I stop my bike along Boston Harbor and take a deep, long inhale of the fresh sea breeze that flows off the water. Immediately, I am transported from the energetic urban life of the city to a small New England town. I look out at the view along the waterway and see historic brownstones, modern-day complexes, students hopping on and off bikes, and same-sex couples strolling alongside straight couples. The Boston of today is the culmination of nearly 400 years of breaking boundaries. From colonist revolts to LGBT rights, this city has embodied the ideals and aspirations of America since pre-America.
With Harvard’s founding in 1636, Boston quickly became a hub for American intellect and a breeding ground for the American Revolution. Famous Sons of Liberty (Whigs) and Harvard graduates like Samuel Adams planted the seeds for the eight-year war with England when, on December 16, 1773, they encouraged Boston’s residents to take part in one of the first major acts of rebellion, the Boston Tea Party. Since the American Revolution, the city has become a beacon of progressivism and has welcomed people with open arms.
This legacy of Boston as a center of progressive thought and liberal education has continued since the 17th century. With Harvard University, Boston College, Boston University, Emerson, Berklee College of Music, and dozens of other universities calling the city home, a highly educated and young population is at the center of what makes Boston unique. This is a college town on a large scale, and a traveler’s experience can change depending on whether school is in session or not. A major pull factor for many is the relative youthfulness of the city. Coeds cram pubs, spread their books at coffee shops, purchase trendy outfits at boutiques, read in the parks, and reap the benefits of a city that has been building great minds for centuries.