With a new Norwegian flight making the transatlantic journey a steal, Gary Noakes dives into Boston’s top attractions.
Some time ago, easyJet and Ryanair taught consumers to save money on their flights and spend it on hotels and shopping instead.
Decades later, the same is happening across the Atlantic, with Norwegian leading the low-cost, long-haul revolution.
You might have clients tempted by the airline’s prices, but nervous about the experience. There is no need – having flown both Economy and Premium I can attest to that, so I suggest you despatch them to Boston – Norwegian’s nearest US destination – to try it out.
At 6.5 hours flying time there and 5.5 hours back, Boston is near enough for anyone to consider the no-frills way – if Norwegian’s new aircraft, decent legroom and on demand entertainment can be called no-frills.
In low season, the money saved on the airfare permits visitors to splash on the accommodation and shopping.
I travelled from Gatwick in early December, when a mid-week economy return including 20 kilogrammes baggage and a meal, booked in late October, cost £358 (£258 without baggage). British Airways’ lowest fare (from Heathrow) was £588, but only if you stayed a Saturday night; otherwise, it soared to £1,242.
Boston is not the cheapest US city to visit, but it is far cheaper than New York and timing it carefully, it is affordable.
Locals tip holidays like Thanksgiving, when the city empties, as the time to pick up a bargain stay when convention hotels like the 1,220-room Sheraton have space; plus with 24 new hotels opening in the next 18 months, including a Yotel, Boston should get easier on the pocket.
Once this part of the budget is sorted, the rest falls into place. Boston is easy and cheap to get around.
A project known as the Big Dig, which finished 10 years ago, put 8 miles of highway, mostly 12 lanes wide and some of it elevated, below ground.
In its place are walkways and green spaces, meaning that strolling the waterfront area is a traffic-free pleasure. For places you cannot reach on foot, a $21 CharlieCard pass sorts you for a week, including airport transfers, on the easy to navigate Metro system.
Why choose Boston? Well, with around 700,000 people, it is less than a 10th of the size of New York but has a wealth of history, entertainment and shopping (note, clothes items under $175 are tax free).
First time visitors will walk the 2.5-mile Freedom Trail, telling the story of the city’s role in the American Revolution, sparked by the protest known as the Boston Tea Party.
All will enjoy the waterfront and streets of beautifully restored brownstone buildings, plus Boston’s exciting restaurant and craft beer scene.
It may well be Boston’s icons that attract visitors first; among them the famous Faneuil Hall Marketplace and neighbouring Quincy Market, part of the Freedom Trail and similar in concept to London’s Covent Garden.
Two other musts are the Cheers Bar, whose facade was used in the TV series, and Fenway Park, the 1912 shrine to baseball that can be toured when the Red Sox are not playing.
My ideal first stop is the Skywalk Observatory, where the 50th floor viewing platform not only puts the city into perspective, but also vividly portrays its trading, slave and migration history.
The latter encompasses some of the two million Irish who fled famine and 500,000 Jews who escaped Nazi persecution, many of whom were quarantined nearby.
Today, a third of Boston’s population was born abroad and more than 140 languages are spoken. Head to the North End and you can literally taste the diversity.
An area that was originally an Irish settlement now houses Boston’s descendants of Sicily and Genoa and here, despite freezing winter nights, queues form outside restaurants like Giacomo’s, where you can fill up on fresh pasta dishes – many filled with local seafood – for around $15.
Nearby is one of the city’s newer attractions, Boston Public Market, opened in 2015 and housing 40 stalls selling only local, seasonal produce and craft items, with the bonus of being a great lunch stop.
Sports fans are spoilt for choice whatever the season. Apart from baseball, the city has the 18,000-capacity TD Garden arena, home to the Boston Celtics basketball team and, in winter, the Boston Bruins ice hockey squad.
A Bruins game will be a highlight for many, but if the budget does not extend to a ticket ($50 for a reasonable seat), suggest the $12 90-minute arena tour.
My guide takes me around the memorabilia of four teams (the Red Sox and New England Patriots football team feature as well as hockey and basketball) and sparks an interest in sports I have never even watched.
Next I take the Metro across the Charles River to Cambridge where the action is more cerebral. Here are two of the US’s most prestigious universities, Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
I walk around the historic Harvard campus wishing I had done better at school and console myself by buying some bargain jeans and having a beer in one of Cambridge’s numerous bars.
Boston is just the place, I decide, to eat, shop and watch others exert their brainpower or their sporting prowess. It need not cost the earth, either.
Book it: Funway Holidays has three nights at Boston’s 2.5-star Midtown Hotel for £529pp, including Norwegian flights from Gatwick, travelling March 3-6, 2017. funway4agents.co.uk