Boston Travel Guide

Geography

Boston has an area of — (54.0%) of land and (46.0%) of water—and is the country's third most densely populated city that is not a part of a larger city's metropolitan area. This is largely attributable to the rarity of annexation by New England towns. The city's official elevation, as measured at Logan International Airport, is 19 ft (5.8 m) above sea level. The highest point in Boston is Bellevue Hill at above sea level, and the lowest point is at sea level. Situated near the Atlantic Ocean, Boston is the only state capital in the contiguous United States with an ocean coastline.

Boston is surrounded by the "Greater Boston" region and is contiguously bordered by the cities and towns of Winthrop, Revere, Chelsea, Everett, Somerville, Cambridge, Newton, Brookline, Needham, Dedham, Canton, Milton, and Quincy. The Charles River separates Boston from Watertown and the majority of Cambridge, and the mass of Boston from its own Charlestown neighborhood. To the east lie Boston Harbor and the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area (which includes part of the city's territory, specifically Calf Island, Gallops Island, Great Brewster Island, Green Island, Little Brewster Island, Little Calf Island, Long Island, Lovells Island, Middle Brewster Island, Nixes Mate, Outer Brewster Island, Rainsford Island, Shag Rocks, Spectacle Island, The Graves, and Thompson Island). The Neponset River forms the boundary between Boston's southern neighborhoods and the city of Quincy and the town of Milton. The Mystic River separates Charlestown from Chelsea and Everett, and Chelsea Creek and Boston Harbor separate East Boston from Boston proper.

The city's water supply, from the Quabbin and Wachusett Reservoirs to the west, is one of the very few in the country so pure as to satisfy federal quality standards without filtration.

Cityscape

Boston is sometimes called a "city of neighborhoods" because of the profusion of diverse subsections; the city government's Office of Neighborhood Services has officially designated 23 neighborhoods.

More than two-thirds of inner Boston's modern land area did not exist when the city was founded, but was "made" by filling over the centuries, notably with earth from the leveling or lowering of Boston's three original hills (the "Trimountain", after which Tremont Street is named), and with gravel brought by train from Needham to fill the Back Bay. Downtown and its immediate surroundings consists largely of low-rise (often Federal style and Greek Revival) masonry buildings, interspersed with modern highrises, notably in the Financial District, Government Center, and South Boston. Back Bay includes many prominent landmarks, such as the Boston Public Library, Christian Science Center, Copley Square, Newbury Street, and New England's two tallest buildings—the John Hancock Tower and the Prudential Center.

Near the John Hancock Tower is the old John Hancock Building with its prominent illuminated beacon, the color of which forecasts the weather. Smaller commercial areas are interspersed among areas of single-family homes and wooden/brick multi-family row houses. The South End Historic District is the largest surviving contiguous Victorian-era neighborhood in the US. The geography of downtown and South Boston was particularly impacted by the Central Artery/Tunnel Project (known unofficially as the "Big Dig"), which allowed for the removal of the unsightly elevated Central Artery and the incorporation of new green spaces and open areas.

Parks and recreation

Boston Common, located near the Financial District and Beacon Hill, is the oldest public park in the United States. Along with the adjacent Boston Public Garden, it is part of the Emerald Necklace, a string of parks designed by Frederick Law Olmsted to encircle the city. The Emerald Necklace includes Jamaica Pond, Boston's largest body of freshwater, and Franklin Park, the city's largest park and home of the Franklin Park Zoo. Another major park is the Esplanade, located along the banks of the Charles River. The Hatch Shell, an outdoor concert venue, is located adjacent to the Charles River Esplanade. Other parks are scattered throughout the city, with the major parks and beaches located near Castle Island; in Charlestown; and along the Dorchester, South Boston, and East Boston shorelines.

Boston's park system is well-reputed nationally. In its 2013 ParkScore ranking, The Trust for Public Land reported that Boston was tied with Sacramento and San Francisco for having the third-best park system among the 50 most populous US cities. ParkScore ranks city park systems by a formula that analyzes the city’s median park size, park acres as percent of city area, the percent of residents within a half-mile of a park, spending of park services per resident, and the number of playgrounds per 10,000 residents.

Climate

Boston has a continental climate with some maritime influence, and using the coldest month (January) isotherm, the city lies within the transition zone from a humid subtropical climate (Köppen Cfa) to a humid continental climate (Köppen Dfa), although the suburbs north and west of the city are significantly colder in winter and solidly fall under the latter categorisation. Summers are typically warm to hot, rainy, and humid, while winters oscillate between periods of cold rain and snow, with cold temperatures. Spring and fall are usually mild, with varying conditions dependent on wind direction and jet stream positioning. Prevailing wind patterns that blow offshore minimize the influence of the Atlantic Ocean.

The hottest month is July, with a mean temperature of . The coldest month is January, with a mean of . Periods exceeding in summer and below in winter are not uncommon but rarely extended, with about 13 days per year seeing the former extreme, and the most recent subzero reading occurring on January 24, 2011. The city averages roughly 95 nights per year with low temperatures at or below freezing. Extremes have ranged from on February 9, 1934, up to on July 4, 1911.

Boston's coastal location on the North Atlantic moderates its temperature, but makes the city very prone to Nor'easter weather systems that can produce much snow and rain. The city averages of precipitation a year, with of snowfall a year. Snowfall increases dramatically as one goes inland away from the city (especially north and west of the city)—away from the moderating influence of the ocean. Most snowfall occurs from December through March. There is usually little or no snow in April and November, and snow is rare in May and October.

Fog is fairly common, particularly in spring and early summer, and the occasional tropical storm or hurricane can threaten the region, especially in early autumn. Due to its situation along the North Atlantic, the city is often subjected to sea breezes, especially in the late spring, when water temperatures are still quite cold and temperatures at the coast can be more than colder than a few miles inland, sometimes dropping by that amount near midday.

Thunderstorms occur from May to September, that are occasionally severe with large hail, damaging winds and heavy downpours. Although downtown Boston has never been struck by a violent tornado, the city itself has experienced many tornado warnings. Damaging storms are more common to areas north, west, and northwest of the city.

source: Wikipedia

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