Boston: Closed on Sundays?

Streets without tourist attractions were barren last Sunday in Boston

My significantly better half and I have just returned from a lovely mini vacation on the eastern coast of the USA. Other years we have stayed in Maine, but this year we went a little further south and found a great place in North Hampton, New Hampshire. More about that in a subsequent post. One of the advantages of staying in New Hampshire was convenient proximity to Boston, where we try to enjoy a day or so during our vacations.

Last Sunday Boston felt like a smaller version of Montreal, but without a heart.

I have written before about how much I enjoy Boston, certainly not their dastardly Bruins, but just about everything else. Like Montreal, Boston has history and character; the history comes from being old, the character, as is the case with Montrealers, is produced by Bostonians. However with that in mind may I suggest that if you are looking for the real Boston, you not visit on a summer Sunday.

One of the many similarities shared by my home of Montreal and Boston is a Catholic background. Whether French or Irish in origin, the same Catholic religion affected how the cities developed, albeit much less today than at one time. One of those church intrusions in Montreal was a strong aversion to shopping on Sundays. Even though many people actually live in downtown Montreal, or within walking or biking distance, when I was a youngster downtown Montreal was deserted on Sundays; all the stores and many restaurants shut tight.

Locals started to grumble about not being able to shop on Sundays. A number of stores started to stay open in defiance of the law, figuring they would make enough to easily cover the fine – and they did. As time passed and pressure grew, the ban was lifted. Now Sunday is perhaps the busiest day in downtown Montreal. Not only are the streets chock-a-block with tourists, but those Downtowners, for whom this is their neighbourhood, can go about their lives. Commerce meets community.

Photo: The Periodic Table of Community Elements

This past Sunday I was astounded at the number of stores that were closed in Boston. It was as if the residents turned over the city to tourists for the day. The waterfront was packed, there was a festival in the Boston Common, anything touristic was busy. But the day-to-day life of the city, the heart if you will, was missing. Streets without tourist attractions were empty. I even wondered if the “Hollow Sidewalk” signs on some buildings were placed there to keep tourists in their place by scaring them. While the big box stores remained open, middle and small outlets were closed.

Last Sunday Boston felt like a smaller version of Montreal, but without a heart.

I look forward to my next visit to Boston, but will make sure to plan it for a weekday!

DCS_Grad_2 DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DC on Twitter @DCMontreal and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

5 thoughts on “Boston: Closed on Sundays?

  1. A lot of people don’t shop downtown anymore. They drive out to suburban malls … or go to the Prudential Center and shop in THAT mall or the Galleria in Cambridge. Because there is parking at a mall. Less business has meant fewer businesses bothering to stay open. They do get a lot more energetic about the whole shopping experience as Christmas rolls around. But summer? it’s a pretty dead time for downtown. We were in New York a few summer’s ago and it was the same thing. It was all closed up by late Saturday afternoon.

    1. That’s a shame. Montreal has managed to still maintain a downtown residential core that gives the city a boost.

      1. Yes, but you see Boston, in their enthusiasm to tow and ticket every single car, did themselves in. We moved out of downtown Boston in 1990 and out of Roxbury (part of Boston, but one of the western neighborhoods) in 2000. By then, we had long since given up shopping in town. Or going to a doctor in town. Or doing anything except eating, going to a show, or walking. Then we gave up that too and moved to the country. They did it to themselves. I hope it was worth it.

      2. When they initially allowed shopping on Sunday’s here they also opted to not charge for parking meters in an effort to draw folks downtown. But what happened was that most of the spots were taken by people working in stores who parked all day. So to deter this they started to charge and all the churches complained that their congregations were being ripped off. Soooooo …… now the meters take effect at one o’clock!

      3. And Boston (not unlike Montreal) is a small, old, cluttered city. Even if every parking meter downtown is available, there’s still not nearly enough parking because huge sections of the area never allow parking. The streets are too narrow, or there are taxi stands, bus stops, loading zones. At the best of times, there isn’t much parking and at normal times, it’s still very difficult. Ironically, most meters are free on Sunday, but no one is around to care.

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