HOW TO SPEND FIVE DAYS IN BOSTON

Empty streets of Boston, USA on a bright day

One of the most historic cities in the United States, Boston is the city I called home for the first 25 years of my life.

More a collection of towns than a metropolis like New York, Boston is a city steeped in history (it contains a lot of historical firsts for the United States and played a pivotal role in its founding), delicious food, wide-open green spaces, first-rate museums, and warm, welcoming people.

Visiting Boston offers all the benefits of a big metropolis without the intensity and fast pace of New York.

Boston is easy to get around and compact, making it perfect for travelers. The subway will take you wherever you need to go.

So how many days do you need to visit Boston?

Most people visit for three to four days, and I think that’s a perfect amount of time. As someone who’s lived there, I can say that, since Boston is so small, you won’t waste a lot of time “in transit,” so you can pack a lot into your days. Obviously, you can spend longer here (slow travel is the best travel), but for the first-time visitor, three to four days is enough.

Here’s a suggested Boston itinerary that will allow you to see the best of Boston:

Visiting Boston: Day 1

a sunny day in downtown boston during a walking tour of the city

Take a Free Walking Tour

If walking the Freedom Trail and the Black Heritage Trail wasn’t enough for you, there are plenty of other walking/food tours around town to keep you entertained! While the food tours, wine tours (yes, there are wine tours!), and historical tours will cost money, both Free Tours by Foot and Strawberry Tours offer daily free walking tours around town. They’re a great way to get oriented and see the major sights without breaking the bank. Just be sure to tip your guides!

Boston's Freedom Trail sign

Hike the Freedom Trail 

The Freedom Trail is a 2.5-mile walk through historic Boston. It takes you through all the major sites and monuments relating to the city’s founding and the Revolutionary War. The trail begins in the Boston Common and ends at Bunker Hill. Along the way, you’ll see:

  • Boston Common
  • Massachusetts State House
  • Park Street Church
  • Granary Burying Ground
  • King’s Chapel Burying Ground
  • Benjamin Franklin statue and the former site of Boston Latin School
  • Old Corner Bookstore
  • Old South Meeting House
  • Old State House
  • Site of the Boston Massacre
  • Faneuil Hall
  • Paul Revere House
  • Old North Church
  • Copp’s Hill Burying Ground
  • USS Constitution
  • Bunker Hill Monument

You follow a brick road through the city, and there are signs and historical markers all along the way. Given all the walking that’s involved, I would make this the only other activity of the day. You’ll want to take your time and see all the sites thoroughly.

You can also take a guided tour from the visitor’s center. Tours run hourly between 11am and 1pm, with additional tours in the afternoon in the spring and summer. Tickets are $14 USD for adults, $12 USD for students and seniors, and $8 USD for children 6-12 (free for kids under 6).

Additionally, you can take a free tour from one of the city’s other walking tour companies. Free Tours By Foot offers a walking tour that covers the Freedom Trail. It takes around two hours and is free — just be sure to tip your guide!

Fresh seafood from Boston's Quincy Market

Lunch at Quincy Market/Faneuil Hall

Quincy Market and next-door Faneuil Hall is the best place to stop and eat lunch on the Freedom Trail. There are about two dozen choices. You can get just about anything here, from Greek to sushi to sandwiches and much more. Since you’re in Boston, try the clam chowder, a local New England specialty.

After lunch, continue on the trail.

4 S Market St, +1 617-523-1300, faneuilhallmarketplace.com. Open Monday-Saturday 10am-9pm and Sunday 12pm-7pm.

Visiting Boston: Day 2

The green and lush Boston Common on a sunny summer day

Boston Common

Start your day (again) in the Boston Common, a giant park that sees plenty of people on warm summer days. There are lots of paths to take, as well as the Frog Pond, where kids and adults can cool off. During the winter, there’s skating on the pond. Boston Common is a great place to go people-watching and get pictures of the skyline.

The trees and water near Boston's Public Gardens on a summer day

Boston Public Gardens

After your early-morning walk, head across the street to the Public Gardens. Opened in 1837, the area was actually a mudflat (a coastal wetland area) before it became a garden. The land was almost used for a cemetery as well, but the city decided to create the first public botanical garden instead. These days, you can take a swan boat on the pond in the middle of the gardens, or you can simply stroll around and see some pretty flowers.

tables of used books at brattle book shop in boston

Browse for Books

Located a stone’s throw away from the Boston Common, Brattle Book Shop is a family-run used bookstore that dates back to 1825. It’s actually one of the oldest surviving bookstores in the country! It’s home to over 250,000 books, maps, postcards, and other odds and ends. In addition to used books, the store is also home to an impressive collection of first editions and antique books.

9 West Street, +1 617-542-0210, brattlebookshop.com. Open Monday-Saturday 9am-5:30pm.

Overlooking the Back Bay area of Boston, USA

Walk Around the Back Bay

This area used to be an actual bay. Before the Europeans arrived, the indigenous population used the tidal bay to catch fish, as the bay drained completely during low tide. When the land was colonized, a dam was built and the tidal bay was eventually filled in, creating the Back Bay area.

The end of the Public Gardens meets Boston’s Back Bay, our version of New York’s SoHo and West Village. This is where Boston’s elite and wealthy live, and nearby Newbury Street is our Madison Avenue, with lots of expensive shopping and high-end eateries. It’s a beautiful space to stroll around, with pretty brownstones and tree-lined streets. You can still see plenty of old Victorian homes in this neighborhood that date back to the 19th century.

Trinity Church on a summer's day in Boston, USA

Copley Square and Trinity Church

Copley Square is a great little park where you can buy discount theater tickets, listen to musicians, and gaze up at the Hancock Tower. You can also go into Boston’s Trinity Church, which is one of the city’s oldest and most beautiful. It was built in the 1870s after the original building burned down in the Great Fire of 1872. The style is known as Richardsonian Romanesque, which embraces the use of clay roofing, rough stones, and a massive tower. The style actually influenced churches all across the country upon its completion because it was so beautiful.

You’ll also find the Boston Public Library here. Opened in 1852, it’s one of the largest municipal libraries in the country, home to over 23 million items, with almost 4 million visitors each year.

206 Clarendon St, +1 617-536-0944, trinitychurchboston.org. The church is open for prayer and tours Tuesday-Saturday 10am-4:30pm and Sundays 12:15pm-4:30pm. Tours are $10 USD for adults, though it is free to enter for worship.

Prudential Tower in Boston, Massachusetts

Head up to the Prudential Tower

Head back toward Copley to see the Prudential Tower, colloquially known as “The Pru.” You can actually go up to the top and get a bird’s-eye view of Boston. There are 52 floors in the building, which was built in the 1960s. These days, it’s the second tallest building in the city (the John Hancock Tower is first).

800 Boylston St, +1 617-859-0648, prudentialcenter.com. Open daily from 10am-8pm (10pm in the summer). Admission is $20 USD for adults, with discount available for students, seniors, and children.

Blue skies over Boston's Charles River

Walk the Charles River

Double back toward the Charles River and walk the riverfront. If it’s summertime, you might be able to catch a free show at the Boston Hatch Shell or go sailing on the river. If not, it’s still a nice walk, where you’ll encounter runners, kids playing, and people playing sports.

47 David G. Mugar Way, +1 617-626-1250, hatchshell.com. See the website for an up-to-date list of events.

The Museum of Science in Boston, USA

Visit the Museum of Science

At the end of the riverfront is the Museum of Science. If you aren’t too tired, check out the museum and the Omni Theater inside. Though many of the exhibits are for kids, it’s still one of the best science museums in the country. The outer space exhibit is outstanding. Their permanent exhibits include displays showcasing dinosaurs, energy conservation, cartography, butterflies, wind and weather, nanotechnology, and space.

1 Science Park, +1 617-723-2500, mos.org. Open Saturday-Thursday 9am-5pm and Fridays 9am-9pm. Admission is $28 USD for adults, with discounts available for seniors and children.

Visiting Boston: Day 3

A penguin at Boston's aquarium

Visit the Aquarium

Boston’s aquarium is one of the best in the country. There are over 600 different species and over 20,000 animals here. You’ll see lionfish, penguins, eels, stingrays, and much, much more. It’s a great place to spend a few hours (especially if you are traveling with kids). It’s really well done — the fish aren’t all clustered into a few small tanks (the aquarium is over 75,000 square feet), and there’s a lot of information about how to protect the oceans.

1 Central Wharf, +1 617-973-5200, neaq.org. Open Monday-Friday 9am-5pm, weekends 9am-6pm. Admission is $27.95 USD for adults, with discounts available for kids and seniors.

An aerial view of the north end of Boston, Massachusetts

Explore the North End

The historic North End is the heart of Boston’s Italian community. You’ll hear just as much Italian as you will Boston accents. In the morning, you’ll see little Italian grandmas shopping while the grandpas have their morning espresso. It’s almost like being in Italy. You’ll find the best gelato outside of Italy here.

 the skinny house in Boston, USA

See the Skinny House

When you’re in the North End, visit 44 Hull Street. Known as “the Skinny House” (or the Spite House), this incredibly narrow house has a rather interesting history. Built after the Civil War, it was a passion project of Joseph Euestus, who came home from the war to find that his brother had taken over more than half of the inherited land they were meant to share. Joseph decided to build on the remaining land — which his brother thought was too small to build anything on. Joseph went ahead and built a narrow four-story home on the small slice of land to block his brother’s view.

the Boston Institute of Contemporary Art

Visit an Art Gallery or Museum

Boston has a lot of great galleries and museums, so depending on your interest, you’ll want to check out some (or all) of the galleries and museums below. It will take more than an afternoon to see them all but you can always spread these visits out over a few days!

  • Institute of Contemporary Art: If contemporary art is your cup of tea, this is for you. While it’s not my favorite style of art, I have to admit this place does put on some insightful exhibits. 25 Harbor Shore Drive, +1 617-478-3100, icaboston.org.
  • Commonwealth Museum: This museum explores the history of Massachusetts. It’s actually really interesting and entirely underrated (especially if you’re a history nerd like me). 220 Morrissey Blvd, +1 617-727-2816, sec.state.ma.us/arc.
  • Harvard Museum of Natural History: This natural history museum has exhibitions showcasing dinosaurs, animals, and minerals (including meteorites). It’s a great choice if you’re traveling with kids, though there is plenty of informative content for adults too! 26 Oxford St +1 617-495-3045, hmnh.harvard.edu.
  • Harvard University Art Museums: Harvard actually has three art museums – the Fogg Museum, the Busch-Reisinger Museum, and the Arthur M. Sackler Museum. They are home to both modern and historical art exhibitions. See what exhibitions are running by checking their website. harvardartmuseums.org
  • Museum of Fine Arts: This museum has an impressive collection of over 450,000 pieces of fine art. It also runs all sorts of art classes throughout the year, both multi-week classes as well as single-day workshops. If you’re looking to learn something new or improve your skills, check out the website for more details. 465 Huntington Avenue, +1 617-267-9300, mfa.org.
  • Warren Anatomical Museum: Founded in 1847, this macabre museum is filled with Civil War–era medical tools as well as some unique (and perhaps unsettling) medical mysteries. It’s super weird but super neat. A definite must if you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path museum! 10 Shattuck St, +1 617-432-6196, countway.harvard.edu/center-history-medicine/warren-anatomical-museum.
  • Boston Tea Party and Ships Museum: This interactive museum is home to some historic ships that have been authentically restored to show you what life was like at sea during the Boston Tea Party. It also has a really informative documentary about the events that led up to the Tea Party and the American Revolution. Best of all, you can actually throw fake crates of tea into the river yourself to see what it was like! 306 Congress St, +1 617-338-1773, bostonteapartyship.com.
  • Paul Revere House: Built in 1680, this is actually the oldest building in the entire city (it’s been renovated but it’s still the original building). The museum is filled with the family’s furniture and artifacts, giving you a sense of what life was like in Boston before the Revolution. 19 N Square, +1 617-523-2338, paulreverehouse.org.
  • Museum of Bad Art: The name says it all! This is a museum filled with terrible art. The MOBA has rotating exhibits throughout the year, so there is always something new and terrible to behold. If you feel like a laugh, definitely check out this quirky gallery! 55 Davis Square, +1 781-444-6757, museumofbadart.org.
  • Isabella Stewart Gardner MuseumThis museum is home to an amazing art collection of over 20,000 items, including European, Asian, and American art. Opened in 1903, the museum is made up of a wide-ranging collection of paintings, tapestries, decorative arts, and sculptures. It’s one of the best museums in Boston. Don’t miss it.25 Evans Way, +1 617-566-1401, gardnermuseum.org.

Visiting Boston: Day 4

The Harvard University campus in Cambridge is a great place to spend the day

Take a Free Tour of Harvard 

Founded in 1636, Harvard is the oldest university in America. Head to its home in Cambridge (Harvard Square train stop on the Red Line) and join a free tour. Learn about the university’s history, architecture, programs, and myths.

Harvard University, +1 617-495-1000, harvard.edu/on-campus/visit-harvard/tours.

Harvard Square is the place to be at night in Boston

Hang Out in Harvard Square

When you’re finished, wander around and experience Harvard Square’s eclectic offerings. There are a lot of good street musicians to listen to (Tracy Chapman got her start here). See the mix of life in Harvard Square: walk around, stroll into used bookstores and coffee shops, and watch artists, vagabonds, locals, and college students mingle. There are some cool little shops in “The Garage.”

The green grass around Arnold Arboretum in Boston

Arnold Arboretum

Over 260 acres of free public space are open from sunrise to sunset. There are running trails, gardens, open lawns, and tons of flowers from all over the world. Relax among the plants and take a step back from the fast pace of the city. This place is much quieter than the Public Gardens and offers a wider variety of plant life. It also has a great bonsai tree collection. This is located a little outside the city, so it will take time to get to!

125 Arborway, +1 617-524-1718, arboretum.harvard.edu. Open daily 7am-7pm. Admission is free.

Sam Adams Brewery in Boston

Take the Sam Adams Brewery Tour

After four days of sightseeing, you deserve a beer or five. Luckily, this brewery is located near the Arboretum so it’s easy to visit and a great way to end your day. Sam Adams is a major brewer in Boston, and locals drink it widely and frequently. The brewery offers free tours, starting in mid-afternoon and departing every 45 minutes. You get a few free samples along the way. If you’re under 21, don’t worry. You can still go — you just can’t drink.

30 Germania St, +1 617-368-5080, samueladams.com. Tours are available Monday-Thursday and Saturdays 10am-3pm. On Friday, tours are available between 10am and 5:30pm.

watching a baseball game in Boston

See the Red Sox Play

Boston is a sports town, and Bostonians are die-hard about their teams, so you’re sure to witness some intense feelings when you attend a game. If you really want a Boston sports experience, go to a Red Sox game. If you can’t get in, hang out around the bars near Fenway. Just never, ever, ever root for the Yankees! While there be sure to visit Bleacher Bar. Opened in 2008, you can actually look out onto the field from the bar itself. It’s a good spot to watch the game if you don’t have a ticket to the game.

4 Yawkey Way, +1 877-733-7699, mlb.com/redsox/ballpark. See the website for an up-to-date schedule.

(The Sox not in season? No worries. We have the Bruins, Celtics, and Patriots. No matter the time of year, you’ll be able to find a game to see!)

Visiting Boston: Day 5

the start of the Black Heritage Trail in Boston

Explore the Black Heritage Trail

Much like the Freedom Trail, the Black Heritage Trail comprises 14 sites located around Beacon Hill that highlight important parts of African-American history in Boston. Massachusetts was actually the first state to declare slavery illegal (in 1783), and you can learn a lot about the history of slavery and the African-American experience by walking the trail. If you want to do a self-guided tour, free maps are available at the Abiel Smith School. There are several companies that also arrange guided tours (with the map it’s very simple to do yourself, though).

the children's museum in Boston

Visit the Children’s Museum

If you’re traveling with kids, this is a great place to spend part of your visit. It’s the second oldest children’s museum in the US and has permanent exhibits on health and exercise, construction, space, art, and diversity. It also has a real two-story house from Kyoto, Japan, that teaches kids about life there (it’s actually pretty cool!).

308 Congress Street, +1 617-426-6500, bostonchildrensmuseum.org. Open daily 10am-5pm (9pm on Fridays). Admission is $17 USD for both adults and kids (free for infants under 12 months).

the USS Constitution in the Boston harbour

See the USS Constitution

The USS Constitution was commissioned in 1797. The ship was actually named by George Washington and was used in the War of 1812 (and later in the Civil War). It’s the oldest ship in the world that is still afloat, permanently docked in the harbor. If you want to do more than just look at it (you’ll see it on the Freedom Trail), free tours are offered every 30 minutes and they are a great way to get a sense of what life at sea was life over 200 years ago!

Charlestown Navy Yard, +1 617-426-1812, ussconstitutionmuseum.org. The ship is open daily 10am-4pm (with extended hours in the summer); the museum is open 10am-5pm (with extended hours in the summer as well). Admission is free, though the museum has a suggested donation of $10-15.

Visit More Museums – With any extra time, visit more museums! There’s plenty of them to see! Try not to skip the big ones!

stargazing on a clear night

Go Stargazing

Every Wednesday, The Coit Observatory at Boston University offers free stargazing (weather permitting). It’s a really cool way to learn a bit about astronomy and fun for both children and adults (though minors need to be accompanied by an adult). Just make sure to dress for the weather, since you’ll be stargazing outside. Since the weather can be fickle, you’ll want to call ahead to make sure the stargazing is happening. Space is limited so you need to reserve your spot in advance.

725 Commonwealth Avenue, +1 617-353-2630, bu.edu/astronomy/events/public-open-night-at-the-observatory. Viewings are Wednesday evenings at 7:30pm in the autumn and winter and 8:30pm in the spring and summer.

5 Other Things to See and Do in Boston

If you’re looking for more things to do or different suggestions than above, here are some other cool things to do in Boston to add to your itinerary:

See the Mapparium – Located in the Mary Baker Eddy Library, this three-story inverted globe serves as a giant map of the world that you can walk into via a glass bridge. It is constructed of over 600 stained-glass panels and shows the world as it looked in 1935.

200 Massachusetts Avenue, +1 617-450-7000, marybakereddylibrary.org. Open daily 10am-5pm. Admission to the Mapparium is $6 USD for adults, with discounts available for students, children, and seniors.

Head to Castle Island – Castle Island is located in South Boston and is famous for Fort Independence. When the fort was no longer needed for defense, it was actually used as the first state prison. The island covers 22 acres and has excellent beaches, as well as some running trails that are popular with the locals. There’s also an area for picnics and you can visit the old fort for free. The place gets pretty busy on the weekends during the summer, and you can often see school groups exploring the fort during the spring.

Relax at the Lawn on D – This massive green space is new to the city (when I was growing up, there was nothing in this area so you would never go there). There are all sorts of free activities happening year-round, from concerts to festivities and everything in between! There’s public seating, free Wi-Fi, art exhibitions, and a few games, like table tennis and bocce. To see what events are happening during your visit, check the website for details.

420 D St, +1 877-393-3393, signatureboston.com/lawn-on-d. Open daily 7am-10pm (hours may vary for events). Admission is free.

Hike the Blue Hills – This park is a bit out of the way, but it’s definitely worth a visit if you want to get out and stretch your legs. The 7,000-acre park is home to over 100 miles of trails and offers some picturesque viewpoints. There are also plenty of activities to keep you entertained, such as boating, fishing, skiing, and rock climbing (depending on the season). It can get busy in the summer on the weekends, so just be sure to arrive early.

Tour the Custom House – Built in the 17th century, the Custom House is one of the most recognizable buildings in the city. In 1915, a tower was added to the building, making it the tallest building in the city at the time. The building is owned by Marriott Hotels now, though you can still take a free tour (by appointment) to go up to the observation deck on the 26th floor.

3 McKinley Square, +1 617-310-6300, marriott.com/hotels/travel/bosch-marriott-vacation-club-pulse-at-custom-house-boston. Tours available Sunday-Friday 10am-4pm. Tours are free though they are by appointment only.

Take a Walking Tour – In addition to free walking tours, there are also tons of paid options if you want something more in-depth. Food tours, wine tours, historical tours — you name it, the city has it! Here are a few worth checking out if you’re looking to take a tour:

  • Cambridge Historical Tours – Interesting historical walking tours of the city.
  • Bites of Boston – The best variety of food tours in Boston.
  • PhotoWalks Tours – They offer wonderful and deatail photography tours!
  • Context Travel – Context is my favorite historical walking tour company. It’s not cheap, but it’s worth every penny!

THE 10 BEST DAY TRIPS FROM PARIS

The historic Chantilly chateau in France surrounded by its beautiful gardens

Paris is one of my favorite cities in the world for many reasons. Heck, I love it so much that I’m currently living here!

This city has it all – and it would take a lifetime to really see. Even after a decade of visiting and months living here, I’m still finding new things to see and do!

And, while the city itself has a million and one sights to visit, there are also some fantastic day trips from Paris that can help you escape the city – and see what else this incredible country has to offer.

From historic vineyards to medieval castles to cheesy tourist sites, there’s a lot within a short distance from the city.

Here are some of the best day trips from Paris (at least in my opinion):

Table of Contents

  1. The Palace of Versailles
  2. Château de Fontainebleau
  3. Château de Chantilly
  4. Reims
  5. The D-Day Beaches
  6. Giverny
  7. Champagne
  8. Rouen
  9. Orléans
  10. Disneyland

1. The Palace of Versailles

the lavish interior of the historic Palace of Versailles in France


From its exquisite gardens to its lavish interiors, the Palace of Versailles is truly a sight to be seen.

Located just 20km from Paris, it was the primary residence of the kings of France for over 100 years, until the French Revolution. Once just a tiny hunting lodge, it was initially transformed into a proper château by Louis XIII, who bought up the surrounding land to extend his park and gardens. Eventually, Louis XIV (aka the Sun King) turned this into lavish country estate as a way to escape Paris and diminish the grip of the French nobility. A massive and decadent symbol of royal power, Versailles offers an incredible insight into French history, highlighting the ostentatious lives of the former monarchs.

The Palace of Versailles is one of the most-visited attractions in the vicinity of Paris, with over 10 million people swarming the grounds each year. To avoid the worst crowds, try to visit during the week.

Place d’Armes, Versailles, +33 1 30 83 78 00, en.châteauversailles.fr. Open Tuesday–Sunday 9am–5:30pm, with the last entry at 5pm (closed Mondays). “The Passport” ticket will give you admission to all the palace tours (grounds, Trianon Palaces, and Marie Antoinette’s estate), the Musical Fountain Show, the Musical Gardens, and the exhibitions; it costs 27 EUR (for one day) or 30 EUR (for two days). To get there, take the RER Line C to Versailles Chateau or the SNCF train from Gare Montparnasse to Versailles Chantiers.

2. Château de Fontainebleau

The extravagant exterior of the Fontainebleau chateau in France


Located about 75km from Paris, this is one of the largest royal estates in the country. Built in the 12th century, it was inhabited continuously for over seven centuries and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site as well as a national museum. The origins of the palace also date back to a hunting lodge used by the kings of France, with additions being built throughout the years, the most elaborate of which are from the 14th and 15th centuries.

Much like Versailles, there are lavish rooms and apartments here, including a grandiose and ornate ballroom, as well as the throne of Napoleon. The château was also used as a NATO base of operations after World War II until 1966, when it was restored, gaining UNESCO status in 1981.

77300 Fontainebleau, +33 1 60 71 50 70, châteaudefontainebleau.fr. The château itself is open 9:30am-5:30pm (to 6pm in the summer). The parks are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Admission is 12 EUR per person, with discounts available. EU residents under 25, as well as any visitors under 18, can take the Grand Apartments tour free of charge.

3. Château de Chantilly

The intricate stone architecture of the historic Chantilly chateau in France


This historic château is located just 60 minutes from Paris by car. It was built in 1560 by the Montmorency family, one of France’s noble families. It is surrounded by some 8,000 hectares of forest and has seen numerous additions over the years, including a major restoration after part of it was destroyed in the French Revolution. When the last owner of the château died with no sons, it became a public historic site.

There are waterfalls and canals around the property, as well as some fountains, flower gardens, and Chinese-style gardens. You’ll also find lots of sculptures outside, making it a great place to relax and go for a stroll.

The château is also home to the Musée Condé, which opened in 1898. It boasts over 1,000 paintings, 1,500 manuscripts, 2,500 drawings, and 30,000 books in the library!

60500 Chantilly, +33 3 44 27 31 80, domainedechantilly.com/fr. Open daily 10am-6pm in the summer and 10:30am-5pm in the winter. Admission is 8 EUR for just the park, 17 EUR for the park and château, and 30 EUR for the park, the château, and an equestrian show. By car, the journey is just over an hour via the A1 or A3.

4. Reims

The famous UNESCO heritage cathedral in Reims, France


This small city is located just 140 kilometers from Paris and has played a significant role in French history. Reims grew to prominence during the Roman Empire, and when the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims (Reims Cathedral) was completed in the 15th century, it became the place where every king of France was crowned (with a few exceptions). Much like Notre-Dame in Paris, this Gothic cathedral boasts two large towers. It was also declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991. While in town, don’t miss seeing the city’s fortifications; a number of them, including Fort de la Pompelle, saw combat in World War I.

You can reach Reims by car via the A4. The journey will take around 95 minutes. There is also a train from Gare de l’Est run by SNCF that takes 50-90 minutes; tickets cost around 30 EUR per person.

5. The D-Day Beaches

One of the remaining bunkers in Normandy on the D-Day beaches from World War II


On June 6, 1944, the Allied forces invaded Normandy, in what is known as Operation Overlord. Almost 160,000 troops crossed the English Channel that day. Today, you can visit some of the remaining fortifications and bunkers, as well as several cemeteries and museums.

The beaches are located just under three hours from Paris by car, which is the best way to explore the region, as you’ll have more freedom and flexibility with your schedule. If you’d rather not drive, you can book an organized tour from Paris that will take you to the main sites over the course of the day; expect to pay around 150 EUR per person.

6. Giverny

The famous ponds and gardens of painter Claude Monet in Giverny, France


This picturesque village is 80km from Paris and is famous for being the home of renowned painter Claude Monet, the founder of the impressionist movement. On a stroll through the famous gardens, you’ll recognize scenes from some of his most famous works. It’s like walking through art history itself. Be sure to visit Monet’s home as well as the art museum!

Many other impressionist artists also moved to Giverny, making it a great day trip for anyone interested in art or art history.

The journey to Giverny will take around 80 minutes by car via the A14 and A13. If you don’t have a vehicle, you can take a train to Poissy and then take the bus, but the journey will take almost three hours and cost around 35 EUR per person.

7. Champagne

The rolling yellow fields of the Champagen region of France after the harvest


The Champagne region is known for — you guessed it — producing champagne. Only wines that come from this region are technically allowed to be called “Champagne,” which makes this the epicenter of all things champagne. Though a long day trip from Paris, it’s possible to tour vineyards and sample the region’s wines in a day. If you don’t have a car, you can take a tour with Walks of Paris, which runs trips to the area.

The Champagne region is located east of Paris. You can get there in just over two hours with a car via the A11. The trip can take around where between 1 hour 45 minutes and 4 hours via train; expect to pay 25-50 EUR for a train ticket.

8. Rouen

The famous cathedral in the city of Rouen in France


Like Reims, Rouen has its own gorgeous cathedral. Built in the 11th century, it towers over most of the city (much like Notre-Dame in Paris). Rouen itself is most noteworthy as the place where Joan of Arc was martyred, and you can visit her memorial, not to mention other historic sites (such as Château Bouvreuil).

Rouen can be reached by car in just under two hours via the A13. Direct trains will take around 90 minutes and cost around 30 EUR per person.

9. Orléans

The historic city of Orleans and it's medieval bridge


This gorgeous city is located on the Loire River about 2 hours from Paris. You’ll find gorgeous medieval half-timber houses that really give Orléans a traditional European feel. There are tons of medieval buildings still in use, many dating back to the 14th and 15th century. There are some incredible museums here too, including the sobering Musée Mémorial des enfants du Vel d’Hiv, which highlights the deportation of Jews and Roma to concentration camps during World War II and the Joan of Arc museum.

Orléans can be reached by car in around 1 hour 30 minutes via the A10 or N20. A direct train will take around the same amount of time and cost around 20 EUR per person.

10. Disneyland

The picture-perfect castle at the heart of Disneyland Paris surrounded by flowers in France


Sure, this isn’t the most adventurous of travel experiences, but it’s definitely a fun one! Disneyland Paris (45km east of the city) gives you a look at an American experience from a French perspective. Lose yourself in a world that’s not quite American and not quite French — but all parts that over-the-top Disney goodness that you love.

Whether you’re traveling with kids or you just want to just relax and have a touristy good time, Disney offers a great escape from day-to-day Parisian life. Don’t miss the nightly fireworks show over the Sleeping Beauty Castle too — it’s pretty epic!

Boulevard de Parc, 77700 Coupvray, +33 825 30 05 00, disneylandparis.com. Open Monday-Friday 10am-8pm, Saturday 10am-10pm, and Sunday 10am-9pm. A single-day adult pass for one park will cost around 100 EUR per person, while a three-day adult pass for both parks will cost 215 EUR.

Dennis Lake – Luthier Extraordinaire

I met Dennis Lake at Keole Beamers Aloha Music Camp in Kona, HI.  He taught an ‘Ukulele building class.  Those taking the class, in the course of a week, constructed a very fine ‘ukulele that they could take home with them.

At that time I wasn’t playing ‘ukulele, so the class was interesting but didn’t hold a major interest for me.  However, when he delivered a custom Po Mahina guitar to one of the other students in the advanced class, I sat right up and took notice.  After playing the guitar for just a few minutes, I was sold.

I found Dennis Lake right after the class and asked how to get on his waiting list for a slack key style guitar.  Needless to say, the day my Po Mahina guitar showed up at the post office was one of the more exciting days I’ve had in a long, long time.

This is what it looks like in the case.  It has twin holes moved forward on the body to create more sound board area.  It is signed by both Dennis Lake and Keola Beamer.  Keola Beamer worked with Dennis Lake on the design that is now pretty much the Keola Beamer model.

It sounds amplified.  When I play in public, people ask if it is amplified since is seems to be louder.  It will sustain into next week, which took a bit of getting used to.  The action is so amazingly smooth that I have difficulty playing other guitars.

Here is Keole Beamer, my Kumu Ki Ho’Alu with my guitar.