Harvard University walking tour
Salem Witch Museum visit
Details: Boston Duck Boat guided sightseeing tour (seasonal)
One of America's first cities, Boston straddles the Old and New World, its winding streets and busy harbor evoking Victorian England even while its skyscrapers and cutting-edge institutions reflect the American penchant for growth and change. See the city's (and nation's) origins at the Boston Common and State House, site of the Boston Massacre that helped spark the American Revolution. Copley Square and Back Bay bring to mind the literary Boston of Emerson, James, and Thoreau, with graceful houses and wide sidewalks testifying to the area's historic wealth (the posh area had more humble beginnings, however; it started out as a swamp!). The intellectual fervor continues in Cambridge, home to MIT, Harvard University, and all the students, cafés, and bookstores you'd expect in such a big-name college town. You'll also see Boston's North End, which the city's large Italian population has claimed for its own since the 1920’s. While the gelato and cannoli here may be sweet, they're no match for Boston's weirdest disaster -- in 1919, a giant storage tank of molasses collapsed, sending a 15-foot-high wave of the sticky sweet goo through the neighborhood and killing 21 people.
Details: Salem city walk
Salem, site of the first colony in Massachusetts, is remembered more for the events that occurred in 1692, when local girls accused three women of witchcraft. The accusations spread, and in one year nineteen women and one man were executed as witches. Theories about the reasons behind the witch hunt abound -- tension over traditional Puritan values conflicting with new commercial interests, fear of recent smallpox outbreaks and Indian attacks manifesting itself, even hallucinogenic fungus growing in the town's rye -- but no conclusive answer has been found. Explore the history, theories, and myths with your local step on guide. Want a more chilling witch experience? Visit the House of the Seven Gables, made famous in Nathaniel Hawthorne's short novel. In his version, the spooky, rambling house was cursed when bought unfairly from a witch. Even if you ignore the ghost stories, the house offers a great inside look at the oldest surviving 17th-century wooden mansion in New England.