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With a long list of historical sites, Boston has worthwhile tourist attractions on almost every street. However, Beantown has plenty to offer to those looking for something outside the box as well. From the Mapparium to a visit with Boston’s most famous corpses, here’s a look at the top unusual things to do in the city.
Marked across the entire length of the Harvard Bridge, which connects Boston to Cambridge over the Charles River, is a unique set of measurements known as a “smoot.” The measurement started as a prank in 1958 when MIT’s Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity had freshman pledge Oliver Smoot lie down across the entirety of the bridge to measure its length by using his height. The smoot, which measures five feet, seven inches (1.7 meters), has become the unofficially official unit of measurement for the bridge, which runs a total of 364.4 smoots plus one ear. Visitors can walk the full bridge, also commonly known as the Mass Ave Bridge, and see brightly painted measurements on the deck every 10 smoots.
Underneath Boston’s City Hall Plaza sits the remains of America’s oldest subway tunnel, the Tremont Street Subway, which opened as the country’s first subway line in 1897. Between new lines and better stations popping up, this subway line was eventually abandoned in 1963. Old structures and relics, including signs of the old Scollay Square station, were discovered in the tunnels when the city temporarily opened it for tours during Boston Preservation Month. While no tours are scheduled in the near future, you can still learn about the tunnels and their history through city historians.
For one weekend each summer, the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway transforms into an eccentric art gallery. It brings together theater, music, sculptures, dance, interactive art and much more into one space. During the FIGMENT Boston weekend, artists across any discipline (meaning no experience required) can install a piece of artwork or put on any performance on the Greenway, as long as it “somehow engages audience participation.” In the past, projects have included mazes, a “Silly Walk Zone,” interactive dance routines, motion-detected audio soundscapes, water games and more. The event is free.
For food and history lovers, Captain Jackson’s Historic Chocolate Shop gives visitors a chance to taste and experience what chocolate was like in the 18th century. Located on the Old North Church & Historic Site, the shop is named after Captain Newark Jackson, a mariner who operated a colonial chocolate shop in Boston’s North End in the 1740s. The staff dresses up in period costumes and provide an educational experience on how chocolate was made in colonial times as well as its history in the city. Visitors can sample the chocolate through the tour and also take home American Heritage Chocolate made only from ingredients used in the 18th century.