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BOSTON ON A BUDGET – THE MIDWEST PERSPECTIVE

Recently, on Instagram, I made a poll asking where people like to go on vacation–cities, beaches, or mountains. I truly think that Hayden and I do a healthy mix of the three. We love to explore and adventure everywhere, but that poll really got me thinking about what our “deciding factors” are for where we go on vacation, and, quite honestly, often it’s “what’s our budget.”


In complete transparency, I am not a city girl and don’t often daydream about exploring a new city. I buy into the “it’s expensive” and “it’s hard to get around” narratives way too often. However, after my recent girls trip to Boston, Massachusetts, I have to say…I have a new favorite city! This was not your typical ‘treat yourself’ girls trip; we were very excited to explore, but we were on a bit of a tighter budget. Despite what you may have heard, Boston was the perfect destination for a budget friendly trip. We packed 3 days full of adventure, great food, and a few beers.


Remember my city stereotypes? Well, as it turns out, Boston can be extremely affordable and is very walkable. Plus, it’s also by far the cleanest city I have ever visited. From someone who loves her small town of 12,000 people, I was pleasantly surprised by just how much I enjoyed Boston, a city of over 600,000. It's a key spot when looking at the history of the formation of the United States. They have popular sports teams and the people are known to be full of personality. The food scene is made up of delicious, fresh seafood, famous pizza slices, and authentic Italian. Beautiful architecture, stunning green spaces, fascinating history, and incredible food–and I got to enjoy it all: Boston on a Budget!!


woman standing outside of old 3 story building. American Flag hanging off building

DAY 1


We arrived late on a Tuesday and woke up eager to explore Wednesday morning. No girls day should start off with anything other than a trip to the coffee shop. We made our way to a local chain, Tatte Bakery & Cafe. Honestly, I’m not a coffee drinker myself, but I was still very impressed with this cafe (as were my girls who did drink the coffee!). They have locations across the city and make for an affordable option for both a sit down breakfast or a grab and go drink and pastry. Their pastry selection is impressive and has both sweet and savory options.


Boston on a Budget: Breakfast - Tatte - $10


roasted strawberry turnover along with a blood orange hibiscus iced tea

I ordered a drool-worthy roasted strawberry turnover along with a blood orange hibiscus iced tea that was absolutely perfect for the hot summer morning and only $3.


After fueling up for the day, we were ready to explore! We decided to start at the beginning with the history of the city. We made our way to Boston Common, the country’s oldest public park, and began walking The Freedom Trail. The Freedom Tail is not a hike, but a 2.5 mile path that winds throughout the city taking you to 16 historically significant spots, most regarding the American Revolution.


There are several ways to do the Freedom Trail. You can pay for a guided walking tour, use the National Parks app to narrate your self-guided tour, or do as we did and pick up a $3 map from the Boston Common Visitor Center to guide and narrate it yourself!


Boston on a Budget: Explore - The Freedom Trail - $3


building on the Freedom Trail with gold gargoyle

We used the map to guide us to each historic location on the trail and to read a few sentences explaining the significance of each stop. Along the trail, there are museums, churches, meeting houses, burying grounds, parks, a ship, and historic markers, some of which have entry fees that are $15 or less. We personally chose not to pay the entry fees and to just observe from the outside and learn from our map and the posted signs. There are multiple places that are run by the National Park system that are free to enter as well.


You can spend the majority of your day exploring The Freedom Trail and making stops along the way. We made multiple little detours throughout the day, and our first “added stop” was for a brew at the Sam Adams Taproom, which is just steps from the trail. I ordered the cookie and beer pairing–warm lemony cookies that paired perfectly with the Sam Adams Summer Ale.


Boston on a Budget: Drink - Sam Adams Tap Room - $14


After the Sam Adams Taproom, we continued just a short way on The Freedom Trail to Faneuil Hall and then decided to stop for lunch. We ate at Quincy Market, an awesome public market spot that had something for everyone. There were rows of food vendors and a gathering space to sit and eat. I ordered from Boston Chowda and have no regrets about splurging on my lunch–a hot buttered lobster roll, a cup of chowder, and a fountain drink. I mean, what’s a visit to Boston without trying a lobster roll?! It was a lot of food that I could have easily shared with someone else, and every bite was remarkable!


Boston a Budget: Splurge of the Day - Boston Chowda - $35


We continued on our way down the Freedom Trail to see historic churches and Paul Revere’s home. (Remember that we did not pay to go into the sites, just admired them from the outside and appreciated the history we learned from the signs and our map.) Now that we had made our way to the North End, also known as Little Italy, we had to stop for a cannoli. We stopped at Mike’s Pastry; it came highly recommended to us and completely lived up to the hype. Their selection was seriously impressive, and our chocolate chip cannoli will forever hold a place in my heart! The filling was so rich and paired perfectly with the light, crispy cookie.


Boston on a Budget: Mike’s Pastry - $6 (cash only)


girl eating cannoli on a bench

We kept strolling to complete The Freedom Trail. If you walk the Freedom Trail from south to north like we did, you will continue north from the North End up towards the USS Constitution. The USS Constitution is a US Navy ship and the oldest ship still afloat! You can board and explore multiple levels and hear all about its battles from the 1700s. There is no fee to explore this National Park run naval ship, and it shouldn’t be skipped! After the ship, the last stop on the Freedom Trail is Bunker Hill. There is also no fee to climb the stairs to the top of the monument for incredible views!


After completing the Freedom Trail, we walked back towards Beacon Hill to go to the bar that inspired the 1980s show Cheers! Their half-off appetizers Happy Hour (4-6pm Monday-Friday) made for a great dinner. They have plenty of hearty choices to fill you up for a very reasonable price. Plus, you’ll love the nostalgia and gift shop!


Boston on a Budget: Cheers - $15


After finishing our beers at Cheers, we were definitely feeling all the walking we had done and were almost ready to call it a day. Our final stop of the evening was the Boston Public Library - Central Location. This is also a free entry stop that shouldn’t be missed. The building is stunning and has massive marble and stone statues, multiple rooms with gorgeous high ceilings, a large courtyard, and even a tea room with a bar! It reminded us of Hogwarts, and we loved soaking it in!


Boston on a Budget: Boston Public Library - Free


Boston Public Library - Central Location courtyard and fountain

DAY 2


We woke up on day two ready to adventure some more! We started our day walking around Fenway Park. I’m not the biggest baseball fan, but I can appreciate history: Fenway opened in 1912 and is the oldest stadium in the MLB. We didn’t catch a game this time, but if you’re interested, there are often tickets for sale for around $20. You can also take a tour of the historic park for $25.


Boston on a Budget: Fenway Park - Free


For some morning fuel, we once again hit up Tatte Bakery. It was so good we had to go back, but we tried a different location this time. I ordered the prosciutto and parmesan egg scramble, and it was fabulous!


Boston on a Budget: Tatte Bakery - $10


After so much walking the day before, we wanted to change things up a bit, so we decided to rent Blue Bikes! We got 24 hour passes for only $10. These bikes have stations throughout the city, and you can use your phone to unlock the bikes, ride them around, and then return them to another station. We covered some serious ground on these bikes and loved how great the city bike lanes were!


Boston on a Budget: Blue Bike - $10


woman biking on a blue bike in bike lane

After picking up our new rides, we made our way to Halftime Pizza. Hayden loves the pizza reviews by Barstool Sports’s Dave Portnoy, so he sent me a few highly rated spots in Boston to check out. Dave gave Halftime Pizza a rockin’ 9.2, and we are very pleased to say that it absolutely lived up to the rating! The pizza was amazing, and the slices were only $4–definitely worth a stop!


Boston on a Budget: Halftime Pizza - $4


Our Blue Bikes got us all the way over to the waterfront where we continued to soak in the city views! We then decided to bike up to Harvard’s campus to look around, but since it was Commencement weekend, we couldn’t see the Harvard Yard. However, the Yard would be a great place to walk around or to do the free walking tour on the Harvard app!


Boston on a Budget: Visit Harvard - Free


All that biking helped us work up an appetite, so I went to check out Pressed Cafe, an East Coast chain sandwich restaurant. They have a variety of paninis and fun beverage options, and there was even a bar with margarita and mimosa flights! I got the barbecue chicken panini, chips, and a strawberry lemonade. It was delicious and just what I needed after a long, hot day of biking. The portions were big and very affordable, and I wish they had locations in Wisconsin!


Boston on a Budget: Pressed Cafe - $16


After all that biking, I thought we were going to call it a night, but we ended up taking a stroll by the Charles River. This was perfect for a summer night, and we saw some great sunset views across the water. We were pleasantly surprised when we stumbled upon Owl’s Nest Beer Garden by Night Shift Brewing. Being from Wisconsin, I have high expectations when it comes to an outdoor beer garden, but this did not disappoint! They had lots of twinkle lights and hightop and picnic tables, but most importantly, they had good beer. I love getting to drink locally on vacation, and this was the perfect atmosphere. I highly recommend the stop for a night cap!


Boston on a Budget: Owl’s Nest Beer Garden - $7


holding beer up to twinkle lights with river in background

DAY 3


Day 3 ended up being a half day trip to Salem, Massachusetts. Salem sits on the water about 45 minutes (driving) north of Boston, and it’s famous for its 1692 witch trials. We were curious to check it out! First, we used the last few hours of our Blue Bike pass to get up to Mike & Patty’s to grab some breakfast. This little shop is on a neighborhood corner and is a complete gem. It’s take out only and has lots of breakfast and lunch sandwich options. I got a filling and delicious breakfast burrito to eat on our ferry ride.


Boston on a Budget: Mike & Patty’s - $11


We decided to take a ferry up to Salem. It was definitely more of a splurge compared to taking the train, but we found it to be well worth it. We sat downstairs at a table and ate our breakfast, kicked back and relaxed, and enjoyed seeing Boston from the water. A good chunk of the ferry ride was narrated and very informative. They pointed out lighthouses, historic homes, and other interesting land formations and historic spots.


Boston on a Budget: Spurge of the Day - Ferry to Salem - $25


breakfast burrito with a marina in the background

Salem is an enchanting, fun, walkable town. There are lots of witchy tourist attractions, and it’s home to some iconic movie locations, including some from Hocus Pocus! You need to pay to enter the museums, but there is a walking tour you can do at minimal cost. The Salem Heritage Trails takes you through 400 years of Salem history, and there’s even a free mobile app. (I would recommend skipping the Salem Witch Museum, as it was much too gaudy for our liking.) There are also a few breweries and a great ice cream shop you can hit if you need a treat before making your way back down to Boston’s North End.


Boston on a Budget: Salem Heritage Trail - Free


girl in pink dress standing in front of Allison's house from Hocus Pocus

We took the train back from Salem to the North End. It was very comfortable and fairly easy to navigate–there’s a Boston public transportation app for tickets and maps.


Boston on a Budget: Train Transportation - $8


We were definitely hungry after our day of walking Salem, and we were excited to try some authentic Italian food in Little Italy, so we made our way to Trattoria Il Panino for dinner. This restaurant is cozy and popular, so I would recommend a reservation. I went with the cacio e pepe, and it was phenomenal! It was voted the favorite dish ordered by our group, and I highly recommend it!


Boston on a Budget: Italian dinner - $25


A belly full of carbs was the perfect way to end 3 days in Boston on a Budget! This trip was so much fun, and we were able to do the most without breaking the bank. Although it may seem tricky sometimes, budget traveling is possible. This trip reminded me to always appreciate the little moments. It’s not necessarily the fancy cocktails or high end things that make a trip…it’s the locally made food and walking the city parks that will really make you feel like you’ve experienced a place. We were careful to pick and choose our splurges and were okay with taking the long way around, and, in return, were treated to a wonderful time in Boston!


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