Weird and wonderful: This is your Field Guide to Boston

(Midoriko Grace Abe for WBUR)
(Midoriko Grace Abe for WBUR)

A lot of us took up hiking in the pandemic. And while there were many lessons to be learned through the super scary virus times, hiking revealed a big one: No one likes feeling lost.

While trying new things of course requires adventuring through uncharted territory, some people can embrace the unknown better than others. It's only natural to feel uncomfortable and want to fix that quickly.

When it comes to the outdoors, there’s good news: We’re not on our own. We have maps to help us out.

Whether you’re navigating a mountain or a city, we believe having a point of reference gives you the security you need to explore, relax and really lean into the fun. That’s why we’re thrilled to tell you about our latest big project.

Welcome to WBUR’s Field Guide To Boston.

It’s a collection of Boston facts and fascinations, a salute to the weird and the wonderful that makes this place home. Whether you just set down your roots or they already run deep, we’ll help you make sense of what's confusing and discover what's new through guides, stories, events, podcast episodes, on-air conversations, newsletters, reels and more.

What makes this different from all the other guides to Boston?

For us, the “field” says it all — it’s the rigorous reporting that makes us WBUR. We mined the deep Boston knowledge of our reporters, local historians, economists and other experts. We fanned out across the city and talked to over 100 residents to find out what they love about their blocks. You’ll get to hear from your fellow neighbors — the backbone of Boston — about what makes this city so special.

We've also launched a new newsletter course specifically to help newcomers navigate everything from the MBTA to the local restaurants scene to New England seasons.

And this project doesn’t end here. We know, like our weather, things can change fast. We’ll be regularly adding to our Field Guide to make sure you have the tools to traverse through and enjoy whatever life throws at you. We see Field Guide to Boston as an active celebration of the city’s constant evolution, and a chance to explore new frontiers: for you, with us.

— Meagan McGinnes and Lisa Creamer, WBUR editors

→ Community

An illustration of two people harvesting lettuce at a community garden in Boston. (Midoriko Grace Abe for WBUR)
(Midoriko Grace Abe for WBUR)

It's not just you; it can be tough to make friends. That's especially true in a city where residents don’t always plant roots for good, and the ones who do have a reputation of being, uh, a little hard to approach.

But accept the challenge and give it a try. This guide is meant to help you find your people, be they gamers or foodies, outdoorsy types or artists. Here are a few suggestions to discover where like-minded potential pals may gather so you can start growing your personal community.

Read the community field guide

→ Neighborhoods

(Midoriko Grace Abe for WBUR)
(Midoriko Grace Abe for WBUR)

At just over 48 square miles, Boston's footprint is small compared to other major American cities. And population-wise, it barely cracks the top 25 largest cities in the U.S.

But go even smaller and you unlock something huge: Boston's neighborhoods are the cultural dynamos that give this city verve and character beyond the hackneyed tropes you see in movies.

Read the neighborhoods guide

→ Politics

Boston City Hall. (Midoriko Grace Abe for WBUR)
(Midoriko Grace Abe for WBUR)

If we asked an AI-powered bot to conjure up images that reflect Massachusetts politics, it might spit back a sepia-toned scene of smiling Kennedys helming a sailboat. Or maybe it would pull an archive photo of a fiery James Curley or amiable Tip O'Neill. But that's the past.

But there's more to politics and policy around here than the greater and lesser Kennedys, pithy one-liners ("All politics is local," "He did it for a friend") and a penchant for press coverage. (And, admittedly, not always for good behavior.)

If you're prudent — or if you're new in town — you'll likely want some political SparkNotes in a state where people like love to mouth off about positioning and policy.

Read the politics guide

→ Parking

Parking in Boston can seem as daunting as driving around the city. Between street cleaning restrictions, residential parking zones, space savers, garage prices and finding an open metered spot, rules about parking can vary from municipality to municipality. (Fun right?)

We’ve gathered some information to help make some sense of it all, whether you’re a longtime commuter, new resident, suburban weekend explorer or someone driving in to avoid MBTA service disruptions.

Read the parking guide

→ Transportation

An illustration of a person riding a bicycle from a Boston bike-sharing program next to a T train. (Midoriko Grace Abe for WBUR)
(Midoriko Grace Abe for WBUR)

Need to make your way around the Boston area? There’s good news and bad news. Good news: Boston is home to the country’s first oldest system! Bad news: Boston is home to the country’s oldest subway system.

We call it the MBTA, or the “T,” for short, and it's under the process of digging out from several decades of disinvestment and neglect. And the COVID-19 pandemic's impact on finances didn’t help.

Love it or hate it, it's the system we have. Otherwise, you could give walking or biking a try. Or, brave navigating Boston's curvy, narrow streets and suffocating traffic. But hey, it's sort of a rite-of-passage as a local resident to complain about it all.

Read the transportation guide

→ Arts and culture

We've tried to encapsulate what residents should know about arts and culture in Boston. It is, of course, impractical to capture every cultural event or institution in a single resource, but this one qualifies as exhaustive. Consider this your essential guide to the city's arts and culture scene.

Read the arts and culture guide

→ Nightlife

Boston is known for many things: its sports fandom, its many colleges, false Hollywood stereotypes of Irish mob warfare, and its affinity for Dunkin' Donuts. But traditional city nightlife isn't one of them.

It's true that the MBTA stops running at 1 a.m., and most bars close by 2 a.m. But Bostonians have their own ways of having a good time.

Read the nightlife guide

→ K-12 education

An illustration of books and a backpack with logo for Boston-area colleges. (Midoriko Grace Abe for WBUR)
(Midoriko Grace Abe for WBUR)

Boston is the birthplace of American public education. It’s home to the oldest existing school in the country and the oldest high school that we’d think of as being public, among a handful of other historical firsts.

Today, city and school leaders still take pride in Boston's educational achievements. Boston has several top-ranked high schools and performs strongly among big cities on the national standardized test known as the NAEP. Its graduates have unusually high rates of college attendance.

Read the education guide

→ Restaurants

(Midoriko Grace Abe for WBUR)
(Midoriko Grace Abe for WBUR)

We asked local chefs and restaurant owners to share where they like to go around Greater Boston after they hang up their aprons, from quick eats to date night spots and upscale dining.

They also provided insider tips for must-have dishes and drinks for each of their favorite restaurants.

Read the restaurants guide

→ Fall

An illustration inspired by Nancy Schön's "Make Way For Ducklings" sculpture. The ducklings in the illustration are dressed for fall weather and events. (Midoriko Grace Abe for WBUR)
(Midoriko Grace Abe for WBUR)

Autumn in New England delights residents and visitors from all over. The air — and apples — are crisp. The cider doughnuts are hot. The hiking boots are laced. The season's cooling, sunny days beckon us outdoors to soak up the brilliant colors of leaves in a last hurrah before winter forces us inside.

Read the fall guide

→ Winter

Winter in Boston is known for being kind of a jerk. You’ll wake up one day to find the city blanketed in beautiful drifts of pillowy snow, only to watch them promptly transform into shrinking piles of hard, blackened ice.

There’s no doubt you need to prepare for the weather if you live here. But there’s also plenty of joy to be had as the temperatures drop, too.

Read the winter guide

→ Spring

Fall and its stunning colors probably get the most attention. Winter is core to our identity as hardened New Englanders. And basically everyone loves summer.

But spring is perhaps greeted with the most enthusiasm. It’s the season of renewal, of longer days and warmer weather after the region’s long, dark — if increasingly mild — winters. It’s the season when the city’s green spaces bloom back to life, of college celebrations, and of jubilant parades and public gatherings, when normally laconic locals come out to cheer on strangers running ridiculous distances.

Read the spring guide

→ Summer

New Englanders will find almost any reason to complain about the weather, but besides the humidity, our summers are basically beyond reproach. The city comes alive with festivals and food trucks; the region’s many lakes and ponds do some of their best work; and the ocean is only a train ride away.

Read the summer guide


Meagan McGinnes Assistant Managing Editor, Newsletters
Meagan is the assistant managing editor of newsletters.


Lisa Creamer Managing Editor, Digital
Lisa Creamer is WBUR's managing editor for digital news.



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