With a history going back nearly 400 years, you can imagine how many fun facts about Boston have emerged over that time!
Some of these fun facts about Boston are so obscure that many Bostonians aren’t even aware of them.
For example, did you know the colors representing the subway lines in Boston have their own meanings? Or that Boston is the only place in the world where a boat can sail under a train that’s going under a vehicle while driving under a plane? (an important distinction, for sure)
And that’s only the beginning…Boston still has many weird laws on its books that date back to when the Puritans governed Massachusetts. Plus, it’s the place where many “firsts” occurred in the United States.
Fun facts about Boston
Here are some of the more interesting, unusual, and strange facts about Boston:
The Red Sox have a patent on the color Fenway Green
It’s used as the color of the stadium and the Green Monster.
For two decades it was against the law for Bostonians to celebrate Christmas
The Pilgrims believed it to be a corrupted holiday so they banned it from 1659-1681.
Much of modern-day Boston used to be underwater
One fun fact about Boston is that before the early 1800s much of what makes up the city of Boston today was fully underwater. It wasn’t until the early 1800s that the city started filling in land along the coast and the modern city started to take form.
The Boston Marathon is the oldest known marathon in the world
Started in 1897, the Boston Marathon is the oldest known marathon to still take place today. It happens on Patriots’ Day, the third Monday in April.
Boston has one of the highest percentages of college students in the United States
There are 35 colleges and universities in the metropolitan area with more than 150,000 students.
The Cheers Bar, made famous by the popular TV show, is based on a real bar called the Bull & Finch Pub in Boston
And visitors can visit the replica of Cheers at 84 Beacon Street.
Fig Newton cookies are named after a Boston suburb
The Fig Newton, named after the city of Newton, was first invented by the Boston-based Kennedy Biscuit Company which frequently named their cookies after local municipalities.
Bostonians play candlepin bowling, not the more common tenpin bowling
The pins in candlepin bowling are more narrow and the balls are smaller than in tenpin. Otherwise, the sports are generally the same. Candlepin bowling was invented in Boston in 1880.
One of the greatest art heists of all time happened in Boston
In 1990, thieves walked away with $100 million in paintings from the Isabella Stewart Gardiner Museum located in Boston.
Fun facts about Boston’s name
Boston’s name isn’t original. And the city has a number of nicknames.
Boston is named after a town in England
A fun fact about Boston is that when The Massachusetts Bay Company settled the city, its most prominent members were originally from Boston, in Lincolnshire, England. So they named their new city after the one they left.
Boston is nicknamed “Beantown” because of the city’s historical association with baked beans
While the exact origin of the nickname Beantown is a little unclear it’s believed to have derived from the popularity of baked beans among Boston’s early residents. A publicity stunt in 1907 with the slogan “You don’t know beans until you come to Boston” also contributed to the nickname being recognized nationally.
Boston is known as the “Cradle of Liberty” because of its prominence in the Revolutionary War.
The Boston Tea Party happened here (see below). Paul Revere warned that the Red Coats were coming as he rode into the night from Boston. And the first shot heard “around the world” was fired in the nearby suburb of Concord which began the Revolutionary War.
Interesting historical facts about Boston
As one of the oldest cities in the United States, Boston has a long and deep history.
Boston’s North End once experienced a deadly molasses flood
In 1919, a storage tank collapsed and more than 2 million gallons of molasses flooded the streets. The damage was extensive and 21 people were killed.
Boston is home to the famous Boston Tea Party
Colonists protested British taxes by throwing tea into the Boston harbor in 1773.
Paul Revere’s house in Boston’s North End is the oldest surviving structure in the city
It was built in 1680 and came under the protection of the Paul Revere Memorial Association in 1907.
Boston had its own witch trials
Most people have heard of the Salem Witch Trials which happened just north of Boston. But Boston had its own trials during the 1600s. Three women were hanged in the city for being accused of being witches.
Fascinating transportation facts about Boston
Boston has some of the most complex and historical infrastructure in the United States.
The colors of the city’s MBTA subway lines have meaning
The Blue Line runs under Boston’s Harbor and along the ocean, the Green Line travels alongside the city’s Emerald Necklace parks, the Red Line travels by crimson-colored Harvard, and the Orange Line runs down Washington Street which was formerly named Orange Street.
Bostonians didn’t have to take a driving test to receive a license until 1920
The state started issuing driver’s licenses and registration plates in 1903 but it wasn’t until 1920 that the city began requiring a test before issuing licenses.
Boston’s Ted Williams Tunnel is the deepest in North America
It runs nearly 90 feet underneath the earth’s surface.
The Zakim Bridge is the widest cable-stayed bridge in the world
The bridge stands at 745 feet over the Charles River. Construction began in 1997 and was completed in 2003. The project cost $115 million.
Boston is the only place in the world where a boat can sail under a train that’s going under a vehicle while driving under a plane.
The Boston University Bridge is where this phenomenon takes place.
“Firsts” that occurred in Boston
As one of the oldest cities in the United States, it’s not surprising Boston is home to many “firsts” in the country. Here are a few:
The first subway system in the United States was built in Boston
The system, known as the “T” which is short for the MBTA, was built in 1897.
Fenway Park is the oldest Major League Baseball stadium
The stadium was built in 1912, substantially rebuilt in 1934, and is still in use today. It’s home to the Boston Red Sox.
Boston’s Public Library was the first large free municipal library in the United States
It was established in 1848 and the original building still stands on Boylston Street.
Boston Common is the oldest public park in the U.S.
It was established in 1634. Boston Common and the neighboring Boston Public Gardens are the most visited outdoor spaces in the city.
The Boston Latin School was the first public school in the country
Founded in 1635, Boston Latin School still serves over 2,400 students in 7th through 12th grade.
The first lighthouse in the U.S. was built in Boston Harbor
It was built in 1716 on Little Brewster Island.
Kathrine Switzer was the first female marathon runner when she ran the Boston Marathon in 1967
Switzer was not allowed to run the race that year and was harassed as she persisted. It took five more years for women to officially be allowed to run the race.
Weird laws in Boston
With a history of nearly 400 years, Boston has some laws that are undoubtedly unusual in our modern times. Here are a few:
“Happy Hours” are against the law
Bars can still sell alcohol during this time. Just don’t call it “Happy Hour”.
Selling alcohol before 10 AM on Sunday is against the law
Stores typically post signs on Sunday mornings reminding customers they aren’t permitted to purchase beer, wine, or spirits until 10 AM.
It’s illegal to snore at night with your windows open
But perfectly fine if your windows are closed.
You can be fined $50 if you yell profanities or curse at a player or professional during a sports event
Needless to say, this law isn’t typically enforced.
You may need a special license to have a goatee
And pay a fee!
It’s technically illegal to take a bath without a doctor’s prescription
But a shower is no problem.
About Kerry Flatley
Kerry Flatley has lived in New England for the past 26 years. She has roots in Maine & Massachusetts, family in New Hampshire, and grew up close to the Connecticut border. She loves all that this region has to offer – the ocean, mountains, islands, history, villages, and cities. When she’s not writing about New England, she’s relaxing at home in the Boston suburbs with her two teenage daughters and husband.