Forget about footwork

Before or after you make your name in marathon history, take it easy with these tours and attractions in historic Boston

By Shira Springer
Globe Staff / April 18, 2010

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The Boston Marathon runner’s dilemma: In town to run 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to Boston, you want to see more than the marathon course. Trouble is, months of training could be ruined by hours traipsing around the city before the race. Then, once you cross the finish line, you might be too exhausted and too sore to visit sights.

So, what’s a runner or those accompanying one to do? With well-chosen tours and attractions, runners can take part in sports history on Patriots Day and take a leisurely look at other Boston history on another day. There won’t be enough time to see and do everything, but it doesn’t take much to get a sense of the city beyond that well-worn route that ends on Boylston Street.

With the exception of Boston Gliders Segway Adventures, the following tours and attractions are located or depart no more than eight-tenths of a mile from the race expo at the Hynes Convention Center (where runners must pick up bib numbers). Segway Adventures is a 12-minute taxi ride away, or 20 minutes on public transportation.

No tour takes longer than 80 minutes, though some ask for reservations or advance ticket purchases. No attraction requires lots of walking. And nothing except time spent on a Segway involves lots of standing on your feet.

Duck Tours (0.4 miles from race expo) At the wheel of amphibious vehicles, Duck Tours drivers brave the streets of Boston and the waters of the Charles River. The 80-minute tour passes many of the city’s historical and cultural landmarks — Bunker Hill, Boston Common, Cheers, Old North Church, Quincy Market, the TD Garden where the Bruins and Celtics play, the State House. Along the way, visitors see Boston and Cambridge from a different perspective. “Even though Boston is known as America’s greatest walking city, Boston Duck tours will bring you to areas you can’t reach by foot, namely the middle of the Charles River,’’ said marketing director Bob Schwartz. Best of all, runners can sit back and enjoy the view. 53 Huntington Ave. (Prudential Center departure), 617-267-DUCK,, adults $31, students, seniors, military $27, children ages 3-11 $21, under 3 $6

Fenway Park Tours (0.8 miles) Scoring a ticket to a Red Sox game over marathon weekend can be difficult, if not impossible. And the friendly confines of Fenway Park leave fans little room to stretch their legs. Not ideal for runners pre- or post-race. But the 50-minute, history-filled ballpark tour lets visitors into the park for a baseball fix. The tour features stops at the Green Monster, the press box, and the fa mous red Ted Williams seat. (It marks the longest measurable home run hit inside Fenway — a 502-foot blast by Williams.) “Fans are going to walk away with more knowledge about the Red Sox and the history of the ballpark than when they came in,’’ said Marcita Thompson, assistant director of Fenway Enterprises. Tours depart every hour on the hour and tickets are sold on a first-come, first-served basis. 4 Yawkey Way, 617-226-6666,, adults $12, seniors $11, 3-15 $10 Mapparium (0.3 miles) Runners appreciate a good map. The Mapparium at the Mary Baker Eddy Library showcases a map like no other: a three-story, painted-glass globe with the world as it looked in 1935. Visitors walk onto a bridge in the middle of the correctly-proportioned globe where one inch equals 22 miles. Tours give a brief history of the Mapparium and trivia (the attraction comprises 608 glass panels). Then, there is a sound-and-light show with more history and quotes from world figures. Since it is made of glass, noise bounces around the room and amplifies in unique ways. Tours last 15 minutes and depart every 20 minutes. 200 Massachusetts Ave., 617-450-7000,, adults $6, seniors, students with ID, military, 6-17 $4, under 6 free

Boston Athletic Association Headquarters (0.6 miles) If 26.2 miles are not enough for a runner’s high, more can be found at the BAA headquarters in exhibits of rarely seen treasures. Old trophies. Shoes worn by past winners. Historically significant bib numbers. “Many runners consider a trip to Boston in April a pilgrimage and for some that may mean a visit to the BAA,’’ said executive director Guy Morse. “Our archive and exhibit space showcases a few of the moments which distinguish our marathon from any other race in the world.’’ The headquarters reopen to visitors April 22. Call ahead for appointments to view memorabilia. Not far from here, visitors can stop at the monument commemorating the 100th Boston Marathon (1996) and the tortoise and hare statues honoring all participants. Both are located in Copley Square in front of Trinity Church. BAA Headquarters, 40 Trinity Place, 4th floor, 617-236-1652,, free

Top of the Hub’s Skywalk Observatory (459 feet) From the observatory perched 50 floors above Back Bay, visitors can see west to Mount Wachusett, east to Marblehead, north to Mount Washington, and south to Cape Cod on a clear day. Try to trace the marathon route from Hopkinton, locate Boston landmarks, or just watch the traffic below. An audio tour helps make sense of the landscape, while exhibits provide historical and architectural information. Food with a view is available two floors above the observatory at the Top of the Hub restaurant. New England clam chowder and Boston cream pie are on the menu, of course. 800 Boylston St., 617-859-0648,, adults $12, seniors, college students w/school ID $10, 12 and under $8

Old Town Trolley Tours (Prudential Skywalk stop 0.1 miles) Seventeen stops offer something for every interest, from academic detours in Cambridge to Brahmin history on Beacon Hill to shopping at Copley Place. Visitors ride as much as they want or spend as long as they want at any stop, then reboard when ready. Buy tickets online and inside the Prudential Center, 617-269-7150,, adults $36, seniors, students, military $33, 3-12 $13, under 3 free. Tickets purchased online are less expensive.

Boston Gliders Segway Adventures (departure 2.4 miles) For runners who finish with legs and feet that can handle standing for long periods of time, a Segway ride is “a unique way to enjoy the city at a pedestrian level,’’ said Allan Danley, director of operations. Segway operation requires little movement besides slight shifts in weight forward or backward. Tours run one to three hours. The one-hour tour features Boston Harbor and attractions in the Seaport District. On a three-hour tour, riders travel 22 miles and see most of the city, including the Back Bay, Theater District, and North End. Tours start with 20-minute training sessions. 73/75 Commercial St., 866-611-9838,, $60-$125

Swan Boats (0.8 miles) The Swan Boats have plied the waters of the Public Garden since 1877, offering a welcome break from the city’s hustle and bustle. The scenic, 15-minute ride takes visitors around the garden’s lagoon. Large, fiberglass swans conceal pedals that propel the water craft by paddle wheel. Benches lined up in front of the super-sized swans can accommodate up to 20 passengers per ride. Purchase tickets at the Swan Boat dock. The boats do not operate in rainy, windy, or extremely hot weather. Enter the Public Garden on Boylston or Arlington streets, 617-522-1966,, adults $2.75, seniors $2, 2-15 $1.50.

Shira Springer can be reached at

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