BOSTON, MA—I grew up in Dorchester, an urban neighborhood in Boston, Massachusetts. Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to watch the city grow and evolve in a lot of different ways. I’ve spent 4 years away from my hometown living in Southern California for college. When I’ve returned home over the summers or visited on short breaks, I’m always floored by how much the city has changed, and yet managed to stay familiar.

Boston is a beautiful city with character and grit. It has deep roots in United States history and is home to an abundance of historical monuments and buildings. Every day, school children from all over the state and tourists from all over the world roam downtown on tours of The Freedom Trail, Old South Meeting House, Boston Common and Public Gardens Faneuil Hall, the Boston Sate House, some of the nation’s oldest cemeteries and much more.

The city has maintained some of its old cobblestone walkways in certain regions. If you stay out late enough, you’ll see late-night bar and club-goers struggling in high-heels to make their way across uneven cobblestones on their perilous trek to an Uber or the nearest train station. It’s funny seeing how the past and present collide in instances like that. Boston has great public transit. The MBTA has various lines with destinations throughout the city and into the suburbs. The red, green, and orange lines hit the most densely populated areas of the city. There’s also a commuter rail that services people back and forth from Massachusetts towns that are well over an hour away.

The city is home to a number of prestigious colleges and universities. Some of those include Harvard, MIT, Boston University, Boston College, Northeastern, Emerson, and University of Massachusetts-Boston. Prospective students come from across the nation to tour and interview at their dream schools. The city has some of the most esteemed hospitals in the world, like Mass General Hospital, Brigham and Women’s, Beth Israel Deaconess, Boston Children’s Hospital, Tufts Medical, and Boston Medical Center. The multitude of highly specialized and world-renowned doctors and centers within these hospitals draw people seeking treatment from around the world.

Another draw to the city is great food. Boston has lots of amazing places to eat, and features many different and unique cuisines. If you’re looking for Italian, the North End is home to Mike’s Pastry, where the line is almost always out the door, as people wait to order famous cannolis and other treats. The North end has endless options for authentic Italian food. The original Regina Pizzeria opened its doors in Boston’s North End in 1926, and it’s known for delicious thin-crust, brick-oven pizzas. The North End is home to a number of beautiful, old churches. There’s also no shortage of historical monuments like the Old North Church and the Paul Revere statue. The TD Garden, home to the Celtics and the Bruins can be seen across from the North End.

Mike’s Pastry in Boston’s North End.

One of my favorite American restaurants is called Stephanie’s on Newbury. The brunch menu is great, although it’s a little pricy for a college studen. Outdoor seating provides a view of the busy city street and a breeze on nice days. The restaurant is located on Newbury Street, which is one of the main attractions for visitors to the city. From the top of the street down to the bottom there’s high-end shopping at stores like Burberry, Coach, Longchamp, Cole Haan, Allen Edmons and many more. Parallel to Newbury Street is Boylston Street, where the famous Boston Marathon comes to an end. The Boston Public Library, Copley Square and The Prudential Center are all on Boylston Street, among many other things. Visitors can go to the top of the prudential center to dine while enjoying a view of the city.

A view of Boylston Street in the evening, the Prudential center is in the middle of the picture.

China Town is my go-to place for savory dishes, fast service and inexpensive pricing. Dumpling Cafe, located on Washington Street in China Town, is hands-down my favorite late-night dining destination in Boston. Every time I go, I have to get at least one order of the juicy pork buns, which are popularly known as soup dumplings. The dumplings are full of hot, delicious broth. There’s also a ton of Dim sum, Hot pot and Pho restaurants in the area. If you walk straight down Washington Street past the China Town Station, you’ll end up in the Theatre District. If you walk a little further, you’ll find yourself in Downtown Crossing, a popular stop on the redline. There’s a lot of shopping and sightseeing in Downtown Crossing, as well as some more bars and restaurants.

The Dumpling Cafe on Washington Street

As the city is expanding, there’s more industry than ever at the Seaport. The area is known for housing new tech company start-ups and supporting innovative business. The seaport neighbors South Boston, which like Dorchester, is shown in a lot of movies about Boston like The Departed, Black Mass and Spotlight. Castle Island is a popular destination for tourists in Southie. There’s an old castle called Fort Independence that was used in the 1800s with cannons on top of it that is available to tour, lots of spots to fish, and a cheap place for burgers and fries called Sullivan’s (better known as “Sullies.”) Kendall Square and Harvard Square, which both have stops on the red line, are also areas known to feature new and innovative businesses. Harvard Square is a great place to go if you’re looking for a college vibe within the city, lots of small boutiques and healthy spots to eat.

A view from the Arnold Arboretum during the Summer.

If you’re looking to be outside enjoying nature, my favorite place is the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University. The Arboretum is situated in Jamaica Plain and features various paths and clearings for walking, biking and relaxing. There’s hundreds of different types of trees and plants that have been imported from around the world. The Summer, Fall and Spring are great times to visit the Arboretum. Although in the Winter months, the cold can be too much. There’s always the Boston Public Gardens and the Boston Common, if you want to enjoy nature while still being in an urban area. Swan boat rides are a popular attraction within the Boston Public Gardens, and in the winter, there’s ice skating available at the Frog Pond in Boston Common.

For a city that’s evolving and expanding so rapidly, Boston has kept a large part of its historical integrity intact. Although, I often wonder how much higher the cost of living can climb in a gentrified city. For a young person, the renting prices are nearly impossible to afford. As the city is growing and improving in some ways, its certainly loosing some of its charm and unique personality. I wonder if the famously mocked Boston accent will soon cease to exist, as people that grew up in the city are forced to move further and further away because they can’t afford it anymore. I’ll return home for a visit in September, and as always, I’ll be looking for the next building that’s popped on the drive home from Logan.

A view of the John Hancock Building from the top of a parking structure in the Back Bay of Boston.