The Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau (tel. 888/733-2678 or 617/536-4100; www.bostonusa.com) offers a comprehensive visitor information kit ($10 plus postage) that includes a travel planner, a guidebook, a map, pamphlets, and information about discounts on shopping, dining, attractions, and nightlife. The free BostonUSA iPhone app allows users to buy e-tickets for attractions and tours and enter by just showing the screen. The bureau also publishes a Kids Love Boston guide ($5) and free smaller guides to specific seasons and special events
The bureau operates the Boston Common Information Center, 148 Tremont St., on Boston Common, which is open Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 5pm, Saturday from 9am to 5pm; and the Prudential Information Center, on the main level of the Prudential Center, 800 Boylston St. It's open Monday through Friday from 9am to 5:30pm, Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 6pm.
For information about Cambridge, contact the Cambridge Office for Tourism (tel. 800/862-5678 or 617/441-2884; fax 617/441-7736; www.cambridge-usa.org).
The office's information kiosk is in the heart of Harvard Square, near the T entrance at the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue, John F. Kennedy Street, and Brattle Street. It's open Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm, Saturday and Sunday from 9am to 1pm.
The Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism (tel. 800/227-6277 or 617/973-8500; fax 617/973-8525; www.massvacation.com) distributes information about the whole state. Its free Getaway Guide magazine includes information about attractions and lodgings, a map, and a calendar.
National Park Service rangers staff the Boston National Historical Park Visitor Center, 15 State St. (tel. 617/242-5642; www.nps.gov/bost; T: Blue or Orange Line to State St.), across the street from the Old State House, and lead seasonal free tours of the Freedom Trail. The center is open daily from 9am to 5pm. The ranger-staffed center at the Charlestown Navy Yard (tel. 617/242-5601) keeps the same hours. A new Park Service visitor center on the first floor of Faneuil Hall was under construction at press time; check the website to see whether it's open during your visit.
There's a small information booth at Faneuil Hall Marketplace between Quincy Market and the South Market Building. It's outdoors and staffed in the spring, summer, and fall Monday through Saturday from 10am to 6pm, Sunday from noon to 6pm.
To surf around for information about Boston before and during your visit, check out the following websites:
Boston.com (www.boston.com): A comprehensive source that encompasses the online home of the Boston Globe.
National Park Service (www.nps.gov): An endlessly helpful resource for visitors to Boston and its history-rich suburbs.
MBTA (www.mbta.com): The go-to site for subway, trolley, bus, ferry, and commuter-rail schedules and route maps, plus fare and pass information and an interactive route planner.
HopStop (www.hopstop.com) and Google Transit (http://transit.google.com): These interactive sites are good backups to the MBTA route planner, which generally does a better job of accommodating local quirks.
Yelp (www.yelp.com/boston) and Citysearch (http://boston.citysearch.com): Exhaustive listings, including restaurants and clubs, accompanied by professional and hit-or-miss amateur reviews.
Bostonist (www.bostonist.com): A lively blog; features include original and rehashed news coverage and enjoyably random event listings.
Boston-to-English Dictionary (www.universalhub.com/glossary): Hilarious yet useful lingo and slang.
Twitter (www.twitter.com) and Facebook (www.facebook.com): Even social-networking novices can find plenty of useful information at these sites. If you're just getting your feet wet, pick out an appealing destination or two -- museum, municipality, shop, whatever -- to follow or friend. A good place to start is with the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau, @BostonInsider. To branch out, see what your chosen Twitterers recommend on "Follow Friday," and check out your Facebook friends' other friends.
iTunes App Store (http://itunes.apple.com): Hundreds of free iPhone apps deliver information about Boston. I'd start with the apps that put Frommer's and the Convention & Visitors Bureau in your hand, then check out the Globe and Herald, the MBTA, and at least a couple of local TV stations.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.