Upon completion, the Millennium Tower was named the third tallest building in Boston, built at the site of the former flagship store for Filene's in Downtown Crossing.

7 Secrets Only Locals Know About Boston

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TRVL Tips 7 Secrets Only Locals Know About Boston

When you visit Boston you see tourists crowding the likes of Faneuil Hall, the Freedom Trail, Fenway Park, and other relics of Boston’s historic past. However, when visiting these sights you may ask yourself, where do all the locals go?

Michaela Immar
Michaela Immar

Here’s a list of local secret spots you can check out once you’ve had your fill of clam “chowdah” and American Revolutionary history.

1. Bodega

Back Bay

Boston’s Back Bay was once a literal bay until it was filled in with land in the 1800s. Today, the Parisian-inspired streets of Back Bay are lined by brick brownstone buildings, upscale restaurants, and stylish clothing stores. One store that stands out from the rest is an upscale sneaker store called Bodega. What’s so special about it? It can only be found by those who know where to look. Upon entering you see nothing more than a normal bodega with no merchandise that stands out and a staff that is not inclined to let you in on the secret. Those in the know walk up to the coke machine and open the door to reveal the beating music, bright lights, and walls lined with colorful sneakers.

2. Boston University Coit Observatory free public night


Often find yourself staring off into space? A little-known secret is that Boston University’s Coit Observatory is open to the public one night a week, so you can do just that – stare into space through the telescopes provided for you on the rooftop observatory. Weather permitting, this event takes place on Wednesdays from 7:30pm-8:30pm (October through March) and from 8:30pm-9:30pm (April through September). The event is free, but it’s recommended to get tickets in advance because space is limited.

3. Skinny house


In the North End – the “Little Italy” are of Boston’s Downtown – you can find the skinniest house in Boston, affectionately nicknamed “the Skinny House.” The narrow, green, four-story house is sandwiched between two larger brick houses. Word on the street is that the house was built by one brother out of spite after his other brother built a large house on their shared land while the former was away as a soldier during the American Civil War. Regardless of whether the story is true or not, this tiny house is a unique feature in the city of Boston.

4. Mapparium

Back Bay

At the Back Bay’s Mapparium, you can step inside a three-story stained glass globe. The colorful stained glass globe was built in 1935, and the map decorating its surface reflects the geography of the time. Despite discussion of updating the map over the years, the map was never updated leaving it now as a historical artifact. The globe is viewed from a completely different perspective – inside and as a mirror image of the true Earth. Step inside this artifact, and you can also experience the striking acoustics caused by the shape.

5. St. Anthony’s Feast


A visit to Downtown’s North End wouldn’t be complete without experiencing some of the Italian culture still present in the area in the form of a cannoli at one of the many bakeries or attending St. Anthony’s Feast on a balmy August day. This annual religious festival began in 1919 when Italian immigrants from the town of Montefalcione began holding a street festival at the end of August to honor Saint Anthony of Padua. The event, which still occurs every year, features all the best aspects of a street festival: live music, parades, and authentic Italian food. The must-see highlight of the festival is the ten-hour procession of the Statue of St. Anthony through the neighborhood’s streets – a rare sight in a modern American city.

6. Tea at the Boston Public Library

Back Bay

In Copley Square in the Back Bay, you can find the stunning Boston Public Library. In addition to wandering its marble halls and appreciating its classic architecture, you can visit the Courtyard Restaurant for its daily afternoon tea time. Take a seat in the elegant restaurant and choose from a variety of loose leaf teas, classic tea sandwiches, and sweets. What better way to get in touch with your fancy side?

7. Free Thursday nights at the Institute of Contemporary Art (not quite downtown but adjacent)

If you’re in the mood for some contemporary art but don’t want to shell out a lot of cash to see it, the Institute of Contemporary Art has a free night every Thursday. People can visit the museum located in the Seaport District – a short distance from Downtown – without paying any kind of admission fee between 5-9pm. Art lovers can enjoy the rotating exhibitions and permanent collection while those who don’t really “get” contemporary art will be wowed by the museum’s harborside location. After you visit the art inside, have a seat on the back steps outside and take a minute to appreciate what the museum has to offer outside: nighttime views of Boston’s watery surroundings and the fresh scent of salty air.

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