Just walking around town close to Faneuil Hall, I was trampled by tourists. Sure, it is the peak summer season, but it just seemed “monumental”, which reminded me of a recent survey of national destinations. A few weeks ago, neighbor Ann Pistorio handed me a USA Today article referencing a Forbes Traveler national survey of popular tourist destinations. I looked it up online to get the numbers and here it is:

Faneuil Hall ranks as #4 on the list of “America’s Most Visited Tourist Attractions” with 20 million visitors per year.

200908faneuilhallusatodaypicWow, 20 million visitors … right at the entrance of the North End/Waterfront neighborhood. That’s more than DisneyWorld, Niagara Falls and way ahead of the Grand Canyon. The article is a few months old (February 2009), but it’s this time of year that it is so noticeable. Of course, the North End offers such historic attractions as Paul Revere’s House and the Old North Church along the Freedom Trail. The Aquarium and Harborwalk along Boston Harbor are also on every tourist map. So, it’s no mystery why millions of visitors flow through the neighborhood every year.

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The three sites ahead of Faneuil Hall are Times Square, Las Vegas Strip and Washington D.C. National Monuments. So if it Hanover Street seems a little like Times Square … well, it is!

What does this mean? With the Greenway parks now open, the flow of tourists is non-stop. With all these folks already here, why are there so many efforts to “activate” the Greenway? It is also easy to understand the rush to open businesses on Cross Street and put out sidewalk tables in front of every restaurant. Even a Fortune Teller believes enough tourists will want their ‘readings’ just by passing by her 2nd floor walkup on Hanover Street.

One wonders how much more the neighborhood can absorb as the balance shifts away from a place to live and more toward a tourist trap. Can a neighborhood of approximately 12,000 residents survive as a place to live with 20 million visitors flowing through it? Or are we destined to be nothing more than a gelati stop?

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6 COMMENTS

  1. It is understandable to me why the north end of Boston is so popular; it has far more historical significance than any of the other places mentioned. And it is fun, And you can eat in a way that you cannot at DisneyWorld. But it is troubling to think of an over abundance of visitors ruining the ambiance of a lovely old residential community. Maybe further restriction of tourist visiting hours of historical attractions would keep down the street traffic enough for locals to shop and relax. Also vigilant monitoring of new businesses is essential to maintain a dignified character, without the influx of honky tonk attractions.

  2. Matt –

    I’m seriously concerned. I think we should close down Faneuil Hall so we can have a dead city like Pompeii … or Detroit. According to you, this neighborhood is becoming a late night entertainment disctrict and now a tourist trap. When I moved here 10 years ago, my end of Salem Street looked worn down–no, it looked used up. I see nothing but continuous improvement and beautification. I’ll take sidewalk cafes over a liquor store that used to attract savages and homeless people.

    I mean, are we forgetting what these blocks were like 10 years ago? Nasty looking, worn down, and spearheaded by a liquor store that attracted every sort of loser imaginable, many of whom used my stoop.

    You know, you need to take a trip to other cities, like New York, Philly, Chicago, SF, Vancouver. In any vibrant neighborhood, there are active night spots. Greenwich Village is not precisely the place to go to raise kids, and that does not seem to be the agenda of most people there–or here. Demographics matter. I’m not in the North End because I want to live in Brookline or Beverly. If you do, move.

    (I know you live in some posh pad far removed from the fray; and God bless you for caring about all of us in the ghetto; but if Faneuil Hall went away tomorrow, the darkness would drive your property values down–and the crime rate up. The more tourism, the better. And it is predominantly DAY tourism.)

    Life is meant to be lived. You only go around once. There has to be some fun and celebration involved. Don’t be a party pooper. Pooper party pooper! It makes it seem like you resent those having fun. :O

    Let’s fnd balance. Once you start criticizing Faneuil Hall, you lose me. And hopefully lots of other kind people, good friend.

    SOME people who work in the neighborhood groups want to convert this place to a left wing nut highly regulated Nazi death camp of misery and joyless death. NOT ME. 😀

    Well, I hear there’s some heavy drinking and loud music going on at one of my favorite pubs. And maybe some Navy boys. Gotta run. :Q

    Take care, Matt —

    BB 😀

  3. I was disappointed to read the comment which personally attacked the editor of this blog. The article about Faneuil Hall raised legitimate issues in a thoughtful way – there was no criticism of the venue. This blog has very quickly become an important resource for our neighborhood. NO ONE ELSE IS COVERING THESE ISSUES! Rather than attacking the editor, we should be thanking him. The author of the comment should keep his bile to himself or, alternately, I think there is a local "newspaper" which would love to hear from him.

  4. Therese,

    No one is attacking Matt. I value what Matt does. Unfortunately, the tongue and cheek nature of my commentary did not shine through. I think the joyful "pooper party pooper" jab should have clued you in. If not that, maybe the "those of us in the ghetto" comment. Or how about "lots of kind people, good friend."

    If I wanted to attack Matt, I would do so in an eloquent, personal email to him alone. I agree with you that Matt is doing something not many would give the time and devotion, too. And while Matt and I do not always agree, I tend to approach that with a certain measure of humor.

    And I use my full name.

    😀 😀 😀

    P.S. I’m heading over to Faneuil Hall right now to kick it up with some of those crazy unruly tourists who are overunnning our peaceful (not) neighborhood. I don’t know what is wilder and more avant garde, their white Reeboks or their fanny packs. Hmmm.

  5. Therese, I appreciate the kind words! I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the popularity of the NorthEndWaterfront.com which tells me that folks really care about what is going on in the neighborhood. It’s a part-time hobby for me, but I truly enjoy it even though it occasionally gets me in trouble.

    Brian, I kind of figured you were half-joking. Sometimes, it’s difficult to read the tone in this forum or over email. I do appreciate some of the points you bring up about keeping the young people involved in the neighborhood. I support a profitable business community as well. As with most things, it’s the ‘extremes’ that start to ruin the balance we all want to enjoy in the neighborhood.

    Therese is pretty well known in the neighborhood, so I don’t think it’s a problem when folks want to leave out their last name or use a surname. I was a victim of identity theft years ago and it’s not a fun experience.

    To clarify, I certainly wasn’t attacking Faneuil Hall. (Though, the chains in Quincy Market have taken some of the character away, in my opinion…I feel another post coming.) But it was the sheer number of people that shocked me …. 20 million people! And as that number is climbing to that of Times Square, I think it raises a lot of questions. Look at the large police and crowd control mechanisms they need there. I love Times Square too, but I think most of us would put it under the "Great place to visit, Wouldn’t want to live there" category.

    Therese said it most eloquently in another comment that I’ll paste here:
    "…the North End is primarily a residential neighborhood. The long-time North Enders who anchor the area have welcomed a wonderful resurgence of families with children, an influx of civic-minded empty-nesters and an intriguing assortment of other new-comers. We all enjoy the vibrant street life -we wouldn’t be here if we didn’t. However, we all need to sleep — it’s that basic." (She was talking about the late hours proposal at Nick’s Deli.) The same sentiment applies to the tourists which Brian accurately points out are a benefit, up to a point. Balance is the key.

    We all know and love that we live around tourist attractions, but if that put tourists above residents, that would be a shame. What is the ‘right’ number of tourists. I don’t know, but my sense is that 20 million might be enough.

  6. I am a big fan of "club districts," such as Lansdowne Street or Deep Ellum (Elm Street) in Dallas. It is more sensible to have late night entertainment and food in non-residential or minimally residential areas. In Chelsea, where there are lots of 4AM gay bars below bedroom windows, the owners put up signs reminding patrons of that–with the implicit threat that their favorite venues could be closed with a swift hand.

    (One major issue is Boston is the all too giving-in licensing boards we have here, and the slow disciplinary process they afford us citizens.)

    The battle rages on…:D

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