Saturday, September 5, 2009

Salem, Boston, Salem - a great excursion

We had a plan today. The plan was to take the Salem Ferry into Boston, switch vessels to the New England Aquarium Whale Watch, and head out to Stellwagen Bank for an afternoon of stellar whale watching. We had visions of humpbacks and minke whales dancing in our heads. Bright blue skies, and fairly gentle seas rolling ahead of us.

Unfortunately, a hundred or so other people shared our plan and our vision, and by the time we arrived in Boston to buy our whale watch tickets - they were sold out.

There's a moral to this story, which you've probably figured out already, and it is: Buy tickets online, in advance.

We're a resilient bunch, though, so we adjusted. Our Ferry ride into Boston was great fun. We'd packed a picnic lunch and ate it on board, augmenting our sandwiches and fruit with sodas and candy from the snack bar. We took the 12:00 Ferry (planning to catch the 2:00 PM whale watch), and arrived at Long Wharf North in Boston right on time, at 1:00 PM.

It didn't take long to readjust our itinerary when we learned there were no tickets for the whale watch. We were standing at the foot of the New England Aquarium, so we shifted directions and ventured inside. Put our sweatshirts and jackets (it's 15 degrees cooler out on the water, and we were prepared) in a rented locker ($2.00), and started off on an exploration of rays, turtles, sea jellies, penguins, and fur seals.

I should add hear that my family is very familiar with the New England Aquarium, so we did not
do the entire Ocean Tank. We headed straight outside to the New Balance Marine Mammal
exhibit, which opened last month. There are four resident fur seals, and we were impressed with
their new habitat and the exhibit in general. We joined the crowd for a fur seal training demonstration, and I, for one, was impressed that the fur seals in residents seem to have better teeth-brushing habits than my children.

After fur seals and penguins, we crossed over to the IMAX theatre and saw the 45-minute, 3-D, feature, Under the Sea, which we all enjoyed.

From the aquarium we crossed the Rose Kennedy Greenway and did a pass through Faneuil Hall, stopping to watch the acts of two buskers. The first entertainer was on his last trick - standing on a board on top of a ball juggling household objects including a toilet plunger. We didn't actually see him do the trick, but just standing on the ball holding the objects was enough for us to give him a tip. We saw more of the second entertainer - a yo-yo aficionado who was talented and funny.

Street performers at Faneuil Hall are free and part of the experience of Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market. It's important to note (and they don't really let you forget) that the performers are not paid by anyone except the audience. So, if you are entertained it is good form to put a few dollars into the hat.

At this point we had our eyes on the 5:10 ferry back to Salem, so we stopped at Joe's American Bar & Grill for a quick snack, gave the kids 5 minutes to play on the playground at Christopher Columbus Park, and ventured back to the Ferry landing at Long Wharf North.

The trip back to Salem was as smooth as the trip in had been. We passed two freighters and a cruise ship, which was exciting, not to mention the normal boat traffic going into and out of Boston Harbor.

An excursion to Boston via the Salem Ferry is a great addition to a multi-night visit to Salem. It's also a perfect staycation / daycation excursion for people who live in the region.

Weather and seas permitting, we will try the whale watch tomorrow. I'll let you know how it goes.

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