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"Down by the river, down by the banks of the River Charles (aww that's where it's happening baby)
That's where ye'll find me, along with the lovers, muggers, and thieves (aww, but they're cool people really)
Oh I love that dirty water, oh, Boston, you're my home"
— "Dirty Water" by The Standellsnote 
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Boston is the largest city in Massachusetts and New England, the capital city of Massachusetts, and one of the oldest cities in North America, having been founded by John Winthrop in 1630. Along with New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C., it is one of the five major cities of the Northeastern United States. Ironically, named in honour of a bucolic country town in Lincolnshire, England, which has long been outstripped by its far more famous colony in terms of size, familiarity, and global importance. Boston, England, now only appears on TV (regularly) in "cops-with-cameras" shows as an example of English lawlessness and bad driving.

Boston played a critical, perhaps the key, role in getting The American Revolution off the ground. Boston spent the better part of a decade forming mobs against British authorities, first to protest various taxes, then to protest the presence of British forces sent to enforce said taxes (the Boston Massacre, Boston Tea Party, etc.), eventually culminating in the forming of militias and the start of all-out warfare before any of the other colonies had signed on to the whole "independence" thing. (The city is still littered with memorials and tourist attractions based around the colonial/Revolution era to this day.) After independence, Boston was the third-largest city in the new nation and remained one of the biggest for the next two centuries. Today, it ranks #21 in population among American cities, though that's a bit misleading—its metro area is #11.

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Boston is infamous for aggressive drivers and a multitude of twisty one-way streets that make no sense in navigating (see here.) The former is less true than the latter, although the difficulty of getting around does encourage aggressive driving. The irregular street patterns can be blamed in part on the fact that Boston was originally built on a multi-lobed peninsula, with land gradually reclaimed all around it: in the colonial era, the only way out by land was through what is now known as Washington Street (not to be confused with two other streets in outlying parts of Boston with the same name), and the Back Bay (one of the few neighborhoods designed around a rectangular street grid) wasn't filled in until the mid-19th century. (Charlestown and South Boston were likewise peninsulas, while East Boston was a group of islands.) "Interesting" road design notwithstanding, Boston's streets are still easier to navigate than London's.

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That said, Boston's city center is quite walkable and perhaps best enjoyed on foot or bike; downtown is really not that large and there are many wide tree-lined sidewalks. If you can walk across EPCOT Center, you can handle the Freedom Trail, the city's most popular walking tour. Just a warning though, you will probably want to visit in summer. Real Life New England winters aren't always as pretty as fiction depicts, though there are mild years as well as bad ones. They also aggravate the driving problem by causing lots of potholes. Alternatively, if you want to avoid both the snow and the muggy summer heat, late spring or autumn would be your best bet.

Public transportation mostly worksnote , but it's also very old and under a lot of debt (due to politics, mismanagement, etc.), so breakdowns occasionally happen. There is also the caveat that the last trains run at sometime between half past midnight and 1 am on weekdays, which is a problem because last call is at 2, though weekend hours go to 3 am.

Speaking of locals, Hollywood depictions to the contrary, they are generally very nice people. Just remember not to bring up the New York Yankees, the Los Angeles Lakers, the Montreal Canadiens, the Detroit Red Wings and Pistons, or LeBron James. Otherwise, thou shalt know the true meaning of Serious Business.(It's also not advisable to talk about paahking one's caah in Haahvahd Yaahd, let alone actually try to park there, which is a good way to get arrested or at least towed. And, whatever you do, never ever bring up Charles Stuart...) Boston is a devout sports city, with major and historic teams in all four major sports... sort of. The Red Sox were a strong team in the early 20th century (including winning the first World Series), went through an 86-year championship drought, and rose to become a dominant team in the early 21st century. The Celtics are tied for the most titles in NBA history, most coming from a truly absurd eight-year championship streak in the '60s. The Bruins are the oldest American hockey team and are consistent contenders. Finally, the Patriots started out in the city before moving to Foxborough, which is slightly closer to Providence than Boston, and the team represents the New England area as a whole (not that it stops Bostonites from claiming all of the team's Super Bowl wins).

Outside of the professional sports-team rivalries, Boston is still noteworthy in sport, for hosting the oldest annually raced marathon on Earth, the notorious 26.3-mile Boston Marathon. Why notorious? In a word, topography. Although the race is generally downhill, the point at which most runners are just about to "hit the wall" (run out of stamina) is right at the start of a long uphill stretch (part of which is, appropriately, called "heartbreak hill"). This is quite possibly the origin of the phrase "Boston Strong", a phrase which gained new meaning after the 2013 bombing near the finish line.

Another item of note is that Boston contains more colleges and universities than any other city in the world, and even more if you include Cambridge, its neighbor on the other side of the Charles River and the oldest college town in the United States, home to both Harvard University and MIT. Word to the wise: do NOT mix up Boston University and Boston College. It will not end well.note  Also note that those colleges include the Berklee College of Music and the New England Conservatory; as a result Boston has a disproportionate number of musicians with a connection to the city across a surprising number of genres. It is also home to a wide variety of world-famous live music venues, namely the Paradise, the Sinclair, the Royale, the Brighton Music Hall, and the Middle East (for larger locations) and P.A.'s Lounge, Great Scott, ONCE, and O'Brien's (for smaller locations). Musically, its calling cards include indie rock, street punk (famously shown by the Dropkick Murphys, but the Street Dogs, the Ducky Boys, and the ska-punk Mighty Mighty Bosstones definitely represent Boston), post-punk, and new wave (namely The Cars, Pixies, Mission of Burma, and Galaxie 500), hardcore (namely Slapshot, Sam Black Church, Converge, Overcast, and Vein), and a small but dedicated hip-hop scene (namely Gang Starr, Ed O.G., 7L & Esoteric, Mr. Lif, and Slaine).

Nicknamed "the Hub", as in "The Hub of the Universe", which gives you an idea what Bostonians think of their city. You can find a large metal plaque literally engraved with Hub of the Universe in Downtown Crossing, or at least you could. Currently fruit vendors' trucks cover it up.note  It is also sometimes called the hub of the New England road network, as anyone who's ever tried to plot the least zigzaggy course between Providence, Rhode Island and Portland, Maine can attest.note  Trying to figure out how to make the same trip by train is even more mind-bending, because the train tracks going northward begin at North Station, while the tracks going Everywhere Else begin/end at South Station, and the two sections of track don't physically meet,note  which means you're stuck using the T to get from one station to the othernote 

In recent years, due to generous tax credits offered by the city and the state of Massachusetts after most of The Departed was filmed in New York City, many more major-studio movies have been set and produced in and around Boston. These films have given rise to their own clichés, which Seth Meyers adroitly parodies in his 2016 fake trailer, Boston Accents.

See also Southies and Hollywood New England for more information. The latter is more often than not averted in real life.


Notable Pop Culture Things From or Set in Boston

    open/close all folders 

    Comic Books 

  • Post-Crisis on Infinite Earths, this was Wonder Woman's stomping grounds for about seven or eight years, under the tenure of George Perez and William Messner-Loebs in Wonder Woman (1987). An incomplete discussion of how it stacks up to the real Boston can be found here.
  • This is the birthplace of Marvel superheroine Carol Danvers, currently known as Captain Marvel.
  • Beast has taken to living in the Boston area as a lecturer at Harvard, and notably sang the praises of Veggie Galaxy (which is very much a real place, and is a revered Cambridge institution among vegetarians and vegans).

     Comic Strips 

     Film - Live-Action 
  • 21 had scenes filmed at Harvard Medical School and the Christian Science Center. MIT, where the main characters attend school, doesn't allow filming on campus, so Boston University stood in for it.
  • Black Mass
  • Blown Away
  • The Boondock Saints
  • The Bostonians was, not surprisingly, filmed mostly in Boston and Harvard University. Some footage of an organist playing at length was filmed in England. A second segment featuring a pipe organ nearer to the end of the movie was filmed in Troy, NY, but the organ heard playing was actually the one in Mechanics Hall, Worcester.
  • The Departed
  • The Equalizer
  • Fever Pitch: This was an Americanization of a British movie about football, which itself was a fictionalization of an autobiographical book relating to the Arsenal Football Club.
  • The (largely unnecessary) modern-day Bookends in the otherwise terrific The Forbidden Kingdom are set in a wildly inaccurate version of Boston. Probably because they had a list of American cities with a sizable Chinese-American population, and Boston is where the dart landed.
  • The Friends of Eddie Coyle is an adaptation of a novel written by a Boston lawyer and shot entirely in the city.
  • Glory, as it deals with the historically accurate 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment.
  • Gone Baby Gone
  • The Firm opens with a montage of Boston; appropriate since the main character has just graduated from Harvard Law School.
  • Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019): The climactic Behemoth Battle between Godzilla, Ghidorah, Rodan and Mothra is taking place within the city, with many of its landmarks such as Fenway Park stadium and 200 Clarendon Street building are either damaged or destroyed during the battle.
  • Good Will Hunting
  • The Great Debaters, starring Denzel Washington, was partly filmed at Harvard's Sanders Hall.
  • Hocus Pocus takes place in the infamous Boston suburb of Salem, fitting its witchcraft theme.
  • The Last Hurrah starring Spencer Tracy as Mayor Frank Skeffington, a fictionalized version of Mayor Curley. Though it takes place in 'a large New England town,' it was filmed in California.
  • Legally Blonde takes place mostly at Harvard Law School in Cambridge and other parts of the Boston area.
  • Mystic River
  • One Flight Down was filmed in Filenes Basement in 1921. A documentary film, Voices From The Basement was also taped there in 2004, and aired on local PBS outlet WGBH in 2010.
  • Patriots Day
  • Proud Mary
  • R.I.P.D.
  • Shutter Island was filmed in many towns neighboring Boston (including Taunton, Medford, and Nahant). Some of the island scenes were filmed on Peddocks Island, part of the Boston Harbor Island system, albeit with a healthy dose of CGI.
  • Six Bridges To Cross, which itself was based on a multi-million dollar robbery in Boston's North End (at the time, the greatest robbery in American history).
  • Most of the action in The Social Network takes place in and around Harvard University — although the scenes in question were filmed at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. (Harvard has generally not allowed movies to film on-campus since Love Story in the 1970s.)
  • Spotlight
  • Surrogates is set in a near-future (but still very recognizable) Boston.
  • The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
  • The Verdict.
  • The Women — No, wait, that was filmed in Boston but took place in New York.

     Literature 

     Live Action TV 

     Magazines 

     Music 
  • 7L & Esoteric
  • Abiotic (originally from Florida, and Matt Mendez still lives there, but John Matos and Kilian Duarte live in Greater Boston, while Anthony Lusk-Simone lives less than an hour away in Fitchburg and owns a studio there; like Job for a Cowboy, they have essentially become a transplant to New England)
  • Abnormality (from Marlborough, but everyone accepts them as a Boston band)
  • Aerosmith (still known today as "the Bad Boys from Boston")
  • All Pigs Must Die
  • Anal Cunt (from Allston, which is a Boston neighborhood)
  • Arsis (technically from Virginia, but James Malone and Mike van Dyne are Berklee alumni and formed the band while on Christmas vacation, and a lot of their early shows were in the Boston area)
  • Bane (technically from Worcester, but no one in the Boston hardcore scene really cares)
  • Big Shug
  • Blood for Blood
  • Boston (natch)
  • The Cars (technically started by two guys from Cleveland, but embraced as Boston's own)
  • Converge (Salem, but got famous in Boston)
  • Death Ray Vision (also see Overcast; the members are scattered throughout Mass, but they are generally considered a Boston band)
  • Donna Summer
  • Dream Theater (formed in Boston when Petrucci, Myung, and Portnoy were all attending Berklee, and Mike Mangini was a longtime faculty member at Berklee)
  • Dropkick Murphys - founded in nearby Quincy, perform in Boston each St. Patrick's Day; parts of the 2002 and 2010 concerts were released as live albums.
    • They have also performed on floats in the victory parades of all the Boston-based sports teams (the Patriots, Bruins, Celtics, and Red Sox).
  • Dysentery (Waltham)
  • Ed O.G.
  • Extreme (Malden)
  • Gang Green
  • Gang Starr
  • Great American Ghost
  • Grief
  • Have Heart wrote a song about the city, called 'Bostons'. They're from New Bedford (and played their reunion shows in Worcester, which we will talk about in a minute), but they're considered part of the Boston hardcore scene, and rather famously played the biggest hardcore show of all time when they managed to draw over ten thousand people in one day to just one of their two reunion shows in 2019.
  • Hivesmasher (Lowell)
  • Jerry's Kids (Braintree)
  • Kreators
  • Lemon Demon (creator Neil Cicierega grew up in Plymouth, but currently lives in Somerville)
  • Mr. Lif
  • New Kids on the Block
  • Only Living Witness
  • The Dresden Dolls
  • Parasitic Extirpation (Originally based mostly out of New Hampshire, now based out of Woburn)
  • The Pixies
  • Ska-punk bands The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and the Allstonians
  • Dinosaur Jr. (actually from Amherst, but moved to Boston when their career began)
  • Augustana isn't from Boston, but they wrote a song about going there to start a new life.
    • If they count, then, for great justice, so do the Standells. They love "da rivuh Chawlz" after all.
  • The J. Geils Band
  • James Taylor
  • Jim's Big Ego. They even have a song about it called "Boston Band", a commentary on the Boston music scene in general.
  • Mission of Burma
  • Morphine (Cambridge)
  • New Edition
  • Overcast (also see Death Ray Vision, their Spiritual Successor)
  • Pathogenic (Lowell)
  • Passion Pit (also Berklee alumni)
  • Powerman 5000 (Spider's family is from Haverhill)
  • Ramming Speed (now based out of Richmond, VA)
  • Razormaze (now based out of Austin, TX)
  • The Red Chord (Revere, later based out of New Hampshire)
  • Revocation (Dave Davidson is a Berklee alumnus and was born and raised there, but currently lives in Brooklyn)
  • Sam Black Church
  • Scalpel (Attleboro)
  • Scaphism
  • Sexcrement (Framingham)
  • Siege (Weymouth)
  • Slaine
  • Slapshot
  • Soul Remnants (Littleton)
  • Special Teamz (consists of Ed O.G., Slaine, and Jaysaun of Kreators)
  • Billy Squier (yet another Berklee alumnus)
  • Donna Summer was born and raised in Boston.
  • They Might Be Giants - Founding members John Flansburgh and John Linnell are both originally from nearby Lincoln, and they still occasionally lapse into the accent (for example, "A Self Called Nowhere" and "Wicked Little Critta").
  • Til Tuesday — As a matter of fact, the video for "Voices Carry" was filmed in the Strand Theater in Dorchester, one of the many Boston neighborhoods
  • Unearth (Wakefield)
  • Vanna
  • Vein
  • Wargasm
  • A Warm Puppy — Psychedelic band from the 1960s

     Professional Wrestling 

     Radio 
  • NPR's Car Talk, one of the rare Real Life(ish) items that does not avert Hahvahd Yahd In My Cah. This is especially funny, given that their studio is right near Harvard! And is about cars! (The Magliozzi brothers are actually MIT grads.)

     Tabletop Games 
  • Mage: The Awakening uses Boston (and the rest of Massachusetts) as a sample city for gameplay, complete with a strong historical power base in Salem, some horrible things happening up in the abandoned Danvers asylum, and a small cabal that watches over Northampton and is keen to do their own thing.

    Stand-Up Comedy 
  • Parkyarkarkus (Harry Einstein), a stand-up comedian and radio star from the 1930s and 1940s.

     Theatre 

     Video Games 
  • Assassin's Creed III has a large section set in American Revolution-era Boston.
  • Tony Hawk's Underground 2 has Boston as the first stop on the World Destruction Tour.
  • Fallout 4 takes place in Boston, showcasing notable landmarks such as Fenway Park, the Bunker Hill Memorial and State House in their post-apocalyptic splendor. It's also sports a noticeable amount of (mostly) intact sky-scrapers due to the fact that the one bomb that was suppose to hit it flew off course.
  • The Last of Us' second chapter takes place in Boston, and is especially notable for taking a path through the city that's logical on foot.

     Webcomics 

     Western Animation 
  • Aqua Teen Hunger Force is worth a mention here. Though the series itself is set in New Jersey and has nothing to do with Boston, it's notorious for being indirectly involved in a Real Life bomb scare in the city with a bizarre ad campaign. Said campaign involved planting Lite-Brites bearing the image of the Mooninintes in odd places in major cities—one of these was spotted under a highway overpass in Boston and mistaken for a bomb. Said bomb scare is not to be confused with the actual Boston Marathon bombing that occurred in 2013.
  • Jackie Chan Adventures: In "Tale Of The Demon Tail", the portal of Hsi Wu, the Sky Demon, was discovered at Fenway Park.
  • Ultimate Spider-Man (2012): Spider-Man moves to Boston and becomes its premier superhero, when he has enough of New York chasing him when Jameson offered $10 million to whoever can unmask him.
  • Underdog: While not having the original series take place in Boston (the live-action movie was filmed in Providence, RI, though), a one-off radio adaption in 1999 (produced by co-creator W. Watts Biggers, helping to promote his "Victory over Violence" campaign, with Tom Ellis, longtime Boston newscaster narrating) had Simon Bar Sinister develop a new "Switchpitch" baseball to turn positive people negative and become king of Boston; his plans are foiled as usual by Underdog and Sweet Polly Purebred.

     Famous Bostonians 
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