- North America,
- United States
group of friends
With its cobbled-brick sidewalk and gas-gone-electric street lamps, you can almost imagine Paul Revere strolling down Charles Street. Adding to the historic ambiance are a plethora of antiques shops. The name says it all at Danish Country European & Asian Antiques: You'll find Royal Copenhagen china, 18th- and 19th-century Scandinavian hutches, and antique Chinese furniture (no. 138; 617-227-1804; europeanstyleantiques.com). At Twentieth Century Limited, hunt for treasures in the $10 costume-jewelry bins or splurge on vintage earrings, tiaras, or cuff links (1,250 pairs!) in the packed display cases (no. 73; 617-742-1031; www.boston-vintagejewelry.com). Eugene Galleries Inc stocks worn leather-bound reference books, ancient postcards, and dated maps (no. 76; 617-227-3062). Of course, with the old comes the new, and Charles Street has seen its fair share of modern boutiques. Wish (no. 49; 617-227-4441), Moxie (no. 51; 617-557-9991; www.moxieboston.com), and the East Coast outpost of Holiday (no. 53; 617-973-9730; www.holidayboutique.net) all vie for the affluent trendsetters who aren't afraid to drop a couple hundred dollars on a Tory Burch tunic. You'll also find cutting-edge objets, from Tord Boontje paper lamp shades at Koo de Kir (65 Chestnut St.; 617-723-8111; www.koodekir.com) to John Derian's découpaged dishware at Good (no. 88; 617-722-9200; www.shopatgood.com).
A stroll through the North End's narrow cobblestoned streets is a romantic way to end a night. Mike's Pastry attracts hordes of tourists, but skip it and cross the street to the smaller and more modest-looking Modern Pastry Shop for éclairs, lemon squares, and Boston cream pie. You'll want to get your treats to go, though, since there's just a smattering of tables. If you prefer to linger, settle in at a marble-topped table at Caffe Vittoria and ask the no-nonsense waitresses to bring some cappuccino and ricotta pie. All-night establishments are a rarity in sleepy-eyed Boston, but when every other shop is shuttered, Bova's Bakery is still serving up fruit tarts, cookies, and cannoli, 24 hours a day. And if you'd like something more savory, Bricco serves a wood-oven Margherita pizza (and, if you ask nicely, pretty much anything else on the menu) until 2 am.—updated by Jon Marcus
Mojito's Lounge, Massachusetts
Boston, Massachusetts 02108
Tel: 617 834 0552
Boston isn't normally associated with Latin dancing, but on Fridays and Saturdays this club near Park Street packs in a young, multicultural crowd for hip-swiveling salsa and merengue on a narrow upstairs dance floor. Downstairs, a smaller cluster grooves to Latin rock, bachata, and reggaeton. No worries if you're a little timid about your moves: There are free lessons from 9 to 10 pm on Fridays and Saturdays, and, inevitably, a pro will pluck you from the sidelines and explain that it's "all in the hips." Of course, you've got to try the Mojito at a place named after this Cuban libation. It's heavy on the rum and redolent of mint, just like the club itself.
Open Thursdays from 10 pm to 2 am, Fridays and Saturdays 9 pm to 2 am.
This stretch of clubs, bars, and restaurants across from Fenway Park is Boston's one-stop destination for a rowdy night on the town. The Fenway crowd gathers to guzzle beer and watch the game at the two rival sports bars at the corner of Brookline Avenue and Landsdowne Street, Game On! and Cask 'n Flagon—though neither is your standard sports bar. The classic Cask (as the locals know it) has unfortunately been updated—loud music and big-screen HDTVs suspended from the ceiling have been added. Now it attracts club-hopping partygoers, but it's still a popular meeting place. Game On! attracts much the same crowd and is notable for being adjacent to the visiting-team batting cage (if you bring 19 of your closest friends and there's not a game on, you can try it out for a fee). Also, inside the walls of Fenway (with a public entrance on the Lansdowne Street side) is the Bleacher Bar with a decent beer selection and pub grub, and a giant window overlooking center field. The rock club Bill's Bar features local indie and touring rock, metal, and reggae bands, and the House of Blues complex offers large and small stages as well as a less-well-known bar and restaurant, the Front Room, with live music and no admission charge. If you prefer a quieter night and local beer, hit Boston Beer Works a reliable microbrew with decent bar food (try the sweet-potato fries) near the corner of Lansdowne and Brookline Avenue. When deeper hunger strikes, look to celebrity chef Ken Oringer's taqueria, La Verdad for surprisingly authentic Mexican fare (tripe and tongue tacos, even) and huge plastic jugs of aguas frescas. End the night shooting billiards or bowling frames at the multilevel Jillian's entertainment complex alongside a nattily dressed college crowd. Jillian's has a strict dress code Friday and Saturday nights after 8 pm: no athletic wear or sleeveless shirts—updated by Jon Marcus
Game On! open daily 11:30 am to 2 am.
Cask 'n Flagon open Mondays through Wednesdays and Sundays 11:30 am to 1 am,
Thursdays and Fridays 11:30 am to 2 am, Saturdays 11 am to 2 am.
Bleacher Bar open Sundays through Wednesdays 11 am to 1 am, Thursdays through
Saturdays 11 am to 2 am.
Bill's Bar open Fridays and Saturdays 10 pm to 2 am.
Front Room at the House of Blues open daily 4 pm to 2 am.
Boston Beer Works open daily 11:30 am to 1 am.
La Verdad open Sundays through Thursdays 11 am to 1 am; Fridays and Saturdays 11
am to 2 am. Kitchen open Sundays through Wednesdays until 10 pm, Thursdays
through Saturdays until midnight.
Jillian's open Mondays through Saturdays 11 am to 2 am, Sundays noon to 2 am.
B&G Oysters Ltd., Massachusetts
Boston, Massachusetts 02118
Tel: 617 423 0550
Chef/owner Barbara Lynch's South End hot spot attracts le tout Boston for excellent lobster rolls and, of course, bivalves, shucked to order and washed down with Prosecco. The room is gorgeous and sexy with its ocean-hued mosaics, mother-of-pearl colors, and flattering spotlights, and the joint is always jumping—so much so that you should be prepared to wait up to two hours for a spot at the bar, and without reservations, it's unlikely you'll get a table. Also check out No. 9 Park, Lynch's first restaurant, on Boston Common (9 Park St.; 617-742-9991), or Menton, her French–Italian hot spot in the Fort Point Channel neighborhood, which was a James Beard Award nominee for best new restaurant in 2011 (354 Congress St.; 617-737-0099).—updated by Jon Marcus
O Ya, Massachusetts
Boston, Massachusetts 02111
Tel: 617 654 9900
On a side street in the gritty Leather District, O Ya's location is as unconventional as its tantalizingly novel sushi menu. Opt for a counter seat at this industrial-Zen Japanese joint to observe the sushi chefs as they pan-sear foie gras nigiri before topping it with a balsamic-chocolate kabayaki (grilled eel) sauce, or dress thin slices of wild Toyama Bay yellowtail with a mignonette of Thai basil and fried shallots. Dishes from the kitchen are equally inventive, such as crispy shiso (Japanese mint) tempura topped with a bite of succulent grilled lobster, charred tomato, and ponzu aïoli. Of course, such elevated cuisine comes at a lofty price, especially since one person could easily consume five to seven of the small plates (up to $20 apiece). The $140 tasting menu of 14 or 15 sample-size portions isn't necessarily a better value, but it is good for the uninitiated and indecisive. A recent spate of attentionincluding a Food & Wine Best New Chef award for O Ya's Tim Cushmanmakes snagging one of the 37 seats a challenge. Book several weeks in advance for prime-time weekend slots, or inquire at your hotelthe concierge may have an in.
Open Tuesdays through Thursdays 5 to 9:30 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 5 to 10 pm.
Neptune Oyster, Massachusetts
Boston, Massachusetts 02113
Tel: 617 742 3474
You know a seafood restaurant means business when the menu includes a tower of as many oysters, clams, and shrimp as you and at least five friends can handle (that would be the Neptune Plateau, $95). And you can't go wrong ordering à la carte, either. Choose from 14 types of oysters, steaming New England clam chowder, delicate tuna crudo, and indulgently rich jumbo scallops. The tables and bar stools of this tiny, very popular North End seafood joint fill up between 6 and 6:30 pm, so arrive early or be prepared to wait. When seated, you'll be elbow to elbow with your neighbors, but the vibe is fun.
Open Sundays through Thursdays 11:30 am to 10:30 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 11:30 am to 11:30 pm.
Boston, Massachusetts 02215
Tel: 617 536 7200
Put simply, Clio chef Ken Oringer is one of the best in America. His French–Asian hybrids (heavy on the French) astonish everyone, however jaded. Reading the menu clues you in: cassolette of lobster and sea urchin with yuzu and Japanese pepper; lacquered foie gras with sweet-and-sour lemon and bee pollen; roast suckling pig with fresh bacon-and-endive confit. The setting is elegant, the service, flawless. Consequently, Clio, in the Eliot Hotel can be one tough table to score, especially on a weekend. Book ahead, or try Oringer's other spots—all very different from this and one another—including Uni a sashimi bar, just a few steps away, in a corner of the Eliot; Toro a Spanish-style tapas restaurant in the South End (1704 Washington St., 617-536-4300) Coppa a South End enoteca (253 Shawmut Ave., 617-391-0902), KO Prime a steakhouse inside the Nine Zero Hotel (90 Tremont St., 617-772-0202,), or La Verdad a Mexican taqueria near Fenway Park (1 Lansdowne St., 617-351-2580).—updated by Jon Marcus
Open Mondays through Saturdays 5:30 to 10:30 pm.
See + Do
Boston Harbor Islands, Massachusetts
Boston, Massachusetts 02110
Tel: 617 223 8666
Just a seven-mile ferryboat ride across the Boston Harbor, this little-known national park makes a great day trip on a sunny summer day. The park extends to 34 islands, 6 of which are accessible to visitors. The extraordinarily well-preserved Fort Warren on Georges Island was built in 1833, and served as a military training ground and a Civil War prison. Nature lovers will enjoy Grape Island, which has a multitude of shorebirds and berry bushes—all within sight of the Boston skyline. Ferries depart from Long Wharf in front of Christopher Columbus Park and run between Georges, Lovells, and Spectacle islands; interisland ferries shuttle to Grape, Bumpkin, and Peddocks islands. The schedules vary depending on the season and the day of the week; be sure to check the schedule online in advance). And pack a picnic lunch, as food options on the islands are slim (just hot dogs, subs, and sodas on Spectacle and Georges).—updated by Jon Marcus
Early May—early October, with occasional special events off season.
See + Do
Boston Duck Tours, Massachusetts
Boston, Massachusetts 02199
Tel: 617 267 3825
Put your skepticism aside: This tour of Boston on WWII amphibious vehicles is actually fun and informative (with the occasional historical embellishment). The brightly colored Ducks motor around the city then plunge into the Charles River to catch skyline views of downtown—once you're in the water, you might even get to pilot. The personable guides (sorry, "conDUCKtors") have all passed rigorous tests about city history and lore. You might learn about the chemical reaction that causes some Beacon Hill houses to have windowpanes of bluish-purple glass (and why this is desirable), and the sticky situation the city found itself in after the Great Molasses Flood of 1919. Tickets sell out fast, so if you're intent on "ducking," reserve ahead online (up to five days in advance). Tours depart from (and tickets are sold outside of) the Museum of Science and New England Aquarium; there's also a ticket booth in the Prudential Center.—updated by Jon Marcus
Available daily from March to November and Saturdays and Sundays in December 9 am until one hour before sunset.
See + Do
Boston Common and Public Garden
City-center Boston Common is the nation's oldest public park. Cattle grazed here between 1634 and 1830, but today, the rolling green hills and bench-lined paths—which are being spruced up in an ongoing renovation—are populated with sunning and strolling Bostonians of every stripe. Kids frolic in the fountain of the shallow Frog Pond during the summer; in winter it becomes a picturesque ice-skating rink. The adjacent Public Garden is more formally landscaped, with flower plantings, a statue of George Washington on horseback, and a pond where the famous pedal-powered Swan Boats operate from mid-April through mid-September. It's one of America's most scenic public places. A beloved bronze sculpture of baby ducks on parade is in the northeast corner of the park, inspired by Robert McCloskey's children's classic, Make Way for Ducklings. Both parks are good places for a picnic lunch. Cute sandwich shops line Charles Street; local favorite Finagle-a-Bagel is directly across from Boston Common (129 Tremont St.; 617-426-3300), Chacarero, in Downtown Crossing, serves up Chilean sandwiches of chicken or beef with Muenster cheese, string beans, tomato, avocado spread, and hot sauce (426 Washington St.; 617-542-0392; closed weekends), and
See + Do
Museum of Fine Arts, Massachusetts
One of America's grandest art museums, the MFA holds American and European paintings from the 7th century to the present (Sargent, O'Keefe, and Monet are well-represented); sizable collections of African, Egyptian, and Near Eastern artifacts; and one of the most highly regarded collections of Asian art in the Western world. The collection is housed in an 1909 neoclassical building and two critically acclaimed additions: the Art of the Americas Wing, by British architect Norman Foster, and the Linde Family Wing of contemporary art. Make a day of it; the MFA has excellent restaurants, innovative special exhibits, and a peaceful courtyard. The museum is free on Wednesdays after 4 pm (though you'll still get hit up for a donation), and paid admission entitles you to come back for free one time within a 10-day period. —updated by Jon Marcus Open daily 10 am to 4:45 pm; the West Wing and select galleries stay open until 9:45 pm Wednesdays through Fridays.
Boston, Massachusetts 02115
Tel: 617 267 9300
See + Do
Museum of Fine Arts, Massachusetts
One of America's grandest art museums, the MFA holds American and European paintings from the 7th century to the present (Sargent, O'Keefe, and Monet are well-represented); sizable collections of African, Egyptian, and Near Eastern artifacts; and one of the most highly regarded collections of Asian art in the Western world. The collection is housed in an 1909 neoclassical building and two critically acclaimed additions: the Art of the Americas Wing, by British architect Norman Foster, and the Linde Family Wing of contemporary art. Make a day of it; the MFA has excellent restaurants, innovative special exhibits, and a peaceful courtyard. The museum is free on Wednesdays after 4 pm (though you'll still get hit up for a donation), and paid admission entitles you to come back for free one time within a 10-day period. —updated by Jon Marcus
Open daily 10 am to 4:45 pm; the West Wing and select galleries stay open until 9:45 pm Wednesdays through Fridays.
See + Do
Institute of Contemporary Art, Massachusetts
Boston, Massachusetts 02210
Tel: 617 478 3100
Founded in 1936, the ICA showcases work by the likes of Nan Goldin, Mona Hatoum, Paul Chan, and Julian Opie (major exhibitions rotate three times per year). But it's the institute's new building, a cantilevered structure by New York–based architecture firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro, opened in 2006, that's really special here. Large wooden terraces overlooking the harbor seem like a giant's staircase leading into the museum, though the main entrance is actually on the opposite side of the building. In summer, the steps serve as an amphitheater for free waterside concerts and performances. Inside are white-on-white galleries, a glass elevator the size of a small hotel room, and a glass-enclosed theater—curtains lower to block natural light from flooding in when necessary. The most dramatic space, however, is the Poss Family Mediatheque. Suspended from the main cantilever at a 45-degree angle, its inclined window frames the water with no land or sky in view, making you feel as if you're about to fall in.
Open Tuesdays and Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays 10 am to 5 pm; Thursdays and Fridays 10 am to 9 pm (free after 5 pm).
See + Do
Freedom Trail, Massachussetts
Boston, Massachussetts 02111
Tel: 617 357 8300
Winding around 16 historical sites, the two-and-a-half-mile Freedom Trail is a good introduction to Boston history—and also to the city's sometimes complicated geography. Pick up a map at the visitor's center on Tremont Street at the edge of Boston Common and walk along the red line on the ground (it's sometimes painted, sometimes lined in brick). While it's possible to walk the trail in an hour or two, leave time to stop along the way. You'll pass the graves of John Hancock, Samuel Adams, and Ben Franklin's parents at the Granary Burying Ground; Boston's first meeting house, Faneuil Hall, which hosted debates about the Sugar Tax of 1764 and the Stamp Act of 1765—note the distinctive grasshopper weather vane on the top of the building, and don't miss the little-known military museum in the attic (4 South Market Building; 617-523-1300)—and the Paul Revere House. Dating to 1680, it's the oldest building still standing in downtown Boston, and a good example of Colonial-era architecture, though it's been used for so many purposes since Revere lived there (including, at one point, a cigar factory), and it really doesn't look much like it did then (19 North Sq.; 617-523-2338). As immortalized by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in his poem "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere," two lanterns (as in "two if by sea") were hung in the belfry tower of the Old North Church to signal the landing of the British in 1775. It's a lovely building, though you cannot climb the tower (193 Salem St.; 671-523-6676). Launched in 1797, the U.S.S. Constitution is the oldest commissioned warship in the world that's still afloat. U.S. Navy sailors take you below deck to explain what life was like for early-19th-century seamen, and there's also a World War II destroyer, the U.S.S. Cassin Young, berthed nearby (1 Constitution Rd.; 617-242-7511). Both are free.—updated by Jon Marcus
Guided tours are available daily between April and mid-November. Specialty tours, such as a historic pub crawl, are held the rest of the year. Tickets can be purchased online.
See + Do
deCordova Museum and Sculpture Park, Massachusetts
Lincoln, Massachusetts 01773
Tel: 781 259 8355
More popular with locals than tourists, the deCordova is off the beaten track by virtue of its location, about 16 miles west of Boston, in the picturesque town of Lincoln. The experience is well worth renting a car for the day. Set in a converted mansion overlooking woods and a large lake, the museum focuses on contemporary art, much of it by New England artists. But the real fun here is the sculpture park: 35 acres of rolling hills and wooded areas, populated by about 80 contemporary sculptures. You (and any kids you happen to be toting) will enjoy the time outdoors while taking in a little culture, too. Don't miss Jim Dine's Two Big Black Hearts: two huge bronze hearts with the artist's handprints and various tools, such as hammers and garden clippers, cast into them. If renting a car isn't an option, you can access the museum by taking the MBTA commuter rail (Purple Line) from Boston's North Station to Lincoln and then a taxi (see the Web site for details). And since you're in the neighborhood, you might want to swing by nearby Walden Pond, where Henry David Thoreau wrote Walden.
Museum building open Tuesdays through Sundays 10 am to 5 pm; sculpture park open daily from dawn to dusk.
See + Do
Cambridge, Harvard University, and MIT
Billing itself as "Boston's Left Bank," Cambridge is an academic center, a technological corridor, and a vibrant, multicultural city located just across the Charles River from Boston. It's easily reachable on the T or by foot across one of the several bridges, and you'd do well to set aside an entire day to explore it properly. In Harvard Square, street musicians compete for attention with socialists handing out literature. Purists complain that it's become too commercial and there are too many chain restaurants and shops (and it's true, you'll find the usual Gaps and Pizzeria Unos), but it's still a great place for strolling and people-watching with an ice cream cone from Herrell's (15 Dunster St.; 617-497-2179). South of Harvard along Mass. Ave. (only tourists call it Massachusetts Avenue), Central Square is a corridor of ethnic restaurants, bars, clubs, and shops with a funkier, edgier feel, such as the Middle East music venue and the1369 Coffee House (1369 Cambridge St. in Inman Square, 617-576-1369, and 757 Mass. Ave. in Central Square, 617-576-4600,). At Harvard University, get your bearings at Harvard Information Center, located in the Holyoke Center arcade (1350 Mass. Ave.; 617-495-1573), then walk around Harvard Yard to admire the centuries-old academic and residential buildings. There are three art museums to choose from: American and European works at the Fogg (32 Quincy St.; 617-495-9400), art from German-speaking countries of northern and central Europe at the Busch-Reisinger Museum (32 Quincy St.; 617-495-9400), and Asian, Islamic, and Indian art at the Sackler (485 Broadway; 617-495-9400). Even non–science types will be impressed by the Harvard Museum of Natural History, home to the intricate Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants, commonly known as "the glass flowers." It includes more than 830 species that were created as early as 1886 for botany students to study (26 Oxford St.; 617-495-3045). Across the street from Harvard Yard, the Sanders Theatre presents concerts (from folk to classical music) and public lectures. First used in 1876, this all-wooden space evokes old English academia, and is prized for its acoustics (45 Quincy St.; 617-496-2222). Farther downriver, MIT has a museum, too, which details some of the technological breakthroughs and geeky pranks of that university's rich history (265 Mass. Ave.; 617-253-5927); some cutting-edge architecture to admire, by the likes of Frank Gehry (the Ray and Maria Stata Center on Vassar Street); and world-class art by Pablo Picasso, Louise Nevelson, Alexander Calder, and others. Pick up a guide, or arrange a guided tour, at the List Visual Arts Center (20 Ames St., Building E15; 617-253-4680).—updated by Jon Marcus
See + Do
Boston Symphony Orchestra, Massachusetts
Boston, Massachusetts 02115
Tel: 617 266 1492 (for information), Tel: 617 266 1200 (for tickets)
Bostonians display a similar devotion to the Boston Symphony Orchestra as they do to their beloved Red Sox. One of the finest orchestras in the world, the BSO presents some 30 programs each season (September through early May) in the elegant Symphony Hall, which has some of the world's best acoustics. Tickets to sit in on rehearsals for sold-out performances are available online, at the box office, and by phone; it's open seating, and every man for himself, however, so look out for the little old ladies with walkers. During the summer, the symphony decamps to Tanglewood, its home in the Berkshires. In spring and early summer, the Pops presents more contemporary, popular tunes both at Symphony Hall and at the outdoor Hatch Shell on the Esplanade along the river in Back Bay. The Fourth of July program is a Boston (and American) tradition.—updated by Jon Marcus
See + Do
Boston Red Sox / Fenway Park, Massachusetts
Boston, Massachusetts 02215
Tel: 877 733 7699 (toll-free), Tel: 617 226 6000
Even Yankees fans have to admit that there's something special about seeing a ball game at Fenway Park. First opened in 1912, it's one of the smallest stadiums in the major leagues, and it's always packed (every game has been sold out since May 15, 2003) with fans eagerly awaiting a home-team hit over the Green Monster, the 37-foot-high left-field wall. (The seats on top of the Green Monster are particularly coveted.) Sellouts or not, you can still get face-value tickets on game day—300 are set aside for every game and are sold beginning two and a half hours before the first pitch at the little-noticed Gate C ticket window on Lansdowne Street. Or you could pay a huge surcharge to one of the ticket brokers with storefronts in the neighborhood. If you still can't score seats for love or money (or because the Yankees are in town), you can take a guided tour of the ballpark, including the press box, the dugout, the graffiti left by players inside the Green Monster, and the exact spot (Section 42, Row 37, Seat 21) where Ted Williams' record home run touched down. The whole Fenway experience is steeped in tradition, from the manual scoreboard to the organ to the Boston-accented hecklers. Grab a sausage-and-pepper sandwich outside the park before or after. Remember, Massachusetts liquor laws are strict: Beer vendors do not wander the stands, so you'll have to buy your overpriced beer at the beer stands underneath the seats. And bring ID, even if you haven't needed it in years.—updated by Jon Marcus