While some cities are associated with a single image or reputation (think the Windy City or the Big Apple), the name "Boston" evokes multiplicity. Instead of one symbol, the city has a kaleidoscope's worth, from clam chowder to tree-filled college quads; historical cobblestone streets to a near-fanatical devotion to baseball. Boston is all of those things—and more.
The city was founded in 1630 by Puritans from England, and both its plethora of antique architecture and its compact, walkable center are part of their legacy. In Boston's nearly 400 years of existence, it has witnessed the birth of some of the world's elite universities, has watched the first stirrings of the American Revolution (including the Boston Tea Party), and has seen the development of the country's first subway and public school system. All this was packed into a colonial-sized settlement whose modern-day equivalent is dwarfed by its less-inhabited peers—today's Boston is an exciting, highly concentrated area with a population density second only to New York City and San Francisco.
The city's role in American history has afforded it a rich variety of historic landmarks, including stark colonial churches, crumbling graveyards, and imposing stone meeting houses. The popular Freedom Trail Foundation sponsors a self-guided tour that includes the best of these, passing through such fascinating areas as the much-maligned Charlestown (portrayed in countless mob movies) and the richly cultured North End. The Trail's offerings are merely a taste of the city's diverse neighborhoods, which house immigrants from the world over. In trendy Brighton and Allston or refined Back Bay, elegant and historic Beacon Hill or eclectic Jamaica Plain, opportunities for exploration and adventure abound, including wide-ranging ethnic food, outdoor activities for winter and summer, and souvenir or other shopping in markets and malls.
With more than 100 institutions of higher education in the metropolitan area, Boston is both a vibrant student's heaven and a "thinking" city. Scores of colleges and universities afford the city a young, hip vibe, complete with a multitude of bars, clubs, and cafés. The presence of so much intellectual power also makes for nearly unparalleled museums, including the universities' own offerings, a top-notch Museum of Fine Arts, the unique Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum, a Museum of Science with wide-ranging appeal, a state-of-the-art New England Aquarium, and the cutting-edge Institute of Contemporary Art.
Despite its density, the city does not lack in green space—the famous Boston Common, which once was a cow pasture, now hosts ice skating in the winter and Shakespeare in the summer. Next door, the beautifully manicured Public Garden is ideal for strolling. Threading through downtown, the newly minted Rose Kennedy Greenway is the last bead in the Emerald Necklace, a string of parks designed in the 1800s to nestle the city in greenery.
Of course, of all the parks, the best loved is Fenway, which plays host to perhaps the most enthusiastic baseball fans in the world. A Red Sox game is just one of so many unique experiences that make up a visit to Boston. There's a thousand reasons Boston is nicknamed "the Hub"—come find your own.