Wheelchair Accessible Weekend in New England
by Jack Mahoney 1997  

Boston Harbor On a three day weekend in Boston and environs, Jack Mahoney, and his wife, Lila, discovered a host of accessible sites to visit.

Our recent trip to New England was a perfect example of trying to cram too much into a short trip. We only had three days, but decided we’d make the most of them. We flew in from Washington D.C. and landed at Boston’s Logan International Airport which proved to be fully accessible including the restrooms.

We picked up our rental car from National Rental Car. I give them high marks for providing us with easy curbside delivery of the car to the terminal. In order to pick up our car on other trips, my wife and I were separated as she had to hop an inaccessible shuttle bus to pick up the car on the edge of the airport then contend with often bizarre traffic routing to return to the terminal and pick me up. We were thrilled and relieved to find National was responsive to our needs.

We headed over to our friend’s accessible home to drop our bags before hitting the sites. First on our list was the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Ave. It’s one block west of Copley Square. The accessible entrance and parking are on Museum Rd. near the West Wing. Hours: Monday and Tuesday 10:00 am - 4:45 pm, Wednesday, Thursday & Friday 10:00 am - 9:45 pm, and Saturday & Sunday 10:00 am - 5:45 pm. To receive an access brochure, call (617) 369-3302. Admission: $10.00.

The entire museum is an accessible delight including: all the galleries (displaying everything from Renoir to Egyptian antiquities), the bathrooms, the gift shop and the cafeteria. We gave ourselves the entire afternoon as there was so much to see there.

By the time we left the museum, it was time for dinner. Bracing ourselves for rush hour traffic and Boston's many one-way streets, we headed for The 19th Century Quincy Market, now called Faneuil Hall Marketplace, a beautiful brick building in the heart of downtown near the Freedom Trail.

Quincy Market, founded in 1826, was Boston's first food market. It closed in the 1950s but was restored beautifully and reopened in 1975. It's chock full of restaurants and shops and a fun place to wander before or after dinner. Unfortunately, all this quaintness doesn't come without cobblestones, but I found it well worth the bumpy ride.

Finding on-street parking (to avoid the costly private lots) was a real challenge. After circling the area for over an hour, we found a questionably legal spot, and headed out in search of food. We settled on an Italian dinner at Il Panino, and were impressed with the quality food and service. An accessible elevator zoomed us to the second floor dining room that overlooks the glittering mall below. Dinners are moderately priced in the $8-$16 range.

The next day we headed north of Boston to visit some of the lovely, coastal villages. Our first stop was Rockport, the type of picturesque town that inspires artists with its ocean views, and New England architecture. This is a beautiful town packed with art galleries and good places to eat. We stopped for coffee and pastries at Helmut’s Strudel (1 step up), then strolled the main area which is very flat and closed to traffic. Unfortunately, many of the shops there have one or more steps, but it’s still worth a stop for the scenic views.

 We continued north on Highway 127 through Gloucester to Salem. This is an incredible coastal drive to take in the fall as the changing leaves put on a spectacular show. Salem (three weeks before Halloween) was ablaze in its finest witchery. The site of the famous witch trials in 1620 obviously gains a lot of revenue from its infamous history. Every corner carries banners of witches on broomsticks and signs that entreat tourists to visit the Witch Museum or take the spooky nighttime tour. We had planned on doing the tour, but the early evening chill got the best of us, so we briefly visited the famous graveyard (one step up, then hard packed dirt) then strolled their cobblestone mall of shops before heading back to Boston.

Back in the city, we drove to Cambridge to visit Harvard Square for dinner and to hit the slew of bookstores. We bought a light meal at Au Bon Pain (completely accessible), an inexpensive sandwich place on the Square. We spent the rest of the evening strolling the streets popping in and out of bookstores, which provided varying degrees of access.

The Duck Boat Tour in BostonOn our last day in Boston, we took the famous 80-minute Duck Tour at the Prudential Center, 101 Huntington Ave., Tel. (617) 723-DUCK. These renovated World War II amphibious vehicles offer a memorable tour of Boston's historic sites before plunging into the Charles River for some panoramic views of the river and the city. Their fully accessible vehicles come equipped with a lift that moves wheelchair users to a top deck accessible spot. We found the tour guides to be warm, witty, welcoming folks. Warm clothes are advisable in the fall as this is an open vehicle and it can get nippy. The tour is $18 and worth every cent. Early reservations are often necessary as the tours sell out fast.

After the tour, we headed into the accessible Prudential Center which houses a great indoor mall of shops and restaurants. We chose burgers at Flamers in the food court, near a pristine unisex accessible bathroom.

The next morning we dashed for our plane vowing this wouldn’t be our last trip to New England.

Interested in visiting other states in the northeast? Check out these toll-free numbers:

Connecticut - (800) 282-6863
Maine - (800) 533-9595
Massachusetts - (800) 227-6277
New York - (800) 225-5697

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