk and either surly or happy people (depending on the score).
Don’t Park in a Reserved Space in the Snow
If you’re visiting in the winter, and there is plenty of snow on the ground, never park in a shoveled-out spot that is reserved via a plastic chair (or any other marker) if you care at all about your car being intact when you return. We take parking very seriously in the winter, and we will vandalize anyone who violates this social contract.
Don’t Wait at the Crosswalk
The surest way to identify yourself as a tourist in Boston is to patiently wait at a crosswalk for the light to change before you cross. We’re not saying you should run out in front of traffic, but there’s a reason why Bostonians have no fear of illegal crossings: The fine for jaywalking is $1 for your first through third offenses and $2 for every offense after that per calendar year. And every year we get a clean slate!
Don’t Drive (Unless You Really Have To)
Boston’s streets are confusing—one ways, random dead ends, construction, pedestrians darting across the street, and our um, “legendary” drivers. We’ve got a serviceable public transportation system and a surplus of Ubers and taxis, so utilize them. Or walk—Boston is a wonderful walking city as long as you’re not hogging the sidewalk.
Don’t Make Plans After 2:00 A.M.
Sorry, anyone from a city that never sleeps—Boston is a city that goes to bed early. Despite having hundreds of thousands of young residents (at least while college is in session), bars here have to close by 2:00 a.m.—with many announcing last call well before that. Hey, at least our public transportation stays running (with limited service) until 2:00 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.
Don’t Assume the Water Is Warm
So you’ve ventured out to one of the beautiful beaches just an hour or so outside of Boston. It’s a hot 90-degree day in July, the sun is shining, and the sand is scorching. Nothing like a cool dip in the ocean, right? Wrong! Never assume the ocean water around Boston is going to be anything but freezing. It will still be swimmable (depending on how hardy you are), but the temperature will probably be a shock to your system.
More from SmarterTravel:
- Boston Travel Guide
- 10 Best Hotels in Boston
- 10 Best Cheap Hotels in Boston
- 10 Great Hotels Near Fenway Park in Boston
- 10 Fun Things to Do in Boston
- 10 Must-See Boston Attractions
- 10 Best Day Trips from Boston
- 10 Best Cheap Eats in Boston
- 9 Best Italian Restaurants in Boston
- The 10 Best Boston Food Trucks
- What to Wear in Boston
- What to Pack for Boston
Caroline Morse has observed the behavior of Boston North End tourists for the last four years. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline and on Twitter @CarolineMorse1 for beautiful Boston and New England photos.
Editor’s Note: This story was first written in 2015. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.
We hand-pick everything we recommend and select items through testing and reviews. Some products are sent to us free of charge with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions and do not accept compensation to review products. All items are in stock and prices are accurate at the time of publication. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.