I'm staying in downtown Boston for three days at the end of June.
What are some must see/must photograph sites to visit?
I will have my wife and 12 YO daughter in tow, so nothing too involved...
Walk the Freedom Trail. Eat lots of seafood. Visit Harvard Square to see all the weird people. Go to the Science Center (fabulous) or to the Children's Museum. (The gift shop at the Children's Museum offers all kinds of cool surplus stuff from the high-tech industries surrounding Boston, much of which can be recycled for photograph uses.)
A day trip to Cape Ann would be interesting - Gloucester and Salem.
And photograph whatever strikes your fancy.
Thanks for the suggestions.
We won't have a car - we're taking Amtrak, and will be staying in a hotel in the Back Bay.
We'd like to avoid spending too much money on taxis or time on the "T".
We're especially interested in places within walking distance...
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and the Museum of Fine Arts. Newbury street has lots of galleries. the freedom Trail is a lot of fun to do.
Much of Boston is in walking distance. The Freedom Trail is definitely worth doing as it will show you several of the highlights of the city. If you really don't mind walking, you could walk to the park and to the area by the Church of Christ Scientist (great reflecting pool and nice fountain as well as cool architecture). The T isn't too bad, though, and you might look into whether they have a pass that will give you unlimited rides for a certain time period. Back Bay is nice on its own.
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Absolutely the Freedom Trail, certainly walkable from Back Bay, or you can augment the walking by taking the T without resorting to taxi's which cost far more.
If your daughter has read Make Way for Ducklings then you should include the Boston Commons/Boston Public Garden.
Within Back Bay, Trinity Church offers many possibilities photographically.
There are motorized tours that are fairly reasonable too, that take in things like the USS Constitution and Navy Yard, Bunker Hill, etc. that aren't quite so walkable from Back Bay.
Here's a link that might be helpful; http://www.bostonbyfoot.org/
Beacon Hill and the North End have some very nice architecture and small streets, and are walkable from Back Bay.
just spend the whole time in the North End....on Hanover St...and mangiare la pasta!
Things that haven't got mentioned:
ICA (Institute of Contemporary Art; www.icaboston.org) is my favorite museum in Boston. Thursday night is free and recommended for families. (serious visitors wouldn't go for free hours so your 12 yo wont bother others).
Helmond restaurant. Excellent food from Afghanistan and the price is pretty reasonable for restaurant of that class. None of my out of town guest gets disappointed. Reservation strongly recommended.
Some of the museums at Harvard University are pretty good. MIT Museum is interesting but in a more techie way.
A walk across Longfellow bridge between Charles/MGH and Kendall/MIT. This 100-year-old bridge (classified as "structurally deficient") is planned to be replaced by a new bridge in a few years, and it may not be there when you return to Boston next time.
When you do freedom trail or go to the area nearby, notice Zakim bridge (Bunker Hill bridge). It's probably the most controversial bridge design (esthetically) in Boston.
Things that already got mentioned:
North End. If you see Boston's North End, you'll know that NYC's Little Italy is nonexistent.
I don't know if Harvard Square is that interesting. Certainly, people there are not strange enough. (If you want to see really strange people, go to Diesel cafe in Davis Square... Oh Charlie's Kitchen in Harvard is probably strange enough, too.) But the Harvard museums are in there, and there is also Club Passim, etc...
There are lots of places to watch good play but I guess that wouldn't be good with 12 yo.
Take the train from Boston North Station to Rockport
Its a short hike (0.6mile)from the station to the Motif and Bearskin Neck. Yes there are some cabs around...
your wife and kids will have plenty to do at this location. Lots of small shops, and some interesting places for lunch. If you kids have never experienced a train ride, they'll have fun watching the urban scenery go by until you get well out of town...