Driving to Boston is quite easy for us, but getting around Boston is a bit tricky. Many people would recommend parking your car someplace central and then taking the T or walking, as the driving in Boston can be problematic with finding parking as well as some congestion due to construction you may encounter not to mention the horrible drivers.
We usually drive from New York City to Boston and don't have a problem navigating our way around the city, but we prefer to leave the car parked at the hotel or at an inexpensive parking lot and using the T to get around. Finding a place to park your car that won't cost a bomb is pretty hard to find, so do your homework ahead of time to find a place that is both convenient and within your budget.
Yes, I'd read plenty about this in warnings here on VT, and heard it by word of mouth over the years. But with needing to go to Stow and Weymouth Heights, we really did need to drive. So... there we were. Why does driving stink so much? Street signs that tell you one thing and then disappear for miles at a time... if you stop to ask for directions, people call streets different names than they're labeled (if they're labeled)... traffic, even on a Sunday, can be bad... Oh, and toll roads. Yikes! We went through the Ted Williams Tunnel 3 TIMES in one day, paying $4.50 each time. Ouch!!
We had a good experience with Dollar Rental car. Their shuttle service to and from the airport was very, very prompt and friendly. The man behind the desk, Ron, was very friendly and helpful, even at 6:45 on a Sunday morning. We paid for a compact car but got a mini-van, because... well... there aren't very many cars in the lot on a Sunday morning -- so it's a good day for an upgrade. If you can call a mini-van an upgrade. ;-)
My experience has taught me that the fastest and quickest way to get to Boston from New York is to drive there. From my home town it takes my just over 3 hours to get there by car and it only costs about $25 in gas and tolls, sometimes less. A train will cost upwards of $100 and a bus will cost $50 or more per person.
Driving North out of Boston on Rt 93 we were able to cross Boston's newest bridge, the Zakim Bridge . An interesting structure, it looks more like a sculpture than part of a roadway! Actually from this picture it looks like a wishbone....or white wire pyramids, or wire hangers.....anyway not much like a bridge. At night it's lit up with blueish purple lights, very cool!
The main arteries coming form downtown are I-90 Turnpike. and I-95 and I-93. There is no real belt loop to get around the suburbs, so traffic can congest when traveling point to point. Be prepared for slow traffic, and road work seemed to be prevalent in a number of areas.
In 1991 I was shocked to see Boston's streets gridlocked from 3pm to 7pm: I've never seen traffic jams anything like the ones I saw in Boston in the UK!
Between my penultimate visit to Boston in 1998 & my last in 2005, something called the 'Big Dig' took place, which involved dismantling the flyovers of Boston's urban motorways & moving the roads underground into tunnels.
As my 2005 visit was on a Saturday, when things were pretty free-flowing, I'm unsure of how well this grand scheme has worked.
There are parking places in the Boston downtown area. Be prepared for high cost, at least from a Midwestern price point. Down at the wharf area, it is $16 a day, and I suspect the other lots closer in to the center are $20+. I did see some private lots that offered lesser rates at about $8-10 a day. There may be a catch, though?
The totally underground 6 level garage at Post Office Square opened in 1990 centrally located to waterfront hotels, Quincy Market, the Aquarium, and the Financial District. Other than inconspicuous entrances on Congress and Pearl Streets, the entire block is occupied by the lushly planted Norman B Leventhal park, a green oasis between tall buildings including the posh Langham Hotel.
The garage is just two short blocks form the Intercontinental Hotel and just a few more to the Boston Harbor Hotel. The waterfront, Aquarium, Quincy Market area, and Tea Party museum are all just short walks away.
Parking in downtown Boston is hard to come by, with carefully patrolled short term meters. Hotel parking is ludicrously expensive, $44 a night at the Intercontinental. During the week, the garage is quite costly too but on weekends the fee is only $9/night, with the clock resetting at midnight. A three night stay is therefore $36, a $140 savings over the hotel, not including valet tips.
The garage is very well lit, with wide stalls and wider driveways. Ticket on entrance, 24 hour real live people to accept payment. Clean, well-lit, with an ATM and large modern immaculate rest rooms. A cleaning service and car wash are available as well.
The Garage at Post Office Square is a remarkable value, cannot be recommended hightly enough.
The best way to do something in Boston and not pay a fortune for parking is to start by driving to Cambridge and park at either Kendall Square or at Cambridgeside Galleria. Park your car in the lots there for cheap and take the nearby red or green line "T" (subway) to your next destination in Boston or Cambridge and back. A day trip including a scenic drive along Memorial Drive with views of the Charles River and the Boston skyline will be in store for you coming and going. Be sure to avoid rush hours on weekdays and the drive is quite nice. Catch and indie film at the Kendall Square Cinema, hop the red-line to either Harvard Square or Cambridge Side Galleria for sights and shopping. Or for non-stop shop til you drop start at Cambridgeside, park and take the green line to Copley and check out Newbury Street Prudential Center and Copley Place. Do not attempt to drive to Harvard Square or Newbury Street or Copley Place or Prudential Center directly. These excursions are not recommended for novice Boston drivers, and anyone not willing to pay a ton of dough to PAHK THE CAH. P.S. One cannot park in Harvard Yard unless they are on bicycle.
THIS picture illustrates why no tourist should be driving around Boston. The "Big Dig," as they call it around town, is the massive construction project that is going on in Boston, and has been for the last 10 years. I believe it's nearly finished, but it has made central Boston a mess for driving. So until things change, don't try this unless you're willing to sacrifice your car for your trip! :)
If you are looking at going from New York to Boston / Boston to New York, a very hassle free and comfortable trip is on the Limo Liner! Easy pick up at the Hilton Hotel between 6th and 7th Street
First class individual lay back sets with tables or a club car for a group travelling together. Offer refreshments and has restrooms. They even show a movie!
Very clean and great to drive up to Boston seeing the countryide, rather than a busy train or airport
If you live in Boston and don't own or car or if you visit Boston and are a member, a Zipcar is a wonderful way to get around. I've been a member for almost four years now and I love this service. For a small annual rate (Made even smaller thanks to a workplace discount!), I can rent most of the cars for $9 an hour or $80 for 24 hours. They take care of the gas!
Cars are parked all around the metropolitan area and luckily for me, there are many in my neighborhood. This makes it oh so much more convenient!
This is not an exclusive Boston tip. Although Zipcar was founded in my fair city, they are now available at various US cities as well as in London. But truthfully, I think I might be a tad bit frightened at trying to drive on the "other side"!
I rented a car against all warnings... it cost me $93 for one day....and I couldn't find anywhere to park the thing so that I could get out & walk. Finally when I did park it....for like 3 hours, it cost me $16. Then, I got lost on the way back to the airport, and was frantic, I almost missed my flight. Apparently, the turnpike does not connect to any of the streets like a normal highway. Anyway.
Seriously. Get a subway pass. They are $9 for the whole day (24 hrs) unlimited. It will get you ANYWHERE you wanna go & then you can walk the city like it should be seen! I can't tell you how much more fun I had this way! you can see all of the shops & cafes this way.
and.....when you are done....if you still have time left on your subway pass give it to someone waiting in line for one!
Yes, Boston is a tough city to navigate, and yes, the drivers are a little crazy. But it isn't loads of city driving experience that you need to survive them. You just need to be able to drive on their level.
My driving experience in Boston was getting into the aquariugm area, driving on 93, some driving north of the city, and getting into/around logan airport. So I was right in the heart of things, and guess what? I survived.
The secret to driving in Boston is to understand why these people drive the way they drive. They have a place to go, and they want to get there quickly. And because stop-and-go traffic is so common and so mentally taxing, when they don't have to stop, they MOVE. And that's what anyone driving in Boston has to understand. You need to do everything QUICKLY. Accelerate from a stop quickly, because that will keep traffic moving. When you need to stop, then STOP! Not making assertive stops means that you lose time reacting to traffic patterns. And if you're going to make a lane change, signal, and then move it on over. You can't wait around for traffic to wait for you, because it will not happen.
Everything you do behind the wheel of your car in "The Hub" has to be firm, quick and assertive. Don't worry about being polite, don't let yourself get scared, just GO!
Finally don't worry constantly about your speed. Just move with traffic, and don't even look at the speedometer. Bostonians will pass you if you're not going at what they think is the fast enough speed, and that can be even more dangerous than you going a few miles faster than you are comfortable with. (and while you're looking at that speedometer, the *** in front of you might have just stopped suddenly!)
So good luck, ye hearty souls that will be tackling Boston. Driving in Boston has been a goal of mine ever since I went there last year. Well I got my opportunity, and I'm glad I did.